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The Army wants robots to help soldiers map underground tunnels, and it wants them ASAP
The Army is looking for drone or robot technology that would allow soldiers map out tunnels to up its subterranean warfare capabilities — and it wants it now.
In a Request for Information (RFI) published by the Army's Rapid Equipping Force (REF) on April 15 and first reported by Army Times. the Army challenged the defense industry to send in documentation for products at the model or prototype level of development within the next 30 days.
The ideal tunnel mapping system will "be able to operate in GPS denied environment" and produce a 2D or 3D map, according to the RFI. It should be "rapidly deployable, easy and safe to operate ... highly reliable and self-contained." It should be able to be mounted on an unmanned ground or aerial vehicle, or be carried by soldiers.
This ask comes as the Army recently poured millions into training and preparing for subterranean warfare. As Military Times — who got a first-hand look at the Army's preparation for underground battle — points out, "[m]inor nods to underground training" at Army and Marine Corps training centers is not new, but "[s]erious manning, equipping, funding and training across the force has been lacking."
In a February interview with Military Times, retired Army Maj. John Spencer detailed number of wishlist items he'd like to see used in an underground fight, including ground-penetrating radar, foam grenades, and a "guardian robot dog" that performs the same functions as loitering UAVs do above ground.
And it's not just the Army — the Marine Corps and Air Force are tacking the challenges subterranean warfare pose as well. Recently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which launched a Subterranean Challenge, which aims to "explore new approaches to rapidly map, navigate, search and exploit complex underground environments," and "ensure that our warfighters and first responders are equipped with the technologies and capabilities they need."
The development of technologies for subterranean environments will also benefit the civilian world, according to Dr. Ethan Stump of the Army's Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory.
"Subterranean environments are a fantastic domain for trying to understand the extreme limits of what can be done with autonomy," Stump said. "[I]t is important to understand exactly what parts of a complex mission you need human input for and what parts can be safely and reliably delegated to autonomy. This understanding has implications for many military and civilian applications, such as interplanetary science and underwater exploration."
WATCH NEXT: Underground Training With The Army Corps Of Engineers
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.