In The News

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

In the 2014 sci-fi action movie Edge of Tomorrow (also known as Live. Die. Repeat), Tom Cruise plays William Cage, a public relations officer with no combat experience, who somehow gets stuck in a Groundhog Day-style time loop. Forced to participate in a battle against a seemingly unbeatable foe, the initially hopeless Cage becomes increasingly effective by reliving the day of the attack over and over. Each time he dies, Cage wakes up on the day preceding the attack takes place.

Being able to train in this way is a luxury that’s not afforded to today’s combat troops. As many drills as you run, as much strategic briefing takes place, the reality is that nothing can prepare you for being in a real combat zone. Suddenly things become a whole lot more unpredictable — and unpredictability is difficult to train for. Especially when one mistake could lead to serious injury or worse.

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More fire power: US Army sets out to develop new missiles in FY20

The U.S. Army is embarking on several new missile development programs while ramping up and accelerating other ongoing programs to deliver more fire power to the force at greater ranges, according to the service’s justification books for its fiscal 2020 budget request.

The service’s No. 1 modernization priority is Long-Range Precision Fires, or LRPF, because the Army believes it is central to future operations in environments where access to terrain may be difficult or entirely denied, or where soldiers lack the territorial advantage to counter threats.

And the LRPF capability plays an important role the service’s emerging doctrine — Multidomain Operations — where the Army and its sister services will work more in concert across sea, land, air, space and cyber domains to overtake the enemy.

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Plan would double artillery upgrades in Army arsenal over the next five years

The Army is about a third of the way toward its goal to acquire an upgraded fleet of nearly 700 tracked, mobile artillery cannons but will nearly double its inventory over the next five years if a recent budget request is approved.

More than six years ago, the Army began a program to improve the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled 155 mm artillery cannon, which was fielded in 1994.

Since the improvement program began then, they’ve been able to put more than 200 of the weapons into their arsenal and more than 200 more are on the way over the next five years, with an ultimate goal of having 689 Paladins in stock over the next decade, according to recently released Army budget request documents.

When the program started, initial goals were for 580 upgraded Paladins. Strategic concerns about Russian and Chinese fires modernization has pushed that number up by more than 100 in recent years.

Those improvements and procurement will keep the currently quarter-century-old mobile cannon blasting away until 2050.

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Former U.S. Army officer pleads guilty to spying for China

A former U.S. Army officer accused of spying for China has pleaded guilty.

Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, admitted to transferring sensitive defense data to Chinese intelligence agents in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a Department of Justice press release on Friday.

“Hansen pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government. The plea agreement calls for an agreed-upon sentence of 15 years,” the DOJ release said.

Hansen, a Utah resident, previously served as a Warrant Officer in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2006. He had a background involving signals intelligence and human intelligence, and learned fluency in Mandarin Chinese and Russian.

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US Army preparing for major changes to force structure

The Army is preparing to make what it deems as necessary, and major, organizational changes to its force structure within the next five years, according to the Futures and Concepts Center director.
“There is going to be a fundamental change in the organizational structure to fight the way we are describing,” Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley told an audience at the Center for a New American Security in Washington on March 4.
“The Army has relied on counterinsurgency operations over the past 15 years that depended greatly on the Brigade Combat Team. But now, with a new focus on large-scale ground combat operations anticipated in the future operating environment, “that will require echelons above brigade, all of which will solve unique and distinct problems that a given BCT can’t solve by itself,” Wesley said.

West Point cadets honor Peter Zhu

A West Point cadet who was mortally injured on a ski slope last month was honored in a tribute at the military academy in advance of his funeral Thursday.
Cadet Peter Zhu’s company on Tuesday trekked more than six miles to the slope on academy grounds where Zhu, 21, was found unconscious on Feb. 23, according to a post on the West Point Facebook page.
Members of Zhu’s company, Company E1, traveled with their military issued gear and carried Zhu’s ruck, or backpack, to Victor Constant Ski Area.
 “What we didn’t expect was that we would be joined by approximately 200 others from the Corps of Cadets,” Felix Rosa Negron, a member of the Class of 2020, said in the Facebook post. “We carried his ruck untouched as we found it, and reminisced about our experiences with him.”

Lethality Automated System (ATLAS) Isn’t a killer robot

In February, the U.S. Army asked experts for ideas on how to build a system that would allow tanks and other ground-combat vehicles to quickly and automatically “acquire, identify, and engage” targets.
Some saw this as a step toward autonomous killer robots, leading the Army to now tweak its request.
Yes, it now says, it wants bots to be able to identify and kill targets. But that doesn’t mean “we’re putting the machine in a position to kill anybody,” an Army official told Defense One.
Just A Misunderstanding
According to the Defense One story, the Army decided to revise its request for information to make it clear that the Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS) would not violate the Defense Department’s policy requiring that a human always make the decision to use lethal force.

US Army tackles sexual assault

The Army has recently expanded its Not in My Squad initiative as part of its ongoing fight against sexual assault, the Army’s top enlisted leader told lawmakers Feb. 27, 2019.
Introduced in 2015, the program empowers junior leaders at the squad level to reduce sexual assault and violence by building cohesive units through shared and mutual trust.
According to written testimony provided to lawmakers by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, the service has now spread the program to 27 ready and resilient campuses on Army installations.
In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, Dailey testified that the service has also conducted 17 workshops that showed positive feedback.
Certified resiliency trainers have been embedded at the company level to train soldiers on sustaining readiness and optimizing performance.

How Well Do You Know Your Military?

The American public knows the U.S. military is the most elite and lethal fighting force in the world, but it turns out there’s a pretty big knowledge gap when it comes to what is known about military life.
So, we’re making it one of our missions to lift the fog and help you get to #KnowYourMil.
 

Cadet Peter L. Zhu dies in skiing accident

Cadet Peter L. Zhu, a member of the Class of 2019, passed Feb. 28 at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, with his family by his side, after succumbing to injuries sustained on Feb. 23 while skiing at Victor Constant Ski Area located on the academy grounds.
“I wish to extend to his family the sincere and profound sympathy of the U. S. Military Academy and all members of this command. We lost a brother today, and the pain will be felt for a long time,” said Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams.
Zhu, 21, of Concord, California, was found unresponsive by a fellow skier on Saturday afternoon on the slope. Ski Patrol conducted life-saving measures as he was transported to Keller Army Community Hospital and then airlifted to Westchester. The details of this incident are under investigation.