Friday, October 28, 2016

The Marines Want Mini-Missiles That Hunt for Specific Radio Signals - Defense One

The Marines Want Mini-Missiles That Hunt for Specific Radio Signals - Defense One: In the 1984 film “Runaway,” an archvillain (played by Gene Simmons) uses bullets that bob and weave around obstacles to kill specific people. The U.S. Marines are looking for something similar: a cross between a drone and a missile that can pick up a specific radio frequency and then strike its source from above.

“We can bring those type of unmanned systems to where our reconnaissance units are forward, and they can launch their own capabilities, LOCUST-type capabilities” — the Office of Naval Research’s cannon-launched swarmbot program — “or lethal munitions,” said Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, who commands Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command is the deputy commandant for ,Combat Development and Integration said at the Unmanned Systems Defense conference on Tuesday. “They can sense, locate different signals and then attack those capabilities in advance of our soldiers, keeping them out of harm’s way.”

Such munitions might be fired from the kind of unmanned underwater vehicles that Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, Navy oceanographer, has observed in testing off Hawaii. Gallaudet described an experiment in which a robot submarine surfaced and passed targeting information to a Puma UAV, allowing an over-the-horizon kill. “That was really fun to do,” he said.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Air Force seeks modernization for full-spectrum fights

Air Force seeks modernization for full-spectrum fights: Striking a familiar tone with other top Air Force officials, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service's acquisition chief, said the force is not ready for a high-end, high-spectrum fight, adding that the U.S. military must modernize for fights in contested, anti-access/area denial environments.

“We have a large, great capability in the permissive and we’ve got to modernize to be more capable,” he said Wednesday at the Unmanned Systems Defense conference in Arlington, Virginia.

“What we have been so focused on from a training perspective … we’ve listened to our service chief and our secretary, we’ve talked about our readiness level for a high-end fight is not there,” he said. “We’ve not been able and we have not trained at the level we need for our combat air forces to be able to operate in that kind of an environment. That is the area that we are focused on.”

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has said just as much, noting in July that when she asks around the force, “the answer … I get anyway, is 50 percent of our combat air forces have that degree of readiness” to fight against higher-end threats.

"That’s not good enough,” she asserted.

Navy outlines a path forward on unmanned systems

Navy outlines a path forward on unmanned systems: The Navy's deputy assistant secretary for unmanned systems has outlined the service's eight goals for the technology on the first day of the Unmanned Systems Defense conference in Arlington, Virginia.

Frank Kelley spoke at the forum Tuesday, where he emphasized that the Navy is not interested in unmanned systems for unmanned systems sake, but is seeking technology that can smoothly integrate with other programs and platforms.

The service has signaled that it is all in when it comes to unmanned systems. Last year, the Navy announced Kelley's position to help guide the force toward realizing a future full of robots. The Navy has been at pains to stress it is looking to take a domain-agnostic approach to these systems.
Kelley's goals, supplemented by other speakers at the event:

UAS will change maneuver capability of Marines

UAS will change maneuver capability of Marines: Unmanned systems are changing the maneuverability of the Marine Corps. Referencing the newly published Marine Corps Operating Concept, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said that within the force’s combined arms approach to maneuver warfare, the unmanned capability will allow for maneuverability in different ways than witnessed in the 20th century.

Speaking at the Unmanned Systems Defense conference on Oct. 25, Walsh, quoting Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, highlighted the path forward that involves using unmanned systems at all echelons and in all domains, as mastering the man-machine interface offers a revolution in military operations.

This mirrors what Neller has previously said: that every infantry squad could have its own small unmanned aerial device.

Army Vice Chief Allyn Lists Service’s Robotic Priorities « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis and commentary

Army Vice Chief Allyn Lists Service’s Robotic Priorities « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis and commentary: Future warfare will “place a premium on all types of unmanned systems,” the Army’s vice chief of staff said Wednesday, and Gen. Daniel Allyn told the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International his service has five priority objectives for them.

“First, these systems must increase our situational awareness, going where manned systems cannot, thereby increasing standoff capability and agility for our soldiers and our units,” Allyn said. For that reason, he said, in fiscal 2018 the Army will begin fielding improved General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones, which carry sensors and four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

Today, the Gray Eagle can stay over a target area eight hours at a range of 725 miles from its base, Allyn said. The Improved Gray Eagle, he said, will have “great payload capacity and near triple the range of our existing systems.

Secondly, future unmanned systems for the Army “must lighten soldiers’ physical and cognitive load.” For that reason, he said, the Army is working hard on the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, a ground robotic vehicle designed to carry a squad’s worth of life support and combat gear (and which got mixed reviews in a recent exercise). The Army is also eager to have a common ground control station for its Gray Eagles and RQ-7 Shadow drones, he added.

Davis: Marines Want VTOL Drone Before FVL « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis

Davis: Marines Want VTOL Drone Before FVL « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis: There’s money in the 2018 budget to develop a new sea-based, armed vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drone the size of the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper, Marine Corps deputy commandant for aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon “Dog” Davis, says. Davis expects to see them in the inventory well before the Army-led Future Vertical Lift program produces new manned VTOLs.

“It’s not outside the realm of possibility we will have technology demonstrators next year,” Davis told the Association of Unmanned Vehicles Systems International defense conference on Wednesday.

Davis also revealed that, in addition to Bell Helicopter’s proposed V-247 Vigilant and Northrop Grumman’s TERN, among the contenders for what the Marine Corps calls the MUX program is a tiltrotor drone being offered by Karem Aircraft, whose president and namesake, Abraham Karem, invented the Predator drone built by General Atomics. MUX is an acronym that stands for Marine Air Ground Task Force Unmanned Aerial System Expeditionary.

Some in the Pentagon have argued that the Marines don’t need a sea-based drone with capabilities akin to the Air Force’s Reaper, a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) fixed-wing drone that can carry four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and two 500-lb. guided bombs. Davis said in reply: “Absolutely we do. And we’re going to get it.”

The drone he envisions, Davis said, must be VTOL to operate from ships but also to deploy in austere locations ashore where Marines often operate. The MUX also could be used for a wide range of missions, he said, from escorting V-22 Osprey tiltrotor transports to providing Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) to ground troops and ships or flying 24/7 picket line guard missions around amphibious ready groups carrying Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs).

US warned against Chinese takeover of German firm: report

US warned against Chinese takeover of German firm: report: The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Germany unexpectedly announced on Monday that it had reversed its stance on the 670-million-euro takeover ($730-million) by China's Grand Chip Investment, saying it was putting the deal back under review.

The German economy ministry said the decision was made after new "security-related information" came to light, but gave no further details.

Citing German intelligence sources, the Handelsblatt daily reported that the U-turn came after the US secret services intervened to block the deal.

"US authorities alerted Germany's chancellory that Aixtron products could potentially have military uses," it said. "Sources said Washington feared that China could use chips from Aixtron in its nuclear programme."

Firm that built islands gets Philippines deal

Firm that built islands gets Philippines deal: A Chinese state-owned company said to have been involved in Beijing's island-building in the South China Sea signed a deal to construct islands for rival claimant the Philippines as its President Rodrigo Duterte visited last week, reports said.

CCCC Dredging will create four artificial islands totalling 208 hectares of reclaimed land in Davao, the port city on the southern island of Mindanao where Duterte was mayor, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

The islands will spread along eight kilometres of coastline and be used for government buildings, commercial spaces, residences, ports and industry in a project to be completed by 2019, it added.

The deal with the Philippines' Mega Harbour Port and Development was one of several inked as Duterte paid a state visit to China last week, when Beijing offered $9 billion in soft loans for development projects.

Rodrigo Duterte, Pushing Split With U.S., Counters Philippines’ Deep Ties - The New York Times

Rodrigo Duterte, Pushing Split With U.S., Counters Philippines’ Deep Ties - The New York Times: President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who nurses a longtime grudge against the United States, has declared he wants “a separation” and on Wednesday added that he wants American troops out of his country in two years.

Speaking in Tokyo, Mr. Duterte said he was willing to revoke the 2014 agreement letting the Pentagon use five Philippine military bases, a critical component of the Obama administration’s plan to bolster American influence in Asia.

“I want them out,” he said of the American troops in his country.

While his threats have tapped a deep strain of resentment among Filipinos who feel as if they are treated like a second-class ally, the country’s deep cultural, economic and military ties to the United States make it unlikely that they will follow him on the path to divorce.

Especially not, as Mr. Duterte suggested in Beijing last week, all the way to China.

“Practically every family here has a relative in the U.S.,” said Roilo Golez, who served as national security adviser to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. “They don’t dream of going to China and living there.”

First 10 Women Graduate From Infantry Officer Course |

First 10 Women Graduate From Infantry Officer Course | Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.

Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.

"The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process," Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. "It's a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon."

The graduation of first 10 women from the infantry course comes a little more than a year after Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School in August 2015. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from a gender-integrated Ranger course two months later.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Drone Swarms to Storm Beaches: Marine General - Defensetech

Drone Swarms to Storm Beaches: Marine General - Defensetech: The Marine Corps wants to deploy swarms of drones ahead of troops during amphibious operations in coming years.

The concept, incorporating Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology, or LOCUST, developed by the Office of Naval Research, would bring a flotilla of weapons, including underwater drones, unmanned surface vessels and underwater mine countermeasures.

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the service’s commanding general for combat development, on Tuesday detailed the plan, with hopes it would not only slow down the enemy but save Marines’ lives.

“Today, we see this manned-unmanned airlift, what we see what the other services are doing, along with our partners in the United States Navy. Whether it’s on the surface, under the surface or in the air, we’re looking for the opportunity for, ‘How will Marines move ashore differently in the future?’ ” Walsh told a crowd at the Unmanned Systems Defense Conference outside Washington, D.C., hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

“Instead of Marines being the first wave in, it’ll be unmanned robotics … sensing, locating and maybe killing out front of those Marines,” he said. “We see that ‘swarm-type’ technology as exactly the type of thing — it will lower cost, dominate the battlespace, leverage capabilities … and be able to complicate the problems for the enemy.”

Walsh said incorporating unmanned systems within the multi-domain battlespace — in the air, on land, at sea, in space and cyberspace — would be “completely different, certainly than what we’ve done in the last 15 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Marines Seek To Outnumber Enemies With Robots « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis and commentary

Marines Seek To Outnumber Enemies With Robots « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis and commentary: Mass, as a principle of war, boils down to “quantity has a quality all its own.” The US has spent decades developing ever-smaller numbers of ever more expensive and “exquisite” weapons. Each fighter, helicopter, tank, or ship is vastly more capable than its predecessors, able to hit more targets over a wider area in a shorter period — but it still can only be in one place at a time, which limits your flexibility. Each high-end system can also be killed by one lucky shot, which limits your resilience against damage.

These factors may not have been crippling in counterinsurgency, but in an all-out war, there’ll be enough shots that some will get lucky. (It’s an old problem, as Kipling wrote of British officers on the Indian frontier: “Two thousand pounds of education/Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.”) And enough brute force can flatten finesse. At the receiving end of, say, a Russian cluster-munition barrage, expensive advanced technology blows up as easily as cheap stuff.

To reduce casualties in future landing operations, Walsh has already called for amphibious forces to have robotic vanguards. “Instead of Marines being the first wave in, it’s unmanned robotics, whether it’s in the air or the surface or subsurface…sensing, locating, and maybe killing (targets),” he said this morning at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems Defense conference. But today he also went into greater detail about a wider range of robotic applications that the Marine Corps’ considering.

Army assesses emerging tech to meet critical gaps

Army assesses emerging tech to meet critical gaps: Part of the Army's planning to adapt to an increasingly contested and congested battle space involving a wide array of actors involves testing and evaluating how emerging technologies integrate with units. This was the thinking behind the Army Warfighting Assessment (AWA) 17.1, which began earlier this month.

Maj. Gen. Terry McKenrick, commander of the Army's Brigade Modernization Command, told C4ISRNET that AWA exercises seek to meet three key objectives or focuses — training for joint and multinational partners, improving interoperability with them, and continuing the assessment of concepts and capabilities for future forced development for the Army.

The exercise came out of the Network Integration Evaluations (NIE), which are focused on fielding and developing the mission command network out to the divisions and brigades across the Army over a number of years. McKenrick said the NIEs were somewhat of a restrictive environment as they don’t include joint or multinational partners given that their capabilities might be different and thus skew test results.

Understanding that the Army's joint deployments will always be relevant, McKenrick said they had to devise a training exercise with allies, in this case one focused more on innovation as opposed to integration, test and evaluation, as is the case with NIE.

NATO seeks troops to deter Russia on eastern flank | Reuters

NATO seeks troops to deter Russia on eastern flank | Reuters: NATO will press allies on Wednesday to contribute to its biggest military build-up on Russia's borders since the Cold War as the alliance prepares for a protracted quarrel with Moscow.

With Russia's aircraft carrier heading to Syria in a show of force along Europe's shores, alliance defense ministers aim to make good on a July promise by NATO leaders to send forces to the Baltic states and eastern Poland from early next year.

The United States hopes for binding commitments from Europe to fill four battle groups of some 4,000 troops, part of NATO's response to Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and concern it could try a similar tactic in Europe's ex-Soviet states.

Norway Approves Marine Rotational Force for 2017 |

Norway Approves Marine Rotational Force for 2017 | It's official: A company-sized element of Marines is deploying to Norway in January.

The Norwegian government announced in a news release Monday that it had approved a "limited rotational force presence" of about 330 Marines, to be based in Vaernes, near where the Marine Corps has thousands of vehicles and other key pieces of gear stored year-round in climate-controlled caves.

The Marines will deploy for six months, with follow-on rotations to be determined, in a move designed to provide support and collaboration to NATO allies and a ready presence in case of crisis.

"The United States is a long-term and close ally to Norway," Norwegian Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in a statement. "US participation in military exercises and training in Norway is one element in this long-standing and close security policy relationship. We receive positive feedback from Allies who find Norwegian cold-weather conditions ideal for training and exercises. I am pleased to welcome additional American troops to train in our superb conditions."

Joint Strike Fighter an instrument of Power Projection, not just another fighter

Joint Strike Fighter an instrument of Power Projection, not just another fighter: America's F-35 has earned the unfair sobriquet as the nation's "worst fighter jet ever." However, this singular vision of Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike "Fighter" (JSF) as a fighter jet has failed to give credit to its capabilities when coupled with other forms of advanced technology finding their way into every nook and cranny of military arsenals and operational platforms.

It is precisely this jointness, which sets it apart from 4th generation fighters (still evolving, still relevant today), and which gave the jets its appropriate name of joint strike fighter. In this, the F-35 has advanced beyond the "F" designation and should be judged as a multirole platform - one in a larger framework of multitude of advanced platforms.

F-35 technology combined with the capabilities of highly trained pilots, and the many platforms it works with, opens the way for an advantageous awareness of what's out there and well beyond the immediate periphery of the aircraft. In this, the JSF moves beyond the long-hold dominance and concept that "first sight wins the fight."

Denuclearizing N. Korea a 'lost cause,' US intel chief says

Denuclearizing N. Korea a 'lost cause,' US intel chief says: Efforts to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear program and "denuclearize" the Korean Peninsula are bound to fail, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Tuesday.

The United States is set to deploy its THAAD missile defense system to South Korea as soon as possible, despite opposition from China, in an effort to protect against North Korea's pursuit of missile and nuclear technology.

"The notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearize is probably a lost cause. They are not going to do that. That is their ticket to survival," Clapper said during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.

"And I got a good taste of that when I was there, about how the world looks from their vantage. And they are under siege, and they are very paranoid. So the notion of giving up their nuclear capability, whatever it is, is a nonstarter with them."

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

US to deploy 330 troops in Norway

US to deploy 330 troops in Norway: The United States will deploy over 300 troops in Norway, the Norwegian government announced Monday, in a move set to upset neighbouring Russia.

The 330 Marines, to be stationed on rotation around 1.000 kilometres (600 miles) from the Russian border, will be engaged in training and manoeuvres in almost Arctic conditions, the Norwegian defence ministry said.

The announcement comes against a backdrop of increasing tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine and the conflict in Syria, although Norway itself enjoys good relations with its giant neighbour.

The US already has vast amounts of military equipment positioned in NATO ally Norway -- notably in tunnels dug into mountains -- but no troops.

"This US-initiative is welcome and also fits well within ongoing processes in NATO to increase exercises, training and interoperability within the Alliance," Norwegian Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in the statement.

White House looks to ride out Duterte storm

White House looks to ride out Duterte storm: President Barack Obama has only a handful of months left in office, but facing the shock loss of a pivotal Asian ally in the Philippines, his White House is playing a long game.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte says a lot of things. Most notably, the capricious 71-year-old has called Obama (and Pope Francis) a "son of a whore."

This week he declared decades of US-Filipino ties over, although he later qualified that remark.

"We haven't heard any specifics" said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, "but those comments are creating unnecessary uncertainty in our relationship."

On the face of it, Duterte's casual desecration of a 65-year-old military alliance and his eager embrace of China are blows for US influence and for Obama's "pivot to Asia."

The United States risks losing presence and access to ports and bases in the heart of the South China Sea -- a contested geopolitical hotspot.

Under Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino, China and the Philippines were at loggerheads over the contested economically vital waterway -- to the point that senior US officials worried about being dragged into a war with China.

But since Duterte took office in June, he has suspended joint US-Philippine patrols and threatened an end to joint military exercises.

A split would have regional ramifications. Duterte's sinophile turn could further split the ASEAN regional bloc, which Washington has cultivated as a counter to Beijing's designs on dominance.

Why Doesn't Air Force Use Cheap, Reusable Rockets? | DoD Buzz

Why Doesn't Air Force Use Cheap, Reusable Rockets? | DoD Buzz: The Pentagon is more focused on the supremacy of U.S. satellite technology than how the spacecraft are vaulted into space, at least for now, an official said.

That’s one of the reasons military hasn’t yet bought into reusable rocket technology that some experts say could save the department significant cash.

During an event Monday hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, Douglas Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, was asked how the department might encourage the Air Force to move forward with innovative, reusable rocket technology, instead of the service launching rockets every few months on an expendable — and expensive — vehicle.

“I don’t know that I would call it a problem. I would call it a condition that we have right now,” Loverro said. “That condition is predicated on the fact that we haven’t found an economic use in military space yet for responsive reusable launch.”

Commercial companies have already proved the concept of reusable rockets. Jeff Bezos’ private spaceflight company, Blue Origin, this year relaunched, reignited and touched down rockets multiple times. SpaceX was the first to pioneer the concept of rocket reusability when in 2015 it returned to Earth a rocket that delivered a payload to orbit.

Yet while the Air Force this year signed a deal with the California-based company headed by Elon Musk, it hasn’t stipulated using reusable launchers to deploy national security payloads.

And part of the reason is because of risk.

German Terrorism Case Highlights Europe’s Security Challenges - The New York Times

German Terrorism Case Highlights Europe’s Security Challenges - The New York Times: The warning came to the German security authorities in early September from “our best partners,” as they euphemistically refer to the American intelligence agencies: A terrorist assault might be in the works.

In the weeks that followed, the Germans identified a suspect, a refugee from Syria. They unearthed evidence that he had been casing a Berlin airport for an attack, and they recovered powerful explosives from his apartment, only to see him slip through their fingers. When they eventually captured him, the suspect promptly hanged himself in his jail cell.

The case was notable for its dramatic turns. But it also underscored two central challenges facing the Continent: getting a handle on the security risk related to the arrival of more than a million migrants last year, and addressing the continued reliance of European governments on intelligence from the United States to avert attacks.

Both issues have been plaguing Europe since the high-profile attacks in France and Belgium over the past two years. Governments have scrambled to counter the threat even as migrants, many with little or no documentation of their identity or country of origin, came over their borders in previously unheard-of numbers. The challenge has become more pressing in Germany in recent months after a spate of arrests and attacks, some linked to migrants.

Key Navy Base at Risk from Rising Seas: Mabus |

Key Navy Base at Risk from Rising Seas: Mabus | Secretary Ray Mabus told an audience Monday that Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, the largest naval base in the world and a key East Coast center of operations for the service, could be endangered in coming decades by rising seas due to climate change if steps are not taken to reverse current trends.

Mabus, who has frequently spoken about his concerns regarding climate change and associated threats to national security during his seven-year tenure as secretary of the Navy, said other bases also might be at risk from projected rising seas.

"We're the Navy; we tend to have bases on the sea. It makes sense," Mabus said. "All our bases are, in some way or another, at risk."

Norfolk in particular has received significant attention in recent years. The base is home to more than 80,000 active-duty personnel and supports some 75 ships and 134 aircraft. At an elevation of just seven feet above sea level, the region is already subject to flooding. And water levels are modestly rising: They're up 1 ½ feet since the 1920s, according to a 2014 NPR report.

Mabus didn't say what he recommended military leaders do to slow the sea level rise or when he believed Norfolk might end up partly or completely underwater. But he said the Navy faces key security challenges today related to ice melt and changing seas.

"And as storms get bigger, as sea levels rise -- as any stability follows, our responsibilities increase," he said. "As the Arctic begins to be ice-free, Russia has already said the waters to its north are an internal waterway. They're not. Part of our responsibility is keeping the sea lanes open, making sure international law is followed."

Special Forces on horseback, Afghanistan, horsemanship, Trails Found.

Special Forces on horseback, Afghanistan, horsemanship, Trails Found.: The last recorded cavalry charge made by US Army personnel assigned to a formal Cavalry in combat was led by Lt. Ed Ramsey of Troop G, 26th US Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts) in January, 1942. The final recorded cavalry action, according to most history books, involved mounted troops of the Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop of the 10th Mountain Division in Europe, three years later.

Those were the last ones unless you count the mounted SOF troops in Afghanistan in 2001, however (remember ODAs 595 and 534?), and the ones conducting FID operations from horseback in unfriendly places now. Just last month saw the dedication of the “Horse Soldier” monument, more properly called the De Oppresso Liber, America’s Response Monument. Sited in New York City’s Liberty Park, overlooking One World Trade Center, the 16 foot bronze statue honors those and other soldiers of TF Dagger, many of whom were thrust unprepared into their role as mounted troops by necessity.

Pentagon to Study PCS Costs |

Pentagon to Study PCS Costs | The Defense Department soon will start a review of the military move system and its costs, Pentagon officials said Monday.

The review, which was originally reported by Alaska Public Media, comes after a Government Accountability Office finding last year that the cost of permanent change of station (PCS) moves increased 12 percent from 2001 to 2014 to $4.3 billion. The investigation also found that the DoD does not conduct reviews of the PCS system.

"DoD is convening a working group to review and revise, as necessary, the current PCS budgetary reporting requirements," Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson said in a statement. "DoD is also coordinating efforts with the military services to improve the completeness and consistency of the data, and to complete periodic evaluations of the effectiveness of the PCS program."

No information is available on when the review will be finished, he said.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Laser zaps mosquitoes out of the sky

A new product being developed and tested aims to zap mosquitoes out of the air before they have a chance to infect humans.

The Photonic Fence was created through the Global Good program — a collaboration between Bill Gates and Intellectual Ventures that tries to fill the gaps between technology and what people need.

“We have existing solutions for things like malaria, but they don’t really work,” said Arty Makagon, technical project lead at Intellectual Ventures.

Makagon referenced how bed nets treated with insecticide are used across the world to protect people from malaria, but mosquitoes have adapted.

When the pests realized they weren’t getting their blood meals at night — their main biting time — they started going after humans during the day. The once-nocturnal mosquitoes also developed resistance to the insecticides used on the nets.

With the Photonic Fence, if a malaria-carrying mosquito flew within the device’s range, a laser would shoot it down.

Recoilless Rifle, M3, Army, Carl Gustaf | DefenseTech

Recoilless Rifle, M3, Army, Carl Gustaf | DefenseTech: The U.S. Army is testing new recoilless rifle technology designed give soldiers shoulder-fired rockets that are lighter and more ergonomic and in future, make them safe to fire in tight urban spaces.

Testers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland are evaluating upgrades to the M3 recoilless rifle, also known as the Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System, or MAAWS. The improvements will make it more ergonomic, six pounds lighter and shorter.

Maneuver officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are also conducting a live-demo on the new Shoulder Launched Individual Munition, or SLIM, as part of the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE, 2017.

SLIM is a new lightweight, disposable shoulder-fired rocket, made by Aerojet Rocketdyne. It weighs 14.9 pounds and is designed to be safely fired from inside enclosures without causing hearing or respiratory system damage, Army officials at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning maintain.

“At 14.9 pounds, it lightens the soldier load, increases engagement lethality and flexibility by eliminating the need for multiple specialized rocket systems with single purpose warheads,” according to a recent press release from MCOE.

Officials from Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab will document findings in an initial report on live fire capabilities Nov. 1 and present them in conjunction with the AEWE 2017 Insights Briefing to the public on March 1, 2017.

Despite Separation, US and Philippines may not 'Divorce' |

Despite Separation, US and Philippines may not 'Divorce' | Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has announced a separation from the United States. Divorce, however, is far from certain.

The new Philippine leader sounded like a spouse snuggling up to a new lover while taking jabs at an estranged mate as he made his first trip to China, where leaders lavished him with trade deals and loans, loudly applauded his shift away from Washington and laughed at his jokes at U.S. expense.

"Americans are loud, sometimes rowdy. Their larynx is not adjusted to civility," Duterte said while speaking before China's elite at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, according to a video broadcast by Rappler, a Philippine news site.

The new Philippine leader already has said he is ending joint military exercises with the U.S. and talked Thursday about forming an alliance with China that could include Russia.

"I realign myself in your ideological flow and maybe I would also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world - China, Philippines, Russia," Duterte said.

But afterward, his cabinet officials were in damage-control mode, offering reassurances that trade and economic ties with the U.S. would continue.

Trade Minister Ramon Lopez went so far as to say that "separation" doesn't really mean breaking up.

F-35 Jet Will Likely Change How America Fights Wars |

F-35 Jet Will Likely Change How America Fights Wars | Perhaps the best-kept secret of the top-secret F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is that it might be the best airplane of its kind in the world -- and that it will likely change the way America fight its wars.

Plagued by cost overruns, mechanical gremlins and fears that its high-tech sensors would overload a human pilot's ability to analyze the aerial battlefield, the $379 billion project for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps infamously became known in the Pentagon as "acquisition malpractice."

With mounting delays in getting these fighters to the fleet, the Navy is scrambling to revamp its aging Hornet strike aircraft, pushing them far beyond their anticipated service lives. To keep the Marines' Harrier II ground-attack planes, the Corps bought scrapped British jets to cannibalize for parts.

But two F-35 squadrons at the Marines' air station in Yuma, Ariz., are now classified as "operational."

Grounded Air Force F-35As Fly Again, Lockheed Martin | DoD Buzz

Grounded Air Force F-35As Fly Again, Lockheed Martin | DoD Buzz: Air Force F-35s grounded over an internal debris issue should be up and running again soon, with a few likely ready to fly before the end of this month.

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office on Thursday said modifications to four of the aircraft began Oct. 7, “and the work takes about three weeks to complete.”

The service on Sept. 16 ordered a temporary stand-down of 13 out of 104 F-35s in the fleet “due to the discovery of peeling and crumbling insulation in avionics cooling lines inside the fuel tanks,” according to a statement at the time. Two additional aircraft, belonging to Norway and stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, were also affected.

“Rapid progress is being made in fixing 15 operational F-35A aircraft needing modifications to repair non-compliant Polyalphaolefin (PAO) coolant tubes,” Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the F-35 Joint Program Office, said in an email.

“All 15 aircraft are expected to fly again by the end of the year,” he said. “At the same time, modification work is progressing on 42 production aircraft in assembly. Lockheed Martin expects to start delivering these aircraft in December. These first deliveries include jets from Israel and Japan, these nation’s first deliveries.”

Virtual medicine will be norm in future crises, saysArmy health chief

(ANS) -- Immediately following the 2009 and 2014 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, the Army's virtual health care was there, linking the survivors with behavioral health care providers "from Hawaii, D.C. and San Antonio," said Dr. Colleen Rye.

Virtual health, also called telemedicine, is currently being used across 18 time zones, 30 countries, supporting more than 20 clinical specialties, she said. Chief of Army Virtual Health, Office of the Army Surgeon General, Ryes spoke at an Association of the United States Army Medical Readiness panel Sept. 22.

A virtual health pilot is now underway in U.S. Africa Command, where "tyranny of distance" means that the only medical service providers available on site are the medics and telemedicine, she said.

Another virtual health pilot is being conducted with Special Forces, she said.


In the example of Special Forces, telehealth takes the form of a James Bond-type suitcase, which is filled with medical gadgetry instead of spy gear designed by Q. Open it and "out pops a tablet computer, a device to connect to satellites and a whole array of peripherals, from otoscopes and stethoscopes to ultrasound cameras and ophthalmoscopes," Rye said.

With this equipment, health specialists can literally, "hear your heartbeat from 3,000 miles away," Rye said.

In other words, a medic could connect a patient at the point of injury to a specialist in another apart of the world, who could then provide the medic with detailed instructions on how to save the Soldier's life. The specialist at the other end could be a hematologist, orthopedist, pulmonologist, cardiologist, whatever kind is needed.


Future combat will probably not look like it does in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rye said. Rather, the battlespace may be contested to such a degree that medevacs may be impossible and field hospitals, much less forward operating bases, may not be located nearby.

"[The] virtual hand will be reaching out, guiding medics through what they need right at the point of injury," she said.


Army medicine is currently building a global teleconsultation portal to provide virtual care through a vast network of health service providers. "The sun will never set on us" when it comes to providing care virtually anywhere and at any time, Rye said.

The Navy was thrilled by the promise of the Army's virtual health system, Rye said. They're now paying the Army to build identical systems on 67 Navy ships.

All of the new gadgetry was produced in Army laboratories, Rye concluded. Civilian medical facilities around the world are now using Army-produced technology, from telestroke to remote health monitoring.

National Guard uniquely positioned to contribute in cyber realm

The civilian-acquired skills of its members enable the National Guard to make unique contributions in the cyber realm, Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel said here today.

Guard members work in the technology sector in their civilian capacity and can be found in companies ranging from startups to Google and Microsoft, the chief of the National Guard Bureau told audience members at the North American International Cyber Summit 2016.

Those civilian-acquired skills give Guard members a unique ability to contribute in their military roles. And it's a two-way street, Lengyel said: "We provide employers the military training and experience our Guardsmen take back to their civilian positions."

The National Guard is not a new arrival in cyberspace: Fear that coding issues would cause problems after Dec. 31, 1999 -- popularly known as the Y2K or millennium bug -- prompted the formation of what are now called defensive cyberspace operations elements in each of the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia, where the National Guard operates.

Networked technology has created tremendous freedom and opportunity, Lengyel said. "As with anything that is open and free, it presents some real vulnerabilities to those that would exploit them," he said. "The cyber domain also presents us with some of our greatest challenges from a security perspective."

Challenges include protecting critical infrastructure, maintaining the freedom and agility of networked technology in spite of threats, defending Defense Department networks, defending the homeland against cyber threats and providing secure integrated cyber capabilities for military operations.

"We have to build close relationships, partnerships and bridges with the rest of society when it comes to cyber," Lengyel said.

The summit where he spoke reflected those types of partnerships: Hosted by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, it is a collaborative effort with the National Governors Association, the Department of Homeland Security, private industry, educators, students and local partners that started in 2011.

"We are experts at building enduring partnerships on all levels -- international, federal, state and local," Lengyel said of the National Guard.

National Guard contributions include working closely with the combatant commands, especially Cyber Command, to fight off cyber incidents. Forty cyber units in 29 states support National Guard and Cyber Command missions -- a number scheduled to grow through 2019.

Two National Guard units are currently on military duty augmenting the active force in the cyber domain, just as Guard members contribute every day in more traditional domains.

"We are active in nearly every facet of cyberspace operations," Lengyel said. "And we practice our capabilities routinely at all levels."

In his remarks, Lengyel noted recent cyber exercises in the states and with overseas partners, as well as Cyber Guard, a Cyber Command-hosted national exercise that simulates a domestic cyber incident with catastrophic disruption, bringing Guard members together to train with industry partners, active-component troops and federal agencies.

Noting that 10,000 National Guard members recently contributed to the response to Hurricane Matthew, Lengyel said, "Just as the National Guard is ready to respond to major hurricanes, we now have contingency plans for major cyber incidents."

"The more our world and society connects via the net, the more we are vulnerable," Lengyel continued. "Cyber warfare is a battle space that will only get more challenging. It's a battle space available to all -- both state and non-state actors. … Staying one step ahead requires cooperation and teamwork."

Success will require effective public-private and international partnerships, Lengyel said.

"I challenge each of you to think and communicate how we can develop a culture of innovation to secure against those who wish to do us harm," he said. "We simply can't do it without your help."

Flying Army aircraft in 'brownout' conditions

Takeoff and landing are the two most dangerous periods for any aircraft.

The danger is compounded when a helicopter is caught in a degraded visual environment (DVE) such as a brownout.

Caused by rapidly blowing sand and dirt thrown into a vortex by the rotor blades of a helicopter, a brownout's swirling dust gives pilots the illusion they are moving even if they are hovering stationary. Hazardous in any situation, it is particularly risky when landing in a combat zone.

"We are visual creatures," said Maj. Joe Minor, Degraded Visual Environment Mitigation Program Manager who has flown multiple missions in Afghanistan. "80 percent of the information we take in is visual. You have to fight that impulse and trust the aircraft's symbology and guidance, which takes some training."

YPG has conducted tests of multiple technologies to mitigate this risk, but recently hosted the first portion of a significantly more comprehensive effort to gain knowledge of how best to technologically confront all manner of DVEs, from snow and fog to smoke and the flat, endless white light of the world's snowiest places.

"This is not a panacea," said Dr. William Lewis, director of the Aviation Development Directorate at the Army Aviation and Missile Research and Development Center. "This is something near-term and real, where everyone recognizes its importance."

"This DVE mitigation program is a concerted effort to attack not only brownouts, but to build the capability of being able to fight in all weather conditions," added Col. Steven Braddom, director of the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate.

Braddom observed that with modern infrared sensors and other technologies, night time, perhaps the most degraded visual environment of all, is now prime time for American military operations.

"Dark night went from being a hazard to our greatest tactical advantage," he said. "Now we prefer to operate in the darkest night we can find. We'd like to transform operating in other weather environmental conditions to our advantage, just like this."

The testers are looking at three different facets of the pilot's flight tools--sensors, cueing, and flight control--to find the best mix for flying in all types of degraded environments. For example, advanced flight controls and cueing may reduce an aircraft's reliance on sensors in some situations. The testers are also aware that a comprehensive solution meant for all types of DVEs will likely involve trade-offs, and want to identify what the potential consequences of each could be.

"The project is trying to investigate what makes more impact in solving the DVE problem," said Hi-Sing Silen, test officer. "The sensor is something that can see through the degraded environment. Cueing is flying virtual reality- the pilot is given a display, either head-mounted or dash-mounted, with a lot of cues that tell things like altitude and velocity."

Though highly technical, the most visible aspect of cueing comes from symbol displays on a flip-down visor pilots look through in a DVE. There are also audio and tactile cues, such as vibrations in the seat or safety harness if flying too close to an obstacle.

"Cueing is a good solution to fly safely to a given point, but not a complete solution," said Silen. "The advantage comes if you have accurate profiles of known terrain; but if you're in a tactical scenario, you likely don't have a lot of situational awarenesss as to what is going on down there. If you are in a dynamic landing zone with adversary vehicles coming in, the cueing will guide you to that point but won't have the SA of what is going on around you."

The focus of YPG's portion of the testing is on brownout conditions, which are multi-faceted. Aside from different models of helicopters producing different types and degrees of brownouts, the conditions on a landing zone obscured by standing dust are different than one caused by multiple aircraft landings in short or simultaneous sequence.

"Our focus to this point has been single-ship, but on the sensor side we have looked at multi-ship operations," said Minor. "Successive aircraft have to go into an area that already has been browned out. We're looking at the ability of the sensors to see through existing poor conditions to find obstacles."

YPG's DVE landing zone (LZ) has multiple tilled lanes meant to maximize the grit and dirt kicked up by a helicopter's rotor wash, and also includes target areas and obstacles. Flying successive tactical sorties through on multiple days takes a great deal of planning to ensure safety.

"We have a robust obstacle field that the team at YPG has put together that incorporates a number of poles, wires and vehicles, all at different angles and sizes," said Minor. "Because of the need to detect obstacles inside of a dust cloud, we have Humvees drive into the dusted-out scene to check the radar and sensors' ability to see an obstacle when already in an obscured environment."

Every test day, experimental test pilots fly tactically realistic scenarios across the proving ground, utilizing the DVE LZ and various mountain ranges along the way from Laguna Army Airfield. The DVE LZ in particular is a challenge even to the most experienced of these pilots.

"It's a fairly tight squeeze for a Blackhawk, especially in a degraded visual environment," said Maj. Mike Osmon, experimental test pilot. "It takes varsity-level moves to land safely."

In addition to giving reports on their experiences using the system, the pilots can be accompanied by a test observer and a chase helicopter that gathers data during each flight. The effort commonly requires the support of between 20 and 25 personnel. YPG test officers coordinate helicopter re-fueling at the isolated DVE LZ to maximize the testers' range time and ensure that the wide-ranging missions can take place without interference from other test programs in progress on the range.

"YPG support is amazing," said Minor. "There is nowhere else we can get the terrain and mission support we get here. Flexibility isn't enough: you have to be fluid, and YPG has always gone the extra mile accommodating our tests safely within the limits of the test plan."

"It is a great capability and a great center of hospitality," agreed Lewis. "The broader Yuma community was very gracious to us as well."

NATO Special Operation Combat Medical Course

A NATO Special Operations Combat Medic (NSOCM) pilot course debuted at the International Special Training Centre (ISTC), at Pfullendorf, Germany on Oct. 3, 2016.

The newly developed 22-week course will take international special operations forces (SOF) and operators with basic combat lifesaver skills and train them to be combat medics who are able to sustain casualties up to 36 hours.

The NSOCM pilot course will cover 174 NATO-recognized critical tasks in trauma and non-trauma clinical medicine, injuries, illnesses and conditions; and it comes after ISTC's Advanced Medical First Responder Course that teaches initial treatment and care for a patient on a battlefield.

This multinational NSOCM course will teach theoretical and tactical medicine to 24 students annually, during nine modules taught by international guests, special topic experts and ISTC instructors. The pilot course began with students from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States.

The NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) in Belgium will evaluate the course to ensure ISTC is fulfilling the training required for the course to be designated an NSOCM.

The first phase of SOCM training is trauma-related skills.

German Army Maj. Juliane Puhan, the office in charge of developing ISTC's NSOCM course, explained that today's medics are facing longer evacuation times and limited resources during deployments, so medics will learn how to care for a casualty after the first "golden" hour and up to 36 hours.

"Filling a time gap between the first hour and 'hour x,' which can be, in the worst-case scenario, more than 24 hours," she said. "If you're not trained like that as a medic, it overwhelms you and the patient will not survive that."

Even for minor injuries, medics must consider and juggle numerous tasks when caring for a patient for an extended period of time, including pain management, adequate supplies of medication, correct dosage, round-the-clock nursing, patient stability, food, nutrition and hydration.

The second phase of the SOCM course, which will begin in January 2017, is clinical medicine for non-traumatic medicine like injuries, illnesses and conditions.

"From head to toe, we will go through all the clinical topics like: eye conditions, cardiological conditions, abdominal conditions," Puhan said.

ISTC began planning for this new course in February 2015. It is based on a training curriculum created by a panel of doctors and lessons learned from the battlefield, including tropical medicine, diseases and prevention, and snake bites.

"It's about deployment medicine more than normal hospital medicine," Puhan said. "For Soldiers, this plays an extremely important role. We are mostly not going to countries where we have the same living conditions. You don't learn that in paramedic school."

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Matthew Coburn, commander of ISTC, stated that the NSOCM pilot course is the culmination of a multinational effort, fusing the support of various Special Operations commands and schools such as the NSHQ, the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School's Special Operations Medical Training Center, Special Operations Command Europe and the Nordic Initiative's Nordic NSOCM, which is run by Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

"The ISTC's NSOCM course provides a multinational solution to a NATO SOF training requirement identified continuously over the past decade of combat operations in Afghanistan," Coburn said. "This course will save lives and allow NATO SOF to protect the force with a greatly increased capacity."

Army medics may face fewer resources, increased role

(ANS) -- During a visit to Afghanistan in 2009, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told troops at Camp Leatherneck of his goal to provide the same adherence to the "golden hour" in Afghanistan that was at the time being practiced in Iraq.

He was referring to a standard of care that gets Soldiers to advanced-level treatment facilities within the first critical 60 minutes of being wounded, thereby greatly increasing their odds of survival.

Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Joseph Caravalho Jr. said that the golden hour standard of care might not always be possible in future conflicts and even in current humanitarian operations in austere environments, where treatment is far away in terms of time and distance.

One such place, he said, is Africa, where Soldiers operate in small teams, sometimes with just one medic. There are not very many nongovernmental health organizations operating on that vast continent, and hospitals are few and far between, he explained.

In parts of Africa and other austere places, he said, the gold standard of one hour may come to mean "six hours" instead.

Caravalho and others spoke Sept. 22, at the Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare hot topic: "Army Medicine: Enabling Army Readiness Today and Tomorrow."


Col. Jim Czarnik, U.S. medical liaison to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence and U.S. Army surgeon general consultant for Operational Medicine, said getting used to operating in austere environments can be challenging.

Czarnik, who served as the command surgeon of U.S. Army Africa Command on his previous assignment, said those who entered the Army medical community after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were already underway are experienced in operating in environments where the golden hour response time is possible.

The Army medical community, he said, has become accustomed to quick medevac flights to nearby forward operating bases, working with medical equipment left behind by previous units, and operating in advanced medical facilities.

Very little of that exists or is practical in Africa, where small, mobile teams are widely disbursed across a continent that's nearly 30 times the size of Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

"Commanders accustomed to the golden hour are being told there's nothing there," and that's quite a change for them, Czarnik said.

The new reality of medical delivery in austere environments doesn't involve the construction of new medical treatment facilities. And with the small mobile teams operating in Africa, it also doesn't include bringing along expensive and bulky medical equipment.

Instead, small medical teams will need to learn to use the existing medical infrastructure, supplies and medicines of host nations, Czarnik said.

Where certain host-nation capabilities are lacking, such as in transportation for casualties, locally contracted services will need to be used, he said. Also, the Army will probably look to nongovernmental health organizations to fill in the gaps, as they did during the Ebola crisis in West Africa.


Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald C. Ecker, who serves as the command sergeant major of Army Medical Command and the senior enlisted advisor to the Army surgeon general, said with the new reality of medical care, the importance of the medic's role within small teams will grow, and his or her training and expertise will be relied on to a greater than ever degree.

The Army will need to help Medics expand beyond the skills they currently possess, he said. Today's medics are "hungry to learn more and we're passionate about feeding their hunger."

Doing that, Ecker said, will involve providing them with more advanced medical training than they are currently receiving and getting them certifications and licenses. They will need to acquire, for instance, a better understanding of physiology and pharmacology.

"We want to allow them to work at the highest scope of practice in clinical environments and get solid pre-deployment training," he added.

Also, medics will need to be empowered with more leadership authority, Ecker said. Well-trained medics of the future should be able to advise their platoon leaders on who should and who shouldn't move forward on an assault, since they know current conditions of their Soldiers better than anyone.

Czarnik agreed with Ecker's prognosis of a better-trained medic, but said, "We're too handcuffed by policies and licensure [requirements]." Policymakers will need to make changes first, Czarnik said, so medics can get the advanced training they require.

Sgt. 1st Class Paul Loos, noncommissioned officer in charge of Surgery/Anesthesia - Special Forces Medical School Course, Special Warfare Medical Group, said Special Forces medics are already receiving advanced medical training on their own.

For instance, they are listening to podcasts about medical procedures and taking quizzes to demonstrate they've mastered the material.

"We're enabling medics to teach themselves," Loos said.

Caravalho said medics in austere environments, now and in the future, "may be doing one thing one day and on a dime be asked to do something totally different."

For instance, they may one day be on a humanitarian mission and the next, helping to perform surgery for major combat operations.

Army needs more training to adopt tech, prep for future conflicts

A lack of training time can be the biggest challenge faced by Army units shaking off the rust and returning to combined-arms operations, according to the chief of U.S. Army Forces Command.

Soldiers now have less time in between deployments, which limits their training opportunities. While the goal is to give Soldiers twice as much dwell time so they can hone and develop new skills, the Army is seeing a ratio of around 1-to-1.3 in terms of Soldiers' deployed time compared to their dwell time, Gen. Robert Abrams said.

"Our No. 1 constraint for training is time available," Abrams said during a recent Association of the U.S. Army discussion on readiness. "Our commitments worldwide across the globe in support of our combatant commanders remain at a very high level, while we continue to simultaneously downsize the total force."

Last year, Army officials announced the regular Army would be cut by 40,000 Soldiers to 450,000 by the end of fiscal year 2018. Tasked by Congress to look into the structure of the Army, the National Commission on the Future of the Army cautioned earlier this year that the total Army should not dip below 980,000 Soldiers, with an active-duty force of 450,000 at the bare minimum, in order to remain effective.

The manning cuts, along with non-deployable Soldiers and a decrease in training time, could hinder Army efforts to boost its combined-arms capabilities, which senior leaders believe will play a key role in a future multi-domain battlefield.

"We had an incredible amount of time in war experience in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, but we were very rusty in our combined-arms maneuver proficiency across the board," Abrams said, describing his experience taking command of FORSCOM in 2015.

The U.S. military from the late 1990s through 2003, he noted, was a master in combined arms through a steady flow of exercises. Today's Army is still years behind.

"We're at least four years from mastery level proficiency," he said. "If we're going to achieve mastery level in the fundamentals of our combined-arms maneuver proficiency, we're actually going to have to do this in a live environment to give us enough repetitions."

The Army has developed complex missions under the Decisive Action Training Environment, which involves a hybrid threat and simulates the intricacies the Army could face in a conflict with a near-peer adversary.

"This is the environment we expect to operate in, and that's the environment we've got to get our leaders and units ready to operate in," Abrams said.

The general said the Army has increased live fires as it makes progress, but other missions around the world have affected its ability to maintain the readiness of its forces.

"The impact of nonstandard missions continues to have a degrading effect across our force in being able to sustain proficiency in combined-arms maneuver," he said.

In five to 10 years, he said, Soldiers will encounter a battlefield with combinations of conventional and unconventional forces. In many parts of the world, they will face the risk of insurgencies, displaced persons and unstable host-nation governments. Cyber warfare will also emerge as a formidable weapon.

"There is a real cyber threat in the world today that affects not only national infrastructure but has tactical applications," he said.

The Army, though, is leading the way in that arena. "We're the only service that's created its own Cyber Branch and its own cyber military occupational specialty for enlisted, and we are targeting our recruitment efforts in that manner," Abrams said.

As for tactical applications, Abrams hinted that cyber actors could have the ability to send text messages to every cell phone in a certain geographical area, so Soldiers could send alerts to a certain populace or influence them as part of psychological operations.

"That's actually possible in today's world," he said.

Learning these new technologies is another reason Soldiers, including those in the National Guard and Reserve, need more time to train.

While funding for that training is important, the funding will matter little if there is no time to conduct the training, said Brig. Gen. Blake Ortner, commander of the 29th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit serving Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.

"If you add more money, it doesn't necessarily help if you don't have the personnel to train," Ortner said at the discussion.

Soldiers leaving active duty could provide one potential solution to the Army's lack of skilled personnel to fill certain career fields, he said.

"That means they're already trained. We don't need to spend the time or money to train them," Ortner said. "I encourage any leaders out there; if you've got Soldiers that have decided to leave active duty, please encourage them to go to the Guard."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Troubled System on Carrier Ford Passes Key Test |

Troubled System on Carrier Ford Passes Key Test | A critical system on the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford that has symbolized the ship's struggles has taken "a big step forward," the Navy has reported.

The advanced arresting gear (AAG), designed to safely land aircraft on the flight deck, recently recovered a "fly-in" of an F/A-18E Super Hornet at a land-based site in New Jersey.

Prior to that, the Navy had trapped more than 200 aircraft in a "roll-in" type of land-based test.

"This milestone test event demonstrates AAG's capability and signifies a big step forward in getting the system ready for duty on board the Navy's newest aircraft carrier," said Capt. Stephen Tedford, program manager for aircraft launch and recovery equipment.

Built by General Atomics, the advanced arresting gear combines energy-absorbing water turbines and an induction motor to bring aircraft to a controlled stop. It is currently installed on the Ford, which continues to undergo testing at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) completed more than 1,300 "traps" using dead loads before switching to manned aircraft. The tests are being conducted at sites in Lakehurst, N.J.

The AAG system recognizes roll-in and fly-in landings as essentially the same, but the different approaches allow the Navy to test variable conditions the system will face, according to NAVAIR.

Air Force Chief Sees Decades of More War Operations |

Air Force Chief Sees Decades of More War Operations | The U.S. Air Force's top officer said he expects the high pace of war-related operations to continue for decades to come.

"We've been deploying now for 15 years," Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said. "We've probably got 15, 20 years to go."

His comments came Wednesday at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, during a spouse and family forum hosted by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.

While fewer airmen are deploying, the time they spend away is increasing -- driven in part by missions related to the air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a resurgent Russia and China's increased military activity in the Pacific.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

SST, Space Surveillance Telescope, DARPA |

SST, Space Surveillance Telescope, DARPA | The Air Force has acquired a high-tech Space Surveillance Telescope, or SST, capable of speedily discovering and tracking previously unseen or hard-to-find small objects that could threaten satellites.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, on Tuesday transferred ownership of the telescope to Air Force Space Command during a ceremony at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The Space Surveillance Telescope, currently located in White Sands, will be moved to Australia and jointly operated by the Air Force and the Australian government, with the U.S. as its primary owner, according to an announcement from DARPA.

In 2013, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Australian Defence Minister David Johnston signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to move the telescope to the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station in Western Australia. At the time, Johnston had to rebut speculation that the telescope would be used to spy on other countries.

“Australia offers a uniquely beneficial vantage point for operational testing and demonstration of SST’s enhanced algorithms and camera,” according to DARPA’s SST page.

After the move, the telescope will be a dedicated sensor in the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.

“This optical telescope is poised to revolutionize space situational awareness and help prevent potential collisions with satellites or the Earth itself,” said Lindsay Millard, DARPA program manager for the telescope.

Report proposes canceling U.S. aircraft carriers, investing in lasers to combat Russia and China

The U.S. military is at an inflection point. Unable to remove itself completely from two protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has been forced to respond to a resurgent Russia and a rising China, while remaining ready to combat myriad terrorist threats around the world.

The Pentagon’s $582.7 billion 2017 budget has attempted to put in place an architecture for these new challenges, but, according to a group of experts from the Center for New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, the Pentagon will have to make some hard decisions if it wants to effectively combat the threats of the future.

[Report: U.S. aircraft carriers’ ‘unchallenged primacy may be coming to a close’]

The three experts, Jerry Hendrix, Paul Scharre and Elbridge Colby, have instead put together a report that uses a notional budget that implements a 2 percent increase over the 2017 budget to shape the U.S. military for the next 10 years.

“We have a military that’s in great shape to defeat Saddam Hussein’s army from the first Gulf War,” Colby said, adding that the Pentagon has focused on smaller numbers but invested in more high-tech pieces of equipment with mixed success. Under the proposed budget, the Navy would increase from 272 to 345 ships over 10 years, and the Air Force would gain more than 120 aircraft.

“Numbers matter,” Colby added.

To fix the current balance, Hendrix, Scharre and Colby’s report suggests that the Pentagon invest in what they call a “high-low mix.” This means that the Pentagon invests in both high-tech pieces of equipment, such as the yet-to-be built B-21 long-range bomber, but also buys low-cost single-engine prop planes such as the A-29 Super Tucano to deal with threats in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

To pay for this rebalancing, the report proposes canceling the Gerald Ford-class aircraft carrie

Monday, October 17, 2016

Marines May Base 300-Man Rotational Force in Norway |

Marines May Base 300-Man Rotational Force in Norway | As European allies watch Russian aggression in Europe with concern, the Norwegian government is considering allowing a small contingent of U.S. Marines to be based in the country to facilitate better military cooperation and be at the ready in the event of a crisis, has learned.

The force under consideration is small, about 300 Marines, a defense official said.

Pending the approval of the Norwegian government, the Marines would deploy in a six-month rotation, with additional rotations to follow if approved, the official said.

It's too early to say whether the rotation would be similar to the Marines' crisis response task forces for Africa and the Middle East, or more like the Corps' unit deployment program, which sends Marines forward to Japan for six-month rotations, primarily for training and partnership exercises.

The Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen reported that the Vaernes air station in Stjordal, Norway, is being considered to house the Marines. The air station also serves as part of Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, a program that allows the Corps to store thousands of vehicles and other major pieces of gear in temperature-controlled caves, at the ready for joint exercises or a major European combat contingency.

The base, located in central Norway, is about 1,000 miles away from Russia, with which Norway shares a border about 120 miles long at its northeastern limit.

DARPA Do-It-All Drone Among New VTOLs Nearing Flight « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis and commentary

DARPA Do-It-All Drone Among New VTOLs Nearing Flight « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis and commentary: A bevy of new vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft conceived to take the military beyond the speed, range and altitude limits of helicopters are scheduled to fly over the next two years. None looks more like science fiction becoming science fact than a sort of flying candy crane formerly known as “Transformer.”

What is now called the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) is being built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works with Piasecki Aircraft of Essington, Penn., under a $77 million DARPA contract. Lockheed is providing the software, Piasecki the hardware.

The hardware is a 41-foot span, unmanned flying wing in a tiltrotor configuration. Two ducted proprotors about eight feet in diameter, embedded near a stubby fuselage, will swivel up to let ARES take off and land like a helicopter and tilt forward to let it fly like an airplane.

The fuselage will be able to carry various plug-and-play payload modules – cargo, sensors, life support gear, even remote-control ground attack weapons are among the ideas — and deliver them to troops on austere battlefields or let those troops employ them.

Navy's New Destroyer Rides like 'a Really Souped-Up' SUV |

Navy's New Destroyer Rides like 'a Really Souped-Up' SUV | What's a ride like in the Navy's largest and most sophisticated new destroyer? Capt. James Kirk compares it to "a really souped-up sport utility vehicle."

"It's not like a Ferrari, but it's like a very big SUV that is made to go very fast," says Kirk, commanding officer of the futuristic USS Zumwalt that's being commissioned Saturday in Baltimore.

With a price tag of at least $4.4 billion, the guided missile destroyer is perhaps more like a stealthy Rolls-Royce. The company manufactured the ship's propellers and generator sets. The Zumwalt also features an unconventional wave-piercing hull.

"Very smooth," is how Lt. Cmdr. Nate Chase described the ride. "You had no fear of having an open cup of coffee and getting jerked around, like some of these other ships."

CIA Reportedly Preparing Major Cyber Assault against Russia |

CIA Reportedly Preparing Major Cyber Assault against Russia | The Central Intelligence Agency reportedly is preparing a major cyber attack against Russia in response to the theft of records from the Democratic National Committee and its affiliates, allegedly by Moscow-backed hackers.

Vice President Joe Biden told NBC News, which first reported that the Obama administration was considering retaliatory measures, said that the U.S. would be "sending a message" to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Biden added that any cyber action would come "at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact."

NBC also reported that intelligence officials have been asked to present the White House with ideas for a "clandestine" cyber operation designed to "embarrass" the Kremlin.

"We've always hesitated to use a lot of stuff we've had, but that's a political decision," a former CIA officer told NBC. "If someone has decided, 'We've had enough of the Russians,' there is a lot we can do."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

NATO head backs stronger European defence

NATO head backs stronger European defence: NATO head Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Friday European efforts for a more closely integrated defence policy, boosted since Britain's vote to leave the EU, but warned against trying to create "an alternative" to the North Atlantic Alliance.

"Stronger European defence will be good for the European Union, it will be good for Europe and will be good for NATO," he said at a press conference with Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni in Rome.

Stoltenberg said enhanced cooperation between European nations could only be positive and urged countries to increase defence spending because "we live in a more dangerous world with new challenges and new threats and we have to respond and adapt".

But he said "we must make sure to avoid duplication with NATO structures and that what Europe does is complementary to NATO".

"I'm very much assured by the strong statements from minister Gentiloni and many other European leaders that this is not about establishing something that is an alternative to NATO," he added.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

(Dis)-Information Age Warfare -- Russia Ramps Up Propaganda War, Aims to Destabilize USA

Computer hacking, disinformation and propaganda are prime weapons in the 21st century arsenal. Russia has deployed these non-lethal but very potent weapons during its invasion of the Crimea and in its ongoing conflict with Ukraine. According to US intelligence officials, Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services are now deploying this arsenal in an attempt to either influence the US presidential election or undermine confidence in the democratic process.

Friday, October 14, 2016

US Can't Say Who Launched Missiles from Yemen at Navy Ships |

US Can't Say Who Launched Missiles from Yemen at Navy Ships | The U.S. has yet to determine who was responsible for the launch of missiles at Navy warships in the Red Sea from areas in Yemen in the control of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.

"We don't know who was pulling the trigger," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said, but the missiles were launched from "Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. Iran has played a role and been supportive of the Houthi rebels." The Houthis have denied carrying out the attacks.

At 4 a.m. local time Thursday, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Nitze launched missiles at three radar sites in coastal Yemen in retaliation for the attempted attacks on Navy warships, Cook said.

The initial assessment was that the sites were destroyed and there were no indications of civilian casualties, he added.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

US Working to Retain Close Defense Ties to Philippines |

US Working to Retain Close Defense Ties to Philippines | The U.S. has confidence in maintaining strong defense ties with the Philippines despite threats to end joint military exercises by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and his cozying up to China, a top U.S. diplomat for the region said Wednesday.

"We're working through this. We've been through a lot worse" in the history of U.S.-Philippines relations, said Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

"I think the operative adjective is 'colorful,' " Russel said in describing Duterte's recent outbursts in which he has charged that the Philippines has been shortchanged as the U.S. seeks to rebalance forces to the Pacific to counter the rise of China.

At an Asian summit last month, Duterte, the former populist mayor of Davao City, said the U.S. "can go to hell" and used a slur against President Barack Obama that loosely translated as "son of a whore."

Obama brushed off the insult, calling Duterte a "colorful guy."

Russel said he is working closely with Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, to ensure that military relations and coordination with the Philippines continue.

Navy Cruise Missile Strike Destroys Radar Sites in Yemen |

Navy Cruise Missile Strike Destroys Radar Sites in Yemen | A U.S. Navy ship launched cruise missiles and destroyed three radar sites from a rebel-controlled area in Yemen, the service announced late Wednesday.

The announcement came a day after a Navy ship was apparently targeted for a second time by missiles originating from the area.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the radar sites struck were in territory controlled by Houthi rebels on Yemen's Red Sea coast. They were hit early Wednesday morning, at roughly 4 a.m. local time, officials said.

"Initial assessments show the sites were destroyed," Cook said in the statement.

A defense official told the attacks were conducted using sea-launched cruise missiles and originated from the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Nitze, but would not confirm the number of missiles fired, citing security reasons.

"This is a direct response to situations that threaten freedom of navigation," Navy Lt. Ian McConaughey, a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, told "These strikes show our resolve against unprovoked hostility against the U.S. and are aimed at defending U.S. Navy assets.”

US Army's Pacific Pathways puts multi-domain concept into action

Overseas training is helping groom Army units in the Pacific theater for future missions that may require cross-domain tactics to defeat enemies, according to senior leaders.

One set of exercises, Pacific Pathways, has allowed Army units to broaden their training as they deploy across the region for bilateral and multilateral drills with foreign militaries, while working with their sister services.

"We're moving toward joint integration where we get out of our service stovepipes and look at all of the domains … to present multiple dilemmas to an adversary," Gen. Robert Brown, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, said while speaking at a panel discussion at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exhibition Oct. 5.

Things can get complicated, though, in a theater that covers over half the globe, with some of the world's most populous countries and largest armies. There are also hostile adversaries like North Korea testing nuclear weapons, extremist groups spreading terror tactics, and China and Russia pushing its influence into the region.

To counter future threats, the Army recently introduced a multi-domain battle concept that aims to give Soldiers the ability to adapt and present several challenges to enemies from land, sea, air and cyber.

Brown said that a multi-domain task force is currently being planned to maneuver land assets that could impact other domains in the region.

"It's clearly the way of the future," he said. "It can be very difficult for an enemy to handle multiple domains, and at the same time, it presents multiple options to our commanders and our national command authorities."

Army multi-domain operations would hinge on a united front with the other services and their Pacific allies, according to the general.

"It would deter anybody from being stupid enough to try something against us," Brown said of the new concept. "They would be defeated because of our efforts and our joint integration that we can do that no one else can do."

The concept would eventually require massive upgrades to U.S. military systems in order to share information to all partners involved.

"We didn't grow up integrated the way we should be," Brown said. "We have systems that can't talk to each other within our own services, let alone between services themselves. It's not an easy thing to accomplish."

To help close gaps in today's partnerships, Army leaders kicked off Pacific Pathways in 2014, a three-part training event where a brigade-level unit and its equipment travels by sea and air to three countries back to back to join in large-scale exercises.

Having a combat-ready unit training in another country not only improves multinational interoperability, officials said, it also opens up the doors to other nations while showcasing the Army's strength to potential foes.

"If you want to enhance access, and if you want to provide reassurance to our partners and allies, having that forward presence during an operation is extremely important," Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, commander of I Corps, said during the discussion.

This year, three Pacific Pathway rotations are being carried out. Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, which Lanza also commands, had two Stryker BCTs take part in rotations in five different countries earlier this year.

In the three-month rotations, Lanza said Soldiers were able to stretch their training by working with Marines, special operators, cyber experts, as well as honing their skills on ballistic missile defense and aviation assets including the RQ-11 Raven, a small hand-launched unmanned aerial vehicle.

"We probably get more Raven training on a Pathway than we get at home station," he said, adding that there's also training on other UAVs, such as the RQ-7 Shadow and MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

As the exercises continue to build up, he said, more countries have garnered interest in taking part in them.

"Pathways have been instrumental in doing that," Lanza said of enhancing multinational relationships. "It's brought other countries into the discussions of where they can embed."

In upcoming Pathway exercises, Army leaders also look to expand the role of reserve-component forces to increase their readiness. In the past year, at least 70 Guard and Reserve units with about 4,200 Soldiers have been integrated into I Corps' missions, Lanza said.

"That's a significant number when you look at total force and you look at how many different elements and units are embedded in the operations of the exercises that we run with USARPAC," he said.

The nature of Pacific Pathways, in which units deploy as if they're heading to combat, also lets Soldiers train in similar settings where they could possibly respond to conflicts, according to Brown.

"We do enjoy a higher level of readiness in the Pacific than across the rest of the Army, and we should," Brown said of the region's potential threats. "We have to be ready to fight tonight."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fairbanks Morse To Power USCG’S Offshore Patrol

Fairbanks Morse To Power USCG’S Offshore Patrol: When the U.S. Coast Guard’s first new Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC) is put to sea in 2021, it will be powered by diesel propulsion engines manufactured in Beloit, Wis., by Fairbanks Morse.

The OPC will “provide a critical capability bridge” between the National Security Cutter which patrols the open ocean, and the Fast Response Cutter which serves closer to shore, according to the Coast Guard. The cutters operate independently or in task groups to conduct search and rescue, law enforcement, homeland security and defense missions.

Each 360 foot-long vessel will be powered by two FM-MAN 16V 28/33D diesel engines, each rated at 9,763 bhp at 1,000 rpm – a proven engine design with a long and successful record in maritime applications, according to Fairbanks Morse.

Army to Test New Modular Turret on Stryker - Defensetech

Army to Test New Modular Turret on Stryker - Defensetech: The U.S. Army plans to test a new modular turret on a Stryker armored vehicle in coming months, company officials said.

CMI Defence, a turret-maker based in Belgium, and Raytheon Co., the missile-maker based in Waltham, Massachusetts, announced they received cooperative research and development agreements from the service’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center to evaluate the technology.

Specifically, the arrangements call for evaluating CMI’s new Cockerill 3030 turret with interchangeable guns and Raytheon’s sensor called the Commander Independent Viewer, or CIV, next year on a Stryker, officials said. The products were displayed together for the first time this week at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Army to Search for New Extreme Weather Gear

Army to Search for New Extreme Weather Gear - Kit Up!: U.S. Army equipment officials are ramping up their extreme-weather testing to update the service’s cold and hot weather gear.

Since the early 2000s, the Army has been focused primarily on the Middle East, gearing all equipment needs toward operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now it’s much more likely that soldiers will find themselves fighting in jungle and cold-weather environments, equipment officials maintain.

Earlier this week, the Army put out a call to industry for a new style Jungle Combat Boot in an effort to equip two infantry brigade combat teams by late next year.

The Army is also trying to update its selection of cold-weather boots and gloves.

Several years ago, the service approved the Gen III Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System, or ECWCS. The seven-level system offers options from base layers to an extreme cold jacket and pants featuring man-made high loft insulation. The system is designed to go down to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Textron Introduces Next-Generation Drone Station - Defensetech

Textron Introduces Next-Generation Drone Station - Defensetech: Textron Inc. wants the Army and other military services to consider buying its new station designed to control multiple types of drones and other aircraft.

The company introduced the product, which is called Synturian and features large touch screen monitors and a portable stack of computers, at last week’s Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.

“It can scale from very small to large systems,” Wayne Prender, vice president of ground control technologies at the Providence, Rhode Island-based company, said during an interview with at the show.

The technology, in development for two years, has already been tested on an optionally-manned aircraft and works with the company’s own Aerosonde drone, Prender said.

But the goal is to expand the number of compatible systems to include such drones as Textron’s RQ-7B Shadow, as well as Northrop Grumman Corp’s RQ-5 Hunter, General Atomics’ MQ-1C Grey Eagle and Aurora Flight Service’s Orion — aircraft already controlled by the company’s Universal Ground Control Station, Prender said.

“We very much are platform agnostic,” he said.

Army Mulls $3 Billion Multi-Year Apache Buy: Reports - DoD Buzz

Army Mulls $3 Billion Multi-Year Apache Buy: Reports - DoD Buzz: The Defense Department and Boeing Co. are negotiating a $3.3 billion, multi-year contract for 275 AH-64E Apache helicopters, according to news reports.

Negotiations began after the Office of the Secretary of Defense last month approved the Army‘s proposed procurement plan, Col. Jeffrey Hager, the Army’s Apache program manager, told Inside Defense on Monday at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.

A signed agreement between Boeing and the Army is expected sometime in early 2017, barring legislative hiccups.

Both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act have accepted a multi-year proposal, but a single bill — with the president’s seal of approval — has not yet been approved.

Lawmakers are increasingly reviewing multi-year deals to ensure they produce savings on procurement and production programs.

TARDEC tests robotic vehicle along challenging Australian terrain

Electronic warfare is a critical threat to military operations as adversaries are using radio, infrared and radar signals to confuse or disable vehicle electronic systems.

What makes electronic warfare particularly difficult to combat is the ability of malicious foes to operate from anywhere in the world. And, as we move toward a future Army where deploying autonomous vehicle systems is a likely scenario and where Soldier lives depend on these systems, resiliency to enemy assaults such as communications jamming and GPS spoofing becomes one of the Army's highest priorities.

Recently, robotics engineers at U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) traveled to the Woomera Test Range in South Australia to continue work begun in 2015 on a multi-year program to evaluate the resiliency of autonomously operating a vehicle from across the globe, in this case by other TARDEC engineers in Warren.

Called TORVICE, or Trusted Operation of a Robotic Vehicle in a Contested Environment, this joint program with the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group (DST-G) aims first to establish a baseline for long-distance control of a robotic vehicle before subjecting it to DST-G's red-teaming in follow-on trials.

At Woomera, TARDEC engineers tested their robotic vehicle--a modified Jeep Wrangler Rubicon running TARDEC's Robotic Technology Kernel (RTK), an autonomous mobility system. This was coupled with an Australian-developed satellite-on-the-move (SOTM) system to transfer data between a control station and the moving robotic vehicle.

Besides the TARDEC and SOTM teams, three DST-G groups collected passive electronic warfare data to prepare for the follow-on trials. This included capturing real-time high-resolution ground imagery via reconnaissance aircraft, operating an unmanned aerial vehicle to maintain constant location of the robotic vehicle, and managing a battle management suite which draws information from the manned and unmanned aircraft.

Woomera, a remote area with minimal signal interferences and many long stretches of unpaved secondary roads, provides a perfect playground for experimenting with robotic mobility as well as cyber and electronic warfare techniques.

Although the data from the experiment is still under review, TARDEC engineer Keith Briggs confirms success with the autonomous vehicle's pathfinding algorithms and its ability to get up to operationally relevant speeds with minimal operator takeover.

"With improvements in path planning, material classification, and possibly utilizing a-priori data, we expect to get the vehicle speed up in the near-term," he said.

As anticipated, direct tele-operation via satellite still requires some semi-autonomous capability to effectively employ a vehicle from the other side of the globe, said David Conger, TORVICE program lead.

"We've seen from past test events and simulation studies that compared to a human driver in the vehicle even modest amounts of latency--100-300 milliseconds--significantly reduce the effectiveness of direct tele-operation where the operator is directly controlling the throttle and steering," Conger said. "In this first TORVICE trial, the latency from Australia to CONUS was around one second. To make remote operation viable, there must be at least some level of autonomy."

Also, as expected, Conger said autonomous vehicles with sensing equipment like LIDAR are accurate at detecting positive obstacles, things above the ground such as rocks and trees, but negative obstacles, such as potholes or ditches, are very difficult to sense from a distance sufficient to stop the vehicle.

"Robotics engineers in the automotive industry haven't addressed this because they assume the road surface won't have any critical negative obstacles," Conger said. "We don't have this luxury. In order to effectively operate in relevant environments, we need to make improvements in negative obstacle detection and avoidance."

There's still much training and learning required to get the robotic vehicle to perform effectively in a contested environment.

"As we start embedding robotic vehicles into formations with squads, it is paramount for there to be a level of trust established between the Soldier and the semi-autonomous vehicle," said TARDEC Director Dr. Paul Rogers, who viewed the demonstration via live feed from Edinburgh, Australia.

"Resilience to electronic warfare is a critical component in achieving that trust--to the extent that not only under the best conditions will the robotic vehicle perform as expected, but especially upon contact with the enemy it will continue to do so."

Rogers expects that resilience will come in the form of both hardware solutions--for example, anti-jamming and GPS antennas--and intelligent behaviors where the robot can sense problems and adjust its mission accordingly.

Lessons learned at Woomera will be integrated into TARDEC's RTK suite for TORVICE phase 2, which begins in fall 2017, and involves assessing cyber vulnerabilities via red-teaming, or challenging the technology from an adversary's perspective.

During this next phase TARDEC looks to partner with the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), for its subject-matter expertise in position, navigation, and timing (PNT) technology, as well as U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), for support with potentially integrating a weapon system on the Jeep Rubicon autonomous vehicle.

Ultimately operating a robotic vehicle in a contested environment must allow for a broad spectrum of adversarial challenges including intrusion detection, for such rudimentary encounters as GPS spoofing, which the Iranians claim to have used to bring down a U.S. drone in 2011.

"If it is as easy as GPS spoofing for an adversary to interdict our basic logistics--getting water, fuel and ammo to our soldiers--it's going to be a non-starter for autonomous systems deployment," Rogers said.

Many emerging programs of record--Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Leader-Follower, Automated Convoy operations, the Squad Multi-Purpose Equipment Transport--will be equipped with cyber key performance parameters.

"Once you remove a human from the loop of a vehicle, which in some cases soldiers' lives depend on, resiliency in all forms--environment, electronic and cyber warfare--becomes of the upmost importance," Rogers said. "When we take the next step toward weaponization on autonomy-enabled systems, this is even more critical. Therefore, in order to achieve the increased survivability and standoff that autonomous or unmanned systems provide, it's going to be necessary to make sure they're hardened and resilient."