Metro-East News

Roger That: Navy’s nearly $700 million mine-detection system fails basic tests

A mine-detection system the U.S. Navy invested nearly $700 million and 16 years in developing can't complete its most basic functions, according to the Pentagon's weapon-testing office.

CNN reports the Remote Minehunting System, or RMS, was developed for one of the Navy's new combat ships. But the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation says the drone hunting technology was unable to consistently identify and destroy underwater explosives during tests dating back to September 2014.

    "The Navy has determined that the RMS' total number of failures and periodicity of failures fall short of the design requirement for the system," said Capt. Thurraya Kent, a spokeswoman for the Navy.

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    Incidents involving sexual assault in which the children of service members are victims occur hundreds of times each year, data the Defense Department provided exclusively to The Associated Press show. The abuse is committed most often by male enlisted troops, according to the data, followed by family members, according to the story, which is being carried on the Military.com website.

    An AP investigation published in November found more inmates are in military prisons for child sex crimes than for any other offense. But the military's opaque justice system keeps the public from knowing the full extent of their crimes or how much time they spend behind bars.

    Responding to AP's findings, three Democratic senators have urged Defense Secretary Ash Carter to lift what they called the military justice system's “cloak of secrecy” and make records from sex-crimes trials readily accessible.

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    For paralyzed veterans with spinal cord injuries, a new technology involving robotic legs may allow them to walk again, according to The Associated Press.

    Paralyzed veterans have been sending letters to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald this summer, and on Dec. 10, VA officials sent a memorandum outlining plans to train staff to fund the technology.

    The device, which is made with a brace with motion sensors and motorized joints that respond to subtle changes in upper-body movement and shifts in balance, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014.

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    After years of being featured at trade shows and trotted out for high-ranking Marine Corps officials, the Marines' barrel-chested Legged Squad Support System — known affectionately as the robotic mule — has been put out to pasture, according to Military.com.

    The machine, which resembles a headless pack mule made of metal, came about through a $32 million, two-and-a-half year contract between the Pentagon's research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Google Inc.'s Boston Dynamics, of Waltham, Massachusetts.

    DARPA teamed up with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to create an autonomous four-legged creature that could lighten troops' load by carrying 400 or more pounds of weight, according to reports about the 2010 contract.

    A second contract worth almost $10 million was awarded in 2013 for an additional phase of the LS3 program that would demonstrate how the legged robot would work by following troops on foot through rugged terrain, carrying their gear, and interpreting verbal and visual commands.

    Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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