Nov 06, 2008 18:15 UTC
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IEEE originally stood for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, but the organization’s scope of interest has expanded into so many related fields that it’s now known only by its acronym. One field of intense interest to many IEEE members is the defense industry, and a recent IEEE Spectrum Magazine special offers a number of features that attempt to come to grips with current trends.
Right now, the current trends are not good. The US Navy is smaller than it has been in decades, currently has no viable shipbuilding programs for surface combatants, and has credibility issues in Washington. The US Army has a clear modernization strategy, but faces a maintenance overhang, challenges with both program management of its $160 billion Future Combat Systems meta-program and the very premises behind it, and other issues. The USAF has become concerned about its institutional future, even as its aircraft continue to see their average ages rise and respected outside organizations slam its procurement plans as fantasy. A recent Pentagon Defense Business Board report that examined programs from 2000 – 2007 throws the problem into stark relief: cost increases on 5 major weapons programs accounted for $206 billion, or 22%, of the total jump in spending for new arms so far this decade. The Defense Procurement Death Spiral is biting, hard, across the board.
There is plenty of blame to go around, from requirements definition problems and skewed incentives within the Pentagon, to Congressional interference and overhead – though the latter isn’t discussed much at Capitol Hill hearings. The IEEE Spectrum articles in this series offer a quick third party view. They are mostly quickie takes rather than in-depth analyses, and include:
Nov 06, 2008 13:35 UTC
Lockheed Martin’s Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod was selected to equip US Air force aircraft in a competitive flyoff, and the firm has strengthened the AN/AAQ-33’s global position with 9 export customers (Belgium, Britain, Canada, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore). The latest update is a $147 million delivery order from the USAF for additional surveillance and targeting pods, which currently serve in the USAF alongside Northrop Grumman/RAFAEL’s AN/AAQ-28 LITENING AT.
Lockheed Martin’s competitors continue to improve their products, and so does Lockheed. New feature in development include Quint Networking Technology to enable a 2-way data link between other Sniper ATP-equipped aircraft and ground parties; real-time, streaming video via its data link to an Army Apache helicopter using the Video from its VUIT-2 system; improved low-light and infrared capabilities; and algorithm upgrades. Like their competitors, most capabilities are delivered in a single line replaceable unit “black box” to allow fast swap-outs and upgrades. Lockheed Martin release.
Nov 03, 2008 17:20 UTC
“Il n’y a pas de liberte, il n’y a pas d’egalite, il n’y a pas de fraternite sans securite.”
— French President Nicolas Sarkozy
By mid 2007 it seemed that France’s President Sarkozy was softening on defense after an electoral stumble. In July 2007, Sarkozy put together a group that was tasked it with creating a White Paper to define France’s future defense policy. The last time an exercise of this type had been conducted was in 1994.
That group eventually returned with its report, and on June 17/08, President Sarkozy made a speech outlining the key elements of that future direction. The decisions made will change the shape of French defense spending, and will launch an attempt to implement an interlocking set of procurement, infrastructure, and political reforms and changes.
That plan has implications for NATO and the EU, while it received cabinet approval for a 6-year spending plan.
Continue Reading… »
Nov 03, 2008 15:00 UTC
MX-20, aka. AN/ASX-4
Oct 29/08: The Canadian government agency Canadian Commercial Corp. received a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity long-term contract for repair of the Advanced Imaging Multi-spectral Sensor used on the USA’s P-3 Aircraft. That 2005 contract bought about 60 of L-3 Wescam’s MX-20 surveillance and targeting turret, known as AN/ASX-4 in the US Navy. These turrets have been installed on the USA’s P-3C-AIP aircraft, which have been modified to add land attack and surveillance capabilities.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom 2003, the US Marines even took to embedding USMC Colonels on P3C-AIPs, in order to overrule retasking orders and ensure their unwavering support of Marine units in combat.
Old dog, new tricks
This 5-year contract contains a 2-year base period and 3 one-year option periods. FY 2009-2010 is covers the $12.4 million initial allocation; FY 2011 is negotiated at $6.6 million; FY 2012 is $6.8 million; and FY 2013 is set at $7.1 million. All told, the total contract value could rise to $32.9 million. Work will be performed by L-3 Wescam in Ontario, Canada, and work is expected to be complete by September 2010. A number of Canadian companies are signing contracts through CCC; the largest is the USA’s MRAP purchases of RG-31 mine-resistant vehicles. The Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA manages the MX-20 maintenance contract.
The rest of the USA’s P-3 fleet uses Wescam’s smaller and less capable MX-15 turrets, most of which were purchased under a 2005 contract.
Nov 03, 2008 13:47 UTC
Squaring the circle?
It has been almost a decade since a strike at a US company created widespread industrial disruption, but Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have created exactly that outcome. Last-minute bargaining extension and federal mediation efforts ran out at the end of September, with both sides acknowledging that their positions were too far apart to reconcile.
The strike that got now underway as of Sept 6/08 has shut down almost all of Boeing’s production lines, and some analysts believe it has cost the firm up to $100 million per day in lost revenue from deliveries. Boeing own Q3 2008 report confirmed a significant impact on revenues and profits.
While most reports have focused on the civilian angle, DID had a conversation with Boeing to clarify the strike’s impact on military production, and examine the key issues from both sides’ perspectives. That examination led to concern that this could be a long strike – and it has been. Now, a settlement has been reached, closing out a strike that ended up lasting 58 days.
Continue Reading… »
Nov 03, 2008 12:35 UTC
SEALs onto DDG-79
Even with the advent of robotic USVs that have been used successfully near Iraq, humans who can board a ship and search it are still necessary. Special Forces like SEALs had been performing these duties, but wartime demands made it obvious that this was not an ideal use of such highly-trained troops outside of special scenarios like hostage rescue.
These days, other groups like the US Marines are being trained for Non-compliant boarding visit, board, search and seizure (NCB VBSS) roles. The US Navy’s 2005 move to create expeditionary troops is seen as another way to find trained forces for this role, and is also highly relevant to the Navy’s efforts to rebuild its brown-water capabilities.
VBSS proficiency requires training, however…
Continue Reading… »
Nov 02, 2008 17:04 UTC
“Russian Arms Exports Taking Another Jump in 2008” noted the recovery of Russia’s arms industry, which faces significant rebuilding challenges but appears to be on track to surpass the $7.4 billion worth of deals signed in 2007. As “France Trying to Streamline Arms Exports” explained, a cumbersome system was dragging another key exporter down. Aviation Week’s DTI reports that the reforms are having some effect. France’s defense ministry reported that it had signed off on nearly EUR 4 billion in export contracts by the end of Q3 2008, and is on track to meet its 2008 goal of EUR 6 billion. That’s slightly above previous years, and almost double the nadir reached in 2004. Defense Minister Hervé Morin says that France’s long-term goal is to regain the share of the export market it enjoyed during the 1990s, and recover to 13% or about EUR 10 billion by 2010.
Key losses in Saudi Arabia and Morocco appear to have stung France’s bureaus into action. Morin credits some of the improved performance to MNA Yves Fromion’s approval reforms, which lengthened general approvals’ duration, discarded them for deals under EUR 150,000, and streamlined the application process. Morin says that wait times have dropped by over 60% to just 30 days on average, with 97% of applications now processed within a month and 20% of contracts given expedited treatment. The reforms also created an inter-ministerial committee to handle major deals, with 67 deals approved by the committee in the last 16 months. Morin is cautiously optimistic that contracts with Libya and Brazil can be signed before year’s end.
These improvements in Russia and France’s export efforts are somewhat complementary, given their defense industry links. Defense industry players in the USA, UK, and Israel can expect tougher competition at the global industry’s medium-high end. DTI, via Military.com | Reuters Africa.