Air Force: We Like CAS Plenty; F-35 Not So Bad | Finland Spurns Russian Offer for Defense Contract Quid Pro Quo
Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, joined other brass in proclaiming continued desire to perform the close air support mission. Welsh himself was an A-10 pilot in the early 1980s. The Air Force has been simultaneously fighting the impression that it wants to rid itself of CAS responsibilities and also feeding that sort of speculation with its budgeting actions. Welsh pointed out that the A-10 has about a dozen more years of life left, and that another option needs to be found for replacement, so the old but well-loved platform shouldn’t be fetishized. He spoke of the F-35 as a possible replacement, which is actually one of the fears that some ground forces analysts have. Two issues of concern appear to be surfacing with the F-35: that a platform meant for other missions is more likely to mean that a particular resource will be prioritized to non-CAS mission at any given moment of need; that the cost of the F-35 is roughly ten times greater than an A-10. Replacing the U.S.’s 173 A-10C aircraft would cost in the tens of billions of dollars. That gives rise the fear that the Air Force would merely double-duty existing fighters, eat the budget, and not necessarily have those pilots and fighters trained, configured and/or deployed for CAS as the first priority mission.
- Having explored it with defense ministry working groups, Finland is now abruptly rejecting Russia’s offer to become closer with Moscow through defense supplier relationships. Finland’s industrial sector would become eligible for subcontractor work for major Russian defense programs, provided Finland bought adequate quantities of ships and planes. The Ukraine conflict coincides with the beginning of the stalling of the relationship. The military appears to have taken the offer seriously, incorporating it as an analyzed option in determining future options for imminent fleet replacements. Civilian leaders have been quite negative, and publicly so, on the matter. The two key fears appear to be that Russia would have access to defense platform kill switches, and also the matter that Finland is not terribly worried about being invaded and occupied by Europe.
- Italy, under increasing pressure to further lower or nix its F-35 orders in the face of grinding budget pressure, is expressing its resolution to continue with the remaining 90 orders, especially now that it can hang its hat on a new Finmeccanica contract for maintaining the fighters.
- The U.K. is preventing Russia from participating in an upcoming defense wares trade conference.
- Dauria Aerospace, Russian producer of microsatellites, is pulling up stakes in the U.S. and E.U., recognizing that the current political climate is not auspicious.
- Poland is embarking on a spending spree for defense upgrades, amounting to about $42 billion and including missiles, helicopters and UAVs.
- Pakistan – previously facing an annoyed Russia in regard to the potential competition the Pakistani-Chinese JF-17 fighter may present on the export market – is now lining up Russian cooperation. One sign is that the RD-93 engines they buy-in are now to be acquired directly from Russia, rather than having to get them retail from the Chinese, who have been buying them for a number of platforms, including China’s stealthy J-31 in addition to the Chinese version of the JF-17, the JC-1.
- The negotiation-via-newspapers exchange continues between France’s Dassault and India in regard to the Indian purchase of Rafale fighters. India’s MoD is now saying that upon thinking about it a bit more – for three years – they think the Dassault offer is going to be more expensive than some other, rejected bidders. Being India’s first life cycle costing contract, the RFP for 126 fighters did not demand specific information on some items relevant to that cost cycle, according to an unnamed official involved with the contract negotiation committee.
- Labor groups are pressuring Boeing regarding its 3,000 layoffs over the past couple of years, and using aerospace tax credits as a pressure point. Union leaders are linking the $8.7 billion in tax credits received since 2013 to a sense of obligation they feel Boeing should have to keep or expand employees.
- The U.S. declassified the yield size of the B53/W53 nuclear warhead. It was indeed 9 megatons, as has been unofficially surmised.
- Raytheon’s Small Diameter Bomb mark II passed a couple live fire tests, this time with live warheads – the last step before low rate initial production.
- A Deloitte forecast reportedly predicts global arms industry growth of three percent.
- A short documentary on the now-dismantled B53 nuclear bomb, which the U.S. just confirmed wielded a 9 megaton yield…