Australia’s six SSK Collins-Class diesel-electric submarines are undergoing a major A$ 857 million (USD $624 million) capability boost, as integration & testing of the same tactical combat system present in the USA’s most modern attack submarines commences. Upgraded state-of-the-art Mk 48 Mod 7 ADCAP heavyweight torpedoes are also on the way. Meanwhile, the Royal Australian Navy is changing some of its recruiting practices and recruiting submariners directly, in an effort to attract the high-skills individuals needed to operate their new fleet.
The Collins were designed in cooperation with Kockums AB, but largely built in Australia. They are the world’s largest diesel-electric subs and among the most advanced as well, successfully scoring kills on American SSN Los Angeles Class attack subs during joint exercises. Yet their history has been replete with cost overruns, schedule overruns, and serious teething problems. Most of these issues have now been resolved, albeit at additional cost; the combat system upgrade is simply the latest, last, and most significant hangover from those past problems.
eDefense Online notes that when the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Air Assault Division deployed to Iraq in late October 2005, it contained more unmanned-aerial-vehicle (UAV) assets than any combat brigade in US Army history, with RQ-7 Shadow 200 platoons in all four brigades and RQ-11 Raven mini-UAVs in every company.
The (now defunct and unavailable) eDefense Online article added useful details that illustrate the process of forming and training these teams, and offer detailed tactical assessments of the systems from a front-line perspective. It was highly recommended, and fortunately DID offered judicious excerpts when we covered it.
Some interesting points raised in the eDefense article included:
The U.S. military already operates at least 1,500 UAVs, and that number is expected to quadruple by the end of this decade, according to the U.S. Navy League. Agencies like the US Department of Homeland Security are ordering their own UAVs, and the difficulty of coordinating UAVs and manned traffic is already causing a factor in Iraq, where at least one collision with a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter may have occurred. Meanwhile, Israeli researchers have figured out ways to incorporate flocking behavior and decision making into UAVs that improves upon individual UAV performance, and the US is investing in this area as well. In other words, not only will there be more UAVs, but more group/swarm UAV employment is also likely.
Can all this UAV traffic mingle safely with manned aircraft traffic, which is also expected to grow on the civilian side over the next decade?
ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning software, though some have suggested that “Expensive, Risky Projects” would also be apropos. The goal is to create one system that can replace tens or even hundreds of legacy I.T. systems, giving large organizations complete views into a specified area’s data and transactions (HR, supply chain, accounting, et. al.) for the first time. More than one business has invested millions in ERP implementations that can take many years to implement fully, and ended up scrapping the whole thing. Some of those failed private sector projects have had price tags over $100 million.
Oracle and SAP are now engaged in something of a spat with the US Air Force over a recent $88.5 million contract to implement the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS), which will retire some 500 legacy systems in favor of a single supply chain management application from Oracle. In response, German ERP vendor SAP has now filed a protest with the U.S. GAO (Government Accountability Office), on the grounds that SAP was the lowest risk offer. The darkly amusing aspect of all this is a September 2005 report [PDF format] from that same GAO, which slammed recent SAP implementations by the US Navy as “…failures, and $1 billion was largely wasted,” despite notes in the linked article that the US Navy was happy with some aspects of the project. DID will continue to watch this story with some interest, but we aren’t holding our breath waiting for an outpouring of sympathy from the GAO.
C-5 Refuels from KC-135 Note KC-135 = 707 airliner!
Lockheed Martin Co. in Marietta, GA is being awarded a $98 million firm fixed price, time and material and cost reimbursable contract. It will provide supply support, engineering and technical support, and software maintenance services to C-5 Galaxys modified under the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP), plus replenishment spares and non-warranty repair.