After almost 2 years of denial, US Defense Undersecretary Ashton Carter instructed the services to work on FY 14 and FY15 budgeting scenarios that span a range going from the president’s unrealistic FY14 budget to full sequestration (~10% lower). Give it another year or two and they might start to defend sequestration.
The $300+ billion, multi-national F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is the largest single military program in history. It’s also reaching a critical nexus. In order to keep costs under control and justify the industrial ramp up underway, participating countries need to sign order agreements soon. The problem is that the F-35 isn’t a proven fighter design, with a demonstrated baseline of performance in service. It’s a developmental aircraft in the early middle of its test program, which is now scheduled to continue until 2018 or even 2019.
As one might expect, this status makes the F-35 a controversial long-term bet in many of the program’s member countries. Costs aren’t certain, numbers ordered are slipping in many countries, and timelines aren’t certain after numerous schedule delays. With combat testing still a year or 2 away, even operational performance isn’t certain. That performance is a big deal to many air forces that expect to field the F-35 as their only fighter.
This article takes a much closer look at the F-35’s real air superiority potential and weaknesses, from the 2008 RAND Pacific Vision study that triggered so much controversy, to other analyses and subsequent developments. Understanding and their implications for partner nation participation has only grown in importance since 2008. Let us begin…
4 major defense-focused American think tanks joined forces to weight budget trade-offs for the Pentagon over the next 10 years. They have a clear consensus [PDF] to primarily target personnel, and more specifically DoD civilians, for cuts, whether sequestration is applied fully or partially. 3 of them also seem to really like stealthy UAVs, while AEI likes their stealth aircraft manned (probably a more realistic option given the chosen timeframe) and doesn’t see the same need for a cyber splurge. Surface combatants would also be significantly cut under most of their scenarios. These organizations are possibly starting to think too much alike.
In late May 2013, Thales UK signed a 10-year, GBP 600 million Sensor Support Optimisation Project (SSOP) with the Ministry of Defence. It extends the 2003 Contractor Logistics Support deal that covered electronic warfare/ ESM and sonar system support on an array of submarines and surface ships.
SSOP coverage includes all British submarine classes (SSN Trafalgar and Astute classes, SSBN Vanguard Class), Type 45 Daring Class destroyers, Type 23 Duke Class frigates, and the Hunt and Sandown Classes of minehunting vessels. It also covers all visual systems (periscopes etc.) for all Royal Navy submarines, which had been a separate contract with Thales UK’s optronics business in Glasgow. This progression is familiar to readers who have followed British Future Contracting for Availability practices over the last several years.
Spain’s armament exports decreased by 19.6% in 2012 after a record 2011, to EUR 1.95B (about $2.5B). That is still more than twice the yearly average up to 2010. Australia replaced Venezuela as their largest purchaser. El Pais [in Spanish].
According to the Washington Post, a confidential section of a recent Defense Science Board report says Chinese hackers gained access to “more than two dozen” US weapon systems, from missile defense to fighter jets.
Monday, May 28th is Memorial Day in the USA. DID honors those who have given all of their tomorrows in American military service; we will not be publishing. Readers are reminded that in America, the Memorial Day moment of silence takes place at 3:00 pm.
It seems that lots of reminders are needed. A survey commissioned by The National WWII Museum in Washington had only 20% say they were very familiar with the day’s purpose, which is to honor those who have fallen in America’s wars. It’s the same purpose as Remembrance Day/ Armistice Day (Nov. 11th) in the British Commonwealth and elsewhere – but in America, November 11th is Veteran’s Day, honoring all who have served in the US military.
For additional resources, USAA has a full video that includes Hugh Ambrose (Band of Brothers, The Pacific, etc.), and the American National WWII Museum’s MyMemorialDay.org offers some ideas for honoring this day. One more idea might to be teach our fellow Americans. Email a good treatment of the day to people you know outside the national security field, and encourage them to forward it on.
The YouTube video above is offered as one possible option. Thanks to “Two Five Papa” for the recommendation.
Russia’s finance and defense ministries are considering postponing part of the country’s ambitious military revitalization plans. They must have a big spreadsheet that models what the oil and gas boom in the United States could do to energy prices and the balance of their budget in the coming decade. Kommersant via RIA Novosti | WSJ.
Peru’s 12 Mirage 2000C/B and 18 MiG-29S fighters form the backbone of its current multi-role fighter fleet, alongside old SU-22 strike fighters and specialized SU-25 close air support jets. The Mirages were bought from France in 1985, while the MiG-29s arrived via a disastrous 1995 deal with Belarus. Fortunately, Peru patched things up with Russia, and RAC MiG agreed to provide service and support. In 2008, a contract began modernize that MiG fleet to the MiG-29SMT standard. In 2009, Dassault began working with Peru on a comprehensive inspection of the Mirage fleet, coupled with some electronics modernization.
These purchases have been expensive, and a number of observers have questioned their usefulness against more pressing security concerns, like Peru’s fanatical Marxist Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”) guerrillas. On the other hand, the FAP still remembers the 1995 Canepa War with Ecuador, and its Russian fighters are stationed very close to that border at Chiclayo and Talara. Its Mirage 2000Ps sit at La Joya near Bolivia and Chile; the 3 countries have a minor 3-way maritime borders dispute, and residual tensions with Chile have been a long-running theme in Peru. This article covers Peru’s ongoing efforts to maintain and improve its core fighter fleet.