“USA’s B-2 Bombers Leading the Way in Contracting for Availability” described the new support arrangements for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which has historically had availability rates that hovered around 50%. Since there are only 21 of these aircraft in existence, that simple logistics change is likely to have major consequences for American power projection capabilities.
So what’s the scandal? And is there really a murder involved? Yes, there is. The scandal is described in brief below, and Swiss authorities have just handed $34 million back – with conditions attached.
The F/A-22 and F-35‘s advanced built-in radars and electronics can be levered to turn these planes into electronic warfare aircraft. Meanwhile, some of the key trends in military I/O highlight the increasing need for high-bandwidth links. That need is biting with equal or greater force between aircraft, and between aircraft and other platforms, as the increasingly rich array of combat data available finds itself constricted by older protocols and low-bandwidth linkages.
As it turns out, the solution may have been sitting right under their noses.
Naval gunfire support is ultra-quick, unaffected by weather, never worries about enemy air defenses, and has saved the lives of many soldiers and Marines over the years. In Vietnam and engagements like Lebanon in the 1980s, this role was performed by Iowa class battleships and their 16-inch guns, firing shells the size of small Volkswagens up to 20 miles inland in a marriage of reactive firepower and sheer intimidation.
Nobody has battleships on call any more. These days, the high end of naval gunfire support options involves the not-yet fielded DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class destroyers/ light cruisers, $3+ billion, 14,500t ships with the most advanced air defense systems and sonars for protection, and a pair of 155mm howitzers on board that can rapid-fire GPS-guided ammunition 80-100 miles inshore. In the middle we have European countries with 100-127mm naval guns, and abortive efforts like Germany’s MONARC system that aimed to increase range and punch via a 155mm mobile howitzer turret on a frigate-sized ship.
Then there’s the low end, where Finland is funding a study that’s about as far away from the DDG 1000 idea as you can get – but may be very effective in its own right…
SURVICE Engineering Co. in Belcamp, MD received a $25 million cost-plus-fixed-fee with cost reimbursable contract. They will handle munitions effectiveness and target delivery schedules for the analysis division of the USAF Air Armament Center. Some of the major programs managed by the center include the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-air missile, High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile radar-killer, HARM Targeting System, JASSM, JDAM, Miniature Air Launched Decoy, Sensor Fuzed Weapon (those infamous “cans of whup-ass”), and the Small Diameter Bomb.
This effort covers technical and analytical studies and analyses, theoretical investigations, computer programming and program documentations, mathematical computations, and special operation analysis. At this time, $174,987 have been obligated. Solicitations began Feb. 2007, negotiations were complete May 2007, and work will be complete May 2012. The Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, FL issued the contract (FA9200-07-C-0056).
On June 8/07, DID covered some construction support for US SOCOM’s operations in the Philippines, and pointed out that these kinds of contracts fit into a larger doctrine. They also fit into a larger set of efforts against an Islamist group known as Abu Sayyaf, which has been responsible for a number of terrorist acts in the Philippines, cooperates with other terrorist groups in the region like Jemaah Islamiyah, and was part of the 1995 effort to execute Operation Bojinka involving the assassination of the Pope during his visit to the country, the highjacking and destruction of 11-12 jumbo jets, and an attack on CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA by crashing a plane into it. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed never was the type to think small, as subsequent events would once again demonstrate.
The security situation in the Philippines has been serious at times, but the process of fighting this battle has involved a somewhat cooperative and functioning government – and hence a different approach to the conflict. In addition to SOCOM’s efforts, the US Embassy in Manilla’s details recent activities that include payouts of $10 million in rewards to Philippine citizens, the posting of additional reward offers, road-building in Cotabato on Mindanao, a joint US Navy/Philippine Navy operation to provide cataract surgery to locals in Zamboanga, et. al. Recent news includes a DSCA request for a large shipment of tactical radios, and delivery of 10 out of 20 modernized UH-1H Huey helicopters to the Philippines’ armed forces…
Australia has moved ahead on a number of fronts to bolster its forces in the field with unmanned aerial vehicles. At the squad level, Elbit Systems’ Skylark IV mini-UAVs provide immediate surveillance capabilities. For longer and wider-ranging surveillance, the JP129 competition resulted in additional orders for IAI’s I-View 250, via a partnership with Boeing Australia.
Recently, the ADF began contracting with Boeing for additional UAV services. The ScanEagle UAV has proven to be very popular with the US Marines and Navy, has been fitted with sniper spotter and WMD-detection packages, and can be deployed from ship or ashore. Boeing has received contracts to work alongside the ADF and operate the UAV in Iraq – and now, in Afghanistan as well.
Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems, Missile Defense Division in San Bernardino, CA received an $8,.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to investigate a concept for a conventional ballistic missile capable of destroying targets at global range in less than one hour flight time. Northrop Grumman will deliver: (1) a delivery vehicle parametric design study, (2) a mission/program planning study. It will be interesting to see how the latency issues are addressed in NGC’s studies.
At this time, all funds have been obligated. Solicitations began April 2007, negotiations were complete May 2007, and work will be complete June 2009. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA (FA8814-07-C-0005).
In order to make maximum use of existing system elements and reduce the cost and development risk associated with a future acquisition, Northrop Grumman will make use of Orbital’s Minotaur rocket, and a delivery vehicle designed to carry and dispense multiple BLU-108B/B sensor fused weapons to the target area. DID has covered these BLU-108 “cans of whup-ass” before; they’re tuna-can shaped explosively-formed penetrators (EFP) with millimeter-wave sensors that use parachutes to spread out in the air, then fire downward through the thin top-armor of enemy vehicles to kill those in their coverage area.
Granite Construction Co. in Watsonville, CA received an $8 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for flood control and ecosystem restoration along Tucson Arroyo/Arroyo Chico Watershed in Tucson, AZ. Work is expected to be complete by Oct. 1, 2008. Bids were solicited via the World Wide Web on Oct. 12, 2006, and 1 bid was received by The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Los Angeles, CA (W912PL-07-C-0014). Pima Country’s Regional Flood Control District adds more details:
“The Arroyo Chico/Tucson Arroyo and its tributaries – High School Wash, Railroad Wash, Citation Wash, Paseo Grande Wash and Naylor Wash – drain an area of 11.4 square miles located in central and downtown Tucson. These ephemeral watercourses drain a watershed which is fully developed and contains a mix of residential, commercial and industrial areas. A segment of the lower watershed main channel is conveyed through an underground two-barrel, 10 feet wide by 8 feet high concrete box culvert for approximately 1.7 miles that was originally constructed in the 1920s. Because of the increased runoffs due to urbanization of the contributing watersheds, the capacities of the open channel/culvert sections are generally inadequate to convey the peak flows caused by intense thunderstorm events, resulting in frequent and severe flooding of residential, commercial and industrial areas along the entire length of the arroyo. Flood damages to both private properties and public infrastructures are estimated by the Corp of Engineers at $3.2 million annually.”
Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs) are seeing more us these days in aerospace, replacing the nickel, chromium and titanium alloys historically used in high-temperature zones like rocket motors and turbine engine hot exhaust areas. In addition to their thermal protection, they can offer weight reductions of up to 50%. The GE/Rolls Royce F136 engine that serves as the F-35 Lightning II‘s “second engine” program uses Silicon Carbide CMCs, and the material is even being considered for naval and aircraft structures.
Aurora Flight Sciences recently announced that the company has received a grant from the West Virginia High Technology Consortium and NASA for the development of Laser Assisted Machining of Silicon Carbide Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs) for Space Propulsion Structures…