(U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)
An Air Force F-22 Raptor takes off from Yokota Air Base in Japan as Mount Fuji looms nearby. The Raptor stopped in Japan before traveling to an Australian base. The pilot and aircraft are assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron and deployed from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Robert Knapp)
No. These are not the fabled guards of Heaven’s streets mentioned in the third verse of the Marine Corps Hymn. This photo shows the Marine Corps silent drill team practicing a part of their routine at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. The corona effect on the Marine to the right is actually just a parking lot illumination. Still, kind of a heavenly photo. Nice work Corporal.
BETHESDA, Maryland — The quest for a lightweight, ballistic protective suit for U.S. commandos is about 18-months away from a major milestone, the top acquisition official at Special Operations Command (SOCOM) says.
“We’re about a year and a half-ish out,” from unveiling the next prototype, James “Hondo” Geurts, SOCOM’s civilian acquisition executive told an industry conference on Wednesday (February 15).
In development since 2013, the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit, or TALOS, was the brainchild of then-SOCOM commander, Admiral William McRaven, who was concerned that SOCOM operators were at particular risk during raids when they didn’t know what was on the other side of the door.
The futuristic commando body armor has been likened to the suit worn by the superhero, “Iron Man,” a characterization SOCOM has not discouraged – although TALOS won’t be able to fly.
Geurts’ estimate of when the prototype — the fifth TALOS test suit — would be ready is in keeping with the timeline envisioned by McRaven and his successors. In addition to lightweight body armor, the original concept of TALOS called for sensors to monitor the wearer’s heart rate, temperature and other vital signs. Using an integrated “system of systems” that would combine sensors, communications equipment and an electrically-powered exoskeleton, TALOS advocates believed it would not only protect special ops troops but also make them run faster, hear and see better and carry heavy loads without excessive fatigue.
“Will it do everything we want? Probably not,” Geurts conceded at the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association. But that was never the intent, he added. Research for the various TALOS components has explored improving night vision goggles, shrinking communications technology and developing more powerful, more portable and longer lasting power sources. One technology improvement, a powered exoskeleton, enabled a Marine Corps captain paralyzed by a sniper’s bullet to walk to his valor award ceremony.
Geurts is looking to leverage TALOS technology developments to get new capabilities into the field. The number of spinoffs arising from TALOS has been “phenomenal,” Geurts said. He noted SOCOM is always interested in bringing innovation and improvements into the field as soon as possible. “Velocity is our competitive advantage,” he said. Survivability doesn’t rely on body armor alone, said Geurts, adding “it’s also part ‘what information do you have and what’s your situational awareness.”
Special Ops Conference.
The annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium opens Monday in Bethesda, Maryland, tackling issues ranging from the acquisition and training needs of special operations forces (SOF) to budget challenges and the demand for cooperation and information sharing with partner nations.
The four-day conference — sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) — will also address the widening challenge of creating a networked, connected and unified force of SOF, as well as U.S. and international law enforcement and intelligence organizations.
Speakers will include Army General Raymond Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and James Geurts, the civilian head of acquisition at SOCOM. [More on the conference at the bottom of this post.]
A Navy SEAL was killed in a raid on an al Qaeda base in Yemen late last month. The Defense Department identified the slain sailor as Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois. He died January 29 from wounds sustained in the raid. He was assigned to an East Coast based Special Warfare unit, which most news organizations have identified as SEAL Team 6.
The raid sparked controversy in both the United States and the Middle East.
A “chain of mishaps and misjudgments,” according to the New York Times, plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three other servicemen wounded and forced the raiders to destroy a U.S. V-22 Osprey, when the $75 million tilt-rotor aircraft was unable to take off after making a hard landing during the fire fight. There are allegations — which the Pentagon acknowledged on February 1 as most likely correct — that the mission also killed several civilians, including some children, the Times reported.
Yemeni officials were unhappy about the raid and civilian casualties but they told the Reuters news agency that permission had not been withdrawn for the United States to carry out special ops ground missions. But they made clear their “reservations” about the latest operation, according to the Voice of America website. A statement by the Yemeni embassy in Washington, VoA added, said the government “stresses that it has not suspended any programs with regards to counterterrorism operations in Yemen with the United States Government.”
The White House called the raid, the first authorized by the Trump administration, a success. But Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee challenged that conclusion, telling NBC: “When you lose a $75 million airplane and, more importantly, an American life is lost, I don’t believe you can call it a success.”
But White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended the operation, calling it “absolutely a success,” VoA reported. “I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid, owes an apology and disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” Spicer said, referring to the Navy SEAL who died.
Earlier, Spicer said it was “hard to ever call something a complete success when you have the loss of life, or people injured. But I think when you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life here in America and against our people and our institutions, and probably throughout the world in terms of what some of these individuals could have done, I think it is a successful operation by all standards.”
The casualty rate for highly skilled and experienced special operators, like Chief Owens, has been on the rise as the United States relies more and more on elite forces.
In the past year — for the first time — according to a New York Times report (via the Seattle Times), special-operations troops have died in greater numbers than conventional troops. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan SOF made up only a fraction of the dead. That they now fill nearly the whole casualty list, the report continues, shows how the Pentagon, hesitant to put conventional troops on the ground, has come to depend almost entirely on small groups of elite warriors.
Meanwhile, Navy SEALS and other elite units are quietly battling a frightening rise in parachute deaths, according to a Military Times investigation.
Between 2011 and 2016, 11 special operators have died in high altitude, free fall training jumps. That is a 60 percent increase over the previous five-year period, according to 13 years’ worth or records analyzed by Military Times.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride.)
The four-day conference is being held at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. All the commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations commands will take part in a panel discussion on the strategic and operational implications caused by the necessity to conduct coalition and inter-agency operations.
Another panel discussion on law enforcement special mission units will include representatives from several Department of Homeland Security units, including Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)
Sailors clear snow and ice from the forecastle of the USS McCampbell (DDG-85) in the Sea of Japan, on February 3, 2017. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer is patrolling in the 7th Fleet area of operations to support security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The McCampbell is named in honor of Naval Aviator Captain David S. McCampbell, a Medal of Honor and Navy Cross recipient who was the Navy’s leading ace in World War II.
Confetti of Sparks.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher).
You can hardly see Air Force Technical Sergeant Gregory Kirchner amid the bouncing sparks and arcs of light created as he welds a metal plate at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. J-BEAR. as the troops call it, consists of Elmendorf Air Force Base and the Army’s Fort Richardson. It is located outside Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. The two bases were merged in 2010.
Kirchner is assigned to the 3rd Maintenance Squadron, where welding is just one of the tasks performed by airmen. Aircraft metals technology experts also measure broken or worn parts, draw working sketches, make templates, perform precision grinding and remove deposits from aircraft parts. They also write programs for machines using manual and computer-aided manufacturing techniques.
This photo was taken January 27, 2017.
Muscle Power, Part II.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Ken Scar)
We thought this photo of an Army Reserve sergeant doing pushups was remarkable for two reasons. First, it captures the moment when the soldier has launched himself off the ground to clap his hands between repetitions.
Secondly, the sergeant’s name captured our attention. Meet Sergeant Wenceslaus Wallace, a team leader assigned to Company C of the 324th Expeditionary Signal Battalion.
This photo was taken January 21, 2017 at the headquarters building of 335th Signal Command (Theater) in East Point, Georgia.