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 TACTICAL

The Army developed a tactical cooler that puts your Yeti to shame

Natick – the home of the researchers who created the things you love most, like woobies, OCPs, and the chili mac MRE – came up with another creation designed to make your life in the desert a little easier. It just so happens it would make your life on the beach a lot better too: the combat cooler.


Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

The reason for the creation of the combat cooler was not just a way for troops to have rockin’ sand and sun parties in the middle of the desert. There was actually a mission-necessary function for it. The Joint Program Office for Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles needed a way to protect soldiers when hit by IEDs or other explosives during an ambush. It seems the bottles they carried (along with the containers for other beverages) can become dangerous projectiles in such an explosion.

So the Pentagon asked the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center if they could develop a way to mitigate that threat while making the water easy to reach and cold enough that soldiers would want to drink it. The result was the Insulated Container for Bottled Water, or ICB.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Tacticooler.

Natick’s idea also had to include a way to keep MREs from becoming the same deadly projectiles. So along with insulation to keep the inside cold, they used a zipper system to keep the bottles in at one level. But knowing that zippers will fail, they also used a webbing system to encase the bag, which also reinforces the opening, which is done through a zipper. Now your combat cooler can carry/withstand 6,000 pounds.

And even when your zipper fails, there is still a way to close the cooler.

The largest tacticooler (my title, not theirs) can carry up to 36 bottles of water or 28 MREs, that will withstand drops, fire, vibrations, and even the harshest climates. So even operating in a 120-degree combat environment, soldiers could still count on a nice cool drink when they get back to the MRAP.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 misconceptions boots have about an upcoming deployment

Any troop in today’s military will eventually, inevitably be deployed. Even before the announcement of the new, “deploy or get out” policy, you’d be hard-pressed to find an E-6 or above who doesn’t have a bit of time in the desert under their belt.

Everyone else is simply waiting for their time to come — and those in wait always have a few questions about their upcoming deployment. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to describe. You could be a commo guy in a signal unit, constantly dealing with threats up at your retrans site. Conversely, you could be an infantryman who spent years at the rifle range only to stay at a major base and train local forces on how to use their weapons. The fact is, you never know what it’ll actually be like until you’re there — and this is true regardless of rank, position, branch, or unit.

That being said, there are a few universal truths that stretch the spectrum of military service, for POGs, grunts, and special operators alike — and those truths are in direct conflict with what boots have on their mind.


Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

On the bright side, that usually means PT is on your own schedule — but that doesn’t mean you can slack off. You’re probably still going to have to take regular PT tests.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ed Galo)

“I’ll have plenty of downtime”

Deployments seem like the perfect time to try and knock out some online college courses so you can get a leg up on your peers and have an easier time finding a job after your service — oh man, you are mistaken.

Your work schedule will shift from the standard of PT in the morning, work call during the day, and time off at night to something that looks more like work 24/7 with maybe a single day off. Sure, you’ll have a few hours here and there between missions, but those will usually get eaten up by catching up on sleep or relaxing with the squad.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Just imagine all the dumb crap that would fill these tents if people had access to wasting their money while deployed.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marie Cassetty)

“I’ll have so much money when I get back”

On paper, a deployment seems like the perfect way to get out of debt. You’re gone for somewhere between nine to eighteen months, you’ll have nothing to blow your money on, and you’ll get better pay — tax free. This could be just what you need to crawl out of debt. The operative words here are “could be.”

If you’ve got a family back home, that money is being spent on responsibilities. If you’ve got preexisting debt, that money you’re accumulating is going toward paying people back. You’ll be making more than you’re used to back stateside and you’re less likely to waste it on stupid crap, — that is if you can avoid blowing it all in one reckless weekend like so many have before you.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Also, with deployments shrinking down to nine months, units aren’t going to be required to give their troops RR, so… there’s that…

(U.S. Air Force)

“I’ll get R&R when I want to”

All the calculating in the world can’t help you outrun the reach of the Big Green Weenie. There’s no scheduled block leave when it comes to RR. If your deployment is around twelve months, you’re lucky if you’re able to take it somewhere near the mid-point.

Your unit must remain operational, however, and it can’t do that if everyone is gone — so they’re not sending everyone home at the half-way point. Your leave is more than likely going to fall somewhere between three and nine months in. Troops who are expecting the birth of kids get top priority, but it’s a free-for-all after that.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Do not get this twisted. Troops are still in harm’s way every day. The likelihood of an outright firefight, however, has dropped.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sean A. Foley)

“I’ll get that Combat Action Badge (or equivalent) soon”

If there’s one prized medal within the military, it’s the one that comes after a troop has experienced combat first-hand. There’s an undeniable badassery that comes with the badge, ribbon, medal, etc., but they aren’t just handed out like candy anymore.

These days, fewer and fewer troops are seeing direct combat as America’s responsibilities in the War on Terror shift to more advisory roles with local militaries. Armed conflicts still occur in the Middle East, definitely, but the numbers are shrinking with each passing year. Even if your unit is one of the few that goes outside the FOB, you’ll likely not see combat right away.

Which leads us directly into the next myth about deployments…

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

The “hearts and minds” part of counter-insurgency truly is a better strategy for the overall well-being of the region. The sooner you adapt, the better time you’ll have outside the wire.

(DoD photo by 1st Lt. Becky Bort)

“My sole mission is to fight the bad guy”

From the moment you enter basic training, you’re fed one purpose. You’re being groomed to become the biggest, baddest motherf*cker Uncle Sam has ever seen. You will shoot, move, and communicate better than anyone else ever has. For the most part, however, that’s just not going to be the case.

If you do manage to get into a unit that will send you outside the wire, 98 percent of what you do are called “atmosphericals.” Basically, this means your unit rides through an area of operations, watching to see if anything goes down, being a show of force to both the civilians who need American aid and any potential threats watching from afar.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Case in point: There is a very specific reason I personally stopped mocking the French forces…

(ISAF photo by MC1 Michael E. Wagoner)

“My foreign counterparts are held to the same standards as me”

American troops are given very strict instruction on how to be professional and courteous while turning an area of operations “less hostile.” Our foreign counterparts do not have the same level of regimented training. Other NATO nations could be treating war like it’s a nine-to-five while the local military’s training curriculum probably doesn’t even cover “minor” things, like properly using a weapon.

But this misconception swings both ways. You might also be surprised to learn that certain allies don’t mess around — and train their “standard” infantry more like special operations.

Articles

Future Marine mega-drone may carry same weapons as F-35

The Marine Corps is on the hunt for a mega-drone that can take off and land vertically and deploy aboard ship — all while carrying a serious amount of firepower.


The service is asking a lot as it develops its MUX platform, short for Marine air-ground task force unmanned expeditionary capabilities, with plans to reach initial operational capability by 2026.

Also read: The Marine Corps wants an ‘R2D2’ robot for every squad

The Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon “Dog” Davis, said Wednesday at the Unmanned Systems Defense conference in Arlington, Virginia, that this future platform — a Group 5, the largest class of military drone — will be equipped to fight from sea as well as land.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Bell Helicopter’s planned V-247 Vigilant unmanned, single-engine armed tiltrotor platform may be a candidate for the Marine Corps’ plan for a mega-drone. | Illustration courtesy Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron

“I would say we’re very aggressive with what we want that Group 5 to be,” Davis said. “I want my airplane to go off a seabase and, frankly, I think the Group 5 [unmanned aircraft system] for the Marine Corps will have [AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile] on there, will have AIM-9X [Sidewinder missile], will have all the weapons that an F-35 will carry, maybe even the sensors the F-35 will carry.”

This future drone will not be a competitor with the Corps’ new F-35B Lightning II 5th-generation fighter but a collaborator, able to team with the aircraft on missions, he said.

“It’s about … making sure that the Marines have the very best protection wherever they go, whatever they do, and manned-unmanned teaming is not just with attack helicopters — it’s with jets, it’s with grunts,” Davis said.

In the Corps’ 2016 aviation plan, the MUX is described as filling an extremely broad range of missions, including electronic warfare; reconnaissance and surveillance; command, control, communications and computers [C4]; aircraft escort; persistent fires; early warning; and tactical distribution.

“It will be a multi-sensor, electronic warfare, C4 bridge, [anti-air warfare] and strike capability at ranges complementary to MV-22 and F-35, giving MAGTF commanders flexible, persistent, and lethal reach,” the document states. “It will provide scalable MAGTF support deploying as detachments or squadrons supporting commanders at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.”

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Lockheed Martin’s F-35A aircraft displays its weapons load-out at Edwards Air Force Base in California. | Lockheed Martin photo by Matt Short

Call it a mega-drone, if you will.

Prominent candidates for such a role include the Bell-Textron V-247, an unmanned, single-engine armed tiltrotor platform designed to operate from the sea; the Lockheed Martin K-Max built by Kaman, an optionally manned cargo chopper used to transport gear in Afghanistan and now being developed to accommodate sensors; and the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, or Tern, an aircraft developed by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research that sits on its tail so it can launch and recover on a ship’s deck.

Davis said he wants the Marines’ Group 5 UAS to be able to fly at 30,000 feet, the typical cruising altitude for an airliner, and to carry weapons internally to maximize efficiency and time on station. Ultimately, he said, he wants an unmanned aircraft that can do everything a manned aircraft can.

“Do I think it will replace manned platforms? No, but I think we have to integrate, look for capabilities, cover down our gaps, our seams, that are out there,” he said. “Frankly, no matter how many airplanes I have, I don’t get 24/7 coverage with my manned platforms, especially from my seabase. If we do distributed operations, we’re going to need all the game we can bring.”

Davis said he wants to see a tech demonstration flight of the MUX by 2018 and early operational capability for the system by 2024.

That timeline puts development of the mega-drone slightly ahead of the joint Future Vertical Lift program, which will select a next generation of helicopters for services including the Army and Marine Corps.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Smuzzle: The Army’s newest suppressor/muzzle brake

The Army Combat Capabilities Development Center (CCDC) Research Lab is testing a new suppressor with an integrated muzzle brake that will help soldiers maintain accurate and quiet fire on the enemy in future battlefields. This new device is aptly named “Smuzzle.”

Smuzzle’s design was originally meant for the Army’s 155mm howitzers, yet the inventors turned afterward to one of the army’s most common automatic weapons, the M240B. Greg Oberlin, Daniel Cler, and Eric Binter, the inventors of the new equipment, were trying to reduce recoil and muzzle flash while also reducing the sound from the machinegun.


Standard suppressors for the 7.62 mm caliber were unable to withstand the intense heat of the M240B (which is known as “the pig” by the soldiers who carry it in the field).

The device is currently undergoing testing on the M240B with the NATO 7.62×51 mm round as well as the Next-Generation Squad Weapon Technology 6.8mm round. (The 6.8mm round reduces the volume at the shooter’s ear by half, volume downrange by 25 percent, and recoil by a third said Oberlin, a small arms engineer at the Army’s CCDC Army Research Lab.)

The three inventors began their research back in 2007. They were recently awarded a 20-year utility patent with the Army in late March 2020.

“A few years ago, we were asked whether our next-gen squad weapon should have a muzzle brake or a suppressor,” Oberlin said in an interview with TechLink. “We asked ourselves ‘why not both?'”

Like any small-caliber muzzle brake, this new device vents the pressurized gas of each shot to counteract the recoil of the rifle. By venting the gas through a series of tiny asymmetric holes, the device has — in testing thus far — reduced volume by 50 percent and flash signature by 25 percent with minimal weight increase (0.8-3.0 pounds). “Suppressors are notorious for increasing flash,” Cler said. Furthermore, the Smuzzle adds only three inches to the weapon’s overall length.

When a weapon is fired using a suppressor, gases are trapped inside from the sound rings from the front of the suppressor back to the breech. That spreads the carbon throughout the weapon. It can force the soldier to clean the weapon more frequently.

“That brake baffle actually has a curvature to it borrowed from a 155mm muzzle brake I designed,” Cler said. But the researchers have stated that the device is scalable to any caliber.

“It was designed for automatic and semi-automatic weapons, but it’d be useful for anyone shooting magnum cartridges,” Cler said. “It has what you could call a bottom blocker that also reduces how much dust kicks up.” A smaller Smuzzle weighing 0.8 lbs and other larger versions weighing approximately 3 lbs have been developed to be used depending on a weapon’s caliber.

Binter said in a piece with the Army Times that although they have not yet tested the prototype devices to failure, nevertheless some of them had already fired 10,000 rounds through the weapons which continue to hold up to the sound, recoil, and accuracy standards.

In one test the researchers fired hundreds of rounds through one prototype Smuzzle attached to an M240B machine gun in a full auto failure test. (See video below.)

“It was glowing red, but it never failed,” Cler said.

In testing the weapon is expected to be able to sustain a rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute.

Smuzzle goes beast mode in full auto endurance test

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

US military thinks its next war will be underground

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a peculiar request over Twitter on Aug. 28, 2019, asking for underground tunnels to use for research — as soon as possible.

Though DARPA’s request managed to spook Twitter users, DARPA told Insider that the request is related to technology development for underground combat and search-and rescue operations.

While President Donald Trump looks to create a Space Force — an entirely new military branch — the Pentagon itself has put more than half a billion dollars into technology and training to compete on underground battlefields.


Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Soldiers of 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provide security during subterranean operations training, May 17. Lancers of 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, with the assistance of a Mobile Training Team from the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, completed a 5-day exercise focused on subterranean operations, at a remote underground facility in Washington State, May 14-18.

(US Atmy photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Armstrong)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency asked universities and colleges for underground tunnels to use for research.

Attention, city dwellers,” DARPA tweeted. “We’re interested in identifying university-owned or commercially managed underground urban tunnels facilities able to host research experimentation.”

The agency noted the short notice of the request — it asked for responses within two days — and specified that it was seeking “a human-made underground environment spanning several city blocks” which includes “a complex layout multiple stories, including atriums, tunnels stairwells.”

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Scientists watch soldiers sample simulated leaking chemical weapons in an underground facility in order to get a better idea of both the bulky protective gear soldiers must wear as well as the dark, constrained environments they sometimes work in.

(Stacy Smenos, Dugway Proving Ground)

While the Trump administration is increasingly looking to the skies and pressing for a Space Force, DARPA is focusing on operations underground.

In the agency’s online request for information, DARPA specifies that it’s trying to understand how technology could be used for rapid mapping, search, and navigation operations, likely in the case of urban conflict or disaster-related search-and-rescue operations.

“Complex urban underground infrastructure can present significant challenges for situational awareness in time-sensitive scenarios, such as active combat operations or disaster response,” Jared Adams, a spokesperson at DARPA, told Insider via email.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

The Ultra-Light Robot employing its “arms,” which can be used to climb small obstacles such as stairs, July 3, 2019, in Stafford, Virginia. In the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019, the Corps will field the Ultra-Light Robot—a small, mobile robot system that enables explosive ordnance disposal Marines to manage or destroy improvised explosive devices or conduct various other reconnaissance activities.

(US Marine Corps photo by Matt Gonzales)

The request comes out ahead of DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge.

The Subterranean Challenge, or SubT Challenge, invites teams of researchers from all over the world to compete and find technological solutions for underground operations. The teams use locations — like the ones DARPA requested information about — to test technologies that can search and navigate in underground terrain where it might be too difficult for humans to go.

Teams in the systems competition focus on technology like robotics that can physically search and navigate in an underground terrain. On the virtual track, teams compete and develop software that can be used to assist in simulations of underground operations.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Soldiers with 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division provide security while clearing an underground complex during dense urban environment training. The training, provided by a mobile training team from 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Benning, introduces tactics and techniques to the force to prosecute operations within dense urban terrain and populated urban centers.

(Photo by Capt. Scott Kuhn)

The urban circuit of the SubT challenge will take place in February 2020, hence the request for urban underground space.

“As teams prepare for the SubT Challenge Urban Circuit, the program recognizes it can be difficult for them to find locations suitable to test their systems and sensors,” Adams told Insider.

“DARPA issued this RFI in part to help identify potential representative environments where teams may be able to test in advance of the upcoming event.”

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Soldiers perform evacuation procedures at Fort Hood’s underground training facility. The training is part of a week-long training teaching Soldiers how to fight, win and survive in a dense urban terrain.

(Photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)

The military has become more aware that it needs to develop technology and strategy to fight in an underground, urban setting.

Historically, underground warfare has been the domain of special operations troops like Navy SEALs. But military researchers predict that this kind of warfare will be too much for special operators alone to navigate, particularly if dealing with an adversary like China or Russia, which both have extensive underground space. China in particular uses vast underground complexes to store missiles and its nuclear arsenal.

“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘OK, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the infantry school at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, said in an interview with Military.com last year.

The military has encountered underground facilities before — some Vietnam War-era special units explored tunnels dug by the Viet Cong.

ISIS militants also used tunnels in Iraq and Syria. In Israel and Lebanon, Hezbollah fighters used underground tunnels to launch attacks in Israel.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Milspo Mask Makers: Making a difference, one mask at a time

In the United States, hospitals are facing shortages of medical grade masks, and have taken to social media to ask seamstresses nationwide if they can sew masks for them.

When Sarah Mainwaring, a military spouse and community advocate at Robins AFB heard about the plight of local hospitals, she devised a plan to fulfill the needs of both the military community and healthcare workers due to the (very) limited availability of medical masks. She enlisted the help of her neighbors and fellow military spouses, and they began gathering materials to begin sewing masks. They decided to take their movement public by involving the military community, and thus, Milspo Mask Makers was born.


Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

www.militaryspouse.com

Milspo Mask Makers is a growing community movement of active duty, guard, reservists, and military spouses that are dedicated to filling the needs of healthcare workers, the surrounding community, and the immunocompromised by sewing masks to help them protect themselves against COVID-19. These masks can be used by healthcare workers in the event of a shortage, or to prolong the life of their medical mask to be able to use it longer.

Through their efforts, the ladies at Milspo Mask Makers were able to come together and sew over 100 masks in their first 24 hours. They have since been joined by other spouses in their local community, and have distributed over 200 masks to date. Sarah has challenged the military community to sew 10,000 masks worldwide and distribute them to those in need. If you or someone you know is making masks, let Milspo Mask Maker know! Use the hashtag #MilspoMaskMaker when you post photos to social media.

Also, be sure to like their page on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their efforts, view tutorials on making masks, and to find out other ways you can contribute to the cause!

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was with Saddam from the very beginning and on through to the very end when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 spread him and his compatriots to the winds. The next thing he knew, he was the King of Clubs on the U.S. military’s now-famous most-wanted Baathist decks of cards.


Unlike most of the people who appeared on the deck, Al-Douri was one of seven figures who managed to completely evade capture. Also unlike most of his fellow Baathists, the 77-year-old Baath party chairman also kept fighting the fight for Saddam’s Iraq – a fight he continues to this day.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

He was said to have helped the rise of ISIS.

The United States left Iraq as a ruling force back in 2011. By then, most of the people featured on the deck of cards were either captured, killed, or some combination of the two. The only exceptions were seven individuals who managed to flee the invasion and then evade capture somehow. Al-Douri was one of these evaders. Not only did he manage to evade capture for the entire duration of the Iraq War, but he also launched his own insurgency against the Americans, calling it the Naqshbandi Army.

Its full name is the Army Men of the Naqshbandi Order, and its ideology is a blend of pan-Arab nationalism (like the Baath party before it) and fundamentalist Islamic beliefs. They clashed with other Sunni groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq while fighting a guerrilla war against the Americans. The entire group operated in independent cells of seven to ten men. Al-Douri was said to be leading this group from neighboring Syria.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

So brave.

In April 2015, it was believed Al-Douri was killed by a Shia paramilitary group in Iraq’s Salahuddin Province, but DNA testing was inconclusive, and his insurgent group denied the reports. Al-Douri appeared on television and other media later, discussing events that took place after his death, so it was soon widely accepted that the body found was not Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. With the Americans (mostly) gone from Iraq, Al-Douri and his fighters have started to turn their attention to Iranian forces in the country, troops Al-Douri fought as a Baathist for years during the Iran-Iraq War.

He has since declared that Iranians will be the groups next targets in the coming years, blaming Iran for “directly invading” Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has promised to form a special team to kill or capture Al-Douri, but one has yet to materialize.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is ready for possible conflicts with China and Russia

In early 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis outlined a change to the Navy’s approach to aircraft carrier deployments, mixing up when carriers leave and return to port, shortening their time at sea, and adding flexibility to where they go and what they do.

The change is meant to lessen the strain on the fleet and its personnel while keeping potential rivals in the dark about carrier movements.

This ” dynamic force employment ” was underscored by the USS Harry S. Truman’s return to Norfolk, Virginia, after a 90-day stint at sea that did not include the traditional trip to the Middle East to support US Central Command operations.


Amid that ongoing shift, the Navy is shuffling the homeport assignments for some of its carriers, as it works to keep the fleet’s centerpieces fit for a potential great-power fight.

Carrier refuelings are scheduled long in advance to ensure they’re able to remain in service for a half-century, despite heavy operational demands. The carrier fleet is a crucial piece of US strategy, which in 2018 assessed strategic rivalry from China and Russia as the country’s foremost threat.

Three of the Navy’s 11 active carriers — Nimitz-class carriers USS Carl Vinson, USS Abraham Lincoln, and USS John C. Stennis — will get new homes.

The Navy declined to say when they’ll make the move, but here’s where they’re headed:

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transits the Indian Ocean in this U.S. Navy handout photo dated January 18, 2012.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric S. Powell)

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Sailors prepare to moor USS Abraham Lincoln in Norfolk, Virginia, Sept. 7, 2017.

The Lincoln joined the fleet in 1989 and was part of the Pacific fleet from 1990 to 2011. It moved to Norfolk from Everett, Washington, in 2011 for midlife refueling, known as reactor complex overhaul, which wrapped up in mid-2017.

Source: USNI News

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

Guests watch as an F/A-18E Super Hornet performs a touch-and-go-landing aboard the Lincoln during an air-power demonstration, June 30, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Spec 2nd Class Jacques-Laurent Jean-Gilles)

With the Lincoln back on the West Coast and the Stennis and Vinson heading east, the Navy will still have five of its 10 Nimitz-class nuclear-powered carriers assigned to the Pacific Fleet.

Source: USNI News

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

An F/A-18E Super Hornet prepares to take off from the Stennis on May 10, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Spec 2nd Class David A. Brandenburg)

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

An F/A-18E Super Hornet takes off from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, May 5, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Spec Seaman Angelina Grimsley)

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

An F/A-18F fighter jet launches from the Stennis in the Persian Gulf, Nov. 23, 2011.

(U.S. Navy photo by Benjamin Crossley)

The Stennis has been stationed at Kitsap since 2005, when it relocated from San Diego. The carrier left port without notice at the end of July 2018 and will conduct training exercises while underway. It’s expected to deploy late 2018, though the Navy has not said when it will leave or how long it will be gone.

Source: USNI News , Kitsap Sun

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

The Vinson transits the Strait of Hormuz.

(US Navy photo Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Grandin)

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones

The Vinson transits the Sunda Strait, April 15, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano)

The Vinson, which was commissioned in 1982, will move north ahead of its planned incremental maintenance at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

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

Humor

5 things service members hate on that are actually useful

The U.S. Military is full of rules and regulations, so much so that it gives the lower enlisted plenty to complain about. But some of the things that seem like annoying POG tasks actually make a lot of sense and, in some cases, could be lifesaving.


Here are some of the tasks service members complain about doing that, realistically, make good sense.

Related: 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry

5. Boot blousing

This often feels like an annoying task only POGs worry about but, when you think about it, the purpose is to keep dirt and other unwanted particles from getting inside one’s boot.

It gets stupid, though, when higher-ups prefer to see them sit near or at the top of the boot, which may look good, but ultimately defeats the purpose.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Airmen don’t really have to worry about dirt getting in their boots, though. (Image via Citizen Airman Magazine)

4. Buckling the chin strap of a helmet

When troops of the modern age wear their combat gear, they like to call back to times of World War II and Vietnam, when troops would go on patrols with the chin strap of their helmets unbuckled.

But, when you look at why those troops did that, it becomes clear that, with the modern helmets and straps, it makes more sense to buckle up.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Would you rather be comfortable and lose your helmet or have something to protect your head from incoming shrapnel? (Image via Reddit user 4noteprogression)

3. Police call

This is the practice of picking up every little piece of trash in front of the battalion headquarters until it looks pretty for the base commander — what a beautiful practice. After all, who doesn’t like standing in a straight line and combing the lawn for used gum and cigarette butts? But, when you think about it, this is good practice for when you’re leaving a bivouac site or sleeping area.

You want to pick up every piece of trash — yes, even the gum and cigarette butts — to make sure there’s little to no evidence of human occupation because it makes your unit harder to track.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Remember, if you bring it in, you take it out. (Image via Duffleblog)

2. Shaving

This is a common complaint because everyone just wants to be an operator. But the truth is, having a clean shave can save your life. The requirement started during World War I to ensure a perfect seal when the gas masks go on to prevent, you know, dying from a cloud of mustard gas.

These days, having a clean shave is a part of military uniformity and discipline. It takes some discipline to wake up and shave every morning and takes no effort to just let it grow.

On the other hand, special operators are allowed to grow beards because they’re immune to chemical weapons and don’t need gas masks.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Shave your face, nasty! (Image via Reddit user SenorWorkman)

Also read: 6 easy ways for a grunt to be accepted by POGs

1. Stand-to

“Stand-to” is a command that means to stand guard or be prepared for an enemy attack. This is especially annoying since it usually happens from before until after dusk, and before until after dawn.

No one likes being woken up half an hour before the sun rises to stand guard but, realistically, these are the times where attacks have been known to happen. The enemy likes to strike when you’re either focused on going to bed or getting up.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Marines around their fighting positions as the sun rises (Image via Army Times)

Articles

Congress kills plan forcing women to register for the military draft

Congress just nixed a plan that would have made women register for the military draft.


Lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees stripped the requirement of women to register for Selective Service that was inserted into the forthcoming $618 billion defense bill, which will be voted on by both chambers within the next few days, according to The Washington Post.

Also read: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Current law requires all male US citizens aged 18-25 to register for the draft. The provision requiring women to do the same was part of early drafts of the bill, added after a number of military leaders and women’s rights advocates offered support for it following Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s removal of restrictions placed on women in combat.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Marines with the Lioness Program refill their rifle magazines during the live-fire portion of their training at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, July 31. | Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jennifer Jones

While the bill doesn’t change the Selective Service System, it does call for a review of whether a military draft is still worthwhile and cost-effective, according to Military Times. The last time a draft was ordered was during the Vietnam War.

Dropping women from draft registration may be a signal that the next Defense Secretary could reinstitute the policy excluding women from some direct combat jobs, such as infantry and artillery. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the policy change in 2013, but since Congress never passed a law affirming it, a stroke of the pen could roll it back.

Articles

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.


Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.

Entering Shok Valley

The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.

The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.

Combat breaks out

After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.

The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.

“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”

The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.

Three-story explosion and sniper warfare

As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.

“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”

The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.

Enemy fighters began closing on the command node, eventually drawing to within 40 feet of it. Walton had the tip of his weapon shot off and was struck twice in the helmet by enemy rounds.

Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.

Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.

Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Airman Zachary Rhyner in an undated Air Force photo from another operation.

Planning to leave

American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.

Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.

Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier

Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.

Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire

Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.

Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.

Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.

One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.

After the battle

Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.

In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.

NOW: Medal of Honor: Meet the 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

OR: The definitive guide to US special ops

Lists

5 of the best ways to skate in the Marine Corps Infantry

Skipping out on work is an age-old practice and, in the military, it requires a decent amount of both skill and luck. The art of ‘skating’ is not one that can easily be taught or learned. To become an expert, one must be trained by a master — probably the grand, old lance corporal of the platoon — and one must train hard.


Since skating is generally frowned upon by members of the command, it’s all the more surprising and sweet when they give you the opportunity to do so.

Related: 5 ways to skate in Marine Corps boot camp

1. Be a duty driver

At the insistence of your command, you get out of an entire day’s work to learn how to drive a van then drive said van. In some rare cases, you might be pulled away for a few days to learn how to drive the van, take a written test, and then take a road test. Not only do you get to enjoy a few easy days courtesy of your command, you’ll occasionally get pulled away to drive the battalion’s officer on duty, which means, essentially, you get those days off as well.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Remember: it’s still duty. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. David Staten)

2. Be a HMMWV driver

Taking this course means you get a week away from your unit to learn about the wonderful HMMWV (pronounced ‘humvee’) and how often you’ll have to fix it. On some days, classes end early, so be prepared to get out of work before the rest of your unit. Aside from that first week, this is a ticket to occasionally get out of hikes and fields ops to drive supplies or weak bodies from point A to B.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
You might get pulled to do inspections on occasion, though. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ricky Gomez)

3. Platoon radio operator

This skate takes place mostly in the field because it requires you to follow the platoon commander around. It’s your job to monitor radio traffic for the lieutenant to keep him up to speed on what’s going on, so while others are on patrol, you’ll be busy relaying info.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
Make sure you can keep up with your LT, though. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Justin Huffty)

4. Mess duty

Sure, you might have to get up early and go to bed a bit late, but that’s what it takes to get hot meals ready for everyone in the field. You prepare breakfast and dinner usually and spend the afternoon cleaning the cooking equipment. You’re basically attached to the cook that’s been assigned to your company, so whenever they need help, you get to spend time away from your platoon.

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
It’s rough if it’s cold outside. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Joshua Murray)

Also read: 9 tips for ‘skating’ in the Navy

5. Be a range safety operator

These Marines are driven to and from the ranges to make sure everyone who is shooting is doing so safely and effectively. Your job is simple: pay attention. All you have to do is make sure PFC Bootface isn’t going to shoot Lance Corporal So-and-so in the back on accident (or on purpose).

Why the Army’s powerful new tanks might be drones
All you have to do is give a thumbs-up and pay attention. It’s easy. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Heather Atherton)

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