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Pentagon Works to Disable Drones

The "Reaper" has been chosen as the name for the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle. (Courtesy photo)

By Debbie Gregory.

To the military, they are  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS). But they are more commonly known as drones.

Drones have an array of applications ranging from being mere hobby gadgets to their increasing use in professional photography and cinematography, intelligence, mapping, reconnaissance as well as target destination besides being used in rescue missions.

Drones are used in military situations where manned flight is considered too risky or difficult, and often times are used as weapons with the ability to drop explosives.

Although helpful on the battlefield, drones also present a clear and present danger to our troops when they are in the hands of the enemy.

Stopping the drones has become a challenge for the Pentagon and its allies.

To that end, the Pentagon is working to develop lasers and microwaves to eliminate enemy drones in the sky.

Some soldiers are equipped with “anti-drone” rifles that use pulses across radio frequencies to interfere with the vehicles’ controls.

As terrorists move to drones as their weapon of choice, the Pentagon agency called the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO) is working with defense companies to develop counter-drone strategies, including lasers and microwaves to blast drones from the sky.

While France and Holland are training eagles and other birds of prey to attack enemy drones, Raytheon is mounting a high-energy laser weapon on top of a militarized dune buggy to take out drones. Raytheon also has “the Phaser”, a high-powered microwave cannon that can scramble a drone’s avionics.

CACI is developing “SkyTracker” to find and track drones using radio frequencies. And Lockheed Martin has “Athena”, a laser capable of destroying the tail of a fixed-wing drone.

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Military Connection: New Drone Training Facility in Colorado

RQ-7

By Debbie Gregory.

The Colorado Army National Guard recently dedicated a new facility to train drone operators for real world missions.

Keeping up with warfare technology is at the forefront of the success of the U.S. military. But equipping our forces with the best strategies and tools is only half the battle. Training our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and members of the Coast Guard to use their resources is just as vital to military success. The new facility at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora will provide that essential component for Colorado’s Army National Guard members who operate the RQ-7 Shadows.

RQ-7 Shadows are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS, commonly called drones) that carry out reconnaissance and surveillance missions, including battle damage assessment and target acquisition. The use of drones provides invaluable intelligence without putting American lives in harm’s way. Shadows and other UAVs serve as an eye in the sky for many ground operations, providing a picture of the battle that helps commanders make the most informed decisions for ground troops and air assets.

Because of the nature of the missions that Shadow operators carry out, training should include coordinating with ground forces and other elements. The new facility will provide drone operators with that type of training with classrooms, planning areas, maintenance bays and drone simulators.

Previous drone operator training has been primarily classroom-oriented, with only simulated ground forces coordination and other elements in realistic joint exercises on Buckley AFB. The new facility is geared to provide operators with the most holistic training curriculum, involving the real-world feel of their mission in a safe training environment.

The National Guard says that the new facility comes with a $4 million price tag.

In this age of budget cuts and sequestration, getting the funding to open new facilities is a difficult task. But it is imperative to the success of our armed forces that they get quality training and exercises as close to real world missions as possible.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Drone Training Facility in Colorado: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Next Generation of USMC Drones

Marine Corps Drones

By Debbie Gregory.

As the use of mechanized warfare continues to evolve, the United States Marine Corps is making a push for its next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be more versatile. One of the features that the U.S.M.C. wants for all of its UAVs, usually referred to as drones, is the capability to be launched and operated from Navy vessels.

Many civilians may not know that the Marine Corps is a part of the Department of the Navy.Historically, marines (predating, and including early U.S.M.C.) were sea-going infantry, often responsible for ship-to-ship combat in the days when ships would board each other. Marines have also traditionally been used as expeditionary forces, brought across bodies of water onboard naval vessels and disembarked to the shore. Today’s Devil Dogs of the U.S.M.C have many more areas of responsibility than their predecessors, but they still embark on U.S. Navy ships, and are used as expeditionary forces.

Keeping with their amphibious warfare role, it only makes sense that, like their Marines, the Corps’ equipment be capable of ship-to-shore operations. The next generation of U.S.M.C. drones will range in size from hand-launched model-airplane sized to UAVs that are the size of manned aircraft. The drones will be used for surveillance, attack missions and logistic support. The Corps is even looking to use some for medical evacuation of wounded Marines.

Previous generations of Marine UAVs were almost solely land based. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marine drones mostly utilized long runways on land-based airstrips. The Corps’ leadership is reluctant to rely on those types of resources being readily available for any possible needs in the future. A self-reliant Marine Corps with ship-borne troops and ship-borne UAVs is much better equipped for any challenge.

The Marine Corps also wants their new drones to come equipped with control settings that would allow for a single control station to pilot any of the Corps’ drones. They are also in the process of developing unmanned ground vehicles like the Internally Transportable Vehicle, which was designed to fit inside an MV-22 Osprey.

The Navy and the Coast Guard have also begun efforts to develop their next generation of drones that are suitable for ships. Most notably is the Navy’s X-47, which has already conducted safe takeoffs and landings from aircraft carriers, both solo and with other manned aircraft on deck.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Next Generation of USMC Drones: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Drone Operators Contracting PTSD

drone operators

By Debbie Gregory.

Throughout time, those who have gone to war have experienced what was then referred to as Soldier’s Heart, Shell Shock, War Neurosis, War Hysteria, and Combat Stress Reaction.  Today, these conditions are known as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), and with the evolution of warfare, we are finding new and surprising methods of contracting PTSD. One of the latest discoveries is that more and more drone operators are complaining of PTSD symptoms.

Many in the military call drone operators “Nintendo Warriors,” implying that their contributions to military operations are merely glorified video gaming. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is that drones operators, including pilots, camera operators, intelligence gatherers, communications experts, and maintenance workers, are involved in nearly every ground and air operation around the globe. This is especially true in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and Syria. And the role of drones is only increasing.

So while many other service members joke about the fact that drone operators can complete their missions after a morning commute stateside, and debrief at a TGI Fridays or Chili’s after “doing nothing but staring at video screens all day,” they can’t see the whole picture. Most Air Force pilots are logging somewhere in the area of 300 hours of flight-time per year, most of which is training. Most drone operators are logging 900-1,800 hours per year, nearly all of it while conducting active operations.

Drone operators are tasked with watching over U.S. forces on the ground, collecting intelligence photos and video feeds, and sometimes engaging enemy targets. Since the U.S. started conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State last August, at least three to four drones have taken part in every airstrike.

Drone missions are much different than other airstrike missions. The majority of the time, drone operators have been tracking a particular target for an extended period of time, collecting intelligence, before they are authorized to “eliminate” that target. This is opposed to other fighter, bomber and attack pilots, who often “rain hell from above” on unseen targets. And while other pilots are often on to another target or on their way back to the airfield, drone operators are regularly under orders to confirm that their target has been destroyed, meaning that they are often subjected to watching human beings in pain or dying from their actions.

The toll that the nature and the frequency of missions are taking on drone operators is as real as their contribution to U.S. military efforts. And more and more, operators are complaining of stress and PTSD-type symptoms.

For the mission workload that it wants to sustain, the Air Force needs to maintain a force of around 1,700 drone operators. There are currently only approximately one thousand operators currently serving, and they are being tasked with the work-load of 1,700. Nearly 240 drone operators leave the service each year, and with the Air Force only able to train somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 replacement drone operators per year, it’s easy to do the math and see that the void is only increasing.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Drone Operators Contracting PTSD: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Navy Nearer to Drone Approval: By Debbie Gregory

navy Drones

The U.S. Navy is one step closer to production of its next-generation unmanned aerial vehicle (U.A.V., also called drones) that will launch from aircraft carriers and have the capability of refueling in the air.

During the first quarter of 2015, the Navy is set to pick a model from among the four defense contractors asked to design a prototype of the aircraft.

Drone development has seen a massive boost over the last several years. Eventually, as many as eight prototype units of what the Navy is calling its Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) drones will be embarked on aircraft carriers. They will be able to conduct intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting and striking capabilities around the clock.

The advantage of utilizing carrier-launched drones is instantaneous intel and striking capabilities. As routine as manned aircraft take-offs and landings from aircraft carriers are, they are still extremely dangerous. Plus, using drones calls for significantly fewer man-hours of training than piloting a jet.

With aerial refueling capability, a drone would be able to stay airborne for five to ten times longer than any manned aircraft would.

But even with all of the advantages, the UCLASS drones will most likely not serve in active combat roles. Many Navy and DOD officials want drones limited strictly to an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) function, as opposed to using them for strikes and attacks.

In August, Northrop Grumman ran successful trials of its prototype candidate, the X-47B. The X-47B successfully took off and landed from the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). Tests included daytime and nighttime take-offs, landings, touch-and-goes, and operations conducted alongside manned aircraft, from the same flight deck. Once contractors develop a method to refuel this next generation of drones in the air, this useful tool will seemingly have no operational limitations. It will be up to military leadership as to how they will be used.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Navy Nearer to Drone Approval: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Naval History: By Debbie Gregory

UCAVOver the last few years, several new milestones in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or “drones”) have been reached by the U.S. Navy. The Navy has been developing a carrier-based unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) manufactured by Northrop Grumman. The UCAV is known as the X-47B, and it has been progressing by leaps and bounds during its testing.

On May 14, 2013, the X-47B was successfully launched from the flight deck of the carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77). That take-off marks the first time in history that a UAV was catapulted from an aircraft carrier.Three days later, another milestone was reached when the X-47B performed touch-and-go landings and take-offs to and from the flight deck of the USS George H.W. Bush while underway in the Atlantic Ocean.

Less than two months later, the X-47B took off from shore and landed on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush, conducting the first ever arrested landing of a UAV on an aircraft carrier that was steaming at sea.

Since the end of 2013, the Navy has continued to progress the UCAV program. So far, all of the tests, including night flights and increasing the difficulty of the UAVs’ capability envelopes, have been conducted with the X-47B’s taking off and landing from empty flight decks.

On August 17, 2014, history was made once again when an X-47B took off from the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) alongside an F/A-18 Super Hornet. This achievement marks the first time that a UAV operated in conjunction with manned aircraft onboard an aircraft carrier at sea.

We look forward to watching even more history being made in Naval aviation, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. military as a whole.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Naval History: By Debbie Gregory