An Army Green Beret has his parachute harness inspected by a jumpmaster before conducting a night jump on Eglin Air Base, Florida on November 4, 2014.
As we’ve said in recent weeks, it isn’t often we get to see Special Operations Forces training up close and personal. And you can click here to see all the photos of this training scenario. There are other, more informative photos on the Defense Department website, but we’ve decided to focus this week on the photo above. It’s subject matter isn’t all that unusual: men in work clothes performing a task in the dying light of sunset. But it captures the light between sunset and dusk. It reminds us of paintings by the Dutch masters or Frederic Remington that sought to convey what the light was like at that time.
But these men are going to jump out of a large helicopter at night, in Alaska, in winter. Tough stuff.
The Green Berets are assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group, Airborne, and jumped from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter with combat equipment to maintain proficiency in airborne operations.
Nigeria: More Violence.
Dozens of people have been killed in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria. Gunmen rampaged through the village of Azaya Kura in the Mafa area in Borno state, killing at least 45 people, according to the BBC.
The village is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Maiduguri, capital of Borno state. Boko Haram has taken control of a series of towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria in recent weeks.
Authorities have struggled to defeat the militant Islamist group, which has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009. In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, vowing to crush the Islamist insurgency.
New York-based Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed more than 2,000 civilians just this year.
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The Nigerian Air Force wants to acquire more fighter jets to battle the Boko Haram Islamist militant group.
But Nigerian officials are concerned that their attempt to buy new combat aircraft from Textron and AirLand Enterprises may be blocked because of the West African nation’s human rights record, according to the Wall Street Journal.
A senior Nigerian air force officer expressed concern a deal could be blocked on human rights grounds after an earlier effort to acquire combat helicopters was blocked over the issue. The Nigeria air force currently relies on a fleet of older jets, including Chinese-made F-7 planes and European Alpha Jets.
Textron, the largest maker of business aircraft, and AirLand have been marketing the Scorpion military jet as a low-cost option for many nations that can’t afford more traditional and expensive designs.
A Race to New Orleans.
Major General Andrew Jackson, back from capturing Pensacola in Spanish Florida, receives a letter in Mobile (now Alabama/ back then, West Florida) from Washington advising him not to do what he has just done. Whoopsie. President James Madison and Secretary of War James Monroe (who is also serving as Secretary of State) are worried that such a rash act could lead to war with neutral Spain. [Click on he map above to enlarge image.]
Luckily, it doesn’t come to that. Anyway Jackson’s network of spies throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea inform him that British troops are setting sail from Jamaica directly to New Orleans. It doesn’t make sense, Jackson believes. To his way of thinking, Mobile would be the perfect port and jumping off place for an overland march on New Orleans. But feeling he can’t take chances with the security of the Lower Mississippi Valley, he marches out heading west on November 22. But he leaves about 2,000 troops behind in Mobile — in case the spies are wrong, or lying.
Jackson only has about 2,000 men with him, regulars, volunteers from Tennessee and some Indians — mostly Cherokees and some Creeks. About 2,000 fresh British troops have been sent from Britain to rendezvous with the army-navy task force that burned Washington and failed to take Baltimore. The British will number between 4,000 and 6,000 before they reach Louisiana.
Madison has promised to send more troops — from Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia, plus friendly Indians — to defend New Orleans, a city of 25,000 along a bend of the river about 120 miles above the mouth of the Mississippi.
Jackson doesn’t know if the reinforcements will arrive in time and how willing the natives of New Orleans, a predominantly French-speaking city, are to shed their blood for the United States of America, which purchased Louisiana from Napoleonic France in 1803 — just 11 years earlier.
Then here are the pirates — robbers, smugglers and slave traders — based in the bayous south and west of the city in a freebooting place called Barataria and ruled by Jean Lafitte and his brothers, Alexandre and Pierre.
Your 4GWAR editor’s story on U.S. Special Operations Command’s quest to develop a light weight armored suit that will help commandos and other assault troops run faster, longer and carry heavy loads without excessive fatigue is in the latest issue (November 17) of Aviation Week & Space Technology’s Defense Technology International edition:
It will not enable users to fly like “Iron Man” does in the movies, but planners of a ballistic protective suit for special operations want it to do almost everything else the superhero’s iconic outfit does.
The Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) will provide ballistic protection with lightweight armor, along with sensors to monitor a wearer’s vital signs. Some developers believe it could also supply emergency oxygen and control bleeding if the operator is wounded.
To read more of this story, visit AVIATION WEEK (subscription required). Below is another view of one of the technologies being studied by USSOCOM for the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS).
Last month’s Defense Technology International edition is on line, you can see it here. That issue includes two stories by your 4GWAR editor on the U.S. Army’s efforts to shift to a regionally aligned force and SOCOM’s search for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability using very small drones.
Other topics in the October 13 issue range from Saab’s new M4 recoilless rifle; how Russia’s adventurism in Ukraine is driving another neighbor, Poland, to start buying more defense hardware like helicopters and missiles; air and ground robotics developments by British, U.S. and Israeli companies; and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s work on protecting ground vehicles from attack.
Light up the Night.
U.S. Marines fire at fixed targets from Light Armored Vehicles (LAV-25s) during training in D’Arta Plage, Djibouti in East Africa. Note that despite the bright light thrown off by tracer bullets, you can still see the stars in the sky if you click on the photo to enlarge it.
They were participating in a combined arms engagement range during sustainment training. The 11th MEU is deployed as a reserve and crisis response force throughout U.S. Central Command and the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
We created today’s Friday Foto in the wee hours after midnight, but apparently we neglected to click the all important PUBLISH button after editing this post.
We apologize for the error — and the delay in discovering it until a few minutes ago.
What They Want and Can Afford
TYSON’S CORNER, Virginia – Money is tight while national security threats keep evolving, so the Defense Department plans to be careful about what robots, droids and drones it can buy in the future.
That was the overall message from Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps leaders over three days this month at the Unmanned Systems 2014 Program Review, a government robotics conference hosted by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
Even though they expect funds for robots and drones to be limited, they say demand will grow for unmanned vehicles – especially ones that can get into small or unsafe spaces like tunnels or denied airspace — to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information for troops in the field.
All of the services are looking for unmanned systems that share common controllers and other hardware/software. And they want them interoperable so troops on the ground, in the air or at sea – no matter which service – will be able to communicate with all unmanned systems and coordinate their activities.
So here’s a look at some of the capabilities the armed services are looking for.
The Defense Department’s Joint Staff is developing a Joint Concept for Robotic and Autonomous Systems, expected in the summer of 2018, according to Army Col. Charles Bowery of the Joint Staff Robotic and Autonomous Systems Team (JRAST). He said the concept report targets the 2025-2030 time frame and will reflect improved ways for “developing, deploying and acquiring those technologies.” Chartered in 2014, the JRAST seeks to synchronize Robotic and Autonomous Systems development, acquisition, and employment across the Defense Department.
The Army is not buying any new UAS in the near future but it isn’t getting rid of any either. Army plans call for pairing the MQ- 1 Gray Eagle and smaller RQ-7 Shadow UAS with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to perform the scouting mission once performed by the OH-58 Kiowa manned scout helicopter, which is being retired.
“All of my portfolios are essentially looking at what is the amount of financing or money that is available to meet the requirements,” said Army Major General Robert Dyess, director of Force Development in the financial management (G-8) section of the Army Staff.
On ground vehicles, he told conference attendees, the Amy had just completed joint testing of the Autonomous Mobility Applique System which showed the ability to “essentially, I believe, turn any vehicle in the motor pool – at the commander’s assessment – into a vehicle that has either a semi-autonomous or autonomous type of capability.”
The Navy has only one program of record for unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), the Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS), a family of robotic systems ranging from a 35-pound robot that can be carried in a backpack to a vehicle-towed unit weighing about 750 pounds.
Tom Dee, deputy assistant of the Navy for Expeditionary Program and Logistics Management, said the Navy is looking for UGVs that not only replace humans in dangerous situations, but can be force enablers.
“We want to make them team mates with our squads, to be able to assist us, not just to replace us doing things that we’re concerned about doing” like bomb disposal, Dee said. .” He added that AEODRS would be built using open architecture and modular design that would allow the Navy to “plug and play” new developments in sensors, cameras or robotic arms onto a common platform.
Daniel Sternlicht, head of the Sensing Sciences Division at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, said the Navy is looking to improve sensor capabilities as it transitions from a time and manpower intensive method for detecting, identifying and neutralizing explosive mines in the shallows near shore to an unmanned, sensor-driven one.
Among the capabilities sought in this eventual shift is the ability to neutralize a target mine in a single pass or sortie by an unmanned underwater vehicle rather than multiple passes by manned aircraft or surface vessels, said Sternlicht.
The Office of Naval Research is developing a compact modular sensor package that can be mounted on an MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and detect and classify targets in real time. The Compact Modular Sensor Suite could also speed up the process by eliminating the need for post-mission analysis by a manned aircraft.
Objective: New Orleans
After driving the British out of Pensacola in Spanish Florida (Nov. 7-8), Major General Andrew Jackson heads back to Mobile, in what is now Alabama, but in 1814 it was part of the Territory of Mississippi or Spanish West Florida — depending on who you talked to.
Jackson fears the small British fleet that evacuated Pensacola may be headed to Mobile to set up a base for a larger invasion of New Orleans.
The British aren’t there when he arrives in Mobile on November 11 but here is word that thousands of British troops are heading for New Orleans from bases in Bermuda and the Bahamas. So Jackson marches out, headed for the Crescent City on the lower Mississippi River.
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With more than 1,000 British soldiers and Canadian militia on his tail, U.S. Brigadier General Duncan McArthur and his raiding party of some 700 mounted Kentucky and Ohio riflemen are making their way back to Fort Detroit about 100 miles away.
McArthur is burning settlements — especially flour mills and other sources of food and supplies for the British and Canadian troops — along the Lake Erie shoreline. On November 6, McArthur’s troops defeated a smaller force of Canadian militia and Mohawk Indian allies at Malcolm’s Mills. It will be the last battle with an invading army fought on Canadian soil.