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Newly-Acquired Air Force Research Lab Test Aircraft to Aid Personnel Recovery Research

Monday, January 11th, 2021

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) —

A small aircraft that is poised to make a big impact on military personnel recovery made a brief stop in the Dayton area on its way to St. Mary’s County, Maryland, where it will be used to test the Air Force Research Laboratory-developed Low Altitude Sensing Helmet system.

The CubCrafters XCub aircraft was ferried from Yakima, Washington, to Lewis A. Jackson Regional Airport near Dayton, on its journey to the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing’s contracted research flight test organization facility, Dec. 21. The aircraft was recently purchased by AFRL to advance the initial “Lysander” flying experiment, which will demonstrate the Low Altitude Sensing Helmet system, known as LASH.

LASH, a portable kit developed within the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing’s Airman Systems Directorate, contains specialized equipment including a flight helmet, a thermal camera, night vision goggles and various other components. The kit can quickly and easily be installed onto nearly any general aviation aircraft to equip pilots for low-level, low-speed, nighttime flight – something that is essential for personnel recovery and other “featherweight airlift” special missions, according to Dr. Darrel G. Hopper, 711th Human Performance Wing project lead.

“The Air Force’s CODE (Combat Operations in Denied Environment) program determined that these types of missions could not be executed effectively by the large aircraft that we have been using over the last 20 years in areas where we have air dominance,” Hopper said. “Project Lysander was conceived as a method of rescuing isolated personnel in both heavily defended and undefended airspace. A critical element of the project was determined to be a carry-on kit that could allow such operations.” He explained that the LASH system kit was designed to fill this need and provide pilots with sensory situational awareness required to fly safely, at night, at extremely low altitudes and slow airspeeds.

Hopper explained that LASH came about after the Air Combat Command and the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office at AFRL asked the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Airman Systems Directorate to lead this research effort.

“They called on us based on our expertise in this type of work,” Hopper explained. “Our directorate has decades of experience in researching, developing and fielding helmet- and cockpit-mounted displays and other wearable vision aids for combat pilots, aircrews and special operations warriors.”

After careful study of mission requirements and aircraft capabilities, AFRL researchers designed the LASH kit using a number of mostly commercial-off-the-shelf components. The kit was packaged into a compact, easy-to-transport, one-person carrying system that could be easily fitted temporarily to virtually any small aircraft without additional modification.

Hopper said the CubCrafters XCub was identified by ACC as the safest and most capable commercial-off-the-shelf aircraft for the initial flying experiment to test the LASH System kit.

“If we can demonstrate that the XCub can be flown safely at night at low speed and low altitude using the LASH night vision aids, then we can expand LASH system kit use to other types of short takeoff and landing general aviation aircraft.”

After the aircraft reaches the flight test organization in Maryland, it will first be used to fit-test the LASH system. AFRL researchers and contractor partners will next refine the installation and de-installation process as well as baseline-test metrics, and develop the associated test cards, while flying without the kit. The first flights with the LASH system are scheduled for early spring 2021. If flight tests are successful and program objectives are achieved, the LASH system could be on track for technology transfer and possible deployment as early as 2022.

“This system offers the potential to greatly expand our capability to perform necessary personnel recovery and related missions,” Hopper said. “The acquisition and delivery of this test vehicle is a critical milestone in getting the LASH technology and featherweight airlift capability into the hands of the warfighter.”

Hopper added that after the XCub test aircraft has completed its role in this project, AFRL will be able to use it as a test asset for future research projects as well.

Story by Holly Jordan, Air Force Research Laboratory

Photos by by Richard Eldridge

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Down Time Books

Sunday, January 10th, 2021

I wanted to give everyone some things to do during your downtime. I have talked about military movies in the past, so I thought books would be the next best thing to cover. I have always been a firm believer in trying to learn new things. I believe during downtime; you should be doing what you can to improve wherever you can. I had an old C.O. that use to say, “always improve your fighting position.” He meant that you might think you are good, but you can always be better. Uses downtime to improve yourself. You can take a dive COI online or read about different things that might help you. There used to be a time you would have to take books with you on deployment to give you something to do when you were not working. I have always tried to read books about military history as I think you can still learn from the past. Here are some books in no order, but The Element of Surprise by Darryl Young is one of my favorites. There are many SEAL Vietnam books, and this was the first one I read and the one I like the most. I had more on here, but I cut it back. I took books out that are also movies, like Band of Brothers, Black Hawk Down, and We were Soldiers. As I am sure you know, you will get more from the book than from the movie. I also left out the books I know everyone has read or knows about or says they have read, like Sun Tzu, many people love to say they have read that book.  

The Element of Surprise by Darryl Young

Journals of Robert Rogers of the Rangers by Robert Rogers

Inside the V.C. and the NVA by Michael Lanning and Dan Cragg

On War by Carl von Clausewitz

Attack by Erwin Rommel

On Guerrilla Warfare: Mao Tse-tung

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence

The Liberator by Alex Kershaw

Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides

Stormtrooper Tactics: Innovation in the German Army by Bruce Gudmundsson

The One that Got Away by Chris Ryan

The Odd Angry Shot by William Nagle and Paul Ham

Into the Mouth of the Cat: The Story of Lance Sijan, by Malcolm McConnell

My Commando Operations by Otto Skorzeny

Commando: Special Forces in World War II by Kenneth Macksey

American Commando: Evans Carlson, His Marine Raiders by John F. Wukovits

Striking Back: A Jewish Commando’s War Against the Nazis by Peter Masters

The Water is Never Cold: The Origins of U.S. Naval Combat Demolition Units, UDTs, and SEALs. by James Odell

We Few U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam by Nick Brokhausen

The Swamp Fox How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution by John Oller

The Jedburghs The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces by Will Irwin 

SOG The Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam by John Plaster

Kokoda by Peter Fitzsimons

Never in Finer Company the Men of the Great War’s Lost Battalion by Edward G. Lengel

Brandenburg Division – Commandos of the Reich by Eric Lefevre

Bush War Operator by A.J. Balaam

Fire in the Night: Wingate of Burma, by John Smith

German Combat Divers in World War II by Michael Jung

Descent into Darkness: Pearl Harbor, 1941: A Navy Diver’s Memoir by Edward C. Raymer

Soldier Five, The Real Truth About the Bravo Two Zero Mission by Mike Coburn

SAS: Secret War in South East Asia by Peter Dickens

The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan by Lester W. Grau,

Tribe: Sebastian Junger

The Last 100 Yards the NCO contribution to Warfare: by H.J. Pool

 

Stryker Brigades Targeted for the Army’s Integrated Tactical Network

Saturday, January 9th, 2021

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND (APG), Md. (January 5, 2020) – Following the successful integration of its new more flexible and expeditionary network capability into dismounted units, the Army is now focused on delivering the same capabilities to Stryker brigade combat teams.

To produce uniform equipment packages for these Integrated Tactical Network (ITN) components across multiple Stryker variants, the Army has been conducting a Capability Set (CS) 21 ITN Stryker characterization effort with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (2/CR), since April 2020. The effort will support the iterative modification of integrated ITN component designs into these vehicle platforms.

On the current timeline, the characterization will conclude in fiscal year (FY) 2022, making 2/CR the first Stryker unit equipped partially with CS21 ITN.

The Army first fielded CS21 ITN to the 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in October 2020, with the next ITN fielding set for the 173rd Airborne Division this month.

“We are excited to move to this next phase of CS21, which will enhance mounted, on-the-move and at-the-quick-halt ITN capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Brandon Baer, product manager for Helicopter and Multi Mission Radios (HAMMR), assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T).

The ITN approach injects new commercial components and network transport capabilities into the Army’s tactical network environment to provide maneuver brigades and below with smaller, lighter, faster and more flexible communications systems. Adding mounted ITN capabilities allows commanders to maintain battalion-wide terrestrial voice and data network and enables Soldiers to operate over the Secure But Unclassified (SBU) enclave while transitioning between dismounted and mounted operations.

“SBU continues to be the game-changing capability enabled by the ITN,” Baer said. “It allows data to be categorized according to its classification, which will be just as critical for our mounted units because data at battalion and below is often perishable and unclassified.”

To execute the CS21 ITN Stryker characterization, personnel from the HAMMR team are collaborating with engineers and technicians from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) at the C5ISR Center Prototype Integration Facility (PIF), at APG. With Strykers at hand in the integration bay, the team will identify the most effective use of the limited space inside the vehicles, and then design and build the streamlined hardware required to integrate the ITN kits into the vehicles.

To ensure realistic operational requirements the PIF Team is directly collaborating with 2/CR, currently via video conferences due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“We have been conducting user juries remotely, which allowed the 2/CR Soldiers to show us their vehicle space restrictions, and in turn allows us to show them how much space our proposed designs will claim,” said Jim Leary, C5ISR PIF project engineer.

The 2/CR conducts missions using multiple commander and infantry carrier Stryker variants, with infantry carrier configurations most prevalent.

“Each vehicle within the 2/CR may require something unique to perform its mission, but our goal is to design a one-kit-fits-all variant approach,” Leary said.

The characterization led to the production of two unique ITN equipment kits. Kit one will be populated in almost every Stryker variant and features the mobile broadband kit for 4G LTE network capabilities, 2nd Generation Manpack radio, a mounted two-channel leader radio and a unique power distribution box, Leary said.

Kit two, slated for only the Command Vehicle Stryker variant, includes a Tactical Server Infrastructure computer, a Silvus radio, a Tactical Radio Integration Kit box, tactical cross domain solution and a power distribution unit, Leary said.

“Both kits will include various mounts, cabling, hardware and installation instructions, and will be adaptable to integrate into other 2CR tactical vehicles such as High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, medium tactical vehicles (MTVs) and the MTV replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, if available,” he said.

The most recent video conference user jury with the 2CR featured the team’s final proposed component designs and recommendations on where to place them in the vehicles’ available space, Leary said.

“Our last review was mostly favorable,” Leary said. “Next we will send PIF-produced 3D models of the kits to the 2/CR so that they can confirm the space we’re claiming is accurate or provide an alternate location for unique vehicle configurations.”

Following a verification and validation effort to systematically assess each component’s performance, and provided COVID travel restrictions are lifted, PM TR and PIF personnel will travel to the 2/CR in Germany to integrate CS21 ITN into Strykers from May through August.  The entire characterization effort will culminate with a squadron-level exercise in September 2021, which will lead to the formal evaluation of the next capability set, CS23, in FY 2022.

“Our goal is always to build a design that repeats itself over and over again as opposed to making a unique design for every vehicle,” Leary said. “In doing so we save money, reduce the logistics footprint across multiple vehicle types, but most importantly, we make it as easy as possible for integration efforts across the entire force.”

By Kathryn Bailey, PEO C3T Public Affairs

FirstSpear Friday Focus: Skirmisher Firearms Training Bag

Friday, January 8th, 2021

Keep your gear organized. The Skirmisher Firearms Training Bag is designed as a range pack. The possibilities for smartly organizing your kit are endless.

• Fits 1 AR style take-down rifle
• Holds 3 full sized handguns
• Magazine attachment straps
• Spacious pockets for accessories
• Multiple carrying styles

The Skirmisher Firearms Training Bag facilitates transportation and organization of your firearms and ammunition along with related accessories. Discrete and smartly arranged, this system can hold up to 3 full-sized handguns with or without lights in protected pockets. It will also fit 1 AR style take-down rifle which can be secured with an included retention strap. There is also room for associated training gear such as ear/eye pro, magazines, boxed ammunition, and a top center bin for loose ammunition.

The Skirmisher also comes with four magazine attachment straps to contain magazines. Each strap is capable of holding multiple magazines and secure to the bag with hook and loop. The bag can be transported backpack style, single strap style or carried from a continuous-length webbing handle. Padded in all key areas to protect lights, lasers, and optics, the Skirmisher takes maximum advantage of design and material to provide you with a total training enhancement.

It’s available now in coyote, black, ranger green and multicam. Dimensions are 25? X 13? X 4?.

To check out more gear, head to: www.first-spear.com/skirmisher-firearms-training-bag

New Reserve Parachute Testing Seeks to Eliminate Potential Premature Activations

Friday, January 8th, 2021

FORT BRAGG, North Carolina — Certified parachute test jumpers here finished 23 risk reduction jumps with the T-11R Single Pin Troop reserve parachute, making sure it works as it should during equipment test jumps.

The Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate (ABNSOTD) tested the chute from both rotary winged and fixed winged high performance aircraft to eliminate the potential for premature reserve activations.

Any necessary changes were made to address the previous version’s premature activation thought to be caused by wind blast, according to Lt. Col. Derek Johnson Chief, Test Division at ABNSOTD.

“Testing promotes and delivers a safe, and more durable piece of equipment to the Warfighter,” said Johnson. “Soldiers relish in participating in day-to day testing. It ignites their enthusiasm to rig and load a piece of equipment which will ultimately serve our future Soldiers during combat missions.”

After the risk reduction jumps, ABNSOTD conducted 53 operational static line jumps during daylight hours to be fully certified by the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Command located at Natick, Massachusetts.

While employing a host of risk reduction measures to ensure potential test items are safe and effective from the intended user’s standpoint, test events with the T-11R kicked off with new equipment training.

Parachute Riggers participated in New Equipment Training to learn the assembly of the chutes new components and closing of the pack tray.

“There is a huge increase in the amount of information that is provided to Soldiers who are given the opportunity to practice what they are learning in the form of hands-on training,” said Mrs. Shonda Strother, editor with ABNSOTD.

Testing new airborne equipment enables Soldiers the opportunity to provide feedback to the Army concerning current Soldiers needs in the field, according to Staff Sgt. Robert Whan, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s Battalion Air NCO.

All airdrop test iterations were airdropped with Soldiers in full combat equipment as if they were jumping into a combat operation.

“The T-11R Single Pin reserve parachutes were then inspected for any damage in order to make sure they can hold up to the high demands of the airborne mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class Katherine Greene, ABNSOTD’s T-11R test noncommissioned in charge.

The new T-11R Single Pin pack tray is manufactured from the same materiel as the current issue item. The current T-11R version has a square shaped look while the redesign has a rectangle shape.

The re-designed pack tray includes a change where the reserve ripcord handle is now a single pin pull, and a change in the geometry of the reserve handle eliminates the risk of windblast.

A plastic viewing window also assists the jumpmaster when inspecting the curve pin during jumpmaster personnel inspection. The reserve handle remains a textile type.

Story by Mr. William Slaven, Airborne & Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command

Some of photos by Jim Finney, Airborne & Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command

Ten Weeks in Thailand: 1st SFG(A) Green Beret is First US Soldier to Complete Royal Thai Army’s Ranger School

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

Wearing Royal Thai Army (RTA) fatigues and black leather boots, a U.S. Army Green Beret wades waist deep through a swamp carrying a heavy rucksack and an old-fashioned Mannlicher M1888 bolt-action rifle. With soaked feet and pain spreading through tired muscles, there are still miles left to trudge.

The night prior, he slept an hour because of a successful patrol in the swamps. On nights where the patrols are unsatisfactory, he’s lucky for a half hour of uninterrupted sleep in the quagmire. Twenty-two hours out of the day are devoted to patrolling.

The other 72 days of the RTA Ranger School are just as relentless. Earning the Royal Thai Army Ranger Badge is a grueling effort, but high attrition rates are unusual for the course. The candidates rely on one another to push each other through to the end, whether it means carrying another’s rucksack for five weeks due to a broken ankle or a quick nudge to awaken a tired teammate. From Oct. 17 to Dec. 29, 2020, a Green Beret with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) attended the RTA’s Ranger School in the Kingdom of Thailand and earned the Thai Ranger Badge along with recognition as the course’s distinguished graduate.

Furthermore, he became the first U.S. servicemember to attend in more than 40 years, and the first to graduate the course in its modern form. Life changing is what Ranger School is, the Green Beret said. You can’t write or call your family back home; here, your family are your brothers and instructors.

The Green Beret was recognized as a valued teammate whom instructors came to rely on. As the course progressed, instructors placed him in key positions to facilitate the successful completion of missions within his platoon.

“It’s a lifetime bond here,” he said. “I will always remember these guys and I will always keep in contact with them. It’s like brother-to-brother mentorship.”

Ranger School consists of different phases: mountain, forest, swamp, maritime and urban combat. In each phase, a candidate is assessed on the positions of squad or platoon leader, medic, pace man and map, and compass man.

“As a Green Beret, we’re supposed to be masters of the basics,” the Green Beret said. “This course took me back to the basics. For instance, navigating off one map per platoon…In an [Operational Detachment Alpha], you have eight maps plus GPS.”

To pass RTA Ranger School, you must compose operations orders and lead squad or platoon-sized elements on missions. All interactions between teammates and instructors are in Thai.

“You have to be fluent in this language,” he said. “The instructors don’t speak English and there are no translators here.”

As well as being fluent in Thai, the Green Beret is U.S. Army Ranger qualified and drew a contrast between U.S. and RTA Ranger Schools. In U.S. Army Ranger School, a severe enough injury would result in a medical drop from the course, he said. At Thai Ranger School, instructors encourage Ranger Buddies to help one another by shouldering the weight of an injured soldier.

The course was comprised of students from U.S. Army Special Forces, Royal Thai Army, Royal Thai Police, Royal King’s Guards, and the Royal Thai Special Mission Unit. Of the 198 who started the course, 187 graduated.

According to the award write up given by the RTA, the Green Beret’s conduct demonstrates the value the U.S. Army places on equal partnership in support of the U.S.-Thai alliance. His performance set the example for future U.S. Army attendees to the RTA’s Ranger School.

“It’s not so much what he gives to my formation, but what he gives to our entire force at-large in that he is a tactical and cultural diplomat for our country and Army,” said the Soldier’s Company Commander from 1st SFG (A). “The skills that he comes back with and the relationships he forged while there will better prepare both countries to operate with each other for our mutual defense.”

Story by SGT Anthony Bryant, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)

DC Guard to Wear Black ID Vests for Inauguration

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

District of Columbia National Guardsmen will wear a black identification only vest during the activation for demonstrations in Washington D.C., June 5 to 7, 2021.

The black identification vest is not body armor nor a tactical vest. It is the traditional uniform worn by the D.C. National Guard members in multiple domestic operations including Presidential Inaugurations, the COVID-19 pandemic response, the 4th of July celebration and the “Anniversary March on Washington” in the last year.

More than 300 Guardsmen are supporting the District of Columbia from Jan. 5 to 7, 2021, at the request of Mayor Muriel Bowser and Dr. Christopher Rodriguez, Director of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, on behalf of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and D.C. Fire and Emergency Services.

The request for support was approved by the Secretary of the Army, the Hon. Ryan D. McCarthy.

By Capt. Tinashe Machona | D.C. National Guard

Department of the Air Force Directs Commanders to Review Unit Emblems, Mottos, Nicknames, Other Official Symbology

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

WASHINGTON (AFNS) —

The Department of the Air Force directed commanders to conduct a comprehensive review of official and unofficial unit emblems, morale patches, mottos, nicknames, coins and other forms of unit recognition and identity to ensure an inclusive and professional environment within 60 days from Dec. 23, 2020.

Commanders, at the squadron level and above, will remove any visual representation, symbols or language derogatory to any race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age or disability status to ensure an inclusive and professional environment.

The directive came in the form of a memorandum from Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown, Jr., and Chief of Space Operations John W. Raymond.

“It is critical for the Department of the Air Force to embody an environment of dignity, respect and inclusivity for all Airmen and Guardians,” the memo stated. “Our core values demand we hold ourselves to high standards and maintain a culture of respect and trust in our chain of command.”

According to Air Force Instruction 84-105, “Organizational Lineage, Honors and Heraldry,” emblem designs and mottos should reflect favorably on the United States Air Force, be original, distinctive, dignified, in good taste and non-controversial.

“Their continued use (of derogatory symbols and language) ostracizes our teammates undermining unit cohesion and impeding our mission readiness and success … Our diversity of experience, culture, demographics and perspectives is a force multiplier and essential to our success in this dynamic global environment … We must ensure all our Airmen and Guardians are valued and respected,” the memo emphasized.

Commanders should consider emblem and motto guidance in AFI 84-105 and consult their historians, staff judge advocates and equal opportunity specialists during the review.