The Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) program began in 1995, and it has taken a very long time. Its MoU was late, its contract will be both late and smaller in scope, and it won’t meet even a revised 2012 – 2014 fielding window. At long last, however, one can be assured that it will exist. This is DID’s in-depth FOCUS Article covering the AGS program, from its platforms to its program structure to its long-awaited contracts.
The original AGS plan involved an Airbus A321 counterpart to Northrop Grumman’s E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-STARS), a Boeing 707 derivative whose powerful ground-looking Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) offers American commanders combat-changing battlefield surveillance and communications. AGS would be a pooled NATO asset, adding 7 RQ-4B Global Hawk UAVs and dedicated ground stations to complement the manned planes. It has since been reduced to just 5 RQ-4 Block 40 Global Hawk UAVs and dedicated ground stations, but could expand again if countries decide to make some of their national surveillance assets part of the program.
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?
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
This public-access DID Backgrounder offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor’s controversies in the USA and abroad. A separate article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news.
Afghanistan has been a tough test for the NATO alliance. Thus far, the report is mixed. While a number of allied countries have committed troops, few of the NATO countries’ available helicopters have been committed, despite promises made and commanders’ requests from the field. Britain, the Netherlands, and the USA had contributed much of the combat helicopter support in the most active combat zones, alongside some CH-47s from non-NATO partner Australia. They’ve been supplemented by helicopters from some east bloc countries like Poland and the Czech Republic (Mi-8/17s), and by a few CH-47D Chinooks and Bell 412ERs from Canada. The sizable helicopter fleets belonging to NATO members like France, Germany, Italy, and Spain have also seen some use in Afghanistan, with the Italian contingent (currently CH-47s, NH90s and A129 attack helicopters) covering a wide area to the west. The most serious fighting, and corresponding need, remains in the south.
That has created political tensions within the alliance, especially when set against the backdrop of European shortfalls in meeting NATO ISAF commitments. At one point, the USA was forced to extend the deployment of 20 CH-47 heavy helicopters by 6 months, in order to try and make up the shortfall. With Canada and the Netherlands out of the picture after long combat deployments in the south, the situation is likely to become even more strained. Over the longer, term, however, a 2-track solution has emerged. Track one involves keeping up the pressure, and some members of NATO have responded. Track 2 has involved stanching the wound by chartering private helicopter support that can take care of more routine missions in theater, freeing the military helicopters for other tasks.
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.
The last quarterly report [PDF] from SIGIR (the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction) included an interview with OSC-I (Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq) head Lieutenant General Robert Caslen.
Among other things, it provides an interesting breakdown of Iraq’s planned future purchases. Overall:
The US Army’s Heavy Brigade Combat Teams have relied on BAE’s 30+ ton Bradley family of M2/3/6/7 vehicles for a variety of combat functions, from armed infantry carrier and cavalry scout roles, to specialized tasks like calling artillery fire and even short-range air defense. The Bradley first entered US Army service in 1981, however, and the fleet has served through several wars. Even ongoing RESET, modernizations, and remanufacturing cannot keep them going indefinitely.
The Army’s problem is that replacing them has been a ton of trouble. Future Combat Systems’ MGV-IFV was terminated, along with the other MGV variants, by the 2010 budget. A proposal to replace it with a “Ground Combat Vehicle” (GCV) program raised concerns that the Army’s wish list would create an even less affordable solution. Now a revised GCV program is underway. Can it deliver a vehicle that will be effective on the battlefield? Just as important, can it deliver a vehicle that the US Army can afford to buy and maintain, in the midst of major national budgetary problems and swelling entitlement programs?
As fiscal year 2012 came to a close Congress bought time with a continuing resolution. And as the new civil year started, Congress begrudgingly applied a short-term patch to avoid the fiscal cliff, while the President eventually signed a FY13 authorization bill containing language he had threatened to veto for months. By March 2013 everyone seemed to capitulate to wrap up appropriations for the rest of the year. But FY13 appropriations ended up including sequestration, an outcome that few had predicted since the Budget Control Act was passed in 2011. The FY14 budget cycle then started late, with only dim hope of a more reasonable outcome.
After some bad experiences with its up-armored Mercedes “Gelendevagen” in Afghanistan, Norway decided that they needed patrol vehicles with better protection. In 2006, therefore, they placed an order for 25 blast-resistant Iveco MLV/LMV vehicles, which are called Lynx by the Italians and Panther by the UK.
Deliveries began in 2006, and the vehicle’s performance in Afghanistan has led to additional orders over the years. A 2013 buy brings Norway’s order total to 170.
Australia’s 2009 Defence White paper promised a number of programs, including an effort to rationalize the DoD’s storage and distribution network. The White Paper’s target involved consolidating 24 wholesale sites into 7, supported by 7 specialist logistics units, with slimmer overall inventory.
In late 2012, Australia’s government moved to implement an A$ 752 million Defence Logistics Transformation Program (DLTP), consolidating 201 warehouses in 24 locations into 7 primary sites and 9 specialty sites. It’s a major change to an unheralded but fundamental element of military readiness. Secure storage, maintenance facilities, and other infrastructure will be built at: