Posts tagged ‘Special Operations’
By Land, Sea or Air.
The military is exploring ways that unmanned systems, from helicopters to submarines, can be used to transport supplies in hostile or dangerous areas.
Last year, Lockheed Martin and Kaman’s unmanned K-MAX helicopter returned from nearly three years of transporting cargo for the Marine Corps in Afghanistan — the first unmanned helicopter to do so.
With their supply truck convoys frequent targets of roadside bombs and insurgent attacks, the Marines were looking for a safer alternative. K-MAX’s cargo transportation was able to take an estimated 900 trucks off the road and their drivers and escorts out of harm’s way.
But transporting supplies isn’t limited to unmanned aircraft. Manned ground vehicles–from small, rugged all-terrain vehicles to heavy cargo trucks are being converted into autonomously operating vehicles.
The same is true of the optionally manned Proteus, a dual mode underwater vehicle that can deliver special operations forces swimmers or their equipment and supplies to shore from a submerged submarine.
Originally developed by as a swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV) for up to six Navy SEALS, Proteus, a massive 8,000-pound submersible, is now being leased by the Navy for testing as a dual mode vehicle that can operate as manned SDV or a cargo-carrying unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV). “The idea of using it as an unmanned mule is very feasible,” says George Geoghegan, maritime systems manager for Battelle — which together with shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries — owns and operates Proteus.
The almost 26-foot-long Proteus has 170 cubic feet of space in its cargo area and exterior side rails that can carry bulkier cargo, although the maximum total payload is limited to 1,100 pounds. Cargo will either have to be sealed in watertight packaging or be water resistant because the cabin is flooded when underway as part of its original mission: to allowing divers to enter and exit the vehicle while submerged. But that also means there’s more room for payload.
Powered by 20 lithium polymer batteries that weigh about 100 pounds each when underway, Proteus has a range of about 350 nautical miles at an energy-saving low speed of 3 knots, and a maximum speed of 9 knots fully-loaded, according to Geoghegan. Like an SDV, Proteus can be transported to a denied area in the dry deck shelter of a submarine. It can work at depths of 150 feet when manned, 200 feet unmanned.
Unmanned, the vessel can be pre-programmed to run underwater from point to point but it does not have obstacle avoidance capability. However, Geoghegan says that’s just another payload that can be added.
Polaris Defense offers their entire line of rugged ground vehicles as capable of manned or unmanned operation. “We build our vehicles with the ability to be optionally unmanned. And it’s everything from tele-operated to fully unmanned,” said General Manager Rich Haddad, adding “we’re not an autonomy company. We’re agnostic about whose autonomy package goes on the vehicle.”
But the company has acquired a ground guidance software package called Primordial “that could easily morph into a mission planning type of capability. We are integrating that into our vehicle but it is not in itself an autonomy package,” Haddad said.
Polaris supplies a range of all terrain vehicles for elements of U.S. Special Operations Command.
Polaris supplied the ground vehicles that contestants were required to drive in DARPA’s Robotic Challenge to identify robots that could perform human tasks in disasters. And a Polaris 6×6 vehicle was converted by TORC Robotics into the autonomous and semi-autonomous Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS) that is being studied by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.
To read more on this topic, click here to see our story in Military Logistics Forum magazine’s September issue (pages 8-9).
C.A.R. Violence Continues.
The interim president of Central African Republic (C.A.R.) left the United Nations General Assembly opening in New York early this week because of the worst violence this year has broken out in the nation’s capital, Bangui.
President Catherine Samba-Panza arrived home Wednesday (September 30), according to Reuters (via the Voice of America website), but has yet to make a public statement.
At least 39 people have died in inter-communal clashes, raising doubts about a planned election in mid October.The vote is aimed at restoring democracy to a country following a rebellion and years of turmoil. The violence broke out despite appeals by world leaders and local politicians and the presence of French and United Nations peacekeepers.
Thousands of Central Africans have died and hundreds of thousands remain displaced after two years of violence that erupted after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country in 2013. Seleka abuses sparked reprisals by Christian “anti-balaka” fighters that drove most Muslims from the south in a de facto partition of the country.
Protesters alleged U.N. peacekeepers and French forces did little to intervene in violence Saturday (September 26) and called for the sidelined Central African army, the FACA, to assume responsibility for security, Al Jazeera reported. French and U.N. forces have been trying to halt the violence since first intervening in December 2013. About 900 French soldiers remain in the former French colony, down from about 2,000 last year.
On Tuesday (September 29) United Nations officials continued to voice their concern over the situation – where more than 30 people have been killed, over 100 have been wounded and thousands are seeking shelter amid the recent upsurge in violence. U.N. officials stressed the need for free movement for aid workers to reach those in need.
According to the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSCA), tensions persist in Bangui, which was the scene of attacks against civilians, violence between communities and attacks against humanitarian personnel since a young Muslim man was murdered on Saturday.
“MINUSCA is conducting patrols around critical areas, with the view of protecting civilians, including one Muslim and two Christian districts in Bangui,” U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
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Special Ops in C.A.R.
Amid the violence in the Central African Republic comes news that U.S. special operations forces aiding in the search for the brutal warlord Joseph Kony are camped out “in a lawless enclave” in the C.A.R. on the borders of Sudan and South Sudan,” the Washington Post reports.
Citing military officials and others familiar with the operation, the Post reports the U.S. special operators are dealing with “some unsavory partners to help find Kony’s trail” — the Muslim Seleka rebels, whose brutal actions two years ago spawned the chaos in the C.A.R.
Tht Post said the arrangement has made some U.S. troops uncomfortable. The Seleka rebels “are playing us,” one military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Post. The official described Seleka as a “mafia” that is trying to curry favor with the Americans even as the rebels extort local villagers and engage in illicit trade with Kony’s fugitive fighters.
President Obama first sent U.S. forces to central Africa in 2011 to aid several African militaries hunt Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, which has terrorized Central Africa for more than two decades. Obama will have decide in October whether to reauthorize the deployment and extend it for at least another year.
Several members of Congress think that is exactly what he should do, according to The Hill newspaper. “The United States and other members of the international community must retain our resolve to capture or remove the leaders of the (Lord’s Resistance Army) and any terrorist group the threaten the lives and well being of innocent people worldwide,” said Representative Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican and chairman of the Africa Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat and ranking member on the subcommittee, echoed Smith’s sentiments. Noting that it’s been reported the LRA has dwindled to perhaps as few as small as 200 fighters. “Their intimate knowledge of the inhospitable central African landscapes and total disregard for human life continues to make them a clear and present danger,” she said. Bass called on her colleagues in Congress as well as other U.S. government agencies “to sustain our efforts to rid central Africa of Joseph Kony.”
Staying Ahead of the Threat 2015.
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, VIRGINIA — In the 21st Century, the U.S. Marine Corps will confront a number of challenges, like the hybrid warfare seen in eastern Ukraine and the rise of teeming coastal mega cities around the world, according to a panel of generals and colonels speaking at this year’s Modern Day Marine expo.
In opening the panel discussion on building the future Marine Corps by harnessing innovation, Lieutenant General Robert Walsh noted hybrid warfare was on the rise around the globe in Syria, Iraq and “going on in Ukraine right now.” The hybrid battlefield contains a mix of non-state actors (guerrillas or foreign volunteers) combined with regular military and “state capabilities” like precision weaponry and high tech communications and propaganda methods. “We’ve got to be able to stay ahead of the threat” through innovation, said Walsh, deputy Marine commandant for Combat Development and Integration.
“The new normal was Benghazi,” said Lieutenant General Ron Bailey, deputy commandant for Plans Policies and Operations. As Libya slid into chaos the Marines had to mobilize a special purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force to handle a rapidly disintegrating situation on the ground, in the air and at sea. In the future, Marines will have to be prepared to fight in five battlespaces: air, land, sea, space and cyberspace, Bailey said.
The hybrid warfare in Ukraine “is the reality of the fight we will have to fight” against soldiers in uniforms mixed in with local citizens and volunteers (the so-called Little Green Men, who were believed to be Russian soldiers in mufti). “We need non-lethal weapons that will enable us to fight among the people” and still be able to take out enemy threats, Bailey added.
The future battlefield will probably look nothing like Afghanistan and Iraq, where Marines have been fighting for the last 14 years. Instead, urban areas near the sea and river deltas will be the most likely environment, said another panelist, Brigadier General Dale Alford, commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. And that environment will be “complex, congested, cluttered, contested, connected (with the cyber world), constrained and coastal,” he said. The world population is moving towards the cities and 75 percent of the world’s largest cities are in the developing world – many of them in the littoral areas close to the sea.”That’s where our Marines are going to fight. That’s where we’re going to have to operate,” he added.
Pointing at a slide showing images of recent conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa, Alford noted the Marines will have to deal with challenges like iPADs and Google Earth being used to direct mortar attacks, off-the-shelf unmanned quad copters being used by terrorists and insurgents for surveillance and reconnaissance, MANPADs (shoulder-fired ground- to-air missiles) “in the hands of teenagers.”
Like other panel members, Alford said innovation and new techniques bubble up from below, from junior officers and sergeants and corporals who are in the fight. “We need our young pups out there to innovate and figure out how we’re going to do this,” he added. Panel members also called on industry to provide technical solutions for these new challenges.
A video on the topic, a hot one in NATO circles, is here.
[UPDATES to restore dropped word ‘Corps’ in dateline, expand definition of hybrid war, add detail to “cluttered, coastal environment” explanation and recast headlines to reflect changes.]
Skill, Not Gender.
The U.S. Army announced earlier this month that its elite Ranger School will be open to any female soldiers who meet the criteria.
That announcement came less than a month after two female West Point graduates passed the grueling 61-day program and became the first women awarded the RANGER shoulder tab.
“We must ensure that this training opportunity is available to all soldiers who are qualified and capable and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best soldiers to meet our nation’s needs,” Army Secretary John McHugh said September 2.
“Giving every qualified Soldier the opportunity to attend the Ranger course, the Army’s premier small unit leadership school, ensures we are maintaining our combat readiness today, tomorrow and for future generations,” Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley added.
And now, two U.S. senators are pushing for a resolution honoring the first two women to earn the Ranger tab, according to POLITICO’s Morning Defense. The resolution, honors Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver for “proving that skill, not gender, determines military aptitude and success.” The resolution offered by Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, is backed by 16 other women senators.
In a statement to Morning Defense published Thursday (September 10) Mikulski said “Capt. Griest and First Lt. Haver have shown that women can compete on a level-playing field with men to serve in the defense of our nation. The Army’s recent announcement to permanently open Ranger School for women marks another important step in expanding roles for women in the military. Continued gender integration will improve readiness and help our Armed Forces to recruit the best talent we can throughout all of our services.”
In January, the Army announced that as an experiment, it would open Ranger School for the first time to women, as part of a “Ranger Course Assessment.” That assessment kicked off in April, as part of Ranger Course 06-15. Haver and Griest, who were part of that Ranger School class, eventually graduated the school August 21.
That class started at Fort Benning, Georgia with 381 men and 19 women. The students had to train with minimal food and little sleep while learning how to operate in the woods and mountains of Georgia and coastal swamps of Florida.
Students also had to undergo a physical fitness test that included completing 49 pushups, 59 situps, a 5-mile run in 40 minutes; a swim test; a land navigation test; a 12-mile foot march in three hours, several obstacle courses, four days of military mountaineering, three parachute jumps, four air assaults from helicopters and 27 days of mock combat patrols, according to CNN.
UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: British Strike on ISIS/ISIL; Pakistan’s First In-House Drone Attack; Secret U.S. Drone Campaign [UPDATE]
Updates with new 3rd item item on secret drone campaign against Islamic State, reported by the Washington Post.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for military unmanned aircraft around the world: Britain launched its first drone strike against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) … Pakistan launched the first homegrown drone strike against terrorists within its borders … and a secret U.S. drone campaign in the war against the Islamic State was revealed by the Washington Post.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament Monday (September 7) that he had approved an air strike against a vehicle carrying a British jihadist in Syria. Cameron said the dead man — identified as Reyaad Khan — was plotting attacks against Britain, Reuters reported.
The Hellfire missile strike was launched from an RAF General Atomics Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) remotely piloted from a hi-tech control hub at RAF Waddington, the British newspaper the Daily Mail reported.
Despite the absence of a parliamentary mandate to take military action in Syria, Cameron told MPs that, as an act of self-defence, Khan had been targeted and killed in a Royal Air Force (RAF) precision drone strike in the country. Cameron said that two people traveling with Khan, including another Briton, Ruhul Amin, were also killed. “There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop him,” Cameron said. “We took this action because there was no alternative,” he added, calling the air strike “entirely lawful.”
But the August 21 drone strike has prompted criticism that the government disregarded the intent of a 2013 vote that rejected allowing air attacks against Syrian targets, the New York Times reported. Critics in and out of politics say the Cameron government is on shaky ground in approving the killing of Britons abroad without a full legal process.
But British defense minister Michael Fallon said Tuesday (September 8) Britain will not hesitate to carry out more deadly drone strikes against militants in Syria planning attacks on the United Kingdom, Reuters reported (via Yahoo).
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Also on Monday (September 7) Pakistan said it used its first-ever armed drone in an airstrike that killed three ‘‘high-profile’’ militants near the Afghan border, according to an army statement, the Associated Press reported. The missiles hit a compound in the Shawal valley of the Waziristan tribal region, the army statement said.
No other details have been made available about those killed or whether any civilians were among the victims. The area is not accessible for reporters and aid workers, the Voice of America reported.
Parts of the Waziristan region are still believed to be serving as hideouts for militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban and fugitive commanders of the Taliban insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. The area has been the focus for nearly a decade of a U.S. drone campaign to eliminate extremist bases from the Pakistani border region, and to defuse the threat they pose to coalition and Afghan forces across the border, according to VOA.
The armed drone, called Burraq, was used for the first time since its development in November 2013. Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Bajwa announced the first ever use of the UAV on his Twitter page adding that a terrorist compound was hit and three militants were killed in the air strike carried out by “Burraq,” the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported. However, the newspaper noted that the tweet could not be independently verified “as reporters have limited access to the restive agency.”
The Pakistan Army tested a Burraq armed with laser-guided Barq missile for the first time on March 14, Dawn said. Both th Burraq drone and Barq missile, have been indigenously developed, according to the army.
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The Washington Post reported last week (September 1) that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Special Operations forces have launched a secret campaign to hunt terrorism suspects in Syria. The drone campaign is part of a targeted killing program that is run separately from the broader U.S. military offensive against the Islamic State, according to U.S. officials cited by the Post.
The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are flying drones over Syria in an effort responsible for several recent strikes against senior Islamic State operatives, the officials said. Among those killed was a British militant thought to be an architect of the effort by the terrorist group (also known as ISIS and ISIL) to use social media to incite attacks in the United States, the officials said.
According to the Post the clandestine program represents a significant escalation of the CIA’s involvement in the war in Syria, enlisting the agency’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) against a militant group that many officials believe has eclipsed al Qaeda as a threat. Officials told the Post the program is aimed at terrorism suspects deemed “high-value targets.”
Spokesmen for the CIA and the U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees JSOC, declined to comment. Other officials would discuss the program only on the condition of anonymity, the Post said.
If you saw the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” or read the Stephen Ambrose book on which the show was based, you probably remember the episode depicting the horrorific conditions the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division endured in December 1944 in a Belgian town called Bastogne.
Mentioned in passing in the book and seen very briefly in the television show is a young African-Belgian nurse aiding the wounded pouring in to an aid station that was out of everything from bandages and medicine to anesthetic and nurses.
That nurse, Augusta Chiwy, died Sunday (August 23) near Brussels. She was 94.
The New York Times obituary recounts her amazing wartime experiences as a volunteer civilian nurse in Bastogne when it was surrounded by German troops during the worst winter weather in a century.
The Times also notes that her wartime heroism was largely unknown — or forgotten — until a British writer’s biography of her was published in 2010 under the title: “The Forgotten Nurse.” The daughter of a Belgian veterinarian and a Congolese mother, Ms.Chiwy wasn’t even allowed to care for white soldiers at first until the only remaining Army doctor decided to break the rules and told wounded whites that Ms. Chiwy was a volunteer, adding, “You either let her treat you or you die,” according to the Times.
The book led to Ms. Chiwy receiving the recognition she deserved, including a knighthood by the king of the Belgians. It’s a fascinating story of courage, selflessness and caring. We commend it to your attention.
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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
The Starting Lineup.
Marines wait for the final check of their amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) to begin their training exercise on Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune North Carolina Monday (August 17).
These Marines are with the 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion.