Every once in a while, a defense-related controversy becomes large enough to hit mainstream news outlets. Making the cover of TIME Magazine is often a good sign for world leaders, but it’s almost always a very bad sign for military programs. Especially a program that is just making its combat debut. TIME’s Oct 8/07 cover story “V-22 Osprey: A Flying Shame” pulls few punches:
“The saga of the V-22 – the battles over its future on Capitol Hill, a performance record that is spotty at best, a long, determined quest by the Marines to get what they wanted – demonstrates how Washington works (or, rather, doesn’t). It exposes the compromises that are made when narrow interests collide with common sense. It is a tale that shows how the system fails at its most significant task, by placing in jeopardy those we count on to protect us. For even at a stratospheric price, the V-22 is going into combat shorthanded. As a result of decisions the Marine Corps made over the past decade, the aircraft lacks a heavy-duty, forward-mounted machine gun to lay down suppressing fire against forces that will surely try to shoot it down. And if the plane’s two engines are disabled by enemy fire or mechanical trouble while it’s hovering, the V-22 lacks a helicopter’s ability to coast roughly to the ground – something that often saved lives in Vietnam. In 2002 the Marines abandoned the requirement that the planes be capable of autorotating (as the maneuver is called), with unpowered but spinning helicopter blades slowly letting the aircraft land safely. That decision, a top Pentagon aviation consultant wrote in a confidential 2003 report obtained by TIME, is “unconscionable” for a wartime aircraft. “When everything goes wrong, as it often does in a combat environment,” he said, “autorotation is all a helicopter pilot has to save his and his passengers’ lives.”
Recent developments are about to address one of these concerns, but TIME has hardly been the Osprey’s only critic, or the most thorough. That distinction probably belongs to a report published by the left-wing Center for Defense Information, which makes a number of very specific allegations re: the V-22’s technical and testing failings:
Brain injuries have become a focus of study and controversy received during the current war. This is partly the result of improved detection and understanding of maladies whose symptoms are sometimes subtle, and can be mistaken for purely psychological maladies. It is also partly the result of enemies whose primary tactical approach is land mine warfare. When these go off, they have a tendency to throw vehicles around pretty hard. Being slammed against the top or side of one’s vehicle leads to concussions, and sometimes to brain injuries. US veterans have been pushing for more work and funding in this area in order to help soldiers who have encountered this hazard, and to improve the future design of equipment and vehicles.
The US Department of Defense has been facing serious accounting and finance-related issues for years. Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. is one of many consulting companies trying to help them change that, and in May 2006 they received a new blanket purchase agreement (BPA) under contract HQ-0423-06-A-0011 in support of the Defense Finance and Service (DFAS) agency transformation initiative. The contract covers program management, accounting, training, human resource services and Information Technology services in support of the Transformation Directorate at DFAS Indianapolis, IN. Booz consultants role will assist DFAS in planning and executing agency efforts and lead a team of vendors under the BPA through 21 contractor teaming arrangements. These services will be temporary support to closing DFAS locations, and are not anticipated to be required after agency transformation is complete.
The UK’s Parliamentary Defence Committee has released its 2007-08 Session report that looks at the UK’s new merged Defence Equipment & Support organization (formerly DPA and DLO), and assesses Britain’s major procurement programs. The “Tenth Report of Session 2007-08, Defence Equipment 2008, HC 295” offers conclusions on a number of fronts, beginning with this general philosophy and then moving on to specific programs:
“We note that the MoD is preparing advice to Ministers about the defence budget for the three years 2008-09 to 2010-11 and that the MoD acknowledges that there are likely to be cuts or delays to projects in the Equipment Programme. The MoD needs to take the difficult decisions which will lead to a realistic and affordable Equipment Programme. This may well mean cutting whole equipment programmes, rather than just delaying orders or making cuts to the number of platforms ordered across a range of equipment programmes. While it is the natural inclination of all governments and departments to avoid bad news by “moving programmes to the right” rather than by cutting out an entire capability which has many supporters, such an approach can cause in the long run more financial and operational damage than confronting the perennial problem of an over-ambitious Equipment Programme. A realistic Equipment Programme will give confidence to our Armed Forces that the equipment programmes that remain will be delivered in the numbers and to the timescale required, and will also allow industry to make informed investment decisions.”
“Sounding rockets carry scientific instruments into space along parabolic trajectories, providing nearly vertical traversals along their upleg and downleg, while appearing to “hover” near their apogee location. Whereas the overall time in space is brief (typically 5-20 minutes), for a well-placed scientific experiment launched into a geophysical phenomena of interest, the short time and low vehicle speeds are more than adequate (in some cases they are ideal) to carry out a successful scientific experiment. Furthermore, there are some important regions of space that are too low to be sampled by satellites (i.e., the lower ionosphere/ thermosphere and mesosphere below 120 km altitude) and thus sounding rockets provide the only platforms that can carry out direct in-situ measurements in these regions.”
Some agency of the USAF has issued a set of indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for $250 million, allowing multiple awards within a 7-year ordering period to cover engineering and technical services that support the Sounding Rocket Program 3. SRP3 provides launch systems and services for sub-orbital ballistic trajectories up to 5,500 km downrange. At this time $200,000 has been obligated.
The DefenseLINK announcement lists Robins AFB, which is incorrect. Robins AFB believes the contracts were issued through Kirtland AFB, NM, but Kirtland’s PA department claims no knowledge of them. For good measure, the contract numbers were crossed with different day’s announcement re: ECM systems for Pakistan. As best we can determine, winners include:
Orbital Science Corp. Launch Systems Group of Chandler, AZ (FA8818-08-D-0036)
Space Vector Corp. of Chatsworth, CA (FA8818-08-D-0037)
As Iraq’s military gets back to its feet, it has received armored vehicles, up-armored Hummers, and assorted weapons, vehicles, and aircraft. The initial priority on armed combat forces that could be supported by American combat logistics has started to give way to a buildup of Iraq’s own logistics and maintenance capabilities.
On March 21/08, the US DSCA announced a formal request by Iraq’s government for various vehicles, small arms and ammunition, communication equipment, medical equipment, and clothing and individual equipment as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.39 billion.
(Thanks to readers for pointing out the error in the previous version of this post.)
You’re in Afghanistan, at Bagram Air Base. The base needs water, which means drilling a well. The machine is shipped from Nellis AFB, NV to a port in Pakistan, but it’s loaded onto a flatbed trailer that gets the 34-ton piece of equipment stuck in a tunnel. It’s put on a different trailer, but the transport breaks and during the transfer process the rig comes off the trailer and flips over on its side. Total estimated damage is $413,000, and it’s considered non-repairable – but the rig is one of just 2 in the USAF’s inventory.
The manufacturer doesn’t want to send its people anywhere dangerous to look at the device or fix it (note to self: find other manufacturer next time). The next step is the USA’s Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, which will turn it into scrap. But Master Sgt. John Moreland, the 819th Red Horse Sqn. metals technology NCO in charge, insists that his team has the ability to attempt a fix. After 3 months, he is given permission to try – as long as no money is spent.
A new submarine rescue system, owned jointly by France, Norway and the UK, has completed trials off the coast of Norway. The “SRV1” system is managed by the UK MoD’s Defence Equipment & Support team on behalf of the 3 nations. When in service it will be managed by In Service Submarines Integrated Project Team, and based at Faslane on the Clyde. Like its predecessor, the “SRV1” can be loaded into aircraft for fast response. Once it is declared operational, the existing LR5 rescue submersible and Scorpio remotely operated vehicle will leave operational service, and SRV1 will provide future rescue capability at an expected whole-life cost of GBP 157 million over 30 years.
The system consists of a free-swimming rescue vehicle with an A-frame portable launch and recovery system, a transfer-under-pressure facility to safely decompress personnel from a pressurised submarine, and an intervention system for survey and rescue preparation…
Virtexco Corporation in Norfolk, VA won $14.1 million for firm-fixed-price task order #0004 under a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, multiple award construction contract (N40085-06-D-4010). They will improve the Military Operations Urban Terrain (MOUT) training at Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, adding an urban combat training area of approximately 75 buildings and training structures. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, NC, and is expected to be complete by Oct. 2009. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic in Norfolk, VA received 3 proposals for this task order.
Urban operations are seen as a consistent feature of future conflicts, as well as current operations. Heavy investments have also been made in the USMC’s California facilities at Twentynine Palms.
General Dynamics C4 Systems in Taunton, MA won a ceiling $375 million firm-fixed-priced, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the Tactical Data Network Data Distribution System – Modular (TDN DDS-M). Delivery of the production quantities of TDN DDS-M is expected to begin in Sep. 2008. Work will be performed in Taunton, MA and is expected to be complete March 2013. Contract funds in the amount of $692,327 will expire at the end of the fiscal year. This contract was competitively awarded under a full and open, best value competition, with 4 offers provided. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, VA issued the contract (M67854-08-D-7036).
Based on commercial-off-the-shelf equipment, the TDN DDS-M comprises routers, switches, computers, power supply and other equipment needed for deployed Marine maneuver elements to use the Defense Information System Network (DISN), Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) and Non-secure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNet), as well as coalition and joint-forces networks. components include the LAN Services Module (LSM), Application Service Module (ASM), Communication Security Module (CSM), LAN Extension Module (LEM), Power Module (PM), WAN Service Module Version 1 (WSMV1), WAN Service Module Version 2 (WSMV2), Data Storage Module (DSM), Multimedia Distribution Module (MDM), Multimedia Control Module (MCM), Enterprise Switch Module (ESM), Information Assurance Module (IAM), and controller laptop PCs with a hard carrying case. The TDN-DDS-M system is an upgraded version of the Tactical Data Network (TDN)-Data Distribution System-Replacement (DDS-R), which was first awarded to General Dynamics in November 2006. Initial deliveries of TDN-DDS-M systems are scheduled for the third quarter of 2008. GD-C4S release | November 2006 pre-solicitation notice.