Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

A Marine Corps veteran, Ray Guasp is no stranger to serving others. He founded Veterans Response, a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization made up of former military personnel and first responders. He is emblematic of the military veteran who continues to serve his country after leaving the service, as highlighted in the #StillServing campaign launched this year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

#StillServing aims to bring attention to and honor the continued commitment and sacrifice of America’s veterans. In fact, The Corporation for National & Community Service’s 2018 Volunteering in America Report shows that veterans volunteer 25 percent more time, are 17 percent more likely to make a monetary donation and are 30 percent more likely to participate in local organizations than the civilian population.


“All those skills I learned in the military transfer right over to disaster response,” Guasp said. “Veterans Response gives me and other veterans and first responders an environment that we are accustomed to — mission-forward, mission-centric, focused and disciplined.”

Ray’s story began at age 18 when he joined the United States Marine Corps and served in Operation Desert Storm. He took those problem solving and leadership skills and founded Veterans Response, with the mission to deliver timely and appropriate emergency services to disaster-stricken communities. A Veterans Response team deploys into communities suffering catastrophic events helping to meet immediate and longer-term needs, everything from water and temporary shelter to rebuilding homes and communities.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria were both Category 5 storms that struck within two weeks of each other in the fall of 2017, devastating the Caribbean and parts of Florida. Within a week of forming Veterans Response, the organization raised ,000 and purchased and installed a water filtration system in Puerto Rico. Using any source of freshwater, contaminated or not, the system can produce 250 gallons of clean water per hour. Veterans Response also provided residents with reusable water bottles to use with the system and worked with residents to monitor and maintain the system when the organization’s team is no longer on site.

The next phase of Guasp’s plan for Puerto Rico is to focus on providing stricken communities with mental health services; services he realizes were needed after his own experiences in Desert Storm.

“Those memories live with you forever,”Guasp said. “Our goal for Puerto Rico is to enable the treatment of some of the pain that its residents have gone through in the last several years.”

Currently, Veterans Response is focusing on a new disaster, one close to home. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in early March, the group has been working around the clock shopping for food to donate to food banks, stocking food bank shelves and assembling packages of donated items to distribute to those in need. To date, Veterans Response has provided food banks around Guasp’s hometown in Connecticut with more than 550 pounds of food.

“Normally we respond to disasters but in this case, this is a crisis and we decided to take up arms and be part of the solution,” said Pablo Soto, an Army veteran and member of Veterans Response.

“We’re trying to do our part to try to help at least put food on somebody’s table,” Guasp said. “So they can have some type of normal in their household.”

When not volunteering with Veterans Response, Guasp is a partner and co-founder of a medical device sales company (Attero Surgical), a volunteer fireman and a firearms instructor. Because of his continued service, VFW has chosen Guasp to serve as a spokesperson for its national #StillServing campaign.

The VFW encourages all veterans to share stories on social media using #StillServing to show how they continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small. In addition, family or friends are asked to use #StillServing in social media posts to honor a veteran in their lives who believes the spirit of service transcends military life.

“Service creates a balance in our life,” Guasp added. “It allows us to still be a part of that world and the brotherhood that we enjoyed. It is critical for veterans to share this message and show that veterans are not an obscure population. We are making real changes in our communities every day.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

Post-Traumatic stress disorder carries him into the depths of fear and pain; reliving images of death and destruction. Closing his eyes to night terrors at sundown and fighting through daily anxiety attacks eventually pushed him to the brink of suicide so he could put an end to the never-ending cycle.

It wasn’t until his second suicide attempt that Air Force veteran and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center support agreement manager Ryan Kaono took steps to face his invisible scars and reach out for help.

It was 2010 and he hadn’t slept in more than four days, knowing he’d get flashbacks of what he’d experienced during deployments to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.


“They were terrible,” Kaono said. “I would wake up screaming and my wife would be scared. Out of desperation, I decided I was going to end it.”

Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said it was very difficult for her to watch her husband suffer with no real diagnosis.

“You feel helpless,” she said. “I described it as having an animal or child unable to speak yet you know they’re feeling something. You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them.”

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, takes a moment to breath while his service dog Romeo assesses the situation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Exhausted and going through myriad feelings, Kaono swallowed numerous prescription drugs in the hopes of not waking up. Something inside him, however, made him reach out to his commander for help, letting her know what he’d done.

He was admitted to the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs hospital for a few days of observation and diagnosed with PTSD. This began his journey of living with the disorder instead of being a slave to it.

His diagnosis came with some relief but angst as well.

“I was scared yet relieved at the same time,” Alessa said. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was happy he was finally diagnosed but both he and I knew it would be a long and difficult journey at times.”

Even today, two deployments replay in the mind of the former security forces military working dog handler and logistician.

Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia

In June 1996, Kaono was working a gate at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated on the other side of the compound, killing 19 and wounding countless others.

“When the actual blast went off, it was chaos everywhere,” Kaono said. “I had to stop and put that part behind me. I needed to focus and ensure that the folks who had been injured or disoriented … were taken care of.”

For years, he continued pushing the many visions of pain and suffering he’d seen there to the back of his mind where they festered.

In total, the Hawaii-native had 11 deployments as a security forces defender by the time he found himself at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, struggling with anger issues.

“I would quickly get frustrated; I would have bouts of just frustration and real anger,” he said.

While on a smoke break outside of central security control one day, Kaono lost consciousness and fell to the ground. Controllers inside the building were able to see what happened and his officer-in-charge ran to his aid.

When he regained consciousness, his captain was leaning over his chest, trying to wake him.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
U.S. and Saudi military personnel survey the damage to Khobar Towers caused by the explosion of a fuel truck outside the northern fence of the facility on King Abdul Aziz Air Base near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, at 2:55 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, June 25, 1996.

He was quickly taken to the hospital where he suffered with partial paralysis in his legs for about 10 hours and the inability to use his body from the base of his neck to his fingertips for three days.

His medical team diagnosed him with syncope; the uncontrollable loss of consciousness with no real explanation.

“From that, they determined I couldn’t deploy, I couldn’t carry a weapon so I couldn’t really be a security forces member anymore,” Kaono explained. “I was force retrained for medical reasons into logistics.”

Balad Air Base, Iraq

Fast forward to 2005 when Kaono served as first sergeant and deployment manager for the 93rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Balad, Iraq.

As a dual-hatted logistics planner and first sergeant in the Reserve, he was responsible for making sure unit members arrived safely at their deployed location, were able to get their jobs done and would return home to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, when their deployment was over.

While in a meeting with senior leaders, the base began taking mortar fire that impacted closer and closer to Kaono’s trailer and two fully-loaded F-16s nearby.

“They were trying to walk (mortars) up our runway to our loaded aircraft,” Kaono said, with the expectation that they’d be able to hit the aircraft causing secondary explosions with more damage.

While everyone in the room was running for cover, Kaono gathered up classified materials to stow in a safe.

“It wasn’t my first mortar attack so I really didn’t think anything of it,” he said.

With the sensitive documents in the safe, Kaono turned to leave to seek shelter when a mortar pierced the aluminum trailer and exploded, sending him 15-20 feet in the air before slamming his head and right shoulder into a concrete Jersey barrier.

“It felt essentially like The Matrix … I’m floating through the air and everything is going in slow motion. I see shrapnel and dust and everything just going around me,” he said.

Once he hit his head, he was snapped back to reality and felt the severe pain of what would later be diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury.

“I went to the hospital there at Balad and they checked me out and told me I had a concussion but that was about it; nothing really life threatening so I didn’t get sent home,” he said.

When he eventually rotated back to Homestead, he went through a standard post-deployment physical health assessment where he initially struggled with discussing what he’d endured. When he was able to talk about it, the doctor said he entered what was considered a fugue state — a complete loss of what was going on around him.

“I essentially was staring off into nothingness for a period of time suffering a flashback,” he said.

“From there, they said I had a possibility of PTSD and they sent me on my way.”

Five years later, after his extreme cries for help, his PTSD diagnosis came.

PTSD, the daily struggle

“PTSD and living with it is a daily struggle,” Kaono said. “We’re always cognizant of it. Those who are around us may see us and see absolutely nothing’s wrong. We don’t typically have external signs of our disability but emotionally and mentally, we still have to deal with it.”

In the years between 1996 and today, Kaono said there were times when he would just shut himself away because he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. There were also times when he could go to work and feel that people would think there was nothing wrong with him because he looked fine.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, shares a laugh with a videographer during an interview while his service dog Romeo keeps a steady eye on the photographer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

“That just reinforced the issue that I had,” he said. “To me, one of the main issues of dealing with PTSD is that people don’t (realize) … they don’t see you missing a limb, they don’t see you scarred, they don’t see you burned and so to the outside world you look like you’re no different — you’re not special, you have no issue, no disability to really claim.”

In order to live his life, Kaono has to acknowledge his PTSD and what caused it every single day.

“If I continued down the path that I was on previously, where I just let it consume me, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans and 11 percent of veterans from the war in Afghanistan live with PTSD.

To be able to help them, Kaono recommends people educate themselves on the disorder.

“Find out what post-traumatic stress is, see what it does, look at the studies that show why there are 22 people per day committing suicide because they can’t handle the stress anymore. Don’t just pass us off as being fine … that’s the worst thing that people can do.”

On top of everything else, dealing with the stigma of having PTSD is a struggle for the Kaono family.

“When people hear the word PTSD they think of the negative news articles out there. Ryan may have PTSD, but it doesn’t make him any less of a human being,” Alessa said.

“We’re not asking people to walk on eggshells around us,” Kaono said. “Treat us as if you would treat anybody else … we are still people. We still hold jobs. We still have families.We still have responsibilities and if you don’t give us the opportunity to meet those responsibilities, you’re not helping us.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is trying to decide what, exactly, the next tank should look like

Could there be a lightweight armored attack vehicle able to speed across bridges, deploy quickly from the air, detect enemies at very long ranges, control nearby robots, and fire the most advanced weapons in the world — all while maintaining the unprecedented protection and survivability of an Abrams tank?

Such questions form the principle basis of rigorous Army analysis and exploration of just what, exactly, a future tank should look like? The question is fast taking-on increased urgency as potential adversaries continue to present very serious, technologically advanced weapons and attack platforms.



“I believe that a complete replacement of the Abrams would not make sense, unless we had a breakthrough…with much lighter armor which allows us to re-architect the vehicle,” Col. Jim Schirmer, Program Manager for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

There are currently a range of possibilities being analyzed by the Army, most of which hang in the balance of just how quickly certain technologies can mature.

Newer lightweight armor composites or Active Protection Systems may not evolve fast enough to address the most advanced emerging threats, Schirmer explained.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

Soldiers conduct a live-fire exercise with M1A2 Abrams tanks.

(Army photo by Gertrud Zach)

While many Army weapons developers often acknowledge that there are limitations to just how much a 1980s-era Abrams tank can be upgraded, the platform has made quantum leaps in technological sophistication and combat technology.

“Until technology matures we are going to mature the Abrams platform,” Schirmer said. We would need an APS that could defeat long-rod penetrators.(kinetic energy armor penetrating weapons) — that might enable us to go lighter,” Schirmer said.

A 2014 essay from the Institute for Defense Analysis called “M1 Abrams, Today and Tomorrow,” reinforces Schirmer’s point by detailing the rapid evolution of advanced armor-piercing anti-tank weapons. The research points out that, for instance, hybrid forces such as Hezbollah had some success against Israeli Merkava tanks in 2006.

Therefore, GD and Army developers continue to upgrade the Abrams and pursue innovations which will enable the Abrams to address these kinds of evolving threats — such as the long-range kinetic energy penetrator rods Schirmer mentioned; one of the key areas of emphasis for this would be to develop a more expansive Active Protection System able to knock out a much wider range of attack possibilities — beyond RPGs and certain Anti-Tank Guided Missiles.

The essay goes on to emphasize that the armored main battle tank bring unparalleled advantages to combat, in part by bringing powerful land-attack options in threat environments where advanced air defenses might make it difficult for air assets to operate.

Using computer algorithms, fire control technology, sensors, and an interceptor of some kind, Active Protection Systems are engineered to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire in a matter of milliseconds. Many Abrams tanks are already equipped with a system known as “Trophy” which tracks and knocks out incoming enemy fire.

A next-gen APS technology that can take out the most sophisticated enemy threats could enable the Army to engineer a much lighter weight tank, while still maintaining the requisite protection.

For these and other reasons, the combat-tested Abrams weapons, armor and attack technology will be extremely difficult to replicate or match in a new platform. Furthermore, the current Abrams is almost an entirely new platform these days — in light of how much it has been upgraded to address modern combat challenges.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

U.S. Soldiers load the .50-caliber machine gun of an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams main battle tank during a combined arms live-fire exercise.

(U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)

In short, regardless which future path is arrived upon by the Army — the Abrams is not going anywhere for many years to come. In fact, the Army and General Dynamics Land Systems have already engineered and delivered a new, massively improved, M1A2 SEP v3 Abrams. Concurrently, service and industry developers are progressing with an even more advanced v4 model — featuring a massive “lethality upgrade.”

All this being the case, when it comes to a future tank platform — all options are still on the table.

“Abrams will be out there for some time. We are funded from the v3 through the v4, but there is a thought in mind that we may need to shift gears,” David Marck, Program manager for the Main Battle Tank, told a small group of reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium. “I have no requirements for a replacement tank.”

Accordingly, some of the details, technologies, and applications intended for the v4, are still in flux.

“The Army has some decisions to make. Will the v4 be an improved v3 with 3rd-Gen FLIR, or will the Army remove the turret and build in an autoloader — reduce the crew size?” Michael Peck, Director, Enterprise Business Development, GD, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Also, ongoing work on NGCV could, to a large extent, be integrated with Abrams v4 exploration, Peck explained. GD is preparing options to present to the Army for input — such as options using a common lighter-weight chassis with interchangeable elements such as different turrets or an auto-loader, depending upon the threat.

“There are some things that we think we would do to make the current chassis lighter more nimble when it comes to crew size and electronics — eventually it may go on a 55-ton platform. We have a couple different interchangeable turrets, which we could swap as needed,” Peck asked.

Despite the speed, mobility and transportable power challenges known to encumber the current Abrams, the vehicle continues to be impactful in combat circumstances — and developers have sought to retain the technical sophistication designed to outmatch or counter adversaries.

“Today’s tank is so different than the tanks that took Baghdad. They were not digitized, did not have 1st-Gen FLIR and did not have commander’s independent viewers,” Marck said.

Next-Generation Combat Vehicle

The massive acceleration of the Army future armored platform — the Next Generation Combat Vehicle — is also informing the fast-moving calculus regarding future tank possibilities.

Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat, told Warrior Maven in an interview the Army developers are working on both near-term and longer term plans; he said it was entirely possible that a future tank or tank-like combat vehicle could emerge out of the NGCV program.

“We want to get as much capability as quickly as we can, to stay above parity with our adversaries,” Cummings said.

The program, which has now been moved forward by nearly a decade, could likely evolve into a family of vehicles and will definitely have unmanned technology.

“Right now we are trying to get the replacement for the Bradley to be the first optionally manned fighting vehicle. As we get that capability we may look at technology that we are getting in the future and insert them into current platforms,” Cummings said.

Any new tank will be specifically engineered with additional space for automotive systems, people, and ammunition. Also, as computer algorithms rapidly advance to allow for greater levels of autonomy, the Abrams tank will be able to control

Unmanned “wing-man” type drones could fortify attacking ground forces by firing weapons, testing enemy defenses, carrying suppliers or performing forward reconnaissance and reconnaissance missions.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin III.

However, while clearly emphasizing the importance of unmanned technology, Schirmer did say there was still room for growth and technological advanced necessary to replicate or come close to many human functions.

“It is not impossible — but it is a long way away,” Schirmer said.

The most advanced algorithms enabling autonomy are, certain in the nearer term, are likely to succeed in performing procedural functions able to ease the “cognitive burden” of manned crews who would then be freed up to focus on more pressing combat-oriented tasks. Essentially, the ability of human cognition to make dynamic decisions amid fast-changing variable, and make more subjective determinations less calculable by computer technology. Nonetheless, autonomy, particularly when enabled by AI, can condense and organize combat-essential data such as sensor information, targeting technology or certain crucial maintenance functions.

“Typically a vehicle commander is still looking through multiple soda straws. If no one has their screen turned to that view, that information is not of use to the crew, AI can process all those streams of ones and zeroes and bring the crews’ attention to threats they may not otherwise see,” Schirmer said.

Abrams v3 and v4 upgrades

Meanwhile, the Army is now building the next versions of the Abrams tank — an effort which advances on-board power, electronics, computing, sensors, weapons, and protection to address the prospect of massive, mechanized, force-on-force great power land war in coming decades, officials with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems told Warrior Maven.

The first MIA2 SEP v3 tank, which includes a massive electronics, mobility and sensor upgrades, was delivered by General Dynamics Land Systems in 2017.

“The Army’s ultimate intent is to upgrade the entire fleet of M1A2 vehicles — at this time, over 1,500 tanks,” an Army official told Warrior.

The first v3 pilot vehicles will feature technological advancements in communications, reliability, sustainment and fuel efficiency and upgraded armor.

This current mobility and power upgrade, among other things, adds an auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system, GDLS developers said.

In addition to receiving a common high-resolution display for gunner and commander stations, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, were replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules. This includes a commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, developers from General Dynamics Land Systems say.

Facilitating continued upgrades, innovations and modernization efforts for the Abrams in years to come is the principle rationale upon which the Line Replacement Modules is based. It encompasses the much-discussed “open architecture” approach wherein computing standards, electronics, hardware, and software systems can efficiently be integrated with new technologies as they emerge.

This M1A2 SEP v3 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.

The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.

The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.

Using a moving digital map display, JBCP shows blue and red icons, indicating where friendly and enemy forces are operating in relation to the surrounding battle space and terrain. JBCP also include an intelligence database, called TIGR, which contains essential information about threats and prior incidents in specific combat ares.

Current GD development deals also advances a commensurate effort to design and construct and even more advanced M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond.

The v4 is designed to be more lethal, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.

SEPv4 upgrades include the Commander’s Primary Sight, an improved Gunner’s Primary Sight and enhancements to sensors, lethality and survivability.

Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

A Russian T-14 Armata.

Interestingly, when asked about specific US Army concerns regarding the much-hyped high-tech Russian T-14 Armata, Schirmer said the Army would pursue its current modernization plan regardless of the existence of the Armata. That being said, it is certainly a safe assumption to recognize that the US Army is acutely aware, to the best of its ability, of the most advanced tanks in existence.

The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Army developers told Warrior.

While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Army developers did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.

The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Army official said.

Improved FLIR technologies help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.

Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these v4 upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Army officials said.

The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle.

Advanced Multi-Purpose Round

The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.

The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.

The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained. The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.

The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.

The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.

AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations

A new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.

The Institute for Defense Analysis report also makes the case for the continued relevance and combat necessity for a main battle tank. The Abrams tank proven effective both as a deterrent in the Fulda Gap during the Cold War, waged war with great success in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 — but it has also expanded it sphere of operational utility by proving valuable in counterinsurgency operations as well.

The IDA essay goes on to emphasize that the armored main battle tank brings unparalleled advantages to combat, in part by bringing powerful land-attack options in threat environments where advanced air defenses might make it difficult for air assets to operate and conduct attacks.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happens next in the North Korea missile situation

Experts may debate trajectories, payload weights, and re-entry shields, but North Korea’s claim that the entire United States is within range of its rapidly improving missiles just got a lot more credible.


The Nov. 29 launch of what the North called the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile demonstrated a greater range than other missiles it’s tested and showcased several capabilities the North must master if it were ever to actually try to unleash them at the United States.

Here is a quick look at the advancements made, the developments still to come, and the implications for the United States and its Asian allies:

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
The Hwasong-14 missile, the predecessor to the missile launched on Nov. 29, rockets into the sky. (Photo from KCNA)

The missile itself

According to North Korea’s announcements about the launch, the Hwasong-15 can be tipped with a “super-large heavy warhead” and is capable of striking anywhere in the U.S. mainland. The North claims it reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,780 miles) and flew 950 kilometers (600 miles) from its launch site just outside of Pyongyang. It was airborne for 53 minutes before splashing down in the Sea of Japan.

The launch data coincides with what foreign experts observed. U.S. scientist David Wright, a physicist who closely tracks North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, estimates the Hwasong-15 has an estimated range of more than 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) if flown on a standard trajectory — putting it within reach of Washington, D.C.

Pyongyang claims the missile has significant tactical and technical improvements from the Hwasong-14 ICBM it tested in July and is the North’s “most powerful” to date. KCNA also said Kim Jong Un “declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
(Photo from KCNA)

The repeated claim in the announcement that North Korea has now completed its “rocket weaponry system development” is new and important. It could be bluster, but might also suggest a shift away from tests — at least of these kinds of missiles — toward production and deployment.

The North’s arsenal is still a far cry from the quality and quantity of what the United States can field. The Air Force’s development of the Minuteman ICBM goes back to the late 1950s. It now has about 400 of the latest version, the Minuteman III, which also has a maximum range of about 13,000 kilometers.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test Feb. 20, 2016, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford)

How it was launched

The timing and location are important. It was launched in the dead of night, most likely from a mobile launcher, near the capital. That indicates the North was trying to show it can launch whenever and wherever it pleases — a capability that makes it more difficult to take pre-emptive action. It’s impossible to blow up a North Korean missile on the launch pad if the missile can be moved and there isn’t any launch pad at all.

Interestingly, however, Japanese media reported on Nov. 28 their government had intercepted radio signals from the North suggesting a launch was imminent. It’s not clear if that was a first, since details on such intelligence are normally not made public. But it does suggest the North’s neighbors are having some success with surveillance efforts.

The trajectory of the launch is also significant. The missile was “lofted” at an extremely sharp angle and reached an altitude more than twice as high as satellites in low Earth orbit.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
The ballistic missile, launched from Sain Ni, near Pyongsong, North Korea, was launched at an angle so as to arch sharply and fall into the Sea of Japan, avoiding crossing over enemy countries. (Image Google Earth and We Are the Mighty)

North Korea needs to launch toward the Pacific because it would otherwise be shooting its missiles at Russia or China — a very unwise proposition. And lofting avoids flying over Japan, which could prompt Tokyo or Japan-based U.S. missile-defense facilities to attempt an intercept, and hits open seas instead of other nations.

But lofting doesn’t closely simulate conditions of a real launch. Experts can roughly gauge the range of the missile from its lofted performance, but a missile on an attack trajectory would fly a lower, flatter pattern that presents some different challenges, particularly in the crucial re-entry stage of the nuclear payload.

So what now?

North Korea claimed, as it always does, that the test is part of its overall strategy to defend itself against Washington’s “nuclear blackmail” and that its development of missiles and nuclear weapons does not pose a threat to any country “as long as the interests of the DPRK are not infringed upon.” DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Related: The US can survive a nuclear North Korea — but a first strike could start World War III

In an equally familiar manner, the move was immediately condemned in the strongest terms by Tokyo and Seoul. President Donald Trump said Washington “will handle it,” while giving no indication of how or what handling it actually would mean.

Clearly, however, the problem isn’t going away.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea participate in joint statements on Friday, June 30, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The launch broke a two-month lull in what has been a record pace of tests for the North. While some claimed that was the result of pressure from the United States and its allies, it’s common for the North to re-focus its energies to farming activities during the harvest season and for its military to shift into a lower-profile mode for its winter training cycle.

North Korea still needs to conduct further missile tests, particularly of its submarine-launched missile systems, to improve its overall arsenal. But having now demonstrated what it claims to be the primary missile it needs to deter attack from the United States, Pyongyang may turn to more testing of its nuclear weapons.

So far, five of its six nuclear tests have been conducted in a series of tunnels under Mount Mantap, a 2,205 meter (7,200 foot) tall granite peak in the northeast part of the country. But Pyongyang has hinted it might attempt an atmospheric test over the Pacific Ocean.

That would be a far more provocative move than the Nov. 29 missile test and might prompt a military response.

Articles

The Harrier will live longer as the Hornet falls apart

The problems the Marine Corps is having with its F/A-18 Hornet force have been a boon to one plane that was originally slated to go to the boneyard much earlier.


According to Foxtrot Alpha, the AV-8B Harrier has recently gained a new lease on life as upgrades are keeping the famed “jump jet” in service. In fact, the Harrier force has become more reliable in recent years, even as it too sees the effects of aging.

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U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Levingston Lewis

One of the reasons is the fact that the Marine Hornet fleet is falling apart. The Marines had to pull 23 Hornets out of the boneyard at Davis-Monthan last year to address the issues they were facing – and even then, they needed some hand-me-downs from the Navy.

The Marine Corps is planning to replace both the F/A-18C/D Hornets and the AV-8B Harriers with the F-35B Lightning II, the Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35B has already been deployed to Japan, while the F-35A, operating from conventional land bases, just recently deployed to Estonia.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (USMC photo)

Originally, the Harriers were slated to be retired first, but the delays on the F-35 and a review that not only changed how the Marines used the Harrier, but also discovered that the Harrier airframes had far more flight hours left in the than originally thought gave them a new lease on life.

As a result, the Marines pushed through upgrades for the Harrier force, including newer AMRAAM missiles and the GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound system that combined both GPS guidance with a laser seeker. Other upgrades will keep the Harriers flying well into the 2020s.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan after conducting an aerial refuel Dec. 6, 2012. 
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore)

The Harrier has been a Marine Corps mainstay since 1971 – often providing the close-air support for Marines in combat through Desert Storm and the War on Terror. The Harrier and Sea Harrier first made their mark in the Falklands War, where the jump jets helped the United Kingdom liberate the disputed islands after Argentinean military forces invaded.

Articles

The Navy is developing rail gun rounds for Army Howitzers

An Army Howitzer is now firing a super high-speed, high-tech, electromagnetic Hyper Velocity Projectile, initially developed as a Navy weapon,  an effort to fast-track increasing lethal and effective weapons to warzones and key strategic locations, Pentagon officials said.


Overall, the Pentagon is accelerating developmental testing of its high-tech, long-range Electro-Magnetic Rail Gun by expanding the platforms from which it might fire and potentially postponing an upcoming at-sea demonstration of the weapon, Pentagon and Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality and range ability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.

Related: Need to put some warheads on foreheads? There’s an app for that

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

Firing from an Army Howitzer, the hypervelocity projectile can fire at high speeds toward enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft,vehicle bunkers and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.

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In this image, provided by the U.S. Navy, a high-speed video camera captures a record-setting firing of an electromagnetic railgun, or EMRG, at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., on Thursday | US Navy

“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet. That is very much a focus getting ready for the future,” Dr. William Roper, Director of the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, told Scout Warrior among a small group of reporters last year.

Pentagon weapons developers with the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, are working to further accelerate development of both the gun launcher and the hypervelocity projectile it fires. While plans for the weapon’s development are still being deliberated, ongoing work is developing integration and firing of the projectile onto existing Navy’s deck-mounted 5-inch guns or Army M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer (a mobile platform which fires 155mm artillery rounds).

The Strategic Capabilities Office, a high-level Pentagon effort, is aimed at exploring emerging technologies with a mind to how they can be integrated quickly into existing weapons systems and platforms. Part of the rationale is to harness promising systems, weapons and technologies able to arrive in combat sooner that would be the case should they go through the normal bureaucratic acquisition process. In almost every instance, the SCO partners with one of the services to blend new weapons with current systems for the near term, Roper explained.

Also read: This company wants F-35-style helmets in future tanks

Part of the calculus is grounded in the notion of integrating discovery and prototyping, being able to adjust and fix in process without committing to an official requirement, Roper said.

Roper further explained that firing the HVP out of a 155m Howitzer brings certain advantages, because the weapon’s muzzle breach at the end of its cannon is able to catch some of the round’s propellant – making the firing safer for Soldiers.

“Its design traits were all based with dealing with extreme electromagnetic fields – that projectile could be fired out of an existing weapon system. Its whole role is to just keep the hot gas and propellant from rushing past. You dont want it eroded by the hot material,” Roper explained.

The goal of the effort is to fire a “sub-caliber” round that is aerodynamic and able to fly at hypersonic speeds. We can significanly increase the range and continually improve what powder guns can do, he added.

“We’ve been looking at the data and are very pleased with the results we are getting back,” Roper said.

One Senior Army official told Scout Warrior that firing a Hyper Velocity Projectile from a Howitzer builds upon rapid progress with targeting technology, fire-control systems and faster computer processing speeds for fire direction.

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U.S. Army photo

“If you can destroy approaching enemy fire in a matter of seconds, it changes the calculus of fire support. You have really changed things,” he told Scout Warrior.

Adjusting for the higher-speed round also invovles managing blast overpressure released from the muzzle when the projectile leaves the cannon; the trajectory or guidance of the round also needs to be properly managed as it exits the cannon tube through the muzzle toward the intended.

“This is not just making sure you are not damaging the tube, but retaining accuracy for the projectile based on projectile stability,” he said.

Accomplishing this high-tech integration also widens the target envelope a Howitzer is able to destroy, expanding its offensive attack, ground defense and counter-air possibilities.

The senior official described the Army Howitzer as an “advanced countermeasure,” therefore underscoring the added combat value of firing a round with massively increased speed and lethality.

Meanwhile, the Navy intends to arm portions of its surface fleet with Rail Gun fire power; platforms include Joint High-Speed Vessels, Destroyers and Cruisers, among others.

On the ocean, a HPV be fired against a floating target, in an effort to test the rail gun’s ability to destroy targets that are beyond-the-horizon much faster than existing long-range weapons, Navy officials said.

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One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard joint high speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3) in port at Naval Base San Diego on July 8, 2014. | US Navy photo

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

High-Speed, Long-Distance Electromagnetic Weapons Technology

The weapon’s range, which can fire guided, high-speed projectiles more than 100 miles, makes it suitable for cruise missile defense, ballistic missile defense and various kinds of surface warfare applications.

The railgun uses electrical energy to create a magnetic field and propel a kinetic energy projectile at Mach 7.5 toward a wide range of targets, such as enemy vehicles, or cruise and ballistic missiles.

The weapon works when electrical power charges up a pulse-forming network. That pulse-forming network is made up of capacitors able to release very large amounts of energy in a very short period of time.

The weapon releases a current on the order of 3 to 5 million amps — that’s 1,200 volts released in a ten millisecond timeframe, experts have said. That is enough to accelerate a mass of approximately 45 pounds from zero to five thousand miles per hour in one one-hundredth of a second, Navy officials added at a briefing last Spring.

Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained at last years’ briefing.

Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained at last years’ briefing.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp
YouTube

A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, they explained.

Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round.

The railgun can draw its power from an onboard electrical system or large battery, Navy officials said. The system consists of five parts, including a launcher, energy storage system, a pulse-forming network, hypervelocity projectile and gun mount.

While the weapon is currently configured to guide the projectile against fixed or static targets using GPS technology, it is possible that in the future the rail gun could be configured to destroy moving targets as well, Navy officials have explained over the years.

Possible Rail Gun Deployment on Navy Destroyers

Also, the Navy is evaluating whether to mount its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun weapon from the high-tech DDG 1000 destroyer by the mid-2020s, service officials said.

The DDG 1000’s Integrated Power System provides a large amount of on board electricity sufficient to accommodate the weapon, Navy developers have explained.

The first of three planned DDG 1000 destroyers was christened in April of last year. Navy leaders believe the DDG 1000 is the right ship to house the rail gun but that additional study was necessary to examine the risks.

Also, with a displacement of 15,482 tons, the DDG 1000 is 65-percent larger than existing 9,500- ton Aegis cruisers and destroyers.

The DDG 1,000 integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to the possibility of firing a rail gun.

It is also possible that the weapon could someday be configured to fire from DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.  Something of that size is necessary, given the technological requirements of the weapon.

For example, the Electro-magnetic gun would most likely not work as a weapon for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How civilian interest in air and land resources impacts Air Force safety

Air and land are valuable training tools when it comes to Air Force ranges. Both are finite resources that are also utilized by the rest of society. Unfortunately, the demand for air and land in civilian pursuits can have an impact on the Air Force and Total Force training and testing missions.

Wind farms, oil exploration, urban expansion, and commercial air traffic can encroach on range safety buffer zones or create hazards in the limited airspace utilized for testing and training.


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(U.S. Air Force graphic by Alfredo Tirado)

A 500-foot windmill becomes a dangerous obstacle for an aircraft that may be flying as low as 100 feet off of the ground.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Alfredo Tirado)

Oil and gas infrastructure in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico continue to expand and if the growth were to spread close to the military mission area, it would interfere with new and experimental missile testing, as well as vital operational training, causing an irreplaceable loss of capability for the Department of Defense.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Alfredo Tirado)

With more than 50,000 flights per day, commercial air traffic uses a vast amount of the nation’s airspace. The Air Force, with a little more than 3,500 flights per day in the continental U.S., relies on airspace restrictions and coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration for air corridors and other compatible use allowances to conduct training.

Another issue arises in the realm of the radio and electromagnetic spectrum. With rapidly expanding commercial enterprise developing new technologies that occupy an ever-increasing part of the spectrum, Air Force assets can experience diminished mission capabilities which hamper full-spectrum training opportunities.

The Air Force, recognizing the balance that needs to take place outside of its range perimeters, is proactively engaging with local communities, energy providers, and other government agencies to work on compatible land-use initiatives that benefit all parties involved.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Controversial Russian bombers carry out drills over the Caribbean

Days after their arrival in Venezuela triggered a verbal duel between Washington and Moscow, two Russian strategic bombers carried out drills over the Caribbean Sea, Russia’s defense ministry said Dec 12, 2018.

The two Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela “conducted a flight in the airspace over the Caribbean Sea. The flight lasted for about 10 hours,” the ministry’s press service said, according to state-media outlet Tass.


“In certain parts of the route, the flight of Russian bombers was conducted together with Su-30 and F-16 fighter jets of the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Military Aviation. The pilots from the two countries practiced air cooperation when fulfilling air tasks,” it added.

As with the flight from Russia to Venezuela, the flight over the Caribbean was “in strict accordance with [international] rules of using airspace,” Tass said.

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It is not the first time Tu-160 supersonic bombers have been to Venezuela. They visited in 2013 and in 2008. The earlier occasion came during a period of heightened tensions stoked by Russia’s brief war with Georgia that year.

The latest trip, which comes during heightened tensions over Russia’s meddling the 2016 US election and recent clash with Ukraine, prompted sharp words from all sides.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also chastised Caracas and Moscow, saying on Dec. 10, 2018, that people in Russia and Venezuela “should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”

The Pentagon also chimed in, saying that while the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sought visits from Russian aircraft, the US was working with “regional partners and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-racked nation.”

The Organization of American States also expressed “the greatest concern” about the visit, saying it was not authorized by Venezuela’s national assembly, as required by the constitution.

Venezuela and Russia responded in kind.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Pompeo’s remarks “rather undiplomatic” and “totally inappropriate.”

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Dec. 11, 2018, called Pompeo’s comments “disrespectful,” and, like Peskov, described them as “cynical” in light of the US’s own military activity abroad.

Arreaza also said it was “outrageous” for the US to question Venezuela’s defense cooperation with other countries after President Donald Trump “threatened us publicly with a military intervention,” referring to Trump’s references to the possibility of military action to oust Maduro.

On Dec. 11, 2018, Diosdado Cabello — a powerful Venezuelan official who has been accused of involvement in drug trafficking and been sanctioned by the US — mocked the “poor opposition leadership,” who he said had called for foreign military intervention but became frenzied at the arrival of the Russian bombers.

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Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello.

“One thing is to call for the devil and other is to see him coming,” Cabello said.

The Trump administration has cast Venezuela as the US’s most significant foe in the region and sought to isolate the Maduro government, largely through sanctions on Maduro and officials around him.

The US and other countries in the region have condemned Maduro for ongoing political strife and economic deterioration in his country — turmoil that has prompted some 3 million Venezuelans to flee, straining resources and prompting backlash in the neighboring countries that have received many of them.

On Dec. 11, 2018, after speaking with Russian officials, the White House said the bombers currently in Venezuela would depart on Dec. 14, 2018 and return to Russia.

However, according to an unverified report in Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, cited by Tass and by Reuters, a longer-term Russian military presence in Venezuela has been discussed, in part as a response to US plans to exit the Cold War-era Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty.

Russian officials wanted to deploy “strategic aircraft” to a Venezuelan base in the Caribbean, to which Maduro not object, according to the report. They could go a base on La Orchila island, northeast of Caracas. (Russia said at the end of 2014 it would conduct long-range air patrols in the Caribbean.)

A military expert quoted by the paper said such a deployment would remove the need for those aircraft to return to Russia and for aerial refueling during “patrol missions in the Americas.” The aircraft could conduct missions in the region and be replaced on a rotating basis, the expert said.

While Venezuelan law prohibits foreign military bases, military aircraft could be hosted temporarily, the Russian newspaper said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army creating shape-shifting robots out of smaller robots

A U.S. Army project took a new approach to developing robots — researchers built robots entirely from smaller robots known as “smarticles,” unlocking the principles of a potentially new locomotion technique.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Northwestern University published their findings in the journal Science Robotics.

The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions, said Sam Stanton, program manager, complex dynamics and systems at the Army Research Office, an element of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory.


“For example, as envisioned by the Army Functional Concept for Maneuver, a robotic swarm may someday be capable of moving to a river and then autonomously forming a structure to span the gap,” he said.

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Five identical “smarticles” — smart active particles — interact with one another in an enclosure. By nudging each other, the group — dubbed a “supersmarticle” — can move in random ways. The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions.

The 3D-printed smarticles — short for smart active particles — can do just one thing: flap their two arms. But when five of these smarticles are confined in a circle, they begin to nudge one another, forming a robophysical system known as a “supersmarticle” that can move by itself. Adding a light or sound sensor allows the supersmarticle to move in response to the stimulus — and even be controlled well enough to navigate a maze.

The notion of making robots from smaller robots — and taking advantage of the group capabilities that arise by combining individuals — could provide mechanically based control over very small robots. Ultimately, the emergent behavior of the group could provide a new locomotion and control approach for small robots that could potentially change shapes.

“These are very rudimentary robots whose behavior is dominated by mechanics and the laws of physics,” said Dan Goldman, a Dunn Family Professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the project’s principal investigator. “We are not looking to put sophisticated control, sensing and computation on them all. As robots become smaller and smaller, we’ll have to use mechanics and physics principles to control them because they won’t have the level of computation and sensing we would need for conventional control.”

The foundation for the research came from an unlikely source: a study of construction staples. By pouring these heavy-duty staples into a container with removable sides, former doctoral student Nick Gravish — now a faculty member at the University of California San Diego — created structures that would stand by themselves after the container’s walls were removed.

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Light hits a smarticle (smart active particle) causing it to stop moving, while the other smarticles continue to flap their arms. The resulting interactions produce movement toward the stopped smarticle, providing control that doesn’t depend on computer algorithms.

Shaking the staple towers eventually caused them to collapse, but the observations led to a realization that simple entangling of mechanical objects could create structures with capabilities well beyond those of the individual components.

“Dan Goldman’s research is identifying physical principles that may prove essential for engineering emergent behavior in future robot collectives as well as new understanding of fundamental tradeoffs in system performance, responsiveness, uncertainty, resiliency and adaptivity,” Stanton said.

The researchers used a 3D printer to create battery-powered smarticles, which have motors, simple sensors and limited computing power. The devices can change their location only when they interact with other devices while enclosed by a ring.

“Even though no individual robot could move on its own, the cloud composed of multiple robots could move as it pushed itself apart and shrink as it pulled itself together,” Goldman said. “If you put a ring around the cloud of little robots, they start kicking each other around and the larger ring — what we call a supersmarticle — moves around randomly.”

The researchers noticed that if one small robot stopped moving, perhaps because its battery died, the group of smarticles would begin moving in the direction of that stalled robot. The researchers learned to control the movement by adding photo sensors to the robots that halt the arm flapping when a strong beam of light hits one of them.

Smarticles: Robots built from smaller robots work together

www.youtube.com

“If you angle the flashlight just right, you can highlight the robot you want to be inactive, and that causes the ring to lurch toward or away from it, even though no robots are programmed to move toward the light,” Goldman said. “That allowed steering of the ensemble in a very rudimentary, stochastic way.”

In future work, Goldman envisions more complex interactions that use the simple sensing and movement capabilities of the smarticles. “People have been interested in making a certain kind of swarm robots that are composed of other robots,” he said. “These structures could be reconfigured on demand to meet specific needs by tweaking their geometry.”

Swarming formations of robotic systems could be used to enhance situational awareness and mission-command capabilities for small Army units in difficult-to-maneuver environments like cities, forests, caves or other rugged terrain.

The research project also received funding from National Science Foundation.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Corps finds its most lethal Marines are in their 20s

Top advisers at the Pentagon are presenting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with an idea that could radically change the way in which the US Marine Corps operates, and it’s aimed at increasing the lethality of grunts.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, chairman of the Pentagon’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force, has suggested that Marines should have to go through four years in a different career field and wait an enlistment before transitioning into the infantry.


The basic premise here is that it would make Marines more effective in combat because they’d have additional skill sets and bring more experience and maturity to bear. But this would break tradition with the youthful nature of the Marine Corps, in which people as young as 18 have long served in combat roles.

Mattis launched the task force Scales is leading earlier this year as part of a broader push to modernize the military’s ground combat units, Military Times reports .

As part of this effort, Scales — an Army field artillery officer who earned the Silver Star in Vietnam when his base was overrun — has been working to convince the Defense Department that soldiers in their mid to late 20s are more lethal. The retired general told Military Times this is, “the optimal age for a close-combat soldier.”

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Lance Cpl. William Pearn, a machine gunner trainer for scout sniper school with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, camouflages himself during exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)

But roughly 60 percent of the Marine Corps is under the age of 25, which means if Scales’ idea was implemented then there could be significant manpower issues, or the Corps would need to entice more Marines to stay in. Scales acknowledges this issue and said his recommendation could be “a bridge too far.”

Still, he is certain that troops around their mid- to late-20s are easily the most lethal, pointing to special forces as an example. The average age of an enlisted US special forces soldier is 29, according to CNN .

One potential solution is having the Marine Corps reserve a significant percentage of infantry spots for a second enlistment.

In other words, the Marine Corps could still have a high percentage of people under 25 in traditional rifle squads while also injecting older soldiers with broader skill sets into those roles. This could help the Marine Corps tackle many of the more complex challenges it faces on the modern battlefield, especially from a technical standpoint.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Swedish professor hired mercenaries to get her student back from ISIS

There’s a certain relationship between students and teachers. After you’ve been teaching someone for long enough, they’ll feel like family to you. While that usually means stepping up for them when they’re being pulled, Professor Charlotta Turner at Sweden’s Lund University went the extra mile when one of her doctoral students was being held up by ISIS fighters in Northern Iraq.

She hired a band of mercenaries to save her student and his family and bring them home. Meanwhile, my college professors had to be pestered into posting my grades for the semester.


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This was the factory where Jumaah and his family had to hide.

(Photo by Firas Jumaah)

It was in August 2014 when Professor Turner, a kindly professor of analytical chemistry at one of Sweden’s most prestigious universities, received a text message saying that her student, Firas Jumaah, had to save his wife in Iraq. Jumaah’s family had gone back for a wedding when ISIS attacked the city of Sinjar.

The terrorists were massacring and enslaving the Yazidi people, the religious minority of which Jumaah and his wife belonged. So he hopped on the first flight back to Iraq and rescued his family, however, they were forced to hide in an old abandoned bleach factory to avoid further persecution.

He sent a message saying that if he wasn’t home within a week, to assume that the worst had happened, and to remove him from his doctoral program. Turner knew what needed to happen.

She said in an interview with the Lund University Magazine : “Those who can, do. Those who cannot, hire mercenaries to get Jumaah the hell out of there.” She continued “What was happening was completely unacceptable. I got so angry that IS was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research.”

She went to the Dean at the Faculty of Science who was puzzled but ultimately signed off on her request. Next, she went to the University’s security director, Per-Johan Gustafson, who coincidentally was also moonlighting as the CEO of a private security company. Gustafson rallied his men, and they were sent out to Northern Iraq – all while ISIS was closing in on Jumaah.

Within days, the Swedish mercenaries had made it to the bleach factory. They were armed and ready. They supplied Jumaah, his wife and two kids, each with bullet-proof vests and helmets. They met little resistance but were forced to take the long route to safety to avoid ISIS checkpoints along the way.

They successfully made it to the Erbil Airport and were soon on their way back to Sweden to be reunited with his professor. Firas Jumaah has since been given permanent resident status in Sweden and started his own pharmaceutical company. Turner still works at Lund University.

A documentary was recently made to show the world the kindness of this exceptional chemistry professor.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New missile defense plan could be aimed at North Korea

President Donald Trump rolled out his vision for the future of nuclear war fighting on Jan. 17, 2019, with the Missile Defense Review, and the plan reads like a guide to taking down North Korean missile launches.

The review, originally slotted to come out in May 2018, may have been postponed to avoid spooking North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un met with Trump the following month, Defense News reported.


North Korea regularly reacts harshly to any US military move that could threaten it, and has frequently threatened to strike the US with nuclear weapons in the past.

Throughout 2017, the US and North Korea traded nuclear threats that saw the world dragged to the brink of unimaginable bloodshed and destruction.

During that time, military planners, Congress, and the president all considered the unimaginable: Going to war with North Korea.

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(KCNA)

‘All options’ still on the table

North Korea, a serial human rights violator and nuclear proliferator, presents itself as an easy target for US intervention even for the most dovish commander in chief, but there’s one small problem.

North Korea’s chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, all of which can be affixed to ballistic missiles, pose a tremendous threat to South Korea, a staunch US ally, and increasingly, the US mainland itself.

North Korea discussed lobbing missiles at the US military in Guam and detonating a nuclear warhead above the Pacific ocean. Former Pentagon and Obama administration officials say this easily could have led to an all-out war.

During that period, Congress discussed the F-35 stealth fighter jet as a possible ICBM killer.

“Very simple — what we’re trying to do is shoot [air-to-air missiles] off F-35s in the first 300 seconds it takes for the missile to go up in the air,” Rep. Duncan Hunter said during a November 2017 meeting on Capitol Hill with the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, according to Inside Defense.

Additionally, the US Missile Defense Agency in June 2017 put out a request for proposals to build a high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aircraft capable of flying higher than 63,000 feet and carrying a laser to shoot down ballistic missiles as they arc upwards towards the sky.

Both of these systems, a laser drone and an F-35 ICBM killer came up in Trump’s new missile defense review. North Korea was mentioned 79 times in the review, the same number of times as Russia, though Moscow likely has 100 times as many nuclear warheads as Pyongyang.

But Russia, the world’s largest country by far, has a vast airspace no drone or F-35 could patrol. Only North Korea, a small country, makes any sense for these systems.

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A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors with the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Even defense is offensive

While the Missile Defense Review in theory discusses only defensive measures against missile attacks, the military does not only defend, it also goes on offense.

Trump has directed the US to research using the F-35 and possibly a laser drone to take out missile launches which only make sense over North Korea.

If the US could significantly limit missile retaliation from North Korea it would mitigate the downside of taking out Kim, one of the top threats to US national security.

On Jan. 18, 2019, a North Korean nuclear negotiator will head to Washington to talk denuclearization with the White House.

But even as Trump goes ahead trying to find an uneasy peace with Pyongyang, the missile defense review clearly looks to give the US capabilites certain to upset the deterrence relationship and balance between the two nuclear powers.

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

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These 4th of July memes are real firecrackers

Nothing says America like a great sense of humor. We practically broke the internet with our COVID-19 memes, but since we’re all sick of coronavirus, we wanted to brighten your spirits with some good old fashioned 4th of July ones. Also, since most of the firework displays across the country have been cancelled, we thought you’d need something to look at today. Be safe and happy 4th of July!


Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

1. Freedom rings

Hahaha, you can use this ALL day today. You’re welcome! And yes, we know it should be “there.” We don’t make the memes folks, we just share them.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

2. Will Smith

If you don’t watch Independence Day this weekend, is it even 4th of July?

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

3. Call the doc

What do doctors know? Just kidding. We love you.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

4. ‘Merica!

That’s right, bro. Wear those jean shorts with pride!

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

5. They’re coming

At least it will be a nice break from politics on social media.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

6. Videos

It’s so true. And yet, we’re all guilty.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

7. BREXIT

We started it!

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

8. What else is there?

Add in a hot dog eating contest and you’re all set.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

9. War

Make sure you try to spell U.S.A. with them.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

10. Pick up line

You can use this at today’s bbq, too.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

11. Michael Scott

Obviously if it’s declared it’s true.

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

12. Doggies

Poor things. Extra cuddles for you!

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

13. Brace yourself

(Insert your own inappropriate rocket between legs joke here).

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

14. You got this

Happy 4th of July! Here’s to ‘MERICA!

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