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Archive for September, 2009

The Throw Bot

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Through the years I’ve seen a good deal of ground bots being developed for troops in the zone. But I’ve never seen one as seemingly resilient and simply functional as the Recon Robotics Recon Scout XT.

Weighing in at 1.2lbs and able to withstand a drop from three stories up, the Recon Scout XT can shoot real time video day or night. Its signal goes through walls no problem and the controller is no bigger than a standard company command radio.

So far Army Special Forces and SEALs have some, as well as some civilian law enforcement agencies. Looks like a good piece of gear for Joes and grunts too.

– Christian

The Non-lethal Claymore

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

You gotta love the chutzpah of a company so controversial that they just go ahead and double down with a more aggressive product.

At Modern Day Marine yesterday, Ward and I strolled up to the Taser International booth and I saw this thing that looked like a cross between an electric switching station and a Claymore mine — which is pretty much with this thing is…

Called the SHOCKWAVE, Taser has developed what it calls an “area denial” non-lethal weapon that features up to 18 shocker nodes that can go six-at-a-time or all at once. Standing up to 100 meters away, a trooper on overwatch can zap a bad guy and hold him there jittering on the ground until Joe’s gone over to see why the intruder didn’t have the proper password.

Taser reps tell DT that the system has been tested at full power on a pig who had no ill effects (I asked whether there was some residual BBQ from the test, but was rebuffed with a chuckle) and even a couple Taser employees stepped into the SHOCKWAVE’s path for a go (a reminder: be in the office at 8:30am from now on, okay?).

No word yet on military use, but if the controversy over Taser effects continues, maybe we’ll see F-22’s dropping electro JDAMs soon.

– Christian

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Like the old song says, “Every picture tells a story, don’t it?”

A digital camera being used by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq produces pictures can tell incredibly detailed stories: exact time of day taken, longitude/latitude of both shooter and subject, direction of the camera aim, and even 16 seconds of audio per photo, so that the user can note critical information.

“You get everything you need in three seconds,” said Jim Kidd, vice president of Geo Tactical Solutions of Parker, Colo. Everything is stored on a memory disk and can be turned over to intel officials for analysis. “This way, you get back into the rear and the intel people don’t have you sitting for hours going over what you saw.”

The Ricoh 500SE-M Tactical Digital Camera is the heart of the system. It comes with a GPS capability developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and is compatible with the range of mapping software and programs, including Google Earth and Falcon View, Kidd said.

The camera’s accessories include telescopic lenses, a night-vision lens and a range finder that captures the distance between shooter and target and IDs the target’s exact latitude and longitude. Even on its own, the camera records its own location every five seconds, and specifically notes its lat/long whenever a photo is taken, according to Kidd.

For Marines and Soldiers out on patrol, the camera is a continuously updated log. Once back at base, the disc can be put into a computer and the entire route of the patrol can be superimposed over a zoom-in/zoom-out map, with each spot where a picture clearly marked; a click on the mark and the image appears as a pop-up.

“We’ve got about 1,000 of these downrange right now in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Kidd said.

– Bryant Jordan

High Speed Jarheads

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

A heads up to DT readers out there…

This week is the annual Modern Day Marine Expo at MCB Quantico outside DC. Ward and I will be hitting it today and may do some follow ups later in the week, so stay tuned here for updates and vids and please excuse the delay in posts.

– Christian

Pentagon Pushes For Unblinking Surveillance

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

This article first appeared in Aviation Week & Space Technology.

U.S. plans to deploy an unmanned surveillance airship to Afghanistan are moving forward, with a contract for the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) demonstration expected to be awarded by year-end.

Designed to stay aloft for three weeks carrying a heavy payload of wide-area sensors, the airship is becoming a flagship for Defense Dept. efforts to provide unblinking airborne surveillance to defeat the threat from roadside bombs.

With other programs pushing unmanned aircraft to greater persistence and heavier payloads, the Pentagon is coming to grips with the consequence: a torrent of motion imagery that must be analyzed and archived to be of use.

The Pentagon’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) task force has the LEMV on the fast track, with a single demonstrator vehicle to be fielded to Afghanistan within 18 months of contract award. Congress has fully funded the Fiscal 2010 budget request of $90 million for the program.

U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command (SMDC) is to lead the airship program, contracting with an industry consortium now taking final shape.

The consortium is expected to be established by early October, with a request for proposal to follow in November, leading to contract award by the end of December. The airship would fly within 15 months and deploy by mid-2011.

Exactly how the government will interact with the consortium is not yet clear. There are several potential platform providers involved, including Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works and the U.K.‘s Hybrid Air Vehicles, both of which are expected to brief SMDC on their proposals in October.

The LEMV is required to stay aloft at 20,000 ft. for 21 days carrying a 2,500-lb. payload, a combination of either a multi-camera wide-area airborne surveillance (WAAS) sensor or a ground moving-target indication (GMTI) radar plus a signals-intelligence system and multiple electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors.

Lockheed Martin’s design is a 250-ft.-long hybrid airship, which derives 80% of its lift from helium buoyancy and the rest from aerodynamics so it can be launched and recovered without the traditional airship ground infrastructure. The vehicle will be optionally piloted: manned for self-deployment and unmanned for surveillance missions.

Read the rest of this story, check out where the tanker tango stands, see Iraqi helo grads and ponder the German election from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

SCAR Sighting with SOF

Monday, September 28th, 2009

An alert DT reader spotted this pic of 3rd Btln. 10th Special Forces Group Soldiers training before their deployment at a range in Fort Carson, Colo.

Check out the rifle in this guy’s hand…Mk-16…
3sfg-SCAR.jpg

Also, the funny thing is that the rest of the pictures show SF operators weilding M4s in various modifications. Wonder what you have to do to be the guy that gets the SCAR?

(Gouge: MP)

– Christian

Collaborative Cyber Command

Monday, September 28th, 2009

cyber-curcuit.jpg

Few people would dispute the huge challenge facing the newly formed Cyber Command. Perhaps the greatest of these challenges is in the area of coordination and collaboration. The addition of collaboration and coordination was evident in an organization chart for Cyber Command (marked FOUO) that has been circulating around by regular email (go figure) for a few of weeks now.

The heart of the organization is the Joint Operations Center/Integrated Cyber Center. While details at this level are sparse, it is very easy to mentally visualize this combined nerve center in operations.

Before anyone asks — NO — I won’t publish the chart or send it to anyone.

Anyone who has seen the chart realizes the massive challenge of coordination and collaboration that will be required. Given the magnitude of interaction as illustrated in the organizational chart, one has to wonder about the possibility of delays in decision making and response caused by this organizational design.

At a briefing outside of Washington, I heard an interesting comment about this topic. The comment went something like “Due to the unique characteristics of cyber warfare, what took years now must be done in months, what took months now must be done in days, what took days now must be done in hours and what took hours now must be done in minutes.”

To put this in context the Minute Man III ICBM has a range of over 8,000 miles and travels at 15,000 miles an hour. A cyber weapons has unlimited range and travels at nearly light speed at 186,000 miles per second.

One can clearly see the need for streamlined decision making.

As everyone knows C4ISR stands for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. It appears the time has come to add collaboration and coordination to C4ISR and update it to C6ISR. If that happens, we must make every effort to streamline the decision making and authorization process to ensure decisiveness measured in minutes.

– Kevin Coleman

Babes in the Bubble — It’s Gonna Happen

Friday, September 25th, 2009

females-on-subs.jpg

Breaking with a tradition that spans more than half a century, the Navy is in the final planning stages to integrate female Sailors into its submarine fleet.

Long considered one of the most elite communities in the U.S. Navy, the small, secretive force has been comprised entirely of male officers and crew in large part because of the small living spaces and long endurance missions.

The service had examined assigning a small number of females on subs over the last ten years, but found the tight confines and lack of a well-defined career path for female submariners too daunting to change.

Until now.

According to a senior commander in the Navy’s submarine fleet who spoke to Military​.com on condition of anonymity, incoming Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has charged the service with overcoming past objections and assigning females to subs — breaking down one of the last barriers in the service to female assignments.

“We have now received a signal from the secretary of the Navy that he’s ready to move out on this. We have never had that signal before,” the senior sub commander said. “So now it’s time to do some detailed planning to ensure that this is executable.”

The official said the submarine fleet would likely not see female crewmembers for at least two years, but he said it was a change whose time had come.

“There is no job on a submarine that a woman can’t do,” the official said during a Sept. 25 phone interview. “We have a vast pool of very talented young women out there who want to serve on submarines.”

Read the rest of this story, including how the Navy plans to start this program, at Military​.com.

– Christian

Newest ISR plane — from buy-to-fly in 8 months

Friday, September 25th, 2009

MC12-Liberty.jpg

In a Defense Department world where multi-million-dollar contracts for aircraft will likely first net you long waits, missed deadlines and demands for millions more bucks before a plane appears on the horizon, the Air Forces latest counter-intelligence aircraft is an anomaly.

From the time the Air Force contracted for its first order of MC-12W Libertys until one was flying a mission over Afghanistan was just eight months, says Lionel G. Smith, director, Strategic Development Special Programs for L3 Communications.

Thats the power of modifying an existing aircraft, in this case the Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350 long a fav plane of the well-to-do. Those ordered by the Air Force, however, swap luxury accommodations for sophisticated ISR technology.

It costs about $7 million [per plane] from Hawker Beechcraft, and about $10 million in modifications. From contract to combat was about eight months, Smith said Sept. 15 at the Air Force Association’s Air & Space Symposium in Maryland. L3s integrated systems division manages the modifications.

The plane, with a crew of four pilot, co-pilot, signals intel systems operator and full-system video operator flew its first mission from Balad Air Base, Iraq, in June. Of 300 missions flown to date it has a mission capable rate of 98 percent, Smith said.

The MC-12W is a response to Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ call for increased ISR support for ground combat troops, Smith said. The Air Force plans to field a fleet of 38 Libertys, most of them built into the ER, or extended range, version of the Hawker Beechcraft plane.

– Bryant Jordan

When Doomsday Arrives (You’re prepared)

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

nukepills.jpg

It’s not too early to be thinking about Christmas, folks. So for that hard-to-please gift recipient, we’ve brought you a perfect solution to your conundrum.

Think a Nork nuke attack or a poor-man’s radiological bomb — you’re just minding your own business playing fantasy football or reading DoD Buzz and *BOOM* the evildoers pop off a 50 gallon drum of old X-ray machines wrapped in C4 sprinkling nuclear fallout all over your favorite dog park.

What do you do?

Grab your handy dandy Dirty Bomb Emergency Kit, that’s what.

Nukepills​.com (don’t you love that name?), an online provider of radiation mitigation medication, sent out a release announcing its new Dirty Bomb Emergency Kit for when the sh&!t really hits the fan…

The Dirty Bomb Emergency Kit is used to instantly detect radiation and safely, quickly and significantly decontaminate people and surfaces of radioactive material most likely found in a dirty bomb using the supplied Quick-Decon resin-based decontamination solutions. The included military-grade RADTriage Personal Radiation Detectors instantly detect radiation exposure in the event of a dirty bomb, nuclear reactor accident, nuclear weapon fallout and other sources of radiation.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve always wanted a personal radiation detector)

The web site says the kit costs $250 and works on the entire family. So if you live near Three Mile Island, Manhattan or DC, it might be worth asking Santa for one of these just to be on the safe side.

(Photo: Nukepills​.com)

– Christian