Military bases are often home to environmental disasters, and mitigation costs are significant enough today that it exerts a real and behavior-changing influence on the U.S. military. But the liabilities are not considered “strict liabilities” as federal Superfund sites are, which means generally that the military can be held liable only if it failed to abide by requirements of the day. Such was the case when a federal judge dismissed a case against the Army regarding Fort Detrick TCE pollution.
The Pentagon’s director of operational testing indicated that the Littoral Combat Ship’s mine detection packages fail to so far to meet the Navy’s minimum requirements. In addition to operator inexperience, the failure was chalked up in part to software and integration issues. The Navy was hoping for a green light by September 2015. He also indicated that changes announced last month to a later tranche of 20 future ships, to be built after the first 32, wouldn’t change the likelihood of loss if an LCS were to be so unfortunate as to actually get into a fight.
The ever-even-keeled Congressional Research Service published a report over the holidays giving the current status of China’s naval improvements, which are substantial. The quality of its ships and training increased dramatically, making a gross numbers analysis less informative. Its weaknesses remain lack of integration with other service branches, lack of experience and lack of long-range deployment sustainability.
The General Accountability Office found that the Office of Secretary of Defense and other very high level pentagon offices do not have a rational, iterative assessment process for determining their staffing needs and structures. The upshot: “DOD and the military services have undertaken reviews to reduce headquarters but these budget-driven efforts have not been the result of systematic determinations of personnel needs.” The GAO, an arm of Congress, made only two mentions of Sequestration, both in footnotes.
GE Aviation won up to $325 million in additional funds in January 2015 to work on an adaptive cycle engine under phase three of the Versatile affordable advanced turbine engines (VAATE) program that preceded ADVENT.
In part due to sanctions on Russia, Kalashnikov will produce the eponymous assault rifles in the U.S., according to TASS
Brazil hopes to reinstate a mid-air refueling capacity after having retired its KC-137s. Final contract negotiations have been delayed, with one of the 767 conversions being handled by IAI, and another two by domestic firm TAP.
This is a three year old video of the ADVENT program. It may be revolutionary for jet engines, but it would be nice if GE could up its game in green screen production values:
The Government Accountability Office, fielding a protest by a would-be contractor who couldn’t find a solicitation due to a certain field not having been filled out in the FedBizOpps database, sided with the Veterans Administration in holding that it is the vendors responsibility to use all search mechanisms at their disposal. The case turned on whether or not the VA should have filled out which states would be the “place of performance.” The upshot: FedBizOpps and other databases are unlikely to be allowed to be used as additional surface area from which protests can be launched.
Even as U.S. procurement Tsar Frank Kendall’s press is still wet regarding his trip to India to shore up defense procurement relationships with the subcontinent, Russia is parading – literally – their relationship with India, featuring the BrahMos self-propelled missile launcher. With India’s administration turnover, the two powers are again wooing the not-terribly-aligned nation as though the world were divided into two spheres of power. Unlike the more symbolic efforts of the U.S., the Russians’ have been substantive.
Some People & Some Robots (click to see clearly)
In addition to updating and replenishing major defense systems, Russia is taking pains to express to the world that it is putting resources into new defense tech.
Iran is again signaling its intent to maintain force projection capabilities with its navy. Somalian pirate patrols have been a handy mission for justifying and exercising its warships.
Iraq has been successful in securing a commitment for nine Mirage 2000 fighters from the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is also reported to be procuring a couple dozen Super Tucanos for Iraq in a deal that is not quite settled. The Iraqi administration has been passing that hat of late, with Canada and others trying to contribute to the stability of the ISIS-fighting country.
As the FAA realizes it is sitting below a bursting dam of civilian drone demand – fueled by the twin inexorable trends of severe price reductions in hobbyist camera drones and vast improvements in the simplicity of operations – it is attempting to turn to local law enforcement to help it patrol the unpatrollable. Meanwhile, defense contract drone manufacturers salivate.
With the Super Tucano line in the news, here is a U.S.-assisted downing of an alleged drug trafficker’s plane in Columbia with video of an A-27 Super Tucano firing on a light plane:
In March 2010 the Navy awarded an $83 million contract for e-CASS development, production and testing. The AN/USM-636(V) Consolidated Automated Support System (CASS) is the US Navy’s standard automatic test equipment family. It provides intermediate, depot and factory level support, both ashore and afloat, for testing all Navy electronics, from aircraft to ships and submarines.
CASS has been around since 1990, and it’s time for an upgrade. The Navy is planning to replace the existing 5 CASS mainframe systems with the next-generation electronic CASS (e-CASS) system. US Naval aviation currently uses 713 CASS stations for testing of aircraft electronics. CASS is also used at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and in 9 foreign countries. As of early 2012 events appear to proceed according to plan.
In January 2015, Lockheed delivered the first automated testing station to be installed on the U.S. Navy’s carriers.
Russian development of a new cruise missile and submarine forays into NATO waters have elicited complaints from Washington Russia has violated a key arms control agreement (the INF Treaty), and could cause the U.S. to redeploy cruise missiles in Europe. Russia has been feeding concerns with the re-introduction of nuclear missile trains and a new export cruise missile that can fit hidden in a shipping container.
War Is Boring doesn’t buy the Russian chest beating regarding their increased naval activity, principally because they too are facing major ship retirement trends.
Russia ended, as expected, the program where the U.S. helped arrange and fund the dismantling of Russian nuclear weapons and sub reactors. Assurances that the work will continue have been met with skepticism.
A poll conducted by French newspaper La Tribune shows a good majority of the French support the sale of two expeditionary warfare ships to Russia. The two ships’ delivery has been famously delayed due to the optics of appearing to support Russia’s capacity to conduct operations such as its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. For their part, the poll respondents’ reasons for support appear to be more about domestic jobs than geopolitical considerations.
Friction between Turkey and western allies continues as the NATO member denies access to air bases for targeting ISIS. Turkey deems the U.S. and other western nations’ tolerance of Syria’s Assad an egregious misalignment of priorities.
Poland is to acquire three new submarines, although the timeframe is slipping. A key consideration in vendor selection is the independence that would be granted to Poland in the use of ballistic missiles provided. France has already publicly stated it wouldn’t put any restrictions on Poland if it were to select the DCNS-built Scorpène submarines.
Meanwhile, Saab and Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards Group are looking to work together to meet expected international market needs for submarine replacements.
Russia’s largest – and somewhat impractical – nuclear test from 1961: the Tsar Bomba:
The Commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, Lt Gen Ben Hodges, is quoted as revealing the analysis that Russia currently can’t threaten more than one Ukraine-level conflict at once without significant pre-mobilization that would warn a victim country and allies, but that within a few years – assuming current procurement policies continuing – Russia could conduct three such operations simultaneously. The statement came during a Russia Study Day conducted in Germany among various military russophiles.
Navy officials continue to promulgate their new-found advocacy for having more ships and putting weapons – if not armor – on all of them.
U.S. A-10 Warthog aircraft were reportedly targeted by ISIS forces using SA-7 Grail (Strela-2) missiles. The U.S. destroyed 5,000 of those missiles when they were found in Libya, although another 15,000 were reportedly missing in the confusion of the revolution. Syria also has them in their inventory.
The U.S. has been trying to find ways to collaborate with India on defense procurement, with many potential offsets proscribed by tough U.S. export regulations. But by picking several relatively widespread technologies, such as those used in the RQ-11B mini-UAV, Frank Kendall, the U.S.’s key man on defense acquisition, was visiting India trying to jumpstart some projects.
Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff explains why the Navy will become more important over time and points out that its shrinking surface forces (down to 288 vessels, a number not seen since 1916) do not appear consistent with the increasing need (see 13:30). The key question about how the Navy could increase its share of the pie comes at 26:45. The answer appears to be more LCS:
Having vacillated back and forth, the Pentagon will reportedly now ask for both its cake and to eat it too in the 2016 budget, reversing the decision to mothball the U-2 spy plane program, but also to start research and design work (about $150 million over three years) on a replacement. The Office of Secretary of Defense ordered the Air Force to pursue both avenues, and is funding it with a topline service increase. The RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV from Northrop Grumman has been locked in paper combat with the Lockheed Martin U-2. Home scorekeepers will remember that the Air Force rather suddenly asked for permission to kill the Block 30 Global Hawk – the one with U-2-like capabilities – three years ago. Lobbying resurrected it and reversed the momentum between the two camps, until now.
As part of its effort to institute cost reforms, the U.S. Air Force will weaken requirements for its T-X trainer procurement program, the replacement for the T-38 jet trainers. Also on the requirements chopping block are the space-based infrared system (SIBRS), multi-domain adaptable processing system (MAPS), and the long-range standoff weapon.
General John Campbell who runs the Resolute Support mission, said in an interview with Army Times that his intelligence assets are concentrating on evidence that ISIS is recruiting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Belgium is surveying options to replace its F-16s. Thought to be on the list is the F-35, the F/A-18, Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen.
A Frost & Sullivan report on the naval platform markets reportedly predicts slow growth maintained by several conflict areas and an increased swagger from China, coupled with an increasing supply situation as Japan’s military export reticence recedes and China increases its production capacity for export.
It is axiomatic that a pilot and crew grow to love an air platform, no matter the warts. Most times, at least. But now fans of obsolete systems have access to cheap and easy 3-D video rendering. Couple that with a half-hearted lobbying effort of Facebook, and even a 1957 airframe can appear to have new life:
The Air Force is trying to get ahead of cost issues by announcing an effort to introduce reforms to speed up procurement as well as to allow RFP responders to suggest alternative requirements where cost savings could be recognized.
Predictably, commentators are aghast at the Navy’s decision to exchange the C-2 Greyhound logistics plane for carrier deliveries with the V-22, replacing a 15 million pound-miles of transport for 3 million pound-miles of transport at a slower speed and smaller cabin that will not fit the carrier air wing’s coming engine of choice. Purchasing an airframe that competes with a particular service’s weapons-program-of-strategic-importance appears to be as politically unpopular as ever.
Kongsberg told Navy Recognition that the firm has been in consultation with Lockheed on a JSM integration, and that the model that has been making the rounds at trade shows in the Kongsberg booth has been geared to drum up interest from potential customers, which essentially means the U.S. Navy. Lockheed’s LRASM would seemingly be a competitive offering. The jockeying comes as the aging Harpoon missile is thought to be going to be replaced with an Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Increment 2 procurement.
More coverage of a proposed new strategic bomber dribbles a few more details of what might show up in 2016 proposed authorizations, with a pre-emptive effort at heading off cost concerns by indicating the program will focus on established technologies, such as existing stealth capacities. Few will forget the $2.2 billion per copy cost fiasco that was the “$B 2.2” bomber. Pentagon defenders/apologists protest that the B-2 program wouldn’t have been so bad if they’d actually purchased the originally slated 132 aircraft, versus the 21 eventually authorized.
A run-down of reaction to Obama’s cybersecurity suggestions indicates a perception of it being weak tea.
Northrop Grumman won a Minuteman III support contract for an initial $4.4 million, with future awards potentially amounting to as much as $963.5 million.
Back in 2008, the Navy signaled its desire to its desire to incorporate the “far term sea-based terminal defense” capacity of the SM-6 into its Aegis system, with one hurdle being some ships’ radars being capable of handling the sensor data requirements. They then hoped for operational capability in 2015. Yesterday, Raytheon announced in a widely-parroted release that the Navy had indeed approved the SM-6 for additional Aegis systems, to include those Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers from the 1994-keel-laid The Sullivans (DDG-68) onward.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s likely last procurement emphasis is his call for a replacement of current strategic bomber capacity, which currently consists of 159 airframes between the Air Force’s B-52s, B-Lancers and B-2s.
Contractors such as Lockheed are salivating at the potential domestic UAV market, now that the FAA appears to be slowly opening the spigot of licenses to use UAVs in a commercial capacity. The dike appears to be bursting, with the first licenses going to a realty photographer and, yesterday, CNN. That said, the quality of consumer-grade drones has spiked with intense competition in the past year, and the prices of these are many orders of magnitude lower than military-grade airframes.
The Navy, as many predicted, is looking to drop adherence to the “mission module” model of producing the Littoral Combat Ships, with the director of the Surface Warfare Division indicating he can either make four to six ships over 15 to 20 years with that originally-envisioned model versus spitting out 20 LCSs in 7 to 10 years. The hope is that a modified version would be better offensively armed – a major program weakness – and as a result be able to operate in smaller groups with fewer dependencies.
Italy is moving industrial support funds to its military programs, which in some cases are one and the same. New supports – despite budget tightening seemingly everywhere else – will go to armored vehicles and a shipbuilding program desperately needed to replace rather old boats. Meanwhile, the FREMM program runs apace, with the latest delivery arriving and pictured here.
Today’s video comes from the recent Consumers Electronic Show: a targeting system for rifles that makes even tech writers sharpshooters…
Repurposed military hardware is already coming under significant negative scrutiny after civil rights issues have become a dominant domestic topic, and midwestern police departments making what appears to be unneeded shows of force. Topping that off are reports that the civilian agencies are discovering what the military has known for centuries: military hardware is costly to own. New Jersey has spent more than $2 million on its “free” helicopter, a repurposed Bell Kiowa.
Britain is relatively happy with its current military hardware spending trends, as a new report indicates its top 11 programs are costing it 397 million pounds less per year. The island nation’s MoD intends to spend 163 billion pounds on hardware over the next 10 years along the lines of its equipment plan.
Estonia, hard up for naval resources and worried about how easy it would be to deny access to its ports with the use of mines, is considering opting out of its Baltic Naval Squadron requirements next year in favor of investing in its own national minesweeping capacity.
The Russian magazine version of the irreverent BBC TV series Top Gear may have unwittingly published a picture of the as-yet unseen AC-12 secret Russian submarine.
Afghan government officials are confirming reports that ISIS is successfully recruiting allies in Southern Afghanistan.
India and Pakistan both joined Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security body designed, according to Russia’s Tass, to fight threats posed by radical Islam and drug trafficking from Afghanistan. This hasn’t prevented it from weighing in on issues such as missile defense.
China’s navy will soon eclipse that of Japan, at least in terms of long-range protective capacity destroyers. By 2018, with current build schedules, China will have 20 phased-array radar ships. Even, China, however, has been keen to note that its equipment isn’t necessarily equivalent to its competitors’ navies.
The Pentagon is reorganizing yet again its cyber warfare assets, standing up a centralized command called the Joint Force Headquarters DoD Information Networks. The news comes from a Breaking Media scoop.
Today’s video shows a slightly cheesy video the U.S. Army produced to brag about its Active Denial System, the odd, non-lethal system to push back combatants and non-complying civilians…