Latest updates[?]: Switzerland is again looking to replace its F-5E light fighters from 2017, with the problem-hit fleet recently seeing a third of its aircraft retired prematurely. When an additional six F-5Es taken offline for repairs return, the Swiss Air Force will have only 54 combat aircraft available for frontline service, 32 of these being F/A-18C/D Hornets.
While F-5 owners like Brazil, Chile, Thailand, et. al. have opted for comprehensive refurbishment and upgrades, Switzerland is looking to replace 3 of its 5 Tiger II squadrons with new aircraft under its Tiger-Teilersatz TTE program. The new fighters will partner with the 3 squadrons of upgraded F/A-18 C/D Hornets that make up the rest of its fighter fleet.
An initial evaluation RFP was issued to 4 contenders, but Boeing’s withdrawal narrowed the selection to Sweden’s Gripen, France’s Rafale, or EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon. A 2010 suspension of the competition was followed by a measured revival, thanks to the latest budgets – and then by a provisional winner in Sweden’s Gripen. But as one might expect, Switzerland’s left worked hard to derail any purchase. Once the necessary legislative hurdles were overcome, the new Swiss fighters faced a national referendum just like Switzerland’s 1993 buy of F/A-18 Hornets. The difference is that the new acquisition failed to convince voters. DID presents the background, the candidates, and what may come next.
The Pentagon’s Defense Business Bureau, an advisory group designed to give private sector expertise to senior leaders, announced its global analysis of DoD practices found potential savings of about $25 billion per year, to be squeezed mostly out of logistics, procurement, property management, HR, and healthcare, in that order.
The savings presume a capacity for the military to create ongoing and cumulative productivity increases – as does the private sector, generally. While the rather top-down analysis is likely to seem far fetched to military professionals, it does starkly compare behaviors in the private sector that differ, and that have resulted in vast, cumulative efficiencies.
When it comes to specifics, speaks generally about four areas of recommendations: renegotiating contracts; cutting the workforce; IT modernization and the catch-all business process re-engineering.
DoD contractors will be interested to see the nature of the target painted on their piece of budget pie. The DDB hopes to realize $9 to $18 billion in savings per year by saving 10-25 percent of contract spending. How they hope to do that? “More rigorous” negotiations; contract aggregation for economies of scale; a push for greater productivity in labor contracts; and the elimination of gold plating requirements.
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work charged the DDB with producing the report back in October in an effort to gauge the scope of changes that would help modernize the whole of the defense enterprise.
The report doesn’t break too much ground in terms of tactics recommended, as previous reports have largely enumerated the various savings the DDB hopes the military will recognize.
This DID Spotlight on ARCI adds a bit more explanation of exactly what the program entails and where its benefits were focused, as well as covers contracts placed under the A-RCI program from FY 2005 onward. The program’s concept is simple: you can upgrade the system without changing the sensors. By sharply upgrading ship sensor processing, it integrates and improves the boat’s towed array, hull array and sphere array sonars, running more advanced algorithms and providing a fuller “picture” of the surrounding environment. Sometimes, it really is all about what you can do with it. A-RCI’s open architecture concept also make it easier to integrate additional sensors, providing a dual-track improvement option for American submarines.
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.
Long-endurance UAVs like the MQ-9 Reaper may be able to take off using line-of-sight controls, but many of their missions depend on satellite bandwidth at some point. Those satellite bandwidth expenses add up, as militaries are forced to supplement their own constellations with commercial providers. The USAF thinks they’ve found a way to cut those costs, without adding to the load on military constellations.
The ship was deployed on operations, and proved out a number of the concepts behind her construction, but questions about the long-term durability of composite hulls prevented the type’s adoption into full US Navy service. The ship has been pushed to a maritime technology experimentation and demonstration role, but her saga remains interesting.
Under ATTAC (Availability Transformation: Tornado Aircraft Contract), BAE will take over depot-level support and maintenance for the RAF’s Tornado fleet, with the responsibility of ensuring that enough of Britain’s Tornado GR4 strike aircraft and Tornado F3 interceptors are available to fly, rather than paying BAE for selling spare parts and maintenance hours.
This “future contracting for availability” approach is a major departure from traditional military and commercial practice; but it has been proven on a smaller scale within the UK’s Tornado fleet, and a number of other platforms are already operating under these types of contracts in Britain. BAE hopes to achieve the required availability levels using a combination of embedded diagnostics, rear-echelon repair process improvements, and what BAE executive and former Air Vice-Marshall Steve Nicoll referred to as the “Dirk Gently approach” to problem diagnosis and maintenance during the September 2006 TFD Group Conference. DID explains what Nicoll meant, and discusses the ATTAC contract and its follow-ons in more detail.
The MK7 MOD 2 Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System (APOBS) is used to clear mines or wire obstacles, and create a safe footpath for troops. APOBS can be carried by 2 people, takes 30 to 120 seconds to be set up, and fires a rocket from a 25-meter standoff position, sending a line charge with fragmentation grenades over the minefields or wire obstacles. The grenades clear the mines, and sever the wires. Developed by the US Army Armaments Engineering and Technology Center in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, APOBS won a US Army top military inventions of the year award in 2004. It replaces the Bangalore Torpedo, which was heavier, took longer to set up, and required 4 times the number of people to carry.
In 2006, small business qualifier Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense Co. in Simsbury, CT received a maximum $150.8 million, 5-year contract for up to 3,000 units. In 2011, however, the Army/USMC contract shifted to Chemring Ordnance, Inc. in Perry, FL…
“ROVER” (Remote Operational Video Enhanced Receiver) is an unimpressive piece of equipment. Mostly, it looks like a ruggedized laptop with antennas. But SpaceWar.com quotes Lt. Col. Gregory E. Harbin, of the 609th Combat Operations Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, SC, who says “…the ROVER is bringing a phenomenal capability to our people on the ground.” ROVER is the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver, which receives camera images from nearby aircraft and UAVs (somewhat like Israel’s wrist-mounted V-RAMBO), then integrates them with other US positioning and targeting software.
Staff Sgt. Justin Cry, a Shaw Joint Tactical Air Controller (JTAC), has a job that’s an art form at the best of times. Describing features from the ground to a pilot looking down while flying at high speed is no easy task. According to a Dec 16/05 USAF article, he used the system in Iraq and in New Orleans, and says simply: “I can circle an area on my screen, drawing arrows for emphasis, and what I’m drawing appears on (the pilots’) screens as well.”
ROVER continues to evolve, and is becoming an unheralded but critical piece of equipment in America’s arsenal. This is DID’s FOCUS Article covering the system and its ongoing developments.
Latest updates: Up to $228M in contracts, FY 2012-2015.
Low-velocity parachutes are so named because they’re used for cargo airdrops made below about 1,200 feet, with the cargo aircraft flying at low speed as parachute-rigged containers roll out the rear ramp. US Army Soldier Systems Natick developed them in 2006, aiming to offer a lower-cost low altitude system that did not require specialized parachute manufacturers. US Army PM FSS engineer Bruce Bonaceto’s designs hit those targets, and low velocity parachutes have been doing the same on the front lines. They’re generally used to deliver basic supplies such as gas, ammunition and food to troops in rough terrain and isolated locations, without having to use a more expensive high-altitude GPS-guided parachute system like JPADS, or a more expensive standard parachute like the G-12.
As one might imagine, demand is high in Afghanistan, and some of the small business contract recipients are an interesting set of stories in and of themselves…