- FRCSW Returns Fire-Damaged Super Hornet to Fleet
- Fix Readiness First, Shipbuilding Second: Navy To Trump
- After Ratings Change Backlash, Effort To Reform Navy Jobs Moves Ahead
- Navy Needs More Aircraft To Match Ship Increase, Secretary Says
- America’s Military Has A Big Problem: It’s Dead Broke
- France Bids To Take NATO Leadership Role From Britain
- The Pentagon Needs Its Own Google For All Its Data, Says Eric Schmidt
- Pentagon Successfully Tests World’s Largest Micro-Drone Swarm
- Pentagon Tester: F-35 Program Rushing Tests, Delays Still Likely
- Navy Adds Helicopter Electronic War Anti-Ship Missile Defense
- US Army Looking to 3D-Print Minidrones in 24 Hours
- CNO Vs A2AD: Why Admiral Richardson Is Right About Deconstructing The A2/AD Term
- DARPA drone flew for 56 hours and landed with over half its fuel so looks close to achieving 7 days without refueling
- The Navy’s F-35 May Need New Landing Gear
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FRCSW Returns Fire-Damaged Super Hornet to Fleet
NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND, CA – Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) returned its first fire-damaged F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter to the fleet on Dec. 8, 2016.
The aircraft, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron One Two Two (VFA-122), a training squadron, made an arrested landing in August 2009 at Naval Air Weapons Systems China Lake after suffering an in-flight engine fire.
There were no injuries.
FRCSW F/A-18 planner and estimator Mark Thaidigsman said that the fire occurred in the aircraft’s right engine bay and that at the time of the incident, the Super Hornet had only 2,183 flight hours on it.
“The aircraft was disassembled in China Lake and sent on a flatbed truck to North Island in April 2010,” he said. “The door 68 was burn damaged. The aft nozzle skin was burn damaged and there were a couple of stiffeners on the center keel that needed to be replaced. We also had to replace the fire bottle, fire warning elements and some other burnt wiring.”
Overall, about 11,000 manhours were devoted to the repairs and servicing of the aircraft. Structural repairs alone totaled 2,500 manhours and included fitting of a new door 68 and replacement of the nozzle skin and burnt stiffeners.
The remaining manhours were devoted toward reassembly, shipping, preservation, engineering, troubleshooting and functional testing and inspection of the aircraft’s systems.
“The most challenging thing was getting the material to repair the aircraft. The long lead times made it difficult to coordinate the staffing and tooling that were needed to perform the repairs. It also created a substantial cost to preserve the aircraft while it was waiting for parts, and there was a late discovery of damage (to the aircraft) that occurred during shipping,” Thaidigsman said.
FRCSW is currently repairing two other fire-damaged Super Hornets: one that also suffered an engine fire and the other a fire in its aircraft mounted accessory device (AMAD) bay. The aircraft are slated for completion in July and September, respectively.
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Fix Readiness First, Shipbuilding Second: Navy To Trump
(BREAKING DEFENSE 11 JAN 17) … Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
WASHINGTON – Sure, the Navy needs more ships, but first and most urgently, it needs to fix the ships it already has. That’s what Navy leaders are telling Donald Trump.
“When the transition team came around to all of us in the building and asked us what we could do with more money right now, the answer was not to buy more ships,” Adm. William Moran, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, told the Surface Navy Association yesterday afternoon. “The answer was to make sure the 274 we have were maintained to provide 274 ships’ worth of combat power. Then we’ll start buying more ships. They heard that loud and clear, I hope.”
“The first thing we need to do is reinforce the foundation, which is our readiness, the maintenance of the ships we have today,” Moran said.
The Navy even has a specific figure for how much additional readiness money it needs to get its repair yards working at maximum capacity, although Moran wouldn’t disclose it. “We know precisely how much money we need in our readiness accounts to be able to execute the full magnitude of what our yards can handle for ship maintenance and modernization for ’17 and ’18. That number’s pretty well understood,” Moran said. “Any money that comes on top of that, we can start looking at how we would contract out for (new) ships (that) yards and contractors are ready to start building this year or next.”
So while readiness comes first, “that doesn’t mean we don’t need more ships. It’s all connected,” Moran emphasized. “Too small a Navy means we drive optempo (operational tempo) higher,” wearing out the fleet. Since 2001, the fleet has shrunk from 316 ships to 274, but high demand from commanders around the world means the number of ships deployed at any given time has stayed the same, so each ship is now deploying more. That pace increases wear and tear on both hulls and crews at the same time it decreases time to rest and refit. Over time, deferred maintenance leads to unexpected breakdowns that take ships out of service, forcing the rest of the fleet to work even harder.
More maintenance funding will slow down this vicious cycle in the short term, but in the long term the only solution is to buy more ships. Said Moran, “we need a bigger Navy so we can continue to meet demand without driving the current force, the smaller force, into the ground.”
Mabus Agrees – But…
“Bill Moran and I have had this conversation,” Ray Mabus, the outgoing Navy Secretary, told reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast this morning. “I don’t think that it’s an either/or here. One of the readiness problems that we do have is we don’t have enough ships.” Cutting shipbuilding budgets to fund near-term readiness just makes the problem worse in the long term, he warned repeatedly.
But if you’re adding dollars to the Navy budget, as Trump has pledged, Mabus went on, then yes, the next dollar needs to go to maintenance, not shipbuilding. “[For] the very close in of the ’18, ’19, budget, (given) the shipbuilding plan that we were on, if you’ll stick to that, then … take those marginal dollars and put them into today’s readiness.”
That’s a remarkable admission from Mabus. The Navy Secretary prides himself on building more ships than his predecessors: 86 ships put under contract during his eight-year term, versus 41 in the previous seven, as he says at every opportunity. Mabus even got into a public fight with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter over shipbuilding funds in the 2018-2022 budget plan.
“We were ordered to cut $16 billion and instead I added $35,” Mabus said with satisfaction. (Carter & co. have told the Navy to spend less on new ships and more on upgrading the ships it has with modern weapons). Since the 2018 plan will be finalized and submitted by the Trump administration, which has promised much higher funding for defense, Mabus considered Carter’s cuts “a useless exercise,” he said bluntly. “This was at best symbolic, and if you’re going to put in a symbolic budget,” he said, why not lay out what the Navy really needs? “To say, nah, fewer ships, just makes no sense,” Mabus said, “and it undercuts one of the central requirements of this administration.”
“The ships that I put under contract will get us to 308 ships by 2021,” said Mabus, but, he emphasized, that’s the Navy’s old goal, calculated in 2012, before Russia seized Crimea or China built artificial islands in the South China Sea. The new Force Structure Assessment just completed calls for 355.
That’s almost exactly the figure Trump called for in the campaign, 350 ships. Some skeptics call the closeness suspiciously “convenient,” said Adm. Moran, but “I assure you our analysis has been going on for more than a year.” It also lines up with older studies that called for a fleet in the “mid-300s” and with three independent studies ongoing of fleet architecture, he said: “All three of those, independently, without any collaboration or guidance from OPNAV (Navy HQ) staff, came up with roughly the same number.”
Getting consensus on 355 ships is a good start, but getting funding for 355 ships will be much harder, Moran warned: “We can’t get overly excited about the potential for that much money coming our way.”
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After Ratings Change Backlash, Effort To Reform Navy Jobs Moves Ahead
(STARS AND STRIPES 11 JAN 17) … Wyatt Olson
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – The Navy has backed off on a controversial decision to scrap job-oriented titles, but the effort to reform how those jobs are attained and offered is moving forward, a top Navy official said Tuesday.
“Now that we’ve got the distraction of the naming issue put aside, we’re focusing on things of substance that we wanted to tackle – the rating modernization – as well as Sailor 2025,” Vice Adm. Robert Burke, chief of Naval Personnel, told a media roundtable in Hawaii.
Sailor 2025, an overhaul of the Navy’s personnel system, is intended to modernize policies, operating systems and training.
The service announced in September it would end the 2-century-old job-ratings system that identifies sailors by occupation and rank, though many vehemently opposed the change.
“Our sailors have many allegiances,” Burke said of the backlash. “They have allegiance to their ships, to their warfare designations, to their squadrons and to their tribe. Ratings are another tribe, and there’s tradition associated with it. I think there’s that aspect of it.”
At least for now, a yeoman first class will remain a yeoman first class, he said, adding that “everything else in the project is continuing forward.”
“We fundamentally haven’t changed our personnel system since the draft went away [44 years ago],” Burke said.
The Navy oversees a massive and sprawling personnel pool, with roughly 40,000 sailors entering the service each year and the same number heading out. There are about 90,000 annual permanent-change-of-station moves for operational and rotational tours alone, he said.
The Navy is hoping to attract and retain sailors through the modernization effort designed to reduce the cost and toll of turnover.
Part of that reform is aimed at increasing flexibility so sailors don’t find themselves at career dead ends. Too many “proven performers” aren’t promoted because their job specialties are “over-manned,” he said.
The modernization would create more flexibility by managing personnel by career tracks. For example, a dental technician could qualify to be an X-ray technician after an additional month of schooling, Burke said.
The Navy is working on identifying and categorizing similar jobs.
“That’s what the rating modernization is about: identifying that DNA that defines that career track he’s in and looking at the differences for the DNA that’s required to do different jobs and just training them on those different elements,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
Burke said the sailors he’s talked to have liked the proposal to change the way advancement exams are structured. For example, he said there are 40 classifications within the corpsman rating that run the gamut from dental and X-ray technician to mortician and aerospace medical technician.
A corpsman is tested on all 40 classifications when taking an advancement exam, Burke said. A worthy goal would be to advance sailors based on testing of their individual skill sets rather than the “the whole larger set,” he added.
“Sailors really like that idea,” Burke said.
However, increased job flexibility as the norm could cause the Navy to revisit the naming issue, he said.
“For example, if you come in as a cryptologic technician and you later become an electronics technician, what do we call you?” he said.
During an all-hands call Monday at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, several sailors suggested that the first rating a sailor assumes in the Navy will be “for life,” Burke said.
“We’ll get the sailors’ ideas on it and bring them to bear on what we call each other,” he said. “We can cross that bridge later.”
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Navy Needs More Aircraft To Match Ship Increase, Secretary Says
(DEFENSE DAILY 11 JAN 17) … Marc Selinger
The U.S. Navy, which recently concluded that it needs to buy dozens of more ships than planned, expects it will require more aircraft to support those vessels, though how many and what kind is unclear, according to the service’s top official.
“Clearly, you’ll need aircraft to man those ships,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Jan. 11. But determining the number and types of those aircraft is less urgent than ships because “you can dial up aircraft in a much shorter period of time than you can [with] ships.”
The Navy announced last month that based on a year-long study, or force structure assessment, it needs to expand its fleet size to 355 ships, up from the 308 ships it is currently slated to grow to by fiscal year 2021. The 47-ship increase includes one more aircraft carrier, 18 more attack submarines, 16 more large surface combatants and four more amphibious warfare ships.
Mabus, who spoke to the Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C., and later addressed a Surface Navy Association conference in Arlington, Va., defended the study against those who assert it would overspend on shipbuilding. He insisted the Navy does not have enough ships to meet combatant commander requirements and is overtaxing its fleet.
Critics say “the Navy is focused too much on shipbuilding and not enough on the weapons that go on them,” Mabus said. “How are they going to get these advanced weapons there if we don’t have the ships? We have to be forward-deployed.”
Mabus said shipbuilders have become more efficient due to recent increases in shipbuilding, and he expressed confidence that they could build enough additional ships to meet the Navy’s needs. “Even today with the number of ships we’re building, there are troughs,” he said at a Surface Navy Association conference. “We need to not have those troughs.”
Mabus has not seen interest in building new shipyards. “I’m a big fan of competition,” he said, but industry “would need to be convinced that it’s a profitable enterprise, and I’ve not seen a big line to do that.”
Brian Cuccias, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding, said Ingalls, which is currently building 10 ships for four Navy and Coast Guard programs at its 800-acre facility in Pascagoula, Miss., could build more because it is using only 70 to 75 percent of its capacity.
“I can probably produce the ships faster” than the Navy can provide funding, Cuccias told reporters at the conference. “We are positioned right now to accelerate today.”
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America’s Military Has A Big Problem: It’s Dead Broke
The Pentagon has made big plans for which it lacks the money.
(THE NATIONAL INTEREST 05 JAN 17) … Tom Spoehr
Bank Examiner Carter: “I trust you had a good year?”
George Bailey: “A good year? Uh, well, between you and me, Mr. Carter, we’re broke.” – It’s a Wonderful Life
“We’re broke.” In essence, that’s the message Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work delivered to Defense-Secretary-in-Waiting James Mattis at the December 5 Future Strategy Forum.
Mr. Work admitted that DoD has breathtaking liabilities – as much as $88 billion a year – that ought to be addressed before procuring a single additional plane, ship or tank. Unfortunately, the situation is even worse than that.
Military leaders have testified to the problems caused by five straight years of budget cuts and how these cuts, combined with an extraordinarily high operational tempo, have resulted in a smaller, less capable military force.
What has received less attention is the degree to which the Pentagon’s future plans bank on questionable assumptions and budgetary sleight-of-hand to balance the books for 2018 and beyond. These gimmicks include: relying on rosy future estimates for the cost of labor, fuel and currency exchange; pushing the costs of large modernization programs like the nuclear triad into the ill-defined “out years,” and using Overseas Contingency Operations funds to help cover normal DoD operating costs. Taken together, these liabilities, combined with the administration’s decision to submit budgets in excess of the Budget Control Act caps, constitute about $100 billion dollars per year of unbudgeted liabilities or risk – a staggering sum that will severely limit the new administration’s ability to quickly rebuild the U.S. military.
In October 2016 a Pentagon spokesman publicly acknowledged, and Secretary Work confirmed, what many have known for some time: that as much as half of the money requested in the DoD Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding is planned to go to normal Pentagon operations such as training soldiers, steaming ships or flying planes – not the extraordinary wartime operations which OCO was designed to cover.
The President-elect’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, (R-SC), has decried such misuse of OCO funds, calling it a “backdoor loophole” in the budget process. Considering that comment, if Congress and the country want DoD’s normal operating costs captured in the appropriations process versus the wartime funding mechanism, this $30 billion annual cost must be eventually covered in the base budget, further adding to DoD’s liabilities. And while it may be a worthy goal to move these enduring costs into the base appropriation it’s important to note that this shift by itself won’t do anything to restore military capabilities.
Here are some other liabilities Secretary Work didn’t mention:
Future Costs of Labor
Section 1009 of Title 37 United States Code requires military pay raises to equal the Economic Cost Index (ECI), a common measure of the cost of labor, unless the president invokes his authority to request an alternative pay raise. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in August that “the ECI will grow by more than 3 percent a year, on average over the next several years.” However, in its budget request, DoD has planned on much smaller raises than CBO forecasted. The 2017 DoD budget projects pay raises of only 1.6 percent for 2017-2019, and 1.8 percent and 2.1 percent for 2020 and 2021, respectively.
From 2014-2016 President Obama used his authority to lower the requested pay raises, and Congress complied. After three years of smaller than prescribed pay raises, this year Congress disregarded the president’s recommendation and set the pay raise at 2.1 percent in the 2017 NDAA, matching the growth in ECI.
Because the DoD has banked on being able to lowball military and civilian pay raises for the next five years, the liability incurred by Congress’ inconvenient compliance with law this year, and potentially in the future, will run to the tens of billions of dollars. Just next year’s change in pay will cost DoD about $800 million in 2017 than planned.
Hopeful Fuel Cost Assumptions
The DoD budget estimate projects that fuel costs for fiscal year 2017 will drop 8.2 percent from 2016. For future years, DoD used planning assumptions that reflected minor increases ranging from 4.8 percent in 2018 to only 1.8 percent in 2021.
However, the latest forecast from the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts crude oil prices will gradually rise, not fall, next year. And future year energy estimates vary widely, with high end price per barrel of crude oil reaching $150 by 2020. If energy costs grow at even a modest rate of 5 percent annually, the Pentagon will be short billions of dollars compared to its plan.
Living Large In an “Out-year”
Former Secretary of the Army John McHugh famously commented that he always wanted to “live in an out-year.” In Pentagonese, “out-years” fall outside the rigid five-year planning window; they are, consequently, years in which unrealistic procurement plans magically come to fruition and normal budget rules don’t apply.
DoD is notorious for planning to acquire major systems such as planes, submarines and ships in quantities that are patently unaffordable in the next five years, but will be brought on-board when the money somehow materializes in an “out-year.”
This Pentagon has double-downed on that technique. In addition to the unpaid bills associated with the recapitalization of the nuclear triad mentioned by Secretary Work, the replacement for the Ohio class submarine and many other major systems are also all awaiting an out-year deus ex machina to save the day.
For example, the Navy’s current, approved 30-year shipbuilding program only gets them to 308 ships – even though they just announced they need 355, nearly matching the president-elect’s promise to get to 350 ships. Yet when the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the Navy’s 308-ship plan, they found it would cost $3-5 billion dollars more per year than what was budgeted.
In an excellent study of the out-year issue, CSIS’s Todd Harrison suggested that just to execute the DoD’s planned modernization programs would require approximately 7 percent more funding – around $40 billion per year – than was budgeted. This includes nothing of the re-building that President-elect Trump has promised.
Other problems lie ahead. DoD has made optimistic assumptions about foreign currency exchange rates, counting on them to remain near where they are today, which is very favorable for the United States. Another liability includes Pentagon requests for changes to military health care programs that the 2017 NDAA did not fully support.
At the Bottom of a Very Deep Hole
The Pentagon has made big plans for which it lacks the money. The liabilities described above will build to about $100 billion a year over time, seriously complicating matters for a president-elect who has pledged to rebuild our depleted military.
The Pentagon can save some money through efficiencies, base realignment and closure, restructuring and better business practices, and some of these efforts are already underway. But those savings won’t be nearly enough to close liabilities of this magnitude. It’s unfortunate this critical information hasn’t been part of a national discussion by our nation’s leaders, including the president, prior to the imminent transition.
In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey’s financial problems were solved with a crowdfunding solution among the residents of Bedford Falls. General Mattis won’t be so fortunate. It’s among the many challenges that the new administration’s leaders will have to grapple with in their first hundred days to begin the necessary restoration of our military.
Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr (U.S. Army, retired) is the director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense. He served as the Army’s Director of the Office of Business Transformation from 2013-2016.
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France Bids To Take NATO Leadership Role From Britain
(LONDON TIMES (UK) 10 JAN 17) … Deborah Haynes
Britain could lose its leading position within NATO after Brexit under options being discussed by member states.
The tradition that a British officer holds the No 2 military post in the alliance is under threat as other European countries eye the coveted role, the Royal United Services Institute think tank indicated. The move would represent a loss of prestige for Britain, which has filled the post of deputy supreme allied commander almost continually since Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery in 1951. The alliance has always been led by an American.
Defence sources identified France as most likely to exploit Britain’s exit from the European Union to improve its military standing within NATO. Last autumn Paris sent an unofficial delegation to Washington to lobby U.S. officials, claiming that French armed forces were better placed than their British counterparts to be America’s special ally in Europe after Brexit, The Times understands.
The French team, including a naval captain and a senior official at the defence ministry, “were at pains to point out how useful the French military could be as an ally and their track record in getting things done in trouble-spots where the U.S. was not as strong as it wished to be”, said a source with knowledge of the September mission.
“They also pointed out that, after Brexit, they would be the only EU country with this capability.” A number of NATO member states are understood to be informally talking about whether a British officer should retain the title of the alliance’s No 2 military commander. The post is held by General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, who will hand over to Lieutenant-General Sir James Everard in March.
A key role for the commander is to lead certain EU military missions, including a force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Countries have raised questions about whether a British officer should be allowed to play that role once Britain has left the EU.
Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general at the institute, addresses the issue in a briefing paper on Britain’s foreign and security policy after Brexit, published today. The document cautions Theresa May against using Britain’s role as the leading military power in western Europe as a “bargaining chip” in Brexit negotiations. This approach could undermine the principle of collective defence that NATO relies upon to ward off attack, Mr. Chalmers says.
Referring to the post of deputy commander, he writes: “There is already some discussion of the possibility that the assignment of the position … might have to be transferred to a NATO member that is a member of the EU.”
Britain could fill the role of chief of staff, the third most senior title in the NATO chain of command. Another solution could be to re-create a second deputy command post – a job that was held by a German officer between 1978 and 1993 but disbanded after the end of the Cold War, Mr. Chalmers said. The second deputy could relieve the British commander of all EU-related tasks.
“Whatever the outcome, the substantive consequences of such changes are likely to be relatively limited,” Mr. Chalmers said. “Even so, the fact that they are being raised is a clear message that the UK’s role and influence within NATO cannot be entirely ring-fenced from the consequences of Brexit.”
Sir Adam Thomson, who stepped down as Britain’s ambassador to NATO in November, said he doubted that Britain would lose its deputy command status but said it was likely that the EU element of the job would be stripped away. “Politically, sticking with a Brit to command EU missions seems unlikely given Brexit,” Sir Adam said.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We will continue to play a leading role in European security. This includes providing NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander for Europe.”
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The Pentagon Needs Its Own Google For All Its Data, Says Eric Schmidt
A giant Defense Department data warehouse would give the military Google-like capability, and create the richest intelligence target ever conceived.
(DEFENSE ONE 09 JAN 17) … Patrick Tucker
The U.S. military needs an entirely new system for storing and managing data if they want to make it searchable and actionable for front line soldiers as easily as any of us can search Google, according to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, legendary Google CEO, and chair of the Defense Innovation Advisory Board.
The innovation board is a panel of technology giants such as Jeff Bezos and Neil deGrasse Tyson that the Defense Department has recruited to help the United States military. During a meeting of the board on Monday, Schmidt discussed the creation of a data storing and delivery system that sounds uncannily Google-esque.
The pitch came in the form of a new interim recommendation. [The Defense Innovation Advisory Board voted “yes” on its previous 11 recommendations.]
Though no individual board member contributes specific recommendations, Schmidt was clearly personally connected to this one. He explained that the new recommendation rose from the group’s international discussions about future artificial intelligence capabilities and discussions with commanders across the U.S. military.
“In our meetings with the senior leadership, they talk about this thing called ‘data fusion.’ The fantasy goes something like: we’re going to have all these different signals; the signals will be automatically detected; the immediacy … will enable to warfighter to make a better decision,” he said.
It would work sort of the same way Google crawls the web for the most relevant and recent web pages related to specific subject areas and then presents them on demand when people type queries. The proposal would require a single network that allows any operator in the world to access any and all Defense Department data with a quick query, (and based on appropriate permissions levels.) Need to pull up drone footage over Kenya two days ago? Hunting for the design specs on a particular IED? If the DOD has it, it should be findable and mineable at scale, but that requires putting the data in fewer places, making it findable.
Of course Google relies on data that people around the world contribute to the open Web and Google itself doesn’t have to worry about hosting the information, just indexing it.
The Defense Department can’t just send its information to the open Web. But, says Schmidt, if the Pentagon could figure out a more centralized storage scheme, its leaders and commanders could take advantage of search capability at a variety of levels.
“There’s no place in the military where the data is centrally aggregated and a lot of organizations either hide the data, don’t know they have the data, lose the data or don’t care about the data,” said Schmidt. “The problem … is that the signals aren’t available and they aren’t minable. So, [data fusion is] a great strategy but you have no way of implementing it. The reason we wanted to bring this idea up and then work it through the bureaucracy or whatever else you call it is that without some kind of data repository, set of data repositories … you are not going to be able to achieve that vision. It’s a clear bug in the strategy.”
Centralizing data would allow future machine learning and AI programs to mine the information, capable (at least in theory) of discovering new correlations and patterns. It’s the sort of thing that today takes analysts years. In theory, if streaming data on, say, fuel costs, weapons production, mission milestones, casualties etc. were all in one place, leaders would have a much more detailed, accurate, and timely understanding of the global conflict environment, how much they were ahead or behind.
Schmidt, however, cautioned that the centralization process should be gradual. “In practice you would never do such a broad release to the whole military for security reasons. So … you would not have one big database. But the principle is the same,” he said.
Of course, centralizing Defense Department data would also create new information target that could put the nation at unfathomable risk if those targets were ever compromised, Schmidt acknowledged. “Now, before we get too excited about databases here. The databases have to be secure. These are secret, secret information, secured by all the computer scientists that we hire.”
But security is more a matter of will and implementation than miracle work, said Schmidt. “Having worked with and done this for a long time, the algorithms to provide absolute security exist. They just simply have not been implemented. This is a computer science problem. Basically, if you use 2048 bit-encryption [which would take more than a million a years to break using a standard desktop machine] you use two-factor authentication, your information is not going to be leaked except by illegal activity by humans.”
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Pentagon Successfully Tests World’s Largest Micro-Drone Swarm
(MILITARY TIMES 09 JAN 17) … Shawn Snow
U.S. military officials in California have conducted a test launching more than 100 micro-drones from three F/A-18 Super Hornets, the largest-ever test for the cutting-edge “swarm” technology, defense officials said.
The swarm consisted of 103 Perdix micro drones, which are small, low-cost, battery-powered devices, launched from three separate Super Hornets. The exercise was conducted at China Lake, California, by the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, working with Naval Air Systems Command.
The micro-drones demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors such as “collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and self-healing,” according to a Defense Department statement Monday.
“This is the kind of cutting-edge innovation that will keep us a step ahead of our adversaries. This demonstration will advance our development of autonomous systems,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who created the SCO in 2012, said in the statement.
The test was conducted in October and aired on Sunday’s CBS News program “ 60 Minutes,” according to a Defense Department (DoD) press release.
Perdix are low-altitude micro drones, capable of autonomously conducting intelligence collection and surveillance operations.
“Due to the complex nature of combat, Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals. They are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature,” said SCO Director William Roper. “Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.”
Developed by engineering students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department; Perdix drones were eventually modified for military application at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in 2013.
Previous successful demonstrations have included an air-drop from F-16 flare canisters by the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 2014; and in 2015, roughly 90 Perdix missions were undertaken during U.S. Pacific Command’s Northern Edge exercise in Alaska, an exercise that witnessed the first successful swarm test of 20 Perdix drones.
The SCO plans to partner with the Defense Industrial Unit‐Experimental (DIUx), an organization announced by Carter to promote and facilitate technological development for the U.S. military in 2015, in order to produce a thousand units this year.
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Pentagon Tester: F-35 Program Rushing Tests, Delays Still Likely
By Patrick Tucker
The F-35 program office’s rush to make an August test deadline will increase risks yet still leave the effort well behind schedule, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester said in a report released today.
That verdict, from the Office of Operational Testing and Evaluation, came as no surprise, though it is another black eye for Donald Trump’s least favorite combat jet.
The report did note some progress, such as the completion of important ship-integration tests and steps toward fixing a dangerous ejection seat.
However, most of chief tester Michael Gilmore’s report focuses on what still needs to be done. And it’s plenty. OTE has noted some “276 deficiencies in combat performance” as part of the most recent rollout of improvements. The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin, the company that makes the planes, have been working on them, but their plans for the next block of improvements, Block 3FR6, will address fewer than half of the deficiencies.
As for Block 3F, the most recent set of upgrades, the report notes “significant, well-documented deficiencies resulting in overall ineffective operational performance…hundreds of which will not be adequately addressed with fixes and corrections verified with flight testing within the system [development and demonstration phase].”
The report also concludes that “the current schedule-driven program plans to close out [for development and demonstration] testing in 2017 do not include enough time to fix these key deficiencies, nor time to verify corrections in flight test.”
The risk is that the program, out of a sense of urgency, may look to verify fixes in the lab rather than in actual flight tests. This is, a huge safety concern “because the labs proved to not always be representative of the actual aircraft for detecting problems or verifying fixes for stability problems.”
The most important items on the to-do list: fix the plane’s 25mm gun and its analytics and diagnostic software.
While the office did complete ground firing tests for the gun on all the variants of the F-35, only the A model has completed initial flight testing with the notoriously troublesome weapon. Testing has revealed problems in display that the pilot sees in the helmet (when trying to target the gun). The report suggests a “high likelihood” of additional discoveries about the gun as more testing takes place, causing further delays, according to the report.
The biggest problem by far remains the complex Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, which monitors the health of the plane’s parts and tells operators and maintainers what’s happening with the jet. It’s probably the most infamous piece of software in the military, having earned a short spot on “60 Minutes” in 2014. The plane does not need it to fly, but does need it for maintenance.
To accelerate the roll-out of improvements to ALIS, the program office has begun delivering smaller software upgrades, not just big block upgrades.
“Service packs are developed, tested and fielded on a much quicker timeline than our larger increments of ALIS,” Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan testified in March.
The Air Force deadline for conduct important operational tests (also called initial operational test and evaluation, or IOT&E) has slipped to fall 2017. The report suggests it could slide further.
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Navy Adds Helicopter Electronic War Anti-Ship Missile Defense
(SCOUT WARRIOR 11 JAN 17) … Michael Fabey
To provide better sea-surface electronic warfare capability, Lockheed Martin is marrying enhanced sensors with MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters.
The company is developing an EW pod for both MH-60 R/S Sea Hawk versions to help provide anti-ship missile defense as part of Lockheed’s Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP), says Joe Ottaviano, company EW director.
Called the Advanced Offboard Electronic Warfare (AOEW) system, the airborne sensor and links will extend the range over the horizon and offer some electronic attack potential, Ottaviano said Jan. 9 during a Lockheed briefing in advance of the Surface Navy Association annual conference.
The system can be used for more than just surveillance, he says, and provides the Navy with a first-look capability out on the seas. “You can sense and see long before the enemy know you are there,” he says. But, he adds, he cannot provide any more detail about potential offensive EW measures the system can provide.
Currently, according to the Navy and the Pentagon, only Boeing EA-18G Growlers provide airborne electronic attack.
With a contract award in December, he says, the program is on a fast track that the Navy wants to accelerate. “We have been challenged to go faster,” he says.
Under the SEWIP’s Block 2, the AOEW helicopter pod will be linked with the ships’ SLQ-32 system.
Senior Navy officials have said that upgraded SEWIPs were being acquired for many of the Navy’s forward-positioned ships in strategic locations such as Japan and Rota, Spain.
The USS Bainbridge went through operational testing several years ago as the Navy acquired its first 24 Block 2SEWIP units.
“SEWIP is the Navy’s continued push to keep electronic warfare excellence ahead of the threat. It is an incremental set of upgrades to the SLQ-32 which was designed in the late 70s and deployed in the 80s. It gives the Navy the ability to upgrade and outpace the threat. It provides the ability to quickly upgrade processing as new threats come online and become more complex without overhauling the antenna,” Ottaviano said a in an interview several years ago with Military.com (from Kris Osborn)
The Block 2 SEWIP advancements include upgrades to the antenna and digital receiver, Ottaviano said. Block 2 upgrades also include the addition of new software engineered to ensure the system is equipped to recognize new, emerging threat signals.
“It provides the digital architecture so it can quickly upgrade and provide additional capability as threats increase in capability,” Ottaviano added.
The Navy plans to configure including carriers, cruisers, destroyers and amphibs, among others.
The hardware to the system consists of above and below deck components including a display screen and processing technology, he added.
The hardware may be configured differently depending upon the structure of a given ship, Ottaviano explained.
For example, the EW antenna on the Navy’s new destroyer, the DDG 1000, is conformed to align with the ship’s hull.
Following SEWIP Block 2, the Navy plans to develop and acquire a Block 3 SEWIP electronic attack technology, Navy and Lockheed officials said.
In addition to “listening” or passive electromagnetic detection, Block 3 will include the ability to transmit signals and potentially jam or disrupt enemy signals.
Under the SEWIP operational concept, the MH-60R already plays a role with its multi-mission AN/ALQ-210 Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system, That system provides proven situational awareness and threat warning with Electronics Intelligence quality measurement accuracy in complex and dense electronic battlefield scenarios, Lockheed says.
The system is currently in full rate production for the U.S. Navy and International customers.
The AN/ALQ-210 ESM system autonomously scans the environment allowing for a high probability of detection and accurate identification, the company says. The system operation is tailorable through mission data loads which can be reloaded in flight for adapting to each specific geographic region.
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US Army Looking to 3D-Print Minidrones in 24 Hours
By Patrick Tucker
Imagine a squad of Army Rangers prepping to capture a high-value subject barricaded inside a three-story building. The Rangers decide send in a small camera drone to check for IEDs — but there’s a problem: the enemy has begun putting its booby-traps on the ceiling, where the downward-facing drones can’t see them. If only those little gizmos had cameras on the top…?
A new project by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Georgia Technical Institute just might help. It aims to give soldiers the ability to 3D-print swarms of mini-drones to specific specifications within 24 hours. Its creators call this approach “aggregate derivative approach to product design,” or ADAPT.
“A soldier with a mission need uses a computer terminal to rapidly design a suitable [drone],” says a poster by project chief engineer Zacarhy Fisher. “That design is then manufactured using automated processes such as laser cutting and 3D printing. The solution is sent back to the soldier and is deployed.”
Fisher says the drone itself could be fabricated in less than a day, with total turnaround time of less than three days.
In their research paper on the design approach, they lay out a four-step process: requirements analysis, which is figuring out what type of drone you need for the mission; architecture selection, selecting among a variety of standard and custom parts to build it; interface design, making sure it all fits together; and concept refinement.
The trick is to limit the number of potential build options around one of the four different tasks a soldier might need a small drone for. Previous research from Georgia Tech has identified those as perimeter surveillance and defense, reconnaissance for inside buildings, reconnaissance for inside caves, and jungle reconnaissance. Depending on the mission type, you know if you need a video camera, target designator, light detection and ranging and other pieces.
The authors describe the basic approach as inspired by Lego.
“The on-demand approach is succinctly explained via an analogy to Lego?,” they write. “Lego? bricks contain a number of modular parts that can be constructed into different models depending on what outcome is desired. Instructions are provided to help the user build different systems out of the same set of components.” At the beginning of December, the researchers performed a demonstration on several of the drones at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.
Future capabilities could include combining 3D printing, drones, and artificial intelligence, an of research being led by Kyrre Glette at the University of Oslo, who in 2014 demonstrated the first steps in program to allow robots to 3D-print themselves.
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CNO Vs A2AD: Why Admiral Richardson Is Right About Deconstructing The A2/AD Term
(THE NAVALIST 10 JAN 17) … Sam J. Tangredi
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson’s desire to minimize use of “A2/AD” made no headway with the rest of the Department of Defense (DoD). In particular it bumped up against Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, who has used the term A2/AD for over 15 years and thinks that it most excellently captures our main warfighting challenge. However, the CNO has a valid point, even if it was not completely articulated. His remarks in his National Interest article (“Deconstructing A2/AD,” October 3, 2016) remain a necessary corrective for “deconstructing” an artificial term that indeed appears to mean too much to some and too little to others.
He is right that “A2/AD is a term bandied about freely, with no precise definition, that sends a variety of vague or conflicting signals, depending on the context in which it is either transmitted or received.” But there is more to it than that.
As those who have read my book Anti-Access Warfare: Countering A2/AD Strategies know, I am no fan of the A2/AD acronym. To most Americans it sounds like a character from the Star Wars movies (R2-D2, CP-3O, etc.), and it is never in the long-term interest of DoD to confuse the public. It would not have appeared in the title of my book if the publisher hadn’t insisted. The problem is that A2 and AD are two distinctly separate concepts that represent different levels of warfare and require differing forms of analysis to be understood.
In short, A2 (anti-access) is a strategy in which combat operations are but one part. In contrast, AD (area denial) represents tactics that can be used to achieve A2 objectives in a military campaign, but are largely indistinguishable from “standard” land warfare or sea denial operations. AD can support an A2 strategy, or can support another strategy. If an opposing force needs to apply area denial (AD) tactics in a combat situation – particularly on land – then we have already won the A2 phase of a protracted conflict.
An anti-access strategy is a plan for keeping a strategically-superior military away from one’s region. It is intended to either deter interference by an outside power while achieving a regional military conquest, or if deterrence fails, achieve a quick victory while avoiding a force-on-force contest. The fear of the nation (or armed group) adopting an anti-access strategy is that if the strategically superior power is allowed to build up its force in the region it will win. They would face the same situation that Saddam did in the Gulf War of 1991; he could capture Kuwait, but could never hold it if opposed by the U.S. and the coalition. The objective is to convince the “outside” power to go away and accept the de facto results. Since nations and non-nations rarely start a war intending to lose, adopting an anti-access strategy when a stronger force may intervene makes logical sense.
Anti-access warfare was the strategy of Imperial Japan in World War II. Japan was determined to conquer the Dutch East Indies, as much of China as possible and everything in between. Since the Philippine and Guam were in between, that would bring it in conflict with the U.S. Admiral Yamamoto and the other Japanese strategists who were not blinded by “racial superiority” knew that in a protracted war, Japan would lose. The U.S. could out-produce every nation in terms of weaponry, and was thus the strategically superior power. Yamamoto specifically stated that he could only guarantee victory for six months. His vision was that if he could destroy the U.S. fleet, both in Asian waters and at Pearl Harbor, and sever the line of communication with Australia, the U.S. government would consider a negotiated agreement since it would be too costly in lives and treasure to fight its way back into the region.
This strategy had some logic; one must recall that Yamamoto traveled the United States before the war and knew the isolationist sentiment that appeared to prevail. Since Britain was fighting for its life, and France and the Netherlands had fallen to Germany, the U.S. was the sole power who could threaten the expansion and control of the Empire. (The Soviet Union could threaten possessions in northern China, but not Japan at sea.)
Of course, the Pearl Harbor attack had the opposite effect. Yamamoto et al. lost the gamble. The anti-access “great wall” of Pacific islands was breached at Midway, and U.S. forces – primarily the Navy and Marine Corps – took it apart brick by brick. American forces faced and defeated the most determined anti-access strategy in its greatest naval war. Admiral Richardson is certainly correct in saying that A2/AD “is not a new phenomenon” and that “history has much to teach us about maintaining perspective.”
Fast forward to today. Given current military and diplomatic capabilities (Soviet military planners would have called it the “correlation of forces”), a force-on-force conflict between the U.S. joint force and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), along with its naval component, fought in some theoretical “neutral” zone away from the Chinese mainland – the Iraqi desert for example – would almost certainly result in a U.S. victory. A force-on-force engagement in Southeast Asia could also result in a U.S./coalition force victory, particularly in conjunction with a Chinese revolt against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). If U.S. land and air forces were firmly entrenched in Taiwan – as well as in place as it is today in Japan, Korea and throughout the “second island chain,” Chinese military power would be constrained in the region it considers its own. A force-on-force confrontation would be a gamble the CCP would be unlikely to take. The logical strategy in any Chinese military expansion would therefore be to attempt to drive forward U.S. forces out of the region (diplomatically if possible, militarily if necessary) and prevent them from coming back in. The primary battlefield would obviously be maritime. Similar situations exist in other parts of the world.
The problem with the A2/AD term is that conflates strategy with tactics in a way that neglects the non-military aspects of anti-access warfare, minimizes the role of deterrence, and focuses us “like a laser beam” on tactical analyses on how particular opposing weapons systems will perform.
How does all this relate to Admiral Richardson’s preference for a different description of the potential situation the Navy and U.S. joint forces might face in East Asia? The problem with the A2/AD term is that conflates strategy with tactics in a way that neglects the non-military aspects of anti-access warfare, minimizes the role of deterrence, and focuses us “like a laser beam” on tactical analyses on how particular opposing weapons systems will perform. Indeed, we do need to analyze how weapons systems will perform. But that does not equate to an analysis on the strategic requirements for defeating an anti-access strategy. I would argue that most national security planners are not analyzing the strategic requirements because we they are too busy debating about Chinese DF-21 missiles versus aircraft carriers. AD has driven our attention away from A2. And, as the CNO maintains, from the tactical perspective “the A2/AD problem is currently well understood – challenging, but understood.” I would also argue that the strategic requirements to counter A2 are not as well understood – particularly in the area of economics – and must be analyzed with the same fervor as the missiles versus carriers debate.
The CNO also claims that our current concept of A2/AD is “inherently oriented to the defense.” Whether one agrees or not with that depiction, and many of the A2/AD scenarios discussed within DoD do include offensive operations, breaking the “great walls” of anti-access strategies requires an offensive orientation, which, by its existence, could provide a greater deterrent effect in East Asia than our concentration on defense. Yamamoto’s goal was to sink U.S. strategy, not just U.S. ships. By separating A2 from AD, perhaps we can begin to truly analyze and understand the big picture as well as the details. For this, A2/AD must indeed be “deconstructed.”
So what should be done? A2/AD is not going to be replaced anytime soon. It has been used too long, was created by the dominant defense-issues think-tank (Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments), and there is not a good alternative term. However, it is an operational term and should only be used when discussing DF-21s, aircraft carriers, or other specific hardware. When discussing strategy, which should include political, diplomatic, and economic efforts, not just military, anti-access is the term that captures the concept.
Dr. Sam J. Tangredi is Professor of National, Naval and Maritime Strategy at the Center for Naval Warfare Studies of the U.S. Naval War College.
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Next Big Future
DARPA drone flew for 56 hours and landed with over half its fuel so looks close to achieving 7 days without refueling
A DARPA-backed small business effort broke boundaries for long-endurance flight this month by launching a uniquely designed, combustion-powered unmanned aircraft that stayed aloft for more than two days and two nights. The flight was terminated several days ahead of schedule because of incoming weather. But the craft—built by Vanilla Aircraft of Falls Church, Virginia—landed safely with more than half its fuel still onboard, suggesting it is capable of setting additional records for powered flight in its weight and power class and could ultimately offer important new capabilities to ground forces and others.
Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are an increasingly important means for military forces—especially small dismounted units—to bring extra communications or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the field. Current designs, however, offer relatively limited range and flight endurance; additionally, their need for frequent refueling, specialized launch and recovery equipment, and regular maintenance often limit them to flying from fixed bases close to the front lines. Vanilla’s propeller-driven VA001 is designed to carry a 30-pound payload at 15,000 feet for up to 10 days without refueling.
The VA001 started its historic flight on the morning of November 30, 2016 at New Mexico State University’s Unmanned Air Systems Flight Test Center near Las Cruces International Airport. For nearly 56 hours, the plane flew at an altitude between 6,500 feet and 7,500 feet above sea level, averaging 57 knots before landing on the afternoon of December 2.
A representative from the National Aeronautic Association—the organization that verifies and tracks flight-related world records—certified the flight as achieving the world duration record for combustion-powered UAVs in the 50 kg-500 kg subclass (FAI Class U-1.c Group 1). Moreover, the flight was the fourth-longest for any unmanned airplane and the 11th-longest for an airplane of any type (manned or unmanned, solar or fuel-powered).
“This record-breaking flight demonstrated the feasibility of designing a low-cost UAV able to take off from one side of a continent, fly to the other, perform its duties for a week, and come back—all on the same tank of fuel,” said Jean-Charles Ledé, DARPA program manager. “This capability would help extend the footprint of small units by providing scalable, persistent UAV-based communications and ISR coverage without forward basing, thereby reducing personnel and operating costs. We’re very pleased with what the Vanilla team has accomplished.”
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The Navy’s F-35 May Need New Landing Gear
Changes to the aircraft carrier or the landing gear itself could be in the cards.
By Kyle Mizokami
A group within the Department of Defense has recommended fixes for the landing gear naval version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Should they fail, the team recommends a redesign of the F-35C’s landing gear to address issues, something that will push back delivery of the already delayed and over-budget aircraft.
Inside Defense reports that carrier takeoff and landing testing done on the USS George Washington last year exposed an issue with the aircraft during takeoffs. The aircraft makes a sudden jarring motion that “is not only uncomfortable but the Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD) and oxygen mask push up and down against the pilot’s jaw.” This results in an unreadable HMD during and after launch, presumably until the pilot can readjust the helmet.
The F-35’s $400,000 HMD uses LCDs to overlay aircraft and sensor data onto the pilot’s field of view, prompting F-35 supporters to describe it more as a “workspace” for the pilot than the traditional pilot helmet. This however adds to weight—the F-35 helmet weighs 5.1 pounds, creating an “elevated risk” for pilots under 136 pounds to sustain neck damage. Work is underway to reduce helmet weight to a safer 4.8 pounds or less.
The takeoff issue is so serious that in 105 catapult shots, pilots reported 74 instances of “moderate pain” and several more cases of “severe pain”.
The “red team”—typically a group created within an organization to challenge existing assumptions with new ideas—recommended a slate of actions with short, medium and long-term timelines. Short and medium term options range from changing the restraint system for pilots to modifying the nose landing gear. Longer term options include modifications to the aircraft carriers themselves or a redesign of the F-35C’s landing gear, which would take one to three years to complete.
Nobody knows whether or not the long term options will actually be needed. The matter could be solved by relatively quick fixes. But if those fail, a major landing gear redesign will be a major spanner in the works for the Navy’s F-35. The F-35C is currently projected to be initial operations capable—that is, ready for combat—between August 2018 and February 2019.