Posts Tagged Building Snowmobiles

Building Snowmobiles: How A Cabling-Installation Tool Is Being Used To Disable IED’s In Afghanistan

This is a neat little deal that I wanted to put up as a Building Snowmobiles post. Partly because it is an innovation, and partly because it is a cheap solution used to defeat a cheap weapon. I also wanted to give some kudos to the troops who are out there and innovating and creating their own ‘snowmobiles’ to defeat the enemy.

With this tool, they can probe for wires in the ground from 26 ft away with a telescoping rod and a hook attached to the end.  So for those scenarios where an IED emplacement is possible because the area is suspicious, an EOD specialist could probe for wires. When wires are found, he could cut them, and then the squad could follow both ends to the bomb and then to the IED team location. (please consult EOD or ‘those in the field’ first before using this tool, just so you know exactly how things are done!)

Now what would really be cool is for the innovator that thought this thing up, to come forward and claim some credit. Or at least give their invention a catchy name?

I also wanted to point out that innovations like this is something that happens out in the field due to analysis and synthesis, trial and error, and just plain old luck. This was not a solution that came from thousands of miles away, developed in some office by a company paid millions of dollars or by some government think tank. Nor was this innovation ‘ordered’ by some officer or higher command. Nope. Innovations like this come from individuals who are trying to survive and gain an edge on the battlefield. Their lives depend upon ‘finding the better way’, all so they can defeat the enemy and get back home alive. And this solution was cheap, simple, and effective…..perfect.

This is also the kind of thing that should be encouraged and rewarded by command and by today’s military. It should also be something that squad leaders and small unit leadership should encourage and seek out. The problem solvers of a squad should not be shut out, and a leader should do all they can to encourage innovations and discussions about innovations. A solution could come at any time, and from anybody, and leaders should be quick to jump on that gold and give that individual credit.

Ego or whatever you want to call it, has no place in this process (doom on those leaders that shut everyone out and propose that only ‘their’ ideas are the best) Use the creative juices of the entire team, include everyone in the process, and cheer that on as a leader. That is if you want to win, and in some cases, keep everyone alive and in one piece.

This particular innovation is just one example of how important ‘building snowmobiles’ can be to individuals who risk life and limb out there. Find the solution, no matter how crazy, how ridiculous, how radical, how funny, or whatever. Open your mind to the problem, and saturate/incubate/illuminate to find a solution. Get feedback and borrow brilliance. Avoid group think and confirmation bias. Question authority and the status quo. Use mimicry strategy. Stay focused and work on your Kaizen. Seek to destroy dogma and create a better plan/idea. (destruction and creation a la Boyd) Etc….

Pretty cool and bravo to the guy(s) who thought up this battlefield innovation. –Matt



Pikes Defeat Bombs
July 6, 2012: Given the incentives (life or death) it should come as no surprise that combat troops are very innovative in coming up with new battlefield tools.. One recent example was the development of an improvised “spear” for exposing and cutting wires the Taliban would use to set off roadside bombs. Three years ago, some soldier or marine (most likely the latter) figured out that one could take long (up to 8.4 meter/26 foot) fiberglass poles (normally used to help install communications or electrical wires), tape a sharp, curved blade to them and then use it to poke around an area possibly containing a roadside bomb detonating wire, without getting shot by the Taliban team waiting to set off the bomb. Once you found the wire, and cut it, you could find and disable the bomb itself. The Taliban detonation team would, by then either have run away, been captured or killed.
The manufacturer of the fiberglass poles, which come in three sections, became curious after more and more orders for the poles came from army and marine combat units in Afghanistan. These outfits normally did not do a lot of cable installation, and when asked what they were doing, the troops explained their innovative use of the poles.
As a bonus, the captured Taliban expressed great anger at their cleverly concealed bombs having been defeated by some poles with knives taped to one end. They expect more high tech from the American and don’t like being defeated by weapons any Afghan tribesman could build.
Story here.
US troops score win against IEDs in Afghanistan
July 6, 2012
Almost afraid to say it out loud, lest they jinx their record, U.S. troops in Afghanistan achieved one small but important victory over the past year: They found and avoided more homemade bombs meant to kill and maim them than a year ago, thanks to a surge in training, equipment and intelligence.

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Building Snowmobiles: The Quadrotor EFP

This is a pretty awesome combination of technologies if you ask me. A quadrotor of the size necessary to carry an EFP, programmed with all the necessary system controls to make it precise and maneuverable, and armed with an EFP that can be aimed at an engine block or the driver of a vehicle.

Plus, an EFP can penetrate armor (40 mm from 25 ft for the SLAM), and with the quadrotor EFP, you could target from multiple angles depending on the amount of munitions you have, the terrain, the weather, the targets and the mission. This is another Drone Archer weapon to look at, and it’s possible uses are many.

So here are some pieces to combine, just to fire up the imagination. These are not the final solutions or pieces to this ‘snowmobile’, but at least you can get the idea of what we are going for here. Please list better devices and pieces if you are interested.

First is the Control Systems or brains of the thing. If you have been watching those incredible quadrotor videos I have posted lately, then this TED describes the ‘how’ for these things. Very impressive.



Next would be the quadrotor itself. The Draganflyer x8 can carry 2.2 pounds and has a gyro stabilized, servo controlled mount for a camera. (or EFP in this case)



And finally, the munitions. I like the SLAM munitions. (which is 2.2 pounds–oh how convenient? lol)



Put them all together and you have the Quadrotor EFP.

As to the ideas of how to use such a device, I will leave that up to the minds and imaginations of the reader. From ambushes on armored columns and motorcades, to anti-material missions, to taking out individuals-there are many uses for such a thing. And because the Quadrotor EFP can be precise, pre-programmed, and remain hidden behind a wall or blocks away on top of some building, it would be very difficult to defend against. Especially if this system was used in a swarm type attack, where the device is used to attack from multiple angles and at erratic moments of the attack. Imagine bees or wasps and how they attack a target.

Or you could use the Quadrotor EFP for very surgical attacks. You could also just park the Quadrotor EFP behind a trash can, and use it like a traditional EFP for an ambush. Maybe it can drop off it’s lethal payload and set the munition. Maybe you want to use for ISR only, and call off your ambush because of whatever reason. Imagine the thing being used at night? Or a swarm at night? Lots of frightening and lethal uses for this weapon….

Now of course with every weapon, there is someone out there thinking of ways to defeat it.  Perhaps a jammer or some device could be used to defeat the Quadrotor EFP. Even counter Quadrotors or some kind of counter-battery system could zap them out of the sky.  Who knows, but these things are a reality and the pieces are all there, so it behooves us to start thinking about this new reality. So with that said, let me know what you think. Do you have a better Quadrotor EFP idea, or do you have ideas on how to defeat this weapon? Maybe you have a radical idea on how to use them for maximum effect? –Matt

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Blogs: To Be Or To Do, By J. Scott Shipman

Thanks to zenpundit for posting this. Scott has put together a great little blog and website related to all things Boyd. And you gotta love the title!  So definitely put this on your RSS reader if you are interested in following this stuff and I will put the site on my blog roll. –Matt


Welcome to the To Be or To Do Website and Blog!
January 25, 2012
This website and much of my work was inspired by John Boyd’s professional life-example, his “to be or to do” challenge, and his thoughts on teamwork. However I have included principles that do not apply to Boyd and drawn conclusions that Boyd may well have disagreed with. As I’ve told friends and colleagues, I have taken Boyd’s scaffold, or outline, if you will, and introduced my ideas and experiences. This is the substance of my forthcoming book, To Be or To Do and of my service to clients.
The core of the To Be or To Do material is based on five attributes that exemplified John Boyd’s professional life, plus two. The core Boydian attributes, or principles, are:
No doubt, others could find other laudable attributes, but these principles seemed to define the man for me. The two “extras” are:
By most accounts Boyd was not a particularly humble man, nor optimistic, however I’ve included because I’ve seen the power of these two attributes up close. My late grandfather, Robert F. Shipman, was the most humble man I’ve ever known, and I’m pretty sure he’d be disappointed if I didn’t include humility as an essential principle by which to live. My late mother-in-law, Janet Turney Mulvaney, PhD, succumbed to breast cancer after an eight-year battle. She attributed part of her longevity to “optimism” and impressed upon me that optimism was a key part of a life well lived. On both counts, I agree.

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Building Snowmobiles: Recursive Incentive Mechanism For War, Business, And Crime Fighting

It has been awhile since I last did one of these posts. I think this one is a good one and it definitely got my mental juices flowing. In the past, I have talked about Offense Industry and how bounties are a great way to fire up an industry that profits from the destruction of a specific enemy. Well for this deal, the folks at DARPA and MIT came up with a type of bounty system that takes the whole concept to the next level.

Basically what DARPA did was to set up a contest that revolved around time critical social mobilization. The idea here is that they would have these ten red weather balloons located all over the country, and the team that was able to find all ten (or the most) balloons the fastest won. DARPA wanted to see how fast something could be found.

Now why would DARPA be interested in this?  Well if you are a student of warfare and a reader of this blog, you would remember the New Rules of War post. The second rule listed by John Arquilla was ‘finding matters more than flanking’.

Rule 2: Finding Matters More Than Flanking.
Ever since Theban general Epaminondas overloaded his army’s left wing to strike at the Spartan right almost 2,400 years ago at Leuctra, hitting the enemy in the flank has been the most reliable maneuver in warfare. Flank attacks can be seen in Frederick the Great’s famous “oblique order” in his 18th-century battles, in Erwin Rommel’s repeated “right hooks” around the British in North Africa in 1941, and in Norman Schwarzkopf’s famous “left hook” around the Iraqis in 1991. Flanking has quite a pedigree.
Flanking also formed a basis for the march up Mesopotamia by U.S. forces in 2003. But something odd happened this time. In the words of military historian John Keegan, the large Iraqi army of more than 400,000 troops just “melted away.” There were no great battles of encirclement and only a handful of firefights along the way to Baghdad. Instead, Iraqis largely waited until their country was overrun and then mounted an insurgency based on tip-and-run attacks and bombings.
Thus did war cease to be driven by mass-on-mass confrontation, but rather by a hider-finder dynamic. In a world of networked war, armies will have to redesign how they fight, keeping in mind that the enemy of the future will have to be found before it can be fought. To some extent this occurred in the Vietnam War, but that was a conflict during which the enemy obligingly (and quite regularly) massed its forces in major offensives: held off in 1965, defeated in 1968 and 1972, and finally winning in 1975.
In Iraq, there weren’t mass assaults, but a new type of irregular warfare in which a series of small attacks no longer signaled buildup toward a major battle. This is the path being taken by the Taliban in Afghanistan and is clearly the concept of global operations used by al Qaeda.
At the same time, the U.S. military has shown it can adapt to such a fight. Indeed, when it finally improved its position in Iraq, the change was driven by a vastly enhanced ability to find the enemy. The physical network of small outposts was linked to and enlivened by a social network of tribal fighters willing to work with U.S. forces. These elements, taken together, shone a light on al Qaeda in Iraq, and in the glare of this illumination the militants were easy prey for the small percentage of coalition forces actually waging the campaign against them.
Think of this as a new role for the military. Traditionally, they’ve seen themselves largely as a “shooting organization”; in this era, they will also have to become a “sensory organization.”
This approach can surely work in Afghanistan as well as it has in Iraq — and in counterinsurgency campaigns elsewhere — so long as the key emphasis is placed on creating the system needed for “finding.” In some places, friendly tribal elements might be less important than technological means, most notably in cyberspace, al Qaeda’s “virtual safe haven.”
As war shifts from flanking to finding, the hope is that instead of exhausting one’s military in massive expeditions against elusive foes, success can be achieved with a small, networked corps of “finders.” So a conflict like the war on terror is not “led” by some great power; rather, many participate in it, with each adding a piece to the mosaic that forms an accurate picture of enemy strength and dispositions.
This second shift — to finding — has the potential to greatly empower those “many and small” units made necessary by Rule 1. All that is left is to think through the operational concept that will guide them.

So as you can see, finding an enemy that hides amongst the population is crucial if you want to kill or capture him. It is also difficult for just one person to find an enemy, or enemy network. But if you can create a network of people to find one person or an enemy network, then that is gold.  It also lends itself to the concept of ‘it takes a network‘, to defeat a network.

I also think bounty systems, if done correctly, can involve a large portion of the population in the fight or whatever task. It stands to reason that a nation that can fully tap into the people power it has, as opposed to only depending upon select agencies or it’s limited law enforcement resources, will have way more capability when it comes to the task of ‘finding’ someone or something.

There are also examples of private industry and government using bounties or similar incentive mechanisms to find solutions to problems.  The X Prize Foundation is just one example of this kind of incentivizing process. They have held contests for all sorts of amazing deals, and definitely read through their wiki I posted to check those out.

But back to the title of this post and what I wanted to get too. This DARPA competition drew in 50 teams from all over the nation, but it was the MIT team that won the contest. My intent with this post is to highlight their winning strategy and explore other possible uses for their strategy. To basically chalk this one up as a new bounty type system that companies and government could use to great advantage.

What the MIT team did was to create a bounty system that not only paid those that found the balloon, but also paid those that helped in the finding process. And that payment system was flexible, based on how many folks were involved, and how much money was available for the process or was desired to spend. MIT used what is called ‘Recursive Incentive Mechanism’ or RIM, and they blew away the competition with this method.

Here is a description of what they did:

Only MIT’s team found all 10 balloons. To get the recruiting ball rolling, the researchers sent a link for the team’s website to a few friends and several bloggers about 36 hours before the contest began.
Portions of the $40,000 winner’s prize were promised to everyone who contributed to the search. A maximum of $4,000 was allocated to finders of each balloon — $2,000 to the first person to send in the correct balloon location, $1,000 to the person who invited the balloon finder onto the team, $500 to whomever recruited the inviter, and so on.
Participants received about $33,000 for their efforts.
The number of Twitter messages mentioning the MIT team rose substantially the day before the contest and remained elevated until the competition ended, a sign that the reward strategy worked, Pentland says.

It kind of looks like a pyramid scheme of sorts? lol But the power that comes with this, is the involvement of social networks in the finding of something or someone, all with the lure of making some money and spreading the wealth amongst your network. And what is cool, is that this bounty system benefits different types of folks.

You might be really good at recruiting ‘finders’, so of course this system will benefit you. You might be extremely active on Facebook, Twitter, a blog, and whatever, and have a massive network in place to tap into for spreading the word (hence why I post the bounty stuff on the blog from time to time). On Facebook, I could totally see stuff like this spreading like wildfire. So you could be the guy that made money from just spreading the news. Or you could be the one that actually found the balloon, and score that way. All of these actions helped to form an efficient ‘finding system’ that won the contest.

It is the speed at which all of this happened, which is amazing to me and something to ponder.

For war, the way I could see this being used is to create a more efficient bounty hunting system. Either to find enemy combatants, or to find recruits for the war effort. And as the rest of the world continues to be inundated with cell phones, and now smart phones, the ability to really reach out to them, and have them communicate back is there. An effective RIM could be the key to getting people sending in tips, or involving their personal networks for ‘finding’ the enemy, or getting new recruits for a military in need of man power.

For business, and especially our industry, I could see this being used for head hunting. Meaning if a company is looking for a specific type of unique individual, with a certain amount of qualifications and experience, then a recruiter using RIM might be able to find that individual and in a very fast and efficient way. They could also use the formula that Alex Pentland and his team created so that they only spend the amount of money they are willing to use for the finding operation.

A company could also use RIM for finding innovations or even new business.  Especially in today’s economy, and especially with how dangerous the world has become. In other words, a company can incentivize social networks to accomplish their goals.

Finally, for crime fighting, I think it would be interesting to see the Rewards For Justice program utilize RIM. The current bounty system is old and only focuses on the individual tipster. Perhaps RIM could help to fire up that program, and get more of the population involved in finding criminals.  Crime Stoppers could turn to such a system as well, because they too use a very simple bounty system that only caters to individuals.

Interesting stuff, and I think it is a concept worth researching. Also, if you look further into Alex Pentland’s research on ‘reality mining‘, you will see why they were able to come up with the winning system. They were leagues ahead of their peers when it came to understanding the human dynamic, and they knew it. Here is the quote that I liked:

“It was trivial for us to slap together the balloon thing,” says the 58-year-old Pentland. That’s because other groups’ tactics were based on guesswork, he argues. His were based on lessons learned through data-mining research. “We won because we understood the science of incentivizing people to cooperate.”
Since 1998 Pentland has been engaged in an unusual blend of sociology and data mining that he calls “reality mining.” His researchers place sensors that he’s dubbed “sociometers” around hundreds of subjects’ necks and install tracking software into their cellphones, capturing the movements of every individual in a group, whom he or she interacts with, even body language and the tone of his or her voice. Then they mine the resulting reams of data to identify facts as elusive as which member of the group is most productive, who is the group’s real manager or who tends to dominate conversations.
“Data mining is about finding patterns in digital stuff. I’m more interested specifically in finding patterns in humans,” says Pentland, who has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence and psychology from MIT. “I’m taking data mining out into the real world.”

Very cool and I look forward to your thoughts on RIM? Don’t ask me to interpret the math of the thing though. lol Just read through the paper and if you can understand the proofs, then good on you. All I know is that RIM won the contest, and that is what is most important to this discussion. I also think that Pentland could probably come up with a custom tailored system for war, business, or crime fighting, and perhaps some kind of modified RIM is what he would come up with. Either way, this is the go to guy for Offense Industry. –Matt


Alex Pentland, balloon hunter and MIT 'reality miner'.


Digital bounty hunters unleashed
Online pay strategy quickly coordinates cross-country balloon posse
By Bruce Bower
November 19th, 2011
These days, bounty hunters aren’t deputized, they’re digitized: Online crowd-sourcing strategies to induce masses of people to solve a task, such as locating far-flung items or alleviating world hunger, work best when financial incentives impel participants to enlist friends and acquaintances in the effort, a new study concludes.
In a competition to find 10 red weather balloons placed across the United States, a team of MIT researchers used online social media and a simple reward system to recruit balloon-searchers in the 36 hours preceding the contest. Their pay-based strategy garnered them 4,400 volunteers who located all the balloons in a contest-winning eight hours, 52 minutes.
“Our incentive system offers monetary rewards, but perhaps more importantly it builds social capital between you and the people you recruit, who get an opportunity to participate in something interesting,” says MIT computer scientist Alex Pentland. This strategy could boost the effectiveness of humanitarian and marketing campaigns, Pentland and colleagues conclude in the Oct. 28 Science.

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Building Snowmobiles: Air-Dropped Guided Mortar

Now this is neat, and it definitely falls under the Building Snowmobiles category for it’s potential impact on the battlefield. What General Dynamics has invented will help to empower the infantry unit on the ground or the developing nation that is looking for a cost effective air power capability. GD has created a smart mortar that is relatively cheap and simple to set up and could be considered the next generation, small scale JDAM.

Imagine this if you will. Mortars in all of their various calibers, are cheap and plentiful.  Countries throughout the world have thousands of mortars in their stockpiles, and the mortar has been a staple of all infantries in modern times. But now there is a way to take these dumb munitions, and make them smart. This invention opens the flood gates of innovation for today’s battlefields. With this post, I will attempt to highlight some of the possibilities and advantages of these smart mortars.

First is the cost effectiveness. As countries continue to look for cost savings and added value for their militaries due to world wide economic hardships, then ideas like this will gain favor. An example would be the JDAM and how it was a cost effective means of upgrading the cheap and plentiful stockpiles of 50o or 1000 lbs dumb bombs, resulting in a cost savings to the US Air Force. Likewise, you take a mortar that is already mass produced and cheaply made, add the ‘Roll Controlled Fixed Canard (RCFC) guidance kit, with an innovative flight-control and GPS-based guidance and navigational system‘, and now you have a smart mortar. This is much cheaper than making a mini missile or completely redesigning the whole thing.  But of course most defense companies would want to redesign the whole thing, and call their missile ‘more expensive, but better’, all for the sake of creating another business unit.

I don’t know about that ‘better’ part, and there is a strong case of why an upgraded mortar is actually ‘better’. A mortar is already designed to be lethal and lightweight, so an infantryman can carry it around out in the field. A mortar must also be durable and stable, just so it does not prematurely explode in the hands of the user. The design of the mortar also lends itself to having a stable flight path, just so an infantryman can depend upon it’s flight path and impact point for accurate bracketing.  So I like the design of the mortar, and to complement it’s design with a GPS based guidance system that you can screw into it’s nose, is awesome and simple.

Then there is the limited collateral damage by using a air delivered 60 or 80 millimeter mortar, as opposed to dropping a 500 lb or launching Hellfire missile. So this is another ‘small munitions’ capability that would help in situations where bigger is not necessarily better. This is a munition that is COIN friendly.

It is also a munition that could help to arm an air force of a developing nation.  If they have a Cessna or similar cheap aircraft, they could put a rack of these things on the wing, and now they have a cost effective means of establishing air power.  For dealing with insurgencies that are long term, a country needs any and all types of advantages it can gain, and having cheap and accurate weapons that have dual purpose, is a good thing to have. A country might not be able to afford Hellfire missiles, but most can purchase mortars, and with these simple kits and racks, they can now be in business–and for the long haul.  What good is it to give a country really expensive aircraft or weapons launching platforms, if they do not have the money to keep them running?  Smart mortars have a far better return on investment for the types of wars and internal problems countries are dealing with these days.

The next benefit is the size of the guidance kit and racks, and the availability of mortars all over the world. If I can send a crate of these RCFC’s and the smart racks (for whatever aircraft/UAV) to any place in the world in a very compact unit, then that is logistically pretty damned cool. I could send this kit to a Cessna operator in the Sudan, and have them up and running with a Air-Dropped Guided Mortar or ADM within an hour or two.

Let’s take that a step further. Anyone with a UAV of decent size, could be quickly outfitted with an ADM, and now that military or even private military group has a capability that can compete with the big boys.  Or better yet, a capability that will allow that company or military unit to have Close Air Support or CAS as an organic capability. In today’s battlefields, being self sufficient and not dependent upon really expensive and limited air power assets that may or may not be available, is a good way to go. It is one of the reasons why I keep pushing the Drone Archer concept, because technology is giving us the capability to empower small combat units with it’s own air assets.

Logistically speaking, this is a no brainer. A unit already has mortars, and the mechanisms in place to transport these things and move them around (trucks, aviation, infantry, pack mules, etc). By making mortars into a’ multi-use weapon’, then a unit can focus purely on it’s stock piles of these things and the RCFC’s to upgrade them. They could use them as mortars, or as ADM’s, all based on the need of the unit.

Right now, a military unit depends upon the logistics of other branches for the arming of air power. There are too many cogs in this logistics train, and too many things to go wrong. To put all control of the UAV, the mortars, the guidance systems, the controllers (drone archers), under the control of the unit commander, is to give them a capability they have never enjoyed before. You can either trust someone else with your logistics, or control your own logistics to win the fight. Of course you still have to have mortars and RFCS kits sent out to a unit by ‘someone’, but because these are such small items and easily transportable or easy to stockpile, then you can see the advantages here.

To take this train of thought further, you can either trust someone else with your CAS, or you can have your own CAS as a back up to win the fight. Of course a unit commander will always want as many air power options as possible for their particular fight.  But when there is no CAS available, and that unit commander is suffering casualties because of this lack of air power, then to have a capability to handle that unit’s problems out in the field is smart and necessary.  The way I see it, a unit should have it’s own on call CAS in the form of UAV’s armed with smart mortars, sensors, surveillance packages, etc.

To put more control of a unit’s fate in the hands of it’s leaders, is far better than depending upon the whims of some other unit and their air power. Besides, in places like Afghanistan, sometimes having CAS is not an option due to distance, weather, elevation or availability. These factors are all reasons why creating a more self sufficient unit equipped with cost effective air power assets, is a smart thing.

Now on to some other ideas here. These ADM’s could be mounted on all types of flying platforms. You could put them on blimps or aero-stats, and give these ‘eyes in the sky’ a lethal capability. Imagine how silent one of these mortars would be?  Dropping from that elevated position requires no charges. Or another idea, is to use charges and extend the ‘fan’ or lethal cone of the ADM?  The mortar is designed to handle the charge, and of course the RCFC would have to be designed to withstand that charge. But this has been dealt with by the land based GPS mortar systems that have been created.

Another possible use for an ADM is to just hand throw them out of any aircraft that is available.  If you have an ultralight aircraft or even a motorized para-glider, you could program the RCFC by hand, and throw them on a target.  Something like this could be done at night, and imagine how silent it would be?  After all, you are only dropping the thing, and not launching it like a missile or bullet. So if you couple a silent weapon delivery with  a silent aircraft with a low radar signature, then you have what’s called a poor man’s stealth bomber. And this kind of bomber does not cost billions to make, require years of training to operate, and attract undue attention.  The important thing here, is the ability to deliver a munition on target, without being caught or spotted.

Finally, I wanted to bring up another crucial point. The other day I was reading Time’s Battleland Blog, and came across a story about some troops who had a small UAV they were using for operations, but were not able to assist other GI’s who were in trouble. To me, this unacceptable. The rule of thumb for anyone using a drone is that ‘if you can see it, you should have the means to kill it’. Here is the quote:

It seems the only downside to having a Raven around is the feeling of helplessness it can cause when Raven-using troops see fellow soldiers in trouble too far away to help.
Blanco recalls a training mission he was on when his unit spotted fellow GIs in trouble. “Another group of soldiers came into contact with the enemy,” he says. “We were at the max distance of our aircraft…I’m going to tell you from being there and doing it, sometimes you get to see what’s on the ground and what’s going on live and then you realize it’s not a game — it’s the real deal.
“You want to jump into the fight and you can’t do it,” he says. “It’s bad when you’re looking at it at the screen and you’re looking at other soldiers getting shot at.”

Having a Drone Archer capability of being able to either drop munitions or fly the drone itself into enemy combatants, is a much needed capability. I like this focus on ‘Smalls‘ (the term the troops have coined for small drones), but we need to take it to the next level. Arming small drones with ADMs, or creating small drones that have explosives built in, are excellent tools for Drone Archers and can certainly help to exploit any opportunities on the battlefield. It would also save lives and empower the troops on the ground with a capability that was all under their control. –Matt

From Defense Industry Daily…
Application of RCFC technology to 81mm air-dropped mortars was sponsored by the U.S. Army’s Armament Research Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, in order to provide “Tactical Class Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TCUAS)” with a low-cost weapon option for rapid fielding. In the end, however, its reach is likely to extend past small UAVs, in 2 ways.
One is the growing trend away from sole USAF control of air support, and toward a much more responsive era of “federated airpower” that includes high-end aircraft and UAVs operated by the US Air Force, and lower-tier propeller planes and small UAVs operated by the US Army and Marines. Those lower-tier options use lower-cost platforms that are far more affordable to operate, which means they can be bought and operated in numbers that provide far wider battlefield coverage for small-unit engagements. The USAF’s long-running and pervasive deprecation of relevant counter-insurgency capabilities, and strong institutional preference for high-end, expensive platforms, has left them vulnerable to lower-cost disruptive technologies that meet current battlefield needs. While the service still has a key role in maintaining American power, strategic control of the air, and high-end capabilities, the new reality involves a mix of high and low-end aerial capabilities, with some control nested closer to battlefield decision-making.
The other change will reach beyond UAVs, and into USAF and USMC aircraft. The nose-mounted RCFC guidance has now been successfully demonstrated on multiple mortar calibers, in both air-drop and tube-launch applications. The tube-launched application has been successfully demonstrated at Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ in a tactical 120mm guided mortar configuration known as the Roll Controlled Guided Mortar (RCGM), which uses the existing 120mm warhead and the M934A1 fuze.
Related tube-launched weapons, which already include Raytheon’s Griffin missile, and Lockheed Martin’s Scorpion, are already finding their way to USMC KC-130J and Special Operations MC-130W Hercules, which are receiving roll-on/ roll-off weapon kits that can turn them into multi-role gunship support/ aerial tanker aircraft.
Read the rest here.
General Dynamics Demonstrates Precision Strike Capability for Tactical UAVs with 81mm Air-Dropped Guided Mortar
General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems has successfully guided an 81mm Air-Dropped Guided Mortar (ADM) to a stationary ground target. The guide-to-target flight demonstrations, conducted at Ft. Sill, Okla., confirmed the ability of the 81mm ADM using a novel guidance kit and fuze to provide a precision strike capability for Tactical-Class Unmanned Aircraft (TUAV). The ADM was released from a TUAV using the company’s newly developed “Smart Rack” carriage and release system that enables weaponization of any TUAV platform.

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Building Snowmobiles: The Cyber Lance

I want to thank Matt from Facebook for bringing up this quote from Starship Troopers. I found the movie clip of the quote and it clearly shows the weakness of cyber warfare. It shows why you must have a direct action/physical security component mixed with your cyber warfare/information operations unit.

The simple reason why is that all it takes for your enemies to ruin your ‘hacking’ ventures, is for them to kill your hacker and physically destroy his equipment. To ‘throw a knife into the hand of the guy that pushes the buttons’, to paraphrase the quote up top.

Or worse, that hacker could be tortured and key information could be extracted in order to conduct a larger attack. The value of what that hacker knows (a nation or company’s secrets), or what they know how to do (hacking a nation or company), makes them a high value target.

In other words, today’s freelance hacker or even government/military hacker, is a highly valuable asset to a nation or a company. That highly valuable asset must be defended, and have a highly evolved physical and cyber offensive capability in order to compete and survive in today’s world.

So in order to deal with this new reality I have developed and defined a new term that I wanted to share with the readership. Enter the ‘cyber lance’.

Basically, a cyber lance is a combined arms team within a privateer company or military unit. Or it could be an outsourced team. The lance part comes from the french term Lances fournies, or ‘lances fournished’. Here is the definition from wikipedia.

The Lances fournies (French: “lances furnished”) was a medieval army squad that would have surrounded a knight in battle, consisting of a four to ten man team built of squires, men-at-arms (usually mounted swordsmen), archers, attendants (pages) and the knight himself. These units formed companies under a captain either as mercenary bands or in the retinue of wealthy nobles and royalty.
A Lance was usually led and raised by a knight in the service of his liege, yet it is not uncommon in certain periods to have a less privileged man, such as a sergeants-at-arms, lead a lance. More powerful knights, also known as a knight bannerets, could field multiple lances.

And of course the cyber is used to refer to anything to do with the internet or computing. I particularly like this etymology of cyber from wikipedia:

By the 1970s, the Control Data Corporation (CDC) sold the “Cyber” range of supercomputers, establishing the word cyber- as synonymous with computing. Robert Trappl credits William Gibson and his novel Neuromancer with triggering a “cyber- prefix flood” in the 1980s.

What’s cool about a cyber lance, is that a company can actually define it’s size to a client. They can say ‘we have 20 cyber lances’ or ‘cyber lancers’ (whatever sounds better to the user)
The other reason why I like the cyber lance concept, is that it mixes physical security with cyber security. It also mixes physical offense, with the cyber offense.  You must have one with the other as the world of cyber warfare continues to evolve. The cyber lance defines that combined arms group of hackers and shooters. The way I envision it, it could be as simple as a protective detail assigned to a hacker, or as involved as a special forces type team that does both the protection of a hacker, and conducts offensive operations based upon the information gained by that hacker. It is a fusion of the cyber and the physical, and all the potential actions that can come out of that combination.
I also like the etymology of lance corporal.  If you have ever served in the Marines, you more than likely were a ‘Lance Corporal”. Although the lance part refers to lancepesade.

From the Italian lanzia spezzata, which literally means “broken lance” or “broken spear”, but which was used to denote a seasoned soldier (the broken spear being a metaphor for combat experience, where such an occurrence was likely).

Or if you have ever heard of the term ‘free-lance photographer’ or ‘free-lancer‘ (etymology- medieval mercenary warrior) , then now you know the origins of the term. I think it works pretty nicely for cyber lance. So to me, cyber lance makes perfect sense in the context of what I am talking about here.
The cyber lance is also flexible in it’s usage. They could be all military units, or a  private cyber lance contracted out to the government or companies. A cyber privateer or cyber pirate company would have several groups of cyber lances as an organizational idea. Each cyber lance is just a unit or term to describe this hardened ‘hacker team with teeth’. It also goes back to the idea of combined arms, or mutually supporting groups within a unit. This concept is very much a part of the building snowmobiles mindset.

Combined arms is an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different branches of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects (for example, using infantry and armor in an urban environment, where one supports the other, or both support each other). Combined arms doctrine contrasts with segregated arms where each military unit is composed of only one type of soldier or weapon system. Segregated arms is the traditional method of unit/force organisation, employed to provide maximum unit cohesion and concentration of force in a given weapon or unit type.

A cyber lance also promotes the idea of ‘team’, as opposed to an individual.  I believe cells or teams are far more capable for the attack and defense, as opposed to just an individual. The security of a nation or company, or the prosecution of that nation or company’s best interest would best be placed into the hands of a team, as opposed to just one individual.  Primarily because teams would actually have the ‘teeth’ necessary to capture or kill ‘individuals’, or defend against an attacking force. A cyber lance could also be attacked by a cyber lance, or a group of cyber lances that would make up a cyber privateer company.

Another key component of the cyber lance is it’s ability to work within the borders of another country or navigate the complexities of the commons called cyber space. A small team can be surgical and have a light foot print.  It also falls in line with the concepts of netwar, and offense industry which was a past building snowmobiles post.
Finally, as hackers become more valuable and more capable, it will be of national interest to protect these assets. The cyber lance could very well be the next chapter or paragraph in the world of combined arms and cyber warfare. It will also take the combination of the hacker’s mind and the tactical and strategic thinking of a special operations team to think of all the ways a cyber lance could be used for the defense or offense. The end result could lead to the destruction of a nation’s key national security assets, or the preservation of a nation’s vital national security assets. That is what makes a cyber lance a very important and lethal building snowmobiles concept. –Matt

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