Close air support remains an especially live issue on the modern battlefield, and it is once again affecting procurement discussions in Britain. “Field Report: British British GR7 Harrier IIs in Afghanistan” addressed the positive benefits of Britain’s Harrier force in theater. A 2006 controversy over their performance in the wake of a soldier’s email deserves equal attention, and has broader implications. In September 2006, newspaper reports described a leaked email from a British Major serving in Afghanistan, who created a tempest when he said that:
“Twice I have had Harriers in support when c/s on the ground have been in heavy contact, on one occasion trying to break clean. A female harrier pilot ‘couldn’t identify the target’, fired 2 phosphorous rockets that just missed our own compound so that we thought they were incoming RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades), and then strafed our perimeter missing the enemy by 200 metres.”
Nor is that all. He reportedly added that “the US air force had been fantastic”, and “I would take an A-10 over Eurofighter any day.” The UK MoD responded at the time. Now, it seems that the controversy described back in 2006 is influencing procurement recommendations from the very top…
Alliant Techsystems (ATK) in Minneapolis, MN received an $86 million base-with-option contract to provide lightweight (LW) 30mm M789 High Explosive Dual Purpose (HEDP) tactical ammunition for the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter. The U.S. Army Contracting Command’s Rock Island Contracting Center in Rock Island, IL manages the contract. Alliant expects to begin production in December 2009 at the company’s facilities in Elk River, MN; Radford, VA; and Rocket Center, WV.
In a September 2008 letter justifying the use of ATK as the sole supplier of LW30mm M789 HEDP ammunition, the US Department of the Army said that the depletion of stocks from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan prompted the order. There are several reasons that this weapon has been so popular…
As video communications is integrated into robots, soldiers, and UAVs, and network-centric warfare becomes the organizing principle of American warfighting, front-line demands for bandwidth are rising faster than the US military can add it. The Transformation Communications Satellite (TSAT) System is part of a larger effort by the US military to address that need, and close the gap.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record – and TSAT is certainly significant. The final price tag on the entire program has been quoted at anywhere from $14-25 billion through 2016, including the satellites, the ground operations system, the satellite operations center and the cost of operations and maintenance. Lockheed Martin and Boeing each won over $600 million in risk reduction contracts to develop key TSAT SS satellite system technologies, and TSAT’s $2 billion TMOS ground-based network operations contract was already underway.
The TSAT constellation’s central role in next-generation US military infrastructure makes it worthy of in-depth treatment – but its survival was never assured. There was always a risk that outside events and incremental competitors could spell its end, just as they spelled the end of Motorola’s infamous Iridium project. This FOCUS article examines that possibility, even as it offers an overview of the US military’s vision for its communications infrastructure, how TSAT fits, the program’s challenges, and complete coverage of contracts and significant events.
The latest developments revolve around the end of the program. Despite a positive recent report from the GAO, TMOS/TSAT are being canceled outright as part of the program’s planned termination:
The U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) awarded 4 major defense contractors up to $1 billion in contracts to provide analysis, research and development, concept development and support. The new contracts replace a large contract that is scheduled to expire July 31/09.
The winning firms will support USJFCOM’s Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Directorate (J9), which coordinates U.S. Department of Defense efforts to explore how the future military can successfully operate in complex, ever-changing and uncertain environments. J9 runs exercises, undertakes technology development, and works with the military to develop better “concepts of operations” and ways of doing things…
European missile manufacturer MBDA plans adjustments to its long-range Meteor active radar guided air-to-air missile, to make it capable of deployment on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The MBDA Meteor will compete for orders with Raytheon’s medium range AIM-120C AMRAAM active radar missile, though the Meteor possesses longer range and several additional technological advances.
This move expands the Meteor’s original designated market, which was the Dassault Rafale, EADS Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen fighter systems. MBDA’s move is interesting for a number of reasons, ranging from the convergence of different fighter system design philosophies to what it implicitly says about their projections re: future fighter exports.
In a great victory for Power Point warriors everywhere, American troops discovered that same powerful but eye-safe green laser pointers used in their civilian jobs were much more effective than bright spotlights, when it came to stopping oncoming vehicles without the need for gunfire. That’s a very important consideration in counterinsurgency campaigns, where maintaining the support of the populace and acting as its protector forms the foundation of the American approach. America’s allies have a similar mindset, and increasingly a similar doctrine as well. Not to mention a similar penchant for military nomenclature.
Something big is going on in the history of war, and maybe even humanity itself. The US military went into Iraq with just a handful of drones in the air and zero unmanned systems on the ground, none of them armed. Today, there are over 5,300 drones in the US inventory and another roughly 12,000 on the ground. And these are just the first generation, the Model T Fords compared to what is already in the prototype stage. This is what is happening now. Peering forward, one Air Force lieutenant general forecast that “given the growth trends, it is not unreasonable to postulate future conflicts involving tens of thousands.”
For my book Wired for War, I spent the last several years trying to capture this historic moment, as robots begin to move into the fighting of our human wars. The book features stories and anecdotes of everyone from robotic scientists and the science fiction writers who inspire them to 19 year old drone pilots and the Iraqi insurgents they are fighting. The hope wasn’t just to take the reader on a journey to meet this new generation of warriors–both human and machine, but also to explore the fascinating, and sometimes frightening, political, economic, legal and ethical questions that our society had better start facing in how our wars will be fought and who will fight them. In other words, “What happens when science fiction becomes battlefield reality?”
Despite all the enthusiasm in military circles for the next generation of unmanned vehicles, ships, and planes, there is one question, however, that people are generally reluctant to talk about. It is the equivalent of Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, the issue That-Must-Not-Be-Discussed. What happens to the human role in war as we arm ever more intelligent, more capable, and increasingly more autonomous robots?
In 2009, the Ottawa Citizen’s defense reporter David Pugliese reported that the US military was about to spend $100 million to upgrade the facilities at Kandahar, Afghanistan, in order to accommodate up to 26 aircraft for a local “Task Force ODIN”. At first glance, this might seem like just another infrastructure play – unless one realizes that Task Force ODIN (Observe, Detect, Identify & Neutralize) may be the second-most underrated fusion of technology and operating tactics in America’s counter-insurgency arsenal.
Task Force ODIN was created on orders of Gen. Richard A. Cody, the US Army’s outgoing vice chief of staff. Its initial goal involved better ways of finding IED land mines, a need triggered by the limited numbers of USAF Predator UAVs in Iraq, and the consequent refusal of many Army surveillance requests. Despite its small size (about 25 aircraft and 250 personnel) and cobbled-together nature, Task Force ODIN quickly became a huge success. Operating from Camp Speicher near Tikrit, it expanded its focus to become a full surveillance/ strike effort in Iraq – one that ground commanders came to see as more precise than conventional air strikes, hence less likely to create the kind of collateral damage that would damage their campaigns. From its inception in July 2007 to June 2008, the effort reportedly killed more than 3,000 adversaries, and led to the capture of almost 150 insurgent leaders.
The Scone Foundation Archivist of the Year Award is presented annually by The Scone Foundation to recognize an archivist who has made considerable contributions to his or her profession or who has provided significant support to scholars conducting research in history and biography. This year, the award has a military winner.
Dr. Conrad Crane’s title is Director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, following 26 years of military service that concluded with 9 years as Professor of History at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In 2003, he became Director of the Military History Institute – and also co-authored “Reconstructing Iraq,” which drew heavily on archival material relating to past military occupations throughout history. It predicted failure without early and adequate post-conflict planning, and warned that: “A force initially viewed as liberators can rapidly be relegated to the status of invaders should an unwelcome occupation continue for a prolonged time”. Dr. Crane’s contribution did not stop there, however. His West Point classmate Gen. David Petraeus has spoken of foreign occupation having a “half-life,” and in 2006 he asked his old colleague to be the lead author of the Counter Insurgency Field Manual for Iraq Forces [US Army release | Amazon.com].
Even this achievement is only part of Dr. Crane’s legacy. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson has praised Dr. Crane “for professionalizing one of the nation’s most priceless repositories of military records, and in making the U.S. Army’s Military History Institute more accessible to both scholars and curious citizens. He combines the best instincts of historian, archivist, and public servant.”
The event will be held on Nov 17/08 from 6:00pm – 7:30pm, in the Teatro Casa Italiana at Columbia University’s Morningside Campus, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC, NY. In addition to receiving the award, Dr. Crane will also deliver a lecture: “From Past to Policy: Using History to Make History.”