Posts tagged ‘Disaster Relief’

WEAPONRY AND EQUIPMENT: Modern Day Marine Conference

Monster “Trucks”

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, VIRGINIA — We went south of Washington this week for a first-time visit to the Modern Day Marine (MDM) expo and confrence.

Photo courtesy of Modern Day Marine Military Exposition

Photo courtesy of Modern Day Marine Military Exposition

Unlike massive military and industry conferences like the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space in April and the Association of the U.S. Army gathering next month in Washington, Modern Day Marine is held outdoors (in large air conditioned tents) instead of in a huge convention center. Even the panel discussions conducted by Marine Corps brass are held in a very big tent with folding chairs on temporary flooring.

At the first panel discussion, several generals and a couple of colonels talked about the importance of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), pronounced MAGTAF. It’s the Corps’ basic expeditionary force that can put Marines ashore via landing craft, helicopters —  or both — as part of a rapid response to a crisis. We’ll discuss this more over the weekend.

But we want to get to the four monster amphibious vehicles on display facing each other in one of the expo’s big tents.

For years the Marine Corps has been looking for a replacement for its aging Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV), a tracked landing craft that has been around since the 1970s. Five companies are competing for the contract to build the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) to replace the AAV.

The original planned replacement vehicle, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), was cancelled in 2011 by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates for being too expensive and behind schedule.

Now the Marines are looking for a big vehicle that can carry at least 10 Marines (beside an operating crew of three), get them to the beach from a ship as much as 12 nautical miles off shore, at a speed of at least 6 knots. The ACV will have to be as rugged and protective as a tank but be able to carry troops far inland quickly, if necessary.

Lockheed Martin's entry n ACV competition. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Lockheed Martin’s entry in the ACV competition.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Lockheed Martin unveiled its offering for the first time on Tuesday (September 22). Like all of the others on display, it is an 8×8 behemoth. The desert tan vehicle can carry as many as 13 Marines as well as a three-person crew.

BAE Systems, which makes the current AAV, is hoping to replace it with its entry displayed in forest camouflage colors.

BAE Systems ACV entry. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

BAE Systems ACV entry.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

Science Applications International Corporation, better known as SAIC, had its gray Terrex 2 vehicle on display. The Terrex can carry 11 passengers plus a crew of three.

SAIC ACV on display at Modern Day Marine. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

SAIC ACV on display at Modern Day Marine.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Last but not least was a solid green 8X8 from General Dynamics.

The General Dynamics entry in the Marines' ACV competition. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

The General Dynamics entry in the Marines’ ACV competition.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Also in the hunt for the ACV program — but not at MDM — is a team consisting of of Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems and St Kinetics, a Singapore company.

The Marines are expected to select two vehicles from the five offerings in November. Each company will then provide 16 vehicles to be tested in all types of climes and conditions.

[More on Modern Day Marine this weekend. Stay tuned.]

September 25, 2015 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: S. Korean Team Wins DARPA Robotic Challenge [UPDATE]

Why can’t a Robot be more like a Man?

South Korea's Team Kaist robot DRC-Hubo uses a tool to cut a hole in a wall during the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, June 5-6, 2015, in Pomona, Calif.  (DARPA photo)

South Korea’s Team KAIST robot, DRC-Hubo, uses a tool to cut a hole in a wall during the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, June 5-6, 2015, in Pomona, Calif.
(DARPA photo)

Updates with photos and more details.

A robotics team from South Korea has taken the top prize in a $3.5 million challenge conducted by the Defense Department’s think-outside-the-box research unit.

Team KAIST of Daejon, Republic of Korea, and its robot DRC-Hubo, took first place in the two-day competition that ended Saturday (June 6), as well as the top prize of $2 million.  Two American teams, from Florida and Pennsylvania took second and third place. More than 10,000 spectators turned out for the challenge at the former Los Angeles County Fairgrounds — now known as the Fairplex — in Pomona, California.

Sponsored by the Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the DARPA Robotics Challenge brought 23 teams from six countries together for a two-day competition of robot systems capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters. The idea, first promoted by DARPA in 2012, was a response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster the previous year following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Small, tracked robots were able to enter damaged nuclear facilities to monitor radioactivity and provide video of areas too dangerous for humans to enter. But those robots lacked the ability to shut down equipment, get around debris or climb stairs to upper levels in the facility.

Carnegie Mellon University's CHIMP robot (DARPA photo)

Carnegie Mellon University’s CHIMP robot opens a door.
(DARPA photo)

Your 4GWAR editor first wrote about the challenge for Unmanned Systems magazine in November 2012.

According to DARPA program manager and DRC organizer Gill Pratt, the challenge was designed to be extremely difficult. Participating teams had a very short time period to collaborate and develop the hardware, software, sensors, and human-machine control interfaces to enable their robots to complete a series of disaster response-related challenge tasks selected by DARPA. The tasks for each robot included: driving a vehicle alone for 100 meters; walking through rubble; tripping electrical circuit breakers; using a tool to cut a hole in a wall; turning valves and climbing stairs.

There were a dozen teams from the United States and 11 more from Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and China (Hong Kong).

South Korea's Team KAIST after winning the DARPA Robotics Challenge. DARPA photo)

South Korea’s Team KAIST claims their $2 Million prize after winning the DARPA Robotics Challenge.
(DARPA photo)

The winner, Team KAIST, is from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Their robot was called Hubo for humanoid robot. Coming in second, and winning a $1 million prize was Team IHMC Robotics of Pensacola, Florida. IHMC stands for the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition. Their robot was called Running Man. In third place, and earning a $500,000 prize was a team from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh — Team Tartan Rescue. Their robot was called CHIMP for CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform.

All the competitors had to drive Polaris Industries’ limited edition DARPA Polaris Ranger XP900 and GEM electric vehicles for the the robot driving part of the DRC Finals.

Click on the photos to enlarge the image. To see more photos of the competition, click here.

To see videos of the DRC, including when Team KAIST won, click here.

June 11, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigerian Army; Boko Haram Update;

Army Purge Planned.

Nigerian troops as part of international peacekeeping mission in Mali 2013. (French Ministry of Defense photo)

Nigerian troops as part of international peacekeeping mission in Mali 2013.
(French Ministry of Defense photo)

Nigeria’s army, long criticized for being ineffectual against the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, while killing far too many civilians, is set to scrutinize itself and purge ineffectual or cowardly soldiers, several new organizations report.

The army intends to purge soldiers it determines to be unfit to carry out their constitutional mandate, a spokesman told Voice of America. Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman said the army will enforce discipline and professionalism among its ranks as the fight against Boko Haram continues. “Most of them were charged with offenses that border on cowardice, aiding the enemy, as well as desertion in the face of the enemy,” said Usman.

He said the process is detailed and unbiased — not an ethnic nor religious purge — and it will ensure soldiers uphold the agreement they signed before joining the army.

At least 200 soldiers have been dismissed for cowardice and failure to fight against Boko Haram militants, the BBC reported. Several soldiers told the British network that up to 4,500 other rank and file soldiers could be dismissed.

Usman, the army spokesman, told VoA there are three layers of the investigation: a board of inquiry, followed by a military police investigation. Then the directorate of army legal services reviews all the cases and advises what action to take, said Usman — including summary trial.

About 1.5 million people have been displaced and hundreds more abducted since Boko Haram launched its violent uprising in 2009, according to the BBC. More than 15,500 people have been killed in the fighting. Boko Haram is still holding many women, girls and children captives including more than 200 school girls kidnapped from a school in Chibok a year ago.

*** *** ***

Boko Haram Roundup.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that Boko Haram fighters killed at least 37 people and destroyed more than 400 buildings in an assault on the town of Gubio in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

(CIA World Factbook map)

The latest attack — which a military source said involved about 50 Boko Haram members storming Gubio — lasted for around five hours on Saturday afternoon (May 23). Reuters news agency reported via Al Jazeera.  Details of such attacks often take a number of days to make their way from affected areas due to poor telecommunications in the remote northeastern region of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation.

The buildings burned by the fighters included eight mosques, four schools and a local government building.

Boko Haram, which captured large swathes of Northeast Nigeria in the past two years, has been driven out of nearly all the territory it captured by a series of offensives waged by Nigeria’s armed forces backed by troops from the neighboring states of Chad, Niger and Cameroon in the past few months.

*** *** ***

In Niger, authorities have detained and charged 643 people since February for their links to Boko Haram, according to Niger Security Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou.

Niger has deployed 3,000 soldiers to a joint regional force formed with Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria to quash the Boko Haram insurgency, Al Jazeera reports.

Several Boko Haram networks and sleeper cells have been dismantled in Niger’s southern Diffa region, which is on the border with Nigeria, since a state of emergency was declared there in February and troops deployed, Massaoudou told Niger’s parliament.  “If this measure [detaining suspects] had not been taken, we could have had an uprising in the very interior of Diffa,” the minister told parliament Tuesday (May 26).

Those arrested and detained have been charged with acts of terrorism and criminal conspiracy, he said. Diffa came under heavy attack in February when Boko Haram, which wants to establish an emirate in northern Nigeria, carried out attacks in neighboring countries.

*** *** ***

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict has condemned Boko Haram for “waging war on women” by repeatedly raping their female captives and treating them as vessels for producing children for fighters.

A group of Nigerian refugees rest in the Cameroon town of Mora after fleeing armed Boko Haram attacks.  (United Nations Photo by Mbaoirem)

A group of Nigerian refugees rest in the Cameroon town of Mora after fleeing armed Boko Haram attacks.
(United Nations Photo by Mbaoirem)

“In this context, sexual violence is not merely incidental, but integral, to their strategy of domination and self-perpetuation,” Zainab Hawa Bangura said in a statement issued Wednesday (May 27).

“In the stories of those recently released from Boko Haram captivity, I hear poignant echoes of the words of the women and girls I met last month in the Middle East, who had been freed from sexual slavery by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),” she said. “In both cases, they describe being treated as chattels to be ‘owned’ and traded, and as vessels for producing children for fighters.”

Her statement was issued a little over a year after the extremist group Boko Haram abducted 276 teenage girls in Chibok, Borno State, in Nigeria. Many of them remain in captivity, along with hundreds of others who have been abducted both before and since.

Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon condemned what he called Boko Haram’s “continuing indiscriminate and horrific attacks” against the civilian populations of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, according to the United Nations.

In a statement released May 22, a UN spokesperson said Ban Ki-Moon is appalled by the continued abductions and use of children as so-called “human bombs,” as well as by testimony that many of the girls and women held by Boko Haram are repeatedly raped while in captivity and compelled to marry their captors as part of the group’s ongoing campaign of forced imprisonment and sexual violence.

“The perpetrators of these despicable acts must be brought to justice,” the Secretary-General declared.

May 27, 2015 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 15, 2015)

Human Need, Human Support.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Ricardo Morales

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Ricardo Morales

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Gomez-Hickman holds a young earthquake victim before loading her into an ambulance at a medical triage area at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal. U.S. Joint Task Force 505, along with other multinational forces and humanitarian relief organizations, is providing aid after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal April 25. U.S. Pacific Command sent JTF 505, at Nepal’s request, to provide unique assistance capabilities — including helicopter search and rescue and mobile emergency medical facilities. (Click on the photo to enlarge the image).

A Marine Corps UH-1Y “Huey helicopter from  Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 went missing May 12 near Charikot, Nepal, while conducting humanitarian assistance. Six Marines and two Nepalese service members were aboard the aircraft, which crashed in the rugged terrain. Wreckage was spotted by Nepalese troops Friday and it is not believed there are any survivors of the accident, according to the Associated Press.

U.S. Marines, airmen, soldiers and sailors have been providing search and rescue, logistical, medical, communications and transportation support to the shattered area along with U.S. AID and State department workers and civilian urban search and rescue teams from California and Virginia. For more details on this humanitarian relief effort, click here.

To see more photos, click here, here and here.





May 15, 2015 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: Droids, Drones and ‘bots Show Opens

Goin’ to the Show.

Busy day on the floor as the Exhibit Hall opens Tuesday. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Busy day on the floor as the Exhibit Hall opens Tuesday.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Updates with new photo, new information on FAA press conferences  and include link to FAA proposed rules. Click on photo to enlarge.

ATLANTA — It’s early May, which to many people means hockey and NBA playoffs, or spring plants sales. But it also means a gathering of those who love machines that can free humans from having to do jobs that are dirty, dull and dangerous.

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International — the folks who design, build, test, buy, sell and operate robots, drones and androids.

About 8,000 people from 55 countries are expected to attend AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2015 conference and expo here in Georgia through Thursday (May 7).

There will be indoor demonstrations of small unmanned aircraft and ground vehicles. Devices showing off their capabilities are slated to include Indago, Lockheed Martin’s five-pound multi-use quad copter and Ontario Drive & Gear’s ARGO J5 extreme terrain-capable unmanned ground vehicle.

Panel discussions include topics like what international opportunities are there for  American unmanned aircraft systems and what kinds of payloads the Pentagon is exploring for unmanned aircraft. Another discussion will address the ethical use of drones and still another will explore emerging commercial markets for unmanned aircraft in the oil and gas industry.

But a hot topic likely to run through the whole week is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed rules for small commercial unmanned aircraft (55 pounds and under).

The FAA’s proposed rules would speed up, somewhat, the glacial pace for getting FAA permission to fly unmanned air systems (UAS) for commercial purposes, such as monitoring crops and livestock or filming movies, TV shows and commercials. But the rule still places restraints on operators’ ability to fly their drones beyond their line of sight — or to fly at night. Farm interests in particular, pushed back on this policy, saying the line of sight rule would make it much harder for a lone farmer to check a large spread economically without multiple drones or assistance.

The FAA hasn’t said what it is going to do next, but they are holding a double press briefing on Wednesday (May 6) presided over by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

May 5, 2015 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

DISASTER RELIEF: U.S. Air Force, Army Special Forces, USAID and Canadian Drone Maker Aid in Nepal Earthquake Relief

Search and Rescue.

Jennifer Massey, Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue K-9 search specialist, Fairfax, Va., and her K-9, Phayu, board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Dover Air Force Base, Del., April 26, 2015. Massey and Phayu are part of a 69-person search and rescue team deploying to Nepal to assist in rescue operations after the country was struck by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Jennifer Massey, a Fairfax County, Va. Urban Search and Rescue K-9 search specialist, and her dog, Phayu, board an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware as part of a 69-person team deploying to Nepal to assist in earthquake rescue operations.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

The U.S. Air Force has sent two large military cargo/transport planes, carrying tons of relief supplies and federal and state disaster response experts, to Nepal to assist in relief and recovery efforts following a massive earthquake that killed thousands and injured thousands more and left still more without food, water or shelter. Two Army Green Beret A-Teams, who were training in the mountainous country when the earthquake hit, are aiding in relief efforts.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the country, high in the Himalayas, Saturday (April 25) killing more than 4,000 in the capital, Kathmandu, and surrounding areas. At least 7,000 people were reported injured and untold thousands more are homeless. Click here to see map of the devastation.

On Sunday (April 26) an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III left Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, bound for Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport, according to a Pentagon spokesman. “The aircraft is transporting nearly 70 personnel, including a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, the Fairfax County (Virginia) Urban Search and Rescue team and several journalists, along with 45 square tons of cargo,” said the spokesman, Army Colonel Steve Warren.

A second C-17 carrying the Los Angeles County (California) Urban Search and Rescue team left a day later from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, flew to March Air Reserve Base, California, to pick up the team and is expected to land in Nepal on Wednesday (April 29), Air Force Times reported.

Twenty-six members of two Army Special Forces teams, who were training in Nepal at the time of the earthquake, are helping Nepal’s military find and help survivors of the devastating earthquake, according to Military Times. One team was in country for high altitude training, so it is helping find survivors in popular trekking trails, including Mount Everest’s base camp.

The United States is also providing an initial $10 million in emergency assistance for relief organizations in Nepal “to further address urgent humanitarian needs,” according to the White House.

The Fairfax, Virginia team — which includes firefighters, paramedics, physicians, canine handlers, communications experts and engineering and construction specialists — have established their Base of Operations in a Baseball Field in Nepal. The Los Angeles County Search and Rescue team will be based with them once they arrive in-country, according to the Fairfax team’s webpage.

Meanwhile, Canadian unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) manufacturer, Aeryon Labs — along with partners GlobalMedic and Monadrone — is deploying three of its small drones to Nepal to aid disaster relief efforts, according to AUVSI News. The drones being sent to Nepal are outfitted with thermal cameras to help locate survivors, and the Aeryon HDZoom30 camera, which has an extended zoom, to look at targets from over 1,000 feet away.

Small unmanned aircraft provide “the unmatched capability to get onsite and into the air immediately to start determining how and where to provide support to the people.” said Rahul Singh, executive director of GlobalMedic.

Click here to see aerial footage from NBC — shot by a drone — of the devastation in Kathmandu, and the Fairfax Urban Search and Rescue team’s travels to Nepal.

U.S. Air Force personnel load pallets of equipment and supplies for victims of the Nepal earthquake into a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at March Air Force Base, California, April 26. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen)

U.S. Air Force personnel load pallets of equipment and supplies for victims of the Nepal earthquake into a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at March Air Force Base, California, April 26.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen)






April 28, 2015 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: DHS Guardians Will Still Be On Job — Without Pay — If Funding Effort Fails

A Matter of Fairness.

Department of Homeland Security seal

Department of Homeland Security seal

If Congress fails to reach an agreement by midnight tonight (Friday, March 27), funding for the Department of Homeland Security will cease.

Pundits, politicians and analysts are quick to point out that the vast majority of DHS employees have been deemed “essential” to national security so the department will not shut down.

There will still be U.S. Border Patrol agents halting people, drugs and weapons smuggling in the Southwest and elsewhere.

There will still be Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel screening passengers and their baggage at more than 400 U.S. airports.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will continue checking people and cargo coming into the United States on trucks, planes and ships – as well as in cars and on foot at border crossings.

The U.S. Coast Guard will continue its myriad tasks ranging from rescuing people at sea to maintaining security at the nation’s ports and harbors to enforcing maritime safety and environmental laws.

The Secret Service will continuing guarding the president and other top officials.

But the 85 percent of the department’s approximately 240,000 workers who required to report for duty if the funding stops will not be paid until Congress passes a DHS appropriations bill.

“What message does this send … that we don’t think enough of you to pay you?” an alarmed Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire asked in a CNN interview today (February 27) as both the Senate and House of Representatives tried to figure a way out of the political tangle touched off by Republicans’ objection to President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

While some say nothing bad will happen if non-essential DHS workers are furloughed – and others argue something terrible could happen, it is obvious that there are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who see political gain in a partial shutdown of DHS: either to make the point that the agency’s budget is bloated or to convince voters the other side don’t care about protecting the nation from terrorism in a time of mounting threats.

Following his presentation at a Border Management industry conference earlier this week, we asked Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher what a partial DHS shutdown would mean for his agency’s mission.

“It impacts our operations, no doubt,” he said. But Fisher was confidant his people could still secure the border. “It’s unfortunate if it comes to that, that they will be working without pay, but I will tell you – in terms of their commitment to border security – on that we’ll not falter.”

Transportation Security Officers will be at their posts if Dept. of Homeland Security funding is interrupted. (TSA photo via Wikipedia)

Transportation Security Officers will be at their posts if Dept. of Homeland Security funding is interrupted.
(TSA photo via Wikipedia)

At the same conference (sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement) TSA Chief of Staff Thomas McDaniels Jr. said the approximately 45,000 airport screeners exempt from being furloughed are required to report for work in the event of a funding halt. He noted the average starting salary for Transportation Security Officers, is $25,000 a year. “So we’re asking our frontline homeland security officials who are not making the most money to go without paychecks,” he said. While they are guaranteed retroactive pay once Congress can come to agreement on a funding bill, McDaniels added, “I think that’s a lot to ask of people who may be living paycheck to paycheck.” The last government shutdown to halt TSA paychecks lasted 17 days, he said, but there was no “significant attrition” after things returned to normal.

Wolf Tombe, CBP’s chief technology officer, told conference attendees that the country is confronting new threats from cyber-attacks and lone wolf terrorists, to disease outbreaks like Ebola. “The threat is evolving. We need to evolve with it, to stay ahead of it,” he said, outlining technologies his office is exploring from wearable sensors and cameras to hand launched surveillance drones to thermometers that can take an arriving air passenger’s temperature from a safe distance of 10 feet.

But if Congress fails to reach a compromise on DHS funding “all this gets shut down,” Tombe told 4GWAR “because I’m not considered essential. So my organization gets furloughed.”

February 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

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