Several newly-defined U.S. Major Defense Acquisition Programs appear to be taking a new approach to design, with the government managing teams of competing contractors during a design phase that is supposed to be better at choosing the best ideas and components, playing to individual vendors’ strengths rather than their inter-contractor business development relationships. Recent news about the F/A-XX taking this approach announced by procurer-in-chief Frank Kendall and a constant dribble of newly defined projects stemming from the FY 2016 Administration budget, such as the Missile Defense Agency’s EKV redesign seem to be the new norm.
- Sikorsky reports that Eastern European nations are beating down its door to look at the Black Hawk program now that it is becoming more apparent that continuing to use Russian rotary aircraft could prove problematic. Slovakia was specifically mentioned.
- The Army wants money once more for a Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System. A similar budget request in FY 2015 was cut. The Army has been seeking better sniper systems for quite some time.
- NATO’s much talked about “Spearhead Force” is gaining more definition. The brigade is to be designed as a rapid reaction force that hopes not to bog down into roles that previous RRF efforts have devolved to, involving mostly international babysitting missions, and taking months to mobilize. The unit – led by France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the U.k. – will feature a 5,000-strong ground force capable of moving within 2 days. The total force is to be 30,000 members, up from the 13,000 troops assigned previously. Command units are being stood up in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, whose geography should give a clear picture of the expected enemy.
- Outgoing SecDef Chuck Hagel’s office characterized his sideline meeting with Georgian counterpart Mindia Janelidze as involving a thanks for help in Afghanistan and pat on the head for continued work toward “interoperability and readiness.” Georgia’s MoD, on the other hand, pointedly noted that the NATO Secretary General spoke to of Georgia “moving closer to NATO membership.” Last fall, NATO granted Georgia something less than a Membership Action Plan – a diplomatic face-saving prize termed a “substantial package.” Georgian officials have been good sports about it, but the elephant in the room remains the West’s reluctance to put themselves in a position of needing to go to war with Russia if it decides (again) that it would like to make trouble there.
- A House Armed Services Committee member told the Washington Times that the Administration denied a Jordanian request for Predator drones to help define targets for its air war against ISIS. Jordan’s king was received very warmly by House members earlier this week, and several – perhaps channeling Charlie Wilson – have been public about their determination to help King Abdullah II acquire more equipment to fight the common enemy. Meantime, a piece on drone export limits shows the Administration is being very deliberate in their prudence or intransigence, depending on your perspective.
- China’s new sternness with its ally North Korea may have come too late for it to be able to prevent South Korea from allowing the fielding of an American anti-missile defense system. China appears to be most worried about the U.S.’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. Yonhap reports that Hong Lei, the Chinese foreign minister, warned South Korea against such action a day after an exchange took place between the two countries’ defense ministers. The complaint is reminiscent of Russia’s reaction to early suggestions of missile defense in Europe versus a future nuclear Iran. For its part, South Korea is claiming that it has not been consulted by the U.S. as to whether it will protect its forces on the peninsula with THAAD, effectively telling the Chinese “Don’t blame us.”
- China would rather not see the American THAAD system come to the Korean Peninsula. Below is a test firing of two interceptors in the Pacific back in 2011, hitting two mid-range missile targets.