National Guard July 2012 : Page 28
New Materiel By William Matthews Vehicles, weapons and radios no longer flow into the Guard at historic rates, but developments continue on the equipment front DELUGE OF NEW equip-ment over the past six years has put the Army National Guard and Air Guard in better shape than ever, but the boom years may be coming to an end. The Army Guard now has 88 per-cent of its required equipment—up from 65 percent in 2005—and 92 percent of the critical dual-use equip-sequestration, which would cut $500 billion in defense spending over the next decade. For now, thanks to previous bud-gets, new equipment continues to trickle in. Here’s some of what’s new for Guard units across the country. U PGRADED G RADERS It helps to have friends in high places. Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, who retired in December as acting di-rector of the Army Guard, returned to his former Guard unit in Sturgis, S.D., in May to check out the unit’s four new 120M motorized road graders. Carpenter began his career in the South Dakota Army Guard in 1967 as an enlisted 62 K—a grader operator. A | ment it needs for domestic missions, according to Lt. Gen. William E. Ingram Jr., the Army Guard director. The Air Guard has 94 percent of its required gear. Of that, 88 percent is dual-use equipment, the Defense Department reports. But budgets are tightening, and they will tighten dramatically next year if Congress fails to head off 28 Na tional Guard
Vehicles, weapons and radios no longer flow into the Guard at historic rates, but developments continue on the equipment front<br /> <br /> ADELUGE OF NEW equipment over the past six years has put the Army National Guard and Air Guard in better shape than ever, but the boom years may be coming to an end.<br /> <br /> The Army Guard now has 88 percent of its required equipment—up from 65 percent in 2005—and 92 percent of the critical dual-use equipment it needs for domestic missions, according to Lt. Gen. William E. Ingram Jr., the Army Guard director.<br /> <br /> The Air Guard has 94 percent of its required gear. Of that, 88 percent is dual-use equipment, the Defense Department reports.<br /> <br /> But budgets are tightening, and they will tighten dramatically next year if Congress fails to head off sequestration, which would cut $500 billion in defense spending over the next decade.<br /> <br /> For now, thanks to previous budgets, new equipment continues to trickle in. Here’s some of what’s new for Guard units across the country.<br /> <br /> UPGRADED GRADERS <br /> <br /> It helps to have friends in high places.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, who retired in December as acting director of the Army Guard, returned to his former Guard unit in Sturgis, S.D., in May to check out the unit’s four new 120M motorized road graders.<br /> <br /> Carpenter began his career in the South Dakota Army Guard in 1967 as an enlisted 62 K—a grader operator. <br /> <br /> As acting chief of the Army Guard from 2009 through 2011, Carpenter prodded Congress to buy the Guard new equipment. During a fielding ceremony, South Dakota Guard officials credited Carpenter for the four new computer-controlled road graders that were delivered to the 842nd Engineer Company.<br /> <br /> It is the first unit in the nation to receive them.<br /> <br /> “This is a magnificent machine with modern technology,” said Carpenter, who climbed aboard one of the big green machines.<br /> <br /> The new graders don’t have steering wheels and other controls. Instead, the operator has a joy stick and six computers run the grader in response to the operator’s commands.<br /> <br /> The graders will be useful “for our missions in the overseas fight and emergency operations here at home,” Carpenter said.<br /> <br /> SENSING THE THREAT <br /> <br /> The Oklahoma National Guard’s 63rd Civil Support Team (CST) joined Oklahoma State University and the FBI to test a high-tech warning system that links multiple types of sensors together to detect a variety of threats.<br /> <br /> The system called OverSite creates a network of sensors—acoustic sensors to locate gunshots, sensors to detect airborne toxins and radiation, video cameras for surveillance and others—and uses software to turn the sensor data into detailed situational awareness for law enforcement and emergency responders.<br /> <br /> The system includes a meteorological station to track the movement of airborne toxins, blue-force tracking to keep tabs on emergency responders, and radios to maintain communication.<br /> <br /> The goal is to improve public safety at “soft targets,” such as college campuses, public buildings, shopping malls and events such as parades, concerts and political rallies, according to Vince Scott of Oklahoma State University’s Multispectral Laboratories, which developed the system.<br /> <br /> The 63rd participated in a test where simulated threats included a sniper and the release of radioactive vapor in the university’s football stadium.<br /> <br /> Lt. Col. Hiram Tabler, the CST commander, said the radiation-sensing technology accurately detected the presence of radiation during the test. That could be useful to CSTs, which are trained and equipped for rapid response to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents.<br /> <br /> POWER PLANTS <br /> <br /> As the Air Force moves toward a 2016 goal of getting half of its domestic jet fuel from alternative sources, it tapped the Ohio Air Guard to test a biofuel blend for flying F-16 Fighting Falcons.<br /> <br /> It took scores of flights and several months for two F-16s from the 180th Fighter Wing to burn through 100,000 gallons of fuel that was 50 percent standard JP8 fuel and 50 percent fuel made from plant oil.<br /> <br /> The Toledo-based unit is about 100 miles from the Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton that oversees biofuel testing.<br /> <br /> The Air Force has already certified C-17 transports, A-10 attack planes, F-15 fighters and F-22 stealth fighters as ready to fly on the biofuel blend. With the Ohio Guard’s help, F-16s may be next.<br /> <br /> The “bio” half of the blend comes from a weed-like plant called camelina. It’s easy to grow in much of the United States and demands little fertilizer, water or maintenance. And the seeds it produces are 30 to 40 percent oil, which can be refined into jet fuel.<br /> <br /> The Air Force says that switching to a biofuel blend will help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. It will also help boost the U.S. biofuel industry, which is still struggling to get established.<br /> <br /> Air Force aircraft burn about 2.5 billion gallons of fuel a year, about 11 percent of U.S. aviation fuel consumption. Most of it—64 percent—goes to large transport planes, 31 percent to fighters. Fuel cost the Air Force $8.3 billion in 2011, but fuel prices shot up early in 2012.<br /> <br /> For the Ohio Guard F-16 pilots, there was “absolutely no noticeable difference whatsoever” between flying on the biofuel blend and on regular JP8, said Col. Scott Reed, the 180th Maintenance Group commander.<br /> <br /> KEEP TALKING <br /> <br /> Ten days before the June 1 start of the 2012 hurricane season, the Florida Guard rolled out its new Mobile Emergency Operations Center (MEOC).<br /> <br /> It’s a big, white command post built on a semitrailer chassis and packed with communications gear, from satellite connections and video conferencing gear to UHF and VHF radios and a weather station.<br /> <br /> Florida is counting on this $850,000 MEOC to enable emergency responders to communicate—on military and civilian frequencies, by radio, internet telephone, fax, email and video teleconference—when all other communication capability has been knocked out.<br /> <br /> The MEOC has two rooms. One has six work stations where communications specialists operate telephones, computers, satellite links and other communications gear. A half dozen video monitors display camera feeds, weather information and other data.<br /> <br /> The other room is a conference room with a table for eight and screens for video teleconferences. A telescoping mast on the roof holds a weatherproof camera that provides a 360-degree view of what’s happening outside.<br /> <br /> The trailer can connect to local power supplies or operate with its own generator for three to five days. It carries its own water supply and has a small restroom.<br /> <br /> Proud as Florida Guard officials are of their new operations center, South Dakota Guard members are even prouder. They claim to have invented it.<br /> <br /> South Dakota Guardsmen say they designed it based on capabilities they needed when responding to emergencies ranging from forest fires to the state’s frequent floods.<br /> <br /> “The National Guard Bureau is so impressed with the MEOC that it has ordered 20 of them to disperse to Guard units in other states,” Senior Master Sgt. Rick Larson of the South Dakota Air Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing told the Sioux City Journal.<br /> <br /> The Maryland Guard unveiled its MEOC in January.<br /> <br /> DRONE DISPUTE <br /> <br /> As the Air Guard acquires more unmanned aerial vehicles, a debate about using them for domestic missions heats up.<br /> <br /> Proponents, such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., argue for adding MQ-1B Predator UAV ground stations to those already manned by the Air Guard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The Predators’ sophisticated surveillance equipment “should be used to secure our southern border,” McCain says.<br /> <br /> The Air Guard has maintained since at least 2007 that the surveillance and reconnaissance capability so valued by commanders in combat would be equally valuable to state and local responders during disasters.<br /> <br /> And the Defense Department proposed in a 2010 report to Congress using UAVs in the United States for border and port surveillance, maritime operations, counterdrug operations and disaster and special event support.<br /> <br /> But amid the enthusiasm for UAVs, there is also mounting concern about government agencies using high-tech equipment that could invade personal privacy.<br /> <br /> Rumors that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was using UAVs to spot environmental violations on Midwestern farms prompted accusations of spying and strident denunciations by the Nebraska congressional delegation.<br /> <br /> Except that the EPA wasn’t flying UAVs.<br /> <br /> Last month, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, which would require government agencies to obtain warrants before using UAVs, but with some exceptions.<br /> <br /> That makes Paul an unlikely ally of the American Civil Liberties Union, which warns that using UAVs in U.S. airspace could move the nation toward becoming “a surveillance society” where individuals’ activities are monitored, tracked and recorded.<br /> <br /> A lot of states don’t see it that way. More than two dozen are competing to host six new UAV test flight sites where unmanned aircraft can be studied for all manner of commercial and government missions.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration is under orders from Congress to determine by October 2015 how UAV operations can be integrated safely in U.S. airspace.<br /> <br /> As for the Guard, the number of UAV units is growing. There are seven units now, another being created and four more planned for the future.<br /> <br /> William Matthews is a Springfield, Va.- based freelance writer who specializes in military matters. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.