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One year in, Army Futures Command is fully up and running. Here's some of the new tech it's been working on
Army Futures Command will reach fully operational status just before the newest gem of the Army's modernization plan sees its first birthday on August 24th, officials announced on Tuesday.
AFC Commander Gen. John "Mike" Murray told reporters at a technologies showcase on Tuesday that the command will be fully operational on July 31st before showing off everything AFC personnel have been working on over the last year, from night vision goggles and robotic vehicles to new air- and missile-defense capabilities.
One of the technologies on display, the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B), will end up in soldiers' hands sooner than they think: the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division should get the first set of ENVG-Bs as soon as September 23 of this year.
Beyond the typical night vision functions, the system will allow soldiers to, among other things, fire from behind cover by integrating with the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual on the end of their weapon to see and engage a target.
Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, who has been heavily involved in testing the ENVG-Bs from the beginning, told reporters that he witnessed a soldier "lay on his back, with the rifle pointing downrange — so he was looking up at the sky with the rifle over his shoulder — and he was engaging successfully with 50-100 meter targets, dropping 'em."
"Think Pokemon Go," Roth told reporters while wearing an ENVG-B system on Tuesday.
The goggles were praised by AFC Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. James Richardson as better than anything he'd experienced in his Army career.
"The idea is to minimize exposure of the soldiers, and maximize the effectiveness of your targeting," Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, who leads Program Executive Office Soldier, said.
Sgt. 1st Class William Roth wearing the ENVG-B system. Photo: Task & Purpose
Meanwhile, Army Futures Command is still chugging away on the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) in development with Microsoft.
The IVAS brings in a wider field of view than the ENVG-Bs, performing similar functions to the night vision goggles in a small and lighter package while collecting data like soldiers' heart-rates and other performance metrics, Project Manager Col. Chris Schneider said.
Once the system is ready — which won't be for at least another year — it will will replace units' ENVG-Bs. That system will in turn trickle down to other units, bumping the ENVG-IIIs — which Potts said the Army is only just now starting to field — to units below them, and so-on.
The Army is also looking at integrating IVAS with the new Black Hornet nano-drones that started being used this summer, Schneider said on Tuesday; the expected testing for that capability will happen this October.
"I think we're tracking very well to integrate all sensor data onto the IVAS that we can move across a network," Schneider said. "And so ... whether it be a UAV or whether it be a ground sensor — any digitally formatted data that we can get to a soldier and then process, that's what we're working on."
Augmented reality in the IVAS will be a game-changer for soldiers. One feature Schneider mentioned is language translation: Imagine the ability to look at a street sign while you're on patrol and have it change to English in the glasses you're wearing.
The Army's new Integrated Visual Augmentation system is a single platform that uses augmented reality where Soldiers and Marines can fight, rehearse, and train.(U.S. Army photo)
The IVAS is built on the Army's Synthetic Training Environment (STE), which will "converge current live, virtual, constructive and gaming environments into a single simulation training environment," and the Army on Tuesday showed off One World Terrain (OWT), a pillar of the STE which helps soldiers map out a realistic, digital copy of any environment.
Army Spc. Cody Palmer with the 118th Infantry Division explained on Tuesday that OWT allows soldiers to break down an area of operations in-depth, showing them, for example, not just a street but everything on the street — doorways, alleys, and more.
By training with such realistic data, Palmer said, teams develop "muscle memory" of the area they'll be operating in.
"I go into this building, I know immediately there's a hallway to my right I need to keep clear," he said. "I know that there's a doorway to my left that leads into the master bedroom with a shower in the right hand corner. I know that building before I have to breach and put my life on the line."
OWT is expected to reach full operational capability in fiscal year 2023. Virginia developer, Vricon, was awarded a $94.7 million contract to build out a prototype in June.
The Army also showcased the Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer (RVCT), which includes virtual training for both ground and aviation platforms. A contract was awarded at the end of June to Cole Engineering Services, Inc. to build a RVCT prototype, Defense News reported.
Not everything AFC's showed off was man-portable: the showcase also including models of the Robotic Combat Vehicles — which will start testing next spring — and Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicles; Next Generation Squad Weapon; and more of the AFC's primary focuses.
Murray told reporters that one of the most important aspects of developing the new technologies has been bringing in soldiers for early feedback, which he said is something "we did not used to do very well."
Brig. Gen. David Hodne, the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team Director, echoed that sentiment. "[The] secret sauce is getting soldiers involved in the process, giving immediate feedback," he said.
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Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.