DID offers thanks to all of our readers, and to all American and allied soldiers in uniform. We will return on Monday.
DID offers thanks to all of our readers, and to all American and allied soldiers in uniform. We will return on Monday.
It’s a threat that makes modern defense planners shiver. Small turbojets are not uncommon, even as basic GPS receiver technology has become cheap, and guidance systems sophisticated enough to fly unmanned aerial vehicles are being developed all over the world. If fuel efficiency, speed, range, and pinpoint accuracy aren’t driving concerns, they wonder, how hard and how cheap could it really be to slap together a cruise missile from nearly off-the-shelf parts, then fire it from a container ship offshore, flying 200 miles or more to its designated target area? And in an age of falling technology curves, what cargoes might such a weapon contain?
Just as anti-ballistic missile technology is developing itself for the coming age of the rogue state, America’s nets are slowly being drawn up against the cruise missile threat from those states… and one day, of less-than-states. Persistent surveillance is reaching beyond the limitations of aircraft, and into constant surveillance using lighter-then-air platforms like JLENS tethered aerostats, HAA airships with huge flexible IRIS radars, and even Navy blimps. Fighters are being fitted with AESA radars as the cost of T/R modules drops, and interlocking land and naval defenses include SM-2/3 missiles, mobile SLAMRAAM and MEADS missile launchers, and longer-range systems like THAAD that can be used against air-breathing threats in a pinch. All this is being networked into a single net via developments like Cooperative Engagement Capability, and more. In time, logic will also demand investments like very long-range supersonic ramjet air-air missiles to extend the intercept circle of patrolling aerial platforms, or threaten key enemy assets like AWACS and tankers behind the front lines. All this and more lies ahead, born of necessity in America – and beyond.
The scope of this threat makes for a daunting scenario when one considers the long coastlines of nations like the USA/Canada, India, Australia, Britain, et. al. Beyond the threat, however, some American military planners looked into this crystal ball and saw something more – an opportunity. It’s also an opportunity for 3 firms…
Gentex Corp. in Carbondale, PA received a maximum $67.3 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract from the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP) in Philadelphia, PA. for Advanced Combat Helmets. At current prices, that will buy more than 160,000 helmets, though the ACH also comes with a number of accessories. They will be made available to the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, all of whom have personnel serving as ground troops. The date of performance completion is Nov 21/10. This proposal was originally Dibbs solicited with 3 responses, and contract funds will expire at the end of FY 2009 (SPM1C1-09-D-0003).
The ACH replaces the old PASGT helmet in the Army, and offers a number of improvements including exposed ears to improve hearing, a set mount for night vision gear, better protection against bullets in covered areas, and a system of internal pads that improve protection against blasts and their accompanying potential for brain trauma. That padding has been a source of controversy, as the US Marines’ Light Weight Helmets (LWH) have been criticized for lacking this feature. Gentex manufactures a variety of American military helmets including the ACH, and in January 2008 they received a $95 million contract for the USAF’s Modular Aircrew Common Helmets (MACH) worn by pilots. MSA North American is another ACH manufacturer, who almost certainly competed for this current contract.
UPDATE: The US Army recalls over 34,000 of Gentex’s helmets, and the matter finds itself entangled in the affairs of Gentex’s lobbying firm, which closed in March 2009 after an FBI investigation into illegal campaign contributions. Read “PMA Group: A Look Inside the Earmark Game” for more.
Nov 17/08: Nammo Talley Defense, Inc. in Mesa, AZ received a $15.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 7,750 LAW M72A7 portable rockets from Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA, in order to replenish stockpiles. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ (70%); Camden, MS (16%); and Davidsville, PA (14%), and is expected to be complete by April 2011. Since Nammo Talley is the only LAW manufacturer, this contract was not competitively procured, but was sole source announced via the US Navy’s Electronic Commerce Office (M67854-09-C-1003).
“Israel: LAW on Order” explains the tactical tradeoffs involved in carrying LAW rockets vs. other portable anti-armor weapons. The M72A7 is well adapted to firing on enemy buildings and strongpoints, and has become the standard LAW order in the modern age. LAW rockets are also offered in M72A4 enhanced penetration and M72A5 penetration warheads, but the M72A7 has an insensitive warhead for greater safety, and an enhanced blast effect that makes it especially useful once it penetrates a building. This redesigned version of the LAW rocket has restarted production and returned to American military service in the last couple of years.
The SSN-774 Virginia Class submarine was introduced in the 1990s as a Clinton-era reform that was intended to take some of the SSN-21 Seawolf Class’ key design and technology advances, and place them in a smaller, less heavily-armed, and less expensive platform. The resulting submarine would have learned some of the Seawolf program’s negative procurement lessons, while performing capably in land attack, naval attack, special forces, and shallow water roles. In the end, the Seawolf Class became a technology demonstrator program that was canceled at 3 ships, and the Virginia Class became the naval successor to America’s famed SSN-688 Los Angeles Class. The Virginia Class program was supposed to reach 2 submarines per year by 2002, removing it from the unusual joint construction approach between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding – but that goal has been pushed back to 2012 in progressive planning budgets.
In FY 2005 dollars, SSN-21 submarines cost between $3.1-3.5 billion each. According to Congressional Research Service report #RL32418, and the Navy is working toward a goal of shaving FY05$ 400 million from the cost of each Virginia Class boat, and buying 2 boats in FY2012 for combined cost of $4.0 billion in FY 2005 dollars – a goal referred to as “2 for 4 in 12”. In real dollars subject to inflation, that means about $2.6 billion per sub in 2012, and $2.7 billion in 2013. The Navy believes that moving from the current joint construction arrangement will shave FY05$ 200 million from the cost of each submarine, leaving another FY05$ 200 million (about $220 million) to be saved through ship design and related changes. “Virginia Block III: The Revised Bow” chronicles some of the significant cost-saving design changes underway to the Virginia Class Block 3 subs, which begin at SSN-784, the 11th ship of class.
A lot has been written in recent years about the improvements in air-air missiles. Short-range air-air missiles (SRAAMs) have received particular attention due to their vastly improved wide-angle seekers, computer processor improvements driven by Moore’s Law, and the ability to pull several times more ‘gs’ than manned fighter aircraft when maneuvering. Some analysts now believe that close-in aerial combat may at last be threatening to fulfill missile engineers’ old claims of “see, fire, and kill” – a development that would make cheap aircraft with new missiles a very significant threat, if true. Medium range AAM (MRAAM) designs have also made significant strides in performance.
How big are these strides? Normally, hitting a missile in the atmosphere or in the lower echelons of space requires large mid-course interceptor rockets, or theater defense missiles like IAI/Boeing’s Arrow 2 or the USA’s THAAD, or the naval SM-3. But what if all the energy required to get off the ground and up to speed was already taken care of, line of sight was expanded considerably by being at altitude, and the defensive missile could be moved very close to the enemy launcher? If that was true, could you take an in-service medium range air-air missile (MRAAM), turn it into a 2-stage rocket with a complementary infrared seeker from an in-service SRAAM, and use it as a first line of defense to counter, say, a ballistic missile during its early launch phase?
Raytheon, and the US Missile Defense Agency, think the answer may be “yes.” Allied pilots in Desert Storm could sometimes see Iraqi SCUD missile launches – but in 1991, they were powerless to do anything about them. By 2006, technology had advanced enough that Raytheon and the US MDA introduced NCADE, the “Network Centric Airborne Defense Element.” Its potential may be even greater than its sponsors have considered…
The American military procurement system faces a number of challenges at the moment, and the news isn’t very good on many fronts. There are success stories in the field – some larger, some smaller. but every one the product of dedication and planning by the workers, firms, and government officials involved. This article highlights 2 recent “good news” items:
DMSP: Built Better. The DMSP constellation has been collecting weather data for U.S. military operations for almost 40 years, and 2 operational satellites are in a 101 minute, sun-synchronous near-polar orbit at all times. The primary weather sensor on DMSP is the Operational Linescan System, which provides continuous visual and infrared imagery of cloud cover over an area 1,600 nautical miles wide. Additional satellite sensors based on microwaves, infrared, sounders, et. al. measure atmospheric vertical profiles of moisture and temperature, detect developing patterns of weather and track existing weather systems over remote areas – including severe thunderstorms, hurricanes, and typhoons. They also measure local charged particles and electromagnetic fields to assess the impact of the ionosphere on ballistic-missile early warning radar systems and long-range communications, monitor global auroral activity, and predict the effects of “space weather” on satellite operations.
Ships, like cars, need maintenance. Some of it is performed onboard by the crew, while other aspects are farmed out to contractors. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division in Philadelphia, PA are the Navy’s experts for maritime technology and naval machinery, providing cradle-to-grave support. That office recently issued a set of multiple-award, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity cost-plus fixed-fee contracts, covering engineering and technical shipboard alteration services for maintaining the fleet operational and material readiness of hull, mechanical and electrical systems and equipment on U.S. naval vessels.
Work will be performed in Norfolk, VA (30%); Mayport, FL (20%); Bremerton, WA (13%); San Diego, CA (12%); Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (9%); Sasebo, Japan (9%); Portsmouth, NH (5%); and the Persian Gulf (2%), and is expected to be completed by November 2013. These contract were competitively procured via Federal Business Opportunities, with 7 offers received, and 5 winners announced to date:
Oman has a long history of close relations with Britain, and this carries over into that country’s defense equipment. The al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Sultanat Oman (RAFO) currently has 3 fighter squadrons. RAFO 10 squadron finished its conversion from Jaguar strike aircraft to F-16C/D Block 50/52+ fighters in 2006, but 8 sq and 20 sq continue to operate the old Jaguars [vid. extreme low-level flight video]. All are formally based at Thumrayt in the southwest, near the border with Yemen and away from the entrance to the Gulf. With that said, they have been known to operate from Seeb air base in the northeast, near the capital of Muscat.
In November 2008, Britain’s Financial Times reported that the remaining Jaguars may be next on the replacement block, as BAE Systems is in direct talks with the Omani government to sell them up to 24 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. The deal’s rumored value is GBP 1.4 billion (about $2.08 billion), which is slightly low but not wildly out of line with past Eurofighter purchases. That move would complete the RAFO’s fighter recapitalization, offering it an air fleet that could operate within the Gulf Cooperation Council alongside Bahraini and UAE F-16s, and forthcoming Saudi Eurofighters, while remaining relevant and competitive for many years to come. Financial Times | Agence France Presse.
Nov 5/08: SAIC Technology Services Co., of San Diego, CA received an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for $16 million for R&D under a Broad Agency Announcement entitled “Electro Magnetic Effects Research and Development.” This research will examine aspects of high power EM lethality, with missions that include survivability of military equipment high power microwave (HPM) environments, the development of HPM weapons, and the refinement of HPM-predictive modeling for inclusion into engagement and campaign-level models. The military woul like SAIC to make optimum use of available AFRL/RDH capital assets and to augment or complement AFRL/RDH capabilities, rather than pursuing its research alone. The Air Force Research Laboratory/RDKP, Det 8 Directorate of Contracting at Kirtland AFB, NM manages this contract (FA9451-06-D-0222, P00009).
EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) is a side-effect of intense radiation bursts, usually from a nuclear weapon. Its effect is to fry most semiconductor-based electronics within its effective range, which is to say most electronics these days. This gives EMP a potential offensive use via strategically placed nuclear airbursts. Rep Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD] has led the charge on this issue in Congress, working to establish an EMP Commission that has reported on the USA’s general vulnerability to such attacks, and further research continues. HPM includes EMP, but it can also be much less dramatic. As one example, there are claims that some modern AESA radars might be able to focus their arrays, in order to produce a very localized HPM effect that could impair or even disable enemy radars. With AESA radars set to deploy in Russian and European fighters over the next decade, a better understanding of the applied physics involved makes sense for both defensive and offensive reasons.