Latest updates[?]: A new F-35A was delivered to Edwards Air Force Base on August 1 for assignment with the 461st Flight Test Squadron (FLTS). It is the first of six F-35As that the squadron and the F-35 Lightning II Integrated Test Force will use to test the Technical Refresh 3 and Block 4 configurations. For all three variants of the F-35, the 461 FLTS is the lead developmental flight test unit for sensors, weapons, and software.
F-35B: off probation
The $382 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE)Lightning jet. Lightning II system development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3), with Singapore and Israel as “Security Cooperation Partners,” and Japan as the 1st export customer.
The big question for Lockheed Martin is whether, and when, many of these partner countries will begin placing purchase orders. This updated article has expanded to feature more detail regarding the F-35 program, including contracts, sub-contracts, and notable events and reports during 2012-2013.
Latest updates[?]: International Enterprises won a $12.5 million requirements contract requirements contract for F-16 modular low power radio frequency (MLPRF) and dual mode transmitter (DMT) repairs. This contract provides for the repair of both MLPRF and DMT, which function as part of the radar systems of each F-16 C/D aircraft. The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the USAF. One of the most versatile aircraft in the US Air Force inventory, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has been the mainstay of the Air Force aerial combat fleet. With over 1,000 F-16s in service, the platform has been adapted to complete a number of missions, including air-to-air fighting, ground attack and electronic warfare. Work will take place in Alabama. Estimated completion date is December 6, 2025.
F-16F “Desert Falcon”
The most advanced F-16s in the world aren’t American. That distinction belongs to the UAE, whose F-16 E/F Block 60s are a half-generation ahead of the F-16 C/D Block 50/52+ aircraft that form the backbone of the US Air Force, and of many other fleets around the world. The Block 60 has been described as a lower-budget alternative to the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, and there’s a solid argument to be made that their performance figures and broad sensor array will even keep them ahead of pending F-16 modernizations in countries like Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore.
The UAE invested in the “Desert Falcon’s” development, and the contract reportedly includes royalty fees if other countries buy it. Investment doesn’t end when the fighters are delivered, either. Money is still needed for ongoing training, fielding, and equipment needs – and the UAE has decided that they need more planes, too. This DID article showcases the F-16 Block 60/61, and offers a window into its associated costs and life cycle, including dedicated equipment purchases for this fighter fleet.
Latest updates[?]: South Africa’s Defense Minister announced plans to update the country’s indigenous Rooivalk attack helicopter. Speaking at this year's African Aerospace & Defence Show, Nosiviwe Masipa-Nqakula said the helicopter has "blooded" itself having carried out a series of successful operations as part of the United Nations’ peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Manufacturer Denel is also working on marketing the helicopter to other African governments who are fighting insurgencies, namely Nigeria and Egypt, and further afield governments like India and Brazil.
Base, Bleeding Out?
Back in July 2005 it was apparent India’s sanctions against Denel and possible disqualification from a $2 billion artillery contract could have a major effect on the South African defense firm as a whole. In August 2005, those sanctions came to pass, barring Denel from a contract it was likely to win and accelerating efforts already underway to radically restructure the firm.
CEO Shaun Liebenberg launched that shift in late 2005 with some frank discussion of the global defense market, and the position of small-medium players like Denel in it. At DSEI 2005 in London, UK, the outline of this new strategy was already apparent. Many of the products Denel is known for will no longer define the firm. But could it find a way to stanch the bleeding and survive in a globalized market?
In July 2012, after protracted bargaining over American aid money, Pakistan reopened its roads – the so-called PAKGLOC in military lingo – to NATO traffic in and out of Afghanistan after their closure at the end of 2011. That is the theory at least, but the practice has left much to be desired. Pakistani customs routinely slow traffic to a crawl with clearance paperwork. Add threats of violence from local tribal strongmen, when it’s not customs on the Afghan side suddenly claiming a right to exit taxes, and you end with near-gridlock. Security concerns have led the Pentagon to stop using PAKGLOCs for outgoing traffic as of December 3/13 for an indefinite period. This has forced continued use of the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), at a much greater cost.
Faced with these prohibitive outgoing logistics, the US military has a big incentive to think hard about what it really needs to bring back for future use.
This week DID’s Olivier Travers is attending WBR’s 2013 Defense Logistics event. Email me if you’d like to meet up or submit logistics themes for us to look into.
Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek has been heading the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for 2 years and presented an update on the agency’s challenges and progress during WBR’s 2013 Defense Logistics conference. He candidly talked about how DoD at large, and DLA specifically, had benefited from “budget largesse” in recent years, especially with supplemental budgets (i.e. OCO / war spending) and had grown “thicker in the middle” as a result. In plain admission of the government’s shortcomings, the development of a “culture of judiciousness” to apply better judgment and save money is necessary within DLA. This is a welcome evolution in public discourse after so much hand-wringing about sequestration and befuddlement at the very idea of having to operate within financial constraints.
VADM Harnitchek was equally frank in recognizing that part of the agency’s focus will translate into margin pressure for contractors. Like other DoD senior officials, he’s broadcasting a clear signal that budget constraints are expected to stay and everyone should learn to operate within them. This should lead to increased reliance on commercial capabilities and less DoD resources, in relative terms. To that effect, fuel and food are pretty much already run “factory to foxhole” through commercial suppliers.
DID will cover WBR’s Defense Logistics conference on Dec. 3-5 in Alexandria, VA. The following entry gives a quick sense of the massive scale of US military logistics, for background context. It aims to provide orders of magnitude and key datapoints, rather than extremely precise and detailed data.
The US Department of Defense is well known as one of the largest organizations worldwide, with its sprawling physical footprint across the world and massive needs for storage, transportation, and distribution. How big of a logistics user and provider do they turn out to be? Let’s find out.
In his keynote, Dale Bennett, EVP of Mission Systems and Training at Lockheed Martin, listed a few things DoD and industry can do to get better results despite increased funding constraints.
First, Bennett thinks that sharing technologies across programs can not only improve interoperability, but also reduce sustainment costs, presumably thanks to shared spare parts and better familiarity (because of repeat exposure) from the people doing the maintenance. AEGIS and its various spin-offs (e.g. AEGIS Ashore) is the program that he used to illustrate this trend.
The SSN-774 Virginia Class submarine was introduced in the 1990s as a Clinton-era reform that was intended to take some of the SSN-21 Seawolf Class’ key design and technology advances, and place them in a smaller, less heavily-armed, and less expensive platform. The resulting submarine would have learned some of the Seawolf program’s negative procurement lessons, while performing capably in land attack, naval attack, special forces, and shallow water roles. In the end, the Seawolf Class became a technology demonstrator program that was canceled at 3 ships, and the Virginia Class became the naval successor to America’s famed SSN-688 Los Angeles Class. The Virginia Class program was supposed to reach 2 submarines per year by 2002, removing it from the unusual joint construction approach between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding – but that goal has been pushed back to 2012 in progressive planning budgets.
In FY 2005 dollars, SSN-21 submarines cost between $3.1-3.5 billion each. According to Congressional Research Service report #RL32418, and the Navy is working toward a goal of shaving FY05$ 400 million from the cost of each Virginia Class boat, and buying 2 boats in FY2012 for combined cost of $4.0 billion in FY 2005 dollars – a goal referred to as “2 for 4 in 12”. In real dollars subject to inflation, that means about $2.6 billion per sub in 2012, and $2.7 billion in 2013. The Navy believes that moving from the current joint construction arrangement will shave FY05$ 200 million from the cost of each submarine, leaving another FY05$ 200 million (about $220 million) to be saved through ship design and related changes. “Virginia Block III: The Revised Bow” chronicles some of the significant cost-saving design changes underway to the Virginia Class Block 3 subs, which begin at SSN-784, the 11th ship of class.
How is the program doing? The good news is, they just won a major procurement award for their efforts…
The American Office of the Secretary of Defense sent this on to DID, and we thought we’d pass it on to all of our readers in the Washington area. The American Veteran Center’s 10th Annual Conference begins today, and will take place November 8-10 at the Renaissance Washington Hotel. there is still time to register and attend.
The AVC conference is one of the largest annual gatherings of decorated military combat veterans, and will host some of the greatest heroes of WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan. It features 3 days of speaker panels, wreath laying ceremonies at the World War II, Korea, and Vietnam memorials and an awards banquet. The conference also features salutes to Medal of Honor recipients and service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the participants include: