“…the combat reach of the 2020 carrier air wing will not have improved much beyond that of the mid-1980s air wing, which had trouble dealing with 1970s Soviet land-based anti-access/area-denial technologies. Perhaps more significantly, the CVW’s ability to establish persistent orbits at range will not have improved much beyond that of the 1950s… Said another way, will an operational strike system with limited tactical reach and persistence – one optimized for pulsed strikes against land targets at ranges out to about 450-475 nm – be able to tackle future operational challenges and threats that are likely to appear over the long term? The answer is: probably not… As this short discussion suggests, then, there is a growing strategic imperative to increase the range, persistence, and stealth of the Navy’s carrier air wing. Indeed, failing to increase the CVW’s reach, endurance, and survivability risks the long-term operational and tactical relevance of the US carrier fleet.”
The Persistence Gap (Animation: click & wait…)
Along the way, their paper deals with a number of issues. The historic lack of interest in UAVs within the US Navy, which manifested as early as Vietnam. The choice of shrinking strike range for current US carrier groups, but greater strike density within that limited range. The emergence of land-based “surveillance-strike complexes” in other nations, designed to keep US carriers well outside of that range. International carrier plans. Not to mention a future in which the USA will have 11 operational carriers – but just 10 US Navy/ USMC carrier aircraft wings. This is followed by a look at the history of the J-UCAS unmanned combat air vehicle program to date, and recommendations for the future in light of emerging trends. Read the CSBA’s entire 39-page preliminary backgrounder, which serves as a lead-in summary for a forthcoming report.
The German Bundeswehr is no longer the formidable force that some remember from the Cold War. The force has been downsized, significant quantities of its heavy equipment have been sold off, and Germany’s level of defense spending has fallen sharply over the past decade and a half. Is the German military transforming, or just shrinking?
“On 26 September 2006, a suicide bomber attacked a Canadian convoy 2km from Kandahar Airfield. The bomber detonated a explosives-laden minivan while trying to ram an RG-31 Nyala Armoured Patrol Vehicle. The result differed dramatically from earlier attacks on armoured [Mercedes] G-wagons. Instead of charred wreckage, the blast- resistant [BAE Systems OMC] Nyala limped home with little damage. Instead of wounded or dead, no-one was injured inside the APV.”
See the full CP article describing this situation (only available here thanks to a canoe.ca technical glitch), and note the Canadian troops’ contrasting lack of confidence in their up-armored Mercedes G-Wagens; DID has covered both this specific problem, and the larger global trend of which it’s a part.
With all of the recent C-17 related purchases by NATO, Canada, et. al., a reader drew our attention to a recent piece by military analyst Loren Thompson at the Lexington Institute think-tank in Washington, DC. Pulling no punches, it’s titled “The Dumbest Weapons Decision of the Decade.”
People from other countries often underestimate the role of think tanks in Washington, because there are no comparable players in their own countries. That’s a big mistake. American academia’s growing irrelevance means that the policy agendas and talking points of US political parties are often underpinned by think-tank research and proposals. Lexington isn’t in the top tier with institutions like Brookings, Heritage, AEI (American Enterprise Institute) et. al., but it’s pitching into a combustible environment. The final decision on C-17 procurement will come from Congress, the C-17 already has a lobbying base, and the country is headed for the final stretch of the 2006 mid-term elections; it’s also gearing up for a hotly-contested and security-focused Presidential election in 2008. An excerpt from Thompson’s September 13, 2006 Issue Brief (which sounds like a political address), reads:
In Testimony presented before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Seapower on April 6, 2006, John F. Schank of the RAND Corporation noted some work they had done with Britain’s Ministry of Defence regarding its naval industrial base, and made a number of recommendations based on those lessons:
“Demands on the U.S. naval shipbuilding industrial base have also been falling, resulting in concerns, for example, about the submarine design base. At the same time, the United States also faces a likely future increase in demand, as the Navy builds to a 313-ship fleet. Let me review some of the suggestions we made to the UK MOD in three respects – the need for long-range planning, ways to improve efficiency, and the need to sustain hard-to-replace resources – and then I will conclude with some possible implications for the United States.
On March 23, 2006, NATO put a multinational airlift contract into effect. As things stand now, 6 giant Antonov An-124-100 strategic air lifters will be available to NATO members Belgium (just added), Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, France, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Non-NATO countries Finland and Sweden are also part of the “Strategic Airlift Interim Solution” (SALIS), so named because it is designed as a gap-filler until new A400M tactical airlift planes or other airlift options can be deployed in numbers by around 2025 or so.
Details of this arrangement, the Antonov’s exceptional commercial success in contrast to its American counterpart, and some future possibilities are all covered below.
As of Friday, February 3, 2006, the USA’s 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review has been released. As Title 10, Section 118 stipulates, the QDR’s Congressional mandate is:
The Secretary of Defense shall every four years… conduct a comprehensive examination (to be known as a “quadrennial defense review”) of the national defense strategy, force structure, force modernization plans, infrastructure, budget plan, and other elements of the defense program and policies of the United States with a view toward determining and expressing the defense strategy of the United States and establishing a defense program for the next 20 years.
DID has a roundup of relevant resources and links:
In 2005 it looked like the Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) program, a joint US Army/ US Navy program, would replace three different reconnaissance planes used for signals interception (SIGINT), ground-looking SAR radars, and imagery intelligence (IMINT).
By November 2005 Lockheed had dropped Embraer’s ERJ-145 jet from its proposal in favor of Bombardier’s larger, longer-range, longer endurance Global Express jet. Its new design would closely resemble the in-service British ASTOR Sentinel R1 in order to offer lower risk, greater cost certainty, and even allied interoperability. Hedging its bets, Lockheed also offered the US military a cut-down ERJ-145 option with less equipment as a lower-budget alternative.