Archive for August, 2008

F-117A NIGHTHAWK

August 30, 2008

Freedom Fighter

Freedom Fighter

“Freedom Fighter” is a F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter jet with a special patriotic Stars and Stripes paint job. The “Freedom Fighter” calendar, poster, and art prints make great gifts for the American patriot in your family, or for the Air Force member in your life. Visit the PatriArt Gallery to purchase the “Freedom Fighter” F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.

Mission
The F-117A Nighthawk is the world’s first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology. This precision-strike aircraft penetrates high-threat airspace and uses laser-guided weapons against critical targets.

Features
The unique design of the single-seat F-117A provides exceptional combat capabilities. About the size of an F-15 Eagle, the twin-engine aircraft is powered by two General Electric F404 turbofan engines and has quadruple redundant fly-by-wire flight controls. Air refuelable, it supports worldwide commitments and adds to the deterrent strength of U.S. military forces.

The F-117A can employ a variety of weapons and is equipped with sophisticated navigation and attack systems integrated into a digital avionics suite that increases mission effectiveness and reduces pilot workload. Detailed planning for missions into highly defended target areas is accomplished by an automated mission planning system developed, specifically, to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the F-117A.

Background
The F-117A production decision was made in 1978 with a contract awarded to Lockheed Advanced Development Projects, the “Skunk Works,” in Burbank, Calif. The first flight over the Nevada test ranges was on June 18, 1981, only 31 months after the full-scale development decision.

Streamlined management by Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, combined breakthrough stealth technology with concurrent development and production to rapidly field the aircraft.

The first F-117A was delivered in 1982, and the last delivery was in the summer of 1990. Air Combat Command’s only F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group, (now the 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.), achieved operational capability in October 1983.

During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, F-117A’s flew approximately 1,300 sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq. It was the only U.S. or coalition aircraft to strike targets in downtown Baghdad. Since moving to Holloman AFB in 1992, the F-117A and the men and women of the 49th Fighter Wing have deployed to Southwest Asia more than once. On their first trip, the F-117s flew non-stop from Holloman to Kuwait, a flight of approximately 18.5 hours — a record for single-seat fighters that stands today.

In 1999, 24 F-117A’s deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Spangdahlem AB, Germany, to support NATO’s Operation Allied Force. The aircraft led the first Allied air strike against Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999.

Returning to the skies over Baghdad, F-117A’s launched Operation Iraqi Freedom with a decapitation strike on March 20, 2003. Striking key targets in the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, 12 deployed F-117s flew more than 100 combat sorties in support of the global war on terrorism.

The F-117A program demonstrates that stealth aircraft can be designed for reliability and maintainability. It created a revolution in military warfare by incorporating low-observable technology into operational aircraft. The aircraft receives support through a Lockheed-Martin contract known as Total System Performance Responsibility.  

The F-117 is being replaced by the F-22 Raptor. The final aircraft were formally retired in April 2008; on August 11, 2008, the last F-117 was flown to its retirement location at the Tonapah Test Range. There the wings are removed and the aircraft stored in hangars awaiting final disposition

General Characteristics
Primary Function: Fighter/attack
Contractor: Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co.
Power Plant: Two General Electric F404 non-afterburning engines
Thrust: 18,080 pounds at sea level
Wingspan: 43 feet, 4 inches (13.2 meters)
Length: 63 feet, 9 inches (19.4 meters)
Height: 12 feet, 9.5 inches (3.9 meters) 
Weight: 52,500 pounds (23,625 kilograms) 
Maximum takeoff weight: 47,900 pounds (21,727 kilograms)
Fuel capacity: 19,000 pounds (8618 kilograms)
Payload: 4,000 pounds (1,814 kilograms)
Speed: High subsonic
Range: Unlimited with air refueling
Ceiling: 45,000 feet (13,716 meters)
Armament: Internal weapons carriage
Crew: One 
Unit Cost: $45 million 
Initial operating capability: October 1983
Inventory: Total force, 45

Data: USAF

MH-53 Pave Low

August 30, 2008
MH-53 Pave Low

MH-53 Pave Low

The MH-53 Pave Low helicopter flown by the US Air Force Special Operations Command AFSOC can hover on your wall too. Find the calendar, framed art print, and poster at The PatriArt Gallery.

The MH-53J/M Pave Low’s mission is low-level, long-range, undetected penetration into denied areas, day or night, in adverse weather, for infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces.

Features
The MH-53J/M Pave Low IV medium-lift helicopter is the largest, most powerful and technologically advanced helicopter in the Air Force inventory. The terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radar, forward-looking infrared sensor, inertial navigation system with global positioning system, along with a projected map display enable the crew to follow terrain contours. It also enables the crew to avoid obstacles in adverse weather, making low-level tactical penetration possible.

The MH-53M Pave Low IV is a J-model that has been modified with the Interactive Defensive Avionics System/Multi-Mission Advanced Tactical Terminal. This system greatly enhances present defensive capabilities of the Pave Low. It provides instant access to the total battlefield situation, using near real-time electronic Order of Battle updates. It also provides a new level of detection avoidance with near real-time threat broadcasts over-the-horizon, so crews can avoid and defeat threats, and replan en route if needed. 

Background
Under the Pave Low III program, the Air Force modified nine MH-53Hs and 32 HH-53s for night and adverse weather operations. Modifications included forward-looking infrared, inertial global positioning system, Doppler navigation systems, terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radar, an on-board computer, and integrated avionics to enable precise navigation to and from target areas. The Air Force designated these modified versions as MH-53Js. 

Since they entered the Air Force inventory, Pave Lows, with their unique special operations mission and capabilities, have supported several campaigns. In 1990, Pave Lows from the 20th Special Operations Squadron led the way for Army AH-64 Apaches during an air strike, thus opening the air war in Operation Desert Storm. Most recently, Pave Lows have played a crucial role in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

General Characteristics
Primary Function: Long-range infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces in day, night or adverse weather conditions
Contractor: Sikorsky
Power Plant: Two General Electric T64-GE-100 engines
Thrust: 4,330 shaft horsepower per engine
Rotary Diameter: 72 feet (21.9 meters)
Length: 88 feet (28 meters)
Height: 25 feet (7.6 meters)
Speed: 165 mph (at sea level)
Ceiling: 16,000 feet (4,876 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 46,000 pounds (Emergency War Plan allows for 50,000 pounds)
Range: 600 nautical miles 
Armament: Combination of three 7.62 mini guns or three .50 caliber machine guns
Crew:  Two pilots (officers);  two flight engineers and two aerial gunners (enlisted)
Date Deployed: 1981
Unit Costs: $40 million (fiscal 2001 constant dollars)
Air Force Inventory: Active force, 2 MH-53J’s, 20 MH-53M’s; Reserve, 0; ANG, 0

Red Sky at Night, Pilot’s Delight

August 30, 2008
Red Sky

Red Sky

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor jet fighter and an A-10 Thunderbolt II fly through a fantasy sky in this artist-enhanced image. Find the poster or art print exclusively at The PatriArt Gallery.

“Red Sky in the Morning, Sailor Take Warning,
 Red Sky at Night, Sailor’s Delight”

This old saying actually has a scientific explanation. It relates to moving high and low surface-pressure weather systems, and the way that the colors in sunlight are scattered differently by dirty and clean atmospheres. This is the explanation of how these phenomena combine to color our sunrises and sunsets.

If you look at a global map of surface pressure, you will see a string of alternating high-pressure and low-pressure areas.  That is because pressure patterns are relative; i.e., if a region of lower pressure exists, it must have higher pressure on either side.

Low pressure is associated with bad weather (sailor take warning), and high pressure with good weather (sailor’s delight). Low pressure causes air to converge (to try to “fill” the low), and converging air causes upward motion, which in turn produces clouds and precipitation.

In contrast, air diverges from the center of a high-pressure area. This causes downward motion, which suppresses cloud formation.

A temperature inversion (temperature increasing with height) forms at the level of the troposphere where this downward motion is strongest. This happens because downward-moving air experiences higher pressure as it descends and thus is compressed. According to the laws of physics, air heats when it is compressed. Vertical motion is inhibited at the level of the inversion; thus dirty air containing suspensions of soot, dust, and other particles (known as aerosols) is trapped near the surface.

So, atmospheric conditions in a high-pressure area are typically cloud free and dirty, and those in a low-pressure area are cloudy and relatively clean (fewer aerosols).

Light from the sun is made up of the colors in the rainbow, which correspond to different wavelengths of radiation.  The blues are made up of short wavelengths and the reds of longer wavelengths. The radiative properties of a dirty atmosphere differ from those of a clean atmosphere. That is because light from the sun is scattered differently by air molecules than by aerosols (which are relatively larger). Air molecules scatter the shorter wavelengths more efficiently, and that is why the sky is blue!

Dust or aerosols scatter the longer wavelengths (red light) more efficiently, and most of that light is scattered in the forward direction (the direction in which the light is moving). Also, at sunrise and sunset the sun’s rays travel through a long path of atmosphere, so these scattering processes are very efficient at those times. Therefore, sunlight traveling through a long path of dirty atmosphere at sunrise or sunset is made up of primarily the reddish wavelengths when it reaches the observer (e.g., look at the color of smog in Los Angeles or Denver). A cleaner atmosphere at sunrise or sunset is colored by a mixture of all but the blue colors, giving it a yellowish appearance.

Now you have the science behind the adage. Picture yourself on a ship in the middle of a mid-latitude ocean. There the wind (and thus storm paths) is from west to east. It is morning and you are watching the sunrise. It is red. Since it is morning you are looking east, and the red sky indicates that there is high pressure there. Because you are in the mid-latitudes, the high is moving eastward–away from you. That could only mean that a low, and very likely an associated storm, is moving toward you from the west.  Sailor take warning! Now picture yourself watching the sunset from the ship, and the western sky is red.  That means that an area of high pressure is to your west, the westerlies are moving it toward you, and good weather is on the way–sailor’s delight!

Note that this only works in the belt of westerlies, from about 30 degrees to 60 degrees latitude in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The region 30 degrees on either side of the equator is characterized by easterlies (the trade winds). This adage would be opposite in that region.
John Augustine and Lisa Smith (NOAA)

The Blue Angels

August 30, 2008
The Blue Angels

The Blue Angels

The perfect gift for the Fourth of July Independence Day holiday or any other patriotic American occasion. The US Navy’s Blue Angels aerobatic team soar under the American Revolutionary motto “Don’t Tread On Me!” Find this Blue Angels “Don’t Tread On Me!” theme as a poster, framed print, or calendar exclusively at The PatriArt Gallery.

At the end of World War II, Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, the Chief of Naval Operations, ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team to keep the public interested in Naval Aviation. The Blue Angels performed their first flight demonstration less than a year later in June 1946 at their home base, Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida. Flying the Grumman F6F Hellcat, they were led by Lt. Cmdr. Roy “Butch” Voris.

Only two months later on August 25, 1946, the Blue Angels transitioned to the Grumman F8F Bearcat and introduced the famous “diamond” formation.

By the end of the 1940s, the Blue Angels were flying their first jet aircraft, the Grumman F9F-2 Panther. In response to the demands placed on Naval Aviation in the Korean Conflict, the team reported to the aircraft carrier USS Princeton as the nucleus of Fighter Squadron 191 (VF-191), “Satan’s Kitten”, in 1950.

They were reorganized the next year and reported to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, where they began flying the newer and faster version of the Panther, the F9F-5. The Blue Angels remained in Corpus Christi until the winter of 1954 when they relocated to their present home at NAS Pensacola, Florida. It was here that they progressed to the swept-wing Grumman F9F-8 Cougar.

The ensuing 20 years saw the Blue Angels transition to two more aircraft, the Grumman F11F-1 Tiger (1957) and the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II (1969).

In December 1974, the Navy Flight Demonstration Team began flying the McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II and was reorganized into the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. This reorganization permitted the establishment of a commanding officer vice a flight leader, added support officers, and further redefined the squadron’s mission emphasizing the support of recruiting efforts. Cmdr. Tony Less was the squadron’s first official commanding officer.

On November 8, 1986, the Blue Angels completed their 40th anniversary year during ceremonies unveiling their present aircraft, the sleek McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, the first dual-role fighter/attack aircraft now serving on the nation’s front lines of defense. Since 1946, the Blue Angels have flown for more than 260 million spectators.

Data courtesy USN

College Credit for Special Operations Training

August 30, 2008
MH-53 Pave Low

MH-53 Pave Low

The MH-53J/M Pave Low helicopter is flown by the US Air Force Special Operations Command or AFSOC. Find the AFSOC MH-53 Pave Low poster at The PatriArt Gallery.

The U.S. Air Force Special Operations School at Hurlburt Field (FL) recently met the Air University’s Board of Visitors requirements allowing enlisted students to automatically receive credits toward their Community College of the Air Force degree for courses taken after April 15, 2008. 

In less than a week, Dr. Stephen Harris, USAFSOS dean of academics and Col. Paul Harmon, school commandant, completed the first credentialing phase. In this phase they submitted course documentation, instructor qualifications, school’s mission statement and Air Force Special Operations Command commander’s approval letter to the CCAF committee. 

“I think the great thing is how the senior leadership at Hurlburt embraced and pushed this idea,” Dr. Harris said. 

The CCAF committee conducted a site visit, observed courses and facilities before making recommendations to the Air University’s Board of Visitors. They granted USAFSOS a candidacy status, which permits the school to operate a full year before receiving their full affiliation status. 

Fifteen courses the school offers are now approved for CCAF credits. Three instructor qualification courses are waiting approval. For a complete listing of approved courses and credit hours, click here.

There are no tuition charges for U.S. personnel attending USAFSOS courses. Student travel and per diem costs are the responsibility of the home unit. 

More than700 guest speakers, including former ambassadors, distinguished academicians, active duty and retired flag-rank officers, support USAFSOS. Approximately 9,200 students attended USAFSOS in 2006. 

Although the number of AFSOC members that attend the courses is traditionally low due to the ops tempo, USAFSOS is hoping the chance to earn credits for their CCAF will increase their enrollment of AFSOC Airmen. 

“We are trying to get the word out that this is an opportunity to take advantage of, especially for our own Airmen here at Hurlburt,” Colonel Harmon said.

Jeremy Webster

History of Military Gaming

August 29, 2008
Death Gliders

Death Gliders

Get the “Death Gliders” poster or calendar — exclusively online at The PatriArt Gallery

Gaming has long been an important tool used by militaries to assist in training, analysis and mission readiness. What began 5,000 years ago as warfare models using colored stones and grid systems on a board has evolved into state-of-the-art computer-simulation systems that allow users to customize their virtual experience based on real-life events.

Military simulation games evolved over time, eventually leading to the Roman legions’ sue of sand tables and miniature replicas representing the battlefield in the 1st century A.D. They were visual tools used to play out strategic scenarios. These devices remain in use today at military academies and schools, but are slowly being replaced by computer simulations.

Early Systems
The greatest advancements in pre-computer war games came in the mid 17th century, said Roger Smith, chief scientist and technology officer for the Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation. Germany’s Christopher Weikmann designed “Konigspiel,” “the King’s Game,” one of the earliest warfare board games, which allowed a player to visualize the movement and actions of his forces on a playing board.

“That was the beginning of the most important changes. Before that everything was literal, a direct representation of the battlefield with no way of abstractly representing behaviors,” Smith said. When the Germans started using paper board games, they were able to estimate battlefield actions using probability and other forms of mathematics.

In 1811, another German, Baron von Reisswitz, developed “Kriegsspiels,” a more detailed board game using contoured terrain and porcelain soldiers, which introduced the concept of a starting scenario with a stated military objective, Smith said. The Germans were “creating the foundations of mathematically driven warfare that would be programmed on computers in the 1950s.”

Inventors further refined the board war game in the 1950s with hexagonal overlays to track movement and engagement, and a combat-results table for calculating attrition and movement, which incorporated the impact of terrain on combat activities, Smith said.

“The RAND Corporation was working on a system to present theater-level warfare in a form that would allow more mathematically accurate actions than those found on sand tables and board games of earlier centuries,” he said.

At the same time, Charles Roberts, an entrepreneur awaiting his Army commission, developed a similar game. Both systems also introduced combat-results tables and the use of dice to add random events and outcomes to the “battle.”

Roberts established Avalon Hill, a commercial entertainment company, in 1958, and used the military planning and training tools to popularize war-gaming as a form of entertainment. “Thus was born the lasting tension between games as serious military tools and games as a form of entertainment,” Smith said.

Casual players wanted a user-friendly game, but the military needed accuracy and began using computing machines to assist with more involved calculations. Technological advances made these devices more accessible, Smith said, and incorporated more detailed mathematics and logic into game play. The forms of the games themselves though, remained relatively unchanged.

Computers Arrive
The Army Operations Research Office at Maryland’s Johns Hopkins University developed the first truly computerized war games. Beginning with “Air Defense Simulation” in 1948 and the “Carmonette” series of simulations in 1953, these systems eliminated much of the manual work of moving pieces, rolling dice, looking up results in a table and calculating final results, Smith said.

“The players could focus on the tactical movements and leave the complexity of manipulation to the computer,” he said. Game size was expanded, limited only by the computer’s capabilities.

As developers’ understanding of the power of the computer grew, they were able to “incorporate mathematic and logical algorithms that were far beyond what could be managed with a human-driven paper game,” Smith said. The 1970s saw the first iterations of today’s networked, multiplayer simulations. Games like the McClintic Theater Model at the Army War College, not only improved mathematical models of warfare, they incorporated attractive system graphics.

In today’s personal-gaming age, Smith said entertainment games and technologies are being modified and used in the military domain, and traditional games have been re-tooled for casual gamers and sold for entertainment.

“We are much more comfortable with using entertainment technologies for military training today,” Smith said. Military-training simulations like JANUS and SIMNET have been incorporated into simpler commercial games. “America’s Army,” a modification of Unreal Tournament;” DARWARS Ambush,” and adaptation of “Operation Flashpoint;” and X-Box’s “Full Spectrum Warrior” have all been used by the military.

“Marine Doom” was one of the earliest examples of modifying games for training purposes, Smith added.

The game was an early modification of idSoftware’s “Doom II.” Marine Lt. Scott Barnett, the project officer, and Marine Sgt. Dan Snyder, a designer and modeler, tweaked the commercial off-the-shelf product in the mid-1990s to enhance teamwork, coordination and decision-making training.
“It was primitive, but they showed the big idea of using games for training,” Smith said. At the time, the Army’s leaders did not realize the full potential of COTS games and their value to military training, so research into its uses was limited.

“As games have become more sophisticated, and as the military has come to understand them better, we have been able to identify better means of leveraging these technologies for serious purposes,” Smith said. “We have come a long way in how we use games. Every year somebody takes it a stop further.”

Researchers and developers today are faced with the challenge of creating game-based software that can be deployed around the globe as the demand for them increases, Smith said. Rather than waiting for official products to reach them, “Soldiers are putting these COTS games into their own hands and modifying them for their specific needs.”

One of the few broadly deliverable products in use today, “DARWARS Ambush” has been deployed to Soldiers in the States and abroad, and has become a valuable tool for both users and developers.

“We bring the system out to the field and create a gaming lab with a networking center,” Smith said. A tech provides a series of scenarios to the Soldiers and teaches them how the tools work and how to change those scenarios to the extent the system will allow.

“The Soldiers just dive in and start ‘playing’ the scenarios,” Smith said. “Then they start adapting those scenarios to make them more realistic. They are not only learning the given scenarios, but teaching themselves to replicate real-life experiences to re-live and recreate what they’ve seen on their own missions.”

The users are able to take another look at specific events from a stress-free environment and provide developers with valuable input about the effectiveness of the training.

Smith said that modern tools for training have spread beyond combat to medical and cultural scenarios. The military has also expanded its research to varied uses of artificial intelligence.

Through a sustained partnership among researchers, developers and users, Smith said the Army continues to look at the technology within games, rather than the games themselves, as a means of creating alternatives for many of the established tools for training.

“There is more of an acceptance of these technologies every year,” Smith said. “We are better able to answer the questions that have surrounded military simulations, and we are able to more accurately translate military models into accurate simulations.”

Carrie McLeroy

Army Troops: More Time at Home, More Time to Train

August 29, 2008

Dwell time for Soldiers between deployments is expected to increase to 17 months next year, and almost to 24 months by 2011, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. He said this will allow the National Training Center to once again focus on “conventional operations” and not just counter-insurgency training.

Gen. Casey made his remarks during an interview outside the town of Medina Jabal in the National Training Center’s range area, “the box,” during a visit to NTC (Fort Irwin, CA) Aug. 14.

Changing training scenarios

Gen. Casey said that one of the main things he did during his visit was to speak with Brig. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commanding general, National Training Center and Fort Irwin, about adjusting NTC training scenarios.

This adjustment, Casey said, would involve including “major conventional operations training” as well as “irregular warfare training” at NTC over the next couple of years, as Soldiers spend more time at home and not deployed.

“And we’re already starting the planning to reset the scenarios and the OPFOR [opposing force], so that we can do that,” Casey said.

“What I’ve seen now across the Army. We are a combat-seasoned force. Some of the battalions out here-60, 70, 80 percent-combat veterans, Gen. Casey said. “And so they know how to fight. And right now, we’re focused on irregular warfare. And a lot of the skills that they have are directly transferable to…major conventional operations.”

“We won’t flinch on making sure that our Soldiers have the best possible training and equipment to succeed in whatever war we send them into, and that’s what’s happening here every day,” Casey said.

Force stretched

In his first 16 months as chief of staff, Casey said he and his wife have traveled extensively around the Army.

“It is very clear to us that the Families are stretched,” Casey said. “That the whole force is stretched. There’s no denying that. What we’re asking of our Families is far different than anything that I have seen in my career up to now.”

“And I think while the next two years will continue to be hard,” he said “over time we’ll gradually build ourselves out of this.”

Realism at NTC

Gen. Casey – who was in Iraq as recently as July and served as the commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq between July 2004 and February 2007 – said he was struck by the NTC’s realism.

“And I must admit when I walked down the street the first time, the hair stood up on the back of my neck, because it was so real,” Gen. Casey said. “We’ve made a quantum advance just in the year plus since I’ve been here.”

Force of future
The general said that the Army is building a versatile force that can operate “from peacetime engagements to major conventional operations and every place in between.”

The Army, Gen. Casey said, is “well on our way” to meeting the goal set by President George W. Bush in 2007 to increase the size of the Army by 74,000.

“That will allow us to build more brigades, which means, with more brigades, the ones that we have, go [are deployed] less,” Gen. Casey said.

The conversion of the Army over the last several years to a modular, brigade-based force is now 70 percent complete, Gen. Casey said. By the end of fiscal year 2011, the conversion to these modular units will be 98 percent complete, he said.

“The transformation is a holistic effort,” the general said, “and we’re changing, basically, what was a Cold War Army before September 11th to a versatile, disciplined force that can operate across the spectrum of conflict in countries.”

Training and versatility

Gen. Casey said that the time he spent in Iraq changed his views on the relationship between training and the versatility of the force.

“When I was a divisional commander in Germany in ’99 to 2001, if you had asked me where I should optimize my training on the spectrum of conflict so I could be the most versatile, I would have said, If I can do conventional war, I can do anything.

“After 32 months in Iraq, I don’t believe that…mostly the Soldiers that have been to Iraq and Afghanistan don’t believe that, either. There’s enough difference, some fundamental differences between irregular warfare and major conventional warfare that we need to…be more versatile,” Gen. Casey said.

Funding Family programs

Gen. Casey said that the Army is “put[ting] our money where our mouth is” in terms of providing programs for Soldiers and their Families to improve their quality of life.

The general said that Families were seeking funding and standardization. “First thing they said, ‘Look general, we don’t need a bunch of fancy new programs. You need to standardize the ones you have. Fund the ones you have and standardize them across the installations.'”

The Army recognized the needs of Soldiers and their Families, the general said, by establishing the Army Family Covenant in October 2007. The Army Family Covenant addresses needs relating to healthcare, housing, education and employment.

“We committed ourselves to ratcheting up the level of support that we’re giving to Soldiers and Families,” Casey said. “We doubled the amount of money that we’re putting towards Soldier and Family programs.” The Army spent $1.4 billion on these programs in 2007 and is spending $1.7 billion in 2008, he said.

Message to Soldiers

To Soldiers deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world, Casey said the following:

“I thank them for their sacrifice and for what they’re doing for this country. They are making a difference at a very critical time in our country’s history. And they are being successful at it.

“And I believe firmly that the efforts we’re making in Iraq and Afghanistan are allowing us to deal with the terrorist threat there and not here. And it’s the men and women of the armed forces that are making that possible, supported by their Families.”

(Robert Abrams is editor of the “High Desert Warrior” newspaper at Fort Irwin, Calif.)

Improving “America’s Army”

August 29, 2008

In 2000 the Army and the gaming industry forged what is so far an eight-year partnership, combining Soldiers’ knowledge of all things Army with industry professionals’ understanding of how technology can be leveraged to relate the Army experience.

Col. Casey Wardynski, director of the Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and head of the “America’s Army” program, developed a concept study in 1999 that “envisioned using computer game technology to provide the public a virtual Soldier experience that was engaging, informative and entertaining,” according to “America’s Army” officials.

The Army set up the Army Game Project at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif., in January 2000. The team was granted unprecedented access to units, training and equipment, and gained information and insights that were eventually modeled in the game to contribute to its authentic Army “feel.” In its most widely used form, “America’s Army” is an online, downloadable, PC-based game that allows players a portal into the Army, from basic training to Special Forces missions.

Unique to America’s Army, however, was the incorporation of values and consequences in a first-person action environment, which set it apart from its commercial counterparts.

“We entered into a marriage of game-industry technical expertise and Army core values, and applied that to something really meaningful,” said Phillip Bossant, executive producer of the America’s Army Public Applications team.

From its earliest version, “America’s Army: Recon” (v1.0.0), players were bound by the Rules off Engagement, teamwork and adherence to the seven Army core values. Two dozen releases later, success in the game is still built upon team play, and still guided by the Army’s values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

“America’s Army” was the first to use the Unreal Engine 2.0 to support its game.

“Unreal hadn’t been released yet ¬¬- our game came first,” Bossant said. “‘America’s Army’ looked nothing like the other games. It had high-quality graphics, animation and sound, even though the game was free to players. I think everyone expected it to be junk. They were all surprised.”

The game was first introduced in 2002, and was an instant favorite at the annual industry trade show in Los Angeles.

Eight years later, “America’s Army” continues to be one of the top 10 online action games. To keep up with industry technical standards and an ever-increasing consumer appetite for dynamic game play, the public “America’s Army” team has consistently used new technologies, platforms and themes to enhance game play. The current version of the game, “America’s Army: Special Forces (Overmatch),” combines high-fidelity graphics supported by the Unreal Engine 2.5 with dynamic game-play options to give players a “soup-to-nuts virtual experience within which to explore entry-level and advanced training, as well as soldiering in small units,” Bossant said.

“We have virtually taken our players through boot camp and airborne training, and even introduced them to the Special Forces,” Bossant added. “Through ‘America’s Army,’ players have learned about rules of engagement, lifesaving, laws of war and Army values.”

While the AA team is currently working on a new version of the game using the Unreal Engine 3.0, the current game is still widely popular. There are more than nine million registered users, according to Bossant, and more than 900 fan sites have been established around the world.

The new game, scheduled for release in the coming year, will be faster to download, have better graphics and will expand on Army roles and missions.

“This game will continue to build upon the marriage between thoroughbred game technologies and the Army,” Bossant said. “We reviewed lessons from our first nine years, and we are making decisions based on those lessons to make the game a more compelling and comprehensive test drive of the Army. We’ll keep the aspects that are great about the current game, and use the new engine to create an even better version.”

Most of the developers and artists on the America’s Army team have participated in a condensed version of basic combat training at various installations, to get a better feel for what the Army is all about. Through the training and other installation visits, the team has built relationships with Soldiers who understand what they are trying to accomplish through the game.

“America’s Army 3.0” will also expand realism within game play. “In everything a player does, from the training phases to mission play, there are consequences for their actions,” Bossant said. For example, a player may choose to take on a mission without additional training, but his game play will not be as effective as that of a player who perfected the training phases. Or a player will be able to choose which gear to don, but if he chooses the maximum amount of gear, he will move slower than a player who doesn’t. Players don’t follow the rules of engagement of conduct themselves according to the Army values are penalized.

“We’re figuring out how to make these elements important to virtual players, and through that instill pride in their achievements in the game,” Bossant said. “They have a persistent character in the game. If they invest the time, they’re likely to maximize their pursuit of opportunities and options. Advancement as a Soldier in the game means something to them. Other games don’t offer that.”
The driving force behind the new game, Bossant added, is to make players understand that every virtual achievement is significant. Through game play, they’re able to begin to understand the Army Values, what they mean and how they pay off in life and to team mission accomplishment. Artists and developers are leveraging what they know about gaming along with what Soldiers are teaching them about the Army to portray significant moments throughout the game, such as basic training graduation.

Bossant also said that with the release of the new game, there would be a release schedule so players know what updates are coming and when they’ll take effect. This not only allows players to foresee scheduled enhancements, it gives them an opportunity to train in the game, and to be prepared to take advantage of new missions, roles and capabilities.

“We anticipate that potentially profound moments become possible in the game,” Bossant said. “We can get your heart racing, but can you have an emotional response to what you do in the game? If we can accomplish that, we have an opportunity to add a whole new level of depth to our virtual world.”

Carrie McLeroy

USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) Delivered to Navy Ahead of Schedule

August 29, 2008

On August 28, General Dynamics Electric Boat delivered the New Hampshire (SSN-778), the nation’s newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine, to the U.S. Navy eight months
ahead of schedule, reports General Dynamics in a press release.

At a brief shipyard ceremony, Electric Boat President John Casey gave
credit to the Navy, the shipbuilders and the supplier base for  achieving the early delivery date. “This ship is a tangible reflection of the skill and craft of thousands of industry and shipyard workers. And it clearly demonstrates the nation’s commitment to a strong national defense,” he said.

“As a result of numerous production and process improvements, Electric Boat is delivering New Hampshire to the Navy in 71 months, 16 months fewer than the lead ship,” Casey continued. “Put another way, we reduced the time between when the ship enters the water and when it is delivered from 14 months on the first ship of the class to less than 6 months on the New Hampshire.”

New Hampshire is the fifth ship of the Virginia Class, the Navy’s first
major class of combatant ships designed with the post-Cold War security environment in mind. Virginia-class submarines embody warfighting and operational capabilities required to dominate the littorals while maintaining undersea dominance in the open ocean.

“Like the previous ships of the class, New Hampshire has been designed specifically to incorporate emergent technologies that will provide new capabilities to meet new threats,” Casey said. “This enables the Virginia Class to make unique and significant  contributions to national security for decades to come,” he said.

Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding have received contracts to build the first 10 submarines of a planned 30-ship Virginia Class under a teaming agreement that splits the construction workload between the two shipyards.

Virginia-class characteristics

Displacement:  7,835 tons

Length:  377 feet

Beam:  34 feet

Payload:  40 weapons; special operations forces; 
                unmanned undersea vehicles

Weapons Launch:   Four 21-inch torpedo tubes;     
                               12 vertical-launch system tubes

Weapons:  Tomahawk land-attack missiles;
                  Mark 48 advanced capability torpedoes

Crew: 134 officers and enlisted men

Ships of the Virginia class

    — USS Virginia (SSN-774)

    — USS Texas (SSN-775)

    — USS Hawaii (SSN-776)

    — USS North Carolina (SSN-777)

    — New Hampshire (SSN-778)

    — New Mexico (SSN-779)

    — Missouri (SSN-780)

    — California (SSN-781)

    — Mississippi (SSN-782)

    — Minnesota (SSN-783)

    — North Dakota (SSN-784)

SOURCE  General Dynamics Electric Boat

Czech, US agree on conditions to site radar

August 29, 2008

The Czech Republic and the United States have reached agreement on the conditions to set up a controversial US anti-missile base in the country, a defence ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.”All major issues have been solved,” spokesman Andrej Cirtek told AFP, adding that the centre-right Czech government could be expected to discuss the proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in September.

A key follow-up agreement had been held up by a wrangle between Prague and Washington over the tax treatment of the proposed US radar. Read the entire article