Archive for March, 2021

FRIDAY FOTO (March 26, 2021)

You’re  Gonna Need a Bigger … Rope.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Brandon Aultman) CLICK on the photo to enlarge the image.

No, these Marines from the 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment (1/12) aren’t really hauling this amphibious ship ashore.

But they are pulling some vehicles off this U.S. Army logistics support vessel at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. (Yes, the Army owns ships and boats, too — more than 100 of them).

This vessel is attached to the 8th Special Troops Battalion of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command. This tug of war took place during Exercise Spartan Fury 21.1 on March 8, 2021.

The 1/12 is an artillery battalion comprised of four Firing Batteries and a Headquarters Battery. The primary mission is to provide artillery fire in support of the 3rd Marine Division in times of conflict.

Spartan Fury demonstrates 1/12’s ability to conduct distributed operations inside an area within range of an enemy’s sensors and weapons fire.  While in the engagement zone, battalion’s mission is to attain and defend key maritime terrain and conduct sea denial in support of fleet operations.

March 26, 2021 at 6:05 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Navy, Marine Corps Unmanned Systems “Campaign”


Navy Department’s Unmanned “Grand Campaign”

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have released their campaign plan for unmanned systems across all domains, in order to make unmanned systems a trusted and integral part of warfighting.

Reconnaissance Marines assigned to the Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), launch an RQ-20 Puma aboard a combat rubber raiding craft May 24, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gary Jayne III)

The new plan, called the “Unmanned Campaign Framework,” argues that the Navy Department needs unmanned systems to maintain the U.S. military’s competitive advantage and “move toward a capability-centric proactive environment” that can “incorporate unmanned systems at the speed of technology, to provide maximum agility to the future force.”

The campaign plan focuses on eight functional areas: platforms and enablers; strategy, concepts and analysis; fleet capability, capacity, readiness and wholeness; research, development, testing and evaluation/science and technology; people, education and talent; logistics and infrastructure; policy, law and ethics; and communication and messaging.

The framework also has five goals: Advance manned-unmanned teaming effects within the full range of naval and joint operations; build a digital infrastructure that integrates and adopts unmanned capabilities at speed and scale; incentivize rapid incremental development and testing cycles for unmanned systems; disaggregate common problems, solve once, and scale solutions across platforms and domains; create a capability-centric approach for unmanned contributions (platforms, systems, subsystems) to the force.

The framework provides a strategy for integrating these systems to provide lethal, survivable, and scalable effects supporting the future maritime mission. The Navy and Marine Corps are developing detailed technology maturation and acquisition roadmaps within a separate classified plan of action and milestones. The objective is to innovate quickly to provide solutions for complex problems of current and future conflicts, the Seapower website reported.

The path forward requires a holistic approach to developing and deploying unmanned systems, ensuring individual technologies can operate within a broader architecture of networked warfighting systems, supported by the right people, policies, operational concepts, and other enablers.

According to the website, the sea services’ push for funding to test and field unmanned technology — particularly drone surface vessels — has faced significant resistance. The Navy wanted $2 billion to build 10 large unmanned surface vessels over the next five years, but later walked that back after lawmakers took steps to block the service from buying any of the ships in 2021 “until a certification regarding technology maturity has been submitted to Congress.”

The new campaign plan doesn’t include timelines or spending plans for specific platforms since it’s unclassified, but explains that unmanned systems will be essential in future fights. Marine Lieutenant General Eric Smith, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said every program referenced in the report has a specific timeline with goals to meet their objectives, said.

The 40-page plan was released March 16, two days before top Navy and Marine Corps leaders testified before Congress about where drone technology was going.

However, some lawmakers found the plan is short on details and measurable goals. “I was really disappointed with the lack of substance,” Representative Elaine Luria, said during the hearing. “I thought it was full of buzzwords and platitudes but really short on details,” the Virginia Democrat and former Naval officer said, Defense News reported.

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Navy’s Next Step.

During that March 18 hearing before the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, a senior admiral said fielding the Navy’s first carrier-based unmanned aircraft could indicate a much larger drone presence in the future carrier air wing — possibly including teaming up manned and unmanned aircraft.

The MQ-25A Stingray UAS now being tested by Boeing and the Navy is designed to be a tanker for aerial refueling of other carrier-based aircraft such as the F-35C Lightning II and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters.

MQ-25A Stingray (Photo courtesy of Boeing)

Vice Admiral James Kilby, the deputy chief of naval operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities, told lawmakers “the MQ-25 has great promise for us,” Seapower reported. The initial plan is to introduce it into the air wing “where it can serve its role initially in tanking and limited ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]. But what we are focusing on is launching, landing, moving it around on the deck, bringing it up, taking it down to the hangar bay, how do we position those assets, how can we support the air wing,” Kilby testified.

“So, step one: get the fighters out of the business of refueling fighters and use the MQ-25 to do that, initially close aboard the carrier but eventually at range,” Kilby said. “But there is some payload capacity in that vehicle that we think has great promise for us. So, I think initially we would transition to ISR but in an air wing of the future view … we think we could get upwards of 40% of the aircraft in an air wing that are unmanned and then transition beyond that.”

The admiral pointed out that while there will be a control center on each aircraft carrier for unmanned aircraft, the Navy’s aspiration is for manned unmanned teaming in the future so that manned aircraft could control unmanned aircraft, Seapower noted.

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Drone Killer Testing.

The U.S. Air Force is testing whether lasers mounted on the dune buggies can be an effective counter-drone weapon.

The High Energy Laser Weapon System, or HELWS, uses directed energy to defeat incoming unmanned aerial systems — a threat that military leaders are increasingly concerned about, according to C4ISRNET. Small, highly mobile drones are difficult to hit with conventional weapons. That’s why the Air Force and others are looking at emerging technologies.

The Air Force Research Lab awarded Raytheon Technologies a $23.8 million contract back in 2019 for two of the HELWS prototypes. Another $13.1 million was added llater in 2019 for a third prototype.

High Energy Laser Weapon System, or HELW (Raytheon)

Currently mounted on a Polaris MRZR, the HELWS has been described since its first deployment in 2020, as looking like something from a Star Wars or Mad Max movie. The system’s laser beam has to be kept directly on the incoming drone for roughly five seconds while the intruder is within 3 kilometers (1.86 miles), Raytheon officials said. 

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Marines to Buy 18 ER Reaper Drones.

The Marine Corps plans to buy a total of 18 extended range variants of the MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle to operate in support of distributed maritime operations and expeditionary base operations, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the Seapower website

The Corps currently operates two MQ-9As in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

“We will procure 16 more for a total of 18,” said Lieutenant General Eric Smith, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on March 18. “That’s three [VMU] squadrons of six [each],” he added

The Reapers — built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems — have the Block 5-20 upgrades, which will be updated because of the system’s open architecture and will be able “to keep pace with or outpace the threat,” Smith said. He noted that the Reapers have on board “systems that give both inflight protection and protection from tampering.”

Smith said the Reapers could operate from a variety of locations, including the continental United States, Hawaii, Guam, or a partner nation.

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Gray Eagle Milestone

The family of Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) surpassed one million flight hours March 16 during U.S. Army flight operations, according to the big drone’s manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

The first flight of an early variant of the Gray Eagle occurred in March 2004. Since that first flight, General Atomics and the U.S. Army have fielded over 250 Gray Eagle-type aircraft — including the new Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) aircraft. Over 80 percent of the 1 million flight hours supported deployed operations with a better than 90 percent Mission Capable Rate, General Atomics said.

The GE-ER UAS is a 40-hour endurance aircraft with increased payload capacity, reliability and maintainability over the legacy MQ-1C Gray Eagle first fielded in 2009.

GE-ER is being further enhanced under The U.S. Army’s modernization program is enhancing the GE-ER to incorporate leading-edge technology for standoff survivability, while expanding the payload capabilities to include Air Launched Effects (ALEs) and long-range sensors for stand-in effects. The upgraded UAS will be powered by a new 200-horsepower Enhanced Heavy Fuel Engine and dual 7.5 kilowatt brushless generators to enable the growing capabilities needed by commanders in the future Multi-Domain Operations environment.


General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) (General Atomics photo)
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Schiebel Camcopter S-100

Austrian drone-maker Schiebel says it is the first Unmanned Air System (UAS) operator in Europe to receive the Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC) for its Camcopter S-100 from Austrian aviation authorities. Under new European Union (EU) rules, Schiebel is the first UAS operator in Europe to successfully demonstrate and meet the requirements for the certification by its national aviation authority, Austro Control.

Schiebel was issued the LUC on February 25, 2021. It enables the company to self-authorise operations, within the defined scope and privileges, in civil airspace without applying for authorization from aviation authorities. Schiebel’s  operations include commercial drone flights, test flights as well as training flights for pilots. The LUC, which is also valid in the EU and EASA member states,  opens further opportunities to flying in civil airspace, the company said.

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Northrop Grumman MC-4C Triton.

Northrop Grumman Corp.’s business unit, Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., recently clinched a contract to support the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The deal was awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command, at Patuxent River, Maryland, according to the NASDQ website.


Under the $82 million contract, Northrop Grumman Systems will provide sustainment, engineering, logistics, test, mission control and operator training systems support for MQ-4C Triton high altitude, maritime surveillance drones. The contract estimated to be completed in March 2022 will serve the U.S. Navy and Australian army.

It also includes procurement of field service representatives and technical support to ensure that MQ-4C Tritons are mission-capable for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions supporting Triton’s early operational capability and initial operating capability, according to Defense Industry Daily.  Work will take place in Maryland and California and Florida.

March 25, 2021 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (March 19, 2021)

The Color of Water.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Danny Gonzalez) CLICK on photo to enlarge.

U.S. Marines with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and Navy Sailors navigate a combat rubber raiding craft after launching from the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Ashlandduring an exercise in the Philippine Sea on February 24, 2021.

The 31st MEU is operating aboard the ships of Amphibious Squadron 11 in the 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with ally and partner militaries in the Indo-Pacific Region.

March 19, 2021 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (March 12, 2021)

Tree Talk.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Aaron Schaeper) Click on photo to enlarge image.

A member of the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) prepares a sniping position with Guatemalan Special Forces operator prior to a training exercise in Guatemala, March 3, 2020.While it has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in previous years, the 7th Special Forces Group focuses on Latin America (except for Mexico) as it’s area of operations.

The 7th SFG traces its heritage back to the 1st Special Service Force on 9 July 1942 at Camp William Harrison, Montana. This specialized Canadian-American unit was organized and trained to conduct commando raids against Nazi Germany’s fledgling nuclear weapons capability in the Scandinavian region of occupied Europe. However, the unit was diverted to the campaign in the Aleutian Islands, where they were confronted by not only Japanese, but the brutal arctic climate. Upon successful culmination of the Aleutian Campaign, the Special Service Force was transferred to the European theater. They fought with distinction in both southern France and Italy, where they earned the nickname “The Devil’s Brigade.”

The soldier on the right is wearing what is known as a ghillie suit.   Worn by civilian hunters and military snipers, the ghillie suit is designed to look like heavy foliage in a forest or field. It was originally developed by Scottish gamekeepers as a portable hunting blind and first adopted for war in 1916. The name derives from a Scottish word for “lad” or “servant.”

March 12, 2021 at 1:08 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: International Women’s Day 2021

Women’s Day.

March is Women’s History Month but today, Monday, March 8, 2021 is International Women’s Day.

We thought we’d mark this special occasion with some news, and four pictures that are worth a thousand words.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, Air Mobility Command chief (right) learns the features of an all-terrain vehicle in 2020 at Travis Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant David W. Carbajal)

On March 6, the White House announced a slate of nominees to lead a trio of U.S. combatant commands — including two women whose nominations were previously held up over concerns they would not be approved by then-President Donald Trump.

According to Defense News, Air Force General Jacqueline Van Ovost, who took over Air Mobility Command in August, has been nominated to lead U.S. Transportation Command, which oversees .

Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, commanding general of U.S. Army North speaks with fire fighters and soldiers during the 2020 wildland fire in California’s Mendocino National Forest.  (U.S. Army photo by Specialist Michael Ybarra)

And Army Lieutenant General Laura Richardson, currently the head of U.S. Army North, has been nominated for a fourth star and to take over U.S. Southern Command.

And below are some photos from the Defense Department website, showing the numerous roles women play in today’s U.S. armed forces. Click on all photos to enlarge the image.

(U.S. National Guard photo by Army Chief Master Sergeant David H. Lipp)


Master Sergeant Jennifer Freeman, a member of the first female biathlon team from the North Dakota National Guard, takes aim at range targets during the Chief National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships at the Camp Ripley Training Center, near Little Falls, Minnesota on February 24, 2021.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Kevin G. Rivas)

U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Kylee Daitz, a field artillery officer, with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division, trains as a joint fire observer during exercise Winter Fury 21 at Camp Roy W. Burt, California on January 29, 2021. Joint fire observers are responsible for requesting, controlling, and adjusting close air support fire such as artillery, mortars, and naval surface gunfire.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sergeant Matt Hecht)

Army Sergeant Kendra Hallett, left, receives the Covid-19 vaccine from Air Force Technical Sergeant Deborah Macalalad of the 108th Medical Group, New Jersey Air National Guard, on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, February 21, 2021.


(U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Gabrielle Huezo)

Quartermaster 3rd Class Makayla Roney and Quartermaster 2nd Class Stephanie Torres stand quartermaster of the watch aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams ( on February 25 2021. The Williams is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific.

March 8, 2021 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (March 5, 2021)

Combat Yoga.

(U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Casey Hustin, 17th Field Artillery Brigade) CLICK on photo to enlarge image.

Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in the state of Washington, use their lunch time for a combat mobility yoga session February 26, at 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment headquarters. While combat yoga sounds like an oxymoron, it’s helping Soldiers prevent injuries and deal with fatigue and chronic pain — with the potential of saving the Army millions of dollars in medical bills for the active duty force.

In a planned cultural shift, the Army last year formalized a holistic health and fitness (H2F) program that will consolidate and overhaul existing programs and events — such as the Army Physical Fitness Test, the Ready and Resilient Campaign, physical readiness training (PRT), and Army wellness centers.

Yoga sessions are designed to improve overall mental wellness and increase core strength and mobility. Yoga is just part of the plan. The key is to prevent injuries and increase lethality.

As of February 2019, more than 56,000 Soldiers were non-deployable –a number comparable to more than 13 brigade combat teams.  In 2018, more than half of all Soldiers were injured at some point, and 71% of those injuries were lower extremity micro-traumatic musculoskeletal “overuse” injuries. The 2018 report also reported more than 12 percent of Soldiers had some form of sleep disorder and 17 percentof active-duty Soldiers were obese, both of which can lead to an injury.

In other words, how Soldiers trained, in and out of the gym, was yielding counterproductive results. This health care burden wasn’t just impacting operational readiness, but the musculoskeletal injuries racked up half a billion dollars of patient care costs among active-duty Soldiers, according to the Army News Service..

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, studies show that nearly 45 percent of soldiers and 50 percent of veterans experience pain regularly, according to a 2018 article in Yoga Journal.  And there’s a significant correlation among chronic pain, PTSD, and post-concussive symptoms such as fatigue, poor balance, sleep disturbances, and depression (meaning, if you have one, you’re more likely to experience one or more of the others), the article noted..

Over the past two decades, a series of clinical trials backed by a growing catalog of scientific evidence persuaded high-level Defense Department health care experts to accept yoga and meditation as legitimate treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain management, and much more the Yoga Journal noted.

March 4, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment


March 2021


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