30 Apr 21. ADF, RFMF complete Exercise Coral Soldier. Australian and Fijian defence personnel have completed a practical knowledge-sharing military exercise. Earlier this month, the 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (8/9RAR) and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) participated in Exercise Coral Soldier — a simulated role-playing exercise designed to foster collaboration. Personnel were scattered throughout the bush and urban environments in the Greenbank Training Area in Brisbane, teaming up against a simulated enemy.
RFMF Sergeant Loresio Sovea said the exercise supported knowledge-sharing between the two forces.
“For me, [the exercise] is about enhancing regional relationships with our Anzac partners,” he told Army News.
“We’ve been exchanging a few tips on building clearances, tackling obstacles, and of course those little jungle tips that we carry with us that our forefathers are well known for, especially during the Malayan campaign, Solomon Islands and East Timor.
“We’ve developed those throughout the years and it’s a great opportunity to share some of those tips with our Australian mates. I’ve worked with Australians before and it’s always a huge learning curve for us.”
Lieutenant Max Silvy, from 8/9RAR, added that Exercise Coral Soldier also helped build comradery and mateship between Australian and Fijian personnel.
“I’ve learnt a bit about esprit de corps. The big thing the Fijians bring is high motivation,” he said.
“They’re eager to do the job and work in a communal atmosphere. The Fijians are lovely people to work with.” (Source: Defence Connect)
26 Apr 21. India and France begin naval exercise in Arabian Sea. India and France have commenced a three-day naval exercise in the Arabian Sea in a bid to improve interoperability and enhance war fighting capabilities. India and France have commenced a three-day naval exercise in the Arabian Sea in a bid to improve interoperability and enhance war fighting capabilities. The 19th edition of the bilateral ‘Varuna-2021’ exercise will involve a variety of drills, including advanced air defence and anti-submarine exercises, fixed and rotary wing flying operations, and tactical manoeuvres.
The two naval forces will also participate in surface and anti-air weapon firings, underway replenishment, and other maritime security operations.
The Indian side will be represented by guided missile stealth destroyer INS Kolkata, guided missile frigates INS Tarkash and INS Talwar, fleet support ship INS Deepak, with Seaking 42B and Chetak integral helicopters.
Additionally, the Indian Navy has deployed a Kalvari class submarine and P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
France has fielded aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle carrying Rafale-M fighter, E2C Hawkeye aircraft, and Caïman M and Dauphin helicopters.
Horizon-class air defence destroyer Chevalier Paul, Aquitaine-class multi-missions frigate FNS Provence, a Caïman M helicopter, and a command and supply ship Var will also be participating in the exercise.
An Indian Ministry of Defence statement said: “Varuna-21 highlights growing bonhomie and showcases increased levels of synergy, coordination and inter-operability between the two friendly navies.
“These interactions further underscore the shared values as partner navies in ensuring freedom of seas and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order.”
Once Varuna-2021 is complete, INS Tarkash will join the French Navy’s Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to participate in advanced surface, anti-submarine and air-defence operations from 28 April to 1 May 2021.
28 Apr 21. US Army Artillery’s AI Gets Live-Fire Exercises In Europe, Pacific.
“We have data collection managers onsite, with stopwatches, [timing] how long does it take the data to get… from Point A to Point B to C,” said Army APNT director Willie Nelson.
Having wrapped up an exercise in Washington State last month with the Army’s experimental Multi-Domain Task Force, the AI wargames will head to Europe in May and to the Pacific in July, before returning to the US for the climactic Project Convergence exercises in the fall.
The goal of these wargames: stress-test AI algorithms and network connections in conditions close to combat as real soldiers fire live weapons like HIMARS rocket launchers, M777 howitzers, and (in Project Convergence) prototype ERCA cannon and PrSM missiles. By putting people, electronics, and algorithms through their paces in realistic conditions, the Army hopes to figure out what slows down the kill chain and then target R&D investments to accelerate it.
“We had data collection managers onsite with stopwatches [timing] every step of the way,” said Willie Nelson, director of Assured Precision Navigation & Timing (APNT) at Army Futures Command. “How long does it take the data to get… from Point A to Point B to C?
“You start laying out all of these steps that it takes in this entire kill chain, and then you start putting time and data formats to those… and it becomes fairly obvious of where the real clog in the pipe is,” Nelson told me in an interview. “It provides an opportunity to really target where our investment needs to go. Where’s your real biggest bang for your buck? The dollars are so short…we want to make sure that we’re putting those on the real hard problems that have the highest payoff,” Nelson said. “If we’ve got an area here that takes a significant amount of time, if we invest… through algorithm development, crew training, or other types of processes, can we cut that time down?”
The goal is to replace human beings who manually enter data with direct machine-to-machine transmission, he said – all without replacing human judgment.
“Every instance of fat-fingering into a machine that you can eliminate, [that] eliminates risk, human error, and in some cases generally speeds up the system,” he told me. “Now, you don’t want it to be completely autonomous; you need commanders in the loop at the right places. But if you can get the data to present to a commander in a way that they can quickly make decisions and not have to hand-jam that in, that’s a win.”
The experimental Army system sucks in data from satellites, drones, and other sources in a host of formats: visual images, radar returns, radio-frequency emissions. That data gets combined in a jury-rigged ground terminal – a surrogate for the new TITAN terminal entering prototype in 2022 – running AI software known as Prometheus and SHOT. These programs correlate the different types of data, identity potential targets, and nominate the best available weapon to take them out, based on the commander’s customized priorities and preferences. A human must then approve the transmission of orders to fire.
The focus is on quickly presenting useful, well-organized information to commanders’ to help them make better decisions faster. That requires pulling data from systems that were never designed to work together in formats that were never meant to be compatible.
“What we’re doing really well and what we’re doing at speed is the ability to take that data in its multiple formats that worked really well for those individual communities,” Nelson told me. Today, he said, that requires translator systems to convert data from one format to another. In the future, however, he said, the Army wants to move to a single common set of standards that make everything compatible from the start.
“But that’s an evolutionary thing. You can’t just say, ‘Okay, everybody starting tomorrow, everybody has to have this standard,’” Nelson told me. “You’ve got to find a way to bring in the legacy systems, marry those up and communicate… with the newer platforms.”
To assess what really works, it’s vital to see how the experimental AI technology is used by real troops in real live-fire missions. “That’s really the advantage that we’ve got now, is an ability to get off PowerPoint and really get it into the practical world…using real soldiers and operators in the field,” Nelson told me.
The Army is doing five major live-fire exercises with the AI networks this year. The first was at Fort Lewis in March, with the experimental Multi-Domain Task Force and I Corps, which oversees Army forces in the Pacific.
“We were up there last month for that exercise with them and it was a huge success,” Nelson said. In terms of participating personnel, he told me, “it was probably the most heavily supported exercise we’ve had. We’re headed to Europe next month in May,” Nelson went on, building on last year’s wargames in Germany. “We’ll have more surrogate targets, we’ll have more operational units involved, and we’ll be moving the data at speeds we just haven’t never moved before. We’ll bring additional sensors into the picture that we haven’t had before. So it’ll be probably our biggest test of the year.
Then it’s off to the Pacific, where Nelson had hoped to hold wargames last year but had to cancel due to COVID. So this year, he said, “we’ll have two different events out there.”
“Then,” he concluded, “we’ll be resetting and coming back to the States and getting ready to support the 82nd [Airborne Division] and Multi-Domain Task Force in executing the sensor-to-shooter testing that’ll happen at a Project Convergence at both White Sands and Yuma [around] October, November.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
28 Apr 21. F-15EX To Fly In Indo-PACOM’s Northern Edge. During the exercise, the F-15EX will test the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) EW suite, Lt. Gen. David Krumm says.
The Air Force’s newest fighter, Boeing’s F-15EX, will participate in the bi-annual Northern Edge exercise in the far North — which will have a heavy focus on Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), says Lt. Gen. David Krumm, head of the service’s Alaska Command.
“We have about 4,000 participants this year: 50 units, over 200 aircraft from all of the joint services,” Krumm said. “All over Alaska, we’re going to be fighting from sub-surface up to space, and practicing our abilities in a very difficult electromagnetic spectrum. We’re going to look at new technologies; we’re going to look at new tactics and procedures on how do we incorporate those going forward.”
Krumm said the exercise will involve “every aspect of JADC2” — ranging from space-based Internet capabilities provided by SpaceX’s Starlink constellation and remote satellite terminals to “different technologies in the electromagnetic spectrum” such as jamming and radars.
During the May 3-14 exercise, the F-15EX will test the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) EW suite, Krumm added. EPAWSS will enable pilots of the F15EX to monitor, jam and deceive enemy air defenses.
Pacific Air Command (PACAF) is heading up planning for Northern Edge 21, which is sponsored every odd year by Indo-Pacific Command (INDO-PACOM).
The exercise comes as tensions between the US and Russia in the Arctic region are on the rise. This includes the frequency of Russian incursions into US airspace off the Alaskan coast.
“I would say that we have certainly since seen an increase in Russian activity. We intercepted over 60 aircraft last year,” Krumm told the Air Force Association today.
Northern Edge 21 “provides high-end, realistic war fighter training, develops and improves joint interoperability, and enhances the combat readiness of participating forces by building on lessons learned during Valiant Shield 20 Sept. 14-25, 2020, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam,” a PACAF fact sheet explains. (Valiant Shield 20, involving more than 11,000 airmen, soldiers and sailors, was the first major joint exercise to test nascent all-domain operations.)
Further, he said, the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) is also bringing kit to the table. RCO since November has been in charge of managing acquisition of technologies that have ‘graduated’ from the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) research program.
“So, we have a whole array of different technologies that we’re trying out,” he said. “I don’t want to be too specific, because a lot of the stuff that we want to do so, we still need to work on it.”
But, Krumm went on, PACAF head Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach is, “uber-focused on: ‘How do I connect all these sensors and shooters together,’ and we’re traveling down the path that JADC2 offers. We’re going to hopefully advance that as well.”
The exercise will also be the first to integrate operations with a carrier strike group, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and an amphibious ready group, colleague Rachel Cohen reported. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
26 Apr 21. AC-130J Ghostrider flies close-air support at Exercise Balikatan, a first. A U.S. Air Force AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, in the Philippines for the first time, supported close-air support training for a bilateral team of U.S. and Filipino battlefield airmen this week during Exercise Balikatan.
The Ghostrider, assigned to the 73rd Special Operations Squadron out of Hurlburt Field, Florida, deployed from Kadena Air Base, Japan, to the Philippines and fired its 30mm and 105mm cannons on targets called in by combat controllers with Kadena’s 320th Special Tactics Squadron and joint terminal attack controllers with the Philippine air force’s 710th Special Operations Wing, according to a news release.
The deployment also marked the first time the updated J model of the AC-130 has landed in or operated in Japan.
“This training shows a projection of power and displays the reach of the AC-130J,” said Capt. Aaron Boudreau, a Ghostrider pilot with the 73rd and AC-130J liaison for Exercise Balikatan, in the release. “This is the first time this asset has been in the Philippines, so it will give Philippine controllers the ability to train with American pilots and vice versa and shows that we can accomplish the mission together, as friends and allies.”
The close-air support live-fire training in a complex and realistic environment advanced the combined capabilities of the two nations and demonstrated the reach of U.S. SOF assets, according to the release.
“The airmen from the 320th STS and 710th SPOW have a great partnership and a strong friendship,” said an unnamed 320th STS airman in the release. “During Balikatan, we always start the exercise with some academic classes before progressing to controlling live air-to-ground engagements. “Both U.S. and Philippine JTACs work with U.S. and Philippine aircraft to enhance our interoperability. Together, we get better every Balikatan.”
During the exercise, the Ghostrider also flew alongside Philippine fighter jets.
“This CAS integration between the FA-50PH [fighter] and the AC-130J is a pioneering training for our PAF fighter pilots,” said Philippine air force Maj. Michael G. Rabina, commander of the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron, in the release. “It is a welcome opportunity for us to participate in such operations that offers a valuable training environment to enhance our capabilities. This exercise demonstrates the interoperability of the Fighting Eagle with the gunship and with our allies in a combined operations setting.”
Balikatan is an annual exercise between the U.S. and the Philippines and comes from a Tagalog phrase meaning “shoulder-to-shoulder.” (Source: Defense News)
27 Apr 21. Systematic delivers online training software to Army. The Australian Army has procured e-learning software from the firm, designed to support C2 systems training.
Systematic has delivered an e-learning software package to the Australian Army for the SitaWare Headquarters, in a bid to support “best-in-class” command-and-control (C2) system training.
The online training course — now in service with the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (DJFHQ) — was selected by Army’s Land Network Integration Centre in 2019 to support its interim Track Management Capability (TMC).
TMC aims to bolster coalition interoperability by consolidating information from battle management systems (BMS) to produce the ‘Common Tactical Picture’ and ‘Recognised Ground Picture’.
“The restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic were preventing staff from the Land Network Integration Centre deploying to train personnel,” David Horton, Systematic vice president for the Asia-Pacific region, said.
“Through the e-learning course, students are able to familiarise themselves with SitaWare Headquarters prior to more in-depth training.”
According to Horton, the software, initially selected to deliver ‘just-in-time’ training for a series of exercises, simulates a realistic scenario, enabling students to work through the courseware via the real system interface.
“[The] training combines passive learning in the form of explanatory videos, with multiple-choice assessments and periods for reflection,” he said.
Students can access the course remotely and independently, with instructor support provided when necessary.
Users are also provided with the option of revisiting the course upon completion.
“We are now in the process of evolving our e-learning offerings to include more functionality and interactivity for students,” Horton added. (Source: Defence Connect)
27 Apr 21. Germany contracts Top Aces to deliver advanced airborne training. Germany has contracted Top Aces to deliver fast jet adversary air training services to its armed forces from 1 January 2022. Announced by the Canadian-based contractor owned and contractor operated (COCO) company on 26 April, the contract is a follow-on award for Top Aces, which has been providing its services to the German armed forces over the previous six years.
“In support of the growing programme, we plan to increase our staffing levels in Germany, adding more than 20 highly skilled employment opportunities to the local economy,” Senior Program Manager, German Operations, at Top Aces, Rolf Brandt said.
Top Aces (formerly Discovery Air) fields Dornier Alpha Jets, Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, and Bombardier Learjets that it uses for contractor COCO training, and recently began receiving 29 former Israeli Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16A/B ‘Netz’ jets also. (Source: Jane’s)
26 Apr 21. The USMC Is Experimenting with a Concept that Could Reshape the Infantry. Infantry Marines get specialized training to operate specific weapons, but that could change as the service experiments with a model to create generalists who can use several different systems in combat. Three infantry battalions are spending two years testing new models that could revolutionize the Marine Corps’ ground combat element. The effort is part of a 10-year plan to reshape the service as it prepares for possible conflict with near-peer threats — mainly China.
The model that could perhaps lead to the most dramatic changes to the Marine infantry battalion is called the “arms room concept,” which Brig. Gen. Eric “Smash” Austin, with the service’s Combat Development and Integration, describes as “an armory of many different systems.”
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“Your Marines would be trained in all of them, and then you pick the weapons suited to the mission,” said Austin, head of the capabilities development directorate. “… It’s producing a more mature, sort of multidimensional utility infielder as an infantryman.”
Commandant Gen. David Berger released his annual update on Force Design 2030, a directive for sweeping servicewide changes he says are necessary to prep the force for its next fight. Those plans call for a redesigned infantry battalion.
“I am not confident that we have adequately assessed all of the implications of the future operating environment on the proposed structure of our future infantry battalion,” Berger wrote in March 2020. Now, he has directed a battalion in each of the three Marine Corps divisions to begin experimentation.
The “arms room” concept was the model originally proposed to redesign the infantry battalion, Austin said. One of the battalions is experimenting with that model, while the others are testing out a modified version and an alternative.
The concept, officials said, could eventually eliminate infantry battalions’ weapons companies, shifting those weapons — 81mm mortars and the Javelin portable anti-tank missile, for example — into headquarters or rifle companies.
But infantry Marines need different training to employ those weapons.
Grunts traditionally attend basic infantry training before they’re given specialized instruction on a specific weapon system. Now, as part of the experimentation, the Schools of Infantry that train enlisted grunts on both coasts are running 14-week test courses — 50% longer than the current nine-week course.
During the longer course, Austin said, Marines are learning how to operate a host of weapons rather than specializing in one.
“What this would do is increase the duration of the entry-level infantry training pipeline [and] train the infantry Marine in a variety of crew-served weapon systems, such that they are capable of operating more than just one,” he said. “Then, the unit would make the decision — based on the mission they’re assigned, based on the threat, etc. — what weapons systems they’d want to assign to their Marines.”
Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant of Combat Development and Integration, said they recognize there are critics of the “arms room” concept. He said he points those who say it won’t work to the infantry automatic rifle with improved optic.
“You have basically trained Marines hitting targets all day long at 500, 700, 800 meters that used to be the range of school-trained snipers,” Smith said. “[They’re] hitting them all day long because the weapon system and its heavier barrel and the optic that goes with it means basically trained Marines can pick it up and pop individual targets out at ranges that used to be the sole domain of a sniper.”
Similarly, with the new Organic Precision Fires-Infantry loitering munitions, or OPR-I, Smith said Marines can strike targets “well beyond what a 60mm or 81mm mortar can do.”
“You may not need that mortarman to do that,” he said. “… So I would tell the [‘arms room’] naysayers, ‘Hey, give it a minute.'”
The change could ultimately lead to a single military occupational specialty for all infantry personnel. Military.com reported in December that the Marine Corps was considering merging its infantry specialties — which include riflemen, reconnaissance Marines, machine gunners, mortarmen, snipers, anti-tank missile gunners and light-armor vehicle Marines — into a single MOS.
Leaders stressed this week that no decision has been finalized about how the infantry battalion will be organized.
“We’ll come out of this [experimentation] with a recommendation to the commandant on what the future will look like,” Austin said. (Source: Military.com)
27 Apr 21. UK training on RWMIK for Lebanese Army. A UK team of specialist soldiers part of the UK’s 16 Air Assault Brigade; have trained 48 officers and soldiers from four Land Border Regiments.
As part of the UK package of support following the donation of 100 RWMIK Land Rover vehicles in January, a team of specialist UK soldiers has completed the first 4-week package of training and mentoring for officers and soldiers from all four Land Border Regiments.
During a visit to the Bekaa earlier this month, the Head of the British Embassy, Dr. Martin Longden, and the UK Defence Senior Advisor to the Middle East and North Africa (DSAME) Air Marshal Martin Sampson, saw first-hand the training of Lebanese troops at a border post near Baalbek, operated by the Fourth Land Border Regiment.
Over the past four weeks, a UK team of specialist soldiers from the Pathfinders, part of the UK’s 16 Air Assault Brigade; have trained 48 officers and soldiers from across the Lebanese army’s four Land Border Regiments. The training aims to provide skills to operate the RWMIK vehicles in the rugged terrain of the Lebanese-Syrian border, and enable them to project effectively into the more remote areas of the frontier and to interdict terrorist threats and illegal cross-border activity.
This is the first of a planned series of these training packages, demonstrating the UK’s enduring commitment to support the Lebanese army in securing its land border.
Head of the British Embassy Dr. Martin Longden said, “I was delighted, and proud, to see first-hand the progress being made on this important agenda. The cooperation and partnership between the UK’s Armed Forces and the LAF, in support of the State’s capacity to control the country’s borders, is a critical part of Lebanon’s security, sovereignty and prosperity. We will continue to do all we can to support this.”
26 Apr 21. Germany has to borrow rescue helicopters for the military. The German military has had to rent helicopters from the national automobile club to train its pilots.
The armed forces, known as the Bundeswehr, have long been bedevilled by equipment problems because of historic staffing constraints. Shortages have ranged from unusable transport aircraft to tanks without gun barrels. The defence ministry has signed a €63m deal with Adac — Europe’s largest motoring association, which also has an aviation arm — to hire seven Airbus EC135 rescue helicopters until 2024, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported. The Bundeswehr is struggling to give trainee pilots flight time because of technical glitches in its fleet of Tiger combat helicopters and NH90 Sea Lion transport helicopters. The government tried to plug the gap in 2017 by renting four Adac air ambulance helicopters for €21m.
The aircraft have been used for basic flight training at the Bückeburg army airfield near Hanover in Lower Saxony. This programme will be almost tripled to up to 5,440 flight hours a year, according to the report.
From 2025 the Bundeswehr plans to have enough of its own multipurpose helicopters, including new NH90 Sea Lions, to end the rental deal, which it said was more economical than buying aircraft on a temporary basis.
The military has also had to hire three Airbus H145 utility helicopters from a Belgian company, as well as renting parachutes and reconnaissance drones from other companies. (Source: The Times)
13 Apr 21. EDA participates in ‘Locked Shields’ cyber defence exercise. EDA participates this week in the Exercise ‘Locked Shields 2021’, the largest and most complex international live-fire cyber defence exercise organised from 13-16 April by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE). Taking place every spring since 2010, the exercise puts this year a special focus on the need for cyber defenders and strategic decision-makers to understand the numerous interdependencies between national IT systems.
More than 2000 participants from 30 nations will have the possibility to test and train their entire chain of command in the event of a severe cyber incident, ranging from the strategic to the operational and tactical levels and involving both civilian and military capabilities. Reflecting real world cyber threats, the exercise deals with the protection of vital services and critical infrastructure that are fundamental for modern societies to operate, including critical information infrastructure, power and water supply and national defence systems. For the first time, the exercise also includes satellite mission control systems needed to provide real time situational awareness to facilitate military decision-making.
Based on a fictive but realistic scenario, ‘Locked Shields’ will see a Red Team acting against 22 Blue Teams which take on the role of national cyber–Rapid Reaction Teams that are deployed to assist a fictional country in handling a large-scale cyber incident with all its implications. The exercise involves cutting-edge technologies, complex networks, and diverse attack methods with some 5000 virtualised systems being subject to more than 4000 attacks. In addition to securing complex IT systems, the participating Blue Teams must also be effective in reporting incidents, strategic decision making and solving forensic, legal, media and information operations challenges. In previous iterations of Locked Shields, the organisers of the exercise gathered in Tallinn, Estonia, with the participating Blue Teams joining remotely by secure online access from their home base. However, in 2021, the exercise differs in that the organisers will also be contributing remotely from their home nations.
EDA support to strategic track
After 2019, EDA will support the strategic track of the Locked Shields exercise for the second time (LS20 was cancelled due to Covid pandemic) by bringing in its expertise and experience gained from its own Comprehensive Cyber Senior decision-making (CC SDM) exercise which has taken place in different EDA Member States since 2014 and where the participating countries had the opportunity to test and evaluate national crisis mechanisms and procedures. In particular, EDA will support Locked Shields’ exercise control unit’s White Team to manage the different Blue Teams during the strategic track of the exercise. In addition to that, EDA developed and provided the specific air scenario inputs as part of the overall strategic scenario.
Locked Shields 2021 is organised by the Tallin-based NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in cooperation with NATO Communications and Information Agency, the Estonian Ministry of Defence, the Estonian Defence Forces, the European Defence Agency (EDA), Siemens, Ericsson, TalTech, CR14, Bittium, Clarified Security, Arctic Security, Cisco, Stamus Networks, SpaceIT, Sentinel, the Financial Service Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), US Defense Innovation Unit, Microsoft, Atech, Avibras, SUTD iTrust Singapore, The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, Space ISAC, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), STM, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, NATO M&S COE and PaloAlto networks. (Source: EDA)
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