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Congress to Army: Get Your Own Cargo Drone

by Mike Hoffman on May 23, 2013

Congress has ordered the Army to reconsider its initial refusal to stand up a cargo drone program despite the success the Marine Corps has had flying Lockheed Martin’s K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter in Afghanistan.

The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee commended the Marine Corps for the performance of the K-MAX cargo helicopters that have flown missions in Afghanistan since November 2011.

The K-MAX has transported a range of supplies from mine-roller equipment to generators to ammunition to medical supplies and even mail, said Navy Capt. Patrick Smith, program manager for the Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Air Systems. The record haul for the K-MAX was 30,000 pounds over six mission for one day, officials have said.

Despite the perceived success of the program and the similar need facing the Army, Army leaders have consistently said they have no plans to start their own cargo UAS program and have only observed the Marine Corps’ program from afar. Subcommittee members can’t understand why.

“The committee is concerned that the Army, despite having very similar logistical challenges, does not have a cargo UAS program. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of the Army to submit a report to the congressional defense committees, by February 15, 2014, assessing the potential utility of an Army cargo UAS,” the subcommittee wrote into their mark of the 2014 defense budget.

Lawmakers want the Army to estimate the cost to buy, operate and sustain a cargo UAS program similar to Lockheed Martin’s K-MAX. The subcommittee also wants details on how a cargo UAS program would fit into the Army’s larger logistical structure.

Marine Corps leaders have said the unmanned K-MAX has allowed ground commanders to order more supply missions to distant combat outposts in Afghanistan when poor weather or fire fighters would have restricted manned helicopter missions.

The Corps initially sent the K-MAX to Afghanistan as a test program. However, in April, Corps leaders indefinitely extended its stay in the combat zone.

After the K-MAX’s first deployment to Afghanistan, Naval and Marine Corps aviation leaders heaped praise upon the program. NAVAIR Commander Vice Adm. David Architzel  highlighted how the K-MAX kept other convoys off the road and away from improvised explosive devices.

“This is a great example of integration while fulfilling the ‘urgent needs’ of the warfighter,” Architzel said at a post-deployment debrief July 10, 2012. “Every time you can eliminate even a portion of a convoy, you eliminate the possibility of someone losing their life from an [improvised explosive device] on the roads.”

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{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

Engineer May 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I wonder if we can get the Congress to order the Army to get it's own cargo plane. Maybe just a small one that could haul stuff around Afghanistan. Maybe we could call it the Spartan………..wait………..

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johnvarry May 25, 2013 at 3:12 am

The USAAF doesnt care about the C-27J, they just dont want the US Army operating ANY fixed with aircraft.

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pedestrian May 26, 2013 at 5:31 pm
Restore Palestine May 30, 2013 at 5:36 pm

LOL. How about US Army Air Force (I am making this one up)

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PolicyWonk May 25, 2013 at 11:22 am

According to one of the most retarded turf battles in memory, the army is not permitted to own/operate fixed wing aircraft.

The most notable exception, were UAV's such as the Predator, which the Chair Force at first had ZERO interest in, until the army started using them with huge success in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then the Chair Force tried to take over operation (etc) of ALL UAV's as well, but as the saying goes – that pony left the barn long ago.

Hence – the Chair Force still jealously holds onto its grip for transport and ground support missions – neither of which it cares for very much.

This is partially why the USMC retains its own fighters and trains its pilots for ground support.

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Tom May 28, 2013 at 2:38 am
majr0d May 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Tom – You are factually wrong.

The first Predators were flown by joint Army Navy teams flown under managed by the Navy's Joint Program Office for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (JPO-UAV). Not the Air Force. In fact the Predator was actually an Army Program was an Army program until DoD made it an Air Force program (exactly the same thing that happened with the C27J).

http://www.wingsoverkansas.com/boyne/article.asp?…
http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/systems/pred

So since the Army and Navy were using Predators first and long before the Air Force who was pushing the envelope?

Blight – The Army does fly predators. They are the MQ-1C Warrior model. Some refer to them as the Warrior Eagle or Grey Eagle.

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Tom May 29, 2013 at 3:40 am

blight_ May 28, 2013 at 9:31 am

Originally I said the Army didn't have UAVs, but they do have the Gray Eagle.

The Air Force has been messing with drones since the Ryan Firebee and teleoperated old fighter craft. The Navy too, since drones are smaller than helicopters for spotting.

What the Army did was push smaller drones than the Predator, further down from the rarified levels of beyond the front line to the front line, while the Air Force went higher (with the Global Hawk) and after the CIA's Hellfire upgrades, into combat.

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walker May 28, 2013 at 11:57 am

the army does in fact operate fixed wing aircraft, the RC-12X guardrail. it recently turned 40 and has proven to one of the army's most valuable sigint collection assets

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RunningBear May 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm

The US Army C-23 Sherpa is in it's 30th year of operation and was to be replaced by the C-27J. The Sherpa is still here and perhaps soon the "speed bump" force will have shipped the last of the C-27Js to the "bone yard" and they can be re-acquired to replace the Sherpas. This common replacement program has turned into a "black eye" for both the AF and the Army. Perhaps a lesson has been learned in re-defining the useful minimum requirements for the AF C-130 and leave the C-23 type business to the C-23/ C-27J program.

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Restore Palestine May 30, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Engineer, have you ever wondered if you can get Congress to order US air force to get its own army and air force, then order US navy to get its own air force and army, and finally order US army to get its own air force and navy??

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Carl May 23, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Why doesn't Congress order the Marine Corps to stand up its own medical corps instead of tasking the Navy and Army with supporting them in the war zone.

Army medic's and medivac helo's have had to leave deployed Army units in Afghanistan to sustain the Marines in their Helmand provience AO for 8 years now. Do the Marines pay the Army for this service?

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Pat May 24, 2013 at 10:17 am

Navy medical personnel will always support the Marines because we are assigned to the Marines. That will never change. The Marines have their own medevac helos but they can't be everywhere. Neither can the Army. If you haven't heard. we are in the joint service age where everyone helps everyone else. No more o it alone and not cooperating.

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blight_ May 24, 2013 at 10:32 am

True; but Marines should probably recognize the reason why they are so cost-effective compared to Big Army: it splits the bill with its room-mate, the Navy.

The Army's roommate, the Air Force, well…

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pedestrian May 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm
blight_ May 28, 2013 at 9:35 am

If they could find export customers for the EFV, the program would have a better chance of survival. There are a number of foreign customers of the AAV, and like the Marines, they need a meaningful transport that won't put their ships at risk.

UAVGeek May 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm

You know I know a ton of Air Force 4Ns (medics for those of you not familiar with AFSCs) who have deployed with Army and Marine units and done exactly the same work as their Army and Navy counterparts. Same risks, same combat and same job period. It's time you people got off your Anti-AF BS.

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blight_ May 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm

The practicalities of wartime usually give way to status quo antebellum postbellum.

jnelson May 24, 2013 at 2:15 pm

This is about Congressional Districts and Jobs in them by selling this beyond the Marine Corp. As far as Cooperation when an Army Airborne Unit uses an Air Force plane to conduct an Airborne insertion the cost of operating the Air Craft comes out of the Army Units budget. The polotics of unity get murky when funding is involved

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Big-Dean May 27, 2013 at 1:51 am

Carl, FYI, in case you are unaware, the Marine Corp and Navy are basically the same service. The Navy gave birth to the Devil Dogs on their sailing ships way back in 1775 (they were the sharpshooters and such). The Navy and Marine train and fight together, we go to the same schools, and share bases (even though the Marines have a few of their own). Heck, my drill instructor was a Marine even though I was in the Navy. They fight, fly, go to sea together. etc Every heard of an amphibious ship-well they are full of Marines!

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USS ENTERPRISE May 23, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Maybe congress can take the money from buying those extra Abrams, and send it over to buying the K-Max. The K-Max works, its ugly, and what more do you want?

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Lance May 24, 2013 at 12:56 am

Have congress kill GCV crap then the army will have the money for a K-MAX. Face it the dod is broke and we can do with what we have for a while.

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LPF May 24, 2013 at 4:33 am

Arent you all part of the same countrys armed forces or did I miss something?

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blight_ May 24, 2013 at 8:43 am

I don't have a DD-214 at all.

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tmb2 May 24, 2013 at 11:45 pm

You did miss something. The War on Terror is winding down and the dollars are drying up. The upcoming Budget War may not be as bloody but it'll just as vicious.

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blight_ May 24, 2013 at 8:46 am

If the Army won't consider a drone program, perhaps its because they're trying to protect rotary aviation from dronification? They're looking at the writing on the wall: more drone pilots than aircraft pilots in the USAF.

To be practical, the Army should try teleoperated Blackhawks first, which would simplify logistics considerably. The Marine KMAX venture is very small, which is why they can get away with buying nothing but paying Lockheed to "demonstrate". The Army knows that once it steps in, the money gets serious, and everyone on HASC/SASC suddenly has an Informed Opinion.

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Yep May 24, 2013 at 9:45 am

To be practical we should use an aircraft that doesn't exist? No workability problems with that approach, oh wait.

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blight_ May 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

K-MAX is an OTS teleoperated helicopter. You are correct in that Sikorsky hasn't done it yet; but it's not like it's technically infeasible. The question is whether or not Sikorsky could control costs in a meaningful fashion to teleoperate a UH-60.

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blight_ May 24, 2013 at 10:04 am
FormerDirtDart May 24, 2013 at 10:13 am

The KMAX has a payload capability of 6K lbs, and weighs around 5K lbs, while a -60L can lift 9K lbs, and weighs 10.5K lbs. The KMAX being smaller also means more can be packed into strategic airlift, and you might even be able to pack one in a C-130.
On the "Con" side, the KMAX is slower (but while slinging loads all a/c are), and has a much more limited operating range.

You are also right about the USMC's small effort with the KMAX. I believe they are only operating 2 in Afghanistan. Hardly a major effort.

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blight_ May 24, 2013 at 10:20 am

Kaman shut down the production line for these in 2003, and from 1993/1994 only produced 38. That's probably why they were available for this guinea pig test.

Kaman's commercial products were the Huskie, Seasprite and KMAX. Not the best record. Poor chaps.

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blight_ May 24, 2013 at 10:49 am
blight_ May 24, 2013 at 10:16 am

And to reply to myself, there's the unmanned little bird.
http://www.army-technology.com/projects/littlebir

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FormerDirtDart May 24, 2013 at 10:24 am

Yeah, but the ULB has about 1/4 of the payload of a KMAX, and even the unmanned AM-6X will only carry about 1/3 the payload

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blight_ May 24, 2013 at 10:25 am

I meant it more as an aside, to test unmanned aviation in general rather than a specific niche of unmanned aviation (in this case, unmanned cargo delivery).

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top dog May 24, 2013 at 9:43 am

I don't think Congress realize how big this program have to be to support the Army supply needs…they don't realize much but still. What happens when your load start to spin? will the drown automatically cut the load? I doubt it. It work for the Marines because the Marines is a heck of lot smaller than the Army, so therefore they don't require as much supply, nor do their supplies get delivered for as great a distances as the Army do. In stead of telling the Army what they "SHOULD" do, which is the SECDEF's job by the way…just supply the funds when the Army do what they have to do.

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Big-Dean May 27, 2013 at 1:56 am

it's the JOB of Congress to oversee all of the operations of government, they may not do a great job, but it is their job. Can you imagine if all government agencies, including the DOD simply did what they wanted to do?

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chaos0xomega May 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

Personally, I think the Army is smart to avoid jumping on the drone bandwagon that the other services are getting on. Everyone has this massive hard-on for drones, ignoring the "writing on the wall" that they can be disrupted (very easily) via cyber attacks and ewar systems. When the Marines are suddenly shit up a creek without a paddle because some pimple-faced teenager in China decides that he wants to see how well drone supply helo's can do barrel rolls, the Army at least will still be able to achieve its operational goals knowing that its supply train is more hardened against such things (though still somewhat vulnerable due to dependence on gps and communications).

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garr May 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm

True, But!…, you don't mention nor discuss reduction of risk. The risk of losing lives, not the risk of completing the mission, as described within the last paragraph..,

“This is a great example of integration while fulfilling the ‘urgent needs’ of the warfighter,” Architzel said at a post-deployment debrief July 10, 2012. “Every time you can eliminate even a portion of a convoy, you eliminate the possibility of someone losing their life from an [improvised explosive device] on the roads.”

Tools are expensive, and can be replaced. Your service buddies can't be, and that is perhaps the driving force behind drones…, save lives! It is the one thing that separates the Marines…, they put each Marine's life as being more important then the Almighty $. Don't come back at me with vstol histrionics. We all know there are inherent risks during development of any item. I think the taxpayers and Vietnam, hell any fire-fight Veteran, like Hagel, prefer putting more replaceable metal up front then soft, vulnerable, living flesh…, Your buddies…, on the WALL.

Surviving Heros take all forms. There are Flesh and Bone kind, and the venerable and proven weapons of yesterday and today. It flies, crawls, it gushes flame, it sailed and nearly sank and kept its crews alive. It fired, the barrel red/white hot, until the enemy retreated or it ran out of ammo. It fired submerged in mud and water, dust and blowing sand. It saw the enemy at night and alerted for destruction. It replaced our 5 senses or raised them above the battle surface so we could detect what was happening around us in the vast environment. It revolves around the earth and sees and listens and communicates information and orders. Every Service member owes their lives to these un-sung Heros made out of metal, wires, cameras, batteries and solar cells. We should encourage their evolution if it means more of your buddies and you get to come home in one piece.., with less disabling trauma. Bless body Armor…., wish we had something like it in Nam, not just flack jackets.
Garr.

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chaos0xomega May 28, 2013 at 10:06 am

Replacing the loss of human life with the loss of materiel is a dangerous proposition. When the world begins measuring the cost of wars in a dollar figure rather than in lives lost, we're going to be in for some real shit.

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anthony May 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I would have like a toy like that., awsome..

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majr0d May 24, 2013 at 1:27 pm

What the story doesn't tell you is that contractors are still flying or supervising marines operating the system (has been going on for years). Doesn't want to have to deploy a bunch of contractors in the early phases of the next deployment.

It is not mature. Army is waiting for the system to be proven or the bugs worked out. The Corps does it all the time when it lets another service prove a system before it's adopted. What district is the KMAX in?

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blight_ May 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Kaman is based out of Bridgeport, Conn.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D]
Committee on Armed Services
Subcommittee on Airland
Subcommittee on Personnel
Subcommittee on Seapower
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure (Chairman)
Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts
Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights
Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights
Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security
Special Committee on Aging
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Sen. Christopher Murphy [D]
Committee on Foreign Relations
Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Subcommittee on European Affairs (Chair)
Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs and International Environmental Protection, and Peace Corps
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere and Global Narcotics Affairs
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Subcommittee on Children and Families
Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging
Joint Economic Committee

1st Congressional District — Rep. John Larson [D]
Committee on Ways and Means
Subcommittee on Oversight
Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures
Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

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majr0d May 24, 2013 at 3:48 pm
Ken Badoian May 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm

To Carl…The United States Marines have been part of the Navy Department Since they are a sea going service, and from day one, the Navy has provided Doctors, Hospital Corpsmen, and even Chapilans. Enough said…DA, get a life and be all you can be, an army of???

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Tad May 24, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Congress is also making demands on the Navy for better, more accurate and timely reporting. Congress just does not trust the DoD at this point, and who can blame them? They've been misled and outright lied to repeatedly by the DoD and I'm pleased that they're finally doing a tighter job of oversight. Of course, this can swing to a micro-managing extreme, but right now this scrutiny is needed. And, hopefully, accountability will go along with it.

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marc27 May 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm

bring back the huey hahaha

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marc27 May 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm

they make it so complicated the huey use to perform all those tasks in the 1960s.

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FormerDirtDart May 24, 2013 at 10:52 pm

No Huey ever lifted a 6000 lbs sling load in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

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Jim May 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Why doesn't the Army leaders want to have a drone system such as the Marines have now; easy answer "we did not think of it first, so therefore we will not be doing it". Heavens, we would not want to NOT have service rivalry would we? The VERY SIMPLE way to save hundreds of millions of dollars would be to ELIMINATE ALL duplicated services, schools, equipment, uniforms, training, that EACH Branch just has to have. ALL this is predicated by the sole fact that each Branch wants to show the others how big their B***s are compared to everyone else. Add this fact "Its not our money, so why should we care how much we spend for all the nonsense we purchase WITHOUT proper and complete FIELD TESTING BEFORE PURCHASING" and soon we will be talking big money.

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majr0d May 25, 2013 at 6:57 pm

You might want to look at the actual record before citing branch partisanship which no doubt exists. It's why the Corps wouldn't let anyone else use MARPAT after 60 years of borrowing Army patterns and putting an EGA on the pocket. That was good enough for Marines from Iwo to Khafji.

The KMAX is flown by contractors or Marines being supoervised by contractors. It is maintained by contractors. There is less than a handful deployed operating from large fully supported operating bases as opposed to rudimentary locations.

There's quite a way to go before the system is fielded which even the Marines haven't done yet. They are TESTING.

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oblatt1 May 25, 2013 at 3:24 am

The marine drone is operationally useless. This is just another example of rotten marine ideas infecting the rest of the defense forces for corrupt reasons. As long as the marines exist they will continue to drag down the rest of the forces.

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PolicyWonk May 25, 2013 at 11:24 am

If the Army is going to adopt a cargo drone – they should just take on the same one the USMC is using once they work out all the bugs, etc.

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garr May 25, 2013 at 11:30 am

True, But!…, you don't mention nor discuss reduction of risk. The risk of losing lives, not the risk of completing the mission, as described within the last paragraph..,

“This is a great example of integration while fulfilling the ‘urgent needs’ of the warfighter,” Architzel said at a post-deployment debrief July 10, 2012. “Every time you can eliminate even a portion of a convoy, you eliminate the possibility of someone losing their life from an [improvised explosive device] on the roads.”

Tools are expensive, and can be replaced. Your service buddies can't be, and that is perhaps the driving force behind drones…, save lives! It is the one thing that separates the Marines…, they put each Marine's life as being more important then the Almighty $. Don't come back at me with vstol histrionics. We all know there are inherent risks during development of any item. I think the taxpayers and Vietnam, hell any fire-fight Veteran, like Hagel, prefer putting more replaceable metal up front then soft, vulnerable, living flesh…, Your buddies…, on the WALL.

Surviving Heros take all forms. There are Flesh and Bone kind, and the venerable and proven weapons of yesterday and today. It flies, crawls, it gushes flame, it sailed and nearly sank and kept its crews alive. It fired, the barrel red/white hot, until the enemy retreated or it ran out of ammo. It fired submerged in mud and water, dust and blowing sand. It saw the enemy at night and alerted for destruction. It replaced our 5 senses or raised them above the battle surface so we could detect what was happening around us in the vast environment. It revolves around the earth and sees and listens and communicates information and orders. Every Service member owes their lives to these un-sung Heros made out of metal, wires, cameras, batteries and solar cells. We should encourage their evolution if it means more of your buddies and you get to come home in one piece.., with less disabling trauma. Bless body Armor…., wish we had something like it in Nam, not just flack jackets.
Garr.

Read more: http://defensetech.org/2013/05/23/congress-to-arm
Defense.org

Reply

majr0d May 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm

"It is the one thing that separates the Marines…, they put each Marine's life as being more important then the Almighty $."

That's an overstatement. All the branches value their troops lives. Heard of the XM25? Airburst capability, laser range finder and ballistic computer. Allows the squad to reach out to twice the range with HE. Marines aren't buying it. Then there's the M4 upgrade where EVERY grunt can fire full auto if the need/emergency arises. I won't follow that up by saying the Army values soldier's lives more than the Corps does Marines. It would be silly.

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retired462 May 25, 2013 at 11:35 am

Sounds like another case of buy it – no matter the cost, 'cause they'll be built in one of the congressmens congressional district. Let DOD decide where their spending priorities lie.

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Phono May 31, 2013 at 10:32 am

K-Max is great projekt, as I see it. Doesn't the K-Max open up more flexible, more agile, less dependend actions?

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Nilsplat June 1, 2013 at 8:50 am

Why reinvent the wheel? Use the same one the Marines are using. Save on parts, expertise and development. The interservice rivalry is as ridiculous as the House senate debocle.

Reply

Jeramy July 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm
Roberta August 7, 2013 at 11:10 am
www.google.com December 30, 2013 at 10:26 am

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