The US is considering extending joint operations with its allies to military space and cyberspace.
The Economist is giddy about the convergence of new materials, online collaboration, 3D printing and more effective robots leading to another manufacturing revolution. To see to what extent these combined trends will play out in the defense sector, one project to watch is DARPA’s Vehicleforge set in motion last year by a $4M award to Vanderbilt University. They recently posted a presolicitation for Component, Context, and Manufacturing Model Library 2 (C2M2L-2) or “the second round of domain-specific models needed to enable the design, verification, and fabrication of the chassis and survivability subsystems.” One significant constraint is DARPA’s goal of remaining within an open source model, while there might be valuable inputs out there that may remain out of reach for legal reasons (ITAR for instance).
David Van Buren left his position as chief of US Air Force acquisition to join L-3 as senior vice president of business strategy. Buren started his career as an Air Force officer in the seventies, then worked in the private sector for almost three decades, to return to the USAF in 2008.
Boeing’s GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb Phase I (SDB-I) is a specially shaped 250-pound bomb. Its thin and pointed shape gives it extra punch against buildings and hardened targets, its pop-out wings give it very good glide range, and its JDAM-like GPS/INS guidance kit gives it precision. Raytheon’s GBU-53 SDB-II bombs added the ability to strike moving targets.
While there have been true stories of “cement bombs” designed to lower collateral damage, “Focused Lethality Munitions” take a higher-tech tack. This Small Diameter Bomb variant changes the bomb’s casing and internal fill, in order to produce more devastating effects within a smaller area. A carbon-fiber bomb body disintegrates instead of fragmenting, which adds explosive force nearby but largely removes shrapnel issues beyond. Inside, metal particles turn the explosive material into short-range projectiles. The result is especially useful in urban areas, in situations where friendly elements are close to the impact zone, and in campaigns fought using contemporary American counter-insurgency doctrine. Publicly-announced orders have included:
The Pentagon released a report [PDF] on space export control policy after it reviewed, in cooperation with the Department of State, whether satellites and their components could be taken off the United States Munitions List (USML). They found that other countries have less restrictive rules and recommend loosening US legislation as well as giving more authority to the executive branch in such decisions. “Higher fences around fewer items” is how the Administration describes its policy. Early expressions of support or opposition in Congress seemed to follow party lines. Will this eventually make life easier for Thales Alenia?
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) loves directed-energy weapons [PDF]. Cost asymmetry – imposed by or to the enemy – has a lot to with it:
US Senator Richard Lugar [R-IN], ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, says the Obama administration should not bypass early, informal consultations with Congress before formally notifying it of a planned foreign military sale.
The Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS) portal is a new online resource set up to help DoD and its industry partners to “implement best practices for monitoring, tracking, resolving, and performing analytical logistic and engineering analysis related to obsolescence impacts.”
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) updated its military expenditure database with 2011 numbers. Their estimate of $1.7 trillion is about flat in real terms, once inflation and exchange rate fluctuations are taken into account. Africa followed by the Middle East saw the biggest increases in relative terms. Europe saw the largest decrease but this hides stark differences between Western/Southern members of the Euro – where spending is dropping – and Eastern Europe where it is increasing markedly.
Defense Industry Daily’s motion chart of SIPRI’s data at the bottom of this entry shows how, in less than a decade, East Asia has filled half the gap that separates it from Western and Central Europe. Given their likely respective growth rates in coming years, the same chart in a decade may well show them at about the same levels. A lot of the jump in North American numbers at the end of the 2000’s was due to US operational war spending that is already shrinking.
The British Royal Navy’s latest yearbook [PDF] is out. UK Armed Forces Commentaryreviews some of its highlights.
The US and the UK have finalized a bilateral defense trade treaty that puts in place a new exemption (§126.17- the UK Exemption) to ITAR(International Traffic in Arms Regulations). See Frequently Asked Questions.
South Korea’s Daewoo continues to expand its military shipbuilding reach. Fresh off wins in Indonesia (Type 209 submarines) and Britain (MARS support ship/ oilers), it has signed an MoU with Peru for submarines and “multi-role support ships.” To turn that into a contract, they’ll have to clinch a final deal with the government, but the MoU gives them exclusive negotiating rights. Peru currently operates 6 old U209 submarines, and could use some support ships built after the 1980s.
India’s new Talwar Class frigate, Teg, has completed sea trials, and is scheduled for handover at its Russian shipyard on April 27/12.
India stood up its 3rd squadron of naval surveillance UAVs, made up of IAI Searcher and IAI Heron UAVs. The southern INAS 344 squadron is in Tamil Nadu, joining its fellow squadrons to the west (Gurajat) and East (Kerala).
Research funded by the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) is using recently-improved friction-stir welding (FSW) techniques at the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing (NCAM) to see whether titanium could be used for shipbuilding. Using titanium instead of steel for ship hulls would reduce maintenance costs because you wouldn’t have to obsess about corrosion, and lower fuel costs – or allow bigger payloads – because titanium is lighter and stronger. But then that metal is much more expensive than steel and harder to work with. Titanium is used for piping in San Antonio class ships and that required the development of sophisticated welding techniques and craftsmanship too. Whether the Soviet Union was using titanium to build submarines during the Cold War kept CIA analysts busy in the 70s. Around the same time the ONR rebuilt its ALVIN submersible in titanium which allowed pretty deep dives.
Admiral James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke at CSIS’ Global Security Forum 2012 yesterday. The topic of sequestration came up during the Q&A after his address [PDF]. Showing a position that’s in line with comments made by DoD Comptroller Robert Hale a few weeks ago, Winnefeld said:
Radios are vital to US Special Operations Command. Their tactics depend on high levels of training and coordination, and their operations need both high-bandwidth networking and reliable communications when calling for backup. On top of that, weight and bulk are precious commodities. US SOCOM’s Capital Equipment Replacement program aims to replace legacy multiband inter/intra team (MBITR) AN/PSC-5D radios with newer, lighter, better-performing JTRS-compatible equipment. SOCOM’s 75th Ranger Regiment are conducting combat evaluations [PDF] of full JTRS Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit PRC-154 Rifleman and PRC-155 Manpack radios, but the CER buys will involve a set of proven, JTRS-compatible radios that are already widely deployed under the US CISCHR contract. Over the next 5 years, up to $790 million will go to…
The Pentagon’s 2013-2042 annual aviation inventory and funding plan is available via Bloomberg, in a context of aging aircraft. It says 5th generation assets will go from 7% of the current force of manned fighter aircraft to about 25% by FY 2022 based on a F-35 production ramp up. Fighter spending is about equal between the Air Force and Navy in FY 2013 but the next years see a gap in favor of USAF. Total spending (i.e. RDT&E, procurement, MILCON, and O&M) is projected to $770B in then-years over the next 10 years. See data tables and charts of DoD’s projected aicraft inventory at the bottom of this entry.
DoD’s long term aicraft plan include a T-X trainer replacement “envisioned to begin production around FY18 with a planned IOC in FY20”, and replacements for T-45Cs and T-44s to be identified next decade. They expect the V-XX new presidential helicopter to begin operating in 2023. Further out, the 30-year plan mentions in passing F-X and FA-XX replacements to the F-22 and F/A-18, respectively.