Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin will provide combat systems for Australia's new fleet of submarines. The move is said to increase interoperability with fellow Lockheed system-user the US Navy. French firm DCNS won the $38 billion Australian submarine contract back in April defeating Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Since then, the company has been dealing with the aftermath of a 22,000 page data leak of submarines they are building for India, drawing a warning from Australian defense officials.
Bridge to the future?
In its 2009 White Paper, Australia’s Department of Defence and Labor Party government looked at the progress being made in ship killing surveillance-strike complexes, and at their need to defend large sea lanes, as key drivers shaping future navies. These premises are well accepted, but the White Paper’s conclusion was a surprise. It recommended a doubling of Australia’s submarine fleet to 12 boats by 2030-2040, all of which would be a new successor design that would replace the RAN’s Collins Class submarines.
The surprise, and controversy, stem from Australia’s recent experiences. The Collins Class was designed with the strong cooperation of ThyssenKrupp’s Swedish Kockums subsidiary, and built in Australia by state-owned ASC. The class has had a checkered career, including significant difficulties with its combat systems, issues with acoustic signature and propulsion, major cost growth to A$ 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.
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 isn’t 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 performance is a big deal to many air forces that expect to field the F-35 as their only fighter.
This article takes a much closer look at the F-35’s real air superiority potential and weaknesses, from the 2008 RAND Pacific Vision study that triggered so much controversy, to other analyses and subsequent developments. Understanding and their implications for partner nation participation has only grown in importance since 2008. Let us begin…
“[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.
“…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…
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…”
“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 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 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.
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.
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.