Professional Notes

Military and civilian autonomous vehicles use many similar technologies, including GPS navigation, light detection and ranging (LIDAR), high-resolution cameras, radars, and other sensors. Likewise, the capabilities of military autonomous vehicles are similar to those already available on many cars, trucks, and SUVs. These range from blind-spot monitoring and collision warning and avoidance to pedestrian warning and emergency braking assist.

Recent Testing Efforts

In January 2014 the Army and Marine Corps’ Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program successfully demonstrated fully autonomous convoys operating in urban environments. Conducted at Fort Hood, Texas, an M-915 4x6 tractor and two palletized loading-system vehicles with multi-steering, six-axles were used. The driverless vehicle navigated hazards and obstacles like road intersections, oncoming traffic, stalled and passing vehicles, pedestrians, and traffic circles in both urban and rural test areas.

Urban streets and congested traffic are the greatest challenge to both military and civilian autonomous vehicles. The military environment is especially challenging because driver error can result from very long convoy missions, which often occur in difficult terrain with inexperienced drivers. Warfighter drivers also often face enemy attack or improvised explosive devices.

The AMAS program is a joint effort between the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center and Lockheed Martin. Its two parts consist of the AMAS Joint Capability Technical Demonstration, which aims to augment the safety and security of drivers on convoy missions, and the AMAS Capabilities Advancement Demonstration (CAD), which works to eliminate the need for a soldier or Marine driver. The CAD portion was successfully demonstrated in the testing at Fort Hood.

In addition to reducing accidents from collisions with other vehicles and obstacles as well as avoiding rollovers, these are other benefits for the military. These include increased operational efficiency and effectiveness, improved situational awareness, and enhanced safety under no- or limited-visibility conditions. As with civilian systems, AMAS adds hazards-sensing alerts so drivers can rapidly react to safety risks. AMAS does not interfere with the driver’s ability to operate vehicles manually.

Because the Army and Marine Corps use many different vehicles for convoy duty, AMAS is vehicle-agnostic so it can be used in virtually all current tactical vehicles. To do this, AMAS has two major components: the autonomy kit, common to all vehicles, and the by-wire/active-safety kit (BWASK), which is vehicle specific. The former provides the primary intelligence and autonomous decision-making capabilities, and includes a high-performance LIDAR sensor, an additional GPS sensor, dedicated computer, data logger, and autonomy kit sensors. Meanwhile, the BWASK physically controls the vehicle and is based on differing hardware on board.

A second series of demonstrations took place in June 2014, which involved a completely unmanned leader vehicle that was followed by up to six additional fully autonomous vehicles operating at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. The tests doubled the length and speed of convoys previously demonstrated and used one FMTV (Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles) truck, one MTVR (Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement) vehicle, two palletized load system trucks, two M-915 line-haul tractors, and one heavy-equipment transport.

Additional Kits

Like AMAS technology, TerraMax is a scalable appliqué kit that can be integrated into new vehicles—including those from other manufacturers—or retrofitted to existing vehicles. The modular system does not alter the payload or performance regardless of weather conditions. Its use is not limited to logistics vehicles; it can be used for other missions as well. For instance, Oshkosh integrates the TerraMax system onto its mine-resistant ambushed protected all-terrain vehicle (M-ATV) for route clearance and explosive-ordnance disposal. TerraMax-equipped vehicles can be operated fully autonomously in any position in a convoy or semiautonomously to follow the path of the lead vehicle. Navigating independently not only facilitates tight convoy formation, but also enables the composition of the convoy to change as demanded by traffic conditions, road blockages, or other situations.

A single operator can control multiple unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). The operator control unit (OCU) allows semiautonomous commands and remote control (or tele-operation), in case the autonomy system is inoperable. The OCU’s screen displays overhead imagery, automated routes, and driving parameters. It gives feedback if it identifies an obstacle to continue or changes track accordingly.

The UGV suite consists of command-zone electronics and a sensor suite with a high definition LIDAR, a wide-dynamic range camera, a short-wave infrared camera, four situational-awareness cameras, 12 short-range radar systems, and three long-range radars. The short-range radars provide 360 degrees of close view to detect and avoid obstacles for safe convoy missions in rugged environments. The military-grade global-navigation satellite system, along with map-registration software technology, ensures that the system will operate even without a satellite signal, should the GPS navigation system be blocked or denied.

Finally, the TerraMax UGV technology is fully incorporated into the brakes, steering, engine, and transmission. It operates with advanced driver-assist systems such as electronic-stability control, collision-mitigation braking, and adaptive cruise control for safer vehicle operation.

Colonel Siuru has a PhD in mechanical engineering. His assignments included teaching ordance engineering at West Point, and he was the commander of the Frank J. Seiler Research Laboratory at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is currently the technical editor for several publications.


Focused Leadership in Major Command

By Captains Cathal O’Connor, William J. Parker III, and Sara Joyner, U.S. Navy

Selection to major command is a remarkable achievement. Your success is the result of leadership, a little luck, and fortunate timing. We hope that our advice will make your tour more successful and the “fleet up” process a more effective and enjoyable experience for your command.

A few facts to keep in mind:

• We work for the taxpayer. Never forget they elect our leaders, pay our salaries, and provide their sons and daughters to fight America’s wars.

• Be ready to fight, lead, and deal with today’s threats today.

• Presence is our mandate, and power projection is our strength.

• We are a maritime nation. The Constitution states that Congress shall “provide and maintain a Navy.” The U.S. Navy keeps the seas open for trade, which enables our national security and economic survival.

For the Deputy Commodore, Deputy Carrier Airwing Commander, and Executive Officer

There is one enduring truth in the first 18 months of the Fleet Up Program: It’s not your time. It is the captain, carrier airwing commander (CAG), or commodore’s command tour. Support the commander fully and learn from his experience and actions.

Your performance as deputy/executive officer sets the tone for your command tour. Offer your boss all your good ideas. If you wait until you take command, your sailors will recognize that and treat you accordingly.

Prepare to serve as a senior action officer. You are a Major Command-screened O-6 who can execute a project or mission while the CO, CAG, or commodore is engaged elsewhere.

• You may be tasked to conduct an investigation or “science project” for the Type Commander (TYCOM) or Numbered Fleet Commander that requires travel, liaison, and coordination with numerous countries and organizations.

• In other cases, it’s a national mission that requires the maturity, seniority, and interagency coordination skills of a senior O-6. Own the mission, though it will likely be well out of your role as deputy or executive officer.

• Whether project or mission, write a passdown as you go. As soon as you are complete, identify and train your relief.

Paperwork matters, but don’t let it consume you. Write the evaluations, awards, and standard operating procedures as you go. The goal is to email the after-action report, lessons learned, and briefing slide upon mission completion but with 100 percent accuracy. Admin is essential to executing the mission, but never forget that warfighting comes first.

Be an “ethical weathervane.” Be a barometer for perception and ethics and be critical of your own behavior. Few may approach you if there are perceptions of impropriety or unethical behavior. A closed-door session with the boss lets you provide feedback in a one “G” environment.

Advice for the Commodore, CAG, or CO

Be yourself. Be open to changing how you do business; but now is not the time to reinvent yourself. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, stay true to yourself. Leverage your leadership strengths, work on your weaknesses, and put in support systems in place for strong backup. Use your deputy as a sounding board to ensure that you are not losing perspective or changing negatively under the pressures of command.

Be the poster child for what is right and appropriate. Now is not the time for a midlife crisis that leaves you wanting to be someone else, be somewhere else, or date someone who isn’t your spouse. If you find yourself unable to shake one of these issues, call the boss and ask for a change-of-command ceremony. It’s better for you, your family, and most importantly, the sailors under your command.

You are not the admiral. Despite your experience, your accomplishments, and your mentors, you are not the admiral. Engage early and understand how your admiral thinks so you can anticipate and answer his or her questions in your ten-slide (maximum) brief. But once the admiral decides, you will walk out of the flag cabin with zero daylight between you and your boss.

Keep all three staffs in the loop. If you are a CAG, destroyer squadron, or amphibious squadron commodore, you are reporting to the TYCOM, Strike Group and your own staff. Pre-coordinate with the appropriate assistant chief of staff, and once you have consensus, run the idea past the chief of staff before engaging the admiral. Otherwise you will activate the Flag Officer Protection System, a rapid-response system that points out the uncoordinated issues you didn’t tell the Admiral during your discussion.

Be successful together. Unless you are personally conducting operations, nothing is more important than communicating with your fellow warfare commanders. When there is a conflict, provide the admiral with a solution and acknowledge the risks and benefits. We are assessed not only on our ability to execute missions, but also on how well we assist others in executing theirs.

Inform your subordinates. Your subordinate commanders must know what is expected and be able to operate independently. So integrate them in the decision-making process. Teaching them how to think as a CAG or commodore broadens their perspective and enables them to meet and exceed your expectations.

Know humility. Abraham Lincoln famously paraphrased Proverbs 17:28 when he admonished those with a hasty tongue, “It is better to be quiet and be thought of a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” These words are still appropriate now that email, radios, and video teleconferences sit on your desk.

Work well with others. Your usefulness to the Navy and its sailors often comes down to whether people are willing to work with you. So if you’re considered one of the smartest people in the room, never act like you believe it and always listen to everyone’s input before making a decision. Don’t forget other specialists—subs, base commanders, JAGs, EDOs, SEALs, EODs. Somebody knows the answer.

Listen. Listening can be the difference between receiving essential information from your peers and subordinates and finding out from your boss. Take the time to listen to your staff, fellow major commanders and unit commanders. It will be time well spent.

Anticipate. Don’t wait to be tasked. Look out in the future and anticipate what will happen based on your years of experience. Read about your geographic area to include strategic guidance, component guidance, and your admiral’s priorities and use them to think and plan.

Plan and execute your deployment. Build and maintain a day-for-day deployment plan. Work with the embassy country teams and the fleet commander’s political advisor to overlay U.S. and local holidays and events for each country. Deconflict in-port requirements and build a strategic communication plan focused on junior sailors for workups and deployment.

Maximize opportunities to share your knowledge. Mentor your COs and other COs who reach out for your advice without preempting their chain of command. It’s a fine line that can be walked openly and honestly. As Napoleon said, a leader is a dealer in hope.

Help sailors network. Leverage your experience and contacts to find answers for a sailor interested in legislative affairs, joint staff, or personal staff assignments. Identify the best talent and send them to the most challenging billets.

Make the hard calls. As commodore or CAG, you are here to champion your subordinate commands, but you must foremost consider what is best for the Navy. If your CO won’t make the hard call and passes the buck to you, then assess their future potential accordingly.

Ask the hard questions. Insist on formal briefings in front of all watchstanders and key personnel. This ensures proper attention to what many consider standard operations.

Identify mistakes, assess root causes, and correct. Admit your own mistakes publicly. Calmly collect the facts and provide leadership a summary and how to fix it. Then institute hotwash reviews to promote a culture of non-attribution and fact finding.

Be truthful. Report every personnel shortfall, training deficiency or equipment casualty to leadership and inform TYCOMs of projected shortfalls. Otherwise, you will explain why a command is unable to surge forward and fully conduct operations.

Detaching for cause. Think very carefully before firing or detaching anyone. Once the decision is made, coordinate with the strike group, type commander, and personnel commands. Then have the chaplain standing by to counsel the sailor and make the ombudsman aware of the impact on the family.

Learn how to receive and process bad news. Have COs use a consistent icebreaker like, “Commodore, you can’t make this stuff up.” Your reaction impacts everyone so use public displays of emotion as a tool. Do not allow them to run freely to your sailors’ detriment.

You really can’t make this stuff up. When you find yourself outside of any leadership publication or case study from Newport, trust your gut and do what you know is right. If you have time (and you often will), call a mentor. Your predecessors may be best positioned to provide sound advice regarding uncharted territory.

Train your relief. With the perspective that time and distance provide, ask yourself which of your COs should return as your relief. If the CO and family are willing to serve at the next level in command at sea, continue training them.

Congratulations on a most challenging but rewarding experience. Enjoy every moment, embrace this amazing opportunity, and pass on a career’s worth of experience to your sailors.

Captain O’Connor commanded Amphibious Squadron 11. He is OPNAV deputy director for operations and plans (N31B).

Captain Parker commanded Destroyer Squadron 23. He is the chief of staff for Commander, Naval Surface Forces.

Captain Joyner commanded Carrier Air Wing 3. She is a Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Fellow on the CNO’s Strategic Studies Group.


Modernizing the Philippine Navy

By Lieutenant Commander Eric Johnson, U.S. Coast Guard

The Philippine Navy (PN) has recently engaged in an ambitious recapitalization and modernization effort, which has been fortuitous due to the recent increase in activity surrounding the territorial disputes the country has been embroiled in for decades. These well-documented disputes, which center on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, can provide context and perhaps explain the impetus for the recapitalization efforts. 1 The PN’s modernization must continue, and the United States should view that development as complementary to our own Pacific strategy.

The Philippines, an island nation with a rich, robust maritime history, is located on the eastern border of the South China Sea, an area of perpetual contention. 2 As noted scholar on Southeast Asian international relations Donald Weatherbee has asserted, “the jurisdictional shape of the South China Sea is like a doughnut, with open seas being the doughnut hole.” 3 But recurrent regional territorial disputes constantly threaten to close these “doughnut holes.” This prompts many Southeast Asian states to view maritime domains as not merely an area in which to project power, but vital regions to defend that may preemptively defuse potential claims against their sovereignty. Simply, “[t]he importance of maritime issues in the Asia-Pacific region [must not] be understated.” 4 Further, “the expanding seascape under the jurisdiction of littoral states has stretched maritime security forces beyond their capabilities, particularly in . . . the Philippines.” 5 The effectiveness of the maritime forces of these states must constantly be evaluated to ensure they can provide the desired security and requisite ability to preserve and enforce their maritime sovereignty.

Fortunately for the people of the Philippines, President Benigno S. Aquino III understands the importance of maritime issues. He worked to extend the original Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Act, resulting in a wholesale revision of the original 1995 law in December 2012. The revision will extend the program to 2027, providing ample time for development and acquisition. At a July 2013 speech, President Aquino reaffirmed his support for an “extensive modernization of the armed forces,” which he qualified with his commitment to the welfare of the Philippine people. 6 While he favors a robust revitalization program, he also recognizes the limitations that competing demands for funding place on any modernization initiative. In short, the AFP Modernization Act should ensure that the Philippines attains a minimum credible defense posture, but will not provide a power-projection capability. 7

The importance of a more capable and up-to-date maritime component to the AFP has become increasingly apparent in the past decades. The withdrawal of U.S. forces from the bases in the Philippines, coupled with periodic increases in tensions pertaining to long-standing territorial disputes in the region and the impacts of natural disasters (e.g., Typhoon Haiyan), have made it more important than ever that the Philippines be capable of a more agile, resilient, and sustained maritime presence. This goal aligns well with President Aquino’s Social Contract with the Filipino People in that it enables a more equitable participation in economic (and other) initiatives through ensuring the safety of the people. This becomes most critical during natural disasters, when aid must be quickly and effectively distributed to remote areas. However, it also becomes quite evident during disputes, such as in April of 2012, when the Phillipine Navy frigate Gregorio del Pilar was dispatched to interdict several Chinese fishing vessels near the contested Scarborough Shoal, which lies just a few hundred miles from the west coast of Luzon. 8 These incursions by foreign fishing vessels have a direct impact on the Philippine economy, negatively effecting the potential for the Philippine people to improve their economic situation.

Improving the Philippine Navy

A critical component of this credible defense posture lies in the significant improvements that have been made to the PN. In May 2011 it acquired the first of its two del Pilar –class frigates, which are former U.S. Coast Guard Hamilton -class high-endurance cutters that were transferred by the United States under the Foreign Assistance Act. The acquisition cost of these ships is approximately $13 million each, but they represent a significant upgrade in the PN’s capabilities. Prior to adding these ships to the fleet, the flagship of the PN was a World War II–era destroyer escort, also obtained from the United States, the Rajah Humabon .

To realize the full capabilities of these capital improvements, however, the PN must prioritize the acquisition of an organic underway replenishment at sea/fueling at sea (RAS/FAS) capability within five years. Acquisition of at least one oiler must be a top priority of the PN and should be incorporated into the Modernization Act as a short-term goal. Attaining RAS/FAS capability and proficiency would also return great dividends in the PN’s ability to participate in regularly scheduled maritime exercises with regional and international partners and provide an option to explore participation in international maritime initiatives. Increased endurance supports a persistent maritime presence, which equates to an improved likelihood that forces can be where they are needed when they are needed. Lastly, the ability to provide an extended duration and on-scene time for maritime forces would lend well to the archipelagic geography of the Philippines, meeting the requirement for a sustained presence during humanitarian-assistance/disaster-response (HA/DR) missions within the nation. It is extremely likely that, during an HA/DR scenario, sea-basing of rescue assets would be much more effective due to the possible degradation of port facilities.

Additionally, the PN should expand its acquisition program to increase the modernization of its current fleet of surface combatants. Already, the Philippine government has negotiated to purchase vessels from Italy, including two new Maestrale -class frigates. 9 These will provide a more robust anti-air capability than the ships that were acquired from the United States. Conflicting reports also exist as to the possibility that the PN may attempt to acquire additional frigates of yet another class from the Italian government. These additional classes of surface combatants add to the overall tonnage of the PN, yet they may introduce problems in manning, training, and equipping these ships. Growing professional officers within classes of ships becomes complicated if they must continually learn different systems and shiphandling characteristics. Arguably, these are not insurmountable barriers, but warrant consideration and are worth mentioning. Further, having three distinct and small (less than five ships per class) platforms may introduce logistics issues and hinder the ability of the PN to realize economies of scale regarding maintenance and training.

Lastly, the PN (and arguably the AFP as a whole) must focus on improving maritime-domain awareness (MDA) tactics. MDA must involve the entirety of the AFP due to the maritime nature of the nation and the propensity/capability of certain domestic groups to engage in maritime operations that may require response by other components of the AFP; compartmentalizing MDA under such circumstances exposes the nation to unnecessary risk. 10 Acquisition of maritime-patrol aircraft (MPA) should be prioritized to maximize the efficiency of surface patrols and also to provide overt presence in areas that are included in territorial disputes (e.g., the South China Sea). MPAs enhance the ability of the Philippines to respond quickly to incursions by foreign vessels, but also improve the organic capabilities of the AFP to respond to natural disasters, or if needed provide aid to neighbors in the region.

‘One More Regional Partner’

The United States should view the modernization of the AFP in general, and the modernization of the PN in particular, as a way to achieve desired strategic ends in the Asia-Pacific region. A strong Philippines is good for U.S. policy in the area and by extension may also result in a stronger and more vibrant Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). By aiding the PN in its recapitalization efforts and assisting in its continuing progress in gaining additional competencies in more complex maritime operations, the United States is helping to establish yet one more regional partner that can ensure international order in the Pacific. These efforts must be carefully balanced to preclude inadvertently creating a perception that China is a more equitable partner for regional states to work with. (U.S. security interests would be jeopardized should states elect to cleave closer to China.)

As an archipelagic state, the ability to maneuver, conduct surveillance, and transit and defend its maritime domain and approaches constitutes a critical component of the Philippines’ national-security strategy. Without this capability, the nation would forego any viable sense of security and arguably, sovereignty.

The United States should continue to support the Philippines’ efforts in attaining the objectives of the AFP Modernization Act. By aiding in the prevention of conflict in the region, the United States can further its national-security interests. Additionally, the United States’ desire to establish a sustainable international order becomes exponentially easier to realize when that order is composed of partners capable of enforcing it.

Though ASEAN members are aware of the need for a “code of conduct for the sea,” it lacks the authority and ability to enforce any type of regulatory structure. 11 This lack of enforcement authority and ability provided positive proof that ASEAN is incapable of preventing regional conflict. The U.S. Senate crafted Resolution 167 in order to restate and expand U.S. support to regional partners (e.g., the Philippines). Less than two months later, Philippine officials sent a letter to the Senate stating that “[In] both diplomacy and national defense, our strategic relationship with the United States remains crucial.” 12 Statements such as these provide evidence of the importance of the relationship between the United States and the Philippines.

Enabling the Philippines to establish the capability to secure its own maritime zones ensures that the nation will be able to maintain its relationships with both the United States and China. This pays longer-term dividends, as it advances U.S. interests in the region by forging strong partnerships rather than through direct intervention, thus avoiding provocation of China or engendering the perception of U.S. pan-Pacific hegemony. Lastly, the United States may, as an indirect result of these efforts, actually realize net decreases in the cost of maintaining presence in the region as partner capacity improves.

1. Henry J. Kenny, “The South China Sea: A Dangerous Ground,” Naval War College Review , vol. 49, no. 3 (Summer 1996), 6–108.

2. Donald E. Weatherbee, International Relations in Southeast Asia: The Struggle for Autonomy (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005), 261.

3. Ibid.

4. Mely Caballero-Anthony, Regional Security in Southeast Asia: Beyond the ASEAN Way (Pasir Panjang, Singapore: ISEAS Publications, 2005), 179.

5. Adam J. Young, “Roots of Contemporary Maritime Piracy in Southeast Asia,” in Piracy in Southeast Asia: Status, Issues, and Responses , Derek Johnson and Mark Valencia, eds (Pasir Panjang, Singapore: ISEAS Publications, 2005), 22.

6. Alexis Romero, “Noy Assures AFP Modernization to Continue,” The Philippine Star , 26 July 2013, .

7. Jigs Nepomuceno, “Palace Says Ongoing Defense Upgrade to Boost PHL Military Capability,” Zambo Times , 31 May 2013, .

8. Dona Z. Pazzibugan and Tina G. Santos, “3rd China ship enters Scarborough Shoal; Philippine warship sails to Poro point,” Philippine Daily Inquirer , 13 April 2012, .

9. Tamir Eshel, “Manila to Pay $400 Million for Two Italian Frigates,” Defense Update , 4 July 2013, .

10. Eric D. Johnson, “The Abu Sayyaf Group and Maritime Terrorism,” in The Homeland Security Handbook , Jack Pinkowski, ed. (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2008), 149–167.

11. Kevin Baron, “Pentagon Pivots Within the Pivot, to Southeast Asia,” Defense One , 28 August 2013, .

12. Michaela Del Callar, “PHL, US to start talks on increased US military presence in the country,” GMA News , 8 August 2013, .

Lieutenant Commander Johnson currently serves in the Office of Counterterrorism and Defense Operations Policy at Coast Guard Headquarters. Commander Teddy Quinzon of the Philippine Navy also contributed to this article.


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