Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
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
‘I made promises to the people that I lost’— How the Iraq war forged a Navy SEAL’s path to Harvard Medical School and NASA
Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.
However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:
You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.
A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.
Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.
"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."
New Vietnam War movie 'The Last Full Measure' takes some well-deserved shots at the military’s award process
Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.
With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.