This is what the Army's top general wants in a future tank, and it's straight out of 'Starship Troopers' - We Are The Mighty
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This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon. But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.


“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”

“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman

“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.

“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.

The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Russian T-14 Armata. Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.

While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.

Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said July 28. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Light armored vehicles with Task Force 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8 traverse the rocky terrain of the Sinjar Mountains. Photo by Sgt. Eric Schwartz.

Lasers, Railguns, Robotics

While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.

So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.

“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”

Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.

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The Navy recently proved it can launch planes from a carrier by using magnets

Six days after being commissioned, the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s newest and most sophisticated aircraft carrier, received and launched its first fixed-wing aircraft.


An F/A-18 Super Hornet landed on the ship at 3:10 p.m. July 28, catching the No. 2 arresting wire of the Ford’s Advanced Arresting Gear system, and took off at 4:37 p.m., launched from catapult one of the Ford’s Electromagnetic Launch System.

“Today, USS Gerald R. Ford made history with the successful landing and launching of aircraft from VX-23 using the AAG and EMALS,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of US Fleet Forces, referring to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23. “Great work by the Ford team and all the engineers who have worked hard to get the ship ready for this milestone.”

 

The July 28 tests appear to show the AAG and EMALS have overcome issues that cropped up during their development — issues with the EMALS prompted President Donald Trump earlier this year to admonish the Navy to return to steam-powered catapults.

The tests were the Ford’s first shipboard recovery and launch of fixed-wing aircraft, said Capt. Rick McCormack, the Ford’s commanding officer. By the end of the day, the Ford had completed four arrested landings and catapult launches.

The Navy says the AAG, a software-controlled system, will offer greater reliability and more safety and interoperability with more aircraft. It also has built-in testing and diagnostic features, meant to reduce maintenance and lower manpower needs.

 

Navy officials have said the EMALS is designed to provide more energy, reliability, and efficiency while moving away from the traditional steam-powered launching system. In addition to more accurate speed control and better acceleration, the EMALS is designed to work with all current and future carrier aircraft.

Those systems are two of 23 new or modified technologies installed on the Ford, which is the first Ford-class carrier. Two more in-class carriers are planned: the USS John F. Kennedy and the USS Enterprise.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy mom is taking on veteran health care

Women veterans make up 8% of Oregon’s veteran population. However, that growing population requires answers to the unique challenges facing women veterans.

The Women Veterans Program at the Roseburg VA Health Care System is designed to identify those challenges. It also works with women veterans to find those answers, according to Jessica Burnett, social worker and interim Women Veterans Program manager. Burnett is pictured above with her daughter Emily.


This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

“How can we serve them best?”

For Burnett, the mission is personal

“I am a true Oregonian. After visiting many places, I knew Oregon is where my heart is,” said Burnett. “I spent nearly 15 years providing rural social services in Coos and Curry Counties. I decided it was time to move to a warmer climate and relocated to Roseburg, where my daughter attended college.

“My daughter came home one day and said, ‘Hey Mom. I’ve decided to take a different path in life and I signed up for the Navy.’ I didn’t see that coming. She said, ‘This is something I felt called to do and this is what I’m going to do.’ My role at that point was to be a support person. I felt if my daughter is feeling called to do this, I’m going to see what I can do to support veterans, and I came to VA.”

Burnett hopes to expand services available for all veterans – primary care, mental health, housing assistance. She also wants to localize it specifically for women veterans. She fosters a program that is open, accessible, welcoming and veteran-centric.

“From my perspective, we should be taking a patient-centered approach. Hearing their feedback, what is it that they need? Let them tell us what they need so we can best support them. It is their journey, their life. We don’t know unless we ask the question, ‘How can we can serve them best?'”

For Burnett, the best way to serve women veterans is to expand on the understanding of women veteran needs and the availability of health care specific to women: yearly exams, such as pap smears and mammograms.

And support for those recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
“When she comes home, I want her to have top-notch health care.”

Women veterans, the fastest growing minority population

“Women veterans served alongside men. They are a minority within the VA, but they’re the fastest growing minority population,” said Burnett. Her daughter serves aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, which is stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Women tell me all the time they get addressed as ‘Mister’ instead of ‘Miss.’ It’s just assumed that they are a spouse or if it’s just a last name, that they are male.

“I feel we really need to put a lot of effort and work into women’s health care in VA because it is an area that, previously and historically, hasn’t been part of VA.

“My daughter is active duty right now, but when she comes home, I want her to have a health care system that is top-notch.

“I want it to be better than what she can find in the community.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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6 important things you need to learn before World War III

The future is coming, and if you’re in the military that means a return to the wars of the past where troops fought in large armies and task forces for bits of land on far flung battlefields.


With an ever more aggressive China and Russia pushing against America and its allies around the world, Pentagon planners believe troops have to be ready to fight near-peer rivals the next time the balloon goes up.

Here are six things American troops need to be ready for if this generation’s Cold War turns into World War III:

1. Patrols will have to deal with enemy surveillance at all times

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
A U.S. Marine keeps watch during a field operation at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kelsey M. Dornfeld)

One of the worst things for the average Joe on the ground will be avoiding an enemy’s persistent surveillance. Near-peer rivals have a blanket of drones, satellites, and electromagnetic sensors that will spot Marines and soldiers and their radio transmissions.

Patrols will have to attempt to avoid detection when possible, but be ready to move quickly and often even when the enemy is looking. Because a single, low-flying drone can provide up-to-the-second targeting data to an enemy mortar team, automatic weapons teams and riflemen won’t be able to stay in one place for long.

2. Every firefight will become a multi-dimensional slugfest within minutes

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Soldiers conduct a 120mm live-fire training exercise at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, on Aug. 13, 2016. (Photo: Army Sgt. Jarred Woods)

In World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, U.S. troops had to deal with the fact that enemy spotters could quickly feed their locations to air and artillery assets, triggering an air battle overhead and an artillery duel on the ground.

In a future conflict, this will be even worse as both sides employ drones and automatic sensors that find enemy troops and relay targeting data to supporting planes, artillery units, and electromagnetic warfare specialists.

Any fight larger than a couple of squads duking it out will likely see an air battle develop overhead and an intense duel to jam the opponent’s communications in the electromagnetic spectrum.

3. Leaders must be ready to go completely analog

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
A Marine checks an azimuth for the next point during a land navigation course at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Oct. 28, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton Precht)

Speaking of which, all the high-tech bells and whistles will become nearly useless if the jamming on each side gets too intense. Soldiers and Marines are already practicing land nav with pencils, compasses, and paper maps while the sea services are digging up old sextants for celestial navigation.

Headquarter companies will now need to plant their antennas far from the operations center so that missiles which hunt electromagnetic transmissions won’t home in on communication arrays and wipe out the command team.

Expect buried phone lines, mobile radios with whip antennas, and redundant systems to make a comeback.

4. Cooperation between branches will be more challenging — and essential

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
An F-35C takes off from the deck of the USS George Washington. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

All this will make it harder for the different military services to talk to one another, but they have to be able to coordinate quickly since ubiquitous sensors and fast-moving weapons mean that forces in trouble need help in seconds to survive.

Marines fighting ashore at the next Battle of Guadalcanal can’t wait for Chesty Puller to get to the ships and personally direct naval artillery. Whether or not the radio operator can find an unjammed radio channel and get a coded message out will decide whether air and artillery support will arrive in time to matter.

5. Medics and physician assistants will have to treat patients for hours or days in the field on their own

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Marines and sailors prepare to carry a simulated casualty using a field-expedient stretcher during the jungle endurance course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center on Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Diamond N. Peden)

With the dynamic fighting on the front, troops will likely be wounded and killed at staggering rates not seen since the Vietnam War. While China and Russia are more likely to observe the Geneva Conventions than insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan were, the military can’t count on being able to quickly and safely evacuate the wounded.

To deal with the increased risk to injured personnel, the Army is spearheading a “telemedicine” effort that would allow medics in the field to send data and photos to surgeons in hospitals who would then walk the medic through necessary treatment options.

6. Mission loads will be heavier, and forces will have to be more self-sufficient

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Florida Army National Guard soldiers conduct a 12-mile ruck march in South Carolina on April 4, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

Medical evacuations won’t be the only missions that become more challenging. Aerial resupply will be a risky maneuver when top-tier missile systems are hunting American planes and helicopters. To adapt to this, ground pounders will need to carry extra gear with them through the jungles of the Pacific or across the plains of Eastern Europe.

Chemical treatments for water will help keep liquid weight from climbing too high, but troops will need extra food, batteries, and ammo in case the helicopters can’t get in. The Pentagon is looking into some high-tech gizmos like powered armor to help with this increased weight, but most of it will rest on the muscles and bones of the troops.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military fathers are our daughters’ heroes

My daughter is six, an only child, a military child, and a true Daddy’s girl. I recently asked her the following:


  • Q. What makes Daddy a good daddy?
  • He takes me on bike rides and fishes with me.
  • Q. Why is Daddy important to you?
  • Because he works in the Coast Guard.
  • Q. What do you like about Daddy being in the U.S. Coast Guard?
  • He flies airplanes.
  • Q. What do you dislike about Daddy being in the U.S. Coast Guard?
  • He has to work a lot and has a lot of long work trips.

My daughter’s answers to these questions made me think about how she sees, loves, and respects her father as a hero. Every little girl deserves a father figure who is a hero in their eyes. How are military fathers equipped to be heroes to our daughters?

Military Fathers are Leaders

Serving in the military requires courage, strength, selflessness, resilience, and confidence. Leaders in the military are those whom subordinates rely upon for wisdom, direction, sound judgment, and guidance. Leaders must be determined, confident, able to delegate authority, and thoughtful. Daughters need leaders with similar qualities. The skills learned within the military are transferrable to parenting. Military fathers have a unique skill set that can help lead and guide our daughters.

There are many different types of families, extended families, relationships, and dynamics that may surround any daughter. However, fathers are often the first man in a girl’s life. Military fathers are well-equipped to excel in this role despite the time they are required to spend away from family. Leaders and mentors in the military can help shape lives, influence the decision-making skills of others, and help subordinates find their way. Couldn’t the same be said for fathers leading daughters at home?

Military Fathers Know How to Defend

When joining the military, one chooses to defend, protect, and fight for our country and our freedom. How do we teach our daughters to defend themselves both figuratively and literally? How do we, as parents, encourage them to protect their rights, health, safety, values, morals, and beliefs?

The military is rich with honor and codes of conduct, outlining what members can and cannot do. Dedication to duty, honor, service, and respect are of the highest importance. Military fathers can use these codes as moral and ethical roadmaps for our daughters.

From the first day of basic training until a member of the armed forces leaves the service, they are training for the next mission, preparing for future roles, and learning new skills. Military members are always ready. Training in this manner equips military fathers to teach our daughters to be prepared for challenges, face adversity, choose right over wrong, and take responsibility for their actions.

Military Fathers Are Heroes

The definition of a hero is a person admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. We certainly have endless examples of heroism and ultimate sacrifice in the military. Look at any Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, or Distinguished Service Cross recipient, and you will find a hero. Military members are heroes for serving their country.

Daughters need heroes as strong role models to show them leadership, perseverance, and courage. If any father can fulfill this role and do it well, it is one in the military. Military fathers might not realize it, but they are superheroes in our daughters’ eyes.

Heroes protect others and know how to do the right thing. What better way to set an example and express love to a daughter than by being a hero for your country and family? Happy Father’s Day to all of our military heroes. May you never forget just how heroic you are to our daughters.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

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Das Boom: 6 best weapons designed to kill submarines

China and Russia are both building up their sub fleets, and potential conflict areas in the Black Sea, South China Sea, and under the Arctic Circle mean it’s possible submarine warfare could make a comeback. If the NATO and Russian or Chinese fleets clash, these are 6 weapons that will decide who comes out on top:


1. F21 Heavyweight torpedo

The F21 is a relatively new torpedo being fielded by the French Navy. It can swim at speeds of 25-50 knots for an hour while searching for an enemy sub. Since it uses a quiet electric battery to power itself through the water, it allows French subs to fire at the enemy without giving up their own position.

2. Mk. 54 lightweight torpedo

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Photo: US Navy Mass communications Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert

The U.S. and allied navies have one of the best light torpedoes in the world in the Mk. 54. It has a 96-pound warhead guided by a torpedo that can ignore enemy countermeasures and home in on an enemy sub at 40 knots. It can be launched from ships, helicopters, and planes and reaches deep enough to kill all known subs.

3. Improved Shkval underwater missile

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Photo: Wikipedia/One half 33544

The Shkval is a Russian weapon that moves under the surface like a torpedo, but is generally referred to as a missile or rocket because it creates a pocket of air to move through in the water.

This reduces friction and allows it to fly through the water at speeds of over 230 mph. A 463-pound warhead then detonates after a set time, destroying nearby enemy submarines or incoming torpedoes. There’s speculation in the West that it would also destroy the submarine that fired it.

4. RUM-139/RUR-5 Anti-submarine rockets

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Photo: US Navy

Anti-submarine rockets are fired from a Navy ship into the water where the missile then deploys a torpedo. This allows the torpedo to start chasing the sub from relatively close, reducing enemy reaction time. It also allows ships to fire torpedoes from much greater range than would normally be possible.

Currently, U.S. Navy anti-submarine rockets carry the Mk 54 torpedo described above. Some ships used to carry rockets with the Mk 45 nuclear torpedo described below.

5. Anti-submarine mortar

Anti-submarine mortars and grenades are the shotgun of anti-submarine warfare. A few dozen rounds are fired at once and sink through the water, detonating against the submarine hull with a contact fuse.

They’re lethal in short-range fights that could occur in a fjord or sea channel, but their limited range means an enemy submarine would have the advantage in a long-range fight where the sub’s missiles and torpedoes could be launched.

6. Mk. 45 and T-5 nuclear torpedoes

During the Cold War, both the U.S. and Russia developed nuclear torpedoes. While they aren’t in service today they’re still some of the most effective weapons for killing an enemy submarine. They could also kill the firing sub, so they’re not great weapons, just effective.

The Russian T-5 in the video above carried a 3.5 kt nuclear warhead. The U.S. Mark 45 had an 11 kt nuclear warhead. Both torpedoes were steered into position and detonated via a command wire between the torpedo and launching submarine.

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Elite Marine Raiders were among those killed in tragic C-130 crash

For an elite band of US Marines known as the Raiders, the fiery military plane crash this week in Mississippi represents a second devastating blow during training in less than three years. Six Marines and a Navy corpsman from a Raider unit died July 10 on their way to training exercises, linking them in tragedy with seven members of the same North Carolina-based command who died in a March 2015 helicopter crash off Florida.


The present incarnation of the Marine Raiders was formed in 2006 amid the global war on terror — making it the newest of the military’s counterterrorism forces that also include the Army’s Special Forces and Navy SEALs. The group was officially named the Marine Raiders in 2015 to link its heritage to World War II commando units made famous in movies.

The Raiders’ command now has about 2,700 troops, including those in intelligence and support roles, according to spokesman Maj. Nick Mannweiler.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Photo from USMC

Tragedy also struck the close-knit command in March 2015 when seven of its Marines died with four soldiers in a helicopter crash during training off Florida. Mannweiler said he knows of no other significant training losses in the decade-long existence of the Marine Special Operations Command, or MARSOC. At least 31 members of MARSOC have died in combat, Mannweiler said.

The Marines killed this week were headed to Yuma, Arizona, with guns, ammunition, radios, and body armor to participate in training for an eventual deployment somewhere in the Middle East. Mannweiler said such pre-deployment training in the desert would have likely ranged from urban combat to language skills.

Mannweiler said the Raiders’ flight aboard a Marine Corps Reserve airplane wasn’t an unusual arrangement because the command doesn’t have its own planes.

“Marine Corps aircraft are always our personal preference,” Mannweiler said in an interview. “We’ll catch a ride however it makes the most sense.”

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
A ceremony commemorating 11 fallen service members lost in March 2015 crash. USMC photo by Cpl. Steven Fox.

Mannweiler said the crash in Mississippi will be felt acutely in the tight-knit group of Marine Raiders and their families.

“This is a closed-loop community,” he said. “The loss of seven Marines from a battalion literally impacts the entire organization.”

The Raider name was made famous by World War II Marine units that carried out risky amphibious and guerrilla operations that were dramatized in books and movies such as “Gung Ho!” in 1943 and “Marine Raiders” in 1944.

The original Marine Raiders were organized in response to President Franklin Roosevelt’s desire to have a commando-style force that could conduct amphibious raids and operate behind enemy lines. Raider leaders studied unconventional warfare tactics and were credited with beating larger Japanese forces on difficult terrain in the Pacific. Their name wasn’t used in an official capacity by the Marine Corps for decades after World War II.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Marine Raiders, 1944. Photo from US National Archives.

When the Raider name was re-adopted in 2015, the Marine Corps said the moniker offered its elite personnel special shorthand similar to Army Green Berets or Navy SEALs. Marines in MARSOC must pass a selection process that includes grueling swims and hikes, as well as specialized combat training.

While the training has some similarities to special units in the Army and Navy, retired Navy officer Dick Couch wrote in a 2015 book that members of MARSOC are known for their marksmanship and maturity, when compared with other branches’ elite. In “Always Faithful, Always Forward,” Couch wrote that he was “in awe” of how the Marines Corps needed so little time to develop an effective training program to make its “brotherhood within a brotherhood” ready for combat.

“They’re an excellent addition to the special operations mix,” Couch said in a phone interview July 12. “I’m sorry to see they lost some people. They’re in a risky business. It can happen in training or in combat.”

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‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women

I went to the LA Film Festival to watch a film about a female Marine, expecting to be bored and disappointed. I was neither.


“Blood Stripe” is a well-crafted piece of cinematic art that describes bluntly – and accurately – the difficulties faced by the main character “Sarge” (Kate Nowlin) when she comes back home after serving in the Marine Corps. She realizes she has changed, and those around her cannot fully relate to the person she has become. Her circle questions her emotions, reactions, and behavior, oblivious to the trauma she just left.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

As I said, my initial expectations were low. What could civilians know about making war movies, especially war movies about women? I assumed the film would be some “GI-Jane” type of nonsense, a cliché like Jessica Simpson’s character in the atrocious “Private Valentine.” Simpson, clad in a full face of makeup, hair out of regs, clean, and completely un-military is the type of Hollywood characterization that could well make women avoid watching military movies at all. I anticipated a tepid film with a fairytale ending where everyone solves their problems and proclaims “the war is over, let’s all be happy!” In life, especially the military, there is rarely a fairytale ending.

In life, especially the military, there is rarely a fairytale ending. Sarge comes home to the husband she left behind, she gets a job, she drinks a lot of beer; her life may not be great, but it’s okay. Something deep inside keeps nagging at her, memories she would rather forget bubble to the surface. We see a very broken woman, unable to put the pieces of her life back together after an intense military experience. As she slides deeper into alcoholism, Sarge decides to run away from her life and work at Camp Vermillion, the summer camp snuggled deep in the woods of Minnesota, which she attended as a child.

But something deep inside keeps nagging at her, memories she would rather forget bubble to the surface. We see a very broken woman, unable to put the pieces of her life back together after an intense military experience. As she slides deeper into alcoholism, Sarge decides to run away from her life and work at Camp Vermillion, the summer camp snuggled deep in the woods of Minnesota, which she attended as a child.

Sarge is dealing with issues normally portrayed by male characters — dark emotions and feelings not typically associated with women veterans. She is not looking to be a hero nor trying to find a savior; she does not want a parade nor does she want accolades. The war has followed her home, and the tentacles of a vile monster called PTSD are beginning to creep into her life.

The metaphor of running is used throughout the film. Sarge vainly attempts to work out her issues in the typical military manner: She PTs. She does scores of push-ups and sit-ups and tries to literally run from her problems. She can run, but the deep-seated internal turmoil of combat is always there.

The film highlights not only the struggles of most service members to successfully readjust to post-military life but accurately shows the obstacles female veterans explicitly face. One of Sarge’s new friends at Camp Vermillion repeats a line not dissimilar to what many female veterans often hear: “You’re a girl Marine–do they even make those?”

Yes, yes they do. These words demonstrate what females face once they have left the military: disbelief about their military service and treated as if they are not true veterans.

Society has still not fully embraced the notion that women are capable of both giving and taking life; that women can struggle with a war long after arriving back home. Kate Nowlin does an excellent job portraying a woman coming to grips with herself. Her character is both credible and authentic, and alarmingly real. Military women come from all walks of life, they look like your sister or mother or cousin or neighbor; they are unassuming women accomplishing extraordinary feats – although most of them keep their remarkable achievements to themselves.

The war gave Sarge a lot of things: a sense of purpose, pride, strength, and courage. It also took a lot of things away from her: identity, her sense of security, camaraderie.  War changes us, life changes us. In the end, this was a film not merely about war and women, but also the struggles we all face during this unique human experience and a longing to find our way back home, wherever that may be.

 

“Blood Stripe” had its world premiere in June 2016 at the Los Angeles Film Festival to a sold-out audience. It won the coveted U.S. Fiction Award.

Articles

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) demonstrated a new Android tablet app where an Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller — the guy on the ground who is an expert at calling in air strikes — was able to call in multiple close air support (CAS) strikes with an A-10, using only three strokes of a finger.


This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
BRRRRRT Forthcoming. (DARPA Photo)

Conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, the test was the first set of tests with U.S. Air Force aircraft. Earlier this year, the test were successfully conducted with Marine Corps Osprey aircraft. The Air Force tests used a mixture of laser and GPS-guided weapons, with a 100% success rate, all within the six minute test time frame.

The app — called Persistent Close Air Support — allows the JTAC on the ground to link directly with aircraft pilots, pick targets, and locate friendly forces for the inbound CAS. And you thought the Blue Force Tracker was awesome.

Watch DARPA’s PCAS video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=42v=PfdGQ98Srwc

It’s not science fiction. It’s what they do every day.

NOW: 5 differences between Navy and Air Force fighter pilots

OR: Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s most elite operators

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Silver coating may be the future of military cold weather clothing

Engineers at Stanford University have created a coating of silver nanowire that retains up to 90 percent of the user’s body heat, allowing wearers to stay comfortable in lower temperatures and reducing visibility to enemy infrared.


This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mattison

“Let’s say you want to make your clothes reflect heat, you need metal,” Yi Cui, the lead scientist on the project, said in Popular Science. “But you’re not going to put metal on your body.”

The coating allows sweat to pass through it, so troops wouldn’t get soaked, and in extreme cold an electric current from a battery could raise the temperature of the silver and quickly warm the soldier. The downside to the electric current is that it would light up any infrared sensors the soldier was hiding from.

To apply the coating, researchers dip garments into a solution of silver. When it dries, it leaves behind extremely thin and flexible nanowires of the metal. It only takes about $10 to coat a garment with the silver, Benjamin Wiley, an assistant professor of chemistry at Duke University, told OZY.

The actual silver used is less than a gram and costs about 50 cents. The main focus of the research so far has been been for civilian use, sweaters that would reduce the need for inefficient heating of homes and offices in the winter. So, there’s a chance these fabrics will be available at the mall before they’re issued to troops. Cui estimated they would be on store racks by 2018 if there are no unforeseen issues.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Air Force helps save homes and fight wildfires

Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.


That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.

The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017 in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.

Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.

The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.

 

“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.

Most of the Airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five Airmen lost their homes.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex. The 146 Airlift Wing was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to daycare up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Technicians perform repairs on a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) in the cargo bay of a C-130J of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, California, Dec. 9, 2017. The MAFFS units, which are owned by the U.S. Forestry Service, can be loaded and made ready for operations in about three hours. A mixture of water and fire-retardant chemicals is deployed through a nozzle attached to an orange door the replaces the paratroop door on the C-130J. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”

The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.

“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”

The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”

Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.

On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.

“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”

As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

“As a result of that incident, we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.

This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.

The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.

“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”

Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.

“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”

Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.

Also Read: Here’s how the Guard is helping mudslide victims after fires

“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”

For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.

“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.

“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA can now tell if you’ve ever been exposed to WMDs

Picture an intelligence officer in the field. She is trying to piece together a suspected threat and has access to someone who may have a role in carrying it out. There may be traces of biological or chemical agents on his clothing or hair. She can look for them, but they’re transient, and often present in such low concentrations that she’ll need to send samples to a laboratory. Or she can check his epigenetic markers, read a history of any time he’s been exposed to threat agents, and start piecing together a chain of evidence right there in the field, in real time.


DARPA’s new Epigenetic CHaracterization and Observation (ECHO) program aims to build a field-deployable platform technology that quickly reads someone’s epigenome and identifies signatures that indicate whether that person has ever — in his or her lifetime — been exposed to materials that could be associated with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Also read: 6 reasons the Air Force wants to get its hands on Russian DNA

The epigenome is biology’s record keeper. Though DNA does not change over a single lifetime, a person’s environment may leave marks on the DNA that modify how that individual’s genes are expressed. This is one way that people can adapt and survive in changing conditions, and the epigenome is the combination of all of these modifications. Though modifications can register within seconds to minutes, they imprint the epigenome for decades, leaving a time-stamped biography of an individual’s exposures that is difficult to deliberately alter.

Whereas current forensic and diagnostic screening technologies only detect the immediate presence of contaminants, the envisioned ECHO technology would read someone’s epigenome from a biological sample, such as a finger prick or nasal swab, to reveal possible exposure to WMD or WMD precursors, even when other physical evidence has been erased.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

“The human body registers exposures and logs them in the epigenome,” explained Eric Van Gieson, the ECHO program manager. “We are just beginning to understand this rich biographical record that we carry around with us. We hope that with the capabilities developed within ECHO, someone in the field will immediately know if a suspected adversary has handled or been exposed to threat agents. The same technology could also serve as a diagnostic tool for our own troops, to diagnose infectious disease or reveal exposure to threat agents, so that medical countermeasures can be applied in time to make a difference.”

Related: DARPA wants to use ocean life to monitor strategic areas

Researchers on the four-year ECHO program will have two primary challenges: to identify and discriminate epigenetic signatures created by exposure to threat agents; and to create technology that performs highly specific forensic and diagnostic analyses to reveal the exact type and time of exposure. To develop this capability, researchers will have to assemble a foundational training dataset of pre- and post-exposure epigenetic readouts in biological samples. They will also have to create a device capable of performing multiple molecular analyses and onboard bioinformatics in 30 minutes or less, compared to an average of two days using current lab-centered processes. By the end of the effort, DARPA’s goal is to deliver ECHO capability in a man-portable device that can be used by an operator with minimal training.

“ECHO technology could open up new sources of forensic evidence and make battlefield collection of evidence safer, more efficient, and more accurate,” said Van Gieson. “Additionally, by making it possible to deploy an analytical capability to vastly more locations, we would enhance our ability to conduct global, near-real-time surveillance of emerging threats.”

ECHO is focused specifically on diminishing the threat posed by WMD and improving diagnostics for troops who may have been exposed to threat agents. The ability to partially reconstruct an individual’s history through analysis of the epigenome, however, could have application well beyond national security and thus raise privacy concerns. Accordingly, DARPA intends to proactively engage with several independent ethical and legal experts to help inform the Agency’s research plans, think through potential issues, and foster broader dialogue in the scientific community on social implications.

DARPA will host a Proposers Day on Feb. 23, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia, to explain the ECHO program to potential proposers and answer questions. Details and registration are available at: https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-18-23/listing.html.

Articles

This soldier risked everything to save his friend in Tal Afar

Gary Villalobos left his civilian life to join the United States Army. By 2005, he found himself in Tal Afar, Iraq, as Sgt. First Class Villalobos. It was there he learned the true meaning of fear — and what it takes to overcome that fear to try and save one of his own.


“What I think about when I think about my four deployments in Iraq, I’m glad I was part of it,” Villalobos says. “I took part in something greater than myself, something significant. But most importantly, you know what I think about is the hundreds of people, the hundreds of soldiers that I connected with at a different level. Shared hardships really bring people together.”

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
Villalobos in Iraq.
(Courtesy Gary Villalobos)

Now-Master Sgt. Gary Villalobos came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1970, moving into a small shack near the beach behind his grandmother’s house in California. By the time he graduated from high school, he had a job that wasn’t going anywhere. It was just after the 1991 Gulf War and young Gary watched as that war’s heroes were greeted triumphantly upon their return to the U.S.

So, he went to an Army recruiter. Twelve years later, the United States invaded Iraq and, in 2005, Villalobos was in Tal Afar for only a month before he found himself directing Iraqi soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry to take on an insurgent group and capture their leaders.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
(AARP Studios)

Villalobos and Army officer Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe took 14 Iraqi Army troops on a patrol to capture those leaders, stepping into an alleyway — an alleyway that was also an ambush killzone.

The Army officer took the full brunt of at least four AK-47s, not one shot hitting above his waist. .

Villalobos tried to suppress their fire but the incoming sounded like it was coming from all sides. Gunfire poured in on Villalobos and the patrol as he tried to make sense of the ambush. He suddenly realized he had an edge and chucked his only grenade as hard as he could into the ambush. The firing stopped and he was able to pull his officer out.

The enemy melted away.

Back to FOB Sykes, Villalobos learned Col. Crowe didn’t make it.

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’
U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe.

Crowe and Villalobos went on numerous patrols together and became quite close. They went on nearly every mission together. Crowe was a native of Upstate New York and was a talented carpenter in his civilian life.

“He treated me with dignity and respect,” Villalobos says. “Part of the reason I feel guilty is because I was not in the front, where I should have been. He should have been in the rear, or at least the middle… but not point man.”

Villalobos was awarded the Silver Star for making sure he pulled Crowe out of the ambush. To him, it’s the most important award, representing the sacrifice that Colonel Crowe made.

“I don’t see it as something I earned… I just wanted to get Colonel Crowe out of there,” he says.

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