Why the Army's powerful new tanks might be drones - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Next Generation Combat Vehicle

The Army is now seeking to finesse a careful and combat-relevant balance between upgrading the current Abrams and Bradley to the maximum degree while also recognizing limitations and beginning conceptual work on a new platform called Next-Generation Combat Vehicle.


While the Army is only now in the early stages of concept development for this technology, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior that it may indeed evolve into a family of vehicles.

A fleet of similarly engineered vehicles would be designed to allow each vehicle to be tailored and distinct, while simultaneously improving maintenance, logistics, and sustainment by using many common parts; the objective would, of course, be to lower long-term lifecycle costs and extend the service life of the vehicles. However, of potentially much greater significance, similar engineering, vehicle structures, and configurations could definitely expedite upgrades across the fleet as enabled by new technology. This could include new sensors, sights, electronics, force tracking systems, and a range of C4ISR technology.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
M1A1 Abrams firing its massive main cannon. (Photo from USMC)

Many Army comments have indicated that the configuration of the new vehicles may resemble hull forms of an Abrams, Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, Bradley, or even elements of a Stryker vehicle. However, it is without question that, whatever NGCV evolves into, it will be built to consistently accommodate the best emerging technologies available.

For instance, Army developers explained that some early developmental work inolved assessing lighter weight armor and hull materials able to provide the same protection as the current vehicle at a much lower weight.

“We could look at some novel material, such as lightweight tracks or a hull replacement,” Lt. Col. Justin Shell, the Army’s product manager for Abrams, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Key parameters for the NGCV will, among other things, include building a lighter-weight, more mobile and deployable vehicle. Weight, speed, and mobility characteristics are deemed essential for a tank’s ability to support infantry units, mechanized armored units, and dismounted soldiers by virtue of being able to cross bridges, rigorous terrain, and other combat areas less accessible to existing 70-ton Abrams tanks.

Bassett explained that specific cross-functional team leads have begun to explore concepts and early requirements for the NGCV effort to, among other things, look for common, cross-fleet technologies and build in flexibility.

“Cross functional teams are defining the art of the possible as we look at what technologies are available,” Bassett said in an interview with Scout Warrior. “We could change some assumptions. We want to give the Army some flexibility.”

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
The M2 Bradley has seen a lot of desert miles. (National War College Military Image Collection)

One possibility now receiving some attention, Army senior leaders say, is that the NGCV may implement a lightweight 120mm cannon previously developed for one of the Manned-Ground Vehicles developed for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems program. The vehicle, called the Mounted Combat System, was built with a two-ton 120mm cannon roughly one-half the weight of the current Abrams cannon.

The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds.

The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

The Army’s recent Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.

“Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”

Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.

Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.

Read More: This new, more deadly version of the M1 Abrams tank is on its way to the fight

Abrams Robotic Wingmen

While not specifically referring to a T-14 Armata’s unmanned turret or Russian plans for an autonomous capability, Basset did say it is conceivable that future armored vehicles may indeed include an unmanned turret as well as various level of autonomy, tele-operation, and manned-unmanned teaming. The prospect of integrating “autonomous vehicles” into future armored platforms is, as noted above, also specified in the Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization strategy.

Accordingly, Basset also emphasized that the future NGCV vehicles will be designed to incorporate advanced digital signal processing and machine-learning, such as AI technologies.

Computer algorithms enabling autonomous combat functions are progressing at an alarming rate, inspiring Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers to explore the prospect of future manned-unmanned collaboration with tank platforms. It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transporting ammunition, or performing long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
CINCU, Romania – Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles from 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry Regiment, Montana Army National Guard, take up defensive while participating in Exercise Saber Guardian 16 at the Romanian Land Force Combat Training Center. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Baltos, 24th Press Camp Headquarters).

“The Chief has stated that all future vehicles will be tele-operated. We take those things into account and we’re are going to get some great experimentation in this area,” Bassett said. “There are things you can do in a next-gen vehicle which you cannot do in a current vehicle due to physical requirements.”

Levels of autonomy for air vehicles, in particular, have progressed to a very advanced degree – in part because there are, quite naturally, fewer obstacles in the air precluding autonomous navigation. GPS-enabled waypoint technology already facilitates both ground and air autonomous movement; however, developing algorithms for land-based autonomous navigation is far more challenging given that a vehicle will need to quickly adjust to a fast-moving, dynamic, and quickly-changing ground combat environment.

“There is a dramatic difference in size, weight, and power performance if you make something tele-operated,” Bassett said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A 40-ton armored vehicle drives over Chinese troops in this intense video of a really unusual trust exercise

Chinese media recently released a video of a really intense military training exercise in which a 40-ton armored vehicle drives over troops laying on the ground, with the vehicle tracks passing dangerously close to the heads of the Chinese soldiers.

The Chinese-language Global Times posted the video last week, noting that the source was Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The video has since made the rounds on social media.https://www.youtube.com/embed/IkU-FZ2eLJ4

An unspecified People’s Liberation Army (PLA) brigade in the Southern Theater Command conducted a trust exercise in which the troops demonstrated the faith in their armored vehicle drivers by literally putting their lives on the line.

At the start of the video, an officer asks the soldiers: “Do you have confidence in the soldier beside you?” After shouting back “yes,” one soldier departs to climb aboard the armored vehicle as the others drop to the ground, awaiting their fellow soldier to run over them.

The tracked armored vehicle in the video looks like the HQ-17 surface-to-air missile transporter erector launcher. The HQ-17, which was publicly revealed in 2015, is a reverse-engineered Chinese variant of the Russian Tor-M1 system.

In two other related videos, soldiers involved in the demonstration talk about their experience. One soldier on the ground says he was “really nervous.”

Another Chinese soldier described the training exercise as a test of the armored vehicle driver’s skills and character, as well as an opportunity to boost trust and confidence between soldiers.

The exercise is unusual in that it has troops lying sideways, putting them at greater risk, but it is certainly not the first time China has had armored vehicles drive over troops in training.

series of photos from last September posted on the official website of the Chinese military shows tanks and other vehicles running over troops in Xinjiang as part of a psychological training exercise intended to strengthen their resolve.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
A soldier assigned to an army division under the PLA Xinjiang Military Command lies on the ground as a tank drives over him. 

Similar exercises have also been conducted in other countries.

In October, as The Drive reported at the time, Finland’s Jaeger Brigade, known as the Jääkäriprikaati, released videos of a German-made Leopard 2A4 tank driving over troops in the snow.

The aim of the exercise was to help troops combat “tank terror,” which is the fear of encountering an armored vehicle on the battlefield.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s new sensors can track small arms fire to its source

The Army is engineering new Hostile Fire Detection sensors for its fleet of armored combat vehicles to identify, track, and target enemy small arms fire.


Even if the enemy rounds being fired are from small arms fire and not necessarily an urgent or immediate threat to heavily armored combat vehicles such as an Abrams, Stryker, or Bradley, there is naturally great value in quickly finding the location of incoming enemy attacks, Army weapons developers explain.

There is a range of sensors now being explored by Army developers; infrared sensors, for example, are designed to identify the “heat” signature emerging from enemy fire and, over the years, the Army has also used focal plane array detection technology as well as acoustic sensors.

“We are collecting threat signature data and assessing sensors and algorithm performance,” Gene Klager, Deputy Director, Ground Combat Systems Division, Night Vision, and Electronic Sensors Directorate, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
An M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. (Photo from DoD)

Klager’s unit, which works closely with Army acquisition to identify and, at times, fast-track technology to war, is part of the Army’s Communications, Electronics, Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC).

Army senior leaders also told Warrior Maven the service will be further integrating HFD sensors this year in preparation for more formals testing to follow in 2019.

Enabling counterattack is a fundamental element of this because being able to ID enemy fire would enable vehicle crews to attack targets from beneath the protection of an armored hatch.

The Army currently deploys a targeting and attack system called Common Remotely Operated Weapons System, or CROWS; using a display screen, targeting sensors and controls operating externally mounted weapons, CROWS enables soldiers to attack from beneath the protection of armor.

“If we get a hostile fire detection, the CROWS could be slued to that location to engage what we call slue to cue,” Klager said.

Much of the emerging technology tied to these sensors can be understood in the context of artificial intelligence, or AI. Computer automation, using advanced algorithms and various forms of analytics, can quickly process incoming sensor data to ID a hostile fire signature.

“AI also takes other information into account and helps reduce false alarms,” Klager explained.

Also Read: US Navy exploring artificial intelligence for warfare network

AI developers often explain that computers are able to much more efficiently organize information and perform key procedural functions, such as performing checklists or identifying points of relevance; however, many of those same experts also add that human cognition, as something uniquely suited to solving dynamic problems and weighing multiple variables in real time, is nonetheless something still indispensable to most combat operations.

Over the years, there have been a handful of small arms detection technologies tested and incorporated into helicopters; one of them, which first emerged as something the Army was evaluating in 2010 is called Ground Fire Acquisition System, or GFAS.

This system, integrated onto Apache Attack helicopters, uses infrared sensors to ID a “muzzle flash” or heat signature from an enemy weapon. The location of enemy fire could then be determined by a gateway processor on board the helicopter able to quickly geolocate the attack.

While Klager said there are, without question, similarities between air-combat HFD technologies and those emerging for ground combat vehicles, he did point to some distinct differences.

“From ground to ground, you have a lot more moving objects,” he said.

Potential integration between HFD and Active Protection Systems is also part of the calculus, Klager explained. APS technology, now being assessed on Army Abrams tanks, Bradleys and Strykers, uses sensors, fire control technology and interceptors to ID and knock out incoming RPGs and ATGMs, among other things. While APS, in concept and application, involves threats larger or more substantial than things like small arms fire, there is great combat utility in synching APS to HFD.

“HFD involves the same function that would serve as a cueing sensor as part of an APS system,” Klager said

The advantages of this kind of interoperability are multi-faceted. Given that RPGs and ATGMs are often fired from the same location as enemy small arms fire, an ability to track one, the other, or both in real time greatly improves situational awareness and targeting possibilities.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Two ISIS recruits operate their weapons, a RPG (right) and a PKM (left). (ISIS photo)

Furthermore, such an initiative is entirely consistent with ongoing Army modernization efforts which increasingly look toward more capable, multi-function sensors. The idea is to have a merged or integrated smaller hardware footprint, coupled with advanced sensing technology, able to perform a wide range of tasks historically performed by multiple separate, onboard systems.

Consolidating vehicle technologies and “boxes” is the primary thrust of an emerging Army combat vehicle C4ISR/EW effort called “Victory” architecture. Using Ethernet networking tech, Victory synthesizes sensors and vehicle systems onto a common, interoperable system. This technology is already showing a massively increased ability to conduct electronic warfare attacks from combat vehicles, among other things.

HFD for ground combat vehicles, when viewed in light of rapidly advancing combat networking technologies, could bring substantial advantages in the realm of unmanned systems. The Army and industry are currently developing algorithms to better enable manned-unmanned teaming among combat vehicles. The idea is to have a “robotic wingman,” operating in tandem with armored combat vehicles, able to test enemy defenses, find targets, conduct ISR, carry weapons and ammunition or even attack enemies.

“All that we are looking at could easily be applicable to an unmanned system,” Klager said.

popular

This Iranian was the highest-scoring F-14 Tomcat pilot ever

Jalil Zandi’s Air Force legend almost never made it off the ground. He joined the Iranian Air Force when it was still the Imperial Iranian Air Force, under Shah Reza Pahlavi. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Zandi stayed blue – a risky move at a time when Iranian military officers were being executed for doing their duty to one’s country.


But fighter pilots need to be bold and take risks. Zandi did spend some time in a prison cell, sentenced to 10 years for… whatever. Does it matter? In September 1980 – less than a year after the revolution in Iran – Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi troops invaded Iran whose military was woefully undermanned.

So, Zandi was back in the pilot’s seat within six months.

 

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Mustaches are always in regs in the Iranian Air Force of the 1980s.

 

It was a good thing too. Then-Major Zandi had some serious skills at the controls of his F-14 Tomcat. Forget what you think about the governments of Iran and Iraq in this time period, you have to admire a pilot who fought Iraqis in the skies for eight straight years to keep them from shooting chemical weapons at playgrounds.

 

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
All those aviator sunglasses… and Top Gun wouldn’t even be released for another five years.

Zandi survived the brutal eight-year-long war, and according to the U.S. Air Force’s intelligence assessments, he took down 11 Iraqi aircraft – four MiG-23s, two Su-22s, two MiG-21s, and three Mirage F-1s. His last engagement of the war saw him go up against eight enemy Mirage F1s over Iraq in 1988. He scored two unconfirmed kills but was badly shot up in the dogfight and had to break off. He was able to fly back to his base in Iran and the war ended that very same year.

He received the Order of Fath 2nd Class for his time in the skies over enemy territory. The Fath Medal is one of the highest awards an Iranian military member can receive and is personally presented by the Supreme Leader. Jalil Zandi’s 11 kills in the F-14 make him the highest-scoring Tomcat pilot ever. Zandi died in a car accident near Tehran in 2001, having reached the rank of Brigadier General.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Brigadier General Jalil Zandi, IRIAF, ca. 2001.

The F-14 was retired from the U.S. military arsenal in 2006 but is still in use in Iran.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines celebrate vet-owned business’ launch of new, more delicious crayons

When news broke that “Someone finally made edible crayons for Marines,” Leathernecks likely read the announcement with confusion: When have crayons ever been anything other than edible and delicious?

The colorful sticks of wax have been a dietary staple for members of America’s 911 Force ever since the internet gods gave us all the gift that keeps on giving: a near-perfect meme riffing on the “stereotype” of how we Jarheads are the dumbest of all service members — so dumb that we eat crayons and paste with the same vacant zeal of that mouth-breathing, short-bus rider from kindergarten whose mom dropped him on his head. Mmmmmmmm, crayons.


Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Praise be to the meme lords who bless us with their bounty.

Having served on active duty for more than 10 years, Marine Corps veteran Tashina Coronel knows a little something about eating crayons. The 35-year-old mother of three in Waco, Texas, recently developed a line of novelty confections targeted toward the massive market of crayon-eating Devil Dogs.

“You throw a crayon at a Marine, and they’re going to eat it,” said the former administrator. “Yes, crayons have always been edible, but mine taste better.”

Coronel said she’s been in the dessert-making business for seven years. After leaving active duty in 2014, she attended the San Diego Culinary Institute. She now owns and operates Okashi by Shina. The name, which pays tribute to Coronel’s Japanese heritage, translates to “Sweets by Shina.”

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Tashina Coronel on active duty. Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel

Coronel’s packs of 10 Edible Crayons sell for on her website. She has received hundreds of orders and an overwhelmingly positive response since launching the colorfully named specialty chocolates.

“My website just went live two weeks ago, and it’s been surreal how many orders have come in,” she said. “I got 130 orders in two days.”

Each crayon is cleverly titled according to its corresponding color: Blood Of My Enemies, Glow Strap, Little Yellow Bird, Green Weenie, Blue Falcon, Hazing Incident, Zero-Dark Thirty, Tighty Whities, Silver Bullet, and Butter Bars.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Okashi by Shina’s set of chocolate “Edible Crayons.” Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel

Okashi by Shina also offers a Crayon Glue MRE Set that includes an edible glue bottle filled with marshmallow cream.

Coronel said she used several Facebook groups for Marines to focus group her idea before launching the product.

“I didn’t really know if people were going to take it personally,” she said. “I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, she’s jumping on the bandwagon to insult us; she sold out.'”

After designing her product and developing names for the crayons, Coronel shared her concept in the Marine Facebook groups.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

“I loved the idea right away,” said Marisha Smith, a former Marine KC-130J crew chief who saw Coronel’s Facebook posts. “It’s an ongoing joke that we eat crayons, so we’ve just taken it and run with it. I plan to send some of the crayons to friends in November for the Marine Corps Birthday. I’m sure any Marine or service member in general would get a kick out of these. The fact they taste great too is just a plus.”

Coronel said before her website went live, most of her orders were coming from friends and family. Since getting some initial press coverage, fulfilling orders has become a full-time job.

“The majority of orders are actually coming from male Marines,” she said. “It means a lot that my brothers are looking out for and supporting me. With everything going on in the world right now, the coolest thing about this is I really enjoy being a morale booster and giving people a reason to laugh and have fun. I love being able to bring something to Marines that’s their own and share a little bit of our culture with others.”

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Prepping for quarantine like …

Coronel said her family and God are the main driving forces in her life. Her husband, who served as a Marine artilleryman, has stepped up to help fulfill orders and handle the increased demand.

“My family inspired me to start my own business, and my husband is really supportive,” she said.

Coronel said she hopes to open a brick-and-mortar location to expand her operations and eventually partner with military exchanges to sell her products on bases. She said she knows there are a lot of challenges ahead, but she’s ready to chase her dreams.

“As a Marine, I know if somebody calls us crazy, we’re just going to show them how crazy we are,” she said. “Nothing’s really an insult unless you call us soldier. Then it’s like, we’re fighting.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Lists

US Army recruitment campaigns, ranked from worst to best

Most soldiers have a valid reason for joining the military: family, patriotism, better opportunities — chances are they made their mind up long ago. For those who joined during a “huh, that sounds like a good idea!” moment, they probably got the idea after seeing a television commercial or billboard — complete with noteworthy slogans.


While this list is compiled fairly loosely, it still illustrates a range from complete sh*tshow to absolutely iconic:

7. Army of One (2001 to 2006)

Oh boy. There’s no contest on which slogan goes to the very bottom.

Not only did it invoke the sense of individuality over teamwork, but all of the quotes that went on the posters just came off as pretentious.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
But it did give us the video game Army of Two, which was a fun game. So there’s that.

6. Look Sharp, Be Sharp, Go Army! (1950 to early 70’s)

This slogan was plastered on billboards around the country. But during the draft, the second slogan was kind of…mean: “Your future, your decision…choose ARMY.”

Not really your decision if you’re drafted, huh?

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Maybe this was meant to be a warning before the draft chose for you?

5. Join the people who’ve joined the Army (mid 70’s)

Because of slogans like “Today’s Army Wants to Join You” (whaaaat?) and because of the rumors that there was beer in the barracks and loose rules and things like that, “…it was perceived by a great many Americans that the Army would be an undisciplined Army,” said Secretary of the Army Bo Callaway.

This campaign was very short lived before the Army reverted back to the next entry on our list because of a kickback scandal involving the ad agency. It was fairly basic in just giving the facts. It was created out of the fear of soldiers drinking in the barracks…which totally never happens…

(YouTube, Brian Durham)

4. Today’s Army Wants to Join You (early 70’s to 1980)

After the Vietnam War came to an end, the Army had a bit of an image problem. Drafting men to fight in an era of hippies took its toll when it came time to transition into an all-volunteer Army.

So the Army loosened many of its restrictions to try to appeal to the more free lifestyle of the youth counter-culture. It was a twist on the classic “I Want You for U.S. Army” poster with the added intensive that the Army would “care more about how you think than how you cut your hair.”

I mean, it was effective. So it lands firmly in the middle of the list.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
The recruiter isn’t lying, per se…

3. Army Strong (2006 to Present)

After the blunder that was “Army of One,” they decided to strip down the advertisements to just show all the cool things you can do in the Army.

Nothing but the bare bones of soldiers doing awesome things. No lies being spread. No sense of individuality trumping your unit. Just “Look how cool this sh*t is!” Plus it gave us a catchy theme song that gets stuck in everyone’s head after a battalion run.

(The only down side is that the other branches definitely use this slogan against the Army.)

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
WTF is happening in this picture?

2. Be All You Can Be (1980 to 2001)

The Cold War still had not thawed when they came up with this scheme but then it seemed to fit with everything 80’s and 90’s — so it stuck.

The emphasis was more on using cool promises to get lost high schoolers to join after graduation. I hate to break it to the kid below, but are a lot of steps before you can become a pilot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8ggZapHxvk

(YouTube, Video Archeology)

1. I Want YOU for US Army (WWI to WWII)

You can’t beat the classics.

The original James M. Flagg poster turned countless heads across the country during the first World War. Even after the armistice, the posters stuck around.

The iconic poster made its round again to bring the Greatest Generation back into the fray. It has since been imitated, referenced, and adapted, even if it was also a reference to the British “Your Country Needs YOU” campaign.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Would you have ranked it differently? Were there any we left out? Let us know in the comment section!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Largest study of its kind finds genetics to be a small factor in obesity

Research by scientists at King’s College London found that the role the gut plays in processing and distributing fat could pave the way for the development of personalized treatments for obesity and other chronic diseases within the next decade. The research is published in Nature Genetics.

In the largest study of its kind, scientists analyzed the faecal metabolome (the community of chemicals produced by gut microbes in the faeces) of 500 pairs of twins to build up a picture of how the gut governs these processes and distributes fat. The King’s team also assessed how much of that activity is genetic and how much is determined by environmental factors.


The analysis of stool samples identified biomarkers for the build-up of internal fat around the waist. It’s well known that this visceral fat is strongly associated with the development of conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

By understanding how microbial chemicals lead to the development of fat around the waist in some, but not all the twins, the King’s team hopes to also advance the understanding of the very similar mechanisms that drive the development of obesity.

An analysis of faecal metabolites (chemical molecules in stool produced by microbes) found that less than a fifth (17.9 per cent) of gut processes could be attributed to hereditary factors, but 67.7 per cent of gut activity was found to be influenced by environmental factors, mainly a person’s regular diet.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

This means that important changes can be made to the way an individual’s gut processes and distributes fat by altering both their diet and microbial interactions in their gut.

On the back of the study researchers have built a gut metabolome bank that can help other scientists engineer bespoke and ideal gut environments that efficiently process and distribute fat. The study has also generated the first comprehensive database of which microbes are associated with which chemical metabolites in the gut. This can help other scientists to understand how bacteria in the gut affect human health.

Lead investigator Dr. Cristina Menni from King’s College London said: ‘This study has really accelerated our understanding of the interplay between what we eat, the way it is processed in the gut and the development of fat in the body, but also immunity and inflammation. By analysing the faecal metabolome, we have been able to get a snapshot of both the health of the body and the complex processes taking place in the gut.’

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Head of the King’s College London’s Twin Research Group Professor Tim Spector said: ‘This exciting work in our twins shows the importance to our health and weight of the thousands of chemicals that gut microbes produce in response to food. Knowing that they are largely controlled by what we eat rather than our genes is great news, and opens up many ways to use food as medicine. In the future these chemicals could even be used in smart toilets or as smart toilet paper.’

Dr. Jonas Zierer, first author of the study added: ‘This new knowledge means we can alter the gut environment and confront the challenge of obesity from a new angle that is related to modifiable factors such as diet and the microbes in the gut. This is exciting, because unlike our genes and our innate risk to develop fat around the belly, the gut microbes can be modified with probiotics, with drugs or with high fibre diets.’

This article originally appeared on Medical Xpress. Follow @medical_xpress on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Service members face off in a battle of strength

Members of the U.S. military community competed against one another Sept. 29, 2019 in another installment of Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

The event was held to determine who were some of the strongest men and women on Okinawa.

“Today went great,” explained Taryn Miller, an adult sports specialist for Marine Corps Community Services. “The weather was awesome. The competitors had a lot of energy. There was a lot of camaraderie along with a competitive edge among everybody.”

Okinawa residents and service members traveled from all across the island to participate in this event.


The competitors were divided into five different weight classes. Two female weight classes and three male weight classes.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones


U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ian Dernbach, a heavy equipment operator with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, lifts an atlas stone during the Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South, Sept. 29, 2019 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton)

The first event was the yoke carry, which consisted of a competitor carrying a set weight 50 yards in a race against time. The second was a farmer’s carry 100 yards followed by 10 log cleans and presses for time. The third event was the atlas stone lift, which involved the competitors lifting three different stones and placing them on a platform for time.

Competitors with the highest combined score in their weight class at the end of the competition were declared the winners.

The champion from the female weight class up to 150 pounds was U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kathryn Quandt, a future operations officer with 9th Engineer Support Battalion.

The champion from the male weight class up to 150 pounds was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ezekiel Garza, a motor transportation mechanic with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ezekiel Garza, a motor transportation mechanic with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, executes a log clean and press during the Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South, Sept. 29, 2019 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton)

The champion from the male 150-to-200 pound weight class was U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Kermeen, a faculty advisor with the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Camp Hansen, and the champion from the male over-200-pound weight class was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ian Dernbach, a heavy equipment operator with III MEF Support Battalion.

The island-wide Okinawa’s Strongest competition will feature winners from both the Battle of the North and South and will take place in November 2019 on Camp Foster.

“Today’s event had a lot of similar movements that you will see in the event coming up in November 2019 which will have eight different stations as opposed to the three that we had here today,” said Miller. “This was a great way for competitors to get a feel for what it’s going to be like at the big one.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

For years now, Russia has been laser-focused on insulating itself from an external economic shock.


It may have just sparked one.

In an unexpected move on March 6, Russia rejected a call by OPEC countries to further cut oil production in order to help prop up prices amid sagging global demand for energy due to the coronavirus.

The decision broke three years of cooperation under an arrangement called OPEC+ and stunned participants at a meeting in Vienna, not to mention some of Russia’s own oil executives — one suggested the move was “irrational” — and governments from the Middle East to the West.

OPEC leader Saudi Arabia swiftly responded to the snub by announcing it is no longer obliged to hold back production, causing the largest single-day drop in the price of oil in nearly three decades and sending global stock markets and the ruble tumbling. Why?

One potential answer: President Vladimir Putin wanted to punish the United States by putting severe pressure on the U.S. shale-oil industry, which has sold millions of barrels of oil while Russian companies kept production down under the existing OPEC+ agreement.

“The Kremlin had decided that propping up prices as the coronavirus ravaged energy demand would be a gift to the U.S. shale industry,” Bloomberg News reported. The acerbic spokesman for Russian state oil giant Rosneft, Mikhail Leontyev, suggested that was at least one of the motives, telling the agency: “Let’s see how American shale exploration feels under these conditions.”

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, an old and close Putin ally, has long been said to be chafing under the existing OPEC+ production limits, and was widely seen as playing a role in the decision to reject further cuts.

Some analysts played down the idea that the Kremlin was out to get U.S. shale, however, saying that Russia’s coordination with OPEC+ was fragile to begin with and that Moscow and Riyadh had different views of the current volatility on the global oil market.

Whatever the reasons, it’s a risky move for Moscow at an uncertain time.

The oil price collapse stoked by Moscow’s move and concerns about the effects of the coronavirus on a slew of industrieswill hurt Russia’s economy in the short-term, and there is no guarantee that it can knock out U.S. shale in the long run, analysts said.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

U.S. Benefits

The United States has been a beneficiary of the high prices maintained by the OPEC+ output cuts over the past few years, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia — now Number 3 — as the world’s largest oil producer.

As the coronavirus ravaged the Chinese economy and hit others around the world, slashing oil demand, Saudi Arabia lobbied for OPEC+ to cut another 1.5 million barrels at the March 6 meeting in Vienna. Russia recommended maintaining the existing cuts. OPEC+ — a 24-member group consisting of OPEC nations plus non-cartel members like Russia — first agreed to oil production cuts in 2017.

Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it would hike production sent the price of U.S. crude oil tumbling by 25 percent on March 9 to a low of a barrel. Prices gained back some of the losses on March 10 but were well under for U.S. and the global benchmark, Brent Crude.

Some U.S. shale producers have a break-even price of a barrel or above, putting them in a vulnerable position, said Chris Weafer, an energy specialist and founder of Moscow-based consultancy firm Macro-Advisory.

Oil producers in Saudi Arabia and Russia have lower production costs, enabling them to weather the price.

“There are three parties facing off against each other — Russia, Saudi, and U.S. shale — and it really is a case of who blinks first,” Weafer told RFE/RL.

Several analysts said that in the short-term, Russia is in the strongest position among those three players.

“The impact of this price crash on U.S. shale companies is going to be pretty devastating” in the short term and could result in a U.S. production decline in 2020, said Gregory Brew, a historian at Southern Methodist University in Texas focusing on energy politics and the Middle East.

Diamondback Energy, a Texas-based shale producer, announced March 9 it would immediately reduce investment following the price drop.

Russian oil companies have some insulation. They are profitable at a oil price, helped by a free-floating currency, and the budget is protected for years to come.

The Kremlin’s conservative fiscal policy over the past few years boosted foreign currency reserves to about 0 billion and driven down the price of a barrel of oil necessary to balance the budget from above 0 to below .

At the current ruble rate of nearly 75 to the dollar, the budget can balance at per barrel, said Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance in Washington.

Saudi Arabia’s budget break-even oil price is closer to and its foreign currency reserves have been declining amid a massive state spending program.

Risky Bet

Riyadh not only faces budget pressure, but potentially investor pressure to cut production to keep the market stable, Sarah Ladislaw, a senior vice president at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a March 9 note.

Riyadh recently sold shares in state oil company Saudi Aramco, raising .6 billion in the world’s largest initial public offering. The shares are now below the price the investors paid for them.

But the U.S. shale industry has shown resilience in the past and is likely to do so again, analysts said. Low oil prices lead to consolidation, which should make companies more competitive in the longer term, Brew said — the opposite of what Moscow may be angling for.

Saudi Arabia failed to achieve the goal of shuttering the U.S. shale industry several years ago: The producers improved their efficiency in response to price pressure, driving down their own production costs.

Unlike large onshore or offshore oil fields that can take years to develop, shale fields can start producing in weeks, said Rauf Mammadov, an energy analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington. And the biggest U.S. oil companies, which are less vulnerable than smaller outfits, are investing more into shale.

“It will not impact the shale industry in the long run,” Mammadov told RFE/RL.

Meanwhile, the impact of the oil price drop is being felt globally, including in Moscow.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

‘Very Unexpected, Irrational’

Russia’s already slow-growing economy could potentially contract this year if oil prices stay low for the rest of the year, said Ribakova. She previously forecast growth of more than 2 percent in 2020.

Russia is losing 0 million to 0 million a day at an oil price of rather than , said Leonid Fedun, the billionaire vice president for strategic development at Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil producer, which is not state-owned.

Fedun called the collapse of the Russia and OPEC+ agreement “very unexpected, irrational.”

That’s not the view at Rosneft, though. Sechin was the driver behind the Kremlin’s decision not to agree to additional cuts, Weafer said.

In June, Sechin accused the United States of using sanctions against energy-producing nations to make room for U.S. domestic production.

The United States has angered the Kremlin by imposing sanctions on Russian Baltic Sea export gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, delaying its completion indefinitely, and by slapping penalties last month sanctioned a trading arm of Rosneft for doing business in Venezuela.

In 2019, the United States supplied oil to Russia’s western neighbor Ukraine for the first time — as Kyiv seeks to reduce reliance on Moscow amid a continuing war with Russia-backed separatists in its east — while Belarus has inquired about purchasing U.S. oil as it seeks alternatives to Russian crude.

Rosneft will increase production by 300,000 barrels a day following the exit from the agreement with OPEC+, Bloomberg reported, citing unidentified company officials.

Mammadov questioned the notion that Russia is targeting the U.S. shale industry.

The abundance of global supply, while largely driven by the United States, is also due to greater output from Canada, Brazil, and other non-OPEC countries, some of which have high-cost production and will be impacted, he said.

“This is more the outcome of the failure of the negotiation rather than a premeditated strategy or tactic” to crush U.S. production, Mammadov said. “There are too many global unknowns at the moment and that is the reason why Saudi Arabia and Russia could not agree on cuts.”

If the spread of the coronavirus retreats globally, leading to a pickup in economic activity and oil demand, the tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia will ease as the question of greater cuts subsides, Mammadov said.

Another factor potentially limiting the depth of the price war is the Kremlin’s determination to maintain the political influence it has achieved in the Middle East in recent years, Weafer said.

That greater influence was on display in October 2017 when Saudi Arabia’s King Salman traveled to Moscow, the first-ever visit by the nation’s leader to Russia.

“The Kremlin will want to try to get back to the negotiating table because the political relations” with Saudi Arabia are “very important,” Weafer said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the (failed) status of the first private lunar mission

April 11, 2019 Editor’s Note: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement on the Beresheet lunar lander: “While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”

Following a nearly two-month journey, the first private robotic spacecraft to attempt a Moon landing is on track to meet its goal on April 11, 2019, and NASA is a partner in SpaceIL’s Beresheet mission. The landing attempt comes on the heels of the agency’s own charge from the president to accelerate its plans to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024.


“NASA wants to conduct numerous science and technology demonstrations across the surface of the Moon, and we will do so with commercial and international partners,” said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Supporting SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) with this mission is a prime example of how we can do more, together. We’re hoping a successful landing here will set the tone for future lunar landers, including our series of upcoming commercial deliveries to the Moon.”

In addition to providing access to the agency’s Deep Space Network to aid in communication during the mission, NASA launched a navigation device on Beresheet, SpaceIL’s Moon lander, which will provide lunar surface location details that can be used by future landers for navigation. Beresheet is carrying a NASA instrument called a laser retroreflector array. Smaller than a computer mouse, it features eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners set in an aluminum frame. This configuration allows the device to reflect light coming from any direction back to its source.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO, will attempt to take scientific measurements of the SpaceIL lander as it lands on the Moon. LRO will try to use its own instrument called a laser altimeter, which measures altitude, to shoot laser pulses at Beresheet’s retroreflector and then measure how long it takes the light to bounce back.

By using this technique, engineers expect to be able to pinpoint Beresheet’s location within 4 inches (10 centimeters).

This simple technology, requiring neither power nor maintenance, may make it easier to navigate to locations on the Moon, asteroids, and other bodies. It could also be dropped from a spacecraft onto the surface of a celestial body where the reflector could help scientists track the object’s spin rate or position in space.

“It’s a fixed marker you may return to it any time,” said David E. Smith, principal investigator of the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA, on the LRO.

The ISA and SpaceIL will also share data with NASA from another instrument installed aboard the spacecraft. The data will be made publicly available through NASA’s Planetary Data System.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

A graphic showing Beresheet’s path to the Moon. Dates correspond with Israel Standard Time.

(SpaceIL)


Beresheet launched Feb. 21, 2019, on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft completed a maneuver April 4, 2019, called a lunar capture that placed it in an elliptical orbit around the Moon, setting the stage for its first landing attempt on April 11, 2019. Beresheet is targeting an area known as the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis in Latin), which is near where NASA’s Apollo 17 astronauts landed in 1972.

The president’s direction from Space Policy Directive-1 galvanizes NASA’s return to the Moon and builds on progress on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, collaborations with U.S industry and international partners, and knowledge gained from current robotic assets at the Moon and Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/moontomars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Bush climbed from Navy’s youngest pilot to president

His background was a little different than most who join the military at the age of eighteen, but his warmth, love of country and drive to serve made him a leader respected up and down his chains of command.

Service members who worked with former President George H.W. Bush, first as Ronald Reagan’s vice president and, later, during his presidential term, spoke of the way he remembered their names and would ask about their families. They were loyal to him and he was loyal right back.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1ffz7RWFZs
President George H.W. Bush: Remembering 41

www.youtube.com

Bush himself said it best in his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1989: “We are not the sum of our possessions. They are not the measure of our lives. In our hearts we know what matters. We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it.

“What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?”

Bush, who died last night at age 94, was born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts. He graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, on his 18th birthday in 1942 and immediately joined the Navy. With World War II raging, Bush earned his wings in June 1943. He was the youngest pilot in the Navy at that time.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

George H.W. Bush seated in a Grumman TBM Avenger, circa 1944.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Flew Torpedo Bombers

The future president flew torpedo bombers off the USS San Jacinto in the Pacific. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a mission over Chichi Jima in 1944. Even though his plane was hit by antiaircraft fire, he completed his bombing run before turning to the sea. Bush managed to bail out of the burning aircraft, but both of his crewmen died. The submarine USS Finback rescued him.

On Jan. 6, 1945, Bush married Barbara Pierce of Rye, New York. They had six children: George, Robin (who died of leukemia in 1953), Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy Bush Koch.

After the war, Bush attended Yale and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1948. He and his wife moved to Texas, where he entered the oil business. Bush served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1966 to 1970.

In 1971, then-President Richard Nixon named Bush as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, where he served until becoming chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973. In October 1974, President Gerald R. Ford named Bush chief of the U.S. liaison office in Beijing, and in 1976, Ford appointed him to be director of central intelligence.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Chief Justice William Rehnquist administers the Presidential Oath of Office to George H. W. Bush during his Jan. 20, 1989 inauguration ceremony at the United States Capitol.

Vice President, Then President

In 1980, Bush ran for the Republican presidential nomination. Ronald Reagan won the primaries and secured the nomination, and he selected Bush as his running mate. On Jan. 20, 1981, Bush was sworn in for the first of two terms as vice president.

The Republicans selected Bush as presidential nominee in 1988. His pledge at the national convention — “Read my lips: no new taxes” — probably got him elected, but may have worked to make him a one-term president.

Bush became the 41st president of the United States and presided over the victory of the West. During his tenure, the Berlin Wall – a symbol of communist oppression since 1961 – fell before the appeal of freedom. The nations of Eastern Europe withdrew from the Warsaw Pact and freely elected democracies began taking hold.

Even more incredible was the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself. Kremlin hard-liners tried to seize power and enforce their will, but Boris Yeltsin rallied the army and citizens for freedom. Soon, nations long under Soviet domination peeled away and began new eras.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

President Bush participates in a full cabinet meeting in the cabinet room.

(U.S. National Archives photo by Susan Biddle)

Military Action

In 1989, Bush ordered the U.S. military in to Panama to overthrow the government of Gen. Manuel Noriega. Noriega had allowed Panama to become a haven for narcoterrorists, and he subsequently was convicted of drug offenses.

But Bush is best remembered for his swift and decisive efforts following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. The Iraqi dictator claimed that Kuwait historically was his country’s “19th province.” His troops pushed into Kuwait and threatened to move into Saudi Arabia.

Bush drew “a line in the sand” and promised to protect Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait. He put together a 30-nation coalition that liberated Kuwait in February 1991. Operation Desert Storm showed Americans and the world the devastating power of the U.S. military.

At the end of the war, Bush had historic approval ratings from the American people. But a recession – in part caused by Saddam’s invasion – and having to backtrack on his pledge not to raise taxes cost him the election in 1992. With third-party candidate Ross Perot pulling in 19 percent of the vote, Bill Clinton was elected president.

Bush lived to see his son – George W. Bush – elected president, and he worked with the man who defeated him in 2006 to raise money for millions of people affected by an Indian Ocean tsunami and for Hurricane Katrina relief.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

President Bush visits troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day 1990.

‘Freedom Works’

In his inaugural address, the elder Bush spoke about America having a meaning “beyond what we see.” The idea of America and what it stands for is important in the world, he said.

“We know what works: freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state,” he said.

“We must act on what we know,” he said later in the speech. “I take as my guide the hope of a saint: in crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.”

It was the mark of the man.

Articles

Army developing weapons for a major power war

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones


The Army is developing its weapons, technologies and platforms with a greater emphasis on being ready for great-power, mechanized force-on-force war in order maintain cross-the-board readiness and deter near-peer adversaries from unwanted aggression.

While the service aims to be prepared for any conceivable contingency, to include counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and hybrid-type conflicts, the Army has been shifting its focus from 15-years of counterinsurgency war and pivoting its weapons development toward major-power war.

“We are excellent at counterinsurgency,” Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, Military Deputy, Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview. “We’re developing systems to be prepared for the full range of potential conflict.”

As a high-level leader for the Army’s weapons, vehicle and platform developmental efforts, Williamson explained that some technologies are specifically being engineered with a mind toward positioning the service for the prospect of massive great-power conflict with mechanized forces, armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons, helicopter air support and what’s called a Combined Arms Maneuver approach.

Combined Arms Maneuver tactics use a variety of combat assets, such as artillery, infantry and armored vehicles such as tanks, in a synchronized, integrated fashion to overwhelm, confuse and destroy enemies.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
The M113A3 armored personnel carrier system has performed decades of service, but is getting old and obsolete. It will be replaced by the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle as well as possibly other new vehicles. | U.S. Army photo

While the Army naturally does not expect or seek a particular conflict with near-peer nations like Russia and China, the service is indeed acutely aware of the rapid pace of their military modernization and aggressive activities.

As a result of its experience and skill with counterinsurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s training, doctrine and weapons development is sharpening its focus on armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons and networking technologies to connect a force dispersed over a wide area of terrain.

Another key aspect of the Army’s future strategy is called Wide Area Security, an approached grounded in the recognition that large-scale mechanized forces will likely need to operate and maneuver across much wider swaths of terrain that has been the case in recent years. Having a dispersed force, fortified with long range sensors, armor protection, precision weapons and networking technologies, will strengthen the Army’s offensive approach and make its forces a more difficult, less aggregated target for enemies.

New High-Tech Army Platforms – JLTV AMPV

While the Army remains focused on being needed for counterinsurgency possibilities across the globe and hybrid-type wars involving groups of terrorists armed with conventional weapons and precision-guided missiles — the service is identifying, refining and integrated technologies with a specific mind to attacking enemies and protecting Soldiers in major-power war, Williamson explained.

Major, great-power war would likely present the need for massive air-ground coordination between drones, helicopters and ground vehicles, infantry and armored vehicle maneuver formations and long-range weapons and sensors. The idea is to be ready for enemies equipped with high-end, high-tech weapons such as long-range rocket, missile and air attack capabilities.

As evidence of this approach, Williamson pointed to some of the attributes of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, and Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle as platforms well-engineered for large-scale mechanized warfare.

The JLTV, for instance, is engineered with additional armor, speed, suspension, blast-protection and ground-clearance in order to withstand enemy fire, mines, IEDs and roadside bombs. These same protection technologies would also enable the vehicle to better withstand longer-range attacks from enemy armies far more capable than those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Oshkosh Defense

The vehicle is being built to, among other things, replace a large portion of the Army’s Humvee fleet.

The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against a wide range of enemy attacks.

The vehicle is designed from the ground up to be mobile and operate with a level of underbody protection equivalent to the original MRAP-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected — All Terrain Vehicle) vehicle standards. Also, the vehicle is being designed with modular armor, so that when the armor is not needed we can take it off and bring the weight of the vehicle down to drive down the operating costs, Army officials have explained.

The modular armor approach gives the vehicle an A-kit and B-kit option, allowing the vehicle to integrate heavier armor should the war-threat require that.

With a curb weight of roughly 14,000 pounds, the JLTV will provide protection comparable to the 25,000-pound M-ATV, thus combining the mobility and transportability of a light vehicle with MRAP-level protection. The vehicle can reach speeds greater than 70-MPH.

The vehicle, made by Oshkosh Defense, is also built with a system called TAK-4i independent suspension designed to increase off-road mobility in rigorous terrain – a scenario quite likely should there be a major war. The JLTV is equipped with next-generation sensors and communications technologies to better enhance Soldiers’ knowledge of a surrounding, fast-moving dynamic combat situation.

TAK-4i can be described as Variable Ride-Height Suspension, explained as the ability to raise and lower the suspension to meet certain mission requirements such as the need to raise the suspension in high-threat areas and lower the suspension so that the vehicles can be transported by Maritime preposition force ships.

Also, the JLTV will be able to sling-load beneath a CH-53, C-130 or CH-47 under standard conditions. Sling-loading the vehicle beneath a large helicopter would give the Army an ability to conduct what they called Mounted Maneuver – an effort to reposition forces quickly on the battlefield in rough terrain which cannot be traversed another way.

Oshkosh, based in the Wisconsin city of the same name, last summer won a $6.7 billion Army contract to begin to produce about 17,000 of the light-duty JLTVs for the Army and Marine Corps beginning in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, which starts Oct. 1.

The services plan to buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles, including 49,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the Corps, to replace about a third of the Humvee fleets at an overall estimated cost of more than $30 billion, or about $559,000 per vehicle, according to Pentagon budget documents as cited in a report in Military.com.

When compared with earlier light tactical vehicle models such as the HMMWV, the JLTV is being engineered with a much stronger, 250 to 360 Horsepower engine (Banks 6.6 liter diesel engine) and a 570-amp alternator able to generate up to 10 kilowatts of exportable power. In fact, due to the increase in need for on-board power, the vehicle includes the integration of a suite of C4ISR kits and networking technologies.

The JLTV, which can be armed with weapons such as a grenade launcher or .50-cal machine gun, has a central tire inflation system which is an on-the-fly system that can regulate tire pressure; the system can adjust tire pressure from higher pressures for higher speed conditions on flatter roads to much lower pressures in soft soil such as sand or mud, JLTV engineers explain.

Also, instead of having a belt-driven alternator, the vehicles are built with an integrated generating system that is sandwiched between the engine and transmission in order to increase efficiency.

Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle

The Army is also preparing to take delivery later this year of its new infantry carrier platform called the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or AMPV.

Built by BAE Systems, the platform is intended to replace the Vietnam-era M113 infantry carrier; several variants are planned, including a General Purpose Vehicle, Mortar Carrier Vehicle, Mission Command Vehicle, Medical Evacuation Vehicle and Medical Treatment Vehicle.

Overall, the Army plans to build roughly 3,000 AMPVs at a cost of $1 million to $1.7 million each.

The platform is designed to transport troops, evacuate injured Soldiers, escort logistical convoys and maneuver alongside larger vehicle such as Abrams tanks.  The AMPV is designed with the speed to maneuver such that it can increase its chance of avoiding Anti-Tank Guided Missiles. An ATGM is the kind of conventional weapon the Army would be likely to face in a hybrid or great-power engagement. The vehicle is also armored in order to reduce its vulnerability to long-range enemy weapons.

The AMPV is a tracked vehicle built on a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle chassis; it represents the Army’s push to be prepared for the full-range of conflict. For example, the Army is divesting some of its fleet of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, specifically engineered for an IED or roadside bomb environment. While being ready for that possibility is still important to the Army – and still very much a future possibility — the service does not need to keep its full inventory and is instead preparing for a wider-range of possible wars.

The General Purpose AMPV transports two crew members and six passengers. It is armed with a 50-cal crew-served weapon and carry one injured Soldier on a litter.

The Mortar variant uses a crew of two with two Mortar technicians and an ability to fire 120mm rounds; the Medical variant carries a crew of three and six walking passengers.

The vehicle is also engineered with high-tech, software programmable radios designed to transmit IP packets of information across the force in real time; it has a vehicle intercom, driver’s vision enhancer and a radio and satcom communications network called Warfighter Information Network – Tactical.

These technologies, along with a force-tracking technology (Blue Force Tracker) displaying icons showing friendly and enemy force positions on a moving digital map, give the vehicle an ability to function as a node on a large-scale battlefield network. These kind of systems will allow the AMPV crew to conduct mission-command functions on the move, share combat-relevant information in real time and use sensor to detect enemy fire at longer ranges.

The AMPV also has a DUKE v3 electronic jammer engineered to identify and jam the signal of an electronically-detonated roadside bomb.

Articles

8 weird ‘off-the-books’ traditions in the US military

The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.


And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.

Here are eight examples.

1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.

The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.

On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.

In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.

Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.

It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”

Here’s the Navy version:

3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.

The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.

These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.

In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.

Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).

shellback ceremony Photo: Wikimedia Commons

4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.

Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.

Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.

5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.

Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.

This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.

Volunteer or not, it’s a ritual which the brass has endured plenty of bad press over, so they tend to discipline anyone involved whenever it happens.

6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.

The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Photo: MCB Hawaii

Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.

These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.

7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.

Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.

While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”

That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.

8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.

Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.

Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).

According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

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