The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team started arriving in Europe this week for a nine-month rotation as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The 2nd ABCT’s rotation is the fifth one by an armored brigade in support of Atlantic Resolve, which started in 2014 to show US commitment to Europe’s defense after Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

But the unit is the first “in recent memory” to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on Oct. 11, 2019.


The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

A 2nd ABCT soldier directs an M1A2 Abrams tank as vehicles are offloaded at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases.

But the 2nd ABCT’s arrival at Vlissingen — like that of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the nearby port of Antwerp last spring — is part of an Army effort to practice navigating Europe’s bureaucratic and geographic terrain.

NATO has been trying to operate out of more ports in Europe since around 2015, according to Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2017.

There was a need to “to reestablish capabilities in all these ports” and “to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places,” Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.

Vlissingen is the “first main juncture point” for the 2nd ABCT’s current deployment, and its troops and gear will arrive at ports in Poland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Romania throughout October, the Army said in a release.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

First Lt. Quanzel Caston, a unit movement officer with the 2nd ABCT, examines M1A2 Abrams tanks at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

In total, the unit will deploy about 3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers.

Massing forces across the Atlantic Resolve area of operation “displays the US Army’s readiness, cross-border military mobility and speed of assembly,” the release said.

The Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade will move the 2nd ABCT’s gear a variety of ways, including by “low-barge, rail-head, line-haul and convoy operations.”

It’s the first time the Army has used a low-barge inland cargo ship to transport tracked armored vehicles across Europe for Atlantic Resolve.

“The significance of using the low-barge is it enhances readiness in the European region by introducing another method of movement to the Atlantic Resolve mission,” said Cpl. Dustin Jobe, noncommissioned officer in charge of lifting provisions for the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Sgt. Julian Blodgett, a senior mechanic with the 2nd ABCT directs an M1A2 Abrams tank for loading on a low-barge cargo ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

‘Better than it was’

The US Army in Europe shrank after the Cold War. Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, however, the Army has beefed up its presence with exercises along NATO’s eastern flank and back-to-back rotations of armored units.

But returning to Europe in force has highlighted NATO’s problems getting around the continent, where customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of transports for heavy vehicles inhibit movement.

These obstacles would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 internal report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

A local contractor attaches lift chains to an M1A2 Abrams tank for lowering into a low-barge ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

European countries, working through the European Union and NATO, have sought to reduce or eliminate the hurdles.

A new NATO command based in Germany now oversees the movement of alliance forces in Europe, and the EU has set up Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to address security issues by “integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.”

The logistical skills of the US and its NATO allies will face their biggest test yet next year, during Defender 2020 in Europe — the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years. It will range across 10 countries and involve 37,000 troops from at least 18 countries.

The point of Defender 2020 “is to practice the reinforcement of US forces in Europe for the purposes of collective defense of the alliance,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US Army Europe, said on Monday during a panel hosted by Defense One at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

A 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank is raised over the pier at Vlissingen to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transportation to another location in Europe, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“That’s something that requires practice, because you’re moving large forces great distances through complicated infrastructure and across a variety of different national lines,” Cavoli added.

“We call this strategic readiness, the ability to strategically deploy and to project a force,” he said. “It’s a significant concatenation of small things that have to go right in order to do this well.”

Asked about Europe’s railways, which vary in rail size and have differing regulations, Cavoli said there were procedural and infrastructural issues that had to be addressed.

“Procedurally, we’ve made a great deal of progress across the alliance. Some countries, they’ve relaxed some of their restrictions, shortening the notification times required,” Cavoli said. “We, as an alliance, have gotten much more practice scheduling and moving and loading rail, and we’re able to move very, very quickly across great distances.”

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

US Army Reserve Cpl. Dustin Jobe watches a 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank as it’s raised over the pier to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transport elsewhere in Europe, at Vlissingen, Netherlands Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

But infrastructural problems remain, Cavoli said, pointing specifically to a difference in rail gauge between Poland and Lithuania. But Lithuania plans to buy dual-gauge rail cars for heavy equipment, Cavoli added.

“In addition to that, across the alliance, there’ve been some challenges with bridge classification, with the strength of rail heads … can it take a tank driving off a train there?” Cavoli said. “The EU has really stepped in using prioritized … shopping lists, prioritized by NATO, and it has been investing throughout the alliance in mobility infrastructure.”

Cavoli said recent exercises had exposed challenges to mobility but had also prompted NATO members “to get after those challenges. So I think we’re in a fairly good place right now.”

Asked to assign the alliance a letter grade for mobility, Cavoli demurred, saying only that it’s “better than it was previously.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mechanic accidentally destroys one F-16 with another

A Belgian Air Force F-16 has been destroyed and another aircraft damaged when the M61A1 Vulcan 20mm cannon on board a third F-16 was accidentally fired on the ground by maintenance personnel at Florennes Air Base in the Walloon area of Southern Belgium on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.

Multiple reports indicate that a mechanic servicing the parked aircraft accidentally fired the six-barreled 20mm Vulcan cannon at close range to two other parked F-16s. Photos show one F-16AM completely destroyed on the ground at Florennes. Two maintenance personnel were reported injured and treated at the scene in the bizarre accident.


In a nearby hangar, positioned at the extension of the flight line, a technician was working on an F-16. It is said that by accident the six-barrel 20mm Vulcan M61A-1 cannon of that F-16 was activated. Apparently, the cannon was loaded and some ammunition hit the FA128. This aircraft had just been refuelled and prepared together with another F-16 for an upcoming afternoon sortie. After impact of the 20mm bullets, FA128 exploded instantly and damaged two other F-16s.

The airbase at Florennes is home to the Belgian 2nd Tactical Wing which comprises the 1st ‘Stingers’ Squadron and the 350th Squadron.

A report on F-16.net said that, “An F-16 (#FA-128) was completely destroyed while a second F-16 received collateral damage from the explosions. Two personnel were wounded and treated at the scene. Injuries sustained were mainly hearing related from the explosion.”

The news report published late Oct.12, 2018, went on to say, “The F-16 was parked near a hangar when it was accidentally fired upon from another F-16 undergoing routine ground maintenance. Several detonations were heard and thick black smoke was seen for miles around. Civilian firefighters have even been called in to help firefighters at the airbase to contain the incident. About thirty men were deployed on site and several ambulances were dispatched. The Aviation Safety Directorate (ASD) is currently investigating the exact cause.”

The accident is quite weird: it’s not clear why the technician was working on an armed aircraft that close to the flight line. Not even the type of inspection or work has been unveiled. For sure it must have been a check that activated the gun even though the aircraft was on the ground: the use of the onboard weapons (including the gun) is usually blocked by a fail-safe switch when the aircraft has the gear down with the purpose of preventing similar accidents.

It is the second time this year an accidental discharge of live aircraft weapons has happened in Europe. On Aug. 7, 2018, a Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon accidentally launched an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) while on an air policing mission near Otepää in Valga County, southern Estonia. The incident occurred only 50km from the Russian border.

A report ten days after the incident said the search for the missing weapon was called off. The missile was never located. “All the theoretical impact points of the missile have now been carefully searched,” said Commander of the Estonian Air Force Col. Riivo Valge in an EDF press release.

“Over the past two weeks, we employed three helicopters, five ground patrols and fifty-strong units of personnel to undertake the search on the ground. We also got help from the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) Explosive Ordnance Disposal Centre and used Air Force drones in the search,” Col. Valge added.

“Despite our systematic approach and actions the location of the impacted missile has not been identified and all probable locations have been ruled out as of now,” Col. Valge concluded in the Aug. 17, 2018 media release ten days after the missile was accidentally fired.

Because strict weapons safety protocols, especially with live ammunition, are in place during ground handling it is extremely rare for maintenance personnel to accidentally discharge an aircraft’s weapon.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 reasons military brats are better off without roots

If you have ever found yourself standing in the middle of drop-off at a new school, blinking away tears while a sea of strangers swallows up your children, wishing you could stop putting your kids through this and just let them settle in one place for once…

…do not despair.

While we might not have roots, and while we might not give our children roots, we do have something different.

What is it? Let me explain…


What is our ultimate goal for our kids?

Recently, while reading Senator Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult, I stopped and pondered his suggestion that our society is raising a generation that might not be “fully equipped to confront the stark challenges ahead of them.” Basically, Sasse is worried that we’re raising kids who will not be prepared for adulthood.

My antennae zoomed up as I read on, contemplating my own kids, their peers and our military lifestyle.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

(Photo by Tim Pierce)

Often, as military parents, we worry about what we are not providing our kids: stability, continuity and those thick, long roots. We worry about how the military lifestyle is affecting our kids now, in the present: are they scared? Nervous? Shy? Sad? Lost? Lonely? Anxious?

How is deployment affecting them? Is it interfering with their learning, their happiness, their ability to socialize?

But then I thought of what we are giving them, and deep down I believe it has the power to prepare them for the long-term in a truly awesome way.

As our children navigate the challenges and joys, the transitions and calm of military life, they grow vines that are wide and long. These vines grow across the country and around the world. They wind through friendships and communities. They guide our kids through unfamiliar territory and fortify them in the face of challenge.

They are what distinguish our kids. They are what prepare them for adulthood. And here’s why I think so…

1. Military kids learn about themselves by experiencing diversity.

I once read a meme that said something like, “Civilian kids see difference; Military kids see diversity.” I love that. It’s a beautiful way to think of the gift our children have to grow up in several different parts of the country, and perhaps the world.

Our children’s vines extend in and about unique people and places, helping them learn about the complexities of our nation and our world. Our kids don’t travel to foreign places as consumer tourists, passively observing popular landmarks, literally watching the world go by.

No, our kids actively participate in the life of different communities and cultures.

Whether it’s in a small American town or a vibrant European city, our children learn to adapt to social customs and appreciate the nuances of the locale’s lifestyle. In the process, they develop a sense of their own capabilities, as they overcome language barriers, navigate unfamiliar places, and understand different points of view. Our kids gain self-knowledge and experience self-reliance by living a life that requires them to step outside their comfort zone on a regular basis.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

(Photo by Janice Cullivan)

2. Military kids learn early networking skills.

With every transition, our kids become accustomed to the process of getting to know people in their new surroundings. Whether they’re initiating conversations, joining kids on the playground or accepting an invitation to a new friend’s house, our kids are developing excellent communication skills.

Regardless of their personality – shy or outgoing, studious or athletic – they are getting practice in interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds, which will serve them well as adults. As they experience transitions, our kids learn not only how to socialize with friends, but how to form connections in a new place. They seek out clubs, teams and other activities where like-minded peers will gather.

In a way, this is actually giving them experience in early networking skills, challenging them to confront newness, identify what resources they need and reach out to the people who they believe can help them. Someday, when we are far away and they are on their own, they will use exactly the same skills to forge their own path.

3. Military kids are taught to persevere.

Hardship and struggle are realities of every life, military or not. The key to surviving that struggle is recognizing that eventually you’ll make it to the other side. It’s digging deep within yourself for the tools to help you get through difficult times. It’s perseverance, and it’s something military kids know intimately.

Frequent moves, coping with deployments and saying goodbye to friends demand that our kids cope with unusual challenges for their age. But in the process, they learn that while some situations are hard, they have the mental fortitude to push through.

When our service members are deployed, for example, we teach our kids to remember that it is a temporary hardship. Dad or Mom will be home after a certain number of months. In the meantime, we help our kids channel their anxieties into letters or other healthy outlets. When our kids feel the discomfort of a move, we help them take steps to feel more at home. We sign them up for activities or connect them to peers in our new unit. We help our kids grow their vines, extend them out, grab hold and pull through.

I’ll take vines over roots any day.

While deep roots might offer our kids the security of close family, stability and calm, it’s the vines that enrich their lives, lead them on paths of self-discovery and reveal just how rewarding tenacity can be.

The way I see it, roots are overrated…and they have the potential to make our kids stuck. But vines? To me, our kids’ vines are exactly what Sasse worries that the general population of kids lack. Military kids’ vines are a built-in mechanism to open their minds and hearts, and they can give our kids the mental fortitude and strength of character to face their futures as adults.

And as far as we parents are concerned, isn’t that all we really hope for?

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Sheep Dipping’ is the worst name for the military’s best job

If you’re a sheep farmer, dipping your sheep means you’re literally dipping sheep in a bath made to kill insects and fungus. It’s a good way to keep your flock healthy. If you’re in the military and about to be sheep dipped, it means your life is about to get a whole lot more interesting. It’s a term intelligence agencies use when they pretend to boot someone out of the military but secretly turn them into a covert operative.

Don’t worry, you still get your military retirement time. You just can’t tell anyone about it.


The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

A reminder that the CIA has an undetectable heart attack gun.

While “sheep dipping” isn’t the official term for moving a troop from military service to the clandestine service, it’s the term the Agency uses to describe the process of taking a career soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine out of their branch of service on the surface. Instead of really removing the subject, the intelligence agency will just pull their official records, leaving behind their official record, the one which says the troop is retired, separated, or otherwise not in the military anymore.

The agency will take care of your real official record from there but there’s still work to be done on the service member’s part. They will be establishing an entirely new identity for themselves, after all. Their job is to make the move plausible, writing to friends and family telling them why they got out, what they’re going to do after leaving the military, and whatnot.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

“And that’s why I decided to leave the Army and pursue my new life of definitely not being in the CIA.”

According to L. Fletcher Prouty, a retired Air Force Colonel who served as the chief of special operations in the Kennedy Administration, the practice started during the Vietnam War, when the Geneva Accords on the neutrality of Laos in 1962. This agreement prevented foreign combat troops from entering Laos. American troops, engaged in combat in neighboring Vietnam, were forced out of the country. The Nixon Administration, not known for honoring international borders when it came to prosecuting the war in Vietnam, decided they would need military support for intelligence agencies in Laos and opted to use “sheep dipping” as a means to get military members into the country.

If this seems implausible to you, remember we’re talking about the guy who decided to bug the Democratic National Committee and then cover it up, even though he was about to win in the country’s biggest landslide.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Smooth.

The North Vietnamese were secretly supporting Laotian Communists in their effort to topple the Lao government, so why shouldn’t the United States do the same thing in order to support the Laotians? Besides, the NVA was still using Laos as a staging point for attacking allied troops in South Vietnam. The United States military decided to sheep dip a number of specially-trained U.S. troops in order to conduct a clandestine war in Laos. Nixon even allowed the Air Force to provide air support for the Secret War in Laos.

The sheep-dipped soldiers of Vietnam were all provided with their full pay and benefits, not to mention regular promotions and their retirement. If a sheep dipped troop were to be killed in the line of fire, that would pose more of a problem. Their family would struggle to get the benefits befitting a widow – but the agency handled each case separately.

Articles

Army drops Smith & Wesson from pistol competition

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe
The Army recently notified Smith Wesson that it is out of the competition to replace the Beretta M9 9mm pistol. | US Army photo


The U.S. Army has dropped Smith Wesson from its Modular Handgun System competition, according to a Sept. 23 report Smith Wesson Holding Corporation made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Smith Wesson, which was partnered with General Dynamics, was one of five gun makers competing to replace the Army’s M9 9mm pistol.

“We and our partner in the pursuit of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, solicitation to replace the M9 standard Army sidearm have been notified by the Department of the Army that our proposal was not selected to advance to the next phase of the competition,” according to the SEC report.

TheFirearmBlog.com was the first to report the news about Smith Wesson.

As far as we know, the Army is still evaluating striker-fired pistols from Glock, Sig Sauer, Beretta and FN Herstal, according to a source familiar with the competition.

It will be interesting to find out why Smith Wesson didn’t make it to the next round of MHS.

“We are assessing our options in response to the notification and remain focused on achieving our long-term strategy of organically and inorganically expanding our product offerings in the consumer market for shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor enthusiasts,” Smith Wesson officials said in the SEC report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch a North Korean defector dodging bullets to cross the DMZ

The United Nations Command released a video showing a North Korean defector brazenly crossing the border into South Korea as North Korean soldiers fire their weapons at him.


Around 3 p.m. local time on Nov. 13, the defector sped toward a bridge in a Jeep as soldiers pursued him on foot.

He tried to drive past the Military Demarcation Line, the line dividing North and South Korea — but he ran into an obstruction and could go no farther.

As North Korean soldiers from the adjacent guard tower ran toward the vehicle, the defector quickly got out and ran south across the MDL. In the video, several North Korean soldiers can be seen firing their weapons at the defector, who appears to be only a few feet away.

One North Korean soldier appeared to cross the MDL for a few seconds, then run back toward it. The UNC said it found that North Korea had breached the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.

The Korean People’s Army “violated the armistice agreement by one, firing weapons across the MDL, and two, by actually crossing the MDL,” a spokesman said during a news conference Tuesday.

In the video, as US-South Korean forces are alerted about the incident, North Korean troops can be seen mobilizing from Panmungak, one of the main North Korean buildings near the Demilitarized Zone.

The defector is seen resting on a wall in a pile of leaves. South Korea has said North Korean forces fired 40 rounds, and doctors said the defector was shot at least five times.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

USFK

Heat signatures from cameras show two Joint Security Area soldiers crawling toward the defector. They then drag him out — US forces then airlifted him to the Ajou University Medical Center.

No South Korean or US forces were harmed during the incident, according to United States Forces Korea.

During multiple surgical procedures, doctors found dozens of parasites in the defector’s digestive tract, which they say sheds light on a humanitarian crisis in North Korea. He is reportedly in stable condition.

Sources told the South Korean newspaper The Dong-a Ilbo that as he received medical care, the defector asked, “Is this South Korea?”

After he received confirmation that he was, in fact, in South Korea, he said he would “like to listen to South Korean songs,” The Ilbo reported.

Although the defector’s name and rank have not been disclosed, the South has said it believes he is in his mid-20s and a staff sergeant in the KPA.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army artillery doubles its reach with nearly 39-mile shot

The Army has successfully fired a 155mm artillery round 62 kilometers — marking a technical breakthrough in the realm of land-based weapons and progressing toward its stated goal of being able to outrange and outgun Russian and Chinese weapons.

“We just doubled the range of our artillery at Yuma Proving Ground,” Gen. John Murray, Commanding General of Army Futures Command, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

Currently, most land-fired artillery shot from an M777 Towed Howitzer or Self-Propelled Howitzer are able to pinpoint targets out to 30km — so hitting 62km marks a substantial leap forward in offensive attack capability.


Murray was clear that the intent of the effort, described as Extended Range Cannon Artillery, is specifically aimed at regaining tactical overmatch against Russian and Chinese weapons.

“The Russian and Chinese have been able to outrange most of our systems,” Murray said.

Citing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “wake-up call,” Murray explained that Russian weaponry, tactics and warfare integration caused a particular concern among Army leaders.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

A soldier carries out a mission on an M777 howitzer during Dynamic Front 18 at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 8, 2018.

(Army photo by Warrant Officer 2 Tom Robinson)

“In Ukraine, we saw the pairing of drones with artillery, using drones as spotters. Their organizational structure and tactics were a wake up call for us to start looking at a more serious strategy,” Murray explained.

The Army’s 2015 Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites concerns about Russia’s use of advanced weapons and armored vehicles in Ukraine.

“The Russians are using their most advanced tanks in the Ukraine, including the T-72B3, T-80, and T-90. All of these tanks have 125mm guns capable of firing a wide range of ammunition, including anti-tank/anti-helicopter missiles with a six-kilometer range, and advanced armor protection, including active protection on some models,” the strategy writes.

ERCA is one of several current initiatives intended to address this. Accordingly, the Army is now prototyping artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer. The new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.

“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.

The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.

“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Soldiers fire an M777A2 howitzer while supporting Iraqi security forces near al-Qaim, Iraq, Nov. 7, 2017.

(Army photo by Spc. William Gibson)

As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.

The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.

“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement in 2018.

The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.

ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires.

This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-0ff range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago — its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet — are all areas of concern among US Army weapons developers.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

The T-14 Armata tank in the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons.

The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta — which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.

Earlier in 2018, statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia.

The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers and satellite navigation systems, the report says.

Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.

While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control and target technology.”Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.

In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.

Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.

“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”

Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Gurkha who obliterated Japanese defenders with grenades and a bayonet

Havildar Bhanbhagta Gurung was a rifleman in the Indian Army when, in 1945, he rushed past his pinned-down platoon under sniper, machine gun, and rifle fire to take the fight to the Japanese on his own, cutting down five enemy positions and capturing a hill which he then defended against counterattack.


The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Gurkha infantry marches through the streets of Japan after the war.

(British Army)

Bhanbhagta Gurung joined the Indian Army, then part of the British Empire, soon after the outbreak of World War II and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles, otherwise known as the Sirmoor Rifles.

The unit was assigned a dangerous mission in the Burma theater of the war: Sneaking behind Japanese lines and wreaking havoc until hunted down by Japanese forces, then dispersing to start all over. This “chindit” operation was successful but costly. Bhanbhagta Gurung’s unit was sent for refit and he was promoted to corporal and given command of a rifle section.

Initially, he did well in the position, but was charged with neglect of duty and demoted after his section held the wrong hill during an operation. Bhanbhagta Gurung maintained for his entire life that he had occupied the hill he was ordered to take, and it’s thought that his platoon leader had relayed the orders wrong but let Bhanbhagta Gurung take the rap.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Gurkha soldiers train in Malaya in 1941.

(British Army photo by Lt. Palmer)

Bhanbhagta Gurung was sent to another company in disgrace, but he would prove his heroism within months. In March, 1945, he was sent with the 25th Indian Division to the Burma coast with orders to proceed to the Irawaddy River through the An Pass.

Japanese defenders put up a stiff resistance to the oncoming Gurkha forces. Bhanbhagta Gurung’s company was sent against an objective code-named Snowdon East. The hill was crisscrossed with trenches and foxholes.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Gurkha artillerymen fire in Tunisia during World War II.

(British Army photo by Capt. Keating)

The Gurkhas were making their way up when enemy mortar and machine gun fire pinned them down. Grenades rained down and inflicted additional casualties. As the men looked for a way out of their predicament, a Japanese sniper in a nearby tree began picking them off.

Meanwhile, the men suffered friendly fire from their own artillery because of the odd ballistics required by firing up the hills. The big guns stopped firing, leaving the infantry without support.

Bhanbhagta Gurung decided to take care of one problem at a time. Unable to get a good shot at the sniper from his prone position, he stood up with machine gun fire flying past him and mortars and grenades exploding everywhere. He aimed his rifle into the tree and ended the unit’s sniper problem.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Gurkha forces practice using explosives to expel enemy soldiers from trenches.

(British Library)

The section moved forward again, but only made it 20 yards before the withering fire resumed. Bhanbhagta Gurung decided that he wasn’t getting pinned down again and rushed forward on his own while under the accurate machine gun fire of a nearby bunker.

He hit the first enemy foxhole and tossed in two grenades, killing both defenders, before he rushed to the next position and cleared it with his bayonet.

The rest of his section was still taking fire from two foxholes, so Bhanbhagta Gurung went to them, again turning to grenades and bayonet to clear them. By this point, he was right at the machine gun bunker that had been trying to kill him and his section for the entire assault.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

A British infantryman places his Bren light machine gun into operation in 1944.

(British Army photo by Sgt. Laing)

He rushed up, still under fire, and climbed onto the roof of the bunker. Completely out of grenades and low on ammo, he grabbed two smoke grenades and tossed them through the bunker’s slit. The smoke was created by white phosphorous and the defenders rushed out, nearly blinded by it.

Bhanbhagta Gurung grabbed his traditional kukri knife and used it to kill the Japanese troops. Still, a machine gunner remained inside, raining fire on the platoon — so Bhanbhagta Gurung crawled in. He found that there wasn’t enough room to swing his knife and instead used a rock to end the gunner’s life. The hill now belonged to the Gurkhas.

Some of the Japanese defenders that had fled next organized a counterattack. Bhanbhagta Gurung organized a defense, including placing a Gurkha machine gunner in the captured bunker. The Gurkhas fended off the Japanese attack and held the hill.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX99xJLbpzI

www.youtube.com

The Gurkhas had suffered heavy losses — approximately half the company had been killed or wounded. But the casualty rate would likely have been much higher if not for Bhanbhagta Gurung. In fcat, they may have failed to take the hill at all. Bhanbhagta Gurung was put in for the Victoria Cross and later received it.

He was also promoted, eventually regaining the rank of corporal. When the war ended later that year, he decided to get out of the military and care for family at home. He was later given a ceremonial promotion to sergeant in honor of his service and was awarded the Medal of the Order of the Star of Nepal by the King of Nepal.

The family he raised included three sons who joined the Gurkha rifles and later retired from the military. He died in March 2008 in Gorkha, a region of Nepal.

In 2015, re-enactors recreated his stunning success during a celebration marking 200 years of Gurkha service in the British military. The video is embedded above.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new SEAL minisub can keep special operators underwater for a full day

When you watch the movies, SEALs usually have inserted into enemy territory via a free-fall jump, often the high-altitude, low-opening method of free-fall parachuting. But SEALs are maritime creatures and thus tend to also be very proficient in entering via sea routes.


The way this is usually done is through the use of the Mk 8 Mod 1 SEAL Delivery Vehicle. The problem is that this is a “wet” submersible. The SEALs are exposed to the water, and have to be in their wetsuits. It doesn’t sound very comfortable, does it? Well, the SEALs are looking to change that through the acquisition of a dry manned submersible. This will allow the SEALs to make their way in without having to be exposed to the elements.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

A SEAL Delivery Vehicle is loaded on USS Dallas (SSN 700).

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Dave Fliesen)

Now, this was tried before, with the Advanced SEAL Delivery System, or ASDS. This was a project intended to enter service in the 2000s, capable of carrying 16 SEALs inside. However, the price ballooned bigger and bigger, and it was reduced to a prototype. That prototype was lost in a 2008 fire while re-charging its lithium-ion batteries. Thus, SEALs continued to soldier on with their “wet” submersibles.

But the need for a “dry” submersible remains. According to information obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland, that company is working with Submergence Group to market “dry” submersibles for a number of applications. Two submersibles are currently available, each able to operate with a crew of two and up to six divers.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

The Advanced SEAL Delivery System showed promise, but the prototype was lost in a 2008 fire.

(U.S. Navy photo)

The S301i comes in at 29,500 pounds fully loaded, can operate for a day, and has a top speed of seven and a half knots. It has a maximum range of 45 nautical miles at three knots. The S302 is 31,000 pounds, and featured a 60 nautical mile range at five knots. It also boasts an endurance in excess of 24 hours. While these submersibles aren’t quite up to the promise of the ASDS, they could still give SEALs a dryer – and more comfortable ride – in as they prepare to go into hostile territory.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

It’s never too soon to start planning an epic spring or summer vacation. For disabled veterans living stateside, 2020 could be the best year yet for outdoor recreation. This is because the National Parks Service offers disabled veterans an amazing deal on their next visit. From Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to Dry Tortugas National Park and the Mt. Zion and the Smokey Mountains in between, they’re all at our fingertips – and it’s now totally free.


More than 330 million people visit America’s most beautiful parks every year, and the parks are about to see a huge influx from American veterans due to this partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Disabled veterans can get free access with an Access Pass on their cars, granting free access to anyone in that vehicle. On top of access, the access pass gives holders a discount on expanded amenity fees at many National Parks sites, which can include campsite fees, swimming, boat launches, and group tours.

All a veteran has to do to be one of those who enter the parks for free is submit proper documentation of his or her service-connected disability, along with proof of identification and a processing fee. A Veterans Administration letter of service connection is enough to satisfy this requirement, and the passes can even be ordered online.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

This could be you.

(Emily Ogden/National Parks Service)

On top of the disability award letter from the VA, qualified veterans can also use a VA summary of benefits, or proof of SSDI income to prove their disability status. Once proof of residency is also established, and the processing fee is paid, all the veteran has to do is wait. Their new lifetime access pass will arrive 3-5 weeks after sending the application. If online payments aren’t available to the veteran, the passes can also be acquired by paper mail or by stopping into an access pass-issuing facility. The documentation is still required, but getting the pass is a breeze.

The National Parks Service really is full of amazing natural wonders, which make this lifetime pass one of the biggest benefits of having served. The NPS is full of places you’ve always heard about, but likely have never seen: Big Bend, Arches, Denali, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Petrified Forest, Glacier Bay, Hot Springs, and so much more. Summer vacations will never be the same.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA has a new voting booth, and it wants you to hack it

DARPA, the group behind the modern internet and stealth technology, is taking a big swing at hack-resistant voting booths.


It has been working on new ways of securing computers and other electronic devices for years now in a program it calls System Security Integration Through Hardware and Firmware. The basic idea is simple: Instead of securing electronics solely or primarily through software, they can improve hardware and firmware—the programming at the most foundational level of how a computer operates so that hackers can’t get in.

Now, there’s a demonstration voting booth with some of these improvements incorporated into it, and DARPA is taking it on the road to a hackers’ conference.

To be clear, though, this isn’t a finished product, and DARPA hasn’t indicated that the demonstration booth will prove to be secure. In fact, there are 15 processors in development with university and industry teams working on this DARPA program, and only two will be made available for hackers to attempt and intrude upon.

The demonstration booth will be set up at DEF CON 2019, one of the largest and longest-running underground hacking conferences. It will have a set of processors, and the participating research teams will be able to modify those processors according to their proposed hardware and firmware security upgrades.

Hackers will then be able to attack the booth via USB or ethernet access.

Any weaknesses that the hackers identify will be addressed by the research teams as they continue to develop hardware designs and firmware upgrades to make voting booths more secure. Once the teams have finished products with robust security, DARPA will … probably close down the program.

Yeah, DARPA doesn’t typically create final designs of products or manufacture anything. It even does relatively little of its own research most of the time. The standard DARPA model is to identify a problem or opportunity, set up a program that recruits lots of researchers from academia and industry, give those researchers money according to performance metrics, and then let the industry partners buy up research and patents and create new products.

So the best case for DARPA isn’t that their demonstration voting booth fends off all attackers. It’s that the booth takes some real hits and the research teams find out what vulnerabilities still exist. Then the research teams can create awesome hardware architectures and programming that will be more secure. But DARPA does have one surprise twist from their standard model.

Instead of leaving most of the tech developed for the voting booths in private and academic hands, it’s pushing for the design approaches and techniques to be made into open-source technologies, meaning anyone can use them.

But still, don’t expect to see these amazing voting booths when you vote in 2020. DARPA wants to spend 2019 touring the booth at universities and allowing more experts to attack it, then bring it back to DEF CON in 2020 with new tech built on a STAR-Vote architecture, an open-source build with its own democratic safeguards like paper ballots. Most state and local governments don’t update their voting hardware all that often, let alone in the months leading up to a major election.

So the earliest you could see new, DARPA-funded tech at your local polling place is the 2022 mid-terms, and more likely the 2024 or later elections.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says ending Korean war games is good for the US

President Donald Trump continued to hype the results of his Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June12, 2018, by framing a massive concession he made as savings for the US military.

“We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith — which both sides are!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s tweet frames the US suspending war games, seen as a massive win for both China and North Korea in the negotiations, as a thrifty move from the US.


While the military is a huge expenditure for the US, and military drills are costly, their financial cost is comparatively minor compared to the diplomatic bargaining chip they represented.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bridget Keane)

But military drills do more than cost money, they keep the US troops and South Korea safe and ready for combat.

Without military drills, the US forces in South Korea would wither and fail to meet readiness standards. Also, by letting North Korea dictate what the US military does, Trump sends the US down a slippery slope.

If North Korea’s input into US military decisions keeps up, the entire rationale for US forces in South Korea could be quickly undermined, leaving a gap China would likely fill to displace the US as the region’s dominant power.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The story of Atos, a heroic K9 killed in action

Military and law enforcement working dogs are vital. They not only add capabilities for the units they serve with, like finding the enemy faster due to their powerful sense of smell; they also save their lives in the process. These dogs willingly sacrifice themselves in the process of saving their team. Atos was one of them.


Randy Roy served four years in the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Army in the 1980’s and went on to become a law enforcement officer in Iowa. He began working with the K9 unit and training dogs. In 2007 he was approached by the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) to become a Contract Trainer for their military working dogs. Roy and his family left their home in the Midwest and settled outside of Ft. Bragg in North Carolina shortly after that.

Atos was the first military working dog he trained.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Roy shared that USASOC acquired Atos in the summer of 2007. “Atos was a goofball, hard head, Malinois. He was awesome. Atos was kind of stubborn but very trainable and learned quickly,” said Roy. He continued on saying, “He was very sociable with everyone. They truly become part of the team and he certainly became a team member.” When Atos finished his training, he deployed to Iraq.

It was while in Iraq that he was assigned to his handler. The handler had just lost his previous military working dog, Duke, who was killed in action during a firefight. Roy shared that at first, Atos’ handler didn’t want to like him, most likely because the loss of Duke was so fresh. But Atos grew on him quickly.

Jarrett “Fish” Heavenston and Roy connected on that deployment, with Heavenson often volunteering for Atos’ training and happily donning a bite suit. Heavenston joined the Army at seventeen in 1991 and completed seven years as a ranger. He also worked in jungle warfare and USASOC. Heavenston wanted to do something different, so he left the Army and joined the Air Force in 2001 as a Combat Controller where he stayed until he retired in 2016.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

“They [working military dogs] recognized who their tribe or pack was and they were very protective of them. We are kind of look, dress and walk the same; if you weren’t part of that pack they were alert and watching you and on guard,’ said Heavenston. As a Combat Controller, he was with many different dogs; he shared that some dogs were approachable, and friendly and that’s how Atos was described.

On Christmas Eve in 2007, Heavenston and his team were tracking enemy combatants. The brush was incredibly thick and woody. “It was very tough to move in the brush. We knew they were in there and waiting for us,” he shared. Heavenston said that he was helping to guide the handler as he was casting Atos out. The dog was able to find and track the guy they were looking for because of his keen sense of smell; but that meant that the team lost sight of Atos.

Although Atos quickly made his way through the brush, the team moved behind him much more slowly due to the difficulty of navigating the tough terrain. “You have the best-trained guys in the world out there, but it doesn’t negate that what you are doing is really hard,” said Heavenston. He shared that between the rough terrain and fading daylight, it was a tough operation.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

“The dog is on him the dog is on him” is what Heavenston remembers hearing from the communications with an aircraft above them. They didn’t realize it was Atos at first, but eventually, they heard the commotion.

Shortly after that, the enemy combatant blew himself up, killing not just himself, but Atos.

Four members of their team were wounded that night, some grievously. “Had Atos not done what he had done, it would have been much worse,” shared Heavenston. He knows that if Atos hadn’t engaged with the enemy and forced him to detonate his bomb early, there would have been certain loss of human life that Christmas Eve.

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

“There are hundreds of dogs out there who have made the ultimate sacrifice. There are many of us within the military that are here today because of what they did,” said Heavenston. It was with this in mind that his company, Tough Stump Technologies (which Atos’ trainer, Roy, became a part of), decided to hold an event in Atos’ honor.

Touch Stump Technologies partnered with K9 for Warriors to raise money through their event for the organization, which is working to end veteran suicide and return dignity to America’s heroes by pairing them with service dogs. Dogs are paired with veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or have suffered military sexual trauma (MST).

The event will celebrate the life and sacrifice of Atos and all working dogs on March 13, 2020.

Heavenston also shared that his company is working hard to develop technology that would allow the military to better track their military working dogs. “If we had this on Atos that night, that narrative would have been a lot different,” said Heavenston. The hope is that with specialized GPS tracking capabilities, they won’t lose dogs like they lost Atos.

Working dogs are an integral part of the military and law enforcement. On this K9 Veteran’s Day, take a moment to remember the dogs like Atos that willingly sacrificed their lives to save their people. Every loss is felt deeply, and the gratitude for the lives they’ve saved is unmeasurable. Don’t forget them.