RAND’s National Defense Research Institute does a lot of work for the US military and defense intelligence communities under joint contract DASW01-01-C-0004. One recent piece addresses the future of America’s carrier fleet, whose size and capabilities make it unique in the world. The report’s introduction notes:
“Because they offer unparalleled mobility, provide sustained military presence, can send signals of U.S. concern and possible actions, and free the United States from having to conduct flight operations from foreign bases or obtain permission from foreign powers to fly over territory, aircraft carriers likely will continue to be an asset of choice for years to come. Indeed, it is entirely possible that, as the United States seeks ways to stretch its defense dollars, pursue the Global War on Terrorism, and meet other national-security challenges, policymakers will increase their reliance on aircraft carriers, using them more often and in more situations than they have in the past, especially if the vessels have the additional capabilities to respond appropriately.
The current and expected use of aircraft carriers led the U.S. Navy in fall 2004 to commission the RAND Corporation to explore new and nontraditional ways that the United States might be able to employ aircraft carriers in pursuit of traditional and emerging military and homeland defense missions…”
Modern technology gives soldiers many capabilities considered unthinkable 50 years ago, from ubiquitous night vision, to laser sighting that dramatically improves marksmanship, to GPS devices that make it possible for soldiers to know where they are at all times, and more. All these wonders come with a severe penalty, however: batteries. Power-hungry devices “eat” them quickly, and the batteries are not standardized for different systems. As a result, combat loads for already-overtaxed soldiers can easily go up by 10 pounds or more, just to accommodate the batteries.
Back in May 2005, DID looked at Turkey’s launch of a $700 million helicopter competition to provide 32 military utility helicopters and 20 fire fighting helicopters. Last week, the Turkish Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM) extended the submission date for the TSK Helikopter Program RFP from June 15, 2006 to September 15, 2006. The original reply date had been December 5, 2005. In addition, the Request for Proposal (RFP) issued on January 6, 2006 for the Turkish Basic Trainer Aircraft (TEU) Program has been extended until July 14, 2006, at the request of the potential bidders that received the RFP. Defense-Aerospace.com carried both the TSK helicopter and the TEU trainer releases.
On Sept 8, 2005, DID noted that AirLaunch LLC would soon be negotiating with DARPA to begin negotiations for a development contract under the FALCON/Common Aero Vehicles program, which aims to launch small satellite payloads and possibly even hypersonic aircraft into space for less than $5 million, and on only 24 hours notice. This would give the USA a unique capability that could be extremely useful in crisis situations, and is one aspect of “operationally responsive space.”
One of the most innovative ideas is AirLaunch LLC’s QuickReach small satellite booster, which is launched by rolling it out the back of a C-17 transport plane…