Feb 11, 2015 07:37 UTC
The deadline for USTACOM’s 4th and final iteration of its JLTV RFP for Low Rate Initial Production and Full Rate Production has passed, and all three prime contractors have submitted their proposals. The Firm Fixed Price contract should last 3 years of LRIP followed by 5 years at full rate. Pricing the years out will depend of whether Multiyear Procurement is approved by Congress.
- Computer Sciences Corp. saw revenues fall nine percent, blaming the downturn at least in part on an inability to recruit specialized talent needed to fulfill business already won.
- The U.S. Navy, Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency test launched a Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) from a B-1 bomber. The missile flew to several waypoints and was able to avoid an obstacle place between it and its target. The Navy stated that this third test of the LRASM indicates it has “transitioned from a DARPA demonstration to a formal, U.S. Navy program of record.” The B-1 will be the first platform to enable launching, to be followed by the Navy’s F/A-18.
- Saudi Arabia awarded a $166 million contract to Gilbane Federal to design facilities needed to mondernize the kingdom’s F15 variants.
- While South Korea reportedly shrugged its shoulders and indicated it hadn’t been consulted after being warned by China that it wouldn’t be wise to deploy the American THAAD anti-missile system on the peninsula, the Pentagon isn’t bashful about confirming it has been in “constant discussions” with its South Korean ally.
- Russia’s deputy prime minister warned the country’s defense industry that after 2020 they should expect relatively little domestic purchasing or subsidy. The statement appears to be designed to impel executives to invest today’s revenues into technology and upgrades to make them sustainable after the current up-arming is over.
- Lockheed released this video showing off its LRASM anti-ship missile capabilities, now in the news again after a test launch.
Feb 10, 2015 06:47 UTC
Typical of the stop-start volatility in an uncertain budget time that Ashton Carter referenced in his addresses to Congress, the Army is moving 180 degrees from its original position that the M1 tank fab lines should be cut from the budget. Congress objected, and the Army didn’t just come back with an even funding proposal, but now wants 50 percent more for upgrades. The request totals $368 million.
- India is talking with Japan about possibly purchasing six Soryu-class diesel-electric submarines. India is asking Japan to consider having them manufactured in India.
- South Korea is putting off its tender for the KF-X, the would-be indigenous fighter. Only one bid came in (from KAI), and the tender will be re-deadlined to February 24 in the hopes that Korea Air will also bid.
- China is curbing its military class, proscribing income from non-military sources. The word comes directly from President Xi Jinping.
- Canada has written off the loss of three artillery shells worth more than half a million (Canadian) dollars. The Excalibur rounds were packed with U.S.-bred International Traffic in Arms Regulation technology.
- Rolls Royce won three contracts totaling $442 million for F-35B parts. Rolls Royce makes the bits that allow the B variant to have vertical lift capacity.
- Still more strange dog-like robots coming out of Boston Dynamics….
Feb 09, 2015 07:37 UTC
Perhaps learning from the expensive lessons of the present, designers of the future fighter F/A-XX may have reason to make stealth a lower priority. And, interestingly, the Chief of Naval Operations appears to agree. The limits imposed by stealth, coupled with extra tens or hundreds of billions of dollars through a fighter program’s service life are high costs to bear. The benefits of stealth may also be better on paper at the time of design than on the electromagnetic spectrum, especially a spectrum at the mercy of future detection technologies.
- Harris Corporation will acquire Exelis, the 2011 military spinoff of ITT, for $4.56 billion, or $23.75 per share, a premium of about a third of the value of shares trading last week. Both firms have been competing hard for the Soldier Radio Waveform (both are among the four invited) and the RFP for Rifleman Radio.
- Northrop Grumman will eschew the BAE Hawk training system for a completely new design in the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer competition. That puts them up against a Boeing/Saab effort, also with a new design; the Lockheed/KAI push for a T-50 and T-100- based model; General Dynamic’s use of the M-346 of Alenia Aermacchi and a Textron Airland effort using their Scorpion.
- The U.S. Navy was able to alter a Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile’s course in flight via information from a surveillance aircraft, striking a moving target.
- The rail gun people at the U.S. navy are spending engineering resources to see if one would fit on the third Zumwalt-class destroyer currently being built at Bath Iron Works. The Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) would likely be the first to receive such an armament, with the first two copies too far along for such changes.
- Foreign Policy reports that General Atomics was denied a license to export MQ-1 drones to Jordan.
- China is indicating that devices employing its Beidou GPS-equivalent will also receive signals from the other three navigation satellite nets. This, and the likelihood that Beidou will beat Europe’s troubled Galileo network to market, will make it difficult to see how Galileo’s costs can be significantly recouped through its commercial arm. Already officials are indicating some sort of regulatory trade barrier may be needed.
- The Defense Intelligence Agency is telling Congress that Pakistan is continuing to try to develop battlefield tactical nuclear weapons.
- The BAE rail gun that the Navy hopes to field on the third Zumwalt-class destroyer had its coming out party late last week at a navy science expo.
Feb 06, 2015 00:03 UTC
Several newly-defined U.S. Major Defense Acquisition Programs appear to be taking a new approach to design, with the government managing teams of competing contractors during a design phase that is supposed to be better at choosing the best ideas and components, playing to individual vendors’ strengths rather than their inter-contractor business development relationships. Recent news about the F/A-XX taking this approach announced by procurer-in-chief Frank Kendall and a constant dribble of newly defined projects stemming from the FY 2016 Administration budget, such as the Missile Defense Agency’s EKV redesign seem to be the new norm.
- Sikorsky reports that Eastern European nations are beating down its door to look at the Black Hawk program now that it is becoming more apparent that continuing to use Russian rotary aircraft could prove problematic. Slovakia was specifically mentioned.
- The Army wants money once more for a Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System. A similar budget request in FY 2015 was cut. The Army has been seeking better sniper systems for quite some time.
- NATO’s much talked about “Spearhead Force” is gaining more definition. The brigade is to be designed as a rapid reaction force that hopes not to bog down into roles that previous RRF efforts have devolved to, involving mostly international babysitting missions, and taking months to mobilize. The unit – led by France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the U.k. – will feature a 5,000-strong ground force capable of moving within 2 days. The total force is to be 30,000 members, up from the 13,000 troops assigned previously. Command units are being stood up in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, whose geography should give a clear picture of the expected enemy.
- Outgoing SecDef Chuck Hagel’s office characterized his sideline meeting with Georgian counterpart Mindia Janelidze as involving a thanks for help in Afghanistan and pat on the head for continued work toward “interoperability and readiness.” Georgia’s MoD, on the other hand, pointedly noted that the NATO Secretary General spoke to of Georgia “moving closer to NATO membership.” Last fall, NATO granted Georgia something less than a Membership Action Plan – a diplomatic face-saving prize termed a “substantial package.” Georgian officials have been good sports about it, but the elephant in the room remains the West’s reluctance to put themselves in a position of needing to go to war with Russia if it decides (again) that it would like to make trouble there.
- A House Armed Services Committee member told the Washington Times that the Administration denied a Jordanian request for Predator drones to help define targets for its air war against ISIS. Jordan’s king was received very warmly by House members earlier this week, and several – perhaps channeling Charlie Wilson – have been public about their determination to help King Abdullah II acquire more equipment to fight the common enemy. Meantime, a piece on drone export limits shows the Administration is being very deliberate in their prudence or intransigence, depending on your perspective.
- China’s new sternness with its ally North Korea may have come too late for it to be able to prevent South Korea from allowing the fielding of an American anti-missile defense system. China appears to be most worried about the U.S.’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. Yonhap reports that Hong Lei, the Chinese foreign minister, warned South Korea against such action a day after an exchange took place between the two countries’ defense ministers. The complaint is reminiscent of Russia’s reaction to early suggestions of missile defense in Europe versus a future nuclear Iran. For its part, South Korea is claiming that it has not been consulted by the U.S. as to whether it will protect its forces on the peninsula with THAAD, effectively telling the Chinese “Don’t blame us.”
- China would rather not see the American THAAD system come to the Korean Peninsula. Below is a test firing of two interceptors in the Pacific back in 2011, hitting two mid-range missile targets.
Feb 05, 2015 05:28 UTC
Refreshing the Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines will garner $10 billion in expenditures, split between research and long-lead-time procurement, over the next five years, according to the Future Years Defense Plan. After that, the real money really starts to add up. The Navy today estimates that it will cost $100 billion to replace the existing 14 boomers with 12 new ones – an amount equal to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product at the end of the first cold war. Over their service life, the program would be expected to cost roughly four times that. Navy officials have been talking openly and often about how the navy will need “budget relief” to get this accomplished, yet still have funds to afford other shipbuilding programs. The idea of moving this big project off their books – first brought up seriously during FY 2013 discussions – appears to be more and more frequently floated.
- Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, is assigning the F/A-XX project to be run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA will work with both the Navy and Air Force, and it isn’t yet clear how long into the program development DARPA will continue to be the lead agency.
- An early hull prototype of the LCS built by Lockheed – through the strange twists of time and fate, which include an appearance on Baywatch Hawaii – has wound up on a San Diego-based online yacht sales site. See DID’s March 25/2002 reference under contracts. It can be yours for $180,000. That’s only a twentieth of one percent of the cost of a new LCS, and – we couldn’t resist – if you invite your local skeet club for a cruise, it might be better armed.
- Germany delivered the fourth of six Dolphin class submarines to Israel, this one featuring air independent propulsion (fuel cells), which allows it to stay under and moving for about a week at a time. The first three Dolphin class subs – the first one delivered in 1998 – were given to Israel as part of a war reparations settlement. Germany is picking up about a third of the cost for the next three.
- France is offering 18 used Mirage 2000-5F fighters to Columbia at about $20 million a piece. Another $150 would purchase the initial logistics package. A big selling point may be the French radars that allow for engaging more targets simultaneously than the F16 Block C/D alternatives.
- Russia is awarding its rifle modernization program to Kalashnikov Concern. Janes reports that the Kalashnikov AK-12, one of two models by the firm chosen, didn’t initially make the first cut, but was allowed to compete after political pressure was applied. One reason cited for the win was an existing production facility, where the other competitors would likely have had to build new factories. The AK-12 is chambered in 5.45x39mm and will be purchased by the Russian Army, and the AK-103-4 – to be purchased by the Russian Federal Protective Service – is chambered in 7.62x39mm.
- The United Arab Emirates reportedly backed out of air missions against ISIS when demands for specific search and rescue assets weren’t met by coalition forces. The New York Times reported that the UAE asked that SAR resources, including V-22 Ospreys be moved to northern Iraq to support coalition missions, and that this request was declined.
- The number three official in the Indian Air Force appears to be much enamored with the V-22 Osprey, as he wrote an ode to the tilt-rotor craft in the new issue of Indian Defence Review.
- For those interested in the news above of the LCS early hull prototype for sale, here is an aerial video produced by Lockheed of a sunny outing set to rock music contemporary to the time. Certain staff wanted to show the Baywatch Hawaii episode that featured Lockheed’s Sea Slice (episode 10), but management decided it couldn’t in good conscious be called fair use.
Feb 04, 2015 14:13 UTC
The Air Force, even while adding billions to procurement budgets, is putting off its Joint Stars ground surveillance aircraft to 2023. It had previously been hoping to field the new system in 2022. The Air Force has been fairly consistent in choosing fighters and other air dominance platforms over ground support missions in its procurement decisions.
The F-35, meanwhile would get additional funds to produce more units (up to 57 from 38), reportedly to help bring down the per-unit cost, which is rapidly gaining ground on the all-important $200 million-per-copy figure that effectively blew up the now-defunct F-22 program production.
- The new logistics arrangements putting performance costs on vendors, in the hopes that it will iteratively reduce costs are bearing enough fruit that the Defense Logistics Agency is throwing Boeing the second phase ($223 million) of a combat logistics support agreement. The effort may extend up to five years and involve up to $516 million. Systems under contract support include the Super Hornet, Apache, Harrier, Stratofortress, Globemaster and associated ground support equipment.
- The Pentagon’s Comptroller said he thought Congress would come around to a new base closing BRAC process – just not necessarily very quickly. He noted that he was a senate staffer when the first one was instituted, and that one took 8 years to finally gain approval.
- The Service Women’s Action Network, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the Department of Defense claiming that the DoD’s answers to questions about recruiting females in the nation’s service academies were inadequate. The group sought answers in November as to targets and activities for recruiting women to the academies, which – excepting the Coast Guard – have as incoming freshmen more than three quarters male students.
- An A400M heavy lift aircraft destined to be one of the four Malaysia ordered made its first flight.
- The trial balloon popped. Floated a few days ago, the Administration made it known to major newspapers that it was considering providing weapons to Ukraine. Today The Hill reports that the President decided against it, opting instead for continuing sanctions against a few dozen Russians and some limited financial sector limitations. Tolling on the Russian economy however, has been the implosion of oil prices, which may make some believe that even pinprick economic sanctions may have more meaning in the new context.
- Russia is considering alternate ideas for the use of its much-troubled sea launch platform, which has been suspended since the past summer, in part due to a lack of rocket engines available from the now-unfriendly Ukraine.
- Russia is building up its new Gadzhiyevo (not far from Murmansk) submarine base and facilities so quickly that it is experiencing fatal construction accidents (Russian).
- Indonesia awarded its helicopter tender to Boeing to provide eight AH-64E Apaches for $295.9 million.
- This is what a sea launch looks like – perhaps the last for Energia’s Seal Launch – for lofting a commercial telecommunications satellite.
Feb 03, 2015 06:00 UTC
In announcing the Administration’s defense budget (expected to be much changed after going through the congressional sausage-making process), the Pentagon made a plaintive comment that if it doesn’t get a budget of this magnitude, it will have to change its strategic requirements and expectations. Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs told the press that “any decrease below the (president’s fiscal 2016 budget) … will require adjustments to our defense strategy.” Those comments and that angle were then placed as the lead story on the Pentagon’s news portal.
The Administration’s first salvo in what is expected to be a long budget battle is to plus up Pentagon spending to $534 Billion as a baseline budget, with another $51 billion in spending earmarked to ongoing foreign wars. This is as has been telegraphed over the past couple of weeks. For its part, the congressional majority has telegraphed a lack of interest in shedding the shackles of sequestration if it also means allowing social and entitlement spending to go up commensurately.
- Pakistan and India exchanged chest beating tests of nuclear delivery devices. Pakistan conducted an air launch of its Ra’ad missile, reported to have more than 200 mile range and some stealth capacity. To the west, India launched a new version of its Agni series missiles, the Agni-V ICBM. The launch was conducted from a ground based mobile launcher. The missile has a range of 3,100 miles, demonstrating that it is not designed solely to deter long-time antagonist Pakistan, but also greater powers. The test could be construed as a message to Pakistan to steal its cruise missile thunder, as the Agni-V has been launch testing successfully for more than a year.
- Not to be left behind, Russia announced it would test a new ICBM, the RS-26 (also known as Avangard or Rubezh), an RS-24 reputedly upgraded with a new solid propellant. Russia’s Tass news agency noted that the test was supposed to have happened in the past two months, but financial constraints had pushed it out to spring. The missiles are to first be deployed to Irkutsk.
- Nato’s head of transformation, French general Jean-Paul Palomeros, told a Brussels conference that the Alliance would be looking to replace the capability of its 17 AWACs in a multi-billion-dollar procurement. Interestingly, the effort might not put new planes in the air, but rather may involve a “system of systems” approach, placing sensors on many existing platforms that could provide a net of early warning data of greater range and greater resilience to attack.
- Raytheon’s kill vehicle used in the ground based missile defense system has been deemed inadequate, and will be replaced in a procurement to be led not by a different prime contractor, but by the U.S. military, using proposals from Raytheon and two of its competitors. $279 million has been procured for the effort. The contract for producing the government-led design will likely amount to more than $1 billion.
- Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction James Sopko announced that from now on progress on helping the Afghan security forces will be classified. For six years the data showing the effectiveness of the U.S.’s $65 billion in aid has been a matter of public record. Sopko said that some of the data is sensitive and could expose weaknesses. [By late yesterday, this decision had been partially reversed, as it applies to readiness figures.]
- In addition to a new GPS III satellite procurement, the new Air Force budget would pay for five launches, two of which would be “set aside” for competition. This follows the very public recent settlement of a SpaceX protest that the Air Force had deliberately prevented competition when it awarded United Launch Alliance a bevy of launches over many years not long before SpaceX was expected to gain certification to compete. ULA uses Russian engines to loft satellites into orbit, and the new Air Force budget also has a line item to reduce reliance on Russian hardware, although the mechanism for doing so isn’t yet clear.
- The Carlyle Group, which purchased the majority of Booz Allen Hamilton’s government consulting business back in 2008, is unwinding that position, selling shares to reduce its exposure to BAH down to 29 percent of the firm. This follows earlier sales reducing its stake to 37 percent. BAH has given FY 2015 guidance that it expects revenues to be down slightly with earnings roughly flat. The shares sale, managed by Morgan Stanley, is expected to close Friday.
- Turkey’s defense exports were up 17.7 percent in 2014, a relatively consistent year-over-year performance, as the country has seen its exports more than double over the past six years. Turkey now claims to produce 60 percent of its own armaments, up from 20 percent dozen years ago.
- Iran launched a domestically-built Parmida 6 94-meter vessel, the first of its kind, geared to military transport and area denial activities. It is now plying the Persian Gulf.
- The Army, Navy and Air Force each had their respective Administration budget briefings yesterday afternoon. Each are about 25 minutes long with 10-15 minutes of questions afterwards.
Feb 02, 2015 13:02 UTC
- British MoD officials’ efforts to consider export market requirements in the speccing of defense programs are confirmed as wise moves. However a lack of teeth in the policy – forcing agencies to adopt lower requirements consistent with cost/value ratios sought by foreign customers – means that the idea hasn’t yet produced much fruit. An analysis of the U.K. Type 26 Frigate program in relation to this strategy indicates that the requirements discovery process didn’t happen early enough, and didn’t have much more than a normative, nice-to-do, perception of importance.
- The Tu-95 that was intercepted multiple times just outside U.K. airspace last week was reportedly carrying a nuclear warhead and running an exercise being managed by a second Tu-95.
- The U.K. is starting to employ prison labor to furnish certain basic supplies to the military, such as fence posts and sandbags.
- The National Security Agency (NSA) is giving $367.3 million to L-3 for something. The amount could rise to as much as $1 billion for more of something.
- The U.S. Navy is retiring its tagline “Global force for good,” which has done a decent job of helping recruit service-minded youth, but has proven unpopular with the ranks. This might have something to do with U.S. Army razzing: “Global farce for mediocrity.” The Navy (with Marines) typically spends about $85 million per year on media, which is a fairly significant advertising account in the private sector, on par with mid-level major retailers. The new tagline is “America’s navy.”
- The new issue of the Naval Institute’s Proceedings, has a piece on lessons learned from the LCS. The upshot: if you’re going to make a ship designed not to survive intense combat, it should have either a high lethality, or at least operate under the protection of other defending assets. And if it has neither survivability nor lethality, one probably shouldn’t have to spend a generation’s worth of shipbuilding budget for 52 copies of it.
- The USS Elrod was decommissioned Saturday, one of seven remaining frigates in the Navy. All of the others will be decommissioned by the end of the year. The Navy’s plans for FY 2014 included decommissioning 17 major vessels, keeping two for reserves and one as a moored training ship. Eight ships were slated for commissioning in the same time period.
U.S. defense contractor employees in Saudi are continuing to take fire.
- The USNS Montford Point lowers itself into the water to allow LCACs to offboard with vehicles shorebound.