1. MV-22 Osprey depot-level repair facility opens in Japan
2. CLIO Announcement – NEW LogTalk from Weapons Division
3. PHOTO RELEASE: CNAF, NAVAIR Celebrate 2017 MLK Day (link)
4. Kendall Warns Against Splitting Top Pentagon Acquisition Job
5. Hundreds of deficiencies could push F-35 tests to 2019
6. First F-35Cs For West Coast FRS To Arrive Next Week At Lemoore
7. If Trump Wants Lower F-35 Costs, He Should Compete F135 Engine
8. Trump’s Navy Build-Up Comes With Steep Price Tag
9. Exclusive: Pentagon, Lockheed near deal on $9 billion F-35 contract – sources
10. From Drone Swarms To Smart Data, Pentagon Eyes A.I.
11. Why The United States Is Losing Its Technological Edge
12. Virginia start-up sets endurance record for small UAV
13. Fanning: Army Must Change How it Works With Private Sector
14. The Real Culprit in Defense Spending: Strategic Hubris
15. The Future of Air Superiority, Part III: Defeating A2/AD
Follow us on Twitter @COMFRC_Sustains,
Facebook at http://facebook.com/COMFRC
and YouTube at www.youtube.com/channel/UCKGMKvAQuJ_L6qnM0DZravQ
MV-22 Osprey depot-level repair facility opens in Japan
KISARAZU, Japan – Members of Fleet Readiness Center Western Pacific (FRCWP) joined Japanese city officials, industry executives, and self-defense force leaders in a ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 12 to open the first, Japan-based, depot-level MV-22 Osprey repair facility at Camp Kisarazu, a Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) operated air field.
The hangar bay facility, under contract with Fuji Heavy Industries, is critical to maintaining the entire forward deployed Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey fleet.
“The (M)V-22 is a strategic asset for the Marines in Japan,” said Capt. Matthew Edwards, commanding officer of FRCWP. “Opening this facility is a win-win situation for the Japan-U.S. alliance; it will allow us to ensure the long-term sustainment of the Marine Corps aircraft, and the Japanese will gain important experience on working with the aircraft.” The JGSDF is in the process of procuring seventeen V-22 aircraft.
FRCWP worked closely with Fuji Heavy Industries and the JGSDF to make this event happen on time.
“We had to coordinate the development of the facility and ensured that it met specifications. We provided aircraft support equipment, and also had to train Fuji Heavy Industries technicians to use the Department of Defense supply system,” said Scott DeLorenzi, MV-22 Logistics Management Specialist. “Despite these types of challenges, we are still on schedule.”
Once depot-level maintenance begins at the facility, FRCWP, which is based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, will provide oversight, engineering support, material, and technical data for the life of the contract.
Training for the Japanese aircraft maintainers has been provided by the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), and is expected to continue mid-January, with the first Osprey to undergo depot-level maintenance shortly thereafter.
(return to top)
CLIO Announcement – NEW LogTalk from Weapons Division
Mr. Jason Zehendner, the IPT Lead for the All Weapons Information System (AWIS) at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, located in China Lake, California, and his team describe the capabilities and importance of the AWIS system. They identify how different components of the Department of the Navy leverage the multitude of applications within AWIS to achieve complete lifecycle management for the Navy’s Weapons Systems.
(return to top)
Kendall Warns Against Splitting Top Pentagon Acquisition Job
(USNI 17JAN17) … By: John Grady
Frank Kendall again warned against splitting the duties of the Pentagon’s top civilian for acquisition, technology and logistics into two positions – one for the research and engineering and the other for acquisition and sustainment.
“I don’t think the break-up is a good thing,” Frank Kendall, the Department of Defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L) speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Kendall and other Pentagon officials have testified against the split contained in the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act – which the president termed “rushed” in his signing memorandum, and had threatened to veto.
Congressional leaders – like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) – have argued the split would streamline upper level Pentagon management but Kendall said this kind of division, “wasn’t what we do.”
“You have to understand what you’re doing [in the context of the government, not private business], you have to understand the culture,” he said.
One key difference between doing business for the government is “we pay for R&D” because the product is going to be produced at low-volume and high cost. In the private sector, research and development costs are absorbed by industry in anticipation of high volume lowering costs.
Another key difference that appointees have to understand is private industry does not have to contend with protests over contract awards, he said.
Kendall said while “rapid acquisition” can solve immediate problems in combat it is not a practice that should be followed in all other cases. “The cost of speed is quality,” noting how the Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicle that was rushed into Iraq was not designed for Afghanistan and had to be modified.
“There are times you want rapid acquisition” to assist the warfighter. To Kendall, “the metric that matters at the end of the day is are we going to win” with this program.
In his remarks on his new work “On Getting Acquisition Right,” he advised the incoming Trump administration “we have lot of ideas” in the research and development stage in the department but didn’t have the capital to take those ideas into production. “That’s the challenge for the next administration” to decide which programs advance.
He said he “hopes a lot goes to R&D and modernization” in the expected increases in defense spending.
On Monday, McCain, (released a Senate Armed Services Committee white paper outlining details for a $430 billion increase over the next five years. The House panel is expected to release its version in the coming weeks.
(return to top)
Hundreds of deficiencies could push F-35 tests to 2019
BY: Leigh Giangreco
Plagued by a delayed delivery of crucial software and shortfalls with its automated maintenance system, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will begin initial operational test and evaluation more than a year after its planned August 2017 date.
In his last scathing report on the F-35, outgoing top Pentagon weapon tester Michael Gilmore gave early 2019 as an optimistic target date for initial operational test and evaluation. Even as the F-35 Joint Programme Office plans to reduce time in developmental testing in order to move ahead with IOT&E, Gilmore warns that hundreds of deficiencies will push full combat tests to late 2018 or early 2019 at the earliest.
Flight sciences testing identified more issues that will delay IOT&E, such as excessive and violent vertical oscillations experienced on the F-35C during catapult launches. The Navy considers the issue a “must fix” and directed the JPO should address it before IOT&E.
“Fleet pilots reported that the oscillations were so severe that they could not read flight critical data,” Gilmore writes. “Most of the pilots locked their harness during the catapult shot which made emergency switches hard to reach, again creating, in their opinion, an unacceptable and it unsafe situation.”
It’s clear given the numerous issues on the aircraft, including 270 high-priority deficiencies in Block 3F performance identified in a recent review, that Lot 10 will be delivered without the full Block 3F capability, Gilmore writes. Block 3F will bring the F-35 to its full combat capability, allowing 9g manoeuvres versus 7g loads with current Block 3i software and support for gun testing. Other critical 3F capabilities have fallen behind including Small Diameter Bomb integration, MADL capability to share imagery and basic Link 16 that allows the aircraft to transmit and receive messages.
When the US Air Force announced initial operational capability for the F-35A last August, the USAF’s chief of Air Combat Command Gen Herbert Carlisle told reporters blocks 3F and 4 would not be available until 2018 and 2021, respectively. Despite challenges during an interim readiness assessment, Carlisle assured the Block 3F software would ameliorate earlier issues on the aircraft.
In an August memo, Gilmore doubted the F-35A’s initial combat ready status. The Block 3i configuration, which carries weapons limited to Block 2B, would need support to locate and avoid modern threats, acquire targets and engage enemy aircraft he wrote. Gilmore echoed those criticisms in his last report, saying the F-35 with Block 3i software could not even match up in a permissive environment to some legacy aircraft, such as the F-18 and A-10. He also asserts pilots report the F-35’s electro-optical targeting system’s ability to identify targets is worse than those fielded on legacy aircraft.
“Environmental effects, such as high humidity, often forced pilots to fly closer to the target than desired in order to discern target features and then engage for weapon employment, much closer than needed with legacy systems, potentially alerting the enemy, exposing the F-35 to threats around the target area or requiring delays to regain adequate spacing to set up an attack,” he says.
The latest version of the F-35’s maintenance system will not be completed by the end of the system development and demonstration phase. ALIS 3.0 will not be delivered until mid-2018 and even then, several capabilities from that version will be deferred until later that summer, according to Gilmore.
Mission data loads, a compilation of mission data files which help identify enemy and friendly radar signals, for specific geographic regions will not be verified until 2019 at the earliest. Once delivered, the mission data loads will not be ready to face threats in testing, let alone combat, Gilmore writes.
Gilmore also pushed back on the JPO’s recent assertion that cost overruns from SDD could be recouped with existing program funding. The aircraft’s deficiencies will increase the SDD cost more than expected and the JPO must look within their existing budget or at funding set aside for follow-on modernisation, he says.
By continuing their pursuit of a block buy for lots 12 through 14 before completing IOT&E, Gilmore argues the JPO is flouting the “fly before you buy” approach. The block buy would deliver 452 aircraft in addition to the 490 procured under lots 1 through 11, a hefty procurement before full-rate production.
(return to top)
First F-35Cs For West Coast FRS To Arrive Next Week At Lemoore
(U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE NEWS 18 JAN 17) … Gidget Fuentes
The first F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters will arrive on the West Coast next week as the Navy prepares to ramp its training pipeline for the next-generation stealth jet designed for carrier operations, Navy officials announced Tuesday.
Four of the single-seat, multi-mission Joint Strike Fighter are scheduled to land at Lemoore Naval Air Station, Calif., on Jan. 25 and join Strike Fighter Squadron 125, a former F/A-18 Hornet training squadron the Navy reactivated on Jan. 12, Naval Air Force officials said in a news release.
The “Rough Raiders” of VFA-125, will become the Navy’s second squadron to get the advanced fighter designed for its carrier-based force. The squadron will serve as the west coast-based Fleet Replacement Squadron.
The Navy’s first F-35C FRS squadron, the “Grim Reapers” of VFA-101 based at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., received its first jets in September 2013 and began training the first groups of pilots and maintainers.
Lemoore NAS, located in California’s central valley, is the Navy’s designated hub for its strike fighter community supporting the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The Navy sees the Lockheed Martin F-35C as providing key, critical capabilities to its carrier air wings, which also will include Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets, Boeing EA-18G Growlers electronic attack aircraft, Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye multi-mission surveillance and refueling aircraft and Sikorsky MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopters, along with Carrier Onboard Delivery logistics aircraft.
The joint JSF program and Lockheed Martin-built jets have come under heavy criticism, most recently from President-elect Donald Trump, over escalating costs for the jet and continuing program delays, even as the services continue with the jet’s development, live-fire weapons fire testing and upgrade packages including advanced software. The Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation also levied some pointed criticism and skepticism at the F-35 program in its FY 2016 annual report issued in December.
But program officials remain on the defensive but confident.
“These accomplishments prove the basic design of the F-35 is sound and test results reinforce our confidence in the ultimate performance the U.S. and its partners and allies value greatly,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the F-35 Program Executive officer, said about the F-35 in a Jan. 17 statement remarking on the DOT&E report. “As a reminder, the F-35 program is still in its developmental phase. This is the time when issues are expected to be discovered and solutions are implemented to maximize the F-35’s capability for the warfighter. While the development program is more than 90 percent complete, we recognize there are known deficiencies that must be corrected and there remains the potential for future findings.”
(return to top)
If Trump Wants Lower F-35 Costs, He Should Compete F135 Engine
By John Venable
Donald Trump has bemoaned the “over budget, behind schedule” F-35 program. He opened his first press conference as president-elect with a vow to do “big things” to bring down the aircraft’s cost and improve performance. That will take more than jaw-boning.
Applying heat to Lockheed will reduce costs to a degree, but it would take another 20 years to build a jet that genuinely competes with the cost and performance of the F-35. Luckily, there’s a better way.
Far greater performance, readiness, and real savings can be gleaned by opening its engine, the F135, to competition. When Lockheed Martin won the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) fly-off to win what is arguably the largest defense contract in U.S. history, both prototypes were powered by Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine. Pratt (naturally) won the contract to build the engine for the F-35, and the U.S. government funded more than $4.8 billion for that engine’s development on a drive to significantly improve three areas critical to fighter aircraft: performance, readiness, and cost.
Jet engines are measured by their ability to propel weight. If an engine can produce 40,000 pounds of thrust and is paired with an aircraft weighing 40,000 lbs, the jet’s one-to-one thrust-to-weight ratio allows it to aggressively maneuver to engage threats while maintaining airspeed. The ability for a fighter aircraft to either outturn and out-accelerate adversary aircraft and surface-to-air threats will remain critical to a jets survival for the foreseeable future. The overall design and weight of a fighter are naturally important factors in determining the performance requirements of fighter engines, and Pratt’s F135 has more than met the JSF’s original program specifications for thrust.
Unfortunately, the actual dimensions and weight of the three variants (Air Force F-35A, Marine STOVL F-35B, and the Navy’s carrier-based F-35C) have all grown over time and now exceed the original specs the F135 was designed to power. Every fighter gains weight throughout its development and operational life. The F-16 was designed as a lightweight fighter, but it put on almost 5,000 pounds during its first 10 years. The F-35 will be no different. The additional weight is almost always overcome by improvements in engine technology, spurred on through competition. The F-16’s original engine, the Pratt & Whitney F-100-200 (Pratt F-200) worked well for the first F-16s off the line. But as the jet grew around the waistline, its thrust-to-weight ratio deteriorated considerably. To improve performance and drive down unit costs for the F-16, the Air Force in 1984 wisely implemented the Alternative Fighter Engine (AFE) program. A competitive bidding process led to General Electric’s (GE) F-110, which delivered 5,000 pounds more thrust than Pratt’s motor.
The timing of the requests for the second F-16 engine gave Pratt their just due for that system, and they had every advantage for winning the inevitable follow-on competition. In the end, GE won the F-16’s AFE follow-on contract, but fighter pilots and taxpayers were the real winners of what became known as the Great Engine War. That competition gave the F-16 the thrust needed to improve its operational and readiness faculties, while saving the taxpayers money.
To date, the F-35’s added weight has caused the four services to lower expectations for critical performance metrics for sustained turning performance (sustained g) and acceleration. The sustained turning requirement was reduced from 5.3 g’s to 4.6 for the F-35A; from 5.0 g’s to 4.5 for the F-35B, and from 5.1g’s to 5.0 for the F-35C. Losing half a “g” will hinder a pilot’s ability to maneuver the jet, but the loss in acceleration is a bigger concern. Being able to gain or recover airspeed is critical to fighter pilot survival, and the time it now takes for each variant of the F-35 to accelerate from Mach 0.8 to Mach 1.2 is far longer than outlined in the original specs. Compared to the original requirements, it now takes an F-35A model 8 additional seconds to get there; the B model 16 seconds longer; the F-35C takes a worrying 43 seconds longer. Both setbacks with sustained g and acceleration can be overcome with more thrust.
Fighter aircraft engines produce more thrust under more stress than you might imagine. The F135 is the most powerful production-line fighter engine in the western hemisphere and, misinformed commentary to the contrary, has enjoyed a solid track record for reliability. Through the F-35’s more than 50,000 flight hours to date, there have been very few catastrophic failures. That said, given the extreme operating temperatures, pressures and complexities associated with this and any other fighter engine, failures are inevitable. In the 1990s, the United States flew eight different fighter aircraft, powered by as many different engines. A systemic failure of one motor may have hampered our efforts to win a major regional conflict, but with such a diversified portfolio of fighter aircraft/engines we would have been able to overcome the loss of a single aircraft type. The F-35 is slated to replace up to 90 percent of our combat fighter force, and every one of them will be powered by Pratt’s F135, which means the risk of a systemic engine failure will be much more crippling.
If that sounds far-fetched, think again. From December 15, 1998, to February 16, 2000 — a mere 14 months — Luke Air Force base lost five F-16s due to engine failure. The wing was grounded until it could determine a cause, which was found to be cracks in the Pratt and Whitney F-220 afterburner duct. The Air Force inspected the motors of every F-220 in its fleet and, while service-wide statistics are unknown, the wing at Luke found similar cracks in 63 of its engines. The consequences of a similar failure with the F-35’s single engine would not affect up to 90 percent of the U.S. fighter fleet; it would also impact seven of our key allies around the world.
The JSF team used the lessons learned from the F-16 to incorporate a competitive two-engine program into the F-35 acquisition strategy. The Defense Department gave the incumbent, Pratt & Whitney, a five-year head start on General Electric, but GE built its F136 engine to meet the looming requirement for more thrust. As the competition grew more intense, Pratt & Whitney ran an F135 up to 50,000 lbs. of thrust, exceeding the F-35 program specifications by some margin. As overall F-35 delays and cost overruns mounted, members of Congress moved aggressively to cut JSF developmental costs by terminating one of the two engines, pressed hard by then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates. Pratt’s F135 was already flying in the F-35 and it became the natural pick. Gates terminated GE’s F136 program in 2011, leaving Pratt & Whitney as the sole source of engines for the F-35. While many argue that even monopolies have to fight for excellence every day, there’s little real-world evidence to suggest that’s true.
World class track and field athletes rarely set personal bests running alone, and no athlete or business reaches its full potential without a competitor in the lane next to them. The history of the F-16 engine program reinforces that point, as does the nearly stagnant pricing history of the F135 engine/propulsion systems to date. Neither has dropped in line with program estimates, which brings us back to President-elect Trump’s recent communiques.
The Air Force currently has contracts with General Electric and Pratt & Whitney to develop a follow-on fighter engine technology, known as the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (ATEP). That motor will deliver more thrust, conserve more fuel and readily fit into the engine bay of either the F-35A or C. By adding accelerant to the Air Force’s initiative, the Trump administration can re-kindle the competition the F-35 needs to continue improving performance and readiness, while driving down costs. With a motor that can already produce 50,000 pounds of thrust, and with the contract to provide engines for all three F-35 variants in hand, Pratt is sitting in the catbird seat. There is no reason Pratt can’t come out on top in the next F-35 engine war, but until the Trump administration puts someone in the lane next to them, Pratt will continue to pace itself.
(return to top)
Trump’s Navy Build-Up Comes With Steep Price Tag
(THE HILL 16 JAN 17) … Kristina Wong
President-elect Donald Trump wants to expand the Navy’s fleet to 350 ships, the largest build-up since the end of the Cold War.
But where that money will come from is unclear and defense contractors aren’t counting their ships yet.
Experts say that going from the current fleet of 274 ships to Trump’s 350 goal will cost about $165 billion over 30 years. And it will be impossible to achieve unless there’s a dramatic increase in the defense budget, currently at $619 billion.
Navy budget expert Ronald O’Rourke said the $165 billion price tag does not include broader costs such as staffing the ships, maintenance and operations.
“The cost to build the ships is just a fraction of this larger number,” O’Rourke, a Congressional Research Service analyst, told The Hill. “It’s some much more substantial amount of money that would be needed.”
There are expectations on Capitol Hill and within the Pentagon that Trump will substantially increase the defense budget.
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (Texas), the chairmen of the Armed Services Committees, are preparing a 2018 defense budget plan of about $640 billion, according to a source close to the House panel. And the Navy added more ships to its 30-year shipbuilding plan after Trump’s election.
Trump has ambitious plans for the military.
On the campaign trail, he called for a plan to grow the military that experts say would raise the current Pentagon budget by 20 percent.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s nominee for Defense Secretary, has also voiced support for increasing the size of the military and number of ships.
However, there are key obstacles to raising defense spending.
The first is the 2011 Budget Control Act, which imposed budget ceilings on defense spending after Congress failed to agree on tax and spending reform. The ceilings are referred to as sequestration, or sequester, and go through 2021.
Overturning the bill would require the new GOP-led Congress to pass a new law, which would be a daunting task, if members can’t agree on how to otherwise reduce the deficit.
The only other option for Republican leaders in Congress is comprising with Democrats to lift the defense budget ceilings for several years at a time – which Congress has done since the ceilings began in 2013.
But Democrats have only been willing to raise the ceilings on defense if non-defense spending is raised as well.
Senate Democrats can also still filibuster any GOP plan to raise defense spending, as in previous years.
And there is pressure on Trump from other quarters to keep federal spending low, including the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Last year, they successfully pushed to extend a short-term government spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, through April 2017, giving the Trump administration to chance to weigh in.
Trump’s appointee for the Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), is also a fiscal hawk hostile to increased defense spending.
If the ceilings can’t be overturned or raised, then money for the new shipbuilding plan and associated costs will have to come from elsewhere in the defense budget, at the expense of other programs.
That could spark significant pushback from within the Pentagon.
Trump had said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he would seek to overturn the budget ceilings and raise defense spending.
“We will also repeal the Obama-Clinton defense sequester, and rebuild our badly depleted military,” he said at a Nov. 7 rally in Scranton, Pa.
Defense hawks plan to hold Trump to this promise.
“He says he wants to spend a lot more money on defense – I take him at his word,” said McCain.
How Trump will reconcile these competing expectations is anyone’s guess, experts say.
“That’s the $100 billion dollar question,” said Center for Strategic and International Studies director of defense budget analysis Todd Harrison. “You’ve got an inherent contradiction.”
Harrison said Trump will also be using his political capital on a number of other priorities including repealing ObamaCare and tax reform.
“How much will be left over when it comes to the defense budget?” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to see a dramatic increase in defense spending.”
Some in the defense industry are worried that lawmakers will pass another year-long continuing resolution to fund the government. That would mean carrying over spending levels from the previous year, which could lead to the delay of new defense programs.
One industry official urged lawmakers not to wait until current government spending expires at the end of April, worried they would just extend current spending levels through the end of fiscal year in September.
While there is optimism the ceilings on defense spending can be raised, there is also skepticism that Trump can overturn them permanently.
“[Trump] campaigned for the end of sequester,” the industry official said, but added that he is seemingly walking back other promises, such as having Mexico pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The same may be true for sequester,” the official said.
(return to top)
Exclusive: Pentagon, Lockheed near deal on $9 billion F-35 contract – sources
(REUTERS 19 Jan 17) … By Mike Stone
The U.S. Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) are close to deal for a contract worth almost $9 billion as negotiations are poised to bring the price per F-35 below $100 million for the first time, people familiar with the talks said Wednesday.
The F-35, the Pentagon’s costliest arms program, has drawn fire from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump who has made lowering prices for military equipment a pillar of his transition into office.
Talks are still ongoing for the tenth batch of stealthy fighter jets with a deal for 90 planes expected to be announced by the end of the month, three people said on condition of anonymity.
A Lockheed representative declined to comment and a representative for the fighter program said negotiations are ongoing.
The U.S. Defense Department expects to spend $391 billion in the coming decades to develop and buy 2,443 of the supersonic warplanes. Though the F-35 program has been criticized by Trump as too expensive, the price per jet has already been declining. Lockheed, the prime contractor, and its partners have been working on building a more cost-effective supply chain to fuel the production line in Fort Worth, Texas.
The overtures from the incoming administration may have had some effect, but Lockheed’s F-35 program manager Jeff Babione said last summer that the price of the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing version of the jet would drop to under $100 million per plane in this contract for the 10th low-rate production batch.
The F-35 comes in three configurations, the A-model for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. allies; a F-35 B-model which can handle short takeoffs and vertical landings for the Marine Corps and the British navy; and carrier-variant F-35C jets for the U.S. Navy.
Lockheed and its main partners, including Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N), United Technologies Corp’s (UTX.N) Pratt & Whitney and BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L), have been developing and building F-35s for the U.S. military and 10 allies.
On Oct. 25 Lockheed, the world’s largest defense contractor, reported a quarterly profit that handily beat analysts’ expectations, as sales of its Sikorsky helicopters pushed total revenue up 14.8 percent. Lockheed is set to host its fourth-quarter earnings call on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
(return to top)
From Drone Swarms To Smart Data, Pentagon Eyes A.I.
(DEFENSETECH.ORG 16 JAN 17) … Brendan McGarry
The CBS show “60 Minutes” recently featured the rising number of experimental Pentagon technologies operating with artificial intelligence, from drone swarms to ground robots to naval ships.
The segment, “The Coming Swarm,” showcased a ground robot-aerial drone duo designed to track terrorists, a naval trimaran capable of spotting submarines, and more than 100 drones dropped from a trio of F/A-18 Hornet jets flying at near the speed of sound in what was billed as the largest micro-drone swarm.
The latter, which took place in the fall at China Lake, California, was arguably the most noteworthy, not only because the systems demonstrated collective decision-making and adaptive formation flying, but also because of their high-pitched alien sounding scream.
“To me the eeriest part about this moment was actually the sound,” correspondent David Martin later said of the noise. “It turned into something almost from another planet when you heard all 100 of them slowly descending in that sort of death spiral.”
When Martin asked William Roper, director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, whether autonomy is the biggest thing in military technology since nuclear weapons, Roper replied, “If what we mean is the biggest thing that is going to change everything, I think autonomy is going to change everything.”
He’s not alone. Last week in Washington, D.C., officials from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s research arm known as DARPA, the defense industry and other organizations met to talk about the opportunities and challenges for artificial intelligence in the military.
The “Beyond A.I. Forum” was organized by Tandem NSI, a national security consultancy based in Arlington, Virginia, and Booz Allen Hamilton, the defense consulting giant based in McLean, Virginia.
While autonomy, artificial intelligence and machine learning are exciting and rapidly evolving fields, defense officials have to “take a step back and say, ‘Our competitive advantage in this rising-tide-is-lifting-all boats is what?” said Chuck Howell, chief engineer of portfolio programs and integration at Mitre Corp., an engineering nonprofit that supports the federal government.
“What is the [concept of operations]?” he asked. “What are the confidence levels? What are the ways to exploit this global capability that we can come up with that’s novel?”
Howell added, “There are huge opportunities for companies that can take the general framework of A.I. machine learning and tailor it to those weird examples that the DoD and the [intelligence community] worry about. Finding cats on the Internet? Not a problem. Finding tells in a grainy overhead [image]? Harder.”
Justin Manzo, senior lead engineer at Booz Allen Hamilton, agreed. For the Pentagon, big data is part of the problem. Developing systems that can help identify the megabytes of critical intelligence from the petabytes of information is part of the solution, he said.
“Those kind of systems are what we can operationalize … [and] put downrange, where there’s limited data links,” he said.
Jonathan Aberman, managing director of TandemNSI and moderator of the panel, said the business opportunities for developing products and services in this space are significant. The Defense Department is estimated to spend upwards of $3 billion a year on autonomous systems alone.
“If you’re an entrepreneur … the next two years [represent] unbelievable opportunities for raising venture capital around these products,” he said.
Fred Kennedy, deputy director of the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA, made clear the Pentagon’s goal for the technology. “These are all systems we’re looking at right now,” he said. “Autonomy is going to be our asymmetric approach to how we fight.”
(return to top)
Why The United States Is Losing Its Technological Edge
The Department of Defense needs to completely overhaul its approach to technology strategy, injecting free market principles to keep pace with technological change.
(THE NATIONAL INTEREST 16 JAN 17) … Ben FitzGerald
Earlier this month, President-elect Donald Trump drew headlines for his criticism of two major defense programs, the Air Force One replacement and the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35). Mr. Trump is right to worry about high prices and schedule delays, issues that frequently harm defense procurement. But his concerns should run deeper. The United States military is losing its longstanding technological advantage, despite spending billions on projects like those troubling the president-elect.
The DoD’s problems can be rectified, but not by banning civilian or military personnel from ever working in defense industry, as considered by Mr. Trump. Instead, the Department of Defense needs to completely overhaul its approach to technology strategy, injecting free market principles to keep pace with technological change and outcompete increasingly capable adversaries.
The DoD develops some of the world’s most sophisticated technology, but its fundamental approach to doing so remains optimized for a bygone era. It assumes a clear, singular threat from which to develop rigid requirements. These requirements form the basis for contracts for which only a small number of defense specialist contractors can compete. And the costs of these projects are so high that the resulting weapons systems must remain in service for many decades, despite the rapid pace of technological change and world events.
Today, the United States requires capabilities to address threats ranging from sophisticated national militaries to insurgents and terrorists to highly empowered individuals. The DoD must therefore invest in a wide array of technologies ranging from nuclear weapons to traditional conventional military systems and newer capabilities like cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, robotics and artificial intelligence.
The developers of many of the newer technologies DoD needs focus on global commercial marketplaces, with sales and R&D budgets that dwarf the DoD’s approximately $60 billion R&D budget. Global R&D spending for 2016, by comparison, is estimated at $1.9 trillion. At today’s valuations, Apple Corporation could purchase the top five U.S. defense contractors from its cash reserves. The massive growth of global technology companies means that the DoD does not wield the influence it did in the 1960s, but it has not adapted to these market realities.
The DoD and its industry partners are acutely aware of these problems, but have not yet been able to effect the change necessary for success. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has sought to encourage innovation, reaching out to Silicon Valley by founding the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental. The United States Air Force and Army have created rapid capability offices aimed to speed the development of new systems. And Congress recently passed one of the most extensive defense reform bills in a generation, forcing a reorganization of the DoD’s entire acquisition organization. These efforts have created an environment in which profound change might take place.
If confirmed, Secretary-designate James Mattis will have a rare opportunity to make changes that have eluded previous secretaries. Success will not be achieved simply by increasing acquisition budgets or production, although that will help. Instead the incoming administration must use free market principles to foster competition and innovation, creating the conditions for military and business success.
To achieve these goals, the DoD must employ a radically different technology strategy. Under that strategy the DoD should invest in many more technology options. Creating a more diverse capability portfolio will allow the Pentagon to make investment decisions based on the systems that prove most effective. It is hard to kill a program like the Joint Strike Fighter when there is no alternative available.
An optionality strategy would yield significant military benefits, imposing intelligence and innovation burdens on the nation’s adversaries and providing the United States with more flexibility to respond to strategic surprise. It would also allow the DoD to manage the cost and sophistication of its technology relative to relevant threats. Most importantly, while others may be able to compete with certain U.S. technologies, no other nation possesses the size and sophistication required to implement this type of strategy.
At the same time, an optionality strategy would create the conditions for a far more advantageous defense marketplace. The DoD should be an attractive customer for technology companies. It offers compelling technical problems, invests in cutting edge systems and is willing to pay early adopter premiums. By lowering barriers to entry and disincentives to innovation, the DoD can take advantage of this latent appeal to stimulate competition from new entrants and traditional defense industry alike.
Changing the Pentagon’s bureaucracy is notoriously difficult. The Trump administration brings a desire to change and the hope of increased defense spending. While positive, this intention also creates the grave risk of pouring new money into old mistakes, which would see a once in a generation opportunity squandered. But with a new strategy and strong leadership, something Secretary-designate Mattis is famous for, meaningful change is possible at this moment in the Department’s history.
Ben FitzGerald is Director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington.
(return to top)
Virginia start-up sets endurance record for small UAV
BY: Stephen Trimble
A Virginia-based start-up company has announced setting a new endurance record with a 56h flight by a combustion-powered unmanned air vehicle (UAV) funded by the US military.
The flight by the Vanilla Aircraft VA001, registered as N204HR, opens a new ultra-long-endurance capability for aircraft in the in the 50-500kg (110-1,100lb) weight class, which roughly spans the UAVs sized between the Boeing/Insitu Integrator and the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Predator A.
Vanilla Aircraft has not published specifications for the VA001, but a video posted on the firm’s web site shows an aircraft perhaps slightly larger than the AAA RQ-7 Shadow. It is launched by sitting in a wheeled cradled, which is towed down a runway with a long cable attached to a pick-up truck. As the aircraft reaches flight speed, the VA001 jettisons the cable and starts a two-bladed, pusher-propeller mounted on the tail. Lacking a landing gear, the UAV is recovered by skidding on its belly to a stop on a runway.
Elements of propulsion system are also described in a series of documents available online. The company’s press release announcing the record endurance flight discloses the fuel type as JP-8. One of the funding agencies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, also announced the flight in a separate news release, describing the vehicle as powered by a diesel engine. The company’s aircraft registration filed with the US Federal Aviation Administration lists the engine as a “four-cycle” type.
The VA001 is designed to remain aloft for 10 days without refueling. The record endurance mission was planned as a five-day flight, but it was cut short due to weather, Vanilla Aircraft says. But the company notes the UAV landed with enough JP-8 fuel to support an additional 90h in the air, or a more than 6-day mission.
“This effort represents tremendous and unprecedented coordination among civil, defense, academic, and private industry to bring a heretofore only imagined capability to reality,” said Vanilla Aircraft CEO Timothy Healy, a retired Navy rear admiral.
The VA001 is designed to carry 13.5kg payload, but flew with 9.07kg of actual and simulated systems, which included a communications relay and a multi-spectral imaging sensor.
“We could fill a wide cost and payload-capability market gap between small electric and large military unmanned aircraft, which is perfect for many commercial applications,” says co-founder and programme manager Jeremy Novara.
(return to top)
Fanning: Army Must Change How it Works With Private Sector
National Defense Magazine Online, Jan. 12 | Sandra I. Erwin
As he prepares to leave office as the Army’s top civilian leader, Eric K. Fanning is urging his successor to rethink how the service works with the private sector and acquires technology.
The U.S. military is seeing its technological superiority eroding and needs to find better ways to tap innovation from startups and companies across the board, Fanning will tell a gathering of industry executives Friday in Washington, D.C., hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.
Fanning was appointed 22nd Secretary of the Army by President Obama on May 18, 2016. Before that, he served as acting secretary of the Army and in several senior level posts at the Department of the Army. He previously was chief of staff to the secretary of defense and served as the 24th undersecretary of the Air Force.
According to a draft of Fanning’s prepared remarks, he will call on the Defense Department to create a more “open and flexible” environment for innovative companies. He notes that while the Defense Department often tells industry that “creative solutions are welcome,” for too many companies it feels like they have to “cross a moat to arrive at the front door — and when they get there they find it locked.”
Fanning, like other defense officials, blames the procurement system for stalling innovation. “Often the formal requirements that drive our acquisition process become inflexible guidelines. Rather than promoting the innovative capacity of our industrial partners, we constrain them,” he wrote in his draft remarks. “It’s no secret that some of today’s most innovative companies prefer not to work with DoD.”
Fanning suggests that there should be a closer partnership between the government and industry as national security challenges become more complex. “By finding new ways to incentivize business to make its own investments in adaptable solutions, DoD will ultimately gain access to even more advanced capabilities, more rapidly, at a reduced cost.”
He cites several areas that are “ripe for the private sector to take the lead and provide creative solutions.”
• Cyberspace: The costs of industrial cyber espionage range as high as $500 billion annually and 1.2 million jobs a year. “What is arguably more important and more costly is how states like Russia are incorporating cyber tools to sow disinformation and make it more difficult for democratic systems to make decisions,” Fanning says in his draft speech. “We’re undergoing a real test of that so far and the worst may be yet to come.”
• Space: Commercial companies like OneWeb are launching hundreds of small satellites to provide broadband internet service to individual users and to support potential first responders over the next three years. “There should be ways DoD can piggyback on these kinds of investments to push the access of our networks to the tactical edge.”
• Autonomous systems: The defense sector is driving many cutting-edge efforts forward but some of the most creative advances come from civilian applications. Right now, most of DoD’s autonomous systems do what humans tell them. But many civilian autonomous systems can also interact with humans. “There are opportunities here to develop machines that can learn and make decisions based on analyzing big data.”
• Advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence: The leading edge of machine learning is now supported by complex algorithms that enable a computer to learn from prior tasks rather than perform the same task in the same way. Think of Netflix, and the way it will queue up options it thinks you like. “We are working on doing something similar with options and capabilities we provide to our forces on the battlefield. This is one area where the military needs a better way to tap into existing innovation rather than seeking to duplicate it.”
• Big data applications: “What we need and don’t have is a comprehensive approach for using big data to derive a competitive advantage over capable, near peer adversaries. Today, operational big data military applications lag far behind commercial capabilities.”
• Materials science: “We could make the equipment our people need smaller, lighter, and easier to move. And in the long term, it’s an area where the military can save enormous amounts of money. Researchers are working to provide batteries that recharge in minutes or less, don’t die, are difficult to damage, and orders of magnitude more powerful. This will revolutionize how we store and use power in both civilian applications like cars, phones, and infrastructure, but also for military vehicles, communications systems and facilities.”
(return to top)
The National Interest
The Real Culprit in Defense Spending: Strategic Hubris
Christopher A. Preble
There is a wide and growing gap between what officials in Washington demand of the military and the resources made available to execute its missions. Fixing this problem is arguably the most important challenge facing the incoming Trump administration. Last month, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work estimated that the current shortfall could be as much as $88 billion per year, and that is merely to cover current operations and planned procurement. “That doesn’t buy you an extra ship, that doesn’t buy you an extra airplane, that doesn’t buy you an extra soldier or sailor or airman or Marine,” he said. “That just gets you where you need to be, fills in the hole.”
Work would solve this problem of the means-ends gap by expanding the means, i.e., grow the Pentagon’s budget, despite the fact that it is 36 percent larger in inflation-adjusted dollars than in 2000. Most defense-policy wonks here in Washington agree that we should be spending far more on the military, though they differ on how to do it. Democrats would prefer to raise taxes. Republicans would cut other spending, and divert the proceeds to the military. Most likely, however, increases in defense spending will be paid for with more borrowed money. This “pay for it later” approach would allow policymakers to avoid spelling out any painful tradeoffs. And it remains to be seen whether the budget hawks in Congress will be able to muster the votes to block a repeal of the bipartisan Budget Control Act.
There is a different approach to bridging the means-ends gap.
In a recent essay, Frank Hoffman of the National Defense University made a case for strategic discipline—in other words, focusing on the ends that we seek, not merely expanding the means to achieve them. “There is a better equilibrium point,” Hoffman wrote, “between rampant retrenchment and unbridled hegemonic primacy.” Borrowing from Ian Bremmer’s “cold-blooded, interest-driven approach . . . designed to maximize the return on the taxpayer’s investment,” which Bremmer calls Moneyball, Hoffman assigns to the National Security Council the responsibility to “assess risks and define the liabilities involved in each contingency instead of simply assuming that our leadership and credibility are at stake in every global flashpoint.”
In short, Hoffman concludes, “the United States needs to be more discriminate in judging its core interests and more disciplined in applying force and resources to secure them.”
Many writers here at The Skeptics take seriously the need for rethinking our strategic objectives. The United States needs to make better choices. The Department of Defense is misnamed. If we were serious about defending the United States, we could have a very different military, with very different missions. It would be a smaller military, based in the United States and its territories. It would deploy to places as needed, not attempt to be everywhere, all the time. A different grand strategy, what I and others call restraint, would involve the U.S. military in fewer wars. And a restraint-oriented military, while still the finest in the world by a wide margin, would be far less costly than our current one.
We can afford to rethink our foreign policy and reorient our military, because primacy, the strategy that the United States has pursued for decades, isn’t necessary to defend vital U.S. interests, and will become increasingly difficult to sustain, given low public support for it. The American people have consistently questioned the need for a vast, forward-deployed military, focused on defending other countries, most of whom can and should defend themselves. The latest polls merely confirm what we’ve known for a long time.
During the course of the campaign, Donald J. Trump hinted at some adjustments to U.S. foreign policy that were consistent with the public’s wishes. He questioned the wisdom of regime-change wars and armed nation building. He doubted that the benefits of America’s alliances always outweigh the costs. And he spoke to an American people that has grown tired of costly overseas adventures that don’t deliver on the promise of greater security.
Such positions were unpopular with a broad swathe of the GOP foreign-policy establishment, including a number of former senior officials in Republican administrations. Challenging the elite consensus is difficult, but Trump did it anyway. And he was rewarded in November.
Even if President Trump does not carry through on his promises to focus on “America First,” and even if he doesn’t revisit our global military posture, he can still fulfill his pledge to make the Department of Defense operate more efficiently. This will not be easy. It will require him to take on entrenched interests that defend the status quo.
However, the obsession with eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, though widely popular (who, after all, is a member of the “Waste, Fraud and Abuse Caucus” or gives money to the “Waste, Fraud and Abuse PAC”?), shouldn’t divert our attention from the central dilemma: America’s overly ambitious and under-debated grand strategy.
(return to top)
The Future of Air Superiority, Part III: Defeating A2/AD
WarOnTheRocks.com, Jan. 13 | Brig. Gen. Alex Grynkewich
Over the last decade, would-be adversaries have been busy acquiring and fielding capabilities to preclude U.S. and allied forces from freely operating around the world. This buildup of military capabilities in the Pacific, Europe, and even in Syria and Iran, poses a complex operational problem for U.S. and allied forces across a range of missions, including in the fight for control of the air. Losing the ability to operate freely at the tactical and operational level has strategic-level impacts. If we do not respond to this trend, we will ultimately lose the ability to deter and, if necessary, defeat our adversaries in conventional conflicts. Having a credible ability to attack an enemy – especially those enemy capabilities that threaten our homeland or our deployed forces – is essential to regaining and retaining the ability to achieve strategic success.
The second installment of this series explained how the Air Superiority 2030 Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team (ECCT) attempted to solve this problem and bridge the air superiority gaps facing the U.S. Air Force in 2030. While none of our original four frameworks would suffice in the face of expected future threats, we did learn several key lessons from our analysis. We learned that while modernization of current forces alone could not solve the 2030 problem, key upgrades could keep this force relevant at the operational level and increase its overall fighting capacity. We learned that increased reliance on stand-off weapons would be technically feasible if we could figure out how to provide the right degree of targeting information. We learned that capabilities with persistence, range, and survivability were key. And, perhaps most instructively, we learned that the Air Force needs to move from an air domain-centric perspective to one that complements our air assets with cyberspace- and space-based capabilities.
As we continued our work, these lessons led us to develop a vision for an integrated and networked family of air superiority capabilities comprised of both stand-off and stand-in assets. Stand-in assets are those that seek to operate inside the threat range of enemy defenses, such as penetrating bombers or fighters equipped with short-range weapons. By contrast, stand-off assets remain outside those defenses, sending only longer-range weapons like missiles or other effects such as jamming into the most contested areas. The pairing of both stand-in and stand-off capabilities proved absolutely critical to defeating a future adversary’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy. Anti-access capabilities are those that threaten bases and logistical lines into a theater, denying access to basing or to the theater. Area denial capabilities aim to create an impenetrable bubble over key assets, denying a force the ability to operate in the protected area once it gains access to the theater. A key feature of the A2/AD strategy is the defense of high-value anti-access capabilities under the protective bubble provided by area denial assets. This puts attacking forces on the horns of a dilemma. They cannot attack an adversary’s area denial threats because anti-access capabilities prevent them from projecting power into a theater. They cannot attack the anti-access threats because they are heavily protected by area denial capabilities.
As the chief of naval operations recently pointed out, there is nothing new about A2/AD as a strategic approach. It is merely an extension of the long battle for supremacy between offense and defense over the course of military history. In today’s context, anti-access threats aim to force our capabilities to operate from beyond their effective range — whether in air, space, cyberspace, on land, or at sea. These threats include long-range aviation assets with long-range weapons, such as bombers with advanced air-launched cruise missiles. They might also include short or intermediate range ballistic missiles. Together, these weapons increase the risk to friendly forces operating across a wide swath of geography and could even prevent U.S., allied, or partner operations for at least a period of time.
Importantly, anti-access threats are not limited to the air domain or even to the physical domains. Anti-satellite (ASAT) systems are one clear example. A ground-based ASAT capability typically has the range and power (whether kinetic or non-kinetic) to wreak havoc above the atmosphere and deny the exploitation of the space domain for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), communications, or other purposes. Similarly, cyberspace capabilities might be used against air or space capabilities or against friendly cyber forces. Such threats might preclude logistics in forward areas for aircraft or force cyber operators to shift to a defensive focus — the virtual equivalent of denied battlespace in the physical domains.
As noted, an effective A2/AD strategy protects anti-access capabilities with area denial threats. In the air, this is often accomplished using an integrated air defense system (IADS) comprised of radars, aircraft, and surface-to-air missile systems. In space, this might be accomplished by rendering an orbit unusable by spreading debris. In cyberspace, firewalls and other protective systems prevent friendly actions in a similar manner throughout the virtual battlespace. Collectively, these area denial capabilities present a robust defense across air, space, and cyberspace.
Many defense analysts have focused on ways to tackle anti-access systems. Their ideas include longer-range aircraft, missiles, and weapons that allow U.S. forces to stand off beyond the range of threat systems. Others have discussed short-range defensive capabilities to provide the last line of defense at U.S. forward bases, including both active measures (e.g., short-range missile or gun systems) and passive measures (e.g., camouflage and hardening). Other useful solution proposals include advanced air refueling capabilities, robust theater- and base-level logistical systems, and new concepts for fighting from our bases. To these ideas, our team added a few others. For example, instead of always trying to go through the anti-access environment, the U.S. Air Force could and should improve our ability to go above it (in air or space) or below it (on the ground, in air at low altitude, or in cyberspace).
All of these ideas are a necessary part of the solution to the air superiority problem of 2030. Unfortunately, they are not sufficient. All the capabilities mentioned above only address the anti-access portion of the problem, ignoring the area denial portion. Paired with a sophisticated operational approach, these anti-access counters might be able to achieve limited effects over a short duration — a raid or reprisal action — but our analysis showed the adversary would still retain a significant advantage. In more complex scenarios, we found the adversary will likely still be able to mass decisive power at the time and place of its choosing. Through wargaming, our team saw the impact this had on diplomacy, access to the global commons, and a host of other national-level issues. In effect, conventional deterrence failed, increasing the danger that skirmishes or other minor conflicts would quickly escalate.
To regain the ability to deter and decisively win conventional conflicts, we must also build capabilities and concepts to attack the area denial side of the A2/AD strategy. In short, we found we needed a credible ability to attack the anti-access threats where they lived, rather than just protect ourselves against their effects. This concept is not a new one for airmen. Airpower strategists have long known that gaining air superiority by destroying aircraft in the air is necessary, but not sufficient. It is much more efficient and effective to destroy those capabilities on the ground by striking airfields, aircraft, fuel farms, and the like.
This logic still holds in a multi-domain environment. The adage that “sometimes offense is the best defense” still applies in the combined arms fight of the 21st century. For instance, making our on-orbit assets more resilient is again necessary, but not sufficient. We must also protect our spacecraft by eliminating terrestrial threats to them. Just as it is reasonable to strike airfields and aircraft before they leave the ground laden with cruise missiles, it also makes sense to defend our space assets by striking (or threatening to strike) an adversary’s ground-based ASAT capabilities left-of-launch. These strikes need not be kinetic. Similarly, cyberspace anti-access capabilities striking U.S. forces within cyberspace or elsewhere could be targeted either from cyberspace, from the air, or from space. Thus, the air superiority forces necessary to defeat the A2/AD strategy in 2030 require a combination of capabilities across the air, space, and cyberspace domains. Our analysis revealed four main considerations for such a force.
First, this force must be able to operate over long distances. Operating from range allows friendly forces to base beyond the reach of most anti-access threats while still maintaining the ability to strike them where they live, under the area denial umbrella. If forces attempt to fight from close proximity to an adversary employing the A2/AD strategy, thousands of attacks on their position will quickly overwhelm base defenses. These attacks might be ballistic or cruise missiles, ASAT weapons, or cyberspace-based attacks. Generating combat power becomes untenable under such persistent attack. If forces are instead able to operate from range — or from a different orbit, or from behind a firewall — the number of threats able to reach their position is more manageable. Similarly, generating combat power becomes more realistic, whether that’s aircraft sortie generation, space-based effects, or employment of cyberspace weapons. Military history is replete with examples of the benefits of striking from increased range, including moving from lances to pistols, from smoothbore to rifled muskets, and from fighter guns to air-to-air missiles. This concept still applies in the multi-domain air superiority battle of 2030.
Second, our 2030 air superiority force requires a robust logistical backbone capable of delivering key commodities — fuel, spare parts, weapons — even while under attack. Even while operating from range, hundreds of weapons could still harass friendly forces from the air or cyberspace domains. Mobility and logistics capabilities must be able to deliver and support the force in a world in which deploying into theater is a movement to contact and bases are no longer conceived of as sanctuaries, but instead as fighting positions. Concepts and capabilities critical to air superiority in 2030 include passive and active base defensives, logistical networks capable of supporting dispersed forces, and the ability to rapidly reconstitute, recover, and regenerate combat power after a successful adversary attack. The KC-46 tanker will be a critical backbone of that force, along with follow-on advanced air refueling capabilities and new tactics, techniques, and procedures appropriate for deploying and employing a long range force.
Third, to defeat the A2/AD strategy, the 2030 force must include both stand-off and stand-in capabilities. Stand-in capabilities include platforms such as the B-21, a penetrating counterair (PCA) platform, and space and cyberspace capabilities able to operate in or over adversary systems. Long-range strike assets such as the B-21 will provide the ability to neutralize airfields and logistics targets, while the PCA will maintain air superiority for other forces operating within the adversary IADS. Space systems overhead will provide ISR, navigation, and communications support to penetrating capabilities, enabled by a space mission force ready and able to fight through any adversary actions. Outside the IADS, stand-off forces will increase the tempo of friendly operations by providing the necessary volume of weapons and effects to keep the pressure on the adversary system. While able to affect targets at the outskirts of an IADS by themselves, stand-off forces will receive guidance and cueing from stand-in forces on deeper targets. This significantly increases the effectiveness of the stand-off force, improving its accuracy and making it a more viable option for employment. This effectively increases the amount of ordnance and the effects a commander can bring to bear. F-22s and F-35s will remain critical to the fight, providing air superiority for stand-off forces and over friendly bases.
Fully linking the capacity of the stand-off force with the superior capability of the stand-in force requires new concepts for multi-domain command and control (C2) and new multi-domain tactics. Thus, the fourth requirement of our 2030 air superiority force is that it be a truly networked and integrated family of capabilities. This force must be able to take data from the array of available sources and sensors and rapidly turn it into decision-quality information. Such a decision might be at the operational level, allowing a commander to apportion forces for desired effects, or it might be at the tactical level, providing operators with multi-domain situational awareness and targeting solutions.
To achieve this level of integration and networking, the 2030 air superiority force will need to leverage several of the technologies championed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work as part of the third offset. Work posits that the third offset will be enabled by technology and will likely include some combination of autonomous systems along with human-machine teaming and collaboration, all brought together into a battle network. In this battle network, he describes three layers, or grids: sensors, command and control, and effects. As our team looked that the multi-domain integration and networking requirements for air superiority in 2030, we independently came to many of the same conclusions that Work articulated. Foremost, our team developed a concept we referred to as data-to-decision (D2D). This emerged as we realized that in 2030 we would have a robust family of sensors across a number of traditional and non-traditional platforms. We saw a need to build an architecture that would make the most of this data and create decision-quality knowledge.
In D2D, our sensor grid is made up of a variety of assets. These include purpose-built airborne ISR assets, planes built solely for the purpose of gathering intelligence such as the U-2, RC-135, or RQ-4. It also includes other platforms that, while not built strictly for ISR, nonetheless have advanced sensors able to collect valuable data, such as the F-22, F-35, B-21, PCA, and others. It also includes cyberspace-based ISR systems that gather data from the virtual world, as well numerous Air Force satellite constellations. D2D takes the data from all of these sensors and deposits it into a cloud-based architecture, making the data accessible not only to the platform and sensor that collected it, but also to every other system in the family.
To make this happen, the family of capabilities will need an advanced communications architecture to tie this sensor grid together. Historically, the focus of such discussions has been on waveforms and datalinks. In the era of software definable radios, we will need instead to build self-healing networks that lean heavily on autonomous learning. Such an application of autonomy will allow the network to reconfigure on its own in real time in response to adversary jamming. Similar to how a smart phone can seamlessly transition from Wi-Fi to 4G or from 4G to 3G and all the way down to an analog operations, an autonomous, learning, self-healing network will ensure maximum performance of the sensor grid across a host of different operational environments. This does not mean it will always work at maximum capacity, just as a smart phone on 3G lacks the speed and performance it has when on Wi-Fi. But it does mean that the network will be able to adapt and reconfigure to its environment quickly, uninhibited by the slower pace of human assessment and action.
As we move to the command and control grid, the air superiority family of capabilities will rely on a series of applications that take the data from the sensor grid and turn it into meaningful information and knowledge. This portion of the D2D concept is similar to Work’s ideas on human-machine collaboration, in particular how machines can assist human decision-making. Machines will more rapidly turn the sensor data into information and knowledge to allow humans to make more and better decisions. This decision might be at a command and control center to reassign forces to new missions. For example, in a multi-domain combined arms fight, if an air commander loses a bomber mission due to weather or maintenance, she might reallocate that bomber’s targets to a cyberspace team. Conversely, if her cyberspace team runs into unexpected resistance due to a new software patch on an adversary system, she might reassign their target to an aircraft. Importantly, not all decisions supported by this grid will be at the operational or battle management levels. Applications resident on a B-21, PCA, or B-52 with stand-off weapons could also access and fuse sensor grid data to provide precise targeting information for kinetic or non-kinetic employment.
The concepts underlying D2D are foundational to the success of our air superiority 2030 family of capabilities. D2D is the connective tissue that ties our stand-off and stand-in forces together. This linkage is what allows for the precise application of kinetic or non-kinetic fires against the adversary system in mass. This, in turn, begins a virtuous cycle for friendly forces. Initially operating from range, as the anti-access threat is attrited, we can move our forces closer to the adversary, whether in physical or virtual space. This decrease in range translates into an increase in operational tempo, thereby facilitating the further dismantling of anti-access capabilities under the umbrella of area denial threats. This again allows forces to move closer to the adversary, allowing shorter-range and less-survivable capabilities to engage more effectively. Eventually, as tempo increases, the mass of effects brought to bear culminates the enemy force and defeats its A2/AD strategy. The adversary system is rendered ineffective, allowing the full range of joint operations.
Developing an air superiority force for 2030 capable of executing the concepts described above will require significant innovations in how the Air Force has traditionally developed and fielded systems. Not only must we link capabilities across functions (e.g., operations and logistics), but also across the domains of air, space, and cyber. The speed at which we adapt and field such capabilities must increase, as well. And we must develop airmen-leaders who are not only experts at the employment in their particular platform, domain, or function, but who can move fluidly and fluently across some of the traditional boundaries that define Air Force experiences and careers. These challenges and the solutions our team identified to overcome them will be covered in the final installment of this series.
–Alex Grynkewich is a Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force and an F-16 and F-22 fighter pilot. He most recently served as the Chief of Strategic Planning Integration at Headquarters Air Force and as the Air Superiority 2030 Enterprise Capabilities Collaboration Team lead. The opinions expressed above are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Air Force