May 16, 2013 13:30 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Does Australia even own the IP rights for what it seems to want to do? Thanks to a new agreement with Sweden, it might.
Bridge to the future?
In its 2009 White Paper, Australia’s Department of Defence and Labor Party government looked at the progress being made in ship killing surveillance-strike complexes, and at their need to defend large sea lanes, as key drivers shaping future navies. These premises are well accepted, but the White Paper’s conclusion was a surprise. It recommended a doubling of Australia’s submarine fleet to 12 boats by 2030-2040, all of which would be a new successor design that would replace the RAN’s Collins Class submarines.
The surprise, and controversy, stem from Australia’s recent experiences. The Collins Class was designed with the strong cooperation of ThyssenKrupp’s Swedish Kockums subsidiary, and built in Australia by state-owned ASC. The class has had a checkered career, including significant difficulties with its combat systems, issues with acoustic signature and propulsion, major cost growth to A$ 5+ billion, and schedule slippage. Worse still, reports indicated that the RAN can only staff 2 of its 6 submarines. High-level attention led to a report and recommendations to improve the force, but whether they will work remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the nature of Australia’s SEA 1000 future submarine project – and its eventual cost – remain unclear, with estimated costs in the A$ 36-44 billion range. This FOCUS article covers Australia’s options, decisions, and plans, as their future submarine program slowly gets underway.
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Feb 10, 2013 16:28 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Experienced pilots argue both sides - DID maps the arguments.
F-35A test flight
The $300+ billion, multi-national F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is the largest single military program in history. It’s also reaching a critical nexus. In order to keep costs under control and justify the industrial ramp up underway, participating countries need to sign order agreements soon. The problem is that the F-35 is not a proven fighter design, with a demonstrated baseline of performance in service. It’s a developmental aircraft in the early middle of its test program, which is now scheduled to continue until 2018 or even 2019.
As one might expect, this status makes the F-35 a controversial long-term bet in many of the program’s member countries. Costs aren’t certain, numbers ordered are slipping in many countries, and timelines aren’t certain after numerous schedule delays. With combat testing still a year or 2 away, even operational performance isn’t certain. That’s especially consequential for air forces that expect to field the F-35 as their only fighter.
September 2008 featured a very public set of controversies around the F-35′s air combat performance. Many partner countries were beginning to make decisions about their long-term needs, so the altercation in Australia became a controversy with implications, and responses, that reached well beyond that continent’s shores. The RAND study that triggered it didn’t specifically address the F-35, but it does have implications for the F-35′s projected performance – and for the heart of the USAF’s current fighter force concept.
This article takes a much closer look at the RAND Pacific Vision study, while bringing in other opinions, analyses, and subsequent developments. Understanding the F-35′s real air superiority potential and weaknesses, and their implications for partner nation participation, has only grown in importance since 2008. Let us begin…
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May 03, 2010 19:15 UTC
F-22s for Australia?
In their October 2006 article, “Rapped in the Raptor: why Australia must have the best,” Australian newspaper The Age reported that:
“[Recently] Retired RAAF air vice-marshal Peter Criss has put aside usual conventions to openly question the wisdom of Canberra spending about $16 billion for the F-35 Lightning, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter. The Government committed an initial $300 million to become an early partner in the JSF program, with a final decision to be made by 2008. But Mr Criss says the RAAF should, in fact, consider buying the F-22 Raptor…”
Criss’ disquiet was the first significant breaking of ranks by top military brass over this issue, but Australia’s opposition Labor Party soon stepped into the fray with a formal statement, discussing the fighter gap that will exist between the F-111′s planned retirement early in 2010 and the proposed F-35A LRIP(Low Rate Initial Production – a more expensive phase) purchase in 2013 or later.
A subsequent purchase announcement and follow-on contracts for 24 F/A-18F Block II Super Hornets have only intensified the discussion. While that F/A-18F purchase is very close to a fait accompli, Australia’s F-35 purchase has moved from an assumed conclusion to a very serious debate. DID’s Spotlight article chronicles those positions, while offering links and background materials from both sides of the Australian debate. In the end, however, the F-22′s production line shutdown by the USA made the issue moot.
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Aug 02, 2007 20:25 UTC
RAND Corporation’s Project Air Force undertakes a number of studies as part of its mandate. A recent example looks at US airlift capabilities and their fit with the needs of counter-insurgency operations. The answers could matter a great deal to programs like the Joint Cargo Aircraft, the GPS-guided JPADS paradrop system, et. al., and to tactical options like the British Lt. Col. Labouchere’s successful “Bedouin approach” in southern Iraq. Select quotes from RAND’s “Airlift Capabilities for Future U.S. Counterinsurgency Operations” [RAND release | Report] include:
“…The positive influence of airlift on counterinsurgent morale and confidence is also well documented and strategically important… Very quickly, a conventional theater airlift fleet can run out of “tails” to support such dispersed operations …a counterinsurgent airlift effort likely will include a greater proportion of small-scale, quick-response military missions overshadowed by the possibility of encountering serious air defense threats… The U.S. armed forces’ experience with the C-7 Caribou… provides an instructive precedent… the C-7 possessed a unique combination of moderate speed, economy of operation, and the ability to take off and land on rough fields that …proved to be enormously valuable in Vietnam… there may be a need to refill the C-7′s operational niche. However, this need should be understood as a shortfall in capability… two general program goals that DoD should emphasize…
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Jun 23, 2006 12:36 UTC
RAND’s National Defense Research Institute does a lot of work for the US military and defense intelligence communities under joint contract DASW01-01-C-0004. One recent piece addresses the future of America’s carrier fleet, whose size and capabilities make it unique in the world. The report’s introduction notes:
“Because they offer unparalleled mobility, provide sustained military presence, can send signals of U.S. concern and possible actions, and free the United States from having to conduct flight operations from foreign bases or obtain permission from foreign powers to fly over territory, aircraft carriers likely will continue to be an asset of choice for years to come. Indeed, it is entirely possible that, as the United States seeks ways to stretch its defense dollars, pursue the Global War on Terrorism, and meet other national-security challenges, policymakers will increase their reliance on aircraft carriers, using them more often and in more situations than they have in the past, especially if the vessels have the additional capabilities to respond appropriately.
The current and expected use of aircraft carriers led the U.S. Navy in fall 2004 to commission the RAND Corporation to explore new and nontraditional ways that the United States might be able to employ aircraft carriers in pursuit of traditional and emerging military and homeland defense missions…”
Read “Leveraging America’s Aircraft Carrier Capabilities: Exploring New Combat and Noncombat Roles and Missions for the US Carrier Fleet ” in full [PDF].
Jun 01, 2006 10:34 UTC
Earlier DID articles have covered the issue of increasing US shipbuilding costs from various points of view – see esp. “Costing the CVN-21: A DID Primer” and “RAND: UK Offers Shipbuilding Industry Lessons for USA.” Now RAND turns its attention more fully to the US Navy and shipbuilding industry. Its summary page notes that:
“Over the past several decades, the increases in acquisition costs for U.S. Navy amphibious ships, surface combatants, attack submarines, and nuclear aircraft carriers have outpaced the rate of inflation. To understand why, the authors of this book examined two principal source categories of ship cost escalation: economy-driven factors (which are outside the control of the Navy) and customer-driven factors (features for which the Navy has the most control). The authors also interviewed various shipbuilders to find out their views on other issues contributing to increasing costs. Based on their analysis, the authors propose some ways the Navy might reduce ship costs in the future, including limiting growth in features and requirements and reconsidering the mission orientation of ships. It is recognized, however, that such reductions come at a cost, since the nation and the Navy understandably desire technology and capability that is continuously ahead of their competitors.”
The full, 124-page report can be found here in PDF format.
- House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee (July 30/09) – Hearing on Efforts to Improve Shipbuilding Effectiveness. See Video Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 || Gene Taylor [D-MS] Opening Statement || PDF submissions from… The Honorable Sean J. Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Research, Development, and Acquisition | Vice Admiral Kevin McCoy, Commander, US Naval Sea Systems Command | Michael Petters, President of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding | Mr. David Heebner, Executive Vice President of Marine Systems at General Dynamics | Mr. Ronald E. Ault, President of the Metal Trades Department at the AFL-CIO | Mr. Brett Olson, Business Representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 46
Jan 11, 2006 12:51 UTC
DID has covered RAND’s Project Air Force before, and their lessons learned from the F-22 and F/A-18 Super Hornet programs attracted a lot of reader interest here. Now they shift their focus to China’s defense production capabilities, which are beginning to address previous weaknesses and turn out a range of increasingly advanced weapons (for instance, the YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missile). This study examines the current and future capabilities of China’s defense industry, as part of a larger RAND Project Air Force look at Chinese military modernization.
The study’s goals and foci include recent trends in China’s long effort to reform its defense industry, the individual strengths and weaknesses its missile, aircraft, shipbuilding, and information technology sectors, a look at variations in performance and structure among different Chinese defense-industry sectors, and the overall prospects for China’s defense industry and its ability to contribute to military modernization. China’s growing electronics industry and its contribution to defense modernization is also covered. Readers can skip into the HTML page covering this research to see the overview and buy the book, read only the summary [PDF], or download the whole report [PDF].
RAND also recommends the related short brief, “China’s Defense Industry Is Emerging from Its Troubled Past.” DID, in turn, recommends the following pair of briefs as accompaniment:
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Oct 18, 2005 09:00 UTC
RAND Corp. in Santa Monica, CA received a $210.6 million cost-reimbursement plus fee-for-need contract to provide for RAND Project Air Force, Research of Air and Space Power. Originally known as Project RAND (an acronym for research and development), PAF was established in 1946 by General H. H. “Hap” Arnold as a way of retaining for the United States Air Force (USAF) the considerable benefits of civilian scientific thinking that had been demonstrated during World War II. Since its founding, PAF has focused entirely on studies and analyses rather than systems engineering or scientific laboratories. Publications include the F/A-18 E/F and F/A-22 program lessons learned report that DID covered earlier today.
This is a five-year option period, which extends the contract to a ten-year period. Solicitations began August 2005 and one proposal was received; work will now be complete in September 2015. The Air Force District Washington in Rosslyn, VA issued the contract (FA7014-06-C-0001). For more information, contact the 11th WG/PA at 202-767-7561.
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Oct 18, 2005 06:38 UTC
Since the late 1980s, the U.S. Air Force has pursued the F/A-22 Raptor supersonic stealth fighter that incorporated numerous breakthrough technologies, while the US Navy developed the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet based on the existing F/A-18. Unsurprisingly, the F/A-22 program has experienced significant cost growth and schedule delays and is still in the testing stage. In contrast, the Super Hornet completed its development on cost and without significant delays, and has already been used in combat.
RAND’s Project Air Force looked at both programs with the intent of understanding how each project’s history turned out the way it did, what underlying factors might be at work, and what lessons might be learned.
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Aug 16, 2005 01:44 UTC
CVF Alliance Concept
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) recognises that its Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) program provides opportunities to save substantial sums of money over the life of the ships.
To help realize the project’s whole-life savings potential, the MOD called for an independent, objective analysis of new technologies and alternative manufacturing options. The RAND Corporation was asked to perform that analysis and, in particular, to identify and evaluate options for reducing support costs, other whole-life costs, and manpower. DefenceTalk.com has the coverage, and RAND has made the report highlights available in HTML and PDF format.
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