“During Operation Mountain Lion I found myself praying for bad weather, the first time in my military career I was actually begging for a cold front to come through. I knew my soldiers could handle it and the enemy couldn’t. ECWCS allowed my men to outlast the enemy on their own terrain. When the enemy was forced out of the mountains due to the bitter cold to take shelter, that’s when we got them.”
— LTC Christopher Cavoli, US Army 10th Mountain Division, Afghanistan
This third generation of the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS-III) is a radical re-design of the cold weather clothing system for the U.S. Army. So, exactly what’s in the ECWCS-III?
300 “Boomerang III perimeter systems.” (Feb 14/11)
Sniper attacks are an ongoing problem/ opportunity in any urban conflict, which is tailor made for the practice. The bad news is that most future conflicts and even peacekeeping operations can be expected to spend a lot of time in urban settings.
Western armies tend to field much better snipers than their enemies do, and the results show. Nevertheless, better support for those snipers, and for non-specialist troops under fire, offers those armies a critical new asset that gives them an edge. The question is, how to accomplish that in a way that provides immediate results, and is reliable? A number of solutions have been developed over the past few years, some of which are also working to reduce crime in American neighborhoods – another urban setting that sometimes features opponents with AK-47s. On the front lines abroad, the most widely deployed system comes from Raytheon-BBN Technologies, Inc., a firm that helped to invent the Internet. Enter a system called Boomerang…
Latest updates: $20M for fleet engineering support.
KC-135 & RNoAF F-16, Afghanistan
While Boeing and EADS duke it out for the USA’s $20-30 billion KC-X order of about 175 aerial tankers with secondary cargo capacity, the existing KC-135 fleet still needs to be maintained. Based on the 707 airliner’s initial designs, the KC-135s first entered service in 1954, and they were delivered until 1965. Despite their age, they remain the mainstay of the USA’s aerial tanker fleet as it helps fighters make long-distance flights, keeps US and foreign combat air patrols on station, refuels transports on their way to remote destinations, and generally makes long-range force projection possible.
Unforeseen mechanical issues and the accompanying fleet groundings would create a crippling bottleneck in this defining array of American airpower capabilities, which is why KC-X was designated as the USAF’s highest procurement priority. Meanwhile, the KC-135s need to be well and carefully maintained in order to avoid that bottleneck. Which is why Boeing received a $1.1 billion, 10-year contract to maintain the USAF’s KC-135 fleet, after breaking with its former partners at Pemco/AAII. That kicked off a series of competitions, appeals, and reversals that reached all the way to American appeals courts:
Latest updates: With GATM done, this is this article’s final update.
KC-135R Stratotanker (click to view larger)
The goal of the KC-135 Global Air Traffic Management program is to update the US aerial tanker fleet’s avionics. The last KC-135 was delivered in 1966, and civil aviation has seen considerable changes to navigation and safety avionics since then. In order to help the USA’s critical aerial tanker fleet run more smoothly, and give them the option of flying in civil airspace, updates were required.
That has spawned a number of sub-programs, from Pacer CRAG to the current Block 45 avionics effort.
TV taught us what a “Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” was, but a “Mobile Parts Hospital”? Like a MASH unit that can go wherever it is needed, the MPH is designed as a front line resource for patching things up – but it is for machines, not men. Since their initial deployment in 2003, the MPHs have fabricated more than 100,000 replacement parts, replacement components, and special tools.
As Maj. Andris Ikstrums, 1st Battalion, 402nd Army Field Support Brigade support operations officer, puts it:
The US Navy flies the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and has just taken delivery of its first operational EA-18G Growler electronic warfare & strike aircraft. These buys are actually managed out of a common multi-year procurement (MYP) contract, which also manages many of the EA-18G’s support costs since it’s derived from the Super Hornet and many of the required maintenance items are common to both planes. The contract covers 42 aircraft per year, split between Super Hornets and EA-18Gs, with a variation quantity clause permitting up to 6 additional aircraft per year under the same terms.
DID already has an EA-18G FOCUS Article; we will be using this entry to cover the Super Hornet MYP program’s budgets, and this article has been updated to include all announced contracts since MYP-II began. The article is now closed, and returns to public access. For a follow up, see MYP-III: 2010-2013 Contracts.
In November 2005, the Australian Government, Tenix Defence and Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace (AA) have signed the P3 Accord Master Agreement to provide capability upgrades and Through Life Support (TLS) for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The three parties have established a Joint Management Office (JMO) to supervise all Accord activities under a unique risk-sharing contractual arrangement. The JMO will develop and implement all RAAF AP-3C capability upgrades and TLS solutions through to the aircraft’s planned withdrawal date – at which point it will likely be replaced by the 737-based AP-8A MMA.
The combined value of the TLS and block upgrades to the aircraft is expected to be more than A$ 1 billion, and the project is moving on to a new phase – even as some of the efforts that led to the most recent announcement win Australian awards…
The SSN-774 Virginia Class submarine was introduced in the 1990s as a Clinton-era reform that was intended to take some of the SSN-21 Seawolf Class’ key design and technology advances, and place them in a smaller, less heavily-armed, and less expensive platform. The resulting submarine would have learned some of the Seawolf program’s negative procurement lessons, while performing capably in land attack, naval attack, special forces, and shallow water roles. In the end, the Seawolf Class became a technology demonstrator program that was canceled at 3 ships, and the Virginia Class became the naval successor to America’s famed SSN-688 Los Angeles Class. The Virginia Class program was supposed to reach 2 submarines per year by 2002, removing it from the unusual joint construction approach between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding – but that goal has been pushed back to 2012 in progressive planning budgets.
In FY 2005 dollars, SSN-21 submarines cost between $3.1-3.5 billion each. According to Congressional Research Service report #RL32418, and the Navy is working toward a goal of shaving FY05$ 400 million from the cost of each Virginia Class boat, and buying 2 boats in FY2012 for combined cost of $4.0 billion in FY 2005 dollars – a goal referred to as “2 for 4 in 12”. In real dollars subject to inflation, that means about $2.6 billion per sub in 2012, and $2.7 billion in 2013. The Navy believes that moving from the current joint construction arrangement will shave FY05$ 200 million from the cost of each submarine, leaving another FY05$ 200 million (about $220 million) to be saved through ship design and related changes. “Virginia Block III: The Revised Bow” chronicles some of the significant cost-saving design changes underway to the Virginia Class Block 3 subs, which begin at SSN-784, the 11th ship of class.
How is the program doing? The good news is, they just won a major procurement award for their efforts…
The American military procurement system faces a number of challenges at the moment, and the news isn’t very good on many fronts. There are success stories in the field – some larger, some smaller. but every one the product of dedication and planning by the workers, firms, and government officials involved. This article highlights 2 recent “good news” items:
DMSP: Built Better. The DMSP constellation has been collecting weather data for U.S. military operations for almost 40 years, and 2 operational satellites are in a 101 minute, sun-synchronous near-polar orbit at all times. The primary weather sensor on DMSP is the Operational Linescan System, which provides continuous visual and infrared imagery of cloud cover over an area 1,600 nautical miles wide. Additional satellite sensors based on microwaves, infrared, sounders, et. al. measure atmospheric vertical profiles of moisture and temperature, detect developing patterns of weather and track existing weather systems over remote areas – including severe thunderstorms, hurricanes, and typhoons. They also measure local charged particles and electromagnetic fields to assess the impact of the ionosphere on ballistic-missile early warning radar systems and long-range communications, monitor global auroral activity, and predict the effects of “space weather” on satellite operations.
The 2006 controversy over the quality of Harrier support notwithstanding, close air support has proven to be a valuable asset to British forces in Afghanistan. When available and on-station, it provides a high-end counter to the standard enemy tactics of concentration and ambush. The cost of operating modern aircraft, however, and the size of modern air fleets, are both working to put a crimp in that option. Full battlefield coverage that can respond to any emergency within a few minutes is either cost-prohibitive, or beyond most militaries’ capabilities.
Fortunately, the rise of precision artillery fire offers an alternative with less reach, but 100% persistence and availability within its range. By 2010, MBDA expects to begin selling a loitering attack UAV called ‘Fire Shadow’ for use in Afghanistan. This one-shot, rocket-boosted UAV sports a range of 165 km, 10-hour endurance, and a 50 pound warhead. To succeed, however, it will have to outclass an already-fielded option: British forces began using the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System’s M30/31 GMLRS 227mm GPS-guided rockets and their 200 pound warheads in 2007, as a significant supplement to the UK’s close support options. British forces have recorded over 140 firings of the rockets in Afghanistan, which have earned GMLRS a nickname: “the 70 km sniper”.
During this period, the M270 MLRS has maintained 100% mission availability, often operating in ‘switched on and ready’ mode for 48 hours at a stretch. That kind of use, under conditions that differ significantly from their originally-envisaged role defending NATO from the USSR, created a March 2007 Urgent Operational Request for changes to the vehicle…