The dilemma for airdropping supplies has always been a stark one. High-altitude airdrops often go badly astray and become useless or even counter-productive. Low-level paradrops face significant dangers from enemy fire, and reduce delivery range. Can this dilemma be broken?
The US military believed that modern technologies could allow them to break the dilemma. The idea? Use the same GPS-guidance that enables precision strikes from JDAM bombs, coupled with software that acts as a flight control system for parachutes. JPADS (the Joint Precision Air-Drop System) has been combat-tested successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan, after moving beyond the test stage in the USA… and elsewhere.
The USCG wants to buy 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRC), and these Sentinel Class boats are sorely needed by an overstretched US Coast Guard. An attempt to extend the lives of their aged Island Class cutters ended as an expensive failure in 2005, and string of blunders has delayed replacements. In February 2006, the Coast Guard’s Deepwater system-of-systems program ‘temporarily’ suspended design work on the FRC-A program due to technical risk. FRC-A was eventually canceled in favor of an off-the-shelf buy (FRC-B), and on March 14/07, the ICGS contractor consortium lost responsibility for the Deepwater FRC-B program as well. By then, even an off-the-shelf buy couldn’t get the Coast Guard any delivered replacements before April 2012.
When the Island Class refurbishment program was terminated in June 2005, 41 Island Class vessels like the USCGC Sanibel, above, still plied US and international waters. DID discusses the programs, their outcomes and controversies, the fate of the Island Class and FRC-A programs, and the work underway to replace them. The Island Class’ safe lifetime is running out fast, but by the end of 2013 FRC Sentinel Class deliveries were set to ramp up to full production pace. Will that be fast enough?
Poland is looking for at least 16 Lead-in Fighter Trainer (LIFT) aircraft to replace its aged fleet of over 100 PZL Mielec TS-11 Iskra trainer jets. The Iskras were initially going to be retired by 2009, but the tender’s submission date moved all the way back to October 2010, and the new trainer jets aren’t expected until at least 2013.
The big question was which trainer jets they would be. Right now, Polish pilots mostly train in the USA on supersonic T-38 Talons and USAF F-16s, but that contract expires in 2015. There are a number of competitors, and the Polish RFP v1.0 placed a justifiable but surprising focus on combat capability. That affected the competition – and eventually, appears to have killed it. The competition has been revived, albeit with sloppy management, and accepted 3 bids. In the end, however, there was just 1 contestant…
In physics, a moire pattern is an interference pattern created when two grids are overlaid at an angle, or when they have slightly different mesh sizes. It’s an appropriate name for DARPA’s Membrane Optic Imager Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE) project, which aims to use diffractive optic membranes to conduct tactical video surveillance from space. That’s very useful when looking at territory where an intruding UAV is likely to be shot down, or when conducting operations to find, say, mobile SCUD missiles within a large potential area.
Making that happen involves a 20-meter diameter optic membrane surveying an area of more than 10 x 10 km at least once a second, with ground resolution better than 2.5 meters, and the ability to detect moving vehicles. Field of regard would be larger, of course, at 10 million square kilometers that could be covered from geosynchronous orbit. Finally, all of this has to cost less than $500 million per copy. How hard could all that be? Hard enough for DARPA, apparently…
The U.S. Marine Corps sees the 120mm Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS) mortar as the 3rd leg of its expeditionary fire support triad. EFSS will be the short-range but easily transportable counterpart to the reduced-weight M777 155mm towed howitzer, and the truck-mounted M142 HIMARS rocket system.
Accompanying Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) in expeditionary operations, EFSS will be the heliborne Ship-To-Objective Maneuver (STOM) force’s primary fire support, before the larger and longer range systems can move into position. As such, the EFSS launcher, its Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV) carrier, a portion of the basic load of ammunition, and a portion of its crew, must all be transportable by a single CH-53E Super Stallion or future CH-53K heavy lift helicopter, and/or a single MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The program’s path has not been smooth, and its vehicle choice in particular has come in for criticism, as it heads toward full-rate production.
In November 2005, Israel’s Ministry Of Defense (GOI/MOD) announced its interest in replacing the IAF “Zukit” (“Thrush,” an upgraded 1950s-era Fouga Magister) basic training aircraft with a new trainer. The Zukit’s high fuel and maintenance costs, and low mission capable rates were all creating issues. The intent was to execute this program using an RFI concept, including a comprehensive test and evaluation phase of candidate aircraft, which would then be taken into account during a potential RFP stage.
Israel is secretive about its defense undertakings, and nothing was heard for a long while. Possible candidates included the IAI/ATG Javelin, Romania’s IAR-99C Soim, and possibly even the Czech L159 Albatros, which remained on the market at an excellent price. The winner? “None of the above.” The lure of using American aid dollars instead of hard currency, combined with advertised operating economies, eventually decided the competition in favor of an American-built turboprop: Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6A Texan II, which is used in this same role by the US military.
It seems recent outreach efforts from US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and his deputy Ash Carter might be paying off: according to the Times of India a $1.4B order for 22 AH-64D Apache helicopters (and assorted weapons) is about to be signed. However such reports that Boeing had won the competition already surfaced up in October last year, while the initial DSCA request dates from December 2010.
Separately the Indian Navy has issued an RFP for 56 light naval utility helicopters that may be worth $1B. Induction planned for 2016.
Russia will deliver 55 Mi-171E transport helicopters to China at an estimated $10M+ each.
The Washington Times looks into where base closures may happen, if a 6th BRAC is indeed going to be allowed by Congress. But so far the House is not interested. Cynics may allow themselves to think that the Administration’s inclusion of a BRAC round during an election year was a red herring that they were ready to give up from the get-go.
Meanwhile Joint Base Lewis-McChord will see the reactivation of the 7th Infantry Division.
The National Defense University’s INSS(Institute for National Strategic Studies) reviews [PDF] the state of French military capabilities and explains France’s closer defense relationship with Great Britain after being disappointed by cooperation efforts with Germany that never met their stated ambition.
The US Navy has published its request for information to get a replacement for FA-18E/F and EA-18G Growlers “in the 2030 timeframe”, following a mention of the tentative aircraft in the latest 30-year aviation funding plan. This is a Pre-Material Development Decision (MDD) market survey, i.e. still very far from an RFP. Once interested contractors have expressed their interest by April 26, they will receive – provided proper levels of clearance – a classified Government Furnished Information (GFI) package that is meant to allow them to submit their response by June 29, 2012.
On July 25/06 Al-Anbar commander and U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer submitted an MNF-W priority 1 request. It pointed to the hazards inherent in American supply lines, and noted that many of the supply convoys on Iraq’s roads (up to 70%, by some reports) were carrying fuel. Much of that fuel wasn’t even for vehicles, but for diesel generators used to generate power at US bases. That is still true, and Afghanistan has even more daunting logistics. By some estimates, shipping each gallon of fuel to Afghanistan requires 7 gallons of fuel for transport.