The Headquarters Air-To-Ground Munitions Systems Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, FL recently awarded two cost-plus fixed-fee R&D contracts under the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) Increment II, 42-month Risk Reduction Phase. The present generation SDB weapon has been surrounded by procurement controversies. SDB is designed to hit standing targets with GPS/INS accuracy and an outsize punch, given the small 250 pound size that allows aircraft and UAVs to carry far more weapons. Popular Mechanics notes that it’s part of a USAF drive to do more with less, a drive that includes “focused lethality munitions” as well as SDB.
The objective of the SDB II program is to take the idea one step further, and create a version that can hit mobile or movable targets in all weather. SDB weapons already have in-flight maneuverability thanks to their pop-out wings; the challenge will be to add the necessary sensors and controls to perform this job without compromising the bomb’s effectiveness or weight.
Weapons like Israel’s “Spice” bomb and recent JDAM tests indicate that this is very possible. So, what’s the plan?
Each year, NATO publishes updated figures on its members’ defense expenditures, based on the NATO definition of the term. Data is also provide with respect to key outside entities. The alliance has been doing this since 1963, and expenditures are available in PDF, HTML, or Excel format. Here are the 2005 results; the release notes that:
“Defence expenditures as of 2002 and personnel figures as of 2003 have been calculated on the basis of the revised NATO definition agreed in 2004, which excluded expenditure on Other Forces from the totals reported to NATO, except in the case of those elements of Other Forces which are structured, equipped and trained to support defence forces and which are realistically deployable. Most nations have reported defence expenditures according to this new definition, and in some cases (Greece, Hungary, Portugal and Turkey), this has resulted in a significant apparent decrease in defence expenditures. A few, however (France, Italy, Luxembourg and Netherlands ), continue to have difficulty meeting this requirement and the data provided by these countries did not fully accord with the new NATO definition on defence expenditures. For the Netherlands, data reflect the 2004 approved defence budget. For the Russian Federation, data was provided based on the previous NATO definition.”
The $2.2 billion dollar B-2 Spirit stealth bomber has long suffered from a significant problem: maintaining its stealth requires a great deal of ground work involving tape and caulking. Given that stealth is the bomber’s only real defense, flying them in compromised status is not an option. The result was predictable: very low “readiness rates” in the 30-45% range, which meant that the 21 bombers in the USA’s fleet really meant about 7-9 in the air after the initial opening phase of any conflict.
The USAF’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate worked with the B-2 Systems Group and material processing experts; and after some initial glitches, they think they may have this problem solved. If so, readiness rates could rise to figures approaching 70-80%. That makes a big difference to a high-value asset.
Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME won a $42.8 million cost-plus-award-fee modification to a previous contract (N00024-05-C-2310) for the continuation of DD (X) transition design efforts and initial detail design and long lead material procurement for construction of the first DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyer. The goal is to do this work before the award of a detail design completion contract, in order to minimize impact on the ship’s industrial base. The Pentagon notes that “The requirements for DD (X) will be procured, without full and open competition, from Bath Iron Works, one of only two qualified sources capable of completing the Flight 1 Class design and building a lead ship.” Work will be performed in Bath, ME and is expected to be complete by June 2006. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC issued the contract.
Small business qualifier Advanced American Construction Inc. in Oregon City, OR won a $14.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for removable spillway weir at the Lower Monumental Lock and Dam. Work will be performed in Franklin, WA (50%), and Walla Walla, WA (50%) just to its south, and is expected to be complete by March 13, 2007. There were 15 bids solicited on Jan. 24, 2006, and two bids were received. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Walla Walla, WA issued the contract (W912EF-06-C-0019).