About Defense Tech

Defense Tech examines the intersection of technology and defense from every angle and provides analysis on what’s ahead.

Tip Us Off

Tip for Defense Tech?

SEND IT!

It’s Confidential!

Archive for December, 2008

The H&K IAR Revealed

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

H&K-IAR-web.jpg

I just got some information on the Heckler and Koch bid for the Marine Corps Infantry Automatic Rifle.

You can see the picture here and below, check out the stats:
IAR specs

Publish at Scribd or explore others: Technology weapons rifle

To me, it basically looks like a 416 with a longer barrel and more robust butt stock. I will say that troops love the H&K box magazines for their lack of hangups in when feeding on burst fire.

Thing is, I hope the deck isn’t stacked against FN and H&K because of Colt’s submission of two weapons. I have absolutely nothing against Colt or its IAR variants (though for some reason they declined to provide me with any details of their weapons for DT or Military​.com), I just for once want to see a free and fair competition for the Corps’ new version of the BAR (though in 5.56, much to many’s chagrin)…Without any ole boy networking or bias.

We’ll see though, huh?

– Christian

The Little Bot that Could

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

zippermast.jpg

Here’s a pretty interesting piece of defense tech sent over by DT reader Travis the other day about an innovative mast system that can be used in unmanned ground vehicles that allows the diminutive bots to see over high walls.

The so called Situational Awareness Mast uses a patented interlock system that differentiates it from telescoping masts that take up a lot of room and weight when stowed, thereby limiting their extension height.

Here’s what Hizook blog said about it…

The Situational Awareness Mast (SAM, also known as a Zipper Mast) from Geosystems Inc. is a telescoping linear actuator that has a unique property — it’s stroke length is an order of magnitude greater than its nominal height! For example, the SAM8 is a 10 lb device with a stroke length (8ft) that is 24 times it’s nominal height (4 inches)! This can be used to vertically translate a robot’s sensor suite for better visibility while still allowing for a low profile. Read on for information on the different Zipper Mast variants, the patent describing the system, and an exclusive video of a Zipper Mast on an iRobot Packbot!

Be sure to check out Hizook for more details on how Geosystems accomplishes the low-profile boom. They’ve got pics from the patent and other schematics. As with UAVs, UGVs are beginning to come into their own and I know from personal experience they’re a potential lifesaver on a battlefield strewn with IEDs, mines and other boobie traps.

And here’s a video of the system that best explains how it works.

Geosystems Situational Awareness Mast (aka Zippermast) from Travis on Vimeo

– Christian

Keeping Marines Off the Beach

Monday, December 29th, 2008

beach-assault.jpg

As the new administration takes office, the defense budget will come under extensive scrutiny. A recent editorial in The New York Times entitled “How to Pay for a 21st-Century Military” calls for a halt to the F-22 Raptor fighter, the DDG 1000 Zumwalt–class destroyer, SSN 688 Virginia–class submarines, and MV-22 Osprey programs, among others.

Some “big dollar” programs could be cut, in part to demonstrate the seriousness of the Obama administration to reform the U.S. military establishment. But there will be many programs at risk that have less visibility. One of the leading candidates for cancellation is the long-gestating Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), the advanced “amtrac” that has been under development for almost two decades.

The Marine Corps now has ten of the EFVs — that designation being assigned in 2003 to replace the more prosaic but useful AAAV — Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle, which in turn replaced the LVT — Landing vehicle Tracked — designation in 1982.

The EFV can carry 17 Marines on land or sea, at a speed up to 45 mph on land and about 25 knots at sea.  The EFVs range is 325 miles on land and 65 nautical miles at sea.

But those specifications are the “rub.” How does the EFV fit into the Marines Corps concept of Operational Maneuver From The Sea (OMFTS)? That concept calls for launching an assault from 25 to 100 nautical miles from the objective — which may be an inland location, such as an airfield, capital, or military base. Recent studies by the Defense Science Board (DSB) and Naval Research Advisory Committee (NRAC) call for amphibious ships to stand offshore at least 50 miles because of the threat of land-launched cruise missiles (as struck the Israeli frigate Hanit operating off the Lebanese coast in 2006).

Thus, launching an assault from 25 or more nautical miles offshore would see the assault troops flown in by MV-22 tilt-rotor STOVL aircraft and CH-46E and CH-53E helicopters, the former at more than 300 mph and the helicopters at more than 100 mph. And, of course, they could land troops on an inland objective.

Follow-up equipment that was not air landed would be brought ashore by Air Cushion Landing Craft (ACLC), with a new design being developed, and the few remaining LCU landing craft.

Where does the EFV fit in? It cannot be launched from more than about 30 miles offshore because of its limited waterborne range if it is to return to the launching ship; it could be launched farther out if it is to then climb ashore and operate as a personnel carrier. And, even at 30 miles the transit time would be more than an hour, or longer if the seas are rough. If too rough, of course, the EFVs could not be employed.

(more…)

The Rule of Thumbs

Monday, December 29th, 2008

USBdevice.jpg

No one would dispute how convenient thumb drives are, or how theyve made the transfer of files form one machine to another so easy. These drives offer numerous advantages over other portable storage devices. They are more compact, and operate much faster. The new thumb drives using USB 2.0 operate faster than an optical disc drive, while storing a larger amount of data in a much smaller space.

They also have no moving parts, making them more robust than mechanical hard drives. These types of drives use the USB mass storage standard, supported by modern operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and other Unix-like systems. However, that convenience comes with risk.

FACT: The flash-memory market was until recently one of the fastest-growing segments of the global semiconductor industry. The total worldwide revenue of the market in 2008 is estimated to be about $12 billion.

The recent news of this significant cyber incident at the Pentagon has called into question the use of thumb drives. According to one report, senior military leaders said the malware infection incident affected the U.S. Central Command networks. This incident included systems both in the headquarters and in the combat zones. Thumb drives are reportedly banned within the U.S. Department of Defense. The ban comes after they were identified as the most likely point of compromise that transferred what has been termed a global virus according to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. Inside sources leaked a message distributed to employees saying that all flash drives, whether purchased or provided by the Department of Defense, would be confiscated.

This is a problem not just for DoD, but for all computer users, so tell us about your use of thumb drives.

– Kevin Coleman

More Drilling Down on the NYT

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

NYT logo.gif
This was forwarded to us by our friend Winslow Wheeler who writes:

With a Comptroller, William Lynn, who outdid all of his predecessors and successors with the most populous and preposterous budget gimmicks post-Cold War Pentagon spending has seen, with a level of spending that out-did the plan left on the table by that penny-pincher Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, and a level of shrunken, aging forces unready to fight, the Clinton era was the absolute low for post-World War II Pentagon management, up to then. That it was outdone by the mangling of the Bush years — even today — is no reason to think that a return to the precepts of Clinton-esque defense thinking is a good idea.

The New York Times would seem to disagree. While it does not say so explicitly, the Times’ editorial of December 21, “How to Pay for a 21st Century Military,” articulates all the shallow, even gimmick-laden, thinking about DOD management that characterized the Clinton era in the Pentagon in the 1990s. To some it will sound good, if you are unfamiliar with the more detailed facts buried under piles of press releases from think-tanks, members of Congress, and manufacturer brochures, but what the NY Times is really advocating is business as usual with a cosmetic veneer of reform.

This argument is clearly and strongly articulated by a Pentagon insider who has seen it all before and who has demonstrated frequently the character and insight to call it as it is. Franklin (“Chuck”) Spinney wrote for “CounterPunch” an important and informative analysis of the NY Times’ vision of the past guised as Pentagon reform for the 21st Century. Here it is:

Hackneyed Thinking and the Status Quo

The New York Times Flames Out in Defense Dogfight

By CHUCK SPINNEY
Counterpunch (http://​www​.counterpunch​.org/​s​p​i​n​n​e​y​1​2​2​3​2​0​0​8​.​h​tml)

The 21 Dec 2008 editorial in The New York Times, “How To Pay For A 21st-Century Military” purports to advocate tough-minded pragmatism to reform a Pentagon that is clearly out of control. Yet its logic is really another example of the kind of hackneyed thinking that serves to protect the status quo. It also suggests indirectly why the mainstream media are in such trouble.

The editors of the Times present a cut list that includes terminating the F-22, the DDG-1000, the Virginia class attack submarine, the V-22 Osprey, halting premature deployment (not R&D) on ballistic missile defense, cutting nuclear weapons, de-alerting nuclear weapons, cutting two air wings from the active Air Force, and cutting one carrier from the Navy. Some of these recommendations make a lot of sense, but even if one assumes unrealistically that there is no cost growth elsewhere and there are no contract termination costs or base closing costs, the cutbacks would “save” $20 to $25 billion. While $25 billion may sound impressive, bear in mind, the upcoming Defense Department’s core budget could be as high as $580 billion in Fiscal Year 2010, according to news reports.

Put another way, even if we believe in the vanishingly small probability of a best case scenario with no cost growth or contract termination costs, these cuts would reduce the defense budget Mr. Obama is about to inherit by only a little over four per cent — and that would be a reduction from a budget level that the editors say is bloated, because the defense budget was increased recklessly by 40 per cent in inflation-adjusted terms since 2001 (not including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).

Furthermore, the editors at the Times do not even want to pass on this piddling amount to the taxpayers or Mr. Obama’s infrastructure program, because they say that the “savings” should be plowed back into the Pentagon to increase the size of the Army and Marine ground forces, to buy the Navy’s littoral combat ship, and to resupply the National Guard and Reserve forces. But then they conclude by observing that the era of unlimited budgets is over and that Secretary Gates must make procurement reform a priority.

This is very peculiar logic. And it is made even more bizarre by what the editors of the Times did not say. Consider please just a few things they forgot to mention:

(more…)

President Bush Reflects

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

From all of us here at Defense Tech, we’d like to wish you all a merry Christmas.

– Christian

SOCOM Pack Program Winners

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

granite-gear.jpg

While there still is no official announcement, Granite Gear and their partner Montgomery Marketing Inc have announced that they have captured at least some of the SOCOM Pack program. Two packs were out for competition and they have won the Patrol Pack category with their 2400 cubic inch Raid pack and they will begin manufacturing within 60 days.

Mystery Ranch, long thought to be the leader in the large Recce Ruck category has won and will be offering a custom design based on their internal frame technology.

Congratulations to both Granite Tactical and Mystery Ranch!

The Granite Tactical Gear line is currently available from Extreme Outfitters. Mystery Ranch information can be accessed here.

Picture from Extreme Outfitters.

– Soldier Systems

Multicam on the Loose

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

multicam-afghanistan.jpg

I just took a closer look at the picture I used for the post on SOF surge in Afghanistan. Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?

Here’s the caption that accompanied the picture on the Army’s own Web site:

Detachment in Afghanistan

Photo by Sgt. David N. Gunn

December 15, 2008

Members of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) recon the remote Shok Valley of Afghanistan where they fought an almost seven-hour battle with terrorists in a remote mountainside village.

Awesome!

– Christian

Commando Surge for The Stan

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

oda-surge.jpg

My boy Gordon Lubold called me and told my his paper, the Christian Science Monitor, finally ran his story on a surge of SF for Afghanistan and the internal debates going on within the community that the current commando force isn’t being used properly, so why send more…

My take is that special operations forces are the best way to mitigate the impact of a “surge” in Afghanistan on the Afghan people. I’d rather have more culturally astute commandos rubbing shoulders with xenophobic Afghans than some specialist from the 10th Mountain Division.

Let’s see how Gordon reports it…

The Pentagon is likely to send up to 20 Special Forces teams to Afghanistan this spring, part of a new long-term strategy to boost the Afghan security forces’ ability to counter the insurgency there themselves.

The “surge” of elite Special Forces units would represent a multiyear effort aimed at strengthening the Afghan National Army and police units that the US sees as key to building up Afghanistan’s security independence, say defense officials who asked to remain anonymous because the controversial decision has not yet been announced. The US already plans to send thousands of additional conventional forces to Afghanistan sometime next year. But it is hamstrung by limited availability since so many of those forces are still in Iraq.

The deployment of the Green Berets, the independent, multifaceted force skilled at training indigenous forces, could fill critical gaps in Afghanistan almost immediately, defense officials say.…

…However, the proposal is controversial. The plan is being pushed by Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, the so-called war czar under President Bush, who is poised to release a set of recommendations for how to reverse the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan in coming days. Defense officials say General Lute believes the deployment of the Green Berets could go a long way toward making up for a significant shortfall in the number of troops needed in the region.

Yet many within the tightly knit Special Forces community say the Special Forces teams already in use in Afghanistan should be employed far more effectively before any new teams, which number about a dozen men each, are deployed.

“I just don’t think it’s a very good use of the units if they are not going to be doing combat advising in an effective way,” says one Special Forces officer with recent experience in Afghanistan. “I don’t know any Special Forces who think that’s really what we need over there.”

“Textbook” operations for Special Forces dictates that the 12-man teams, known as Operational Detachment Alpha teams, or ODAs, should be paired with units of at least a few hundred Afghan security force soldiers.

But in many cases, the Green Berets are paired with much smaller groups of Afghan forces, sometimes even one-on-one. In other cases, they are used to man checkpoints, say some Special Forces officers.

Critics worry that Lute’s plan is to simply send more Special Forces units to Afghanistan without a coherent plan to support them. “Don’t just throw ODAs out there as an answer,” says another senior officer. “That’s just the easy, lazy answer out there.”

There are other gripes with the way the teams now deployed to Afghanistan are being used.

Too few of the Special Forces teams are partnered with Afghan forces for longer than, say, a month at a time, creating an unsustainable and unproductive training relationship that runs counter to Special Forces doctrine.

Special Forces officers blame the problems on a lack of a coherent strategy for using the Green Berets in Afghanistan. Others say some Special Forces teams operate under NATO commanders from other countries and don’t know how to employ the teams properly.

Perhaps most significant, Special Forces officers and experts say it would be a waste of time and resources to send additional Special Forces teams to Afghanistan unless there is a “surge” of helicopters, remote-controlled aircraft for surveilling the enemy, and other “enablers” to allow the teams that are there now to be more effective.

Roger Carstens, a retired Special Forces officer who is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington, visited Afghanistan a couple months ago and asked members of the Special Forces community what they thought about “surging” Special Operations Forces.

“Everyone of them said ‘no SOF surge,’” he says. “What they need is an enabler surge and enduring partnerships with Afghan military and police units,” he says.

Adm. Eric Olson, the senior commander of US Special Operations Command, Tampa, Fla., is expected to convey the concerns of the special operations community to Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of US Central Command.

The proposal would also include the creation of a new Special Forces command position, to be filled by a one-star general in Afghanistan this spring, whose job it will be to marshal resources to ensure the Special Forces units are employed properly.

The Afghan National Army, the pride of the country’s budding national security apparatus, and the Afghan National Police, which is still seen as largely corrupt and weaker, need help to build up into a larger, more effective force.

Ultimately, the US would like to see at least 134,000 soldiers trained and ready to provide for their own country’s security.

But trainers have been hard to come by, and the mix of foreign and US forces has muted the training effort, US defense officials say.

– Christian

Iraq Success

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

surge-success.jpg

Can we please now say that the “Cut and Run”-ers were dead wrong. That America could be successful in Iraq and that it wasn’t the Sunnis who did it; it was Americans who supported an unpopular “surge” strategy that proved to be the real solution to the security problem…

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — The number of daily attacks in Iraq has dropped nearly 95 percent since last year, a U.S. military official said yesterday.

Iraq suffered an average of 180 attacks per day this time last year. But over the past week, the average number was 10, Army Brig. Gen. David G. Perkins, a Multi-National Force Iraq spokesman, said.

“This is a dramatic improvement of safety throughout the country,” Perkins told reporters during a wide-ranging news conference in Baghdad yesterday.

He added that the country’s murder rates have dropped below levels that existed before the start of American operations in Iraq. In November, the ratio was 0.9 per 100,000 people.

– Christian