FRCSW/COMFRC Top News Clips – Week of June 20, 2016

Below and attached are the COMFRC/AIR-6.0 clips for the week of June 20:

 

LOCAL COVERAGE

COMFRC celebrates Sohl’s legacy; welcomes new commander

FRCSE establishes capability to repair eye-safe laser rangefinders

PHOTO RELEASE: New center provides resources to veterans

PHOTO RELEASE: Readiness and sustainment the topics at commanding officers and executive officers face-to-face meeting

FRC East participates in eastern N.C. joint STEM initiative

Navy Will 3-D Print Critical Parts For Marine Rotorcraft By 2017

 

WORLD/NATIONAL NEWS

U.S. Navy chief warns of costlier Boeing jets if no foreign sales

Military aircraft accidents costing lives, billions of dollars

Pentagon’s Renewed Vow to Build 2,443 F-35s Depends on Budgets

Marine Corps forced to pull warbirds out of ‘boneyard’ after new fleet delay

U.S. Navy Struggling With Readiness

Defense Rolls Out Phased Retirement For Civilian Employees

US Lawmakers Set to Reconcile Defense Policy Bills

 

 

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LOCAL COVERAGE

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COMFRC celebrates Sohl’s legacy; welcomes new commander

(NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, 16 Jun 16). COMFRC Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – It is not prescribed specifically by U.S. Navy regulations, but it is one of the Navy’s oldest traditions: the Change of Command ceremony.

 

Nearly 400 guests gathered June 16 in the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School hangar to honor and to bid farewell to Rear Adm. Paul “LJ” Sohl, Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC), as he handed over the helm to Vice Commander Capt. Mike Zarkowski.

 

Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, served as the presiding official and credited Sohl with maturing the focus and internal structure of COMFRC and the eight Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs).

 

Sohl “has made a tremendous, positive impact and will leave a lasting legacy of commitment to his people of the FRC enterprise and to the fleet,” Grosklags said.

 

Grosklags, who eight years ago led COMFRC, congratulated Zarkowski on assuming command. “I have complete confidence in your leadership and ability to keep this command moving forward.”

 

Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces and Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet provided remarks as the guest speaker.

 

“The FRCs clearly play an absolutely critical role to recover readiness across the force and to improve the way we continue to generate that readiness,” Shoemaker stated. “LJ, thank you for the ongoing work to deliver your FRC Vision 2020, which I am confident will give us a more streamlined, agile and responsive organization in the future.”

 

Sohl came on board at COMFRC in August 2013 facing the challenges of budget shortfalls, sequestration and a high operating tempo. To combat those challenges and optimize capability and capacity, Vision 2020 — the strategic plan for regaining readiness across naval aviation — was implemented. The ultimate achievement of Vision 2020 will be the inception of a global maintenance management system. The system will recognize a failing aircraft as soon as it happens and parts, materials, artisan, equipment, testing can be moved to the aircraft to fix it in real time.

 

In a message to the FRC workforce, Sohl emphasized the need to keep focused on the mission:

 

“Your jobs are crucial to naval aviation readiness,” Sohl said. “Without you, nothing happens. We need your skill sets to help continue deploying our assets worldwide and keep our missions growing. Thanks for what you do each and every day. You are making a difference to our fleet.”

 

In his remarks to the audience, Zarkowski stressed that even though this is a time of transition, the mission of COMFRC remains the same: to provide aircraft ready for tasking.

 

“We have complex challenges we must continue to address,” Zarkowski said. “We must continue to commit the necessary resources to stay the course with Vision 2020. With this Vision, the naval aviation force of the future will be able to quickly adapt to emergent maintenance requirements and the Fleet Readiness Centers will be faster, more agile, more geographically independent and cost less.”

 

Notable COMFRC accomplishments under Sohl include:

.               Leadership of 16,000 civilian, military and contractor personnel at eight Fleet Readiness Centers and management of a budget of $4.3 billion in maintenance, repair and overhaul.

.               With a total of 8,483,281 labor force hours and $1.16 billion in cost, his emphasis on process improvement and maintenance integration resulted in the delivery of 1,434 airframes, 4,294 engines and modules, 155,255 components, 2,151 pieces of support equipment and 9,060 airframe in-service repairs, which achieved a 35 percent reduction in backorders from fiscal year 2014 to 2015 and improved weapon system availability for eight Type/Model aircraft.

.               His involvement in the Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers Aviation Rapid Action Team ensured the development and improvement of more than 100 repair processes, enhanced Fleet Readiness Center capabilities and resulted in $13.1 million in cost avoidance while improving readiness and lowering cost per flight hours.

 

The Waterloo, Iowa, native earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his master’s in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Stanford University. He deployed as part of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Enduring Freedom, tallying over 3,200 flight hours in 30 different aircraft.

 

In August, Sohl is slated to become Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force in Norfolk, Virginia.

 

The Navy’s eight Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs), with locations on the U.S. east and west coasts and in Japan, conduct maintenance, repair, and overhaul of U.S. Navy aircraft, engines, components and support equipment. Each year, roughly 6,500 Sailors and Marines, along with more than 9,500 depot artisans at the FRCs overhaul and repair nearly 1,000 aircraft, thousands of engines and several hundred thousand components valued at over $4 billion.

 

http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=6293

 

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FRCSE establishes capability to repair eye-safe laser rangefinders

(FLEET READINESS CENTER SOUTHEAST, JACKSONVILLE, Fla. 23 Jun 2016). FRCSE Public Affairs

 

Jacksonville, Fla. – Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 17 to officially establish a partnership with L-3 Warrior Systems – ALST to provide depot-level support services for U.S. Navy H-60 helicopter eye-safe laser rangefinders (ELRFs).

 

ELRFs are electro-optical instruments that combine binocular observation and distant measuring to determine target ranges. They are designed to protect the eye-sight of service members working and training in the field.

 

The joint collaboration allows FRCSE technicians to repair and test ELRFs for the helicopter’s Multi-Sensor Targeting Systems (MTS) using state-of-the-art test equipment and information technology. These systems or turrets, provide pilots with long-range surveillance, high-altitude targeting, tracking, range-finding and lasers.

 

“This partnership provides an opportunity for FRCSE and L-3 Warrior Systems – ALST Orlando to have a teaming agreement to assist with getting MTS repair units back to the field as soon as possible,” said L-3 Warrior Systems – ALST Customer Service Team Program Manager Mark Orr. “FRCSE provides a second source to increase and improve the turnaround time of lasers to ensure the end goal of returning the unit to the warfighter.”

 

The company is also providing continued support services, training and supply chain systems needed to maintain ELRFs in the fleet.

 

“It’s a continuation of growth with our partnerships in terms of standing up organic capability at the depot,” added FRCSE Integrated Product Team Lead for Avionics Components Sammie Kimble. “The ELRF is one of the newer lasers that’s been developed. It is eye safe friendly and won’t damage the eye-sight of the soldiers on the field.

 

“This partnership continues to give us the capability to support the MTS turret. And it helps FRCSE advance our continued efforts to be an electro-optics center of excellence for the Navy.”

 

http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=6300

 

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PHOTO RELEASE: New center provides resources to veterans

(NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, 22 Jun 16). COMFRC Public Affairs

 

Rear Adm. Paul Sohl, then-Commander, Fleet Readiness Center (COMFRC), addresses the crowd gathered for the ribbon cutting of the new Three Oaks Center, Lexington Park, Maryland, for veterans. Sohl praised the staff and supporters of the center for their hard work and dedication to helping homeless veterans obtain medical and employment resources locally, instead of traveling to Baltimore or Washington, D.C. The center — which went from concept to ribbon cutting in 15 months, according to board member Patti Brady — will provide resources to help end or prevent homelessness and will guide veterans through the process toward the goal of self-sufficiency.

 

http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=6299

 

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PHOTO RELEASE: Readiness and sustainment the topics at commanding officers and executive officers face-to-face meeting

(NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, 22 Jun 16). COMFRC Public Affairs

 

FLEET READINESS CENTER AVIATION SUPPORT EQUIPMENT, SOLOMONS, Md. – Rear Adm. Paul Sohl (standing), then-Commander, Fleet Readiness Center (COMFRC), addressed the commanding officers and executive officers of the eight Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs) during the organization’s quarterly Face-to-Face meeting June 14 in Solomons here. Sohl praised the officers for their work to meet the mission of COMFRC: to produce quality airframes, engines, components and support equipment and provide service that meet the Naval Aviation Enterprise’s aircraft ready-for-tasking goals with improved effectiveness and efficiency.

 

He urged them to continue their work to support Vision 2020 — the strategic plan for regaining readiness across naval aviation — under the leadership of Capt. Mike Zarkowski, who assumed the helm of COMFRC on June 16.

 

In other meeting sessions, the team shared lessons learned and best practices for impacts to production, work force allocations, component repairs and implementation and current status of Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM).

 

COMFRC Face-to-Face meetings are held regularly on a rotating basis at one of the FRCs or their associated detachments.

 

http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=6298

 

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FRC East participates in eastern N.C. joint STEM initiative

(FLEET READINESS CENTER EAST, 20 June 16) . Fleet Readiness Center East Public Affairs

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, NC – June 20, 2016: Fleet Readiness Center East will host four teachers from Carteret and Craven County Schools as part of the North Carolina Business Committee for Education’s Teachers@Work program during July.

 

Teachers@Work is a joint partnership initiative between NCBCE, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) East and the N.C. Community College System that links education to the business community to help teachers create classroom curriculum relevant to the skill sets needed by local businesses.

 

According to Sue Breckenridge, NCBCE executive director, Teachers@Work helps to address the skills gap that many of the state’s businesses are currently seeing. “Ultimately, the initiative is about economic development and helping to produce a highly skilled workforce pipeline that benefits communities across the state,” she said.

 

FRC East is one of 14 businesses participating in the initiative in eastern N.C. As part of the program, participating teachers will spend one week during the summer monitoring a local company. Teachers will be paired with employees and will be exposed to different aspects of the business. At the end of the on-site program, the teacher will create a lesson plan that targets hard and soft skills future employees should have that are specific to their partnering business or industry. As a follow-on effort, partnering teachers’ students will participate in a job shadowing or mentoring program during the upcoming school year.

 

FRC East will first host Dawn Maynard, STEM teacher, and Aubrey Godette, Science teacher,  from Broad Creek Middle in Carteret County  July 11-15. The following week, July 18-22, the organization will host Michelle Smith, STEM teacher, and Elizabeth Dorsett, Math teacher, from Tucker Creek of Craven County Schools. They will be among 51 middle and high school teachers throughout the state who will be participating in the program.

 

“This is our first year as a business participant in the Teachers@Work initiative,” said Mark Meno, Research and Engineering Group head. “While we are actively engaged in a number of STEM K-12 outreach activities, this program affords us and the teachers a unique opportunity to incorporate the skills necessary in a STEM-based business environment into classroom curricula. We anticipate great benefits for this collaboration for our facility and the surrounding counties from which we draw our STEM workforce.”

 

The teacher will be working with engineering professionals to develop curriculum that has a design and development component requiring trade-offs in design, cost and performance, including collaboration in fabrication of the student designs and culminating with a final design review conducted by FRC East Engineering leaders.

 

Media can contact FRC East Corporate Communications Division for information about the organization’s participation in the program at (252) 464-9111.

 

http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=6296

 

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Navy Will 3-D Print Critical Parts For Marine Rotorcraft By 2017

(DOD BUZZ 20 JUN 16) … Hope Hodge Seck

 

Next year, six “safety-critical” parts on a number of the Marine Corps’ most in-demand rotorcraft will be 3-D printed as the Navy demonstrates the value of cutting-edge additive manufacturing technology.

 

In a Naval Aviation Vision roadmap document released this month, Naval Air Systems Command officials said they planned to 3-D print and field parts for the MV-22B Osprey, the new CH-53K King Stallion, which is still in the early phases of production, and the H-1 Marine Corps Light/Attack Helicopters, including the AH-1Z Viper.

“The safety-critical [additive manufacturing] parts fielded on these platforms will allow NAVAIR to develop the processes and digital data standards needed to extend [additive manufacturing] to other classes of parts and components,” officials said in the document.

 

Two metal parts will be printed for each of the three aircraft platforms, Marcia Hart, a spokeswoman for Navy Aviation Enterprise, told Military.com. They are as follows:

.               MV-22 Osprey: Titanium engine nacelle link and stainless steel lever for the fire extinguishing system

.               H-1 helicopters: Upper uni-ball suppressor support and engine mount apex fitting, both stainless steel

.               CH-53K King Stallion: Clevis latch and lug latch, both titanium

 

In a second set of planned demonstrations, parts will also be printed for the Marines’ workhorse CH-53E Super Stallions and AV-8B Harriers, said Hart. The parts to be manufactured and fielded in that demonstration for the Super Stallion include a titanium engine brace and a ball fitting in stainless steel, she said.

 

The Navy is partnering with Penn State Applied Research Lab for the additive manufacturing demos, Hart said. The parts for the aircraft were produced there and at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

 

“As we develop our standards and understand how to ensure quality using [additive manufacturing] processes, we want to work with industry to enable them to make these parts,” Hart said. “We need to develop a broad industry base that understands how to make [them] safely.”

 

Ultimately, the Navy aims to use additive manufacturing processes much more in aviation, allowing maintainers and logisticians more flexibility in the repair and upkeep of aircraft. Already, according to the aviation roadmap, 3-D printing has allowed the Navy to

 

In June 2014, NAVAIR technicians in Jacksonville, Florida, used 3-D printed tools to fix a Harrier that damaged the frame of its nose cone during a hard landing on the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan. Thanks to this technology, replacement parts were delivered to the aircraft within seven days, according to the roadmap document.

 

In another example, technicians at the Navy Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst were able to 3-D print a custom wrench that allowed them to change the oil on an H-60 Seahawk helicopter without removing the transmission, an improvement that saved 80 work hours for each oil change.

 

The new technology, officials said in the document, allows the Navy to “stock the data, not the part,” reducing supply timelines, enabling faster maintenance and repairs and reducing packaging, handling, storage and transportation costs.

 

http://www.dodbuzz.com/2016/06/20/navy-will-3-d-print-critical-parts-for-marine-rotocraft-by-2017/

 

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WORLD/NATIONAL NEWS

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U.S. Navy chief warns of costlier Boeing jets if no foreign sales

(REUTERS, 19 June 16) . Andrea Shalal

 

BERLIN — The U.S. could see the cost of new Boeing Co F/A-18E/F Super Hornets rise unless the government approves foreign sales of the jets soon, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said on Sunday.

 

Mabus, in Germany for a NATO exercise in the Baltic Sea, told Reuters he was frustrated by delays in approving the sale of the Boeing jets to a close U.S. ally, warning that this could affect the cost of jets the U.S. Navy still wants to buy.

 

U.S. Navy and other defense officials have said they support the sale of 28 Boeing F/A-18E/F jets to Kuwait for an estimated cost of $3 billion, but this has stalled for nearly a year pending final White House approval.

 

Mabus said the delays could have an impact on the Navy’s budget plans, since the foreign order was needed to augment U.S. Navy purchases and keep the production line running efficiently.

 

The U.S. Congress is expected to approve funding for as many as 16 Boeing F/A-18 jets as part of the Navy’s budget request for fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1, but that would give Boeing less than the two jets a month it says needs for economical production. The Kuwaiti order would have filled this gap.

 

“I’m frustrated. A lot of people are frustrated,” Mabus said. “The process is too long, too onerous in terms of getting weapons systems to our friends and to our allies.”

 

Mabus said Boeing could likely continue F/A-18 production for some time without the foreign sales, but dropping below optimal production rates could affect future pricing.

 

The Navy had requested funding for two F/A-18 jets in its fiscal 2017 budget request and 14 more as part of its “unfunded priorities list”. It also said it expected to buy a larger number of Super Hornets in fiscal 2018 to bridge a gap in its fleet until the newer and more advanced Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet enters service in coming years.

 

Mabus welcomed possible moves by Congress to add jets to the fiscal 2017 budget, but said those orders alone would not keep production at the Boeing facility running at optimal rates.

 

“The line wouldn’t be operating as well as it should, and the price probably would go up for us because there aren’t as many planes coming through,” he said.

 

Boeing welcomed the secretary’s remarks.

 

“Boeing appreciates the continuing engagement of Secretary Mabus, and agrees that a Kuwaiti order is an important element in continuing a production rate of two per month to keep prices optimal,” Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson said.

 

The company needs to maintain production to remain competitive in bidding for other F/A-18 orders from other countries as it is now spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” to buy long-lead materials such as titanium to prepare for new orders from the Navy and Kuwait.

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-boeing-fighters-idUSKCN0Z50N6

 

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Military aircraft accidents costing lives, billions of dollars

(CNN, 20 June 16) . Ryan Browne

 

Washington (CNN) – A rash of recent military crashes has cost the lives of several service members as well as billions of dollars’ worth of damages. The wave of accidents has raised questions about the training of pilots and the maintenance of aircraft, with top brass pointing to slashed budgets and aging fleets strained by prolonged conflict.

 

Last week, an MH-60S helicopter crashed in the James River in Virginia during a training mission. Earlier this month, two F-16C fighter jets collided in the skies over Georgia.

 

In the first incident all of the helicopter crew were rescued and in the second the two South Carolina Air National Guard pilots managed to safely eject. But a few days earlier, a Blue Angels pilot was killed when his jet crashed. An Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration squadron jet crashed the same day, but that pilot managed to successfully eject.

 

During congressional testimony in March, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. John Paxton, acknowledged the growing rate of accidents.

 

“We are concerned about an increasing number of aircraft mishaps and accidents,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

 

He blamed funding shortfalls for the increase, saying, “If you don’t have the money and you don’t have the parts and you don’t have the maintenance, then you fly less.”

 

He continued, “If you fly less and maintain slower, there’s a higher likelihood of accidents. So, we’re worried.”

 

The Navy has suffered the heaviest losses of the three military branches since October 2014.

 

From that time through April 2016, the Navy has reported accidents that total over $1 billion in damages, according to statistics provided to CNN by the Naval Safety Center. They included a Marine AV-8B Harrier jet that crashed off the East Coast during takeoff in May, costing about $62.8 million, and a Navy F/A-18A crash in Nevada in January that cost $71 million. Both pilots survived.

 

In joint congressional testimony in April, the senior naval leadership overseeing aviation, Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Jon Davis and Rear Adm. Michael Manazir, reiterated Paxton’s contention that planes and funds are running short.

 

“We continue to have lower than acceptable numbers of aircraft available to train and fight,” he said.

 

Grosklags said that the 2013 budget cuts known as sequestration had caused the Navy to lose about 10% of its maintenance crews for some of its older planes, including the F/A-18, which first entered service in 1983 and whose planned 30-year life-span has been repeatedly extended due to increased combat operations and lack of replacement jets.

 

The issue is compounded by the fact that the Navy’s replacement plane, the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, has been repeatedly delayed and is not scheduled to reach initial operating capability until 2018.

 

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been beset by spiraling costs, failed testing and schedule delays. The F-35 program had originally promised 1,013 fighters by fiscal year 2016 but has only delivered 179 as of April. The Navy’s version will be the last to reach initial operating capability.

 

The Marines, however, suffered the deadliest military aviation tragedy in years when two CH-53 helicopters crashed while on training flight in Hawaii in January, killing 12 Marines. The Navy estimates that the crash cost nearly $110 million.

 

Describing the CH-53s in March, Davis said, “They are getting old and wearing out. We can only keep them going for so long.”

 

When Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked about the increased rate of accidents in March, the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, attributed the increase in “our mishap rate” to a lack of training resources.

 

“The simple fact is that we don’t have enough airplanes to meet the training requirements for the entire force,” he said.

 

The Air Force, for its part, has also experienced a significant number of accidents.

 

Since October 2014, the Air Force has had 27 “Class A mishaps,” accidents that result in a fatality, loss of an aircraft, or property damage of $2 million or more involving fixed-wing aircraft, an Air Force public affairs officer told CNN.

 

But Air Force Public Affairs Officer Capt. Annmarie Annicelli noted that the rate of accidents has decreased in 2016 compared to fiscal year 2015, saying that at this point last year, the Air Force had 13 Class A mishaps compared to eight this year.

 

According to an analysis of the statistics provided before the June incidents, the Air Force has lost over $526 million in damaged or destroyed aircraft since October 2014, nearly half of that from downed F-16s, another plane that is due to be replaced in part by the long-delayed F-35A.

 

During that period, the Air Force lost a B-52 Stratofortress after a crash in Guam in May, a C-130J transport plane after an October accident in Afghanistan and a RC-135 crashed in April 2015. The latter two crashes resulted in $174 million in damage to both the planes and surrounding environment.

 

Gen. David L. Goldfein, the Air Force vice chief of staff, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that the average age of the Air Force’s aircraft is 27 years old. The F-16s involved in Tuesday’s collision first entered service in 1993.

 

The Army has also faced issues with its aircraft, primarily helicopters such as the UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache.

 

The Army’s Combat Readiness Center told CNN that the Army had 19 Class A aviation accidents resulting in 6 fatalities from October 2014 to October 2015, including a UH-60 crash near Fort Hood, Texas, which cost the lives of four soldiers.

 

Appearing at the same Senate Armed Services hearing with Neller, the chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, said the increase in Class A accidents “has our attention,” citing efforts to increase training hours for helicopter pilots.

 

“Our aircraft accidents have increased and we are very concerned about it,” he said.

 

Top military leaders have said that while they want to increase training, they have had to prioritize combat operations at the expense of other activities in an era of restricted budgets.

 

Goldfein told Congress, “25 years of continuous combat coupled with budget instability and lower-than-planned top lines have made the Air Force one of the smallest, oldest and least ready in our history.”

 

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/20/politics/military-aviation-crash/index.html

 

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Pentagon’s Renewed Vow to Build 2,443 F-35s Depends on Budgets

(BLOOMBERG, 20 June 16) . Anthony Capaccio

 

The Pentagon still plans a fleet of 2,443 F-35 jets, but the costliest U.S. weapons program may face cuts under the next president if defense dollars continue to be reduced, according to the Defense Department’s No.2 official.

 

The Pentagon’s focus “for the foreseeable future is to acquire F-35s at the highest rate affordable” even though the goal for a fleet of 2,443 of the fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp. “was established prior to the last two decades’ force reductions” and before budget caps reduced planned levels of spending through 2021, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work wrote in a letter to congressional defense leaders May 25.

 

The Pentagon wants to increase the purchase rate of F-35s for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to 92 annually by 2020 from 38 last year. The number jumps to 120 a year when foreign sales are included. For this year, Congress added 11 aircraft to the 57 requested. The Pentagon said in March that the program’s projected cost for development and acquisition dropped by $12.1 billion to $379 billion.

 

Per-Plane Cost

 

That will help bring down the per-plane cost, Work wrote in an interim report under a requirement in this year’s defense budget for the Pentagon to reevaluate whether the long-standing requirement of 2,443 jets — including 1,763 for the Air Force — remained valid.

 

With U.S. defense policy putting increasing emphasis on countering a resurgent Russia in Europe and a more assertive Chinese military, Work said it’s “conceivable that we may need more F-35s than the current program” calls for.

 

Work’s letter comes as the often-criticized F-35 is enjoying some successes. Three of the four congressional defense committee added aircraft to the fiscal year request of 63. Air Force officials say there are no known technical obstacles to declaring as soon as August that as many as 24 jets have initial combat capability. The Marine Corp version is set to fly next month to the Farnsborough Air Show in the U.K.

 

Still, Pentagon officials acknowledged last month that the operational combat testing intended to evaluate whether the aircraft is combat-effective and can be maintained in the field won’t begin until 2018 — about a year later than planned.

 

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-20/pentagon-s-renewed-vow-to-build-2-443-f-35s-depends-on-budgets

 

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Marine Corps forced to pull warbirds out of ‘boneyard’ after new fleet delay

(FOXNEWS.COM, 22 JUNE 16) . Perry Chiaramonte

 

The Marines are looking for a few good planes, and their search has taken them to an Arizona boneyard where the Corps’ old F/A Hornets have been gathering dust and rust for years.

 

The jets are being reclaimed and refurbished by Boeing after the service branch was caught short on planes because of long delays in the rollout of the much-awaited F-35.

 

The Marines could have done as the Navy did and adopted second generation F/A- 18E/F Super Hornets until the new planes were ready, but opted not to.

 

“In hindsight, it was a misstep for the USMC to not have purchased the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, but only because the F-35 has seen such extensive delays and complications in production,” Omar Lamrani, senior military analyst for global intelligence firm Stratfor told FoxNews.com. “If the F-35 had entered production as originally scheduled and at the expected price, then the USMC would have been able to successfully transition straight from the F/A-18 Hornets to the F-35.”

 

Boeing has refurbished two of a planned 30 F/A Hornets stored at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson – known as “the boneyard” – and will soon finish more, according to WarIsBoring.com. The planes will be modified to a current “C+” standard under a contract with Boeing and the USMC signed in 2014.

 

It’s not the first time the military has brought back decommissioned planes from the graveyard. The Marines pulled and restored several retired heavy-lift helicopters during the height of the Iraq War to help with a shortfall in the fleet as a result of heavy usage and crashes.

 

The F-35 was supposed to be ready for front-line service in 2006. The Marine Corps reasoned that the Super Hornets were too pricey to serve as a bridge to the new planes, and chose to continue to operate their current fleets.

 

As the F/A Hornets dwindled through attrition, and quality-control issues delayed the F-35 from coming off the assembly, the Corps was caught short.

 

Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the USMC deputy commandant for aviation, told Senate lawmakers that just 32 percent of the Corps’ Hornet fighters were operational. The branch needs at least 58 percent of the F/A-18s to be flight ready so that there are enough planes for combat, flight instruction and day-to-day training.

 

Officials for the USMC did not immediately return requests for comment but in their most recent annual report on aviation capabilities, Davis said, “I am concerned with our current readiness rates, both in equipment and personnel.”

 

Some experts say bringing back the F/A-18 jets may not be much of an issue.

 

“I consider it a pretty smart move on the U.S. Marine Corps side,” David Cenciotti, of the influential blog The Aviationist, told FoxNews.com. “The F/A-18C and D are very reliable airframes that are quite easy to maintain and operate. Once upgraded to the C+ standard, these ‘gap fillers’ are more than enough to conduct combat operations in low-lethality scenarios like those that see the USMC at work these days.”

 

Once the upgraded ‘legacy’ Hornets are delivered, Cenciotti added, older planes can rotate to daily training activities required by the Marine Corps pilots to maintain preparedness.

 

Lamrani says the only real danger is if maintenance is not kept up on the refurbished planes, but that their usage leads to other issues.

 

“Refurbishing mothballed aircraft is not inexpensive, and hardly cost effective,” he told FoxNews.com. “All this is again linked to the F-35 failing to arrive on time.”

 

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/06/22/marine-corps-forced-to-pull-warbirds-out-boneyard-after-new-fleet-delay.html?intcmp=hpbt3

 

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U.S. Navy Struggling With Readiness

(AVIATION WEEK & SPACE TECHNOLOGY 21 JUN 16) … Michael Fabey

 

The U.S. Navy is facing a readiness issue, with its older-model F/A-18 fighter jets tied up in maintenance, leading to reduced flight-training hours.

 

Navy flight hours have decreased to about 853,389 in 2015, from about 1.2 million in 2002, according to the Naval Safety Center. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps leaders bemoan the lack of flight training time – as well as the maintenance backlog, especially for F/A-18s.

 

The service, explains Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, has tiered readiness standards for pilot training. The earliest phases are the workups before deployments; the levels become increasingly involved as a deployment approaches.

 

“Where we are taking the readiness hits is in the lower phase,” he says, affecting the Navy’s ability to surge flight operations.

 

Marine pilots also cannot get enough flight-training time, says Marine Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for Aviation. “We don’t have enough parts,” he has testified to Congress. “We don’t have enough planes.” The service only sends aloft about one-third of its Hornets at any given time.

 

The delay in producing F-35Bs and Cs has put more strain on the legacy Hornets, many of which are in depots awaiting work to keep them operational longer. As a result, the Navy has had to go to sea sooner and more often with Super Hornets, which are now also reaching their planned service lives much more quickly than expected.

 

“Extension of legacy Hornet life requires additional inspections and deep maintenance that were not originally envisioned for the aircraft,” the Navy says in budget documents. “Average repair time has significantly increased because of required engineering of unanticipated repairs, material lead times and increased corrosion of airframes.”

 

Capt. Randy Stearns, commodore for the Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, says, “It is a capacity problem.”

 

Only a quarter of the aircraft are fully capable and ready for combat, he says. Those are already in deployed squadrons. But because of the depot backlogs, parts problems and scarcity of aircraft, it could take six months to a year to get the other three-quarters of the force ready to fly.

 

Federal budget sequestration cuts have also slashed away at availability. Fewer aircraft translates to less flight time for training, which increases the risk of accidents.

 

A recent rash of mishaps comes at a time when Boeing is trying not only to unknot the backup of work on older-model Hornets, but also prepare for Super Hornet life-extension work.

 

Boeing has started preliminary assessments of what is needed to overhaul the aircraft, increase its combat life and keep it relevant much later into the century, says Dan Gillian, Boeing F/A-18 and EA-18G Growler programs vice president.

 

Initial indications show the scale of a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) that would boost a fighter’s life to 9,000 hr. from its current 6,000, will be a challenge. Boeing started to extend the life of 150 classic Hornets in 2013, a job scheduled to conclude in the early 2020s. The latest SLEP would involve 568 Super Hornets.

 

Boeing will be bringing in two of the earliest, most-used Super Hornets in the coming months, Gillian says. These “learning aircraft” will be used to discern some of the likely mechanical issues.

 

When the first aircraft hit 6,000 hr. within the next year, the company’s engineers and mechanics will get a firsthand look. “We will tear them apart to see with our eyes what is really happening,” he says.

 

Early analysis suggests work on the Super Hornets may at least start off easier than it did with the classic Hornets, Gillian says. “What we are seeing now is that the Super Hornet is at a better starting point than the classic Hornet was,” he says. “That was by intent. The Super Hornet is the newest airplane in the Navy’s inventory.”

 

That said, “there are some hot spots that need to be addressed,” he acknowledges. “Flight control surfaces have to be replaced or repaired.”

 

One of the major concerns is corrosion, and the SLEP aircraft will show engineers the extent of the problem. “These aircraft have been flown in conflict for … a long time on the carrier in a very corrosive environment,” Gillian says.

 

http://aviationweek.com/defense/us-navy-struggling-readiness

 

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Defense Rolls Out Phased Retirement For Civilian Employees

(GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE 21 JUN 16) … Kellie Lunney

 

The Defense Department on Tuesday announced it will now allow eligible civilian employees to partially retire while remaining on the job part-time to help better manage its workforce needs.

 

The decision by the government’s largest department to implement phased retirement – nearly four years after Congress passed a law allowing the practice – could spur other agencies to roll out their own programs to take advantage of the flexibility. As of mid-January, less than 50 people across government had applied for the benefit, according to the Office of Personnel Management. That’s because many agencies either haven’t finalized phased retirement plans yet that meet the needs of their missions as well as collective bargaining agreements, or aren’t offering the benefit to eligible employees. It’s also possible some federal employees don’t know what their options are, or just aren’t interested/eligible.

 

“Participation in the Phased Retirement Program is voluntary and requires the mutual consent of both the employee and an authorized DoD component official,” said the June 21 memorandum from Peter Levine, acting undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness. “DoD components may limit the number of employees included in the Phased Retirement Program, as appropriate.”

 

It’s the latest personnel-related change that the Pentagon has unveiled in recent months, as part of the department’s broader effort to recruit and retain civilian employees and service members.

 

Agencies have broad discretion in deciding how to implement phased retirement, including deciding which jobs are eligible for it, determining mentoring activities and deciding how long an employee can remain partially retired. When eligible employees can apply for the opportunity will depend on how quickly their individual agencies can figure out a framework for offering the program.

 

According to the DoD memo, “retirement-eligible employees must have been employed on a full-time basis for at least a consecutive three-year period ending on the effective date of entry into phased retirement status.”

 

Specifically, phased retirement allows eligible feds to work 20 hours per week, receiving half their pay as well as half their retirement annuity. Those employees who enter phased retirement must devote at least 20 percent of their work time, or about 8 hours a pay period, to mentoring other employees, ideally for those who take over for them when they fully retire. The idea is to keep talented employees with valuable institutional knowledge on the job a little longer so they can train other workers, while they also enjoy a partial retirement.

 

Richard Thissen, national president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, praised Defense for implementing phased retirement for civilian workers, nothing that since the tool became law four years ago, “NARFE’s phones have rung off the hook with calls from federal employees wondering when phased retirement will be available at their agencies.” Thissen added that “for many, many other federal employees, however, this news will add to their frustration because the future of phased retirement at many agencies is still uncertain.”

 

The Commerce Department reportedly announced recently its plans to implement phased retirement. Other agencies currently offering the benefit to employees include the departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development.

 

http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2016/06/defense-rolls-out-phased-retirement-civilian-employees/129276/

 

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US Lawmakers Set to Reconcile Defense Policy Bills

(DEFENSE NEWS, 21 June 16) . Joe Gould

 

WASHINGTON – Lead staff for the Senate and House armed services committees are readying for what is likely a summer-long conference process to reconcile differing defense policy bills, where the toughest issues are said to be funding, military healthcare reform and acquisition reforms.

 

Facing White House threats to veto both bills, Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s charge the bills represent “micromanagement,” and ahead of closed-door negotiations with each other, the staff directors for the HASC and SASC offered defenses of their committee’s approach to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

 

At an event hosted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute Tuesday, SASC Staff Director Chris Brose and HASC Staff Director Bob Simmons said both bills are seeking to help the military be more agile, innovative and robust.

 

“The objectives are the same, the intent is the same,” Brose said.

 

Carter and the White House have found numerous faults with the policy bills, including the Senate’s plan to eliminate the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L), the House’s funding approach and the refusal to allow the Pentagon to shut down installations round the country.

 

Simmons defended the House-approved NDAA’s plan to stick to the bipartisan budget deal but use $18 billion from the overseas contingency operations (OCO) fund to pay for base budget items, expecting the incoming president will ask Congress for a supplemental defense spending package.

 

Simmons said the president’s veto threat over the bill was “ironic,” noting a Democratic Congress acted similarly in 2008, just before the Obama administration began.

 

“It’s not like we haven’t done this before, and in fact it was the Democrats who did it last time,” Simmons said. “Then the candidate who ends up being the president can make their own assessment of what the foreign policy is, and the direction they want to take the country, then ask us for the funding appropriate for that effort.”

 

Opponents have said the House NDAA takes funding from troops, but that is “wholly incorrect,” Simmons said. The bill, he said, adds money to ready troops who are next to deploy.

 

“We’re doing all these things to help the Department of Defense,” Simmons said. “If [the president is] going to veto it, he’s operating under false pretenses. We are taking care of the warfighter. We want to make sure those kids go into harm’s way with what they need.”

 

The Senate took a different tack on funding, meaning House and Senate conferees will have to work it out. Asked how the Senate might approach these talks, Brose said it was too soon to say as SASC Chair John McCain, R-Ariz., and HASC Chair Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, had yet to meet on the matter. Both chairmen have sought more troops and hardware left out of the president’s 2017 budget request, he noted.

 

“We have no disagreement over the need for this, and the challenge is how you deliver it with a top-line both sides agree is inadequate,” Brose said.

 

The Senate’s NDAA blows up the position of AT&L undersecretary – currently held by Frank Kendall – and hands its duties to a new undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, or USD(R&E), and the renamed undersecretary of management and support, or USD(M&S). The USD(R&E)’s job would be to champion innovation for DoD.

 

The SASC’s far-reaching reforms are aimed at untangling an acquisitions system that too rarely succeeds when “innovation is the sidecar” and “feels like a series of small scale insurgencies,” Brose said. It also continues last year’s approach, which placed more acquisition authority in the hands of the services.

 

The House’s NDAA’s acquisition reform focus is to steer DoD away from lengthy, ambitious programs and toward on incremental, rapidly-fielded breakthrough technologies. It also aims to shake up the Pentagon’s risk-averse culture, Simmons said.

 

“You don’t have to solve the whole problem,” Simmons said. “It’s a question: If I give you 30 percent of the capability, and you can field it today, or would you rather wait 15 years to get a 100-percent solution? Well if 30 percent today gives you a better position on the battlefield, you want that today.”

 

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/2016/06/21/us-lawmakers-set-reconcile-defense-policy-bills/86217052/