Posts tagged ‘Disaster Relief’
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brooks Graham (left) directs a landing craft air cushion (LCAC) into the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu following a training exercise in the Pacific Ocean, June 25, 2014.
The Peleliu was on its way to Hawaii to participate in the multi-national sea-and-air exercise, Rim of the Pacific 2014. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in what is billed as the world’s largest maritime exercise — commonly known as RIMPAC — in and around the Hawaiian Islands.
To see more photos of RIMPAC 2014, click here.
Video of an LCAC in action
4GWAR’s FRIDAY FOTO feature didn’t take a day off for the Fourth of July holiday. A summer storm in the Washington, DC area Thursday afternoon (July 3) caused a power outage at 4GWAR “World Headquarters” knocking out our cable/internet access until today. We apologize to our visitors for the delay.
Black Hawks Up
UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, depart Camp Roberts, California in a tactical formation. The Black Hawks were on their way to pick up California National Guard soldiers for an air assault mission. The troops also trained for disaster relief and emergency response.
Not Quite Ploughshares.
“And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” – Book of Isaiah, Chapter 2, Verses 3-4.
The U.S. defense industry isn’t quite making ploughshares yet, but as U.S. defense spending has declined, the unmanned systems sector has been talking up the capabilities of its robots, ‘droids and drones to help find lost hikers, track fleeing crime suspects and assist firefighters in remote wilderness areas.
Long time unmanned aircraft makers like AeroVironment and Insitu held briefings at last month’s big robotics industry conference in Orlando, Florida, about how their unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) could assist police looking for evidence or firefighters battling wildfires. The shift to the commercial market was the talk of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) gathering in Orlando.
Wall Street and industry analysts say the U.S. defense market is flat and while manufacturers may be looking hopefully to the commercial market, business will be slow until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally decides how to integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Air Space.
All this and more is covered in an Aviation Week article your 4GWAR editor co-authored with Mike Fabey in Washington and Christina Mackenzie in Paris. The story Saving Grace: Robotic systems target civil market as defense lags, is the June 16 Defense Technology Edition of Aviation Week.
Needs and Wants, Part III.
TAMPA, Florida – At last month’s National Defense Industry Association’s Special Operations Industry Conference (SOFIC), the generals and admirals who oversee Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Air Force combat controllers and other Special Operations Forces explained what they need to operate in vastly different environments. Today we finish our roundup with a focus on another world region followed by the 4GWAR Blog: The Arctic.
THE HIGH NORTH
“It’s said by some of our European partners that Africa is the challenge for this generation and the Arctic will be the challenge for the next,” said Air Force Major General Marshall Webb, the head of Special Operations Command Europe, one of three three theater special operations commands that share responsibility for the Arctic region. He noted that communications north of the Arctic Circle was “a challenge” for his people “as they operate in that environment.”
He also noted that high tech airborne intelligence gathering and surveillance is important but “the ability to share [ISR] with our European partners is paramount from my perspective.”
U.S. Northern Command’s area of responsibility includes Alaska and Canada. And Pentagon officials have said that as polar sea ice melts — as it has been doing for several years — maritime access will open up in the high north and present a “true strategic approach to the [U.S.] homeland.” Northern Command has been working with Canada to develop communications, maritime domain awareness (both on and under the sea) and infrastructure for safety, security and defense needs.
Rear Admiral Kerry Metz, commander of Special Operations Command-North, said like Africa Command, the Arctic poses communications challenges over vast distances “as SOF [special operations forces] re-engages in extreme cold weather maritime operations — both surface and subsurface.”
Needs and Wants, Part I.
TAMPA, Florida – At the National Defense Industry Association’s Special Operations Industry Conference (SOFIC), the generals and admirals who oversee Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Air Force combat controllers and all the other specialists in Special Operations explained what they need to operate in vastly different environments.
Over the next three days, we’ll focus on what they said about the three areas of the globe we follow closely at 4GWAR Blog: Africa, Latin America and the Arctic. Today we start with Special Operations Command-Africa.
Army Brigadier General James Linder, the head of Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) is responsible for an area three-and-a-half times the size of the United States with 54 countries spanning 11 million square miles. Despite weak infrastructure in many of its countries, the continent as a whole, is booming with 5.4 percent Gross Domestic Product, compared to 3.2 percent for the whole world.
Linder, whose headquarters is based in Germany, said his biggest challenges are “how do we move across vast distances” and “how do we maintain situational awareness?”
And it’s not just distance he’s concerned about, but how intelligence is gathered about potential threats or trouble spots – and how is it conveyed in a helpful fashion to allies who don’t have the communication and encryption technology the United States does.
In a place where nearly everybody has a mobile phone, Linder said he needs to keep an eye on social media as well as more traditional forms of communication to keep tabs on public sentiment and spot potential trouble spots. The cyber environment and social media is driving the way the people act,” said Linder.
His main task is to counter VEO – Violent Extremist Organizations – of which Africa seems to have more than its share – like al Shabaab, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and now, Boko Haram. “Make no mistake, that is a mammoth task,” he said.
To help out, Linder is looking for tools and technology that will help his special operators set up airfields for manned and unmanned aircraft and secure areas – combat outposts, if you will – where a contingent of 50-to-100 U.S or partner country personnel can be moved quickly to jungle or desert environments and sustained for up to eight weeks.
But like most of the special operations commanders in the regional combatant commands, Linder said he’s looking for technology — including unmanned aircraft — that will meet his intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance needs. But the immediate challenge, he said, was getting that ISR into a format that can be passed to partner militaries quickly and can be quickly interpreted so they can take the proper action.
TOMORROW: Latin America
ORLANDO, Florida – The biggest robotics trade show in the United States (maybe in the world) is underway at the massive Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Thousands of attendees from scores of countries are expected at the four-day event sponsored by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
But on Sunday (May 11) nine small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS) strutted their stuff in a hot, grassy field at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center about an hour’s drive away on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The demonstration of how small drones can operate safely in a confined space was jointly sponsored by AUVSI and Space Florida, the state’s economic development agency for the aerospace industry. Both groups also wanted to show that small unmanned aircraft – which are barred from being flown for commercial operations – can be useful and safe in a number of endeavors.
The demonstration included four research scenarios: crop health monitoring, searching for a lost or injured person, monitoring mock wildfire and disaster scenes. The Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for air safety and integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace in the near future, kept most spectators far back from the demo area and the tents and trailers housing the small drones. The crowd, which at times numbered in the hundreds, could watch both the unmanned aircraft and video being transmitted from the small aircraft on large TV screens.
The aircraft participating included a six-rotor mini helicopter – also called a vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft (photo at left) operated by Florida-based Elevated Horizons. The company does aerial imaging, data collection and site surveys for a number of businesses – especially agriculture. Company executive Ty Rozier (pictured above) said one of their biggest customers was Dole’s fruit-growing operations in Costa Rica. “There are lots of local farmers who want to use our stuff but unfortunately you can’t do it” because of FAA restrictions.
Many unmanned systems makers these days are shifting products originally developed for the military toward the business and first responder markets. “We started in the military and we’ve moved into the commercial, industrial and public safety sector,” said Cameron Waite, North American sales directors for Aeryon Labs. The Canadian company flew its SkyRanger mini helicopter in the demonstration. The SkyRanger is a newer version of the Aeryon’s Scout quadcopter, which was the first UAS to fly from one of the six drone test sites designated by the FAA for developing ways to integrate UAS into the national airspace.
NOTE: Click on the photos to see an enlarged image.
No “Failure to Communicate”
U.S. Special Operations Forces (Army Green Berets, Navy SEALS, etc.) are going to be doing a lot more of this in the future: training troops in friendly nations to handle their own internal defense against terrorists and insurgents. U.S. Special Operations Command intends to align special operators regionally with the geographic combatant commands, like Southern Command or Africa Command.
To be effective, they’ll have to concentrate on learning the culture, geography, economics — and languages — of those regions.
However, with the exception of the Green Berets — who have been doing just that since Vietnam — most special operators aren’t skilled in foreign languages, especially exotic tongues like Hausa, Kurdish or Tausug. Your 4GWAR editor’s story on technologies that can help bridge that gap appears in April’s Special Operations Technology magazine.
Modern Face of War
UPDATES with additional information and links
The camera that took this photo was using a night vision lens, just like the night vision goggles worn by these combat air traffic controllers, a little known speciality (outside the military community) in the U.S. Air Force and Special Operations Forces. They are the first to arrive at hazardous landing areas (either because of enemy action or damage from natural disaster) to set up aircraft landing or parachute drop zones. Combat controllers are FAA certified air traffic controllers who provide the link between the air and ground forces in direct action, special reconnaissance, humanitarian assistance and foreign internal defense operations.
This Combat Controller Team is from the 720th Special Tactics Group, based at Hurlburt Field, Florida. In this photo they are relaying wind speed and aircraft direction to a C-130 H3 cargo plane during night operations on an airfield in northeastern Niger, late last month (Feb. 28) during Joint Exercise Flintlock 2014. Troops from Canada, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom — as well as 6 north and west African nations participated in Niger this year.
Flintlock is an annual, African-led, military exercise focused on security, counter-terrorism and military humanitarian support to outlying areas. Each year a different government in west Africa plays host to the exercise, which includes U.S. forces and troops from other non-African countries. To see an Africa Command slide show of the wide variety of Flintlock 2014 activities, click here.
Inside the Osprey
Cobra Gold, the largest and oldest military exercise in Southeast Asia, originally started as a training exercise to strengthen the relationship, mission readiness and interoperability between troops of the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States. This year, the 33rd iteration of Cobra Gold, the United States and Thailand welcomed participants from Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and, for the first time, the People’s Republic of China.
The exercise included an amphibious operations, helicopter assault, disaster site evacuation and training with live ammunition, according to the Pattaya Mail. The U.S. Marines seen here are with 2nd platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
To see what the Osprey tilt rotor aircraft looks like from the outside and other photos of the exercise, click here.
Helping First Responders
Robotic systems aren’t just for helping police pursue fleeing criminals or investigate suspicious packages.
From monitoring wildfires to patrolling busy harbors, industry, government and academia are exploring how unmanned vehicles can assist emergency responders on land, sea and air.
In addition to research at the University of Hawaii and Oklahoma State University, small companies in Florida and California to big ones in Massachusetts are modifying existing vehicles to aid search and rescue operations or creating new systems with sensors focused on looking for signs of trouble far from first responders.
To learn more about this re-purposing of technology first developed to assist the military, check out our article in the latest (February) issue of Unmanned Systems, the magazine of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (subscription required).