Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

It’s December and many are doing their holiday shopping or making a wishlist of gifts they’d like to receive.


During the Future Ground Combat Vehicle Summit in Levonia, Michigan early in December, Army acquisition professionals and program managers had their own wishlists that included an assortment of robots and ground combat vehicles meant to protect Soldiers and give pause to potential adversaries.

Robots

Brian McVeigh, project manager for Force Protection, was big on robots.

Over 7,000 were fielded in just the last decade, he noted. The challenge now is to move the most effective ones into programs of record.

Among these, he said, is the M-160 Robotic Mine Flail, which efficiently clears land mines using rotating chains that flail the ground. It is also rugged enough to be protected against mine explosion fragments.

The M-160 made it into a program of record this year before the holidays, and a number are already involved in route-clearance missions in Afghanistan.

By 2025, dismounted Soldiers will conduct foot patrols alongside robots called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, vehicles that carry rucksacks and other equipment that will lighten the Soldier load, McVeigh said.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
By 2025, the Army sees ground troops conducting foot patrols in urban terrain with robots, called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport vehicles. Overhead, unmanned aircraft will also serve as spotters to warn troops so they can engage the enemy on their own terms, according to the the Army’s new strategy on robotic and autonomous systems. (U.S. Army graphic)

In order to get these to the warfighter sooner rather than later, the Army is procuring them through an Other Transactional Agreement, or OTA, he said.

The OTA got the program rolling fast, with requirements out in April and a down-select six months later in November, he said. Four contracts were awarded for 20 vehicles each, which will be tested by Soldiers in two brigades until the end of next year. Low-rate initial production is expected to follow with a production contract in place.

The requirements were limited to give manufacturers more flexibility in the trade-space, he said. The only firm requirements were that SMET be able to haul 1,000 pounds off-road, cover 60 miles in 72 hours and cost $100,000 or less each.

The OTA was used because Army leaders prioritized getting the weight off the backs of dismounted Soldiers, he noted.

Common Robotic System (Heavy) is designed to disarm or disable unexploded ordnance using a highly dexterous arm remotely controlled by a Soldier. The Army just published requests for information from industry for the wireless-range manipulator arm, McVeigh said.

Feedback from industry on CRS-H has been good, he said. It is expected that by next summer, draft performance specifications will be issued, and it is hoped that fielding can begin as early as 2020. This system is also going the OTA route.

The Enhanced Robotics Payload is another explosives ordnance disposal robot. A request for proposal has been released, McVeigh. And in October, a contract was awarded to Endeavor Robotics for another EOD robot, the Man-Transportable Robotics System Increment II.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
Army Reserve Sgt. Santiago Zapata, 2nd Platoon, 323rd Engineering Clearance Company, operates the Talon tracked military robot by using a ground remote on a route clearance mission while at the Combat Support Training Exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., June 19, 2015. (DoD photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

Ground combat vehicles

David Dopp, program manager for Mobile Protected Firepower Vehicle, Ground Combat Systems, said a request for proposal was released in late November for MPF.

The MPF he envisions can be described as a light tank. It will be light in the sense that it will weigh less than half as much as an Abrams tank, which will allow two to fit inside a C-17 aircraft. That means its armor will be less than an Abrams.

The MPF will also sport a gun in the 105mm to 120mm range, similar to the ones on early versions of the Abrams, Dopp said.

It is expected that the MPF will provide infantry brigade combat teams with a long-range, direct-fire capability for forcible entry and breaching operations, he noted, so it is not by any stretch a tank replacement.

There will not be a lot of requirements other than MPF being light and powerful, he said. Army leaders are eager to quickly get it into the hands of Soldiers for testing.

A contract could be awarded by early FY19 with low-rate initial production to follow, he said.

Also Read: Marines get a tank-killer upgrade just in time for Christmas

Maj. Gen. John Charlton, commander, Army Test and Evaluation Command, said that although the Next Generation Combat Vehicle fielding isn’t expected until 2035, a lot of the components that may find their way onto the NGCV in one shape or another are being currently tested around the Army.

Two such systems that will likely inform development of NGCV, he said, are the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station-Javelin and the Stryker Remote Weapons Station.

CROWS-J allows the warfighter to remotely engage targets with precision fire from the Javelin while on the move, he said. Stryker RWS is a 30mm cannon on an unmanned turret. Both systems keep the gunner inside the vehicle, in a less exposed area than the turret.

Electro-magnetic interference testing is now underway on the sensors and software, he said.

There are some challenges to overcome in putting this technology on the NGCV, he said, describing a few.

Although the gunner is tucked inside the vehicle, rounds must still be loaded and reloaded in the gun, which means being exposed to enemy fire and working in cramped conditions, he said.

Getting everything working correctly will require a lot of software development, he said. This is probably the most difficult challenge.

And finally, situational awareness could be lost with the crew fully buttoned up inside the vehicle, he said. This could be particularly bad in urban terrain where Soldiers cannot get good visuals of what’s around and above them.

The situational awareness issue could be addressed through adding sensors and cameras so the crew doesn’t feel so completely closed in, he noted.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
A prototype illustration for The Next Generation Combat vehicle. (U.S. Army graphic)

Other future weapons

Charlton said several promising weapons are in the science and technology and testing stages.

Engineers are now designing extended-range cannons that can be mounted on the Paladin and will fire much greater distances than current artillery, he said, noting that the distances are impressive but classified.

The cannons could find their way on the NGCV, he said.

The challenges are now designing a breech in the gun system that can handle the enormous pressures and getting the APS software and sensors developed. Also, the crew might be adversely affected by the enormous pressures, so some sort of dampening mechanism would be needed.

Another weapon that will eventually make its way to the battlefield is the high-energy laser, Charlton said.

The Army and Air Force are now out at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico using them to knock out air-to-ground and surface-to-air missiles, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.

A 300-kilowatt laser will be built and tested in the near future, he added.

“We want to ensure the lanes are clear when firing the laser,” he said. “We don’t want to take out one of our own satellites, so it will need to be equipped with an avoidance detection system.”

Lastly, Charlton said that an electromagnetic rail gun will be developed soon, but he’s not sure if it will find its way onto the NGCV. “But it will be on the battlefield in some shape or form,” he said.

The rail gun will shoot small, dense projectiles to distances of 30 kilometers at several times the speed of sound using electromagnetic pulses, he said. That will require some serious power, so initially it might have to be loaded on a large cargo truck.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
An M109A6 Paladin with Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment (Pacesetters), 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division waits for darkness before the night live-fire portion of the table six gunnery certification. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. John W. Strickland)

Joint development

Dr. Dale Ormond, principal deputy, Research Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said his office is working to ensure all of the laboratories across the Department of Defense are talking to each other, helping each other and avoiding duplication of effort.

The areas he’s particularly excited about are artificial intelligence paired with autonomy. Machines programmed for artificial learning will be able to collaborate much better with Soldiers and give commanders more options on the battlefield, he said.

Other promising areas are hypersonic weapons, he said, like the rail guns and lasers that the Army is working on.

He said he also expects to see a lot of developments in the space and cyberspace domains, as well as being able to operate in GPS-denied environments.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Soldier killed in Afghanistan was mayor in Utah

U.S. politicians and media are reporting that the service member killed in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, was the 39-year-old mayor of a city in the state of Utah.

The Salt Lake Tribune and other media reported on Nov. 3, 2018, that North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor was serving with the National Guard when he was killed earlier in the day.

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and the state’s lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox, confirmed Taylor’s death.


“Devastating news. North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor was killed today while serving in Afghanistan,” Cox wrote on his Facebook page.

“I hate this. I’m struggling for words….This war has once again cost us the best blood of a generation. We must rally around his family,” he added.

North Ogden is a city of 17,000 people north of Salt Lake City.

Taylor was deployed to Afghanistan in January 2018 with the Utah National Guard. At the time, he told local media he would serve as an adviser to an Afghan commando battalion.

A statement from the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan said another U.S. service member was wounded in the attack.

The assailant was a member of the Afghan security forces who was immediately killed by other Afghan forces, the statement said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the “green-on-blue” attack — in which Afghan forces turn their weapons on international soldiers with whom they are working.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time 4 Royal Marines strapped themselves to attack helicopters and rode into a Taliban compound

In January 2007, a group of Royal Marines threw together a crazy mission to rescue a wounded Marine trapped inside the compound. To get him back, four Marines strapped themselves to the outside of Apache helicopters and rode back into the compound.


The situation arose after an attack on Jugroom Fort went sour quickly. The Brits assaulted in armored vehicles with artillery and Apache support, but the insurgents returned a heavy volume of fire when the Marines dismounted. Poor communication during the raid led to a friendly fire incident and another miscommunication led to the Marines withdrawing without Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford.

 

After rallying back up, the Marines quickly realized Ford was missing and one of the two Apaches on the battlefield spotted what appeared to be a human silhouette just inside the compound with his infrared sensors. The Royal Marines quickly devised the plan to strap two Marines each to two Apaches and have them land just outside the compound. They would recover Ford, who appeared to be severely wounded, and then ride back out.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
Photo: Screen capture from Youtube

The men called for nearby NATO assets to assist and American A-10s and a B-1 came in to help. The B-1 kicked off the assault by dropping four JDAMs onto the opposite side of the compound from Ford. According to a report published in “War is Boring,” the American pilots were shocked by what they saw during the mission.

“As I passed ahead of one Apache,” an unnamed pilot wrote, “I glanced high left to see a man, leaning over the stubby helicopter wing, unloading his rifle on the enemy. We matched with 30-millimeter and rockets.”

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
You’ve really messed up when you’ve drawn the ire of both Apaches and A-10s (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Heath Allen/Arkansas National Guard Public Affairs)

That’s right, the Marines were firing their rifles while strapped to the helicopters.

When the Apaches landed at the fort, there wasn’t enough space for both helicopters at the planned landing zone. So one Apache landed just outside the walls while the other landed inside the compound. The Marines quickly detached themselves and began searching for Ford. When one pair of Marines headed in the wrong direction, an Apache pilot jumped out of his bird to show them the way.

As the A-10s provided fierce covering fire, the Brits found Ford and carried him back to the helicopters. They managed it just in time. At three minutes after landing, the insurgents had recovered enough to begin firing on the parked Apaches. The Marines and pilots got away at five minutes without suffering further casualties.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
Apaches: usually badass enough without the Royal Marine attachment (U.S. Army photo)

The Apaches rushed Ford to medical aid before returning to base, barely making it before they ran out of gas. Unfortunately, Ford had died of his wounds sometime before the rescue attempt.

The men involved in the rescue attempt received awards for their valor. One of the pilots involved in the mission wrote a book, “Apache: Inside the Cockpit of the World’s Most Deadly Fighting Machine,” where he detailed his time in Afghanistan and the mission to rescue Lance Cpl. Ford.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why North Korea has a psychological advantage over the US


  • North Koreans are trained by propaganda and military service not to fear incredible hardships like nuclear war.
  • North Korean officials say their country could destroy the US, but they would survive because Pyongyang has many bunkers and shelters.
  • US citizens view their lives and comfort much more dearly, but the US’s nuclear superiority limits North Korea’s advantage to psychology only.

When the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos went to North Korea, the “most telling moment” for him came when his minder, Pak Sung Il, a father of two, told him that “nuclear war with the United States would be survivable.”

Asked why North Korea would entertain the idea of nuclear war with the US if it would totally wipe out their country, Osnos’ minder gave a chilling answer.

Also read: Top US spooks say the North Korean dictator isn’t crazy at all

“We’ve been through it twice before” he said of national devastation, referring to the Korean War and the “Arduous March,” or the famine of the 1990s that killed up to 3.5 million.

“We can do it a third time,” he said.

“A few thousand would survive,” Pak said. “And the military would say, ‘Who cares? As long as the United States is destroyed, then we are all starting from the same line again … A lot of people would die. But not everyone would die.”

Nicholas Kristof wrote of his trip to North Korea in The New York Times and reported a “ubiquitous assumption that North Korea could not only survive a nuclear conflict, but also win it.”

“If we have to go to war, we won’t hesitate to totally destroy the United States,” a teacher at an amusement park told Kristof.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

But when Western journalists travel to North Korea, they only see and hear state-approved narratives. While officials and official propaganda may unanimously state that North Koreans think they can destroy the US and survive the conflict, regular citizens may not feel the same way.

“This is a government script that everybody studies and repeats,” Kristof told Business Insider of North Koreans’ attitude toward nuclear war. But “people often buy the government propaganda especially if they are in Pyongyang,” said Kristof.

Average North Koreans may or may not believe the official propaganda that they could destroy the US, but their lives revolve around politics and ideology in a way to which the US could never compare.

In Pyongyang, all 16 metro stops are buried deep underground and have been designed to double as bomb shelters. Much of Pyongyang’s infrastructure doubles as bomb shelters, as the memory of the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 — when more bombs were dropped in Korea than in the entirety of World War II — looms large.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
Every North Korean is required to serve in the military, and years ago children were not excluded. (image Wikicommons)

The last time the US was attacked by a foreign country was Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The US hasn’t lived in fear of nuclear annihilation since the close of the Cold War in the early 1990s.

The vast majority of US citizens never serve in the military, and many do not even know anyone who has. North Korea has mandatory military service for all men and women.

Even if average North Koreans aren’t as fearless in the face of nuclear exchanges as their top officials are, they have a built-in cultural and psychological advantage in facing down such a conflict.

But the advantage is entirely limited to perspective.

North Korea is still trying to produce a single, credible nuclear missile that can reach the US, and the US has enough nuclear weapons to completely destroy North Korea, China, and Russia in about a half hour.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War I veteran came home and built himself a castle in Ohio

A lot of American troops find something to love about cultures they discover during their service. One World War I veteran left Ohio and discovered the magical history of Medieval Europe amid the fighting and squalor of the trenches. When he returned to the rolling hills next to Ohio’s Little Miami River, he decided to build that magic in his own backyard. Literally.


Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

Complete with sword room.

Just north of Loveland, Ohio sits a structure that has no business standing in the American midwest. Harry D. Andrews began constructing a full-scale replica of the castle where his medical unit was stationed in Southern France. It was built brick-by-brick by Andrews himself on land he acquired from buying yearlong subscriptions to the Cincinnati newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking stones from the Little Miami River, and even using bricks formed from milk cartons.

It took him 50 years to complete the project.

Though it has come to be known as Loveland Castle, the building began its life as Chateau Laroche – French for “Rock Castle” – and Andrews was a huge fan of the Medieval Era of European History. As the Castle Museum’s website reads:

[It was built as] “an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope.”
Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

Loveland Castle via Instagram

Harry D. Andrews was born in 1890 and served as a medic in France during World War I. While “over there,” he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. Except that he was very much alive and in hospital at the actual Chateau La Roche in southwest France. It would take him six months to recover. By the time he was declared alive, the war was over, and his fiancée was married to someone else. So Andrews stayed in Europe and toured the castles. He never much cared for modern war and believed the weapons used by knights in the Medieval Era were much more fair to a fighting man.

That’s when Harry Andrews gave up on women and dedicated his life to recreating the Medieval Era right there in his native Ohio. As he built the castle, he also constructed a year-round hotbed garden, a secret room, and wrote a book about immigration. As a lifelong Boy Scout leader, he donated the castle to his scouts when he died in 1981. Called the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” they guard the castle to this day.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

CNO sends a message to the Fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday sent a message to the fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday.


Below is the text of his message:

Shipmates, this year we are celebrating our 245th Birthday virtually, around the world, together.

Although this birthday is different than in past years, what has not changed is how proud we can be of two and a half centuries of tradition, as well as our Sailors and civilians who continue to build our legacy with family members and loved ones at their side.

Today, Sailors stand the watch from the Western Atlantic to the South China Sea, and from the High North to the South Pacific. Your Navy enables prosperity 24/7/365 – at home and abroad – by helping keep the maritime commons free and open. And I promise you that our allies and partners – as well as your fellow Americans – all sleep better because you are there.

Our birthday is an important occasion because we celebrate our rich past, recognize the accomplishments of our shipmates today, and look to our bright future ahead.

The Navy needs you to be the best that you can be. Serve others. Be courageous. And always remember that America has a great Navy.

Happy 245th Birthday Navy Family. See you in the Fleet, Shipmates.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
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MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey captures ISIS leader al-Baghdadi’s sister in Syria raid

Turkish forces have captured the older sister of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a raid in northwestern Syria, officials announced, about 50 miles from where he died by suicide vest in a US raid ten days ago.

Rasmiya Awad, 65, was detained in a raid near Azaz on Monday evening, the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters reported, citing unnamed Turkish officials.

She was captured alongside her husband and daughter-in-law in a raid in a trailer they had been living in near Azaz, the AP reported. Five children were with them during the raid, Reuters reported.


Azaz is a Turkish-controlled Syrian town near the two countries’ border. Al-Baghdadi, 48, died after detonating a suicide vest when he was chased into a tunnel complex by a US military dog in Barisha village, which is located around 50 miles southwest.

Turkish forces officially gained control over Azaz after it struck a deal with Russia to consolidate power in northwestern Syria October 2019. The agreement came after Turkey invaded Syria after President Donald Trump pulled troops out of the country in early October 2019.

Rasmiya Awad (sister of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) caught (Syria) – BBC News – 4th November 2019

www.youtube.com

Awad, her husband, and her daughter-in-law are now being questioned by Turkish officials.

“We hope to gather a trove intelligence from Baghdadi’s sister on the inner workings of ISIS,” the Turkish source told Reuters.

The AP also cited its source, also a Turkish official, as calling the capture “a gold mine.”

“What she knows about [ISIS] can significantly expand our understanding of the group and help us catch more bad guys,” they said.

Colin P. Clarke, a senior fellow at the Soufan Center think tank, told The New York Times that the phrase “‘gold mine’ might be overstating the issue,” but said that depending on what she knows about her brother’s activities, her capture could provide insight into how ISIS makes decisions.

Al-Baghdadi was known for being highly suspicious of everyone around him, and only trusted his immediate family and a close circle of associates, The Times reported, citing separate interviews with former ISIS prisoners, aides, and Iraq’s director-general of intelligence.

The ISIS leader used to conduct strategy meetings in moving buses filled with vegetables to avoid detection, Reuters reported, citing a former top aide.

He had five brothers and several sisters, but it’s not clear how many of them are still alive, The Times said.

ISIS announced its new leader, Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, last week.

ISIS Names New Leader In The Wake Of Al-Baghdadi’s Death | NBC Nightly News

www.youtube.com

Turkey, meanwhile, has already hailed Awad’s capture as a counter-terrorism victory.

“Turkey’s fight against terror regardless of its ideology or origin continues unabated,” tweeted Fahrettin Altun, the communications director of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, early Tuesday morning.

“The arrest of al-Baghdadi’s sister is yet another example of the success of our counter-terrorism operations.”

He also claimed “much dark propaganda against Turkey [that had] been circulating to raise doubts about our resolve against Daesh,” referring to a pejorative name for ISIS.

It’s not entirely clear what he meant, but there had been multiple reports noting that the Turkish incursion into Syria allowed hundreds of ISIS prisoners to escape.

Turkey could use Monday’s capture to justify further violence against the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish-led militia force based in Syria that previously allied with the US to fight ISIS in Syria. Turkey sees its militants as terrorists, and have vowed not to leave Syria until they’re eliminated.

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

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Articles

Veterans in Congress call for ban exemptions for Iraqi interpreters

Iraqi nationals who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime should not be subject to a recent executive order halting immigration from Iraq, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday.


The letter, a joint effort by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, asks Trump to grant the request of Defense Secretary James Mattis to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order. Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.

The letter was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans. Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa.

Related: Time is running out to help thousands of American allies who’ve been left behind

“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”

On his own, Moulton has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order. In a statement, he warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.

“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”

Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq. The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than a decade. Darweesh, who was granted a Special Immigrant Visa on Jan. 20, was ultimately released into the U.S. a full day later.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers with the 73rd Brigade, 15th Division, on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, March 25, 2015. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Monday that the Defense Department is making a list of Iraqis who had worked to help U.S. troops for submission to the government agencies carrying out the executive order.

Special Immigrant Visas were created in 2008 for the express purpose of providing a special path for people from Iraq and Afghanistan who had assisted American troops to resettle in the United States, a recognition that these individuals and their families often faced greater danger because of their service.

“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger. Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives.”

Articles

This British sniper took out six insurgents by detonating a Taliban suicide vest

A 20-year-old Lance Cpl. of Britain’s Coldstream Guards was right on target in December 2013. His quick shooting prevented a major offensive by Taliban fighters when he hit the trigger of an enemy suicide vest – with a round from his L115A3 rifle.


Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
The L115A3 is the primary weapon of British military snipers. (MoD photo)

The UK’s Telegraph reported that his unit was hundreds strong during a joint patrol with Afghan counterparts in Helmand Province, near Karakan. They came under heavy fire from a Taliban ambush. The commanding officer of the 9/12 Royal Lancers, Lt. Col. Richard Slack, did not give the name of the sniper, but acknowledged his decisive action.

“The guy was wearing a vest. He was identified by the sniper moving down a tree line and coming up over a ditch,” said Slack. “He had a shawl on. It rose up and the sniper saw he had a machine gun. … They were in contact and he was moving to a firing position. The sniper engaged him and the guy exploded.”

It was the lance corporal’s second shot of his tour. When he hit the vest’s trigger, the man exploded, taking out five more of his fellow fighters. He was 930 yards away.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
An Afghan Taliban suicide vest. (Khaama Press)

The sniper’s first shot killed an enemy machine gunner during the same engagement. That shot was from more than 1,400 yards away.

When the smoke cleared, British forces found a second vest containing 44 pounds of explosives.

Holly Watt of the Telegraph called it “one of the dwindling number of gun battles between British forces and the insurgents.”

Articles

US ‘kill vehicle’ test destroys ballistic missile in space

The Pentagon’s oft-criticized missile defense program has scored a triumph, destroying a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean with an interceptor that is key to protecting U.S. territory from a North Korean attack.


Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Pentagon agency in charge of developing the missile defense system, called the test result “an incredible accomplishment” and a critical milestone for a program hampered by setbacks over the years.

“This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” Syring said in a written statement announcing the test result.

Despite the success, the $244 million test did not confirm that under wartime conditions the U.S. could intercept an intercontinental-range missile fired by North Korea. Pyongyang is understood to be moving closer to the capability of putting a nuclear warhead on such an ICBM and could develop decoys sophisticated enough to trick an interceptor into missing the real warhead.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Syring’s agency sounded a note of caution.

“Initial indications are that the test met its primary objective, but program officials will continue to evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test,” his statement said.

Philip E. Coyle, a former head of the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office and a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said the May 30 outcome was a significant success for a test that was three years in preparation, but he noted that it was only the second success in the last five intercept attempts since 2010.

“In several ways, this test was a $244 million-dollar baby step, a baby step that took three years,” Coyle said.

The previous intercept test, in June 2014, was successful, but the longer track record is spotty. Since the system was declared ready for potential combat use in 2004, only four of nine intercept attempts have been successful.

“This is part of a continuous learning curve,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, ahead of the current test. The Pentagon is still incorporating engineering upgrades to its missile interceptor, which has yet to be fully tested in realistic conditions.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
North Korean anti-air missile on parade in Pyongyang.

North Korea says its nuclear and missile programs are a defense against perceived U.S. military threats. Its accelerating missile development has complicated Pentagon calculations, most recently by incorporating solid-fuel technology into its rockets. The step would mean even less launch warning time for the United States. Liquid fuel is less stable and rockets using it have to be fueled in the field, a process that takes longer and can be detected by satellites.

Underscoring its uninterrupted efforts, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile on May 29, 2017 that landed in Japan’s maritime economic zone.

In the May 30 U.S. test, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency launched an interceptor rocket from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The target was an intercontinental-range missile fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.

According to the plan, a 5-foot-long “kill vehicle” released from atop the interceptor zeroed in on the ICBM-like target’s mock warhead outside Earth’s atmosphere and obliterated it by sheer force of impact, the Pentagon said. The “kill vehicle” carries no explosives, either in testing or in actual combat.

The target was a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it flew faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, the Missile Defense Agency’s spokesman. It was not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM, and details of its exact capabilities weren’t made public.

Officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Pentagon likens the defensive tactic to hitting a bullet with a bullet. With congressional support, the Pentagon is increasing the number of deployed interceptors, based in California and Alaska, to 44 from the current total of 36 by the end of 2017.

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
A ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and its exo-atmospheric kill vehicle intercepted and destroyed the target in a direct collision. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robert Volio)

While the May 30 test wasn’t designed with the expectation of an imminent North Korean missile threat, the military wants progress toward the stated goal of being able to shoot down a small number of ICBMs targeting the United States.

Laura Grego, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has criticized the missile defense program, called the interceptor an “advanced prototype,” meaning it is not fully matured technologically even if it has been deployed and theoretically available for combat since 2004. A successful test on May 30, she said, could demonstrate the Pentagon is on the right track with its latest technical fixes.

“Overall,” she wrote in an analysis prior to the test, the military “is not even close to demonstrating that the system works in a real-world setting.”

The interceptors are, in essence, the last line of U.S. defense against an attack by an intercontinental-range missile.

The Pentagon has other elements of missile defense that have shown to be more reliable, although they are designed to work against medium-range or shorter-range ballistic missiles. These include the Patriot missile, which numerous countries have purchased from the U.S., and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which the U.S. deployed this year to South Korea to defend against medium-range missiles from North Korea.

Articles

Female Marine reaches end of first phase of MARSOC course

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
US Marine Corps photo


The first Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command assessment and selection course to admit female Marines had one woman make it to the end of the first phase, MARSOC officials confirmed this week.

A female corporal stayed in the 19-day course until its completion at the end of August, but did not have the minimum academic and physical training scores needed to make it to the second phase, MARSOC spokesman Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler told Military.com.

The Marine, who has not been publicly identified, plans to re-attempt the assessment and selection (AS) phase when the next cycle begins early in the new year, he said. Marines trying out for MARSOC are given up to three attempts to make it through the first phase, as long as they are not limited by remaining time in service or time in their current rank, and there are enough “boat spaces” in the course to accommodate them.

The AS phase began Aug. 11 with two female Marines. The other woman, a staff sergeant, departed the course a day in after failing to complete a timed ruck march within the required time. It’s not clear if the staff sergeant plans to re-attempt the course. Thirty-one male Marines had also washed out of the grueling course before the first week was out.

According to MARSOC promotional materials, Marines must be able to complete a 12-mile march carrying a pack weighing more than 45 pounds within three hours to pass the first phase of AS. Participants are also required to tread water for 15 minutes, to swim 300 meters in their camouflage utility uniforms in under 13 minutes, and to get top scores on regular physical fitness tests, in addition to achieving passing scores on various classroom exercises.

“Each event has a minimum passing number,” Mannweiler said.

MARSOC officials are no longer providing specifics about which events or disciplines female participants wash out on, Mannweiler said, noting that the command does not publicize that information when male Marines wash out of AS.

“We don’t want to discourage women who have the talent and the capability,” he said. “I don’t want that to be the barrier for the first women graduating.”

Both female AS participants came from administrative military occupational specialties. They were permitted to participate in MARSOC AS following a decision by Defense Secretary Ash Carter late last year to open all military jobs to women, including those in infantry and special operations units.

Earlier this year, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, then the commander of MARSOC, told Military.com the command had leaned into the new reality by having recruiters notify eligible female Marines of the opportunity to apply for special operations.

While the opportunity is still available, Mannweiler said, MARSOC does not currently have any other female Marines committed to participating in the next AS course.

Those who do make it through the first AS phase must then pass a second, more secretive and intensive three-week AS phase. Upon successful passage of AS Phase II, Marines are invited to participate in the high-intensity nine-month individual training course, which covers the entire spectrum of Marine Corps special operations, including special reconnaissance, irregular warfare, survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE), urban operations, and more.

Articles

India joins “boomer club” with new nuclear submarine

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun
INS Arihant. (YouTube screenshot)


India’s Navy has become a major global player. Arguably, it has the second-strongest carrier aviation force in the world. Its navy is on the upswing as well, with powerful new destroyers and frigates entering service. Now, it has taken a new step forward – joining the “boomer club.”

India commissioned INS Arihant on the down low this past August. This is India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) – and it means that India becomes the sixth country in the world to operate such a vessel. The other five are the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and the People’s Republic of China.

The Arihant is a derivative of the Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, one of which was leased by India in 2012 as INS Chakra, two decades after India returned a Charlie I-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarine (SSGN) with the same name. The big difference between the Arihant and the leased Akula is the addition of four launch tubes, which can carry either a single IRBM known as the K-4, with a range of just under 1900 nautical miles carrying a warhead with a yield of up to 250 kilotons (about 12.5 times more powerful than the nuke used on Hiroshima), or three K-15 missiles with a range of 405 nautical miles.

India’s nuclear deterrent is run by the Strategic Forces Command, which will not only handle the Arihant, but which also handles India’s land-based ballistic missiles (the Prithvi and Agni series), and India’s aircraft-delivered nukes (usually from tactical aircraft like the SEPECAT Jaguar, the MiG-27 Flogger, and the Mirage 2000).

INS Arihant gives India a technical nuclear triad. According to TheDiplomat.com, India’s first boomer is seen as a testbed and training asset. India’s future boomers (follow-ons to the lead ship) will carry twice as many tubes, making them more akin to operational assets.

Humor

4 hilarious tips for pulling the ‘veteran card’ in school

Going to college is a huge step in every veteran’s life after they get out of the military. You just finished serving your country, now you can go to school full time and get it completely paid for – and get paid while you’re doing it.


We earned a pretty epic deal.

But the benefits of being a veteran don’t have to stop there. If you play your cards right, you can flex your “veteran” title and receive some less-than-official bonuses.

Related: Here’s the best time and place to pull the ‘veteran card’

Check out these insightful ways to pull the veteran card in your school – but please use these tips for good and not evil.

1. Getting accepted

Colleges around the country tend to have a strict application process which weed out many student hopefuls. Having the government willing to pay your full tuition is a huge benefit in the school’s eyes — everyone likes to get paid.

It’s a fact.

It’s important that you fill out all the necessary paperwork in a timely order or risk sitting at home for a whole semester.

Please stop clapping like that — its only community college. (Image via Giphy)

2. Receiving extra time for homework and other projects

The majority of colleges have procedures in place for veterans who have “focus issues,” which is great. As long as you let your teachers and the school’s administration know you may have this issue because of your deployments, the more lee way you’re bound to get.

We know you do! (Image via Giphy)

3. Booking classes

Sometimes classes just fill up too quickly, and a veteran can’t register for one of the spots in time — we know it sucks.

Here’s what you do — tell whoever is in charge of booking the classes that you won’t get your monthly VA benefits unless you can get in, followed by the sweetest smile you can muster.

It so freakin’ worked. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 phrases old school veterans can’t stop saying

4. Missing classes

Sometimes you don’t want to go to school on certain days — you’re just not feeling it.

Here’s what you do if you’re willing to put in a little leg work. After you get in good with the teachers, email them saying you’re stuck at the VA waiting for your appointment.

If they ask for a doctor’s note, you need to show some proof like a dated appointment card for another day. Schools tend to work around the veteran’s schedule because we’ve earned it.

Don’t abuse this perk because if they lose faith in your integrity, you could screw other vets over.

That’s what you get. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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