It used to be difficult for Marine Veteran Kenneth Schmitt to load his wheelchair into his car and drive to the nearest VA facility. He no longer drives, and now receives VA medical care through the VA home based primary care program.
Angela Gard, assistant nurse manager of community-based care at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, said home based primary care allows Veterans to stay in familiar and comfortable surroundings, remain functional and maintain quality of life.
Marine veteran Kenneth Schmitt and RN Farrah Mosely during a home based primary care visit in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.
“We try to keep people in their houses longer instead of going to a nursing home,” she said. “They’ve lived there forever. It’s not very often that they want to move.”
Schmitt, who lives in rural Wisconsin, receives his primary care at home through the Union Grove VA Clinic. The clinic, located about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, serves about 3,500 Veterans a year as they face the challenges of disability, aging and chronic disease.
“It works really well for Mr. Schmitt, who lives out in the country,” said Farrah Mosley, a registered nurse based at the Union Grove clinic.
Mosley does home based primary care from the Union Grove VA clinic.
“For example, Mr. Schmitt is a diabetic,” Mosley said. “So, the dietician comes in and completes a nutrition assessment and collaborates with the Veteran to develop a plan of care with goals and outcomes. He has done really well with it and he has really brought his numbers down.”
Schmitt said he appreciates the care and the convenience offered by the program now that he doesn’t drive.
“I have been without a license for almost two years now,” Schmitt said. “Before that I had a power wheelchair that I loaded in my car, but it was so stressful. Even if someone was trying to help, it would just wear me down. By the time I would get back home, I was done for. Takes away a lot of stress.”
Over the past year, a selected set of Army units have been piloting the new six-test Army Combat Fitness Test as the first phase of replacing the three-test Army Physical Fitness Test.
Used since 1980, the APFT includes the 2-mile run, push-up test, and sit-up test. The ACFT is an almost hour-long series of the six tests described in Table 1: the dead lift, the standing power throw, the hand-release push up, the sprint-drag-and-carry, the leg tuck hold, and the 2-mile run.
The ACFT is designed to better assess soldiers’ abilities to perform common tasks that reflect combat readiness. “It’s much more rigorous, but a better test,” agreed several members of the units testing the ACFT. Some studies are still underway, but transition to the ACFT is imminent:
The ACFT will be conducted by all soldiers Army-wide starting Oct. 1, 2019. Soldiers will also conduct the APFT as the official test of record during a one-year transition until Oct. 1, 2020. While some aspects of standards, training, and administration are being finalized, procedures and techniques are documented in Field Manual (FM) 7-22, Army Physical Readiness Training (PRT), 2012.
Capt. Jerritt Larson, executive officer, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait performs the “maximum deadlift” element of the new US Army Combat Fitness Test.
(Photo by Kevin Fleming, 401st AFSB Public Affairs)
The ACFT and associated training requires soldiers to use several parts of the body not previously addressed by the APFT. This supports a more holistic, balanced approach to Army physical readiness. While ACFT is intended to improve soldiers’ physical performance while reducing injuries long term, as with any new physical activity it comes with new injury risks.
Observations by Army experts suggest certain injuries that may be anticipated. While the Army is sending out ACFT trainers to every unit to help train soldiers, everyone should be aware of potential new problems and how to avoid them.
Why and how were new ACFT tests selected?
Leaders and soldiers alike have long expressed concerns that the APFT doesn’t adequately measure soldiers’ abilities to perform common required tasks important during deployment.
Not all aspects of the APFT are bad, however. Studies have demonstrated that the 2-mile run is an excellent way to test soldiers’ cardiorespiratory endurance, also known as aerobic fitness. Aerobic capacity is linked to performance of more military tasks than any other aspect of fitness.
“Aerobic capacity is the most important measure of a soldier’s fitness,” says Dr. Bruce Jones, a retired Army colonel and medical doctor with the U.S. Army Public Health Center. “And weight-bearing physical activities such as running or marching are inescapable routine military aerobic activities.” Jones also explains that “Poor run times are not only associated with poor performance, they are associated with higher risk of injury.” So the 2-mile run time is a reliable way to monitor both aerobic fitness and injury risk.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
The push-up test is also linked to key military tasks, and is a good measure of upper body muscle endurance. However, evidence did not support the value of using the sit-up test to measure military task performance.
An in-depth review of key fitness elements and their association with military tasks found that muscle strength and power are critical to military task performance. Agility and speed are also very important. The APFT does not measure these key fitness elements. The ACFT will now ensure soldiers’ combat readiness determinations include these additional fitness components.
What injury risks are associated with the ACFT?
Historically, the majority of soldiers’ injuries have occurred in the lower body, which includes the knee, lower leg, ankle, and foot and the lower back. Excessive physical training emphasis on distance running and long foot marches have been to blame.
“While lower body injuries may be reduced with more cross-training, they are expected to remain a primary concern,” explained Tyson Grier, an APHC kinesiologist. “Soldiers spend the majority of their time on their feet. Their lower body is constantly absorbing forces from carrying their body weight in addition to other loads.”
The Army updated its training doctrine to the physical readiness training program in 2012 to reduce lower body injuries. The PRT deemphasizes distance running and encourages a mix of training activities to promote strength, agility, balance, and power.
The PRT has been associated with a reduction of injuries in initial entry training. Army operational units have not shown comparable trends in injury reduction, however. Since the APFT has continued to be the test of record these units may not have fully embraced the PRT.
With the implementation of the ACFT, the Army will still monitor soldiers’ aerobic fitness with the 2-mile run, but training time will need to be devoted to a variety of other activities too. The new tests are not risk-free, but the goal is to slowly build up the body’s ability to perform activities than might cause soldiers injuries on the job. While this is to enhance physical performance, Army experts recognize that the training for and conduct of the ACFT could also increase risk of injuries to the upper body such as the back and spine, shoulder, and elbows.
Sgt. Traighe Rouse, 1-87IN, 1BCT10MTN, carries two 40 pound kettle bells during the A 250-Meter Sprint, Drag and Carry event of the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
(U.S. Army photo by SSG James Avery)
Some items used for the ACFT, such as the trap/hex bar for the deadlift, have been specifically selected to reduce injury risk. To avoid injuries caused by excessive weight lifts, the maximum weight for the deadlift was limited to 340 pounds, considered a moderate weight by serious lifter. Procedures are designed to avoid injury. For example, the grader must spot the soldier during leg tuck to reduce falling injury. A required warm up before the ACFT and a specific deadlift warm up period will reduce injuries. Despite these efforts, there will be a learning curve.
“A primary reason for injury resulting from the new test and training activities will be due to improper form and technique,” says Grier. “These are new activities to learn. It is very important that soldiers learn proper technique from the start, and avoid developing bad habits.”
“We also worry that “too much too soon” will cause injuries,” notes Maj. Timothy Benedict., Army physical therapist. “Some soldiers will start this training by lifting too much weight, conducting too many repetitions, or not allowing days of rest between sessions that stress specific muscles.”
While only future surveillance of soldiers’ injuries will be able to identify actual changes to the Army’s injury trends, a review of existing evidence suggests potential injury risks associated with the new tests and associated training. Table 1 highlights key injury concerns.
Some injuries associated with the ACFT will be sudden acute injuries. Acute injuries are usually associated with sudden sharp pain and typically require immediate medical attention. These include strains or tears in arm, shoulder, chest, or back muscles, torn knee ligaments, dislocated shoulders, herniated discs in the back, pinched nerves, or fractured bones (such as from falling during the leg tuck).
While these acute injuries can occur when soldiers are conducting military tasks or other personal activities, specific training activities may raise the risk. For example, studies of both professional and amateur and weightlifters and power lifters have indicated that use of extremely heavy weights during the dead-left is associated with lower back disc herniation and knee injuries. On the other hand, some rehabilitation studies have suggested that using lighter weights during the dead-lift may be useful to strengthen the back and knees.
An acute tear of fatigued muscles and tendons in the chest, arm, or shoulder during bench-pressing of heavy weights, such as a pectoralis major rupture, is another highly studied injury. This injury is almost uniquely associated with the bench press activity — only a couple past military cases were other causes (parachuting and push-up training). Though the bench press is not part of the ACFT, there is concern that soldiers may use this activity to train for the ACFT.
Pfc. Tony Garcia, an infantryman with 2nd platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, pumps out pushups during a ranger physical fitness test.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Ford)
Injuries that develop gradually over time from over training are known as cumulative or overuse injuries. Overuse injuries occur when a repeatedly used set of body tissues haven’t had adequate time to heal and rebuild. “Continuing to stress tissues already injured from improper or excessive use or weight will only make the condition worse,” warns Benedict.
While delayed muscle soreness can be a normal sign that muscles are rebuilding stronger, pain in a joint or bone is not normal. Pain associated with overuse injuries may dull during the activity, but can become more serious if use continues.
Overuse injuries to the lower body are the most common type of soldier injury. Overuse to joints in shoulders, elbows, as well as knees and spinal joints are concerns because of the new ACFT tests. A common shoulder overuse injury is a torn rotator cuff – though it can occur suddenly, tissues have often already been worn from excessive use. Other common overuse injuries include tendonitis, bursitis, and pain syndromes in the knee and the lower back. These injuries may lead to long term chronic or permanent tissue damage.
Why it matters
Though injuries will continue to be experienced by soldiers — most are preventable.
Injury can mean out of commission for some time — and can notably increase your chances of getting injured again. Or develop chronic life-long conditions as you get older.
Injuries critically impact individual, units, and Army performance. Injuries cost the Army billions of dollars annually for medical treatment, rehabilitation and re-training, medical disability, and reduced productivity from restricted duties, and attrition. Training-related musculoskeletal injuries are the leading reason for temporary medical non-deployment status.
What you can do
In order to optimize U.S. military performance, soldiers and Leaders must do their part to train smarter which includes avoiding injury.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So do what you can to avoid getting injured in the first place. Table 2 provides some general guidance. Using proper technique, slowly building up intensity and weight levels to acclimate your body, and allowing rest days between similar activities are the primary keys to minimizing your risk.
To minimize risk follow procedures as taught by Army ACFT trainers. Seek guidance from Army Fitness Centers, doctrine in FM 7-22, a certified trainer, such as a Master Fitness Trainer, and use a buddy system during training to be warned of poor form and for hands on help as a ‘spotter’ to ensure proper balance and range of motion.
And if you are injured? Stop activities at early signs of pain and seek medical advice. Taking a break from activities temporarily to let the tissues heal can minimize the likelihood of a more serious injury. An injured knee can require weeks or months of rehabilitation. A worn rotator cuff tear can mean surgery. Lower back pain can result in a long term health condition.
U.S. troop increases in Syria and Iraq could be part of the plan for speeding up the campaign against ISIS that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will present to the White House next week, military officials said Wednesday.
Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Mideast, “It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves” in supporting a combined Syrian Arab and Syrian Kurdish force closing on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. “That’s an option.”
It was less clear whether Mattis would consider a U.S. troop increase in Iraq.
Last week, during a visit by the new defense secretary to Iraq to assess the situation, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said, “I have all the authorities I need to prosecute our fight, and I am confident that if I were to need more that my leadership would provide those.”
However, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a task force spokesman, said in a video briefing Wednesday to the Pentagon, “I don’t want to speculate on what we’re going to ask for” in presentations to Mattis. “We’ve provided our input to General Votel” and that input is working its way through the chain of command.”
He added, “We’re awaiting decisions.”
In his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis spoke to the possibility of “accelerating” the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump directed him to draw up a plan within 30 days.
Trump has spoken favorably on the creation of safe zones for refugees in Syria, which would potentially require major increases in the U.S. troop presence to police and protect them. The president renewed his support for safe zones at what was billed as a campaign rally in Florida last week, and said that the Gulf states would pay for them.
“We’re going to have the Gulf states pay for those safe zones,” Trump said. “They have nothing but money.”
Mattis is prepared to submit the ISIS plan to Trump next week, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. “It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.
“We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments,” Davis said.
On the ground in the Mideast, Votel told reporters, “I am very concerned about maintaining momentum” in the simultaneous campaigns to take Raqqa and liberate the western sector of Mosul in northwestern Iraq.
Currently, the U.S. has about 500 troops, mostly Special Forces, in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq in train, assist and advisory roles. In the coming fight for Raqqa, Votel said, “We want to bring the right capabilities forward.”
“Not all of those are necessarily resident in the special operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations,” Votel said, according to The New York Times.
“We might bring potentially more of our assets to bear if we need to, as opposed to relying on our partners” under the umbrella group called the Syrian Democratic Forces, he said. “That’s an option.”
In his statements last week, Townsend said U.S. troops in advisory roles are moving closer to the front lines with the Iraqi Security Forces as the battle for Mosul intensifies. “It is true that we are operating closer and deeper into the Iraqi formation,” he said. “We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation.”
The result has been that U.S. troops serving as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to guide airstrikes and in other advisory capacities have increasingly come under fire, Dorrian said in his briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.
“When someone is shooting at you, that is combat. Yes. That has happened,” Dorrian said. “They have come under fire at different times, [and] they have returned fire at different times in and around Mosul.”
There have been no recent reports of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and Dorrian declined to say whether any U.S. troops had been wounded in the fighting in and around Mosul.
He said the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria does not immediately report on the number of wounded troops, if any, to avoid giving intelligence to the enemy. Casualty figures would be compiled at a later date by the Defense Department, he said.
The always-candid U.S commander in the Pacific declared that “the Indo-Asia-Pacific region is the most consequential region for America’s future.” He added that he did not see any change in the United States’ commitment to his theater as a result of the presidential election or the public turmoil with the leaders in the Philippines and South Korea.
Addressing a Defense One forum Nov. 15, Adm. Harry Harris expressed concern about North Korea’s nuclear weapons technology and “Chinese assertiveness” in the South China Sea, but said “America has critical national interest in the region and must alleviate the concerns of our allies and partners.” He added the need to deter any potential adversaries as well.
“The United States is the guarantor of security in the region and will remain so,” he said.
To support that view, Harris noted that America is sending its best military systems to the region before they go anywhere else.
He cited the decision to send the Marine Corps’ F-35Bs to Japan next year, saying it sends a “signal that we’re sending our most powerful aircraft to the Indo-Asia-Pacific before anywhere else. No other aircraft can approach it. I’m a big fan. But in a bigger sense, it’s a signal that Indo-Asia-Pacific is important.”
Harris also noted that the Navy’s new massive destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, is homeported in the Pacific. The Navy is increasing the number of Virginia-class attack submarines in the theater and sent the new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to Japan on its first deployment.
Although the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program has been plagued with problems, Harris gave a strong endorsement for the relatively small, fast and modular ships. Recalling the concern he and other Navy officers had during the Cold War over the Soviet Union’s force of small, fast missile craft, the admiral said if the LCS were equipped with anti-ship missiles it would force a potential adversary to spread its defenses against that threat.
And despite the usual naval focus of his vast command, Harris praised the Army’s increasing strength and capabilities in the Pacific.
What the Army brings, he said, “is what it always brings: mass and fire power.”
Harris said he also encourages Army leaders to contribute more to what he called “cross-domain fires,” which would include cyber and information warfare.
He added, “I think the Army should be in the business of sinking ships with land-based ballistic missiles,” which is similar to what the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force is planning to do in response to China’s aggressive claims in the East China Sea.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley recently declared anti-ship weapons as a necessary Army capability. And the Marine Corps, in its recently released Operating Concept, said the Corps should be able to support the Navy’s ability to project power by developing anti-ship systems.
Harris said he thought that if the Army would put those kinds of weapon systems in place, it would be “a threat to potential adversaries in the Western Pacific,” which apparently referred to China.
While criticizing China’s “assertiveness” and its construction of military facilities on artificial islands in the South China Sea, Harris said his personal relations with his Chinese counterparts were good and he stressed the importance of continued military-military contact.
The admiral also insisted that, despite the anti-American rants of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, there has been no change in U.S. access to bases there and no orders to remove Special Operations forces advising Philippine troops in their anti-terrorist actions.
Harris carefully avoided any questions about the possible changes in his command due to the election of Donald Trump, but said, “America never has a lame-duck commander in chief…I continue to serve President [Barack] Obama until January 20, at which point I’ll serve President Trump.”
“That said, I have no doubt we will continue our steadfast commitment to our allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he added.
The aircraft, which have been launching strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria since July, are now conducting high-intensity, seven-day-a-week operations to protect the ground forces moving into Mosul.
Rear Adm. James Malloy, the commander of the Eisenhower carrier strike group, told Military.com in an exclusive interview this week that the crew of the carrier has been tireless as conditions on the ground intensify.
“The sailors are motivated and focused and understand the sense of urgency with this enemy,” he said. “And the ground [conditions are] a direct result of naval power projected ashore. So it’s pretty easy to explain to them both what they’re doing and the effect that they’re having on the enemy.”
The carrier, which deployed in June, launched about 116 airstrikes on Islamic State targets during its transit through the Eastern Mediterranean sea, and more than 1,330 since its arrival in the Arabian Gulf as of Sunday, Malloy said. But these numbers, he noted, did not take into account the aircraft that were at that moment in the air over Mosul.
While strikes have been ongoing in and around Mosul for months in anticipation of the last major offensive into the city, operations have changed in recent weeks as the assault began.
Navy pilots are destroying fewer deliberate targets — fixed objectives they’re assigned to hit before they launch from the carrier deck — and more dynamic targets, often moving objectives that they are assigned after they arrive in the region and check in with the air controller.
Nearly 90 percent of strikes launched from the Eisenhower are now assaulting dynamic targets, Malloy said.
“The reason why [dynamic] targeting is much more critical now is because that is in direct support of troops on the ground moving against the enemy,” he said. “So by the time the pilots get to their targets from the carrier, the forward line of troops may have moved and the surgical precision of Navy air is critical to be able to impact the battle as it is occurring.”
Typical dynamic targets are command and control nodes and key areas where Islamic State militants will attempt to conduct resupply and ground maneuver in response to being attacked.
“They are being targeted as they try to do that, so we are accelerating the ground campaign with the airstrikes,” Malloy said.
The Eisenhower will likely remain in the region for several more months until its deployment concludes. On Thursday, multiple media outlets reported that Iraqi and Peshmerga troops, shored up with a small contingent of U.S. advisers, had finally breached the limits of Mosul.
For the Super Hornets, known for speed, precision and maneuverability, it’s an opportunity to show off what they can do.
“As a major offensive is occurring, the dynamic targeting capability of the aircraft come to fore,” Malloy said. “And that is where they shine for the most part: their responsive capability from the air.”
The U.S. Navy’s Fleet Week has kicked off with a parade of ships, including patrol, destroyer and assault vessels that pulled into New York Harbor.
The U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton military base held a salute to the ships on May 24. The USS Kearsarge amphibious assault ship carried out a seven-gun salute to Fort Hamilton, which replied with a 15-gun salute.
“New York has always had a close relationship with the military,” U.S. Coast Guard Anthony Giovinco, U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran and chief of staff and secretary of the United Military Veterans of Kings County Memorial Day Parade, said in a statement. “The sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are treated very well here. This is a tradition that is important to me. It brings back fond memories of the years I spent in the military.”
The USS Kearsarge was accompanied by vessels including the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Lassen; the Ticonderoga-class cruisers USS Monterey and USS San Jacinto; and Canada’s Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Glace Bay, among others.
“Fleet Week New York is a way for the general public to view and experience the maritime sea services while allowing us to show our appreciation for our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen,” U.S. Army Spc. Tanner Butler, who is assigned to Fort Hamilton, said. “I feel, that since 9/11, it is really important for the people of New York to experience these things and to remember that our fellow Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen are there for us.”
New York City residents can inspect the vessels while service members are allowed to roam the city and enjoy perks such as free subway rides and baseball tickets. About 4,000 sailors,Marines and Coast Guardsmen are anticipated to participate this year. There will be a special screening of the 1986 film Top Gun in New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air Space Museum.
“Fleet Week New York, now in its 29th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea service,” the Navy said in a statement. “It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. The weeklong celebration has been held nearly every year since 1984.”
In 2013, the Navy canceled Fleet Week due to spending cuts amid a sequester. The event would have cost the Navy an estimated $10 million, while the New York City metropolitan area lost an estimated $20 million in revenue.
A 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer conducts a training mission in the vicinity of Japan where they integrated with Japan Air Self Defense Force assets, May 12, 2020. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman River Bruce)
The Air Force‘s B-1B Lancer bomber is about to move front and center in the U.S. military’s power-projection mission in the Pacific.
As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the Air Force is not only making its supersonic bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes in the Pacific, a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.
The “nice thing about the B-1 is it can carry [the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile], and that’s perfectly suited for the Pacific theater,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview Tuesday.
“Not only are we resetting the airplane’s mission-capability rates and the training done for the aircraft, we’re also resetting how we employ the airplane to get more toward great power competition to align with the National Defense Strategy,” added Dawkins, who supports the warfighting air component to U.S. Strategic Command, as well as operations within Air Force Global Strike Command.
According to the 2018 NDS, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.”
Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stated that China has become “a pacing threat for the U.S. Air Force because of the pace of their modernization” in the region.
The Pentagon’s strategy prioritizes deterring adversaries by denying their use of force in the first place.
During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Dawkins said.
Close-air support, the B-1’s primary mission in recent years, is a much different skill set than “shooting standoff weapons like JASSM-ER and LRASM,” he said, referring to the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles-Extended Range.
While Dawkins wouldn’t get into specifics of how crews are conducting the practice runs in the Pacific, the non-nuclear B-1s have been spotted recently carrying Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles.
Photos recently posted on DVIDS, the U.S. military’s multimedia distribution website, show Dyess’ 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons crew members loading a JASSM into the belly of a plane. The B-1 is capable of carrying 75,000 pounds — 5,000 pounds more than the B-52 Stratofortress — of both precision-guided and conventional bombs.
The JASSM’s newer variant, JASSM-ER, has a higher survivability rate — meaning it’s less likely to be detected and shot down — due to low-observable technology incorporated into the conventional air-to-ground precision-guided missile. It is said to have a range of roughly 600 miles, compared with the 230-mile reach of JASSM, according to The Drive.
The LRASM, a Navy missile integrated on both the B-1 and F/A-18 Super Hornet, is able to autonomously locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.
Joint air-to-surface standoff missiles are loaded into a 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 9, 2020. The B-1Bs carry the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman River Bruce)
The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile was first tested on a B-1 in August 2017. A single B-1 can carry up to 24 LRASMs, or the same number of JASSM-ERs. The LRASM missile achieved early operational capability on the bomber in 2018.
The vast expanses of the Pacific are well-suited for training with these kinds of missiles, Dawkins explained. Stateside ranges, which may lack surface waters or enough distance between two points, depending on location, cannot always accommodate the needs of bomber crews training with these long-range weapons.
Also, “[when] we deploy, for instance to Guam, taking off from [the U.S.] and going to the Pacific, it allows us to do some integration with our allies, as well as exercise the command-and-control … and also allows us to practice our long-duration flights and work with the tankers,” he said.
The flight was part of the Air Force’s new unpredictable deployment experiment to test crews’ agility when sending heavy aircraft forces around the world, since the need to improve the bombers’ deployability rate is also crucial, Dawkins said.
Mission-capability rates refers to how many aircraft are deployable at a given time. The B-1 has been on a slow and steady track to improve its rate — which hovers around 50% — after being broken down by back-to-back missions in the desert, officials have said.
The B-1 could become the face of the Pacific for the foreseeable future, Dawkins said.
“We want … to be the roving linebacker, if you will, particularly in the Pacific,” he said, adding the mission could also pave the way for incorporating hypersonic weapons into the bomber’s arsenal.
Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has expressed support for the B-1 as a future hypersonic weapons platform.
“Basically, the configuration we’re seeking is external hardpoints that can allow us to add six Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapons [ARRW, pronounced “Arrow”], and then you still have the bomb bay where you can carry the LRASM or the JASSM-ER,” Ray told reporters last month. LRASM or JASSM-ER could also be carried externally, he added.
“They’re not doing any testing with the hypersonic on the B-1, but that’s definitely in the mix,” Dawkins said.
If configured with that payload in the future, that would be “quite a bit of air power coming off that airplane, whether it’s JASSMs, JASSM-ERs or some combination of those, and hypersonics,” he said.
Whenever you look through a substance, whether it’s the water in a pool or a pane of old, rippled glass, the objects you see look distorted. For centuries, astronomers have been mapping the sky through the distortions caused by our atmosphere, however, in recent years, they’ve developed techniques to counter these effects, clearing our view of the stars. If we turn to look at the Earth instead of the skies, distorted visuals are a challenge too: Earth scientists who want to map the oceans or study underwater features struggle to see through the distortions caused by waves at the surface.
Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, are focused on solving this problem with fluid lensing, a technique for imaging through the ocean’s surface. While we’ve mapped the surfaces of the Moon and Mars in great detail, only 4% of the ocean floor is currently mapped. Getting accurate depth measurements and clear images is difficult in part, due to how light is absorbed and intensified by the water and distorted by its surface. By running complex calculations, the algorithm at the heart of fluid lensing technology is largely able to correct for these troublesome effects.
You’ve probably noticed these distortions between light and water before. When you look down at your body in a swimming pool, it appears at odd angles and different sizes because you’re looking at it through the water’s surface. When light passes through that surface, it also creates bright bands of light, in an almost web-like structure that you see at the bottom of the pool called caustics. When caustics, are combined with the other distortions caused by water, they make imaging the ocean floor a difficult process. Caustics on the ocean floor are so bright that sometimes they are even brighter than sunlight at the surface!
Researchers at the Laboratory for Advanced Sensing at NASA Ames are developing two technologies to image through the ocean surface using fluid lensing: FluidCam and MiDAR, the Multispectral Imaging, Detection, and Active Reflectance instrument.
A researcher testing the FluidCam instrument while on deployment in Puerto Rico.
A lens to the sea
The FluidCam instrument is essentially a high-performance digital camera. It’s small and sturdy enough to collect images while mounted on a drone flying above a body of water. Eventually, this technology will be mounted on a small satellite, or CubeSat, and sent into orbit around the Earth. Once images of the sea floor are captured, the fluid lensing software takes that imagery and undoes the distortion created by the ocean surface. This includes accounting for the way an object can look magnified or appear smaller than usual, depending on the shape of the wave passing over it, and for the increased brightness caused by caustics.
While FluidCam is passive, meaning it takes in light like a traditional camera and then processes those images, MiDAR will be active, collecting data by transmitting light that gets bounced back to the instrument, similar to how radar functions. It also operates in a wider spectrum of light, meaning it can detect features invisible to the human eye, and even collect data in darkness. It’s also able to see deeper into the ocean, using the magnification caused by the water’s surface to its advantage, leading to higher resolution images. MiDAR could even make it possible for a satellite in orbit to explore a coral reef on the centimeter scale.
Both technologies bring us closer to mapping the ocean floor with a level of detail previously only possible when teams of divers were sent under water to take photographs. By using fluid lensing on satellites in orbit, the oceans can be observed at the same level of detail across the globe.
Citizen science to help save coral
But why does mapping the ocean matter? Besides being the Earth’s largest ecosystem, it’s also home to one of the planet’s most unique organisms: coral. Coral is one of the oldest life forms on the planet, and one of the few that is visible from space. This irreplaceable member of the ocean world is dying at an unprecedented rate and, without proper tracking, it’s unclear exactly how fast or how best to stop its deterioration. With fluid lensing technology, the ability to track changes to coral reefs around the world is within reach.
A screenshot from the NeMO-Net game.
A program called NeMO-Net aims to do just this, with some help from machine learning technologies and the general public. A citizen science game by the same name, soon to be released to the public, allows users to interact with real NASA data of the ocean floor, and highlight coral found in these images. This will train an algorithm to look through the rest of the data for more coral, creating a system that can accurately identify coral in any imagery that it processes.
Tracking coral allows scientists to better pinpoint the causes of its deterioration and come up with solutions to limit damaging human impact on this life form that hosts more biodiversity than the Amazon rainforest.
By using techniques originally designed to study the stars, fluid lensing will allow us to learn more about one of the greatest mysteries right here on our own planet: the ocean and all the multitudes of life within it. That alien world holds just as many mysteries as the cosmos, and with technologies like fluid lensing, discovering those enigmas is within our grasp.
Researchers flying the FluidCam instrument during a field deployment in Puerto Rico.
March 2019: In collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico, a research crew from NASA Ames will be deploying FluidCam and MiDAR to study the shallow reefs of Puerto Rico. Field sites include the La Gata and Caracoles Reefs, Enrique Reef, San Cristobal Reef, and Media Luna Reef.
May 2019: Another deployment of the MiDAR instrument will take place in Guam, with the goal of testing while diving and in the air.
Fall 2019: Fluid Lensing instruments will be deployed to the Great Barrier Reef.
The Laboratory for Advanced Sensing is supported by the NASA Biological Diversity Program, Advanced Information Systems Technology Program and Earth Science Technology Office.
Ukraine has released footage of two North Korean spies exuberantly photographing fake missile designs in 2011, as part of a sting operation that eventually landed the pair in jail, as CNN reports.
Ukraine, once home to thousands of Soviet nuclear ICBMs, continues to produce missiles today as it faces a Russian-backed insurgency in the country’s east. Another Cold War remnant in Ukraine appears to be spycraft, which allowed the country to trick and capture two North Korean spies.
Authorities in Ukraine told CNN that the North Koreans sought “ballistic missiles, missile systems, missile construction, spacecraft engines, solar batteries, fast-emptying fuel tanks, mobile launch containers, powder accumulators, and military government standards,” to bring home to Pyongyang, according to CNN.
The specific plans the spies thought they were capturing showed schematics for the SS-24 Scalpel intercontinental ballistic missile, a Soviet-designed missile that can carry 10 independently targetable warheads across vast distances. Such a weapon would be a massive improvement over North Korea’s current fledgling ICBM fleet.
But the designs photographed by the North Koreans were fake, and moments after the cameras flashed, authorities broke into the room and detained them. The spies are now serving eight years in prison.
Two Navy destroyer collisions in the Pacific this summer that claimed the lives of 17 sailors were preventable and resulted from multiple failures on the part of senior officers and sailors standing watch to avert disaster, according to a new investigation released October 31.
The destroyer Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged tanker ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan on June 17, claiming the lives of seven sailors when compartments flooded.
Two months later, on Aug. 21, the destroyer John S. McCain and Liberian-flagged container ship Alnic MC collided near the Straits of Malacca, causing the deaths of another 10 sailors.
“Both of these accidents were preventable and the respective investigations found multiple failures by watchstanders that contributed to the incidents,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a statement released Nov. 1. “We must do better.”
Released investigations totaling 72 pages showed that errors and failures — ranging from inadequate training and knowledge to undue fatigue — played roles in both collisions.
The Fitzgerald was not operating at a safe speed appropriate to the number of the ships in the area, officials found, and failed to notify other ships of danger and take proper action.
In addition, they found, watchstanders were paying attention only on Fitzgerald’s port side, not on the starboard side, where three ships presented a collision risk.
In the case of the McCain, the report found, errors compounded following mistakes in operating the ship’s steering and propulsion.
The ship made too sharp of a turn to the port, or left, side, just before the collision, officials found, a mistake due in part to the fact that several sailors on watch during the collision had been temporarily assigned from the cruiser Antietam, which has significantly different steering controls.
“Multiple bridge watchstanders lacked a basic level of knowledge on the steering control system, in particular the transfer of steering and thrust control between stations,” investigators found.
The release of the reports comes a day before Richardson and the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Adm. Philip Davidson, are set to discuss the way forward for the Navy in a press conference at the Pentagon.
Hours after the McCain collision, Richardson commissioned Davidson to complete a 60-day comprehensive review of Navy surface warfare deployment and training practices and determine areas for improvement to prevent further disasters.
“We are a Navy that learns from mistakes, and the Navy is firmly committed to doing everything possible to prevent an accident like this from happening again,” Richardson said Wednesday. “We must never allow an accident like this to take the lives of such magnificent young Sailors and inflict such painful grief on their families and the nation.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, has deployed a specially trained debris management team to Hawaii in preparation for anticipated response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Lane, currently a Category 4 storm heading toward the state.
Five personnel — a military officer and four civilians — departed Aug. 22, 2018, for Honolulu to stage assets, along with other personnel from across the Army Corps of Engineers associated with various emergency response capabilities.
“Our team is pre-staging for the storm and proud to assist in the national response to a storm that may cause significant impacts to Hawaii in the coming days,” said Dorie Murphy, chief of emergency management for the Baltimore District. “I’m confident that Baltimore District’s highly competent and experienced debris management team will be a true asset to the larger response mission.”
During contingencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency can assign the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a mission to provide debris management assistance. Baltimore District’s debris planning and response team is one of seven specially trained Corps debris teams across the country.
Satellite Views Category 4 Hurricane Lane at Night
Advising Authorities, Removing Debris
Support can involve technical support and advice to local authorities who may not be familiar with removal and disposal processes for large amounts of debris. It also can involve physically carrying out various debris removal activities.
Baltimore District personnel are prepared to support a large debris removal mission in Hawaii, with additional personnel prepared to deploy in the coming days and weeks.
The Baltimore District also is prepared to deploy its mobile communications vehicle, which provides a full spectrum of communications including radio, satellite and cellular capabilities. The vehicle was deployed to Puerto Rico to help jumpstart response and recovery efforts there last fall after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Baltimore District’s debris experts recently supported debris removal associated with the wildfires in California as well as impacts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Of note, the team supported debris removal in New York following Hurricane Sandy, as well as the large and unique debris removal mission after 9/11.
Thirty soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division recently tested new technologies in a video-game environment to provide feedback for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.
“This latest experiment will provide us with an understanding of which technologies are most critical for the robotic combat vehicle to be successful in an operational environment,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, NGCV CFT director.
Coffman will be one of the speakers Oct. 14, 2019, at a NGCV Warriors Corner presentation at the Washington Convention Center where more about the experiments will be explained.
The soldiers from 4ID’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the NGCV CFT’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.
The campaign of learning is part of GVSC’s virtual prototyping process that helps the Army test new technologies without soldiers needing to start up an engine or even set foot in the field — saving valuable resources.
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division support the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.
(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)
The soldiers provided feedback on vehicle crew configuration, formations, vehicle capabilities, enabling technologies — such as unmanned aerial vehicles and aided target recognition — and networked capabilities.
The experiment examined multiple questions including how soldiers dealt with constraints such as signal degradation, lack of mobility while using certain features, task organization, and which variants of the vehicles proved the most useful.
“One of the things we are looking at is if a lighter, less-protected RCV can achieve similar battlefield effect as a heavier but more protected one, while both having the same lethality package,” Coffman said.
For the five-day virtual experiment, soldiers employed RCVs in open and urban terrain against a simulated near-peer adversary. Observations and data were collected as to how soldiers use the RCVs and enabling technologies such as smoke generation, tethered unmanned aerial systems, target designator, and signal boost in offensive and defensive roles and in both open and urban environments.
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.
(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)
“RCVs were able to effectively designate targets and conduct target handoff with other RCVs which executed the target using Hellfire missiles,” said an infantryman who participated in the experiment. [soldier names are withheld due to research protocol.]
These type of events will continue throughout the year with each virtual experiment increasing in capability and fidelity to support a live soldier experiment in March and April 2020. The next virtual experiment will be conducted with support from the 1st Cavalry Division Dec. 9-13, 2019, at the Detroit Arsenal.
“These soldier touch points are essential to how Army Futures Command is executing the Army’s modernization priority,” Coffman said. “Soldiers are at the center of everything we do, and their insight is crucial to developing these new technologies.”