Archive for October, 2020

FRIDAY FOTO (October 30, 2020)

No Trick, Just Treats.

(U.S. Army photo by: Staff Sergeant Michael West)

A U.S. soldier serving in Operation Inherent Resolve offers a treat to a child while meeting with villagers in northeastern Syria on October 15, 2020.

While the aim of such visits is to strengthen ties with local folks, the troops that are part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve mission work in a dangerous neighborhood. If you click on the photo to enlarge the image, you’ll notice this soldier has in his vest, six spare clips of ammunition for his M-4 automatic weapon, and an additional clip or two for the pistol strapped to his hip.

The mission, according to the Army, is working by, with and through coalition members and partners in the area to ensure the defeat violent extremists of the Islamic State — also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh — and that they stay defeated.

Soldiers involved in the village meeting on the day this photo was taken were from the 1st Armored Division (1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team) and the 82nd Airborne Division (1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team).

October 30, 2020 at 12:09 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 22, 2020)

Lightning Over Red Rock Country.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alexander Cook. Click on image to enlarge)

Two U.S. Air Force and two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)  F-35A Lightning II strike fighters fly in formation over the red rock country of Sedona, Arizona. The October 8, 2020 commemoration flight celebrated the partnership between the two air forces in training fighter pilots at Luke Air Force Base. The flight marked the final sortie between the two nations before the Australian airmen return to RAAF Base Williamtown, Australia by December 2020.

“Most of the Australian pilots that have come through here at Luke have worked with the U.S. Air Force before in the Middle East,” said RAAF Major Christopher Baker, an instructor pilot and graduate of the F-35A pilot training program at Luke. “I don’t think you’d meet many RAAF or U.S. Air Force pilots that haven’t interacted with each other before in some capacity, either operationally or in an exercise somewhere,” he added.

The RAAF and U.S. Air Force student pilots complete the same nine-month undergraduate training course where pilots learn how to operate and employ the F-35. Australian and U.S. instructor pilots lead the training during courses, said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Tom Hayes, commander of the 61st Fighter Squadron.

Luke AFB is named for Medal of Honor winner Frank Luke, a World War I U.S. Army Air Service fighter pilot known as the “Arizona Balloon Buster.

Below is a closeup photo of two F-35s, the near one American and the far one Australian (note the low visibility kangaroo roundel of the RAAF).


(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alexander Cook) Click on image to enlarge.

October 22, 2020 at 11:41 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 16, 2020)

Uniform Excellence.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Christopher McMurry)

Marines with Oscar Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, stand at parade rest during a Battalion Commander’s inspection on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, on October 2, 2020. (Click on photo to enlarge)

The Battalion Commander’s Inspection is the final check and last chance to correct any discrepancies before the Marines graduate. Graduation ceremonies, usually a celebratory display for friends and family, have been closed to the public since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Notice that the non-commissioned officer checking these newly-minted Marines is not the usual staff sergeant or gunnery sergeant drill instructor. This Marine is a sergeant major, the highest enlisted rank in the Marines except for the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, who advises the Marines’ commanding general, the commandant. The sergeant major in this photo is the senior sergeant for the whole 4th training battalion.

Those four red service stripes on her lower sleeve mean she has served at least 16 years in the Corps — four years for every stripe.

Notice all of the Marines in this photo are female. Unlike the other services, the Marines have segregated male and female recruits at the platoon level during basic training. That is scheduled to change under orders from Congress over the next five years.

October 15, 2020 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 9, 2020)

Rugged Beauty.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, stationed in San Diego, practices terrain flight tactical landings during Helicopter Advanced Readiness Program (HARP) training at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California.

HARP is hosted by the Helicopter Sea Combat Weapons School Pacific and is designed to enhance combat readiness with rough, robust, realistic war fighting training for joint operations in an austere environment. HSC-4 trains for a range of capabilities for vertical lift including search and rescue, logistics, anti-surface warfare, special operations forces support and combat search and rescue.

Click on the image to enlarge.

October 9, 2020 at 12:59 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO: October 2, 2020

Uniform Tour.

(All Defense Department photos by Lisa Ferdinando)

This week we thought we would return to a thing we haven’t done for a while: A look at honor guard uniforms in countries where the Secretary of Defense is visiting. We haven’t done it for Mark Esper, who, because of the coronavirus pandemic, hasn’t been traveling much outside the United States.

But recently he made the rounds of North Africa and the Mediterranean and here are some of the uniforms that Defense Department staff photographed.

The first one (above) is from the island nation of Malta. You can see the influence of the British Empire in the garb of these two very tall guards.

Next up is Morocco, a former French colony in North Africa, now ruled by a king.

The uniforms still showed European influence, if a little more formal with epaulets, in Rabat, Morocco where Esper met with General Abdelfattah Louarak at the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces Headquarters.

Then there was Tunisia.

(Defense Department photo)

Lots of different uniforms were on display in a welcome ceremony with Tunisian Defense Minister Ibraham Bartagi in Tunis.

(Defense Department photo)

Here’s another look at those caped, saber brandishing, red clad honor guards.

(Defense Department photo)

And then there are the U.S. Marines in their dress blues meeting with the Defense Secretary at the North African American Cemetery and Memorial in Carthage, Tunisia.

(Defense Department photo)

October 2, 2020 at 8:57 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Bigger Switchblade; Iran says its the I-Spy; USAF Test Team- Operated Drone Sortie and more.


Big, Bad Little Drone.

California unmanned aircraft maker AeroVironment has developed a bigger, badder version of Switchblade, its man-portable, tube-launched, loitering small aerial missile system, according to SEAPOWER magazine.

Artist’s rendering of AeroVironment Switchblade 600 loitering missile. (Image courtsey of AeroVironment)

The new Switchblade 600 has greater capabilities for engaging larger, hardened targets — including light armored vehicles — with multi-purpose anti-armor ammunition at longer distances, than the original Switchblade — now called Switchblade 300.

Both versions of the small loitering missile — also known as loitering munition — are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) designed to engage targets on the ground and beyond line-of-sight with an explosive warhead. When Switchblade was first developed back in 2011 some called the small UAV, which was built for a one-way mission, a kamikaze drone.

While launched from a tube like a mortar shell, Switchblade can “loiter” in the air for an extended period of time before striking, giving the operator time to decide when and what to attack.

An unarmed variant of Switchblade, Blackwing, provides rapid-response intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. For the U.S. Navy, Blackwing provides a low-cost, submarine-launched drone that can provide intelligence in access-denied areas. Blackwing can be launched from surface vessels and unmanned underwater vehicles, as well as submerged submarines.

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Iranian drones.

Iran says its drones shadowed the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in the Strait of Hormuz in late September, but the U.S. Navy says it ain’t so.

Though the Iranians posted drone images of the Nimitz transiting the Strait of Hormuz, Navy officials say there have been no unsafe interactions with their forces in that strategic waterway since April, Navy Times reports.

The Nimitz and its strike group transited the strait and arrived on station September 18, a spokeswoman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said. She would not comment, however, on the images posted by Iranian media and tweeted by INTELSky, a military aircraft tracking site. But she did say the carrier began launching flight operations over Syria and Iraq that day.

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Air Force Drones.

The U.S. Air Force says it has successfully tested team operation of a single MQ-9 Reaper drone from various locations.

An MQ-9 Reaper, with laser guided munitions and Hellfire missiles, flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)

During a recent exercise at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, in California, the Air Force tested whether airmen at multiple ground locations could coordinate and execute the same short trip by a single MQ-9. The result proved that numerous airmen can operate the drone during its mission, according to Lieutenant Colonel Brian Davis, commander of the 29th Attack Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, in New Mexico.

The same exercise tested whether the Air Force could use a slimmed-down profile of personnel, fuel and equipment to conduct full-scale MQ-9 operations and it could,  Davis said.

“I can now take my capability and move it,” Davis said in a video interview with September 21. Read more here.

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Robot Ammo Workers.

U.S. Army officials want to use robots and computers to modernize the military’s aging munitions plants — to save lives, according to Defense News.

Officials told a House Armed Services Committee September 22 they were seeking a new 15-year, $16 billion strategy to modernize and automate munitions plants — some nearly a century old —  following nearly a dozen worker deaths and injuries over recent years.

They suggested workers who handle dangerous materials could be replaced by robotics and computers as part of the ambitious plan. The Army is willing to invest in robotics, automation, and other upgrades – and retrain the workforce accordingly — to make the ammunition industrial base both safer and more efficient, Breaking Defense reported. New manufacturing technology is also the only way to make new kinds of ammunition, officials said.

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Robot Dogs to Robo Cop.

The U.S. Air Force is testing Robo–Guard dogs to protect its aircraft.

A robotic dog was used during a major exercise in early September at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, according to the Popular Mechanics website. The four-legged dog-like robot, was seen alongside base security personnel. The service is apparently testing the robo-dogs as a way to patrol small battle spaces and provide needed data resources, according to the website.

An Airman patrols with a Ghost Robotics Vision 60 prototype during the Advanced Battle Management System exercise on Nellis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cory D. Payne)

“These robot dogs are a new technology that we’re testing as part of the exercise,” said Master Sergeant Lee Boston, contingency response chief for the exercise. “The dogs give us visuals of the area, all while keeping our defenders closer to the aircraft,” he added.

The robo dogs are called Vision 60 UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles) manufactured by Ghost Robotics of Philadelphia. “Beyond all-terrain stability and operation in unstructured environments, a core principle of our legged robots is reduced mechanical complexity,” the company says on its website. “By reducing complexity, we inherently increase durability, agility and endurance, and reduce the cost to deploy and maintain ground robots.”

Ghost says its customers include military, homeland security, intelligence  and public safety agencies as well as universities and research organizations.

October 1, 2020 at 11:10 pm Leave a comment


October 2020


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