- NAS Jacksonville fire crew gets out of tight situation at FRCSE
- FRCSW Cold Spray Technology – Saving Taxpayers Time and Money
- Lemoore Naval Base Welcomes First Contingent Of F-35C Fighter Jets
- Trump Taps Private-Equity Investor As Civilian Head Of Navy
- Pentagon Confirms Trump Hiring Freeze Locks Out Military Civilians
- Fix The Fleet! U.S. Navy Makes Maintenance Top Priority
- Update To Navy Unfunded Priorities List Emphasizes Readiness
- James Mattis: Readiness Vs Offset
- Trump’s ‘Debt Bomb’: Deficit May Grow, Defense Budget May Not
- Rolls-Royce studies two new stall fixes for V-22 engines
- McCain’s 300 Low-End Fighters A ‘Great Idea:’ CSAF Gen. Goldfein
- Air Force Chief Scientist confirms F-35 will include artificial intelligence
- Super Hornet could compete with Lockheed F-35
- Lockheed CEO: F-35A Price to Drop Below $100M in Next Contract
- F-35 in Trump Administration’s Crosshairs
- Some Thoughts On The McCain White Paper
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NAS Jacksonville fire crew gets out of tight situation at FRCSE
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – First Coast Fire and Rescue got a victim out of a tight spot at the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Crinkley Engine Facility on Jan. 12.
Thankfully, the victim was a dummy – a mannequin – and the call was only a training exercise for firefighters to perfect the techniques they would use to extract victims from confined spaces.
“If you get in a hurry, you start forgetting things,” said station chief John Dales. “So we have to keep refreshing the techniques in their minds to make certain there are no mistakes.”
That was the idea behind the exercise.
The department made use of the engine elevator shafts that were installed in the floor at Crinkley to raise and lower engines, so employees could work on J-52 engines without climbing ladders.
David Rickel, the training chief for the fire and rescue department, took the dummy down to the bottom of the shaft – roughly 20 feet – and got an employee to call the firefighters.
“They have to come in and assess the situation,” Rickel said. “All they know is that they have someone hurt down in the bottom of a pit.”
Members of the First Coast Navy Fire and Rescue arrived, set up their equipment and tested the air to make sure it was safe. Firefighter Russell Russ and paramedic Tracy Tomes descended into the shaft’s relative darkness, all that could realistically fit in the roughly 6-feet-wide chamber.
Within minutes the patient was stabilized, and their colleagues at the surface used ropes to pull the victim out.
It was a training exercise, but Rickel and Dales have seen such situations in real life.
For Rickel, it was in a tank aboard an aircraft carrier. For Dales, it was in a steam pit at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. When victims find themselves injured in a confined space, it can be a life-threatening situation for all involved.
“It’s an extremely serious situation,” Rickel said. “If we do something wrong, it could cause death or paralysis, so we immobilize them, strap the victim down and pull them out.”
The real-world implications of the drill were not lost on FRCSE employees watching the scene play out.
“If we ever have a person trapped in a confined space, they are our primary rescue service,” Fleet Readiness Center Southeast safety and occupational health specialist Andrew Bass said. “It’s important for any of us to know that if we’re ever in a situation like that, these guys will get us out.”
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FRCSW Cold Spray Technology – Saving Taxpayers Time and Money
Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.—The Marine Corps Assistant Deputy Commandant for Aviation (Sustainment), William E. Taylor, visited Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) here to learn more about Cold Spray additive technology January 23, 2017.
Engineers and artisans from FRCSW did a demonstration and briefing for Taylor, a member of the Senior Executive Service, as well as Marine Corps aviation representatives down from Camp Lejeune, Calif. The Cold Spray technique is saving Naval Aviation time and money in repairing aircraft components and returning them to the fleet, improving readiness across the Navy and Marine Corps.
“This has a lot of promise,” Taylor said.
Cold Spray is an additive, solid-state thermal spray process that can restore components’ critical dimensional features lost due to corrosion, wear or mechanical damage. It works by taking powdered metal alloys (customized for the need of the specific part to be repaired) and spraying it onto the metal of the damaged component, creating a mechanical bond. The process creates a low-porous or nonporous surface without making any heat-induced changes to the substrate.
Put less technically, the process bonds metal to metal in a (relatively) low-heat environment, filling in any corrosion or other damage in machine parts. Repairs often take less time and are safer, too. To use a traditional chrome coating, for example, takes 20 hours to cover a part with 20 mL of metal; Cold Spray can do it with a tungsten/carbide/cobalt alloy in about two minutes. The process also eliminates the health hazards posed and safety precautions required using traditional methods.
The repaired parts come out stronger and less prone to mistake. According to Luc Doan, a materials engineer at FRCSW, of the approximately 150 parts repaired using Cold Spray so far, none have been returned for another repair. Additionally, none have resulted in machine rejections. With traditional methods, approximately 20 to 40 percent are machine rejected.
Conrad Macy, a secondary power Fleet Support Team (FST) engineer for Naval Air Systems Command, explained that the parts can endure at least 10 times more stress and impact than traditional parts. It might be more, but at that point, engineers stopped trying test the damage limits.
Macy is the impetus behind bringing Cold Spray to Naval Aviation. In his job working with the fleet making repairs to aircraft, he became tired of throwing away expensive parts because of minor damage. He felt sure that some process could fix the parts, so he began searching for it. About six years ago, through a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project, he found what he needed with Cold Spray. The SBIR with company Inovati sealed the deal, showcasing the applicability of Cold Spray to increase fleet readiness by refurbishing previously scrapped components. Often, these components are in demand across Naval Aviation, but have long lead times.
This less expensive, faster method of repair has saved more than $1 million on one part alone. The F/A-18’s Aircraft Mounted Accessory Drive (AMAD) costs approximately $168,000 each. Damage to one part of the AMAD would result in scrapping the entire drive previously, but with the repairs available through Cold Spray, 10 have been refurbished and sent back to the fleet for a savings of about $1.6 million.
Inovati’s Cold Spray technique is called Kinetic Metallization. Cold Spray can encompass a variety of techniques; this one uses low pressure helium or nitrogen and a sonic nozzle to accelerate particles. The combination of low pressure and sonic gas speed significantly decreases gas consumption compared to conventional Cold Spray processes while still achieving high particle velocities, according to the company. It also wastes less material compared to other Cold Spray machines and techniques, according to the Navy.
To bring the process to Naval Aviation, Macy worked with engineers at FRCSW to explore different options. The team brought an Inovati machine to its laboratory environment three years, and its success led to installation of another machine in the production shop at FRCSW in December 2015.
FRCSW is the main depot for all variations of the F/A-18, so most of the parts it has repaired using Cold Spray have been for that platform. However, it has also been used for E-2, F-5, CH-53 and H-1 parts, as well as for the LM 2500 ship engine.
Engineers now are pressing forward with future applications for the technology, including on V-22 window sills. Macy is exploring through another SBIR the use of a rotating nozzle in the Cold Spray machine. The current machine has a fixed nozzle, which works well for easily rotated parts, but not as well for bulkier ones.
“We’re going to be successful,” Macy said. “I’m not really worried about it.”
The Naval Aviation Enterprise is a cooperative partnership of naval aviation stakeholders focused on sustaining required current readiness and advancing future warfighting capabilities at best possible cost. It is comprised of Sailors, Marines, civilians, and contractors from across service branches and organizations, working together to identify and resolve readiness barriers and warfighting degraders.
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Lemoore Naval Base Welcomes First Contingent Of F-35C Fighter Jets
(FRESNO BEE 25 JAN 17) … Lewis Griswold
LEMOORE – The first F-35C jets to be based at Lemoore Naval Air Station were flown in Wednesday afternoon, making Lemoore the first naval air base in the country to get the new generation of fighter jets.
The pilots made a low-altitude flyover about 1:25 p.m., then did a mini air show before landing and taxiing to a hangar as part of a long-planned arrival ceremony. The public and media were issued ear plugs because of engine noise, said to be greater than that of the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander of U.S. Naval Air Forces, spoke with reporters before the jets arrived about concerns raised by President Donald Trump over the cost of the F-35 program.
The Joint Strike Fighter program has been criticized for its high cost of $367 billion, or about $108 million per aircraft.
Shoemaker said the president met with the CEO of Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer.
“I think that the pressure that the president applied is all good,” he said. “He is a businessman. He’s looking to obtain those capabilities at best cost. … There are no issues in terms of morale or anything for the fleet.”
The A model of the F-35 is expected to cost $85 million by the end of the decade, a Lockheed Martin representative said.
“I’m confident we’ll get there,” said Jeff Babione, executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program.
Lemoore is the master West Coast air base of the Navy, from which combat squadrons are deployed to aircraft carriers in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
After the planes parked and the pilots disembarked on Wednesday, Capt. Markus Gudmundsson, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet strike fighter wing, spoke to hundreds waiting at the hangar.
“This is the beginning,” he said. “We have ahead of us the task of building a new community in naval aviation.”
The F-35C combat squadrons – eventually there will be seven, each with 10 planes – will make the Navy’s “current force structure much more survivable and more lethal,” he said.
Lemoore Naval Air Station’s role as the West Coast air base is important to the surrounding community, said Kings County Supervisor Craig Pedersen, who attended the arrival ceremony.
“It solidifies the Navy’s commitment to Lemoore,” he said. “Between the prisons and the air base, it’s well over 50 percent of the jobs.”
Jennifer Cripe of Lemoore is a retired federal employee who worked at the base for years as a facilities management specialist.
“I’ve been involved in all the pre-stuff, the planning of the buildings,” she said. “It’s awesome to actually see them on site.”
The F-35 is the so-called fifth generation of fighter jets. It is harder to detect, thanks to its stealth design.
“We’re not invisible,” said Lt. Mike Jennings, a pilot who flew one of the four jet fighters to the Lemoore base. “We hope we’ll see them before they see us.”
Until now, all Navy versions of the new jet – the Air Force and Marines have other versions – have been based at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where pilots and personnel have trained.
The F-35C jets will be assigned to the VFA-125 squadron, also known as the Rough Raiders, which was reactivated Jan. 12, the Navy said.
The squadron will serve as the West Coast fleet replacement squadron for the F-35C whose mission is to train pilots, as opposed to being deployed.
When at full strength, the fleet replacement squadron will have 30 F-35C jets, but it’s unknown when that will happen.
But by 2025 there are supposed to be 100 F-35C aircraft assigned to Lemoore.
The stationing fit in with the military’s “pivot to the Pacific” in which more forces are being focused there.
“We can see the Pacific, south China Sea being more of a hotbed. … It was important to bring some assets to the West Coast” to support missions in the Pacific, said Capt. David Jones, base commander.
To get ready for the fighter jets, “we have built an addition to one of our hangars and completely renovated the spaces to facilitate a modern and efficient workspace,” said Lt. Cmdr. Greg Raelson, acting Lemoore Naval Air Station spokesman.
One module of the hangar has been completed and the next is under construction.
Including active-duty military personnel and their families, about 1,500 people will be coming to Lemoore, he said. The base already has about 12,000 people, including family members.
At full strength, the squadron is forecast to bring an estimated $36 million annual payroll to the region, said John Lehn, CEO of the Kings County Economic Development Corp.
The F-35C is a single-seat fighter aircraft designed to replace the legacy F/A-18 Hornet. The last Hornet jet assigned to Lemoore flew off last year.
As the new jets are deployed on aircraft carriers, air wings will consist of the F-35C, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and other aircraft including unmanned drones.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is making the jets for three branches of the military – Air Force, Navy and Marines. The first test flight took place in December 2006 at the Lockheed Martin manufacturing plant in Fort Worth, Texas.
The F-35C variant, as it’s called, is designed for landing and takeoff from aircraft carriers, so it has larger wings and more robust landing gear. The first carrier landing occurred in November 2014.
More than 200 F-35s have been delivered to the military as well as five international partners and two foreign military sales customers, according to Mike Johnson, Lockheed Martin F-35 spokesman.
The current program calls for more than 3,100 F-35s to be manufactured.
Last year, the company delivered 46 fighter jets and is scheduled to deliver 66 this year. It will ramp up to about 120 jets per year by 2020.
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Trump Taps Private-Equity Investor As Civilian Head Of Navy
(WALL STREET JOURNAL 26 JAN 17) … Paul Sonne
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump selected an American private-equity investor to oversee the U.S. Navy in its top civilian post, adding another figure from the finance world to the civilian leadership of the Pentagon.
Mr. Trump announced Wednesday that Philip Bilden, a former senior adviser at private-equity firm HarbourVest Partners LLC, and a former U.S. Army Reserve military intelligence officer, as his choice for Secretary of the Navy.
Mr. Bilden, a board member of the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation and the Naval War College Foundation, joined HarbourVest in 1991 and opened its office in Hong Kong before retiring after a 25-year career with the private-equity firm, the White House said.
“Our number of ships is at the lowest point it has been for decades,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “Philip Bilden is the right choice to help us expand and modernize our fleet, including surface ships, submarines and aircraft, and ensure America’s naval supremacy for decades to come.”
Mr. Bilden, who will be tasked with helping oversee a buildup of the U.S. military that Mr. Trump promised on the campaign trail, is Mr. Trump’s third and final choice for a military service secretary – the civilian posts that oversee the Army, Air Force and the Navy.
Mr. Trump previously selected U.S. Army veteran Vincent Viola, the billionaire founder of trading firm Virtu Financial Inc., as Secretary of the Army. Earlier this week, he announced U.S. Air Force veteran Heather Wilson, a former Republican congresswoman from New Mexico, as Secretary of the Air Force.
All three top civilian positions require Senate confirmation.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis expressed confidence in the three nominees, saying they had won his full support in the selection process and would enjoy his full support in the confirmation process.
“They will provide strong civilian leadership to strengthen military readiness, gain full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, and support our service members, civilians, and their families,” Mr. Mattis said in a statement. “I appreciate the willingness of these three proven leaders to serve our country.”
Mr. Bilden, who as Navy secretary also will oversee the U.S. Marine Corps, received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and a master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School, the White House said in a statement. He served 10 years in the U.S. Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer from 1986 to 1996, the statement said.
“Maintaining the strength, readiness, and capabilities of our maritime force is critical to our national security,” Mr. Bilden said in the statement. “If confirmed, I will ensure that our Sailors and Marines have the resources they need to defend our interests around the globe and support our allies with commitment and capability.”
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Pentagon Confirms Trump Hiring Freeze Locks Out Military Civilians
(DEFENSE NEWS 25 JAN 17) … Aaron Mehta and Joe Gould
WASHINGTON – The government hiring freeze put in place by U.S. President Donald Trump will apply to Department of Defense civilian positions but will not impact uniformed personnel.
Trump signed the hiring freeze order Jan. 23, drawing harsh criticism from both federal employee unions and members of Congress, who worry the freeze will save few dollars but create major headaches for government agencies. The freeze included an exception for national security positions, but the wording was such that it was unclear if the Pentagon was directly impacted or not.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon finally confirmed that its civilian spots would be impacted, but that Secretary of Defense James Mattis can exempt from the hiring freeze any position “that he deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities,” a DoD official told Defense News. Other exemptions must be requested from the Office of Personnel Management.
The memorandum does not impact Senate-confirmable officials, the appointment of officials to non-career positions in the Senior Executive Service or to Schedule C positions in the excepted service, the official added.
“Since January 20, 2017, and prior to our notification of the President’s Executive Order on a Federal Hiring Freeze, Washington Headquarters Service (WHS) hired 36 employees to support various functions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD),” the official added. “Additionally, 18 political appointees have been hired thus far to support the Secretary of Defense. Political appointees are exempt from the Executive Order.”
In June, the Pentagon ended a four-month hiring freeze used to ensure personnel were reflected in an internal DoD accounting system.
The freeze also impacts the Department of Veterans Affairs. On Tuesday, acting VA Secretary Robert Snyder said his department “intends to exempt anyone it deems necessary for public safety, including front-line caregivers.”
VA officials said the statement was a clarification of how they are interpreting the new presidential order and not an attempt to get around the new rules.
Government-wide hiring freezes were tried under the Reagan and Carter administrations, but in 1982, the Government Accountability Office found they were not an effective means of controlling federal employment and that any savings would likely be offset by overtime and part-time worker costs.
Those concerns were repeated this week by a bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers, who represent thousands of federal workers.
“I think it’s largely symbolic,” said Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, whose district is home to 77,000 federal workers. “If you’re a Trump supporter in rural America who thinks your taxpayer dollars are being wasted by too many civilian employees, you might be thrilled by it. But they’re missing the point that we haven’t seen this few federal workers in our lifetime.”
Beyer told Defense News that the hiring freeze hurts military retirees and military spouses who hope to enter the federal workforce. It also creates management headaches at the Pentagon, where civilian support staffs have been cut progressively since federal budget caps were enacted.
“As a manager, you’re always trying to do more with less,” Beyer said. “They’ve already determined who they need to hire in a critical space, and now you’ve frozen the ability to hire those people.”
According to Beyer, upward of 221,000 people were in the pipeline to be hired governmentwide, at least a third of them veterans. He said the freeze would “greatly hurt” the VA, which is looking to hire 2,000 people to deal with backlogged cases.
Republican Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock on Monday broke with Trump to oppose the governmentwide hiring freeze.
“The federal budget cannot be balanced on the backs of our federal workforce,” she said in a statement Monday. “I don’t support this type of across-the-board freeze and think it is better to look at priorities and areas where appropriate cuts can be made and where we can consolidate efforts or identify unnecessary costs that can be eliminated.”
Military Times reporter Leo Shane III contributed to this report.
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Fix The Fleet! U.S. Navy Makes Maintenance Top Priority
(DEFENSE NEWS 23 JAN 17) … Christopher P. Cavas
WASHINGTON – With no fiscal 2017 defense budget in sight and little chance of an agreement before April – if then – the military services are submitting second and possibly third rounds of unfunded requirements lists to Congress. The lists include items left out of the original budget requests, ranked in order of priority should Congress find a way to fund them.
The latest list from the U.S. Navy was sent to Congress Jan. 5, updating a similar list sent over at the end of February but rejiggered in light of the new 355-ship Force Structure Assessment, changes in requirements and the lateness of the fiscal year, which limit what can be done in the current budget. The new list also reflects what Navy leaders have been saying in recent weeks they need most – maintenance funding. While the late February list lead off with acquisition needs, the new top priorities include $2 billion in afloat readiness funding.
But the list remains a work in progress, a Navy official said, and includes input from the new Trump administration. An updated list is being prepared in advance of readiness hearings scheduled next month at which the service vice chiefs will testify – a Feb. 7 hearing before the full House Armed Services Committee, and a hearing the following day before the Senate Armed Services readiness subcommittee.
Even then, the Navy official said, “it’s not clear another formal list will be prepared.”
As happens when any new administration takes over, the Pentagon is revising its budget to reflect the new leaders’ priorities, and budget work is far from over.
“It’s all going to change. It’s still very much in motion,” the Navy official said.
But the top 9 priorities of the 59 items listed in the Jan. 5 list remain in place, said the Navy official. Those items are:
- Ship Depot Maintenance ($647 million)
- Air Operations/Flying Hours ($504 million)
- Information Warfare/Other Support ($355 million)
- Ship Operations ($339 million)
- Waterfront Equipment, Service Craft, Boat Procurement ($68 million)
- Service Craft Maintenance and Overhaul ($53 million)
- Sealift Support Readiness ($32 million)
- Full-Scale Aerial Targets (an additional 5 QF-16 drone targets)($26 million)
- High-Speed Maneuverable Surface Targets (56 targets)($10 million)
Air operations include $260 million for U.S. Marine Corps aviation readiness.
The maintenance needs reflect Navy decisions in recent years to put off upkeep and protect long-term procurement accounts from successive cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act – also known as sequestration. But recent statements from top Navy brass underscore the need to restore maintenance money.
“Our priorities are unambiguously focused on readiness – those things required to get planes in the air, ships and subs at sea, sailors trained and ready,” the Navy official declared. “No new starts.”
Placing information warfare at No. 3 reflects a need to address “readiness shortfalls in all disciplines of the information warfare community – cyberspace operations, electronic warfare, intelligence, battlespace awareness and assured command and control,” the Navy said in its Jan. 5 note to Congress.
It’s notable that humble service craft – the myriad supply, service and berthing barges, floating workshops and other small craft seen in any naval base – make it to the five and six priority slots. Such craft are often in service for many decades – many date from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War eras – and it’s unusual for the Navy to bestow on them such a high priority.
“The goal is to go after things that we can fix quickly to keep the fleet operating and that are executable,” the Navy official said. “The last thing we want to do is waste money or go after things that are not immediately needed.”
The Navy official added that items on the list that don’t make it in to the 2017 budget are likely to be included in the 2018 or 2019 requests.
Other significant items on the unfunded list include:
- 24 F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet strike fighters ($2.3 billion)
- 6 P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft ($1.2 billion)
- 2 F-35C carrier-based Joint Strike Fighters ($270 million)
- 2 C-40A transport aircraft for the Naval Reserve ($207 million)
- An additional 96 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles ($154 million)
- Increase the maximum production rate of SM-6 Block 1A missiles to 125 per year ($75 million)
- An additional 75 AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles ($33 million)
- Funding over-the-horizon missile installations on the two littoral combat ships ($43 million)
- The unfunded requirements list also includes several ships:
- A 13th LPD 17-class amphibious ship ($1.83 billion)
- An additional T-AOX fleet oiler ($547 million)
- An additional EPF expeditionary fast transport ($256 million)
- Installation of the Air Missile Defense Radar in the 3 rd FY 2016 destroyer ($433 million)
The service also is seeking $255 million to improve the General Dynamics Electric Boat Quonset Point facility in Rhode Island to expand to building three Virginia-class attack submarines per year.
Read the full list here: PDF
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Update To Navy Unfunded Priorities List Emphasizes Readiness
Would add More Super Hornets, additional Amphib
(U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE NEWS 24 JAN 17) … Megan Eckstein
The Navy wants $2 billion in additional funding this year for much-needed ship maintenance and fleet operations, and would also buy two dozen Super Hornets and an additional San Antonio-class amphibious warship if money were made available, according to an early January draft wish list obtained by USNI News.
While the list is not as official as the February 2016 Unfunded Priorities List from which it stems, it is meant to be a conversation-starter with Congress and the new Trump Administration on the Navy’s needs for today and in the near term, a senior service official told USNI News on Tuesday.
Ahead of upcoming congressional hearings and discussions about additional money Congress and the Trump Administration may give the military through a supplemental funding measure, the Navy updated its wish list and informally shared it with lawmakers.
In recent years the services have submitted their budget requests to Congress through the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and then separately sent a list of unfunded priorities that were not including in the official request but would be important if more money were made available. The Navy submitted a Fiscal Year 2017 Unfunded Priorities List (UPL) in February 2016 to supplement its FY 2017 official submission. In that UPL were requests for 14 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, two additional carrier-variant F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters, the remainder of the funding needed to buy an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer beyond the Navy’s original shipbuilding plan, and weapons.
The draft list is a reflection of the Navy’s current needs based on global affairs, current fleet operations and other factors, the service official told USNI News on Tuesday.
The wish list was shared to inform upcoming budget discussions, though the document’s introduction notes that the “the Navy does not intend to submit a revised FY 2017 Unfunded Priorities List (UPL) until we engage further with the new Administration on potential changes in the defense strategy and priorities” – though through this informal update, the Navy increases its formerly 35-item list to a now-59-item list based on current needs.
The first section of the updated list addresses afloat readiness, which both the Navy and the new Trump Administration have said would be a primary focus of any FY 2017 supplemental. A supplemental package being informally discussed now would provide about $40 billion in additional funding for the military, though details about how that might break down by service have not yet been made public.
“Our priorities are unambiguously focused on readiness – those things required to get planes in the air, ships and subs at sea, sailors trained and ready,” the senior Navy official told USNI News.
More than $500 million for air operations and flying hours, as well as $339 million for ship operations and $647 for ship depot maintenance, sit atop the wish list. These items were included in the original UPL but have been prioritized first in this most recent version. New additions to the afloat readiness section include funding to achieve cyber security for the Navy’s information technology systems and to maintain expeditionary forces’ IT equipment; recapitalize waterfront equipment that provides berthing and docking services at naval installations; maintain and overhaul service craft; and fund at-sea logistics such as food and fuel for forward-deployed sealift ships supporting combatant commander requirements.
On the acquisition side, the senior official said the Navy is focused on in-production programs, not new-starts, that could quickly be ramped up to help create near-term readiness and capacity for the fleet. Since being updated, the UPL now includes a request for six additional P-8s in FY 2017 to help reach the program’s requirement of 117 aircraft faster, and adds 10 additional Super Hornets to the UPL – the Navy asked for 14 last February and has since bumped up the request to 24 to “reduce near-term strike fighter shortfalls, accelerate divestiture of legacy F/A-18A-D series Hornets, and begin to address long-term strike-fighter capacity shortfalls by maintaining and open F/A-18E/F/G production line.”
On weapons, the document would add 96 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles to the Navy’s procurement plan – the service asked for 100 in its budget request and the House Armed Services Committee attempted to boost that figure to 198 to hit manufacturer Raytheon’s production line minimum sustainment rate – as well as 19 Standard Missile-6 Block IA Surface-to-Air Missiles to return to Raytheon’s maximum production rate of 125 a year. The Navy would also ask for 30 additional Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block II to address an urgent operational need for Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) ships in Europe.
In shipbuilding, the Navy would seek full funding for an amphibious ship – LPD-29 – which would increase the program of record from 12 to 13. The $1.83 billion for the ship would keep the Ingalls Shipbuilding production line busy between LPD-28, which was meant to be a gap-filler, and potential LX(R) dock landing ship replacement work, where USNI News understands there now could be a pause in work. LPD-28 would have a design that begins to shift from the original LPD design to the future LPD-based LX(R) design, and LPD-29 would presumably continue down this path to ease the transition from one class to the next. It would also help the Navy get from the current 31 amphib ships to the newly stated goal of 38, included in the December 2016 Force Structure Assessment that calls for 355 ships total. The UPL would also request $547 million for a John Lewis-class fleet oiler in FY 2017, to eliminate a one-year gap in production between the first and second hull. The list also calls for one more Expeditionary Fast Transport – formerly called the Joint High Speed Vessel – to bring the once-10-craft class up to 13, and it calls for advance procurement for an additional Expeditionary Sea Base. The Navy had planned for three ESBs – one will deploy this year, one is under construction and the third is under contract – but the new FSA calls for six.
The updated UPL calls for a slew of cyber capacity upgrades, including an urgent operational need from U.S. 10th Fleet for research, development, test and evaluation and operations and maintenance funding for Sharkcage, a defensive cyber capability to identify and defend against cyber anomalies within weapon system networks.
To boost the naval force’s capacity, the Navy is now seeking a first tranche of money to expand General Dynamics Electric Boat’s Quonset Point Facility to support construction of three Virginia-class attack submarines a year even while building the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program. The Navy faced an attack sub shortfall in the 2020s, made even more dramatic by the increase in SSN requirement in the updated Force Structure Assessment, and it will take building at least three Virginia-class boats a year – despite the massive amount of work the Columbia-class SSBN represents – to keep up with combatant commander demands for SSNs. The document also notes an interest in Adaptive Force Packages that include unmanned aerial systems and small boat packages for the Expeditionary Fast Transports.
This request – which, again, is intended to outline needs that were not included in the official budget submission but that would be vital to the Navy if additional funding were to be made available – now totals $12 billion in funding, compared to about $5 billion when the original UPL was submitted to Congress in February 2016.
Earlier this month Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran said that, while President Donald Trump had expressed interest in growing the Navy fleet, readiness needed to be a top priority before growing a larger fleet.
“Deferred maintenance is insidiously taking its toll,” he said, and “at some point, we have to dig ourselves out of the hole” that has been created from years of too little funding for operations and maintenance.
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James Mattis: Readiness Vs Offset
(THE STRATEGIST (AUSTRALIA) 25 JAN 17) … Brendan Thomas-Noone
If the initial reports about his first day in office are anything to go by, new U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is living up to what the Washington establishment hopes he will bring to the Trump administration: stability, reassurance and experience.
A good example came from The Washington Examiner, which reported that the General had begun establishing a ‘battle-rhythm’ upon entering the Pentagon, sat for four hours of briefings and has even submitted himself to the standard drug tests required of all new Department of Defense employees. But for all of the stability that Mattis looks set to bring to the Pentagon, there are some significant differences between his views and those of his predecessor, Ash Carter, which are likely to have implications for Australia.
On most matters, Mattis is a traditionalist when it comes to American foreign policy and national security – he could have easily served in a Hillary Clinton administration. He believes in the rules-based global order. He’s written that the United States should reinvest in the Bretton Woods institutions and has called for the strengthening of NATO. He’s fiercely loyal to those allies who have supported the U.S. in times of need. During his Senate confirmation hearing, one of the deadpan lines he delivered was simply his belief that ‘nations with allies thrive, nations without allies don’t.’
Appreciating that the U.S. is in a strategic competition with China, he’s argued that the relationship needs to be ‘managed’ by utilising a wide array of tools. On the South China Sea he’s toed the Obama administration’s line, reiterating that ‘the bottom line is … international waters are international waters.’ Where he falls on the ‘rebalance’ to Asia and whether he’ll argue for its continuation in some form is as yet unclear. When questioned during his confirmation hearing he stated that, ‘the U.S. has worldwide responsibilities and certainly the Pacific looms large in that.’ It was a fairly lukewarm answer when compared to his statements on other regions, such as the Middle East.
But through Mattis’ testimony, as well as his previous writings and speeches, a common theme emerges: U.S. diplomacy should be multifaceted and not be based solely on military power, but it should be conducted from a position of strength.
From where the U.S. military draws that strength is the point of his divergence from Ash Carter. One of the marks of Carter’s tenure was an emphasis on innovation and technology as underpinning American conventional deterrence now and into the future. The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) in Silicon Valley, the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, and broadly, the Third Offset Strategy, were all hallmarks of Carter’s drive to infuse technological innovation into upholding American conventional deterrence.
Mattis has signalled a different approach. One of the more consistent arguments the General has made since retiring from the military in 2013 has been that the lack of combat readiness of U.S. military forces is detrimental to American conventional deterrence. Poor military readiness – through a low level of consistent training and tempo of operations, poor upkeep of military equipment and disorganisation – in the General’s view has risked the American military becoming a ‘hollow force.’ Mattis made it clear during his opening testimony at the U.S. Senate that his priorities as Secretary of Defense will be, in order, to ‘strengthen military readiness, strengthen our alliances, and bring business reforms to the Department of Defense.’
Looking back, this priority on combat readiness likely stems from the lessons the General drew from the 2006 Lebanon War, displayed in his 2008 memo Guidance for Effects Based Operations. Broadly, Mattis argued that the joint force at the time was too reliant on certain technologies, precision-warfare and centralised leadership.
Instead, ‘the joint force must act in uncertainty and thrive in chaos, sensing opportunity therein and not retreating into a need for more information.’ He highlighted the Israeli Defense Forces’ lessons from the war, saying the concept ‘discounts the human dimensions of war,’ promotes ‘centralisation and leads to micromanagement from headquarters’ and ‘assumes a level of unachievable predictability.’ The 2008 memo is a good indication of how the new Secretary of Defense thinks about the nature of war and what makes a lethal fighting force. Deterrence is guaranteed by highly effective and trained combat forces and their lethality – but not necessarily though complex systems or technological and information dominance.
The focus on innovation and technological superiority will remain a priority at DoD – particularly if Obama-era Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work remains – but Mattis’ repeated statements on how battlefield readiness should be the focus of all planning decisions may signal a shift in budget priorities. For Australia, that could eventually have implications for U.S. training and deployments. Canberra may expect to see requests for a higher rate of U.S. rotations through Australian facilities, more joint-military exercises and more high-end and diversified military assets, like the recently announced rotation of F-22s and the next deployment of Marine assets to Darwin. Much of that depends on whether Mattis is able to carve out his own sphere of influence within the Trump administration. If he does, allies like Australia could be expected to do more, but within a framework committed to engaging with and upholding a rules-based order.
Brendan Thomas-Noone is a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
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Trump’s ‘Debt Bomb’: Deficit May Grow, Defense Budget May Not
(BREAKING DEFENSE 23 JAN 17) … Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
WASHINGTON – “Trump is going to explode the debt,” GOP pundit Mackenzie Eaglen said. “What you’re going to see is a debt bomb.”
While the new president wants to grow the military, rebuild infrastructure, and cut taxes, Eaglen said, his plan to fund all that that through steep domestic spending cuts “is complete fantasy” that will never pass the Senate. The only other way to pay is borrowing money – and “he’s mentioned many times on the campaign trail that’s he’s very comfortable leveraging debt.”
The result, said Eaglen, who’s close to most Republicans and defense hawks on the Hill, “will be a total bulldozing over the Tea Party,” which has seen the much-derided Budget Control Act (aka sequester) as a necessary limit on federal spending. The bulldozees-to-be in this scenario include Trump’s own pick for budget director, Rep. Rick Mulvaney, whose confirmation hearing before the Senate is tomorrow.
“I would not be surprised if they took the same approach that Reagan did,” said Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic & International studies, speaking to me after the CSIS-hosted panel on which he and Eaglen both appeared. Ronald Reagan took office proposing defense increases and tax cuts, to be offset by economic growth and cuts to domestic spending, all very much like Trump. When Democrats blocked the domestic cuts, and the economic projections proved too optimistic – the so-called “Rosy Scenario” – the difference was made up by borrowing money, also known as creating big deficits.
Trump could very well follow a similar path. There’s already discussion of “dynamic scoring” that would bend traditional rules on how to estimate the cost of federal programs, said CSIS’s Andrew Hunter, and with Trump, “you could see dynamic spending on steroids: We’re going to spend more but it’s going to cost less.” Again, once the bills come due, the only way to make up a shortfall is by borrowing.
Todd Harrison, the panel’s host and a leading budget expert, was less sanguine about the prospects for big boosts, funded by debt or not. ”It is equally, if not more, likely that the Trump administration goes in the opposite direction and they come out with a budget that actually dramatically cuts the size of the federal government,” Harrison told me.
Rather than get bulldozed, Mulvaney and the deficit hawks may prevail in the battle for Trump’s ear. If that happens, Harrison said, expect the administration to propose steep reductions in the size of the federal government – as it does in a leaked outline for a staggering $10.5 trillion in cuts over 10 years. In such a climate, defense spending would be stable at best.
“We’ll know within a few weeks,” Harrison said. “They’ll come out with their skinny budget (i.e. overall figures without detail justification) mid-to -late February. That’ll be our first indication of (whether) they go to one of these extremes or not.”
Either extreme is equally plausible, Harrison told me: debt-fueled spending increases or Spartan cuts. And whichever extreme hits the Hill, he added, Congress will force the final outcome back to the center.
No Christmas In July
Whatever happens, none of the experts expected a dramatic increase in defense spending in the near term. It takes took much time to thrash out a spending plan – and too much of Trump’s time and political capital will be consumed by higher-profile fights over repealing Obamacare, reforming the tax system and getting a Supreme Court justice confirmed.
“The most valuable resource on earth is floor time in the United States Senate, (and) it’s being used right now on Obamacare,” said Hunter. “The big moment of opportunity is going to be … the defense supplemental” to increase Pentagon spending for 2017.
But first, Hunter said, the Congress has to pass the 2017 budget so it can be supplemented. The current Continuing Resolution, which sets most (but not all) spending on autopilot at 2016 levels, expires April 28th. It’s unlikely Congress will pass a proper budget, let alone a supplemental, before that deadline – which is after Trump’s first 100 days.
When it finally does arrive, the 2017 supplemental will just be a down payment on Trump’s buildup plans. Even the 2018 budget, already drafted by the outgoing administration, will bear some Trump stamps but largely serve as a “bridge” to the 2019 proposal, the first crafted entirely under the new administration.
So no one in the Pentagon or defense industry should be shopping for a new light fighter yet. To the contrary: When the Trump plan finally comes, in addition to any increases, it will almost certainly make sharp cuts to perceived “waste” and “inefficiency” that may not be possible to execute.
“Their belief is, viscerally, in their gut, emotionally, there’s so much waste in defense,” said Eaglen. The Trump teams wants to “blow up” the intelligence and defense bureaucracies, she said.
“Trump indicated he thought there was a lot of waste in defense and therefore some of this increase could be funded by offsets within defense,” agreed Cancian. There certainly is inefficiency – but past attempts to wring it out have usually failed. “The obvious one is base closure,” said Cancian, but Congress has repeatedly shot that source of savings down.
Other potential savings are far more vague, like what Cancian called the “infamous” Defense Business Board report that prescribed $125 million in savings (over five years) by applying to the Pentagon percentage targets derived from private sector efficiency drives, without “any details” of how to apply these models to the Defense Department.
You can assume all the management efficiencies you want, said Eaglen, but when your budget counts on future savings before they’ve actually been realized, “it’s simply a topline cut.” (Reagan’s budgeteers called marked such assumed savings with what they called “the magic asterix.”) Overall, she said, that means the optimism about big defense boosts is overstated: “It’s not good news for defense. It’s not Christmas in July.”
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Rolls-Royce studies two new stall fixes for V-22 engines
| BY: Stephen Trimble
Rolls-Royce is exploring two new avenues for reducing the susceptibility of Bell Boeing V-22 engines to in-flight stall and surge events.
The US Naval Air Systems Command plans to award the maker of the AE1107C turboshaft engines a contract to complete two studies that would validate the company’s ideas for making the propulsion system safer to operate.
One study will prove whether rescheduling movement schedules in the full authority digital engine control (FADEC) computer for compressor guide vanes will improve surge margins. R-R’s internal testing suggests the software tweak could improve surge margin by 0.8% at sea level and up to 3% at altitude.
Another study is focused on the temperature sensor located at the inlet to the compressor. R-R’s engineers have determined the T2 sensor sends inaccurate measurements to the FADEC, contributing 2.5 percentage points of a 4% steady-state power shortfall at the compressor’s corrected rotational speed limit. By tweaking the software to provide an accurate temperature measurement at the compressor inlet, R-R believes the engine safety will improve.
The AE1107C’s vulnerability to stalls and surges has been a focus of the programme for more than a decade. NAVAIR released a statement of work for the two study contracts saying the AE1107C has experienced at least 68 stalls and surge events from 2003 to October 2016.
But only about 10% of those reported events caused in-flight disruptions, says Tom Hartmann, R-R North America’s senior vice-president of customer business. Most of the events were detected quickly by the engine monitoring system, allowing the computer to avoid a compressor stall by briefly slowing the fuel flow into the combustor, he adds.
Moreover, most of the in-flight disruptions occurred on early configurations of the engine, he adds. The arrival of the Block 3 version of the engine five years ago has led to a reduction in reports of in-flight disruptions. Bell Boeing also is developing an inlet barrier system, which is aimed at preventing surges caused by ingesting dust and sand. The AE1107Cs are already equipped with air particle separators, but that technology based on centrifugal force is less effective than installing a filter on the inlet, Hartmann says.
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McCain’s 300 Low-End Fighters A ‘Great Idea:’ CSAF Gen. Goldfein
By Colin Clark
WASHINGTON: A key part of Sen. John Mclain’s alternative defense budget proposal is the rapid purchase of 300 “low-cost, light-attack fighters that would require minimal work to develop.”
I asked Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein today what he thought of McCain’s proposal, contained in Restoring American Power. “Great idea,” he said, pointing to the long war we’ve fought against Islamic terrorists and other violent extremists. While America needs F-22s and F-35s in case of war with China, Russia, Iran or North Korea, Goldfein said those aircraft need a break from flying the regular missions into permissive environments such as those found in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other theaters where US aircraft execute Close Air Support (CAS) and other operations that don’t require stealth, high speed or other expensive and sophisticated capabilities.
After his talk at the glamorous new headquarters of the American Enterprise Institute, Goldfein spoke with me briefly and confirmed that the Air Force already is talking with defense companies about possible aircraft for the job. The head of Air Force public affairs, Brig. Gen. Edward Thomas, then spoke with reporters after Goldfein left the building, confirming there is no money in the budget — this year or next (so far) — to fund this effort. He also confirmed that this aircraft is in keeping with the Air Force plan to buy a new fighter capable of CAS, known as OA-X.
I asked Goldfein if the Scorpion aircraft, built on spec by Textron AirLand, was one of the aircraft under consideration and he said yes. The other planes already being considered for OA-X are Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucanos and Beechcraft’s AT-6. With ardent A-10 supporter Sen. Kelly Ayotte having lost her seat, it will be interesting to see how Congress shapes the CAS decisions the Air Force hopes to make.
In other news, Goldfein admitted that Russia and Turkey flying together today in operations over Syria “certainly adds to the complexity” of the regional situation in the Middle East. Turkey, a key NATO ally, flew F-16s with the Russians. Michael Gordon of the New York Times pressed him for a clearer answer and Goldfein said: “I’m not concerned right now, but we are all watching very closely to see what goes on.”
The idea of Russian and Turkish troops working tougher in any form would have been laughable a year ago. In November 2015 Turkey shot down a Russian jet it said was violating its airspace and President Erdogan repeatedly defended the shoot down. Then Erdogan expressed “deep regret” to Putin in June last year for the downing and the unfortunate Turkish pilots were arrested. Since then, Russia and Turkey have worked more and more closely together in operations centered on northeastern Syria.
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Air Force Chief Scientist confirms F-35 will include artificial intelligence
By Kris Osborn
F-35s, F-22s and other fighter jets will soon use improved artificial intelligence to control nearby drone wingmen that will be able to carry weapons, test enemy air defenses or perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in high risk areas, senior Air Force officials said.
Citing ongoing progress with artificial intelligence already engineered into the F-35, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias said that much higher degrees of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming are expected to emerge in the near future from work at the Air Force Research Lab.
“This involves an attempt to have another platform fly alongside a human, perhaps serving as a weapons truck carrying a bunch of missiles,” Zacharias said in an interview with Defense Systems.
An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, uses early applications of artificial intelligence that help computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves – without needing human intervention.
“We are working on making platforms more autonomous with multi-infusion systems and data from across different intel streams,” Zacharias explained.
ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, said Lockheed Martin, the contractor that built the system.
However, despite the promise of advancing computer technology and increasingly levels of autonomy, Zacharias emphasized that dynamic human cognition is, in many respects, far more capable than computers.
Computers can more quickly complete checklists and various procedures, but human perception abilities can more quickly process changing information in many respects.
“A computer might have to go through a big long checklist, whereas a pilot might immediately know that the engines are out without going through a checklist. He is able to make a quicker decision about where to land,” Zacharias said.
The F-35s so-called “sensor fusion” uses computer algorithms to acquire, distill, organize and present otherwise disparate pieces of intelligence into a single picture for the pilot. The technology, Zacharias said, also exhibits some early implementations of artificial intelligence.
Systems such as a 360-degree sensor suite, called the Distributed Aperture System, is linked with targeting technologies, such as the aircraft’s Electro-Optical Targeting System.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
In the future, drones will likely be operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Zacharias predicted.
Zacharias said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the large amount of ISR video demands organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying, “Hey, I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,’” he explained .This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack.
In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations.
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientists and weapons’ developers believe that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
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Super Hornet could compete with Lockheed F-35
BY: Leigh Giangreco
Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet could steal orders away from the Lockheed Martin F-35 if the Trump Administration adjusts defence priorities, military acquisition analyst Andrew Hunter told an audience 23 January at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
An “advanced Super Hornet” still can’t compete with the stealthy F-35 in airspace monitored by radar surveillance, but a semi-low-observable F/A-18E/F with more carriage capacity could emerge as an attractive option against less sophisticated threats, according to Hunter.
“But if your strategy requires to operate continuously in denied access air environments, there is no such thing as a comparable Super Hornet,” he adds. “It simply doesn’t exist.”
In 2015, US Gen Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Russia the greatest existential threat to the US followed by China, North Korea and Islamic State terrorists. That order affects how the US Department of Defense approaches its procurement priorities. When it comes to air, it means the Pentagon has set its sights on buying high-end aircraft that can penetrate more sophisticated Russian air defences in Crimea.
But there is some indication from Trump’s previous statements and his proclivity for Russian president Vladimir Putin that the old order could be flipped. US president Donald Trump’s national security team could make terrorism their top concern and let the Russian threat fall to the back burner, according to CSIS defence budget analyst Todd Harrison.
“If that holds true then why do you need as many of these stealthy aircraft?” Harrison says. “So it could dramatically change what we’re buying.”
Last week, USAF chief Gen David Goldfein expressed his support for Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Senator John McCain’s proposal to add 300 low-cost fighters to the budget. That move would make sense if the DOD pivots its focus toward fighting terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, where light-attack aircraft such as the Embraer Super Tucano already operate.
Trump’s proposal for a price shoot-out on the F-35 programme between Boeing and Lockheed has some precedent. Harrison noted the US Navy already pits the Super Hornet against the carrier-based F-35C variant, with its numerous budget requests to increase the number of F/A-18E/Fs while reducing orders for the F-35C.
The service requested 14 Super Hornets in the most recent defence policy bill, which were turned down by Congress. A recent white paper from McCain suggested continuing this trend, pointing to the growing shortfall of Navy fighters and ongoing delays to the F-35C programme. McCain proposed procuring 58 more Super Hornets and 16 EA-18G Growlers over the next five years, but would continue F-35 procurement as quickly as possible.
If Lockheed would feel competition from any aircraft, it would be the Super Hornet, Harrison adds.
“I think it’s easy to say Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about, the F-18 doesn’t have the same capabilities as F-35C,” Harrison says. “All of that’s true, but I think he knew that he was picking at a scab.”
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Lockheed CEO: F-35A Price to Drop Below $100M in Next Contract
By: Valerie Insinna
WASHINGTON — A deal for the tenth lot of F-35s will put the Air Force’s A model under $100 million per plane for the first time, and Lockheed Martin is on track to bring unit costs for an F-35A to $85 million in 2019, the company’s CEO said Tuesday.
A comparison with past estimates shows that these figures are on track with Defense Department and Lockheed’s own expectations, and do not necessarily reflect a decrease in unit prices caused by President Trump’s public critique of the program.
Trump has been hammering the joint strike fighter since December, frequently stating that the price of the aircraft is “out of control” and calling for an alternative in Boeing’s Super Hornet.
During a Tuesday earnings call, Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson defended the company’s trajectory of cost reduction, citing its Blueprint for Affordability initiatives. Perhaps even more fascinatingly, she painted Lockheed’s relationship with the new president as cooperative — a depiction at odds with the more antagonistic tenor of Trump’s public comments about the fighter jet.
“His focus is on, how do we drive the cost down aggressively, and I think we, along with our industry partners, are right in line with him on doing that. We have a lot of ideas on how we can do that in the future” she said.
“The meetings that we’ve had have been very productive, very good dialogue. He asks excellent questions and he is really focused on making sure that costs come down on the program,” she said. “It’s not about slashing our profit. It’s not about our margins.”
Hewson’s comments in some ways match the reassuring tone struck by Defense Secretary James Mattis. During his confirmation hearing, Mattis told senators that Trump has “in no way shown a lack of support for the program,” but wants to see Lockheed bring prices down.
Hewson has met twice with Trump to speak about the program, most recently on Jan. 13. After that meeting, she told reporters that the Defense Department and Lockheed were “very close” to a deal on the tenth batch of joint strike fighters — an assertion she repeated during the earnings call.
“The LRIP 10 price, as currently proposed, would represent a reduction of over 60 percent from the first LRIP 1 aircraft, and this demonstrates a learning curve as efficient as any achieved on any modern tactical fighter aircraft,” she said.
The LRIP 10 contract will also mark a sharp production increase, from 57 aircraft in LRIP 9 to about 90 F-35s in the tenth batch. F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said late last year that he expected to see unit prices fall about 6 percent between the two orders.
Lockheed CFO Bruce Tanner predicted that the F-35 will have “sequential, year-after-year margin improvements” leading up to full rate production, and that LRIP 10 would not deviate from that path.
The company hopes to finalize negotiations on LRIP 11 in 2017. If orders increase as planned, Lockheed will be on track to offer the F-35A at $85 million per copy in LRIP 13 — a 2019 order comprised of about 200 jets, according to a chart shown by Hewson during the call.
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F-35 in Trump Administration’s Crosshairs
By Jon Harper
President Donald Trump’s defense policy advisers want to “tear open” the F-35 joint strike fighter program, according to an analyst familiar with their thinking.
The $400 billion program is the most expensive acquisition project in Pentagon history. The Defense Department plans to spend about $56 billion on the aircraft over the next five years.
The project has experienced significant cost overruns, schedule delays and technical problems, and Trump took aim at it before he even came into office.
“The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th,” he tweeted in December.
He has asked Boeing to “price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet” as a potential alternative to the F-35, he said in a subsequent tweet.
Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense budget analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, has briefed Trump’s policy advisers on several occasions. They are inclined to “tear open this program and take it apart” and look at whether major changes need to be made to the number of planes procured or other aspects of the project, she said.
“They really believe it’s time to burn the Pentagon” metaphorically speaking, she said. “That’s going to have a heavy emphasis on acquisition of weapons in particular.”
The president’s tweet put F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin on the defensive.
“Lockheed Martin and its industry partners understand the importance of affordability” for the joint strike fighter program, Jeff Babione, the company’s executive vice president and general manager of the F-35, said during an aircraft delivery ceremony in Israel in December.
Lockheed has been trying to bring costs down, he emphasized.
“Since the beginning, we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce the price of the airplane more than 60 percent” relative to the original low-rate initial production bill, he said.
The company projects that the price tag will be down to $85 million in the 2019 to 2020 timeframe.
“It’s a great value and we look forward to any questions [Trump] may have,” Babione said.
When asked about Trump’s comments, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the head of the F-35 joint program office, said he understands why there is a perception that the program is out of control, noting that from 2001 to 2011 it experienced a six-year delay in development and $13.5 billion in cost overruns.
“This is a vastly different program” now, he told reporters in December. “I don’t think the program cost-wise is out of control nor do I think it’s out of control schedule-wise.”
The aircraft is vital for the United States and its allies to maintain air dominance for the next 50 years, he said. But he and his JPO colleagues are not “salesmen” for the fighter jet, he added.
“I don’t have a strategy with the industry to go … try and save this program,” he said. “Our job is going to be to give the administration the good, the bad and the ugly about this program and let them make their own decisions.”
If the new president and his team try to significantly reduce the F-35 program, they would likely face resistance. With production spread out across more than 40 states, the joint strike fighter has the backing of many members of Congress who have jobs in their districts tied to the aircraft.
In addition, Lockheed would be expected to fight hard against any efforts to pare down the program.
“Never underestimate the power of Lockheed Martin’s sway,” Eaglen said.
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Some Thoughts On The McCain White Paper
(INFORMATION DISSEMINATION 23 JAN 17) … Bryan Clark and Bryan McGrath
The Trump Administration began work this week on its promise of an across-the-board enlargement of the U.S. military. The President-elect has thus far described his plan only in the broadest of terms, but those terms portend a sustained period of higher defense spending – something Congress has been unwilling to approve since it passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) in 2011.
Chief among those who will shape the future of the American military is Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who waded into the debate last week with a strong, coherent outline that not only aims to restore the capacity of a significantly hollowed-out force, but also provides direction for how the force should evolve as it grows. There is a lot in this report, but we will restrict our comments to the larger context of the plan and its impact on American Seapower.
Hope Versus Strategy
Senator McCain’s report begins by rightly highlighting the fundamental disconnect in today’s U.S. defense planning between resources and objectives. Hoping revanchist regimes in Russia and China would not be able to act effectively on their objectives for more than a decade, Congress and President Obama passed the BCA in 2011, reducing military budgets by about 10 percent for the subsequent decade. The BCA, in turn, contained the a ticking time-bomb known as Sequestration, which implemented another 10 percent cut starting in fiscal year (FY) 2013 if the Department was not able to meet BCA targets for spending. Because FY 2013 was already halfway over, services had to immediately cut their spending, creating maintenance depot backlogs, personnel shortfalls, and training shutdowns from which DoD is still recovering.
As the impact of the BCA’s cuts became clear, DoD and Congress experienced buyer’s remorse, turning to various budget gimmicks and abuse of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget to pay for expanding U.S. involvement in regional conflicts, growing compensation costs, and to allow for modest modernization of the force. McCain excoriates both Congress and the Executive Branch for these measures. Issuing a clear call to action, his report states “This law (BCA) must be repealed outright so we can budget for the true costs of our national defense.”
The most significant problem with the BCA’s reductions, McCain argues, is they do not allow modernization to address the rapidly improving capability of great powers such as Russia and China and regional powers such as Iran and North Korea. The BCA also does not provide the resources for U.S. forces to sustain the operational tempo to conduct daily strikes and raids on terrorists in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere. Notably, despite the hopes that underpinned the BCA, Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and China’s aggression in the South China Sea show, in McCain’s words, “A better defense strategy must acknowledge the reality that we have entered a new era of great power competitions. China and Russia aspire to diminish U.S. influence and revise the world order in ways that are contrary to U.S. national interests.”
McCain’s focus on great power competition is important in two ways. First, it draws a distinction between the Obama Administration’s approach and McCain’s more forward-leaning view of great power dynamics. Second, it sends a signal to the incoming administration of McCain’s wariness of Russia in clear and unambiguous terms. This could ultimately prove to be a contentious issue between Congress and the Trump Administration, which has indicated it may view Russia as a partner rather than a competitor or adversary.
Strategy And Fleet Architecture
McCain argues for a new set of defense strategies to address great powers, regional powers, and transnational terrorists, rather than a single U.S. security strategy. In CSBA’s upcoming study of alternative Navy fleet architectures, we argue the most important of these is a strategy to deter great power aggression, which could potentially have the most catastrophic consequences of these security challenges. With the realignment of American bases since the Cold War, U.S. ground and air forces overseas are less numerous and more easily suppressed than when they last faced a great power adversary a quarter century ago. Thus, naval forces will assume a more prominent role in conventional deterrence.
Recognizing both the Trump goal of a 350 ship Navy and the Navy’s own recently released 355-ship Force Structure Assessment (FSA), McCain lays out a plan that over the next five years that: 1) increases the size of the fleet over the final plan of the Obama Administration by building 59 ships as opposed to the Obama Administration’s 41, 2) truncates the current Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program and accelerates the Navy’s move to an open-ocean frigate replacement, 3) funds design work on a new class of aircraft carrier, 4) increases Navy end-strength, 5) invests significantly in unmanned technologies of all varieties, and 6) provides additional, immediate funding to address fleet readiness and maintenance, and installations and infrastructure.
McCain’s plan aligns in large part with our proposed fleet architecture, and would improve the Navy’s ability to deter aggression by great powers, counter attacks by regional powers, and help keep terrorists on the run. Unlike the current fleet, McCain’s proposal would not focus on efficiently providing presence at the expense of the capability and capacity for combat against a capable adversary.
Three aspects of McCain’s force structure plan are of particular interest. First is its truncation of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in 2017 with a follow-on frigate proposed for acquisition no later than 2022. It is essential that the Navy move as quickly as possible from the LCS to a proper blue-water frigate capable of anti-submarine warfare and local air defense, but it must also continue to increase the size of the fleet and ensure the frigate can be affordable and built in large numbers. McCain proposes an acquisition “bridge” for the two shipyards currently building LCS to continue between 2017 and 2022. This would expand the fleet and enable these shipbuilders to compete for the follow-on frigate, which could lower costs for the frigate and increase the number of shipyards at which it could be built.
The second initiative of note is McCain’s proposal to move to a mix of large, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and smaller, conventionally-powered carriers. As recommended in our fleet architecture study as well, conventional carriers would initially be based on current amphibious assault ships that carry short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft such as the AV-8B Harrier and F-35B Lightning II. As McCain argues, a smaller carrier would be suited to supporting many of the smaller steady-state operations that require naval air power, such as air strikes in Syria. Senator McCain is skeptical of the Navy’s new FORD-class carrier due to its high cost and poor management, but argues the fleet will continue to also need large nuclear-powered carriers to provide a mobile airfield for combat air sorties during larger conflicts in which host nation concerns or enemy actions prevent effectively using land bases.
Finally, though not mentioned in the narrative, a “patrol ship” of less than 800 tons appears in the McCain plan’s appendix for acquisition starting in 2020. The addition of this small combatant highlights the need for a larger, more distributed, and resilient force, which was also a finding of our fleet architecture study. A patrol vessel of 800 tons such as Sweden’s Visby-class would be able to defend itself against a salvo of a dozen or more anti-ship missiles and could carry 4 to 8 offensive strike or anti-ship missiles. This will make patrol vessels able to deny or delay enemy aggression while being too costly a target to be worth defeating in large numbers.
Overall, McCain’s proposal would grow the surface fleet by adding frigates and patrol vessels to the Navy’s current requirement of 104 large surface combatants and 52 small surface combatants. We agree a larger surface fleet is essential to conduct offensive strike and anti-ship attacks in a distributed manner that will make them harder to defeat in detail. But we would argue the Distributed Lethality concept and growing needs for logistics escorts suggest the surface fleet needs to both grow and be rebalanced, with more small surface combatants that can conduct widely distributed offensive operations and fewer large surface combatants that will tend to concentrate the fleet’s firepower.
A Fleet For The Future
A Navy is a capital investment that takes years to build and lasts for decades thereafter. Any plan for a future fleet should be based not on the world of today, but on a set of plausible futures that best represent the world of 15 to 20 years from now. Even with an aggressive shipbuilding increase such as envisioned by McCain’s plan, only ¼ of the fleet will change between now and 2030. McCain’s proposal considers the likelihood that the fleet of 2030 will need to deter revisionist great powers as its primary mission, while addressing the growing capability of regional powers and transnational terrorists. It appropriately invests not only in platforms, but across the board in the various enablers and extenders of maritime power, including ISR, networking, unmanned vehicles, cyber, and electronic warfare.
If the United States fails to make great power competition a priority in long-term force planning, rivals such as Russia and China will continue eroding American influence and alliances, with damaging economic and security impacts on the American people. McCain’s plan sets American Seapower (as well as the rest of DoD) on a solid course for an uncertain future. It remains to be seen the extent to which this thoughtful, strategic approach will be complemented by the other instruments of national power, or the degree to which the incoming administration will welcome it.
Bryan Clark is Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Prior to joining CSBA, he was Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Director of his Commander’s Action Group. Bryan McGrath is Deputy Director, Center for American Seapower and a retired Surface Warfare Officer.