Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Reducing Threats Through Vigilance

Portrait of COM NSHQ, NSHQ SEA  (NATO photo/Sgt. Emily Langer, DEU Army)

A&M Editor Kevin Hunter was privileged to speak with Vice Admiral Sean Pybus, NATO SOF Commander, regarding his perspective on today’s changing role for Special Forces in the face of growing European insecurity, particularly in Ukraine.

A&M: Please speak to some general challenges NATO SOF faces in securing the alliance’s perimeter.

VADM Pybus: Today’s security environment is a dynamic and dangerous one, no doubt. Threats run the gamut from high-end industrial warfare to insidious insurgencies, and now include the cyber domain across the spectrum. With regard to Europe and the larger neighbourhood, the Mediterranean Rim is on fire on the eastern and southern edges. Conflict and instability in these areas enable violent extremists, criminals, and migrants to act in ways that challenge or threaten European nations. In Ukraine, an aggressive Russia has NATO on edge and reminds us of Article Five of the Washington Treaty, which obligates the Alliance to defend any attack on one of our NATO members.

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Why America Needs An Army with Tanks

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Leaders from the U.S. Army Armor School, Fort Benning, GA, explain why armored vehicles are anything but obsolete.

By BG Leopoldo Quintas and CPT Nicholas Simpson, U.S. Army Armor School

Recently, critics have argued that the tank is a relic of the Cold War era made obsolete by advanced aircraft and unmanned systems. This argument ignores the unique and necessary capabilities provided by mobile protected firepower. Even in a fiscally constrained environment, the main battle tank continues to play a critical role in maintaining peace and winning conflicts. As an integral member of the combined arms team, the tank serves as a component of the Army’s ability to gain, sustain, and exploit control over land, resources, and people. The tank’s enduring qualities of mobility, protection, and firepower provide versatility and tactical agility in both combined arms maneuver and wide area security environments.

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The Missing Piece: Micro Wind Turbines In Theater

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By George Jagels

For years now, the Pentagon has been trying to make renewable energy a significant part of battlefield electricity generation. Successes appear neither elusive nor numerous; like most programs, these department-wide efforts have proceeded in fits and starts. Micro wind turbines (producing less than 2,000 watts) have made appearances in a few cases (for example, CERDEC’s RENEWS system), but they are far from ubiquitous at forward operating bases and combat outposts. Once deployed, many small wind turbines are finicky and prone to breakdowns, too often wilting under the stresses of military life.

However, the military itself, as well as industry, is successfully using durable micro wind turbines—in fact, they have for years. The Superwind 350 has been quietly deployed by the DoD, just as it has for well-known commercial users in the oil and gas, mining, security, and telecom industries since 2004. For companies like ITT, Rio Tinto, and Raytheon, reliable autonomous operation is crucial to power communications equipment, cameras, optics, and numerous types of sensors in remote areas.

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Equipping to Achieve the Decisive Edge

BG Paul Ostrowski, Program Executive Officer, PEO Soldier

In January, Armor & Mobility spoke with the head of the Army’s soldier equipment acquisition office, PEO Soldier, about his office’s priorities now and going forward.

BG Ostrowski was interviewed by A&M Editor Kevin Hunter.

A&M: Please speak to your role as Program Executive Officer-Soldier and describe your office’s mission.  

BG Ostrowski: PEO Soldier is ultimately responsible for the acquisition of many of the equipment items worn or carried by the dismounted soldier. We develop, acquire, field, and sustain the best equipment available as quickly as possible so our soldiers can remain protected, lethal, and situationally aware on the battlefield. We are always looking for new innovative technologies to give our troops the decisive edge.

We collaborate with our joint partners to efficiently get the best equipment in the hands of warfighters. The Advanced and Enhanced Combat Helmets, Nett Warrior, M4A1 Carbine, M320 Grenade Launcher, Enhanced Vision Goggle, M110, Pelvic Protection System, helmet sensors, M240B, Thermal Weapons Sights, and Joint Effects Targeting System represent just a small number of the numerous joint program efforts we have established and maintained.

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The Institutional Advantage: Building an Energy-informed Military

Asst Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Sharon Burke

Asst Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Sharon Burke

We interviewed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs Sharon Burke in October 2013. Clearly passionate about the subject and deeply engaged in making energy a priority in planning, Ms. Burke discussed a wide range of problems and solutions that the Pentagon is addressing to make sure the lessons learned from the past 13 years are applied to future operations.

DoD PEP: Please describe your office’s background and basic functions.

Ms. Burke: Operational energy is the energy used to move, train, and sustain military forces. This comes out to about three-quarters of the energy the Department uses in any given year. Last year, this cost about $16 billion. One-quarter is facilities, or installation, energy used to heat, cool, and light buildings. This is not an inconsequential bill for us; we’re a big business, and it’s a variable cost, so we manage using a variety of methods. In this space, we must also comply with laws, executive orders, regulations, and so forth, whereas operational energy is generally exempt from these regulations because it is so closely tied to military operations.
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Electrons to the Lowest Echelon

The Army and USMC Get Power to Dismounted Troops

By George Jagels

Over the past ten years, American warfighters have become increasingly technologically advanced. More and more soldiers and Marines carry GPS, smartphones, networked radios, nightvision systems, and laptops. These devices give Americans an edge on the battlefield few can match; from long-distances to the darkest night, U.S. personnel talk to and see each other remarkably well. Through this interconnectedness and awareness, the dismounted squad, which the Army has been focusing on beefing up, might be able to achieve a major goal: supremacy over adversaries in the same way U.S. armor and air branches face no peer competitors.

This equipment, however, does not come “free.” With more power, so to speak, comes more responsibility—much of which literally ends up on the backs of soldiers and Marines. Though their capabilities are improved, the overall weight carried by warfighters changed little during the last decade (the soldier humps about 16 pounds of batteries, according to the Army). As a result, the DoD must strive for a near perfect balance: lower weight and greater capability.

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The A-10’s Swan Song?

Should the USAF replace the long-serving Warthog with the F-35?

By George Jagels

An A-10 Thunderbolt in Afghanistan. Beloved by troops and acknowledged as highly capable, the Warthog might leave the arsenal in the next 15 years. (USAF)

An A-10 Thunderbolt in Afghanistan. Beloved by troops and acknowledged as highly capable, the Warthog might leave the arsenal in the next 15 years. (USAF)

Aerospace is one of the few areas where beauty and utility often coexist, but there are exceptions. The Air Force’s main ground attack aircraft, the A-10 Thunderbolt, serves as one: The aesthetically unpleasing “Warthog” flies low, slow, and does the humble work of close air support and tank killing. I do not mean to imply this work is not heroic, as recent reports[1] highlighted two Warthogs rescuing 60 soldiers in Afghanistan through use of their devastating 30mm cannon and conventional bombs. A-10 pilots are also credited with destroying 4,000 Iraqi vehicles in 1991[2]. To use a DoD watchword, this is a “proven” platform. So why does the Air Force want to retire a third of its Warthog fleet (and eventually all 349) without a similar replacement?

The USAF has actually been trying to do this since the late eighties. A variant of the F-16, called the A-16, was tested to replace the A-10, but Congress squashed the effort in November 1990[3] (right around the time the Thunderbolt scored a major success in the Persian Gulf). Since then, the Warthog has flown thousands of sorties and undergone upgrades to lengthen its life by decades. The plane can loiter for long periods and sustain absurdly extensive damage without crashing[4]. In 2006, a British Army major vented after a botched air support operation by Harriers in Afghanistan, “I would take an A-10 over [a] Eurofighter any day.”[5] At a cost of around $13 million (in 1998 dollars) per plane[6], it seems to be an ideal aircraft in budget-constrained times. Current plans do indeed call for many upgraded A-10s to stay in service until 2028.[7]
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Weekly Defense Notes

In the interest of not being like every site and giving you a daily news round up, each Friday Guns Over Butter will try to publish a list of stories that interested us over the past seven days. The following is a shorter list than we expect in the future. Here’s to new beginnings…

-Army approves participation in AUSA Annual meeting in D.C.

-John Kerry is in Afghanistan to discuss a security pact with President Karzai. The Afghan president is interested in a mutual security treaty—much like a NATO obligation—but he has been notoriously difficult to deal with in the past. The agreement will be critical to U.S. and NATO planning over the coming years.

-Want more realistic combat training? Here’s a pilotless F-16 that will be used for target practice.
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Today’s Links

  • Time’s Battleland has an excellent obit for the USS Enterprise. After fifty years of service, the aircraft carrier is being retired. A sad day for some, but also comforting to know she worked hard and well for five decades.
  • The robotic mule is coming soon to a USMC squad near you! DARPA’s $54 million Legged Squad Support System (LS3), which mimics a mule, just completed a couple weeks of field testing and is no worse for the wear. Among many other great features, the LS3 can recharge batteries and follow basic commands (“sit!”).
  • In allies news, Japan will up its defense budget a bit, though it is still a very low share of GDP. Canada’s love-hate relationship with the F-35 continues to twist and turn: Ottawa claims it will have to use private companies and allies for mid-air refueling because it will not modify tankers for the job.
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Today’s Links

  • At Fort Sill, the Army holds a meeting to discuss Anti-UAS measures:

U.S. ground forces detect an enemy unmanned aircraft performing reconnaissance  over their forward operating base. Now the soldiers must determine how to  neutralize the Unmanned Aerial System threat: whether to jam the electronic  signal from its ground controller, kill the ground controller or shoot down the  Unmanned Aerial System, or UAS.

  • The Afghan Army is not retaining its soldiers too well these days, but at least they’re not joining the Taliban:

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