Category Archives: military

Univ. of Hawaii – U.S. Pacific Command Partnership

The University of Hawaii (UH) and the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines the two organization's collaborative efforts to improve and solve sustainability and resiliency issues in the Asia Pacific region. The three signatories of the MOU were UH President M.R.C. Greenwood, Adm. Robert F. Willard, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command and UH Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw. Both Admiral Willard and President Greenwood admitted when the group first got together in January 2011, both organizations were apprehensive about how this relationship would take shape, if at all. Historically the relationship between the University of Hawaii and the U.S. military has seen it's ups and downs. President Greenwood said, "We are the two most influential and powerful institutions in the State of Hawaii, and yet we have not found the ways and connections to work together." But as a result of the conference in January, the two groups were able to craft a framework for an ongoing partnership. Colleagues commented later to Greenwood that this should have been done a long time ago. The MOU identified three key area for immediate focus: Energy, Water and Disaster Management. Some of near term partnering areas include:
  1. Examine implementing alternative energy sources for PACOM installations and on certain humanitarian assistance projects;
  2. Leverage UH capability and training to complement and support PACOM roles in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief work around the region;
  3. Build on UH and PACOM capabilities in a variety of water projects, particularly leveraging interests in the lower Mekong;
  4. Define partnership projects in some aspect of ocean fisheries and maritime security.
They each emphasized taking immediate action on near term projects so that the success of working together would create traction. One project that comes to mind is the School of Nursing working with the Pacific Partnership and the hospital ship USN Mercy. Key members of the steering committee include Rear Admiral Robin M. Watters, Dr. Rich Berry for PACOM and Dr. Gary Ostrander and Dr. David Lassner for the Univ. of Hawaii. It will be interesting to see what projects result from this relationship and whether or not they achieve the traction needed to keep a partnership like this viable over the years. If they can accomplish this Hawaii will certainly benefit. * Photo courtesy of Dallas Nagata White

Amphibious Assault Vehicle

As commented by MacProHawaii, we've had a full month of watching US military exercises in Hawaii. The final RIMPAC 2010 exercise was an amphibious assault by the joint forces of the US Marines 3rd Battalion and Royal Australian Regiment. In the above video the amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) are shown leaving the USS Cleveland. Our opportunity to watch the deployment of AAVs from the USS Cleveland was preempted by mechanical problems. Understandably, the USS Cleveland is one of the oldest ships in the fleet, commissioned in 1967. It's planned decommissioning is for Sept. 2011. But with the combination of Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin Beebe's video and this video, both shot during RIMPAC 2010, you get a good idea of what the transition from ship to land is like. Once on land the dozen AAVs and 100 troops stormed an area on Kaneohe Marine Corps Base. Their mission was to take this insurgent training camp over the hill. This video by Gabriel Yanagihara nicely captures the exercise. The white smoke billowing from the AAVs is to obstruct viewing as one group of Marines took out a mock insurgent camp. Another group of Marines held the high ground and provided cover fire for the advancing troops. You will notice in the video the constant up and down of the troops as they maneuver for position. I was told it is like a mantra they repeat: I am up, they see me. I am down. Basically it is to minimize getting shot as a standing target. Though out of our field of view, when the Marines finally took the training camp there was a crescendo of gunfire, much like what you hear at the end of the firecracker strand during New Years Eve. I am not surprised this blogger lost her job as a PR person for the Marines. This certainly was not a SNOOZEPAC.

Team GUSS

MAARS and GUSS RobotsAlong side the MAARS was another interesting robotic vehicle called GUSS, the Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate. The team shown included (from left to right) Jesse Hurdus, Torc; Alfred Wicks, Virginia Tech; and Capt. Tim Bove, Marine Corp. Warfighting Laboratory. On first appearances, GUSS looks like a Polaris jeep equipped with antennae and sensors.  The units are here for the Marines who are prepared to put GUSS through its paces as part of this month's RIMPAC exercise. GUSS is primarily a support vehicle and is meant to carry gear or wounded personnel as a way to reduce the load from the ground troops. It can travel unmanned along rural unpaved roads, pre-programmed to follow a specified route,  at about the pace of a foot soldier. Talking to the team, it was clear GUSS was not meant to be  all things to all people. It is not an all terrain vehicle, it does not work well in heavy foliage and its not sophisticated like a Mars Rover (and it costs a lot less.) It is based on a modular design and the building blocks use off the shelf technologies which enabled rapid prototyping. The team then focuses on the integration challenges. The development cycle was less than a year and manufacturing of the units took about 6 months.  All four of the development models are here for the exercises. I found it interesting how these entities, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Marine Corp Warfighting Laboratory, Virginia Tech and Torc worked together to produce GUSS. Funding came through the Department of Defense (Dahlgren) to the Warfighting Lab which then developed the specification for the autonomous vehicle. Virginia Tech is  leveraged for their programming and mechanical engineering expertise. Finally Torc is hired to build the units.  Seems like a viable partnership between DOD, University and a commercial company. Keep in mind Torc is not a vendor providing this directly to the military. GUSS is still in prototype. If the military decides to deploy these units, they will then go out to bid for production. Any limitations in GUSS' performance will be identified in these RIMPAC exercises and the team will qualify what needs to be done next.

MAARS & GUSS

MAARS and GUSS robotsIn addition to the "big iron" being used in RIMPAC exercises, there are examples of "little iron" robots being field tested to protect and support the ground forces. I got a chance to see a couple of them this past weekend. Shown in the photo is the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS) unit manufactured by Qinetiq. This system packs a M240B medium machine gun along with a spotting scope, an infrared scope and viewing cameras for a 360 degree field of view. The model I saw demonstrated did not have a gun mounted to it. The unit also has rubberized tractor treads making it suitable for rocky terrain. Field engineer Rich Leemon did tell me that it wasn't all-terrain. The MAARS robot is best suited for unpaved rural roads. MAARS is operated by remote control from a suitcase system or from a wearable controller, as modeled here by Jasmine Guevara, PACOM public affairs. The Bellows Marine Corp Training Area where the exercise took place was made up to appear like an Afghani village. You can see the flag on the building and the men in the foreground behind MAARS are role players brought in from San Francisco. Evaluators of the MAARS looked for system vulnerabilities and operational effectiveness by Marines controlling  the units in a free play exercise. The MAARS units run about $350K each and are still in the evaluation stage. In this video Rich Leemon explains the general operations of the MAARS as he guides it back onto the truck. Next up is GUSS.

F-22 Raptor

F-22 Arrival CeremonyFriday's F-22 Arrival Ceremony was quite the event. In addition to the social media contingent, which included Marc Orbito, Ricky Li, David Lau, Gabriel Yanagihara, Lee J Hopkinson, Greg Yamane, Brian Dote, Ian Kitajima and me, there where a few hundred guests of the Air Force and joint services. Hula performance was done by Robert Cazimero's dancers which was followed with speeches by dignitaries including Gov. Linda Lingle and Sen. Daniel Inouye. Finally, Kahu Kordell Kekoa did a traditional Hawaiian blessing of the planes. These are just 2 of the F-22's that will call Hawaii home. By early next year that number will grow to 20. Each will be part of the Hawaii Air National Guard and operated under a joint agreement with the active duty U.S. Air Force. The social media team did a great job capturing the event and you can view photos by Jasmine Deborah, Gabriel Yanagihara, Brian Dote, Lee Hopkinson and Marc Orbito. Ian Kitajima shot several live videos and posted then to his Dual Use site. Greg Yamane posted this video of the F-22 taxiing to the ceremony. Ricki Li took it a notch up with this video production. Here is a set of photos and a rather sedate video I shot of the F-22. Of course the best was this video courtesy of KHON2News

RIMPAC 2010

USS Ronald ReaganThe USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is just one of 32 vessels in Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific exercises held every two years. My run on Sunday morning takes me along Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial. I shot this photo from the Visitor Center area. It is pretty amazing how many ships are in the Pearl Harbor lochs. I've never seen air craft carriers double parked before. At the press conference on Monday, June 28, 2010, Vice Admiral Richard Hunt talked about how the first RIMPAC in 1971 was focused on "blue water" exercises. In 2010, the focus is on the littoral. (Wikipedia: The littoral zone refers to that part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore.) In this case the waters off the islands. I suspect Bellows will be a site of some of the littoral exercise during these coming weeks. The Navy has newly designed vessels specifically for littoral operations. The USS Freedom is one such vessel participating in RIMPAC 2010. Another is the RSS Supreme from Singapore. The RSS Supreme is part of the Formidable class stealth frigate. If you look at the surface of this vessel you can see the patchwork of radar absorbing panels. It almost looks like it is padded. The RSS Supreme was parked right next to the DDG Atago from Japan. RimPac 2010The Japanese brought two ships, the DDG 177 Atago and the DD 108 Akebono. These two ships were double parked right next to each other. I would have loved to be on the ship when they did that maneuver. The DDG Atago is based on the Arleigh-Burke (Aegis) destroyer design but manufactured by Mitsubishi of Japan. I find it interesting that the show Ryomaden, currently airing on KIKU-TV is a story about Ryoma Sakamoto told by Iwasaki Yataro, founder of Mitsubishi. The show goes into good detail about Yataro's humble beginnings as a bird cage peddler and his ambitions as a businessman. I wonder what he would have thought if he knew someday his company would be furnishing the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) with high tech destroyers based on a US design. I am sure it would have blown his mind. The tour of the DDG Atago was relatively quick but we did get to visit the bridge, deck and officers dining room. I did notice one thing, that ship was the cleanest ship I have every been on. Everything sparkled, even the propeller on the life boat. Today the DDG Atago participated in a anti-piracy inspection drill. If you are interested in more photos of the DDG Atago you can view this set.

Mission: USS Nimitz – F-18 Landing

We stood near the achor point of the arrest cable used to catch the planes as they land. From this vantage point you can almost touch the F-18 as it approaches and flies in for a landing. The arrest cable is about 3 inches in diameter and when the F-18 catches it you can feel the tension as the cable is pulled to what appears to be the breaking point. It's not hard to imagine the crazy accidents that could happen if anything were not to work perfectly. As the planes land they are immediately moved into parking area where the wings are folded to conserve space. These are the original transformers. Beneath the deck is home to the hydraulic system that is used to bring the plane to a stop. There's a huge piston that effectively stops the plane and a complex system of thinner cables that translates the energy from the arrest cable. Without this, you would probably have a lot more snapped cables. Even so, the arrest cables are supposed to be replaced after about 100 uses. During the course of the landing crew members on deck are attending the landing plane and preparing for the next one. The planes are all circling the aircraft carrier at different altitudes. Each pilot watches as the plane below it lands. The pilots maintain radio silence between pilots and the control tower throughout this entire exercise. As one lands they all drop one level down and prepare for the next landing. The timing is precise. Within a few minutes the next plane lands. Now imagine doing this in the pitch black darkness of the evening. The crew of the USS Nimitz were running manuevers until 11pm at night.

Mission: USS Nimitz – F-18 Takeoff

Without a doubt watching the F-18 Hornet catapult off the flight deck of the USS Nimitz is an intense, awesome and full-body experience. The jet engine noise will penetrate to your bones. We had both foam ear plugs and over that wore headphones. Even with the double protection you could hear and feel the power of the jet engine. If you watch the video closely you will see the jet manuever to the catapult latch. The green shirt guy will ensure the jet is properly latched to the catapult. Once secure, he signals to the yellow shirt guy, the Shooter, who then signals the okay to launch. The runway seems extremely short, probably about 100 yards. Each plane reaches a velocity of 120mph in 2 seconds. The engines are on a full power when the Shooter gives the signal. In a matter of 5 seconds the F-18 is reduced to just a spec as it flies off on its mission. All I can say is Wow!