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Transcript of "Stryker Facts" Media Roundtable (Part 2)

Transcript of "Stryker Facts" Media Roundtable (Part 2)

Source: U.S. Army News release: Army Public Affairs, Washington D.C., October 15, 2002. Room 1E462, The Pentagon, 3:30 p.m. EDT.

Captain Tegtmeier: We had a vehicle that had three flat tires; the driver had no idea that he had those flat tires. It did not affect his driving performance.

Question: The last thing you guys talked about, the rapid designing and fielding of the Stryker. We heard back in April that there were some problems that had to be fixed. Does the Army has a material get-well plan for the Stryker where there's 43 issues that need to be fixed, and then you come across some hot wash comments from some Army evaluators out at Millennium Challenge. Do we just dismiss some of these problems as either this is a new way that the Army is designing and fielding this, and that these are just expected to happen? Should an off-the-shelf vehicle not have as many problems as the Stryker has?

Colonel Begines: Let me ask Lieutenant Colonel King and Colonel Betack to take the first part, and then on the ATEC [Army Test and Evaluation Command] hot wash comments, that Colonel Rounds perhaps or Captain Tegtmeier, they're talking about his company.

Lt. Colonel King: The short answer let me back up one step. When we set out to buy the Stryker, we set out to buy an already-existing off-the-shelf system that would be in wide proliferation throughout the world. That's what we asked for.

What we ended up buying was an integration of many existing parts. So there was some development to be done. We asked for a system that had significantly more mobility, significantly greater armor protection, a better weapons system, a lot of things that as it turned out didn't exist all in one system out in the world market. So there was some development to do.

The get-well plan is a great example and I'm glad you asked that because I want to talk about that. This gets back to the unusual acquisition process we've taken.

Before we give a vehicle to soldiers and allow them to use that vehicle to do certain things we have to test those things first and safety release it. No soldier gets in a vehicle and drives it until we've safety tested up to the limit of where they're allowed to drive.

So when we issued the first vehicles to the 5/20th [5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment] back on the 31st of May, before we could do that we had to have a safety release. But since our test program had only begun in April we couldn't possibly test everything that had to be done with the vehicle. So for example we'd never fired the smoke grenade launchers. We had not yet live-fired the RWS. We hadn't driven the vehicle over the obstacle course at greater than 20 miles an hour. We hadn't tested the automatic fire extinguishing system. So the unit could take possession of the vehicle, drive it up to 25 miles an hour, dry-fire the weapon, put soldiers in it, hang their gear on the outside, do all those kinds or things, but until we had tested to the next threshold of performance and safety released it, they couldn't do those things.

Those 43 or 46 items on that safety release are those 46 things that we still had to test or that we had tested only to a certain increment. Now I think the vehicle can operate up to the limits of its speed, they can live fire up to the 50-caliber. We still haven't tested the smoke grenade launcher so if you read today's version of the material in the get-well plan, there's going to be a restriction, no operation of the smoke grenade launchers. We still have not fully tested the automatic fire extinguishing system so they cannot deploy the automatic fire extinguishing system. So if you look inside the vehicle you'll see two conventional hand-operated fire extinguishers.

So there are still a number of things, but it's not because, necessarily because there were problems in the test. Some things won't work. We talked about some reliability issues of the RSW already. But because we just hadn't gotten there yet.

The test program for this vehicle is the most thorough and robust Title 10 test program that has ever been executed on any ground combat system the Army has ever fielded, and I include in that Bradley and Abrams. This vehicle is a thoroughly tested or will be when it's all said and done as any system we've ever built.

So there are going to be a number of get-well items on that material release for some time, until we fully type classify the weapons system. But the advantage of that is we got to still use it in the mean time up to the limits of those test ranges.

Colonel Rounds: One of the things that you talk about in terms of we continue to look at the Stryker. I think you've seen in the Army that's kind of our way, is we do, after anything that we do, we do an after-action review. The after-action review points to a way to make adjustments so that we're better in the future. If we do another piece of equipment that's pretty reliable it's the M4. It's the rifle all of these guys carry.

I have continually done, since I've been in command, a look at making the M4 more lethal in the type of environment we think we're going to fight in. I'm working toward that. A lot of those things are nice to have capabilities as opposed to essential capabilities. We're going to continue that process and we're going to be critical of ourselves.

The same thing goes on with the Stryker.

When we talk in terms of, and I think we mentioned the ATEC report and a lot of people used information that came out of that. As I looked at it, it was written as if it was first-hand information. It was anything but first-hand information. It was at best second-hand information and if you talk to the company commander, a lot of the information that came out there point by point, there was better, more accurate information available by the soldiers who actually fought the fight. I think that's part of the process of evaluating ourselves in Millennium Challenge and continuing to evaluate ourselves. All of the folks who are looking at us will get varying degrees of resolution on what they're seeing, but the bottom line is, and we're always happy to have people come out and look at it. The folks who really know what's going on in those vehicles in the company is the company commander who describes it as the most lethal company he's ever been associated with, and then the rest of the brigade. The folks who are actually fighting it every single day.

Colonel Begines: There are a lot of reports from a lot of different perspectives. Some of them are hot wash, some of them are more analytical, and there's a process reached to determine the validity and the accuracy and whether these perceptions should really be catalogued as observations. Sometimes they don't pan out. But Captain Tegtmeier says those particular observations were about his unit, he can tell you what happened.

Captain Tegtmeier: The bottom line is a lot of those [ATEC] comments are false. We never had an opportunity to scrub, none of those folks ever sat down to check the accuracy of those comments. I can talk specifics here.

The comment about soldiers having a hard time reaching their canteens in the vehicle. First of all, we don't use canteens anymore. We use camelbacks. There's a tube right here [on the chest] and there's absolutely no problem reaching them.

The comment about not being able to put nuclear, biological or chemical protective garments on inside the vehicle is false. Every single one of my squad has done it, buttoned up.

One of the only true comments is that they're saying that the seat cushion isn't thick enough. Okay. [Laughter] That's fair. But I'd love to go point by point down the briefing.

Colonel Begines: You might want to do that after the session. I don't know if anybody else would care to join you?

Frank Tiboni: I was at Millennium Challenge. I had chance to go out in the field. One of the soldiers, this wasn't a comment from a soldier that was part of the brigade, actually he was driving us around. He said to me, this was not a tank. [Laughter] What can we do, what can the Army do, what are you telling other soldiers in the Army? That this Stryker is a vehicle that can get infantry to the fight fast, and to engage the enemy from there. This is a soldier that said that.

Colonel Betack: That statement is right on. It's not supposed to be a tank.

Frank Tiboni: The soldier said I'd rather be in a tank.

Captain Tegtmeier: That goes back to some of the questions that I get; why don't we have this, why don't we have that [in the Stryker]. It was designed for a specific purpose to fill an operational gap. It could be a tank but it's going to take months to get into any theater. His tank's going to be sitting on a boat and then [afterwards] yes, he could go and fight somebody.

Something that's kind of frustrating, reading all the negative media, is that there will be a story and there will be a quote from soldiers talking, good things about Stryker, quoting my soldiers talking about how they like it. Then they'll quote some guy that's never seen it, never operated with it, about how bad it is. That kind of goes back to your point.

They need to look at what the soldiers want to do. We're the ones that have to go fight with this thing.

Colonel Rounds: The other question is to ask that soldier is what are you, what do you do, what's your MOS [military occupational specialty]? Maybe he's an armor soldier. Yes, it's not a tank. You ask any infantryman worth his salt, and he's pretty excited right now because I spent a good deal of my life walking to the objective. I have no interest, especially at my age, to continue to walk to the objective. [Laughter]

It's the same thing for the younger soldiers. You go back and keep going back to the comment I've seen before, but one of the Alpha 25 soldiers said this is a keeper. And primarily it's a keeper because it's mobile, it's reliable, it's deployable, and it's lethal. You get there and you're ready to fight.

Colonel Betack: It's not a tank because we've got a tank. We've got the best tank in the world. Why do we want to copy something that's already that great?

This vehicle right now is an infantry carrier. It's not an infantry fighting vehicle. Just like the captain's been saying, it's to get the infantry to the critical point on the battlefield and give him some protection. That's what we asked for it to do. We found that we had a necessity, a need. The Chief of Staff of the Army saw that when he was over in Bosnia and Kosovo. It's working really well.

Question: The mobile gun system [MGS] and the 105mm ammunition before that. I guess the lower turret on the MGS. This is the information going on out there, so please clarify. The advantage to going to the 105 [mm gun] was to piggyback on the one billion in 105mm munitions in the stockpile. There's a rumor going around that the Army has to build a new munition to fire out of the mobile gun system. Is that true?

Colonel Betack: No. It fires all the standard ammunition. As a matter of fact, Dion [King] can tell you the exact nomenclature. It's the same barrel that we had on the M-60A3. It's the same turret we had on the initial M1. The standard munition that we have stockpiled right now. That's what we use.

Question: How did the Stryker contribute to the joint fight? Awhile back you were saying it was part of a combined task force and you had other units of the Army and were working with the other Services around the country with MC02. How did that fit into, what was the perception of what they added?

Colonel Rounds: I'll have the company commander talk to you about that. We had one platoon worked with the Marines. There were fairly limited live forces that were there, but we specifically put a platoon with the Marines.

When you look at the ability, the situational awareness and ability to pass that from one Service to the other, that all worked really well. When you look at the ability of the Stryker platoon to operate lethally, we believe, within the overall MOUT [military operations in urban terrain] for urban fights that the Marines have, I'll turn it over to Brandon [Captain Tegtmeier], but I was impressed and that was one of the things that the Marine battalion commander talked to them about. Brandon:

Captain Tegtmeier: We had a day following our final mission [inaudible]. We prepared one of our platoons to fly from [inaudible] landing strip. The Air Force picked us up there. [inaudible] C-130s in southern California logistics airport. We had them ready for combat in a matter of several hours to get some other things done and to get linked in with the Marine communications system. For anyone to talk to them digitally through our FTC, it's the first time I've ever heard of that being done in the Army. So we were talking digitally as well as FM [frequency modulated] voice.

Then they got me into the fight with the 3/7th Marine infantry battalion there that was doing a MOUT exercise in some of the old Air Force base housing. It was an excellent training facility to use.

We initially were put on the flank to protect the Marine's flank, but then we were eventually brought into the fight and the capability that my soldiers have going from the whole task organization of three rifle squads and a weapon squad and the weapon systems that we have, the combination with the vehicle and the weapon station and what we could see at night with that. That platoon was able to be extremely effective. There was an opposing force counterattack that night, and there was a total of 42 enemy soldiers they had on this counterattack. My platoon single-handedly destroyed 39 of the 42 personnel on that counterattack and it was because -- the vehicle was part of it, the 50 cal remote weapon station killed a lot of them. It also had to do with the other aspect of our organization at the platoon and company level. It is really designed for MOUT operations. It's really great for MOUT operations.

Question: What does MOUT stand for?

Colonel Begines: Military operations in urban terrain.

Question: But does this reflect any of the work you're doing in tactics out at Fort Lewis? Reflect the changes in what you can do? Are you able to fight a little bit differently than other units?

Colonel Rounds? What we're looking at, and it all goes back to what we call situational awareness. And the situational awareness, first knowing where you are on the battlefield. And if he was fighting he could distribute his company much further than he ever could before, so he could take up a lot bigger area, and we knew were all of them were. At the same time information was picked up on where the enemy was and they were trying to move in front of him. They had the sentries out there that picked them up fairly quickly. And in an unprecedented manner, do what we call target handoff. So he would be able to see something, and whether it was reconnaissance elements out front or just the long range visibility that you get with the sights on the Stryker vehicle, you would hand it off to your soldiers on the ground through all of the systems that they have been working with, going into the building, and taking out the folks on the ground. So it's a combination of situational awareness, ability to see the battlefield with both brigade level assets, battalion and company level assets, and then having the resources, whether it's infantry or vehicles or a combination of the two, to rapidly acquire that force at the right place on the battlefield.

So it really is a capability that I haven't personally experienced before.

Captain Bazin: What they did during MC02 is different. I've been at many NTC rotations, fighting Bradleys and tanks. What they [the Stryker unit] did is out of the box compared to what most Army units can do. It's a new capability, it's a new way of fighting, it's something that none of us had ever seen before. It made us change our tactics to fight. Where now areas that we considered only dismounted avenues of approach, meaning a guy could walk through it and a vehicle couldn't, now we have to take into consideration that those are now mounted avenues of approach for the Stryker. So it's a whole new thing. People that have been at NTC for six and seven years have not seen this before.

Lt. Colonel Choppa: What Brandon [Tegtmeier] told me, here's a guy who we were giving a capability to the company commander for the first time. Really, a leader of more than one type of element. And his comment was he had worked in the 82nd [Airborne Division] and had the resources available which are pretty formidable themselves, but as a company commander here he fields a greater capability than he ever anticipated having as a company commander. He can elaborate on that. You take all of the elements that are available within the company.

Captain Tegtmeier: I had an opportunity to command an airborne rifle company down at the Joint Readiness Training Center back when I was at 1st Battalion [inaudible], and the abilities I have with the Stryker company are head and shoulders above what I could do with that airborne rifle company.

There's no question in my mind that it is the most lethal company in the conventional Army, if not the world. We certainly don't have the firepower of an armor company, but you have a lot more versatility. You have the infantry who can go and handle that urban environment or complex terrain like that. The combined arms I have at my level in the mobile gun system team that I own, the sniper team I own, the mortar sections that I own, and have the option for 60mm mortars or 120mm mortars. The three rifle platoons that I own and the capabilities that those have. They're just absolutely incredible. It gives you so many options. Then with the FBCB2, it expands the battle space that I can operate.

Before you were really limited by your FM voice communications. Traditionally, you wanted your elements within that range. It's really not that far. With an FBCB2 I can, and I have commanded platoons that are outside of 15 kilometers. That FBCB2, the range on that, I mean I can send them messages, I can know exactly where they are, they can talk to me, and so the battle space that I can maneuver my people in is enormous.

The versatility, the agility, the mobility is incredible. I was thoroughly impressed. It exceeded all expectations. I'm having a great time. I couldn't be happier with the organization.

Colonel Begines: Let me suggest that we can break the general session. Anyone who wants to talk to individuals after that, that's fine, of course.

Colonel Betack: Can I just add one thing on to that? The thing is, this is all taking place at Fort Lewis. Most of the on-the-ground tasks. The nice thing about it is, we are capturing these lessons learned and we're coming out with 28 brand new field manuals out of the TRADOC institutions, and they're covering a lot of the TTPs -- techniques, tactics and procedures -- that are going on. And there's been 28 of them to date that we have come up with, starting on the [inaudible]. So all these lessons are being captured and being applied right back in so that the rest of the Army learns. And it's not that we're learning everything in Fort Lewis, but we're learning it everywhere.

Question: Are they drafts or --

Colonel Betack: No.. There's right now five that are still in draft, so 23 of them are complete. And they're all out on the Reimer digital library.

Question: Do you know [inaudible] meeting today? Can you talk at all about the six Stryker Brigades? Can you talk about why the Army needs six brigades?

Colonel Begines: We covered that before you came in.

General Riley: [inaudible] We consider six to be the minimum requirement for the operational needs that exists.

Question: How much equipment was conditionally accepted?

Lt. Colonel King: I don't have the exact statistics. I know that some number of vehicles have been conditionally accepted, and normally that's because there are certain small parts that were not available. It goes back to this whole rapid acquisition mode. We're buying three brigades out of what's called low rate production levels. Normally we're in low rate production when you've got a mature production line that's just started up. It is a production line, so these are not prototype vehicles that are hand-built. They are produced on an active production line by personnel that are trained to perform those jobs, normally at a lower rate than you would go into full rate. Let me tell you, our greatest production rate was this month. We're going to build 53 vehicles. So for the whole six years [with] those vehicles, the greatest production rate is right now in the first year in low rate production. The impact -- And that's to fulfill the Army's requirement to get these brigades out to the field as rapidly as possible.

The flip side of that is you've got a vendor base to support that production line that's not necessarily mature, and the fact that we went from award of contract to delivery of the first vehicle in just about a year means you've got vendors that in some cases are hand-building items that need to be supplied to the production line, or are buying from second and third tier vendors because they can't produce things fast enough to get it to the production line.

But in all cases we're not issuing a vehicle to the field that isn't complete enough to train. When I say complete, we're missing things like the towing pintle, we're missing things like, I think in some of the first vehicles we were missing some cable for the radio so we had to go out and buy those separately or supply them out of existing Army stock. And we don't pay a contractor for things they don't provide. So until they provide what they're contracted for, we don't pay them for that.

But we have developed work-arounds to get past it. I don't have the statistics. It sounds kind of ridiculous -- not ridiculous. It sounds kind of flip, that that's the cost of doing business this new way, but we anticipated it and I think these guys will tell you that they're getting vehicles they need in the condition they need to do the training they're doing.

Question: I just want to piggyback on Tony's question. In the Army is the Army soldier satisfied with the service in the vehicles they've been getting from the joint venture of General Motors Defense and General Dynamics?

Colonel Begines: Let's ask the users.

Captain Tegtmeier: If you look at the time from when I got the vehicle and I was able to go execute at the training center rotation at Millennium Challenge, it was pretty impressive. [inaudible].

Colonel Rounds: The OR [operationally ready] rate in Millennium Challenge was in excess, over 98 percent, which is pretty impressive for a CTC [Combat Training Center] rotation. I've pulled the maintenance report and we have, all of our vehicles were out doing some type of training, either company live fire, net training, or platoon ExEval [external evaluation] as we came here today and we had 6 out of 115 were down as of last Thursday as we came out of the field. So it's well in excess of 95 percent OR rate.

So to me that's absolute satisfaction and we're working hand in hand, day to day with the contractor.

Question: How much contractor support was intended to support [inaudible]?

Colonel Rounds: We're still teaching our mechanics, so we get a great deal of contractor support right now. It's excellent. And over the next six months as we train our mechanics they'll take the load from the contractors. So my expectation is when I go to the Joint Readiness Training Center in May of next year, a preponderance of the maintenance is done internally for the brigade.

Colonel Begines: Any time you get a new piece of equipment there's a certain amount of train up. And some of the challenges of Stryker have had nothing to do with the vehicle, but just the fact that it's going to take "X" amount of time to learn how to operate any new piece of equipment and some of these challenges will simply be cured over time with training. That's all it is.

Lt. Colonel King: I can give the statistics that just came to mind. The first month's production back in February, I averaged 23 items that the vehicle was short when we accepted it. Now we're not going to accept a vehicle that's short critical items that don't allow the vehicle to be operated, but we'll accept some minor shortages. So we had an average of 23 shortages. We're going to produce this month's quota of reconnaissance vehicles, commander vehicles with no shortages.

In other words we've gone from back in February of having -- What we consider a relatively high level of ship shortages down to virtually none at this point in the program and that's over, what is it, a six or eight month period. That's pretty good.

So to recap my original statement, it's part of the cost of doing business, but our contractors and vendors have risen to the challenge, they really have. I've got to tell you, these guys have been absolutely phenomenal in their ability to crank up and bang out systems for this brigade.

[inaudible] brigades on order. As soon as we get our [inaudible] we'll have another one on order. These guys are knocking them out just as fast as they can.

Colonel Betack: The good part about this whole thing is, because I'm the one that has to go back to the contractor and say you didn't quite make it. Okay? I'll tell you what; if I go back to them with a deficiency they're all over it. When these soldiers come back and say they're having a problem, it may not be something they can correct instantaneously, but they have their engineers together, they bring their engineers to the field so they can understand the real problem, and they are really trying to be very responsive in every way we do, on any kind of decision we do.

Colonel Begines: I'd just make one comment here before we break and that's, again, I do hope you'll go out to the demonstration at Andrews Air Force Base. We're providing a bus that leaves from North Parking Lot at 8:15. Even if it's raining, the bus is going, the demonstration is going, and in fact the C-130 is an all weather aircraft.

General Riley has a few closing comments I believe and then you're free to talk with whomever you want to.

General Riley: I guess the first thing I'd say is thank you for coming, and you asked great questions. To the folks who came out from Fort Lewis, thanks for coming. Your enthusiasm is apparent.

From my own perspective, from the Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a TRADOC [Training & Doctrine Command] entity, it's that we describe the operational requirements, we do the doctrine, we train the leaders. That's what we do. Operationally, a critical need. Rapidly fielded, unprecedented. I like this new way of doing business. From a user representative perspective. Fills the capabilities gap. This is a capability that doesn't just exist today.

If you look at the Transformation of the Army, 28 more years. We've got 17 heavy brigades in the Army with tanks and Bradleys. Do we still need tanks today? Absolutely, we still need tanks today. Absolutely. If the President says go to Iraq tomorrow are we taking tanks? Yes, we're taking tanks.

We've got 14 light brigades. How many of those light brigades are we going to take to Iraq if the President says go to Iraq? I don't know. But ask yourself that question. If we had a bunch of SBCTs, would we take some? Are they tailored for urban operation? Do we expect urban operations in Iraq?

The time to transform the Army, 28 more years. So it's not just a bridge it's a capability, I guarantee you.

So there will be tanks tomorrow. In 2030 do we need tanks? The answer is no, we don't need tanks in 2030. That's a transformed Army. This [SBCTs] is one of the mechanisms, one of the bridging mechanisms that gets us there. Not just in terms of operational capability of the equipment and the organization, but in terms of developing the leaders who are up to the task of leading this Objective Force Army.

Our biggest challenge in my judgment in transformation is building the leaders that are up to that.

Thanks so much for your time.



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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).