FRCSW/COMFRC clips for the week of January 23, 2017


  1. NAS Jacksonville fire crew gets out of tight situation at FRCSE
  2. FRCSW Cold Spray Technology – Saving Taxpayers Time and Money



  1. Lemoore Naval Base Welcomes First Contingent Of F-35C Fighter Jets
  2. Trump Taps Private-Equity Investor As Civilian Head Of Navy
  3. Pentagon Confirms Trump Hiring Freeze Locks Out Military Civilians
  4. Fix The Fleet! U.S. Navy Makes Maintenance Top Priority
  5. Update To Navy Unfunded Priorities List Emphasizes Readiness
  6. James Mattis: Readiness Vs Offset
  7. Trump’s ‘Debt Bomb’: Deficit May Grow, Defense Budget May Not
  8. Rolls-Royce studies two new stall fixes for V-22 engines
  9. McCain’s 300 Low-End Fighters A ‘Great Idea:’ CSAF Gen. Goldfein
  10. Air Force Chief Scientist confirms F-35 will include artificial intelligence
  11. Super Hornet could compete with Lockheed F-35
  12. Lockheed CEO: F-35A Price to Drop Below $100M in Next Contract
  13. F-35 in Trump Administration’s Crosshairs
  14. Some Thoughts On The McCain White Paper




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NAS Jacksonville fire crew gets out of tight situation at FRCSE


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – First Coast Fire and Rescue got a victim out of a tight spot at the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Crinkley Engine Facility on Jan. 12.


Thankfully, the victim was a dummy – a mannequin – and the call was only a training exercise for firefighters to perfect the techniques they would use to extract victims from confined spaces.


“If you get in a hurry, you start forgetting things,” said station chief John Dales. “So we have to keep refreshing the techniques in their minds to make certain there are no mistakes.”


That was the idea behind the exercise.


The department made use of the engine elevator shafts that were installed in the floor at Crinkley to raise and lower engines, so employees could work on J-52 engines without climbing ladders.


David Rickel, the training chief for the fire and rescue department, took the dummy down to the bottom of the shaft – roughly 20 feet – and got an employee to call the firefighters.


“They have to come in and assess the situation,” Rickel said. “All they know is that they have someone hurt down in the bottom of a pit.”


Members of the First Coast Navy Fire and Rescue arrived, set up their equipment and tested the air to make sure it was safe. Firefighter Russell Russ and paramedic Tracy Tomes descended into the shaft’s relative darkness, all that could realistically fit in the roughly 6-feet-wide chamber.


Within minutes the patient was stabilized, and their colleagues at the surface used ropes to pull the victim out.


It was a training exercise, but Rickel and Dales have seen such situations in real life.


For Rickel, it was in a tank aboard an aircraft carrier. For Dales, it was in a steam pit at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. When victims find themselves injured in a confined space, it can be a life-threatening situation for all involved.


“It’s an extremely serious situation,” Rickel said. “If we do something wrong, it could cause death or paralysis, so we immobilize them, strap the victim down and pull them out.”


The real-world implications of the drill were not lost on FRCSE employees watching the scene play out.


“If we ever have a person trapped in a confined space, they are our primary rescue service,” Fleet Readiness Center Southeast safety and occupational health specialist Andrew Bass said. “It’s important for any of us to know that if we’re ever in a situation like that, these guys will get us out.”


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FRCSW Cold Spray Technology – Saving Taxpayers Time and Money


Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.—The Marine Corps Assistant Deputy Commandant for Aviation (Sustainment), William E. Taylor, visited Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) here to learn more about Cold Spray additive technology January 23, 2017.


Engineers and artisans from FRCSW did a demonstration and briefing for Taylor, a member of the Senior Executive Service, as well as Marine Corps aviation representatives down from Camp Lejeune, Calif. The Cold Spray technique is saving Naval Aviation time and money in repairing aircraft components and returning them to the fleet, improving readiness across the Navy and Marine Corps.


“This has a lot of promise,” Taylor said.


Cold Spray is an additive, solid-state thermal spray process that can restore components’ critical dimensional features lost due to corrosion, wear or mechanical damage. It works by taking powdered metal alloys (customized for the need of the specific part to be repaired) and spraying it onto the metal of the damaged component, creating a mechanical bond. The process creates a low-porous or nonporous surface without making any heat-induced changes to the substrate.


Put less technically, the process bonds metal to metal in a (relatively) low-heat environment, filling in any corrosion or other damage in machine parts. Repairs often take less time and are safer, too. To use a traditional chrome coating, for example, takes 20 hours to cover a part with 20 mL of metal; Cold Spray can do it with a tungsten/carbide/cobalt alloy in about two minutes. The process also eliminates the health hazards posed and safety precautions required using traditional methods.


The repaired parts come out stronger and less prone to mistake. According to Luc Doan, a materials engineer at FRCSW, of the approximately 150 parts repaired using Cold Spray so far, none have been returned for another repair. Additionally, none have resulted in machine rejections. With traditional methods, approximately 20 to 40 percent are machine rejected.


Conrad Macy, a secondary power Fleet Support Team (FST) engineer for Naval Air Systems Command, explained that the parts can endure at least 10 times more stress and impact than traditional parts. It might be more, but at that point, engineers stopped trying test the damage limits.


Macy is the impetus behind bringing Cold Spray to Naval Aviation. In his job working with the fleet making repairs to aircraft, he became tired of throwing away expensive parts because of minor damage. He felt sure that some process could fix the parts, so he began searching for it. About six years ago, through a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project, he found what he needed with Cold Spray. The SBIR with company Inovati sealed the deal, showcasing the applicability of Cold Spray to increase fleet readiness by refurbishing previously scrapped components. Often, these components are in demand across Naval Aviation, but have long lead times.


This less expensive, faster method of repair has saved more than $1 million on one part alone. The F/A-18’s Aircraft Mounted Accessory Drive (AMAD) costs approximately $168,000 each. Damage to one part of the AMAD would result in scrapping the entire drive previously, but with the repairs available through Cold Spray, 10 have been refurbished and sent back to the fleet for a savings of about $1.6 million.


Inovati’s Cold Spray technique is called Kinetic Metallization. Cold Spray can encompass a variety of techniques; this one uses low pressure helium or nitrogen and a sonic nozzle to accelerate particles. The combination of low pressure and sonic gas speed significantly decreases gas consumption compared to conventional Cold Spray processes while still achieving high particle velocities, according to the company. It also wastes less material compared to other Cold Spray machines and techniques, according to the Navy.


To bring the process to Naval Aviation, Macy worked with engineers at FRCSW to explore different options. The team brought an Inovati machine to its laboratory environment three years, and its success led to installation of another machine in the production shop at FRCSW in December 2015.


FRCSW is the main depot for all variations of the F/A-18, so most of the parts it has repaired using Cold Spray have been for that platform. However, it has also been used for E-2, F-5, CH-53 and H-1 parts, as well as for the LM 2500 ship engine.


Engineers now are pressing forward with future applications for the technology, including on V-22 window sills. Macy is exploring through another SBIR the use of a rotating nozzle in the Cold Spray machine. The current machine has a fixed nozzle, which works well for easily rotated parts, but not as well for bulkier ones.


“We’re going to be successful,” Macy said. “I’m not really worried about it.”


The Naval Aviation Enterprise is a cooperative partnership of naval aviation stakeholders focused on sustaining required current readiness and advancing future warfighting capabilities at best possible cost. It is comprised of Sailors, Marines, civilians, and contractors from across service branches and organizations, working together to identify and resolve readiness barriers and warfighting degraders.


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Lemoore Naval Base Welcomes First Contingent Of F-35C Fighter Jets


(FRESNO BEE 25 JAN 17) … Lewis Griswold


LEMOORE – The first F-35C jets to be based at Lemoore Naval Air Station were flown in Wednesday afternoon, making Lemoore the first naval air base in the country to get the new generation of fighter jets.


The pilots made a low-altitude flyover about 1:25 p.m., then did a mini air show before landing and taxiing to a hangar as part of a long-planned arrival ceremony. The public and media were issued ear plugs because of engine noise, said to be greater than that of the F/A-18 Super Hornet.


Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander of U.S. Naval Air Forces, spoke with reporters before the jets arrived about concerns raised by President Donald Trump over the cost of the F-35 program.


The Joint Strike Fighter program has been criticized for its high cost of $367 billion, or about $108 million per aircraft.

Shoemaker said the president met with the CEO of Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer.


“I think that the pressure that the president applied is all good,” he said. “He is a businessman. He’s looking to obtain those capabilities at best cost. … There are no issues in terms of morale or anything for the fleet.”


The A model of the F-35 is expected to cost $85 million by the end of the decade, a Lockheed Martin representative said.


“I’m confident we’ll get there,” said Jeff Babione, executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program.


Lemoore is the master West Coast air base of the Navy, from which combat squadrons are deployed to aircraft carriers in the Pacific and Indian oceans.


After the planes parked and the pilots disembarked on Wednesday, Capt. Markus Gudmundsson, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet strike fighter wing, spoke to hundreds waiting at the hangar.


“This is the beginning,” he said. “We have ahead of us the task of building a new community in naval aviation.”


The F-35C combat squadrons – eventually there will be seven, each with 10 planes – will make the Navy’s “current force structure much more survivable and more lethal,” he said.


Lemoore Naval Air Station’s role as the West Coast air base is important to the surrounding community, said Kings County Supervisor Craig Pedersen, who attended the arrival ceremony.


“It solidifies the Navy’s commitment to Lemoore,” he said. “Between the prisons and the air base, it’s well over 50 percent of the jobs.”


Jennifer Cripe of Lemoore is a retired federal employee who worked at the base for years as a facilities management specialist.


“I’ve been involved in all the pre-stuff, the planning of the buildings,” she said. “It’s awesome to actually see them on site.”


The F-35 is the so-called fifth generation of fighter jets. It is harder to detect, thanks to its stealth design.


“We’re not invisible,” said Lt. Mike Jennings, a pilot who flew one of the four jet fighters to the Lemoore base. “We hope we’ll see them before they see us.”


Until now, all Navy versions of the new jet – the Air Force and Marines have other versions – have been based at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where pilots and personnel have trained.


The F-35C jets will be assigned to the VFA-125 squadron, also known as the Rough Raiders, which was reactivated Jan. 12, the Navy said.


The squadron will serve as the West Coast fleet replacement squadron for the F-35C whose mission is to train pilots, as opposed to being deployed.


When at full strength, the fleet replacement squadron will have 30 F-35C jets, but it’s unknown when that will happen.


But by 2025 there are supposed to be 100 F-35C aircraft assigned to Lemoore.


The stationing fit in with the military’s “pivot to the Pacific” in which more forces are being focused there.


“We can see the Pacific, south China Sea being more of a hotbed. … It was important to bring some assets to the West Coast” to support missions in the Pacific, said Capt. David Jones, base commander.


To get ready for the fighter jets, “we have built an addition to one of our hangars and completely renovated the spaces to facilitate a modern and efficient workspace,” said Lt. Cmdr. Greg Raelson, acting Lemoore Naval Air Station spokesman.


One module of the hangar has been completed and the next is under construction.


Including active-duty military personnel and their families, about 1,500 people will be coming to Lemoore, he said. The base already has about 12,000 people, including family members.


At full strength, the squadron is forecast to bring an estimated $36 million annual payroll to the region, said John Lehn, CEO of the Kings County Economic Development Corp.


The F-35C is a single-seat fighter aircraft designed to replace the legacy F/A-18 Hornet. The last Hornet jet assigned to Lemoore flew off last year.


As the new jets are deployed on aircraft carriers, air wings will consist of the F-35C, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and other aircraft including unmanned drones.


The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is making the jets for three branches of the military – Air Force, Navy and Marines. The first test flight took place in December 2006 at the Lockheed Martin manufacturing plant in Fort Worth, Texas.


The F-35C variant, as it’s called, is designed for landing and takeoff from aircraft carriers, so it has larger wings and more robust landing gear. The first carrier landing occurred in November 2014.


More than 200 F-35s have been delivered to the military as well as five international partners and two foreign military sales customers, according to Mike Johnson, Lockheed Martin F-35 spokesman.


The current program calls for more than 3,100 F-35s to be manufactured.


Last year, the company delivered 46 fighter jets and is scheduled to deliver 66 this year. It will ramp up to about 120 jets per year by 2020.



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Trump Taps Private-Equity Investor As Civilian Head Of Navy


(WALL STREET JOURNAL 26 JAN 17) … Paul Sonne


WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump selected an American private-equity investor to oversee the U.S. Navy in its top civilian post, adding another figure from the finance world to the civilian leadership of the Pentagon.

Mr. Trump announced Wednesday that Philip Bilden, a former senior adviser at private-equity firm HarbourVest Partners LLC, and a former U.S. Army Reserve military intelligence officer, as his choice for Secretary of the Navy.


Mr. Bilden, a board member of the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation and the Naval War College Foundation, joined HarbourVest in 1991 and opened its office in Hong Kong before retiring after a 25-year career with the private-equity firm, the White House said.


“Our number of ships is at the lowest point it has been for decades,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “Philip Bilden is the right choice to help us expand and modernize our fleet, including surface ships, submarines and aircraft, and ensure America’s naval supremacy for decades to come.”


Mr. Bilden, who will be tasked with helping oversee a buildup of the U.S. military that Mr. Trump promised on the campaign trail, is Mr. Trump’s third and final choice for a military service secretary – the civilian posts that oversee the Army, Air Force and the Navy.


Mr. Trump previously selected U.S. Army veteran Vincent Viola, the billionaire founder of trading firm Virtu Financial Inc., as Secretary of the Army. Earlier this week, he announced U.S. Air Force veteran Heather Wilson, a former Republican congresswoman from New Mexico, as Secretary of the Air Force.


All three top civilian positions require Senate confirmation.


Secretary of Defense James Mattis expressed confidence in the three nominees, saying they had won his full support in the selection process and would enjoy his full support in the confirmation process.


“They will provide strong civilian leadership to strengthen military readiness, gain full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, and support our service members, civilians, and their families,” Mr. Mattis said in a statement. “I appreciate the willingness of these three proven leaders to serve our country.”


Mr. Bilden, who as Navy secretary also will oversee the U.S. Marine Corps, received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and a master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School, the White House said in a statement. He served 10 years in the U.S. Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer from 1986 to 1996, the statement said.


“Maintaining the strength, readiness, and capabilities of our maritime force is critical to our national security,” Mr. Bilden said in the statement. “If confirmed, I will ensure that our Sailors and Marines have the resources they need to defend our interests around the globe and support our allies with commitment and capability.”


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Pentagon Confirms Trump Hiring Freeze Locks Out Military Civilians


(DEFENSE NEWS 25 JAN 17) … Aaron Mehta and Joe Gould


WASHINGTON – The government hiring freeze put in place by U.S. President Donald Trump will apply to Department of Defense civilian positions but will not impact uniformed personnel.


Trump signed the hiring freeze order Jan. 23, drawing harsh criticism from both federal employee unions and members of Congress, who worry the freeze will save few dollars but create major headaches for government agencies. The freeze included an exception for national security positions, but the wording was such that it was unclear if the Pentagon was directly impacted or not.


On Wednesday, the Pentagon finally confirmed that its civilian spots would be impacted, but that Secretary of Defense James Mattis can exempt from the hiring freeze any position “that he deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities,” a DoD official told Defense News. Other exemptions must be requested from the Office of Personnel Management.


The memorandum does not impact Senate-confirmable officials, the appointment of officials to non-career positions in the Senior Executive Service or to Schedule C positions in the excepted service, the official added.


“Since January 20, 2017, and prior to our notification of the President’s Executive Order on a Federal Hiring Freeze, Washington Headquarters Service (WHS) hired 36 employees to support various functions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD),” the official added. “Additionally, 18 political appointees have been hired thus far to support the Secretary of Defense. Political appointees are exempt from the Executive Order.”


In June, the Pentagon ended a four-month hiring freeze used to ensure personnel were reflected in an internal DoD accounting system.


The freeze also impacts the Department of Veterans Affairs. On Tuesday, acting VA Secretary Robert Snyder said his department “intends to exempt anyone it deems necessary for public safety, including front-line caregivers.”

VA officials said the statement was a clarification of how they are interpreting the new presidential order and not an attempt to get around the new rules.


Government-wide hiring freezes were tried under the Reagan and Carter administrations, but in 1982, the Government Accountability Office found they were not an effective means of controlling federal employment and that any savings would likely be offset by overtime and part-time worker costs.


Those concerns were repeated this week by a bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers, who represent thousands of federal workers.


“I think it’s largely symbolic,” said Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, whose district is home to 77,000 federal workers. “If you’re a Trump supporter in rural America who thinks your taxpayer dollars are being wasted by too many civilian employees, you might be thrilled by it. But they’re missing the point that we haven’t seen this few federal workers in our lifetime.”


Beyer told Defense News that the hiring freeze hurts military retirees and military spouses who hope to enter the federal workforce. It also creates management headaches at the Pentagon, where civilian support staffs have been cut progressively since federal budget caps were enacted.


“As a manager, you’re always trying to do more with less,” Beyer said. “They’ve already determined who they need to hire in a critical space, and now you’ve frozen the ability to hire those people.”


According to Beyer, upward of 221,000 people were in the pipeline to be hired governmentwide, at least a third of them veterans. He said the freeze would “greatly hurt” the VA, which is looking to hire 2,000 people to deal with backlogged cases.


Republican Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock on Monday broke with Trump to oppose the governmentwide hiring freeze.


“The federal budget cannot be balanced on the backs of our federal workforce,” she said in a statement Monday. “I don’t support this type of across-the-board freeze and think it is better to look at priorities and areas where appropriate cuts can be made and where we can consolidate efforts or identify unnecessary costs that can be eliminated.”


Military Times reporter Leo Shane III contributed to this report.


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Fix The Fleet! U.S. Navy Makes Maintenance Top Priority


(DEFENSE NEWS 23 JAN 17) … Christopher P. Cavas


WASHINGTON – With no fiscal 2017 defense budget in sight and little chance of an agreement before April – if then – the military services are submitting second and possibly third rounds of unfunded requirements lists to Congress. The lists include items left out of the original budget requests, ranked in order of priority should Congress find a way to fund them.


The latest list from the U.S. Navy was sent to Congress Jan. 5, updating a similar list sent over at the end of February but rejiggered in light of the new 355-ship Force Structure Assessment, changes in requirements and the lateness of the fiscal year, which limit what can be done in the current budget. The new list also reflects what Navy leaders have been saying in recent weeks they need most – maintenance funding. While the late February list lead off with acquisition needs, the new top priorities include $2 billion in afloat readiness funding.


But the list remains a work in progress, a Navy official said, and includes input from the new Trump administration. An updated list is being prepared in advance of readiness hearings scheduled next month at which the service vice chiefs will testify – a Feb. 7 hearing before the full House Armed Services Committee, and a hearing the following day before the Senate Armed Services readiness subcommittee.


Even then, the Navy official said, “it’s not clear another formal list will be prepared.”


As happens when any new administration takes over, the Pentagon is revising its budget to reflect the new leaders’ priorities, and budget work is far from over.


“It’s all going to change. It’s still very much in motion,” the Navy official said.


But the top 9 priorities of the 59 items listed in the Jan. 5 list remain in place, said the Navy official. Those items are:


  • Ship Depot Maintenance ($647 million)
  • Air Operations/Flying Hours ($504 million)
  • Information Warfare/Other Support ($355 million)
  • Ship Operations ($339 million)
  • Waterfront Equipment, Service Craft, Boat Procurement ($68 million)
  • Service Craft Maintenance and Overhaul ($53 million)
  • Sealift Support Readiness ($32 million)
  • Full-Scale Aerial Targets (an additional 5 QF-16 drone targets)($26 million)
  • High-Speed Maneuverable Surface Targets (56 targets)($10 million)


Air operations include $260 million for U.S. Marine Corps aviation readiness.


The maintenance needs reflect Navy decisions in recent years to put off upkeep and protect long-term procurement accounts from successive cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act – also known as sequestration. But recent statements from top Navy brass underscore the need to restore maintenance money.


“Our priorities are unambiguously focused on readiness – those things required to get planes in the air, ships and subs at sea, sailors trained and ready,” the Navy official declared. “No new starts.”


Placing information warfare at No. 3 reflects a need to address “readiness shortfalls in all disciplines of the information warfare community – cyberspace operations, electronic warfare, intelligence, battlespace awareness and assured command and control,” the Navy said in its Jan. 5 note to Congress.


It’s notable that humble service craft – the myriad supply, service and berthing barges, floating workshops and other small craft seen in any naval base – make it to the five and six priority slots. Such craft are often in service for many decades – many date from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War eras – and it’s unusual for the Navy to bestow on them such a high priority.


“The goal is to go after things that we can fix quickly to keep the fleet operating and that are executable,” the Navy official said. “The last thing we want to do is waste money or go after things that are not immediately needed.”


The Navy official added that items on the list that don’t make it in to the 2017 budget are likely to be included in the 2018 or 2019 requests.


Other significant items on the unfunded list include:


  • 24 F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet strike fighters ($2.3 billion)
  • 6 P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft ($1.2 billion)
  • 2 F-35C carrier-based Joint Strike Fighters ($270 million)
  • 2 C-40A transport aircraft for the Naval Reserve ($207 million)
  • An additional 96 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles ($154 million)
  • Increase the maximum production rate of SM-6 Block 1A missiles to 125 per year ($75 million)
  • An additional 75 AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles ($33 million)
  • Funding over-the-horizon missile installations on the two littoral combat ships ($43 million)
  • The unfunded requirements list also includes several ships:
  • A 13th LPD 17-class amphibious ship ($1.83 billion)
  • An additional T-AOX fleet oiler ($547 million)
  • An additional EPF expeditionary fast transport ($256 million)
  • Installation of the Air Missile Defense Radar in the 3 rd FY 2016 destroyer ($433 million)


The service also is seeking $255 million to improve the General Dynamics Electric Boat Quonset Point facility in Rhode Island to expand to building three Virginia-class attack submarines per year.


Read the full list here: PDF


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Update To Navy Unfunded Priorities List Emphasizes Readiness


Would add More Super Hornets, additional Amphib


(U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE NEWS 24 JAN 17) … Megan Eckstein


The Navy wants $2 billion in additional funding this year for much-needed ship maintenance and fleet operations, and would also buy two dozen Super Hornets and an additional San Antonio-class amphibious warship if money were made available, according to an early January draft wish list obtained by USNI News.


While the list is not as official as the February 2016 Unfunded Priorities List from which it stems, it is meant to be a conversation-starter with Congress and the new Trump Administration on the Navy’s needs for today and in the near term, a senior service official told USNI News on Tuesday.


Ahead of upcoming congressional hearings and discussions about additional money Congress and the Trump Administration may give the military through a supplemental funding measure, the Navy updated its wish list and informally shared it with lawmakers.


In recent years the services have submitted their budget requests to Congress through the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and then separately sent a list of unfunded priorities that were not including in the official request but would be important if more money were made available. The Navy submitted a Fiscal Year 2017 Unfunded Priorities List (UPL) in February 2016 to supplement its FY 2017 official submission. In that UPL were requests for 14 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, two additional carrier-variant F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters, the remainder of the funding needed to buy an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer beyond the Navy’s original shipbuilding plan, and weapons.


The draft list is a reflection of the Navy’s current needs based on global affairs, current fleet operations and other factors, the service official told USNI News on Tuesday.


The wish list was shared to inform upcoming budget discussions, though the document’s introduction notes that the “the Navy does not intend to submit a revised FY 2017 Unfunded Priorities List (UPL) until we engage further with the new Administration on potential changes in the defense strategy and priorities” – though through this informal update, the Navy increases its formerly 35-item list to a now-59-item list based on current needs.


The first section of the updated list addresses afloat readiness, which both the Navy and the new Trump Administration have said would be a primary focus of any FY 2017 supplemental. A supplemental package being informally discussed now would provide about $40 billion in additional funding for the military, though details about how that might break down by service have not yet been made public.


“Our priorities are unambiguously focused on readiness – those things required to get planes in the air, ships and subs at sea, sailors trained and ready,” the senior Navy official told USNI News.


More than $500 million for air operations and flying hours, as well as $339 million for ship operations and $647 for ship depot maintenance, sit atop the wish list. These items were included in the original UPL but have been prioritized first in this most recent version. New additions to the afloat readiness section include funding to achieve cyber security for the Navy’s information technology systems and to maintain expeditionary forces’ IT equipment; recapitalize waterfront equipment that provides berthing and docking services at naval installations; maintain and overhaul service craft; and fund at-sea logistics such as food and fuel for forward-deployed sealift ships supporting combatant commander requirements.


On the acquisition side, the senior official said the Navy is focused on in-production programs, not new-starts, that could quickly be ramped up to help create near-term readiness and capacity for the fleet. Since being updated, the UPL now includes a request for six additional P-8s in FY 2017 to help reach the program’s requirement of 117 aircraft faster, and adds 10 additional Super Hornets to the UPL – the Navy asked for 14 last February and has since bumped up the request to 24 to “reduce near-term strike fighter shortfalls, accelerate divestiture of legacy F/A-18A-D series Hornets, and begin to address long-term strike-fighter capacity shortfalls by maintaining and open F/A-18E/F/G production line.”


On weapons, the document would add 96 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles to the Navy’s procurement plan – the service asked for 100 in its budget request and the House Armed Services Committee attempted to boost that figure to 198 to hit manufacturer Raytheon’s production line minimum sustainment rate – as well as 19 Standard Missile-6 Block IA Surface-to-Air Missiles to return to Raytheon’s maximum production rate of 125 a year. The Navy would also ask for 30 additional Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block II to address an urgent operational need for Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) ships in Europe.


In shipbuilding, the Navy would seek full funding for an amphibious ship – LPD-29 – which would increase the program of record from 12 to 13. The $1.83 billion for the ship would keep the Ingalls Shipbuilding production line busy between LPD-28, which was meant to be a gap-filler, and potential LX(R) dock landing ship replacement work, where USNI News understands there now could be a pause in work. LPD-28 would have a design that begins to shift from the original LPD design to the future LPD-based LX(R) design, and LPD-29 would presumably continue down this path to ease the transition from one class to the next. It would also help the Navy get from the current 31 amphib ships to the newly stated goal of 38, included in the December 2016 Force Structure Assessment that calls for 355 ships total. The UPL would also request $547 million for a John Lewis-class fleet oiler in FY 2017, to eliminate a one-year gap in production between the first and second hull. The list also calls for one more Expeditionary Fast Transport – formerly called the Joint High Speed Vessel – to bring the once-10-craft class up to 13, and it calls for advance procurement for an additional Expeditionary Sea Base. The Navy had planned for three ESBs – one will deploy this year, one is under construction and the third is under contract – but the new FSA calls for six.


The updated UPL calls for a slew of cyber capacity upgrades, including an urgent operational need from U.S. 10th Fleet for research, development, test and evaluation and operations and maintenance funding for Sharkcage, a defensive cyber capability to identify and defend against cyber anomalies within weapon system networks.


To boost the naval force’s capacity, the Navy is now seeking a first tranche of money to expand General Dynamics Electric Boat’s Quonset Point Facility to support construction of three Virginia-class attack submarines a year even while building the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program. The Navy faced an attack sub shortfall in the 2020s, made even more dramatic by the increase in SSN requirement in the updated Force Structure Assessment, and it will take building at least three Virginia-class boats a year – despite the massive amount of work the Columbia-class SSBN represents – to keep up with combatant commander demands for SSNs. The document also notes an interest in Adaptive Force Packages that include unmanned aerial systems and small boat packages for the Expeditionary Fast Transports.


This request – which, again, is intended to outline needs that were not included in the official budget submission but that would be vital to the Navy if additional funding were to be made available – now totals $12 billion in funding, compared to about $5 billion when the original UPL was submitted to Congress in February 2016.


Earlier this month Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran said that, while President Donald Trump had expressed interest in growing the Navy fleet, readiness needed to be a top priority before growing a larger fleet.


“Deferred maintenance is insidiously taking its toll,” he said, and “at some point, we have to dig ourselves out of the hole” that has been created from years of too little funding for operations and maintenance.


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James Mattis: Readiness Vs Offset


(THE STRATEGIST (AUSTRALIA) 25 JAN 17) … Brendan Thomas-Noone


If the initial reports about his first day in office are anything to go by, new U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is living up to what the Washington establishment hopes he will bring to the Trump administration: stability, reassurance and experience.


A good example came from The Washington Examiner, which reported that the General had begun establishing a ‘battle-rhythm’ upon entering the Pentagon, sat for four hours of briefings and has even submitted himself to the standard drug tests required of all new Department of Defense employees. But for all of the stability that Mattis looks set to bring to the Pentagon, there are some significant differences between his views and those of his predecessor, Ash Carter, which are likely to have implications for Australia.


On most matters, Mattis is a traditionalist when it comes to American foreign policy and national security – he could have easily served in a Hillary Clinton administration. He believes in the rules-based global order. He’s written that the United States should reinvest in the Bretton Woods institutions and has called for the strengthening of NATO. He’s fiercely loyal to those allies who have supported the U.S. in times of need. During his Senate confirmation hearing, one of the deadpan lines he delivered was simply his belief that ‘nations with allies thrive, nations without allies don’t.’


Appreciating that the U.S. is in a strategic competition with China, he’s argued that the relationship needs to be ‘managed’ by utilising a wide array of tools. On the South China Sea he’s toed the Obama administration’s line, reiterating that ‘the bottom line is … international waters are international waters.’ Where he falls on the ‘rebalance’ to Asia and whether he’ll argue for its continuation in some form is as yet unclear. When questioned during his confirmation hearing he stated that, ‘the U.S. has worldwide responsibilities and certainly the Pacific looms large in that.’ It was a fairly lukewarm answer when compared to his statements on other regions, such as the Middle East.


But through Mattis’ testimony, as well as his previous writings and speeches, a common theme emerges: U.S. diplomacy should be multifaceted and not be based solely on military power, but it should be conducted from a position of strength.


From where the U.S. military draws that strength is the point of his divergence from Ash Carter. One of the marks of Carter’s tenure was an emphasis on innovation and technology as underpinning American conventional deterrence now and into the future. The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) in Silicon Valley, the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, and broadly, the Third Offset Strategy, were all hallmarks of Carter’s drive to infuse technological innovation into upholding American conventional deterrence.


Mattis has signalled a different approach. One of the more consistent arguments the General has made since retiring from the military in 2013 has been that the lack of combat readiness of U.S. military forces is detrimental to American conventional deterrence. Poor military readiness – through a low level of consistent training and tempo of operations, poor upkeep of military equipment and disorganisation – in the General’s view has risked the American military becoming a ‘hollow force.’ Mattis made it clear during his opening testimony at the U.S. Senate that his priorities as Secretary of Defense will be, in order, to ‘strengthen military readiness, strengthen our alliances, and bring business reforms to the Department of Defense.’


Looking back, this priority on combat readiness likely stems from the lessons the General drew from the 2006 Lebanon War, displayed in his 2008 memo Guidance for Effects Based Operations. Broadly, Mattis argued that the joint force at the time was too reliant on certain technologies, precision-warfare and centralised leadership.


Instead, ‘the joint force must act in uncertainty and thrive in chaos, sensing opportunity therein and not retreating into a need for more information.’ He highlighted the Israeli Defense Forces’ lessons from the war, saying the concept ‘discounts the human dimensions of war,’ promotes ‘centralisation and leads to micromanagement from headquarters’ and ‘assumes a level of unachievable predictability.’ The 2008 memo is a good indication of how the new Secretary of Defense thinks about the nature of war and what makes a lethal fighting force. Deterrence is guaranteed by highly effective and trained combat forces and their lethality – but not necessarily though complex systems or technological and information dominance.


The focus on innovation and technological superiority will remain a priority at DoD – particularly if Obama-era Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work remains – but Mattis’ repeated statements on how battlefield readiness should be the focus of all planning decisions may signal a shift in budget priorities. For Australia, that could eventually have implications for U.S. training and deployments. Canberra may expect to see requests for a higher rate of U.S. rotations through Australian facilities, more joint-military exercises and more high-end and diversified military assets, like the recently announced rotation of F-22s and the next deployment of Marine assets to Darwin. Much of that depends on whether Mattis is able to carve out his own sphere of influence within the Trump administration. If he does, allies like Australia could be expected to do more, but within a framework committed to engaging with and upholding a rules-based order.


Brendan Thomas-Noone is a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.


James Mattis: readiness vs offset


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Trump’s ‘Debt Bomb’: Deficit May Grow, Defense Budget May Not


(BREAKING DEFENSE 23 JAN 17) … Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.


WASHINGTON – “Trump is going to explode the debt,” GOP pundit Mackenzie Eaglen said. “What you’re going to see is a debt bomb.”


While the new president wants to grow the military, rebuild infrastructure, and cut taxes, Eaglen said, his plan to fund all that that through steep domestic spending cuts “is complete fantasy” that will never pass the Senate. The only other way to pay is borrowing money – and “he’s mentioned many times on the campaign trail that’s he’s very comfortable leveraging debt.”


The result, said Eaglen, who’s close to most Republicans and defense hawks on the Hill, “will be a total bulldozing over the Tea Party,” which has seen the much-derided Budget Control Act (aka sequester) as a necessary limit on federal spending. The bulldozees-to-be in this scenario include Trump’s own pick for budget director, Rep. Rick Mulvaney, whose confirmation hearing before the Senate is tomorrow.


“I would not be surprised if they took the same approach that Reagan did,” said Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic & International studies, speaking to me after the CSIS-hosted panel on which he and Eaglen both appeared. Ronald Reagan took office proposing defense increases and tax cuts, to be offset by economic growth and cuts to domestic spending, all very much like Trump. When Democrats blocked the domestic cuts, and the economic projections proved too optimistic – the so-called “Rosy Scenario” – the difference was made up by borrowing money, also known as creating big deficits.


Trump could very well follow a similar path. There’s already discussion of “dynamic scoring” that would bend traditional rules on how to estimate the cost of federal programs, said CSIS’s Andrew Hunter, and with Trump, “you could see dynamic spending on steroids: We’re going to spend more but it’s going to cost less.” Again, once the bills come due, the only way to make up a shortfall is by borrowing.


Todd Harrison, the panel’s host and a leading budget expert, was less sanguine about the prospects for big boosts, funded by debt or not. ”It is equally, if not more, likely that the Trump administration goes in the opposite direction and they come out with a budget that actually dramatically cuts the size of the federal government,” Harrison told me.


Rather than get bulldozed, Mulvaney and the deficit hawks may prevail in the battle for Trump’s ear. If that happens, Harrison said, expect the administration to propose steep reductions in the size of the federal government – as it does in a leaked outline for a staggering $10.5 trillion in cuts over 10 years. In such a climate, defense spending would be stable at best.


“We’ll know within a few weeks,” Harrison said. “They’ll come out with their skinny budget (i.e. overall figures without detail justification) mid-to -late February. That’ll be our first indication of (whether) they go to one of these extremes or not.”


Either extreme is equally plausible, Harrison told me: debt-fueled spending increases or Spartan cuts. And whichever extreme hits the Hill, he added, Congress will force the final outcome back to the center.


No Christmas In July


Whatever happens, none of the experts expected a dramatic increase in defense spending in the near term. It takes took much time to thrash out a spending plan – and too much of Trump’s time and political capital will be consumed by higher-profile fights over repealing Obamacare, reforming the tax system and getting a Supreme Court justice confirmed.


“The most valuable resource on earth is floor time in the United States Senate, (and) it’s being used right now on Obamacare,” said Hunter. “The big moment of opportunity is going to be … the defense supplemental” to increase Pentagon spending for 2017.


But first, Hunter said, the Congress has to pass the 2017 budget so it can be supplemented. The current Continuing Resolution, which sets most (but not all) spending on autopilot at 2016 levels, expires April 28th. It’s unlikely Congress will pass a proper budget, let alone a supplemental, before that deadline – which is after Trump’s first 100 days.


When it finally does arrive, the 2017 supplemental will just be a down payment on Trump’s buildup plans. Even the 2018 budget, already drafted by the outgoing administration, will bear some Trump stamps but largely serve as a “bridge” to the 2019 proposal, the first crafted entirely under the new administration.


So no one in the Pentagon or defense industry should be shopping for a new light fighter yet. To the contrary: When the Trump plan finally comes, in addition to any increases, it will almost certainly make sharp cuts to perceived “waste” and “inefficiency” that may not be possible to execute.


“Their belief is, viscerally, in their gut, emotionally, there’s so much waste in defense,” said Eaglen. The Trump teams wants to “blow up” the intelligence and defense bureaucracies, she said.


“Trump indicated he thought there was a lot of waste in defense and therefore some of this increase could be funded by offsets within defense,” agreed Cancian. There certainly is inefficiency – but past attempts to wring it out have usually failed. “The obvious one is base closure,” said Cancian, but Congress has repeatedly shot that source of savings down.


Other potential savings are far more vague, like what Cancian called the “infamous” Defense Business Board report that prescribed $125 million in savings (over five years) by applying to the Pentagon percentage targets derived from private sector efficiency drives, without “any details” of how to apply these models to the Defense Department.


You can assume all the management efficiencies you want, said Eaglen, but when your budget counts on future savings before they’ve actually been realized, “it’s simply a topline cut.” (Reagan’s budgeteers called marked such assumed savings with what they called “the magic asterix.”) Overall, she said, that means the optimism about big defense boosts is overstated: “It’s not good news for defense. It’s not Christmas in July.”


Trump’s ‘Debt Bomb’: Deficit May Grow, Defense Budget May Not


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Flight Global


Rolls-Royce studies two new stall fixes for V-22 engines


| BY: Stephen Trimble


Rolls-Royce is exploring two new avenues for reducing the susceptibility of Bell Boeing V-22 engines to in-flight stall and surge events.


The US Naval Air Systems Command plans to award the maker of the AE1107C turboshaft engines a contract to complete two studies that would validate the company’s ideas for making the propulsion system safer to operate.


One study will prove whether rescheduling movement schedules in the full authority digital engine control (FADEC) computer for compressor guide vanes will improve surge margins. R-R’s internal testing suggests the software tweak could improve surge margin by 0.8% at sea level and up to 3% at altitude.


Another study is focused on the temperature sensor located at the inlet to the compressor. R-R’s engineers have determined the T2 sensor sends inaccurate measurements to the FADEC, contributing 2.5 percentage points of a 4% steady-state power shortfall at the compressor’s corrected rotational speed limit. By tweaking the software to provide an accurate temperature measurement at the compressor inlet, R-R believes the engine safety will improve.


The AE1107C’s vulnerability to stalls and surges has been a focus of the programme for more than a decade. NAVAIR released a statement of work for the two study contracts saying the AE1107C has experienced at least 68 stalls and surge events from 2003 to October 2016.


But only about 10% of those reported events caused in-flight disruptions, says Tom Hartmann, R-R North America’s senior vice-president of customer business. Most of the events were detected quickly by the engine monitoring system, allowing the computer to avoid a compressor stall by briefly slowing the fuel flow into the combustor, he adds.


Moreover, most of the in-flight disruptions occurred on early configurations of the engine, he adds. The arrival of the Block 3 version of the engine five years ago has led to a reduction in reports of in-flight disruptions. Bell Boeing also is developing an inlet barrier system, which is aimed at preventing surges caused by ingesting dust and sand. The AE1107Cs are already equipped with air particle separators, but that technology based on centrifugal force is less effective than installing a filter on the inlet, Hartmann says.


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Breaking Defense


McCain’s 300 Low-End Fighters A ‘Great Idea:’ CSAF Gen. Goldfein


By Colin Clark


WASHINGTON: A key part of Sen. John Mclain’s alternative defense budget proposal is the rapid purchase of 300 “low-cost, light-attack fighters that would require minimal work to develop.”


I asked Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein today what he thought of McCain’s proposal, contained in Restoring American Power. “Great idea,” he said, pointing to the long war we’ve fought against Islamic terrorists and other violent extremists. While America needs F-22s and F-35s in case of war with China, Russia, Iran or North Korea, Goldfein said those aircraft need a break from flying the regular missions into permissive environments such as those found in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other theaters where US aircraft execute Close Air Support (CAS) and other operations that don’t require stealth, high speed or other expensive and sophisticated capabilities.


After his talk at the glamorous new headquarters of the American Enterprise Institute, Goldfein spoke with me briefly and confirmed that the Air Force already is talking with defense companies about possible aircraft for the job. The head of Air Force public affairs, Brig. Gen. Edward Thomas, then spoke with reporters after Goldfein left the building, confirming there is no money in the budget — this year or next (so far) — to fund this effort. He also confirmed that this aircraft is in keeping with the Air Force plan to buy a new fighter capable of CAS, known as OA-X.


I asked Goldfein if the Scorpion aircraft, built on spec by Textron AirLand, was one of the aircraft under consideration and he said yes. The other planes already being considered for OA-X are Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucanos and Beechcraft’s AT-6. With ardent A-10 supporter Sen. Kelly Ayotte having lost her seat, it will be interesting to see how Congress shapes the CAS decisions the Air Force hopes to make.


In other news, Goldfein admitted that Russia and Turkey flying together today in operations over Syria “certainly adds to the complexity” of the regional situation in the Middle East. Turkey, a key NATO ally, flew F-16s with the Russians. Michael Gordon of the New York Times pressed him for a clearer answer and Goldfein said: “I’m not concerned right now, but we are all watching very closely to see what goes on.”


The idea of Russian and Turkish troops working tougher in any form would have been laughable a year ago. In November 2015 Turkey shot down a Russian jet it said was violating its airspace and President Erdogan repeatedly defended the shoot down. Then Erdogan expressed “deep regret” to Putin in June last year for the downing and the unfortunate Turkish pilots were arrested. Since then, Russia and Turkey have worked more and more closely together in operations centered on northeastern Syria.


McCain’s 300 Low-End Fighters A ‘Great Idea:’ CSAF Gen. Goldfein


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Defense Systems


Air Force Chief Scientist confirms F-35 will include artificial intelligence


By Kris Osborn


F-35s, F-22s and other fighter jets will soon use improved artificial intelligence to control nearby drone wingmen that will be able to carry weapons, test enemy air defenses or perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in high risk areas, senior Air Force officials said.


Citing ongoing progress with artificial intelligence already engineered into the F-35, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias said that much higher degrees of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming are expected to emerge in the near future from work at the Air Force Research Lab.


“This involves an attempt to have another platform fly alongside a human, perhaps serving as a weapons truck carrying a bunch of missiles,” Zacharias said in an interview with Defense Systems.


An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, uses early applications of artificial intelligence that help computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves – without needing human intervention.


“We are working on making platforms more autonomous with multi-infusion systems and data from across different intel streams,” Zacharias explained.


ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, said Lockheed Martin, the contractor that built the system.


However, despite the promise of advancing computer technology and increasingly levels of autonomy, Zacharias emphasized that dynamic human cognition is, in many respects, far more capable than computers.


Computers can more quickly complete checklists and various procedures, but human perception abilities can more quickly process changing information in many respects.


“A computer might have to go through a big long checklist, whereas a pilot might immediately know that the engines are out without going through a checklist. He is able to make a quicker decision about where to land,” Zacharias said.


The F-35s so-called “sensor fusion” uses computer algorithms to acquire, distill, organize and present otherwise disparate pieces of intelligence into a single picture for the pilot. The technology, Zacharias said, also exhibits some early implementations of artificial intelligence.


Systems such as a 360-degree sensor suite, called the Distributed Aperture System, is linked with targeting technologies, such as the aircraft’s Electro-Optical Targeting System.


At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.


In the future, drones will likely be operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Zacharias predicted.


Zacharias said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.


“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.


Wargames, exercises and simulations are ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.


“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.


For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.


This is particularly relevant because the large amount of ISR video demands organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.


“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying, “Hey, I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,’” he explained .This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.


For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack.


In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.


In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.


“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.


Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.


Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.


Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations.


At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.


“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.


As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.


At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientists and weapons’ developers believe that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.


There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.


Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.


However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.


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Flight Global


Super Hornet could compete with Lockheed F-35


BY: Leigh Giangreco


Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet could steal orders away from the Lockheed Martin F-35 if the Trump Administration adjusts defence priorities, military acquisition analyst Andrew Hunter told an audience 23 January at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


An “advanced Super Hornet” still can’t compete with the stealthy F-35 in airspace monitored by radar surveillance, but a semi-low-observable F/A-18E/F with more carriage capacity could emerge as an attractive option against less sophisticated threats, according to Hunter.


“But if your strategy requires to operate continuously in denied access air environments, there is no such thing as a comparable Super Hornet,” he adds. “It simply doesn’t exist.”


In 2015, US Gen Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Russia the greatest existential threat to the US followed by China, North Korea and Islamic State terrorists. That order affects how the US Department of Defense approaches its procurement priorities. When it comes to air, it means the Pentagon has set its sights on buying high-end aircraft that can penetrate more sophisticated Russian air defences in Crimea.


But there is some indication from Trump’s previous statements and his proclivity for Russian president Vladimir Putin that the old order could be flipped. US president Donald Trump’s national security team could make terrorism their top concern and let the Russian threat fall to the back burner, according to CSIS defence budget analyst Todd Harrison.


“If that holds true then why do you need as many of these stealthy aircraft?” Harrison says. “So it could dramatically change what we’re buying.”


Last week, USAF chief Gen David Goldfein expressed his support for Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Senator John McCain’s proposal to add 300 low-cost fighters to the budget. That move would make sense if the DOD pivots its focus toward fighting terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, where light-attack aircraft such as the Embraer Super Tucano already operate.


Trump’s proposal for a price shoot-out on the F-35 programme between Boeing and Lockheed has some precedent. Harrison noted the US Navy already pits the Super Hornet against the carrier-based F-35C variant, with its numerous budget requests to increase the number of F/A-18E/Fs while reducing orders for the F-35C.


The service requested 14 Super Hornets in the most recent defence policy bill, which were turned down by Congress. A recent white paper from McCain suggested continuing this trend, pointing to the growing shortfall of Navy fighters and ongoing delays to the F-35C programme. McCain proposed procuring 58 more Super Hornets and 16 EA-18G Growlers over the next five years, but would continue F-35 procurement as quickly as possible.


If Lockheed would feel competition from any aircraft, it would be the Super Hornet, Harrison adds.


“I think it’s easy to say Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about, the F-18 doesn’t have the same capabilities as F-35C,” Harrison says. “All of that’s true, but I think he knew that he was picking at a scab.”


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Defense News

Lockheed CEO: F-35A Price to Drop Below $100M in Next Contract

By: Valerie Insinna


WASHINGTON — A deal for the tenth lot of F-35s will put the Air Force’s A model under $100 million per plane for the first time, and Lockheed Martin is on track to bring unit costs for an F-35A to $85 million in 2019, the company’s CEO said Tuesday.


A comparison with past estimates shows that these figures are on track with Defense Department and Lockheed’s own expectations, and do not necessarily reflect a decrease in unit prices caused by President Trump’s public critique of the program.


Trump has been hammering the joint strike fighter since December, frequently stating that the price of the aircraft is “out of control” and calling for an alternative in Boeing’s Super Hornet.


During a Tuesday earnings call, Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson defended the company’s trajectory of cost reduction, citing its Blueprint for Affordability initiatives. Perhaps even more fascinatingly, she painted Lockheed’s relationship with the new president as cooperative — a depiction at odds with the more antagonistic tenor of Trump’s public comments about the fighter jet.


“His focus is on, how do we drive the cost down aggressively, and I think we, along with our industry partners, are right in line with him on doing that. We have a lot of ideas on how we can do that in the future” she said.


“The meetings that we’ve had have been very productive, very good dialogue. He asks excellent questions and he is really focused on making sure that costs come down on the program,” she said. “It’s not about slashing our profit. It’s not about our margins.”


Hewson’s comments in some ways match the reassuring tone struck by Defense Secretary James Mattis. During his confirmation hearing, Mattis told senators that Trump has “in no way shown a lack of support for the program,” but wants to see Lockheed bring prices down.


Hewson has met twice with Trump to speak about the program, most recently on Jan. 13. After that meeting, she told reporters that the Defense Department and Lockheed were “very close” to a deal on the tenth batch of joint strike fighters — an assertion she repeated during the earnings call.


“The LRIP 10 price, as currently proposed, would represent a reduction of over 60 percent from the first LRIP 1 aircraft, and this demonstrates a learning curve as efficient as any achieved on any modern tactical fighter aircraft,” she said.


The LRIP 10 contract will also mark a sharp production increase, from 57 aircraft in LRIP 9 to about 90 F-35s in the tenth batch. F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said late last year that he expected to see unit prices fall about 6 percent between the two orders.


Lockheed CFO Bruce Tanner predicted that the F-35 will have “sequential, year-after-year margin improvements” leading up to full rate production, and that LRIP 10 would not deviate from that path.


The company hopes to finalize negotiations on LRIP 11 in 2017. If orders increase as planned, Lockheed will be on track to offer the F-35A at $85 million per copy in LRIP 13 — a 2019 order comprised of about 200 jets, according to a chart shown by Hewson during the call.


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National Defense


F-35 in Trump Administration’s Crosshairs


By Jon Harper


President Donald Trump’s defense policy advisers want to “tear open” the F-35 joint strike fighter program, according to an analyst familiar with their thinking.


The $400 billion program is the most expensive acquisition project in Pentagon history. The Defense Department plans to spend about $56 billion on the aircraft over the next five years.


The project has experienced significant cost overruns, schedule delays and technical problems, and Trump took aim at it before he even came into office.


“The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th,” he tweeted in December.


He has asked Boeing to “price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet” as a potential alternative to the F-35, he said in a subsequent tweet.


Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense budget analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, has briefed Trump’s policy advisers on several occasions. They are inclined to “tear open this program and take it apart” and look at whether major changes need to be made to the number of planes procured or other aspects of the project, she said.


“They really believe it’s time to burn the Pentagon” metaphorically speaking, she said. “That’s going to have a heavy emphasis on acquisition of weapons in particular.”


The president’s tweet put F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin on the defensive.


“Lockheed Martin and its industry partners understand the importance of affordability” for the joint strike fighter program, Jeff Babione, the company’s executive vice president and general manager of the F-35, said during an aircraft delivery ceremony in Israel in December.


Lockheed has been trying to bring costs down, he emphasized.


“Since the beginning, we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce the price of the airplane more than 60 percent” relative to the original low-rate initial production bill, he said.


The company projects that the price tag will be down to $85 million in the 2019 to 2020 timeframe.


“It’s a great value and we look forward to any questions [Trump] may have,” Babione said.


When asked about Trump’s comments, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the head of the F-35 joint program office, said he understands why there is a perception that the program is out of control, noting that from 2001 to 2011 it experienced a six-year delay in development and $13.5 billion in cost overruns.


“This is a vastly different program” now, he told reporters in December. “I don’t think the program cost-wise is out of control nor do I think it’s out of control schedule-wise.”


The aircraft is vital for the United States and its allies to maintain air dominance for the next 50 years, he said. But he and his JPO colleagues are not “salesmen” for the fighter jet, he added.


“I don’t have a strategy with the industry to go … try and save this program,” he said. “Our job is going to be to give the administration the good, the bad and the ugly about this program and let them make their own decisions.”


If the new president and his team try to significantly reduce the F-35 program, they would likely face resistance. With production spread out across more than 40 states, the joint strike fighter has the backing of many members of Congress who have jobs in their districts tied to the aircraft.


In addition, Lockheed would be expected to fight hard against any efforts to pare down the program.


“Never underestimate the power of Lockheed Martin’s sway,” Eaglen said.


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Some Thoughts On The McCain White Paper


(INFORMATION DISSEMINATION 23 JAN 17) … Bryan Clark and Bryan McGrath


The Trump Administration began work this week on its promise of an across-the-board enlargement of the U.S. military. The President-elect has thus far described his plan only in the broadest of terms, but those terms portend a sustained period of higher defense spending – something Congress has been unwilling to approve since it passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) in 2011.


Chief among those who will shape the future of the American military is Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who waded into the debate last week with a strong, coherent outline that not only aims to restore the capacity of a significantly hollowed-out force, but also provides direction for how the force should evolve as it grows. There is a lot in this report, but we will restrict our comments to the larger context of the plan and its impact on American Seapower.


Hope Versus Strategy


Senator McCain’s report begins by rightly highlighting the fundamental disconnect in today’s U.S. defense planning between resources and objectives. Hoping revanchist regimes in Russia and China would not be able to act effectively on their objectives for more than a decade, Congress and President Obama passed the BCA in 2011, reducing military budgets by about 10 percent for the subsequent decade. The BCA, in turn, contained the a ticking time-bomb known as Sequestration, which implemented another 10 percent cut starting in fiscal year (FY) 2013 if the Department was not able to meet BCA targets for spending. Because FY 2013 was already halfway over, services had to immediately cut their spending, creating maintenance depot backlogs, personnel shortfalls, and training shutdowns from which DoD is still recovering.


As the impact of the BCA’s cuts became clear, DoD and Congress experienced buyer’s remorse, turning to various budget gimmicks and abuse of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget to pay for expanding U.S. involvement in regional conflicts, growing compensation costs, and to allow for modest modernization of the force. McCain excoriates both Congress and the Executive Branch for these measures. Issuing a clear call to action, his report states “This law (BCA) must be repealed outright so we can budget for the true costs of our national defense.”


The most significant problem with the BCA’s reductions, McCain argues, is they do not allow modernization to address the rapidly improving capability of great powers such as Russia and China and regional powers such as Iran and North Korea. The BCA also does not provide the resources for U.S. forces to sustain the operational tempo to conduct daily strikes and raids on terrorists in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere. Notably, despite the hopes that underpinned the BCA, Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and China’s aggression in the South China Sea show, in McCain’s words, “A better defense strategy must acknowledge the reality that we have entered a new era of great power competitions. China and Russia aspire to diminish U.S. influence and revise the world order in ways that are contrary to U.S. national interests.”


McCain’s focus on great power competition is important in two ways. First, it draws a distinction between the Obama Administration’s approach and McCain’s more forward-leaning view of great power dynamics. Second, it sends a signal to the incoming administration of McCain’s wariness of Russia in clear and unambiguous terms. This could ultimately prove to be a contentious issue between Congress and the Trump Administration, which has indicated it may view Russia as a partner rather than a competitor or adversary.


Strategy And Fleet Architecture


McCain argues for a new set of defense strategies to address great powers, regional powers, and transnational terrorists, rather than a single U.S. security strategy. In CSBA’s upcoming study of alternative Navy fleet architectures, we argue the most important of these is a strategy to deter great power aggression, which could potentially have the most catastrophic consequences of these security challenges. With the realignment of American bases since the Cold War, U.S. ground and air forces overseas are less numerous and more easily suppressed than when they last faced a great power adversary a quarter century ago. Thus, naval forces will assume a more prominent role in conventional deterrence.


Recognizing both the Trump goal of a 350 ship Navy and the Navy’s own recently released 355-ship Force Structure Assessment (FSA), McCain lays out a plan that over the next five years that: 1) increases the size of the fleet over the final plan of the Obama Administration by building 59 ships as opposed to the Obama Administration’s 41, 2) truncates the current Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program and accelerates the Navy’s move to an open-ocean frigate replacement, 3) funds design work on a new class of aircraft carrier, 4) increases Navy end-strength, 5) invests significantly in unmanned technologies of all varieties, and 6) provides additional, immediate funding to address fleet readiness and maintenance, and installations and infrastructure.


McCain’s plan aligns in large part with our proposed fleet architecture, and would improve the Navy’s ability to deter aggression by great powers, counter attacks by regional powers, and help keep terrorists on the run. Unlike the current fleet, McCain’s proposal would not focus on efficiently providing presence at the expense of the capability and capacity for combat against a capable adversary.


Three aspects of McCain’s force structure plan are of particular interest. First is its truncation of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in 2017 with a follow-on frigate proposed for acquisition no later than 2022. It is essential that the Navy move as quickly as possible from the LCS to a proper blue-water frigate capable of anti-submarine warfare and local air defense, but it must also continue to increase the size of the fleet and ensure the frigate can be affordable and built in large numbers. McCain proposes an acquisition “bridge” for the two shipyards currently building LCS to continue between 2017 and 2022. This would expand the fleet and enable these shipbuilders to compete for the follow-on frigate, which could lower costs for the frigate and increase the number of shipyards at which it could be built.


The second initiative of note is McCain’s proposal to move to a mix of large, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and smaller, conventionally-powered carriers. As recommended in our fleet architecture study as well, conventional carriers would initially be based on current amphibious assault ships that carry short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft such as the AV-8B Harrier and F-35B Lightning II. As McCain argues, a smaller carrier would be suited to supporting many of the smaller steady-state operations that require naval air power, such as air strikes in Syria. Senator McCain is skeptical of the Navy’s new FORD-class carrier due to its high cost and poor management, but argues the fleet will continue to also need large nuclear-powered carriers to provide a mobile airfield for combat air sorties during larger conflicts in which host nation concerns or enemy actions prevent effectively using land bases.


Finally, though not mentioned in the narrative, a “patrol ship” of less than 800 tons appears in the McCain plan’s appendix for acquisition starting in 2020. The addition of this small combatant highlights the need for a larger, more distributed, and resilient force, which was also a finding of our fleet architecture study. A patrol vessel of 800 tons such as Sweden’s Visby-class would be able to defend itself against a salvo of a dozen or more anti-ship missiles and could carry 4 to 8 offensive strike or anti-ship missiles. This will make patrol vessels able to deny or delay enemy aggression while being too costly a target to be worth defeating in large numbers.


Overall, McCain’s proposal would grow the surface fleet by adding frigates and patrol vessels to the Navy’s current requirement of 104 large surface combatants and 52 small surface combatants. We agree a larger surface fleet is essential to conduct offensive strike and anti-ship attacks in a distributed manner that will make them harder to defeat in detail. But we would argue the Distributed Lethality concept and growing needs for logistics escorts suggest the surface fleet needs to both grow and be rebalanced, with more small surface combatants that can conduct widely distributed offensive operations and fewer large surface combatants that will tend to concentrate the fleet’s firepower.


A Fleet For The Future


A Navy is a capital investment that takes years to build and lasts for decades thereafter. Any plan for a future fleet should be based not on the world of today, but on a set of plausible futures that best represent the world of 15 to 20 years from now. Even with an aggressive shipbuilding increase such as envisioned by McCain’s plan, only ¼ of the fleet will change between now and 2030. McCain’s proposal considers the likelihood that the fleet of 2030 will need to deter revisionist great powers as its primary mission, while addressing the growing capability of regional powers and transnational terrorists. It appropriately invests not only in platforms, but across the board in the various enablers and extenders of maritime power, including ISR, networking, unmanned vehicles, cyber, and electronic warfare.


If the United States fails to make great power competition a priority in long-term force planning, rivals such as Russia and China will continue eroding American influence and alliances, with damaging economic and security impacts on the American people. McCain’s plan sets American Seapower (as well as the rest of DoD) on a solid course for an uncertain future. It remains to be seen the extent to which this thoughtful, strategic approach will be complemented by the other instruments of national power, or the degree to which the incoming administration will welcome it.


Bryan Clark is Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Prior to joining CSBA, he was Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Director of his Commander’s Action Group. Bryan McGrath is Deputy Director, Center for American Seapower and a retired Surface Warfare Officer.

FRCSW/COMFRC Top News Clips – Week of January 16, 2017


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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Flight Global

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.

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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.”

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Breaking Defense

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.

If Trump Wants Lower F-35 Costs, He Should Compete F135 Engine

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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.

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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)

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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.”

From Drone Swarms to Smart Data, Pentagon Eyes A.I.

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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.

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Flight Global

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.

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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.”
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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.

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The Future of Air Superiority, Part III: Defeating A2/AD, 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

FRCSW/COMFRC Top News Clips – Week of January 9, 2017


  1. FRCSW Returns Fire-Damaged Super Hornet to Fleet



  1. Fix Readiness First, Shipbuilding Second: Navy To Trump
  2. After Ratings Change Backlash, Effort To Reform Navy Jobs Moves Ahead
  3. Navy Needs More Aircraft To Match Ship Increase, Secretary Says
  4. America’s Military Has A Big Problem: It’s Dead Broke
  5. France Bids To Take NATO Leadership Role From Britain
  6. The Pentagon Needs Its Own Google For All Its Data, Says Eric Schmidt
  7. Pentagon Successfully Tests World’s Largest Micro-Drone Swarm
  8. Pentagon Tester: F-35 Program Rushing Tests, Delays Still Likely
  9. Navy Adds Helicopter Electronic War Anti-Ship Missile Defense
  10. US Army Looking to 3D-Print Minidrones in 24 Hours
  11. CNO Vs A2AD: Why Admiral Richardson Is Right About Deconstructing The A2/AD Term
  12. DARPA drone flew for 56 hours and landed with over half its fuel so looks close to achieving 7 days without refueling
  13. 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.”


Fix Readiness First, Shipbuilding Second: Navy To Trump


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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.”


Navy Needs More Aircraft To Match Ship Increase, Secretary Says


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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.




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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Defense One


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 (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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Defense One


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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Popular Mechanics


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.

FRCSW/COMFRC Top News Clips – Week of January 2, 2017


  1. NAVAIR financial manager recognized for creating planning tool

NAVAIR Blog:  What does empowerment look like?  (link)

  1. Logistics award winner cites diversity, empowerment for results
  2. NAVAIR ISSC wins 2016 FLC Far West Regional Award
  3. PHOTO RELEASE: FRCSW, NAS North Island join to support Toys for Tots
  4. The NAVAIR Mentoring Program: “Mentoring: Millennial Matters”
  5. AIR-6.0 LOGTALK – The Importance of Maintenance Planning with SES Tracy Moran, AIR-6.7 Department Head (link)



  1. Sequestration taking toll on Marine aviators’ safety
  2. What the latest Marine Aviation mishap says about pilot readiness
  3. Improve land-based electronic warfare aircraft readiness
  4. China’s air force is becoming very powerful
  5. New in 2017: Naval Aviation milestones
  6. Big data, software continue to stump defense programs
  7. F-35’s $400K helmet still blinds pilots on night flights






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NAVAIR financial manager recognized for creating planning tool


NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — NAVAIR’s lead business financial manager (BFM) of the year, Denise Mallett, was also recognized by acquisition chief Frank Kendall at the Pentagon Dec. 8 for creating a database that revolutionized the way the command performs acquisition financial management.


After prototyping and proving the concept in the H-1 U.S. Marine Corps Light/Attack Helicopters program office (PMA-276), where Mallett served as the lead BFM, she passionately explained her vision to NAVAIR leadership, resulting in the go-ahead to develop a SQL-server based tool that could be used across NAVAIR to manage all appropriated funds. In October, Mallett moved to the Industrial and Logistics Competency as the lead BFM.


Her tool—originally called the spend plan database, now NAVAIR’s Common Spend Plan Tool (CSPT)—integrates all program office financial planning information, connects the data with Navy ERP and standardizes financial processes across every program office. Before her tool, financial plans were stove-piped in hundreds of disconnected and standalone spreadsheets—now her planning tool seamlessly integrates more than $68.1 billion and almost 800 budget accounts, providing unprecedented visibility, insight and speed.


“I had just started as the lead BFM in H-1 and was having trouble getting my arms around everything I needed to do because each integrated program team (IPT) had their own different workbook, and each BFM even within each IPT had a separate workbook for their ledger and their documents with the comptroller. I was struggling to get all of that data into one place,” Mallett said.


The H-1 program office is co-located with the Presidential Helo program, and it was there that lead BFM Matt Aley introduced Mallett to the Microsoft Access database he used.


She took a two-day Access training course, then spent evenings and weekends programming it herself. Once developed for the H-1 program, other program managers asked if she could show it to them and share it. While Mallett was able to share the database on a disk, any improvements or new functionality could not be passed along easily, she said.


“I didn’t have a training package, a help desk or reference guide, or any mechanism to distribute changes, so it has been hard to share, but now that we have the common tool centrally managed and supported by the command, it has become a common process tool,” Mallett said.


The tool offers several advantages for program managers and BFMs.


BFMs now spend less time on data redundancy, manual re-entry and looking for the data, she said. “Now you can just cut to the chase, get the data, do the analysis, make the decision and go. For example, if leadership calls and wants to know how much money your whole program sent to a particular contractor, open the tool, filter your criteria, and you have your answer.


“It also saves time for lead BFMs, who now have access to data with consistent field names, making data easier to find and consolidate. Within a minute you can have the answer instead of spending hours gathering it,” she said.


“Without Ms. Mallett’s vision and persistence, CSPT would not exist in its current state,” said Capt. Aaron Traver, director of operations for the Program & Business Analysis Department. “We have been able to roll out CSPT to over 1,000 users in 2016, with more users being added daily.


“The response has been overwhelmingly positive and this is a testament to the countless hours invested by Ms. Mallett to ensure CSPT would be useful, intuitively simple and flexible enough to accommodate everyone in this very complex and dynamic organization,” Traver said.


Mallett was first recognized for her planning tool in October, when she was named NAVAIR’s BFM of the Year, starting what Todd Washington, director, Program & Business Analysis Department, envisions as an annual award.


“It’s most impressive that Denise supported the CSPT development while also continuing her stellar performance as the PMA-276 Lead BFM,” Washington said. “Her ability to manage both of these significant, dynamic and complex responsibilities—without negative impact to either—was a testament to her commitment and dedication to the Navy and NAVAIR.”


Earning NAVAIR’s first BFM of the Year validated Mallett’s work ethic, she said.


“Being selected for the Department of Defense-level award has been exponentially even more flattering. It is definitely a great advertisement for the support that NAVAIR leadership at all levels has for this tool, recognizing that it saves time and adds value to the operation and mission that we are all doing in the DoD.”

To Mallett, it is more of a team award.


“There were many people working alongside me and contributing to its fruition, from the developers, the programmers and especially my BFM team. They embraced the change and dealt with the learning curving when sometimes they felt like the new database was so much harder than their old spreadsheets. They really did hang with it, along with the program managers and the IPT leads who gave it a chance to succeed,” she said.

Mallett is proud of the role BFMs play.


“We do more than data entry, write checks and create funding documents; we are a very supportive team that serves as the financial conscience of NAVAIR and are the subject matter experts helping to facilitate the decisions made by the command.”


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Logistics award winner cites diversity, empowerment for results


NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md.—Thomas McClay, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Total Asset Visibility (NAWCAD 6.8.3) competency manager, received the 2016 Daniel L. Nega Excellence in Logistics Leadership Award at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, Dec. 19.


Established in 2014, the award recognizes a Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Logistics and Industrial Operations (AIR-6.0) national civilian or military employee annually for excellence in commitment and dedication to the people, mission and professionalism of AIR-6.0.


During the award’s eligibility period, McClay and his team implemented process changes critical to improving NAVAIR’s enterprise asset visibility, reutilization and audit readiness. The work included deploying an Item Unique Identification Data (IUID) marking capability at Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs) to resolve obsolescence and information technology challenges associated with the legacy system. Mandated by the Defense Department, IUID is a system of marking items with a globally unique item identifier, or UII, to distinguish them from all others.


If implemented properly, McClay said, the IUID marking capability enables the automatic capture of data for inventory and engineering purposes; improves FRCs’ ability to trace parts; reduces data-entry errors; and is an effective anti-counterfeit management and accurate source for property and equipment valuation and accountability. The IUID marking is used on all new acquisitions on items the government currently owns and on government furnished property that meet specific criteria.


McClay also led the team in the transitioning of NAVAIR’s Central Kitting Activity (CKA) located in Orange Park, Florida, from a legacy stovepipe computer system into the Navy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, supporting NAVAIR Commander Vice Adm. Paul Grosklag’s guidance for asset accountability. In less than a month, the team conducted a wall-to-wall inventory at the CKA Assembly Plant—an endeavor involving more than 23,000 unique items/parts with a total inventory count of 14 million pieces—and entered 19,661 parts valued at over $473 million into Navy ERP.


“This action addressed the risks associated with incomplete or inaccurate inventory records,” McClay said. “This activity ensured parts are readily available when needed to build kits that directly support readiness, affordability and speed to the fleet by ensuring inventory accuracy, increased asset visibility and reduced costs.”

Todd Balazs, deputy assistant commander for Logistics and Industrial Operations (AIR-6.0), acknowledged McClay for his leadership that drove solutions forward, stating “The time and effort you are dedicating to improving our established processes and developing your workforce is impressive and reflected in your division’s support to the warfighter.”


McClay’s focus on advancing the careers of the AIR 6.8 workforce and his drive to personally recruit and mentor five wounded warriors caught the attention of the award board as well. To better facilitate these efforts, he updated the Talent Management Dashboard and Career Guidebook portions associated with the Total Asset Visibility (TAV) division—work critical to ensure tools are available to employees seeking to advance their careers.


McClay said he values the approaches that people from different backgrounds, races, ages, military experiences and education levels bring to a team and especially wanted to harness the skills and abilities of veterans. He credits that outlook to his Navy career, from which he retired in 1999 as a data processing chief petty officer. “I believe in leadership by example, especially in areas of ethics, diversity and personnel development,” he explained. “Each and every person is unique and contributes their perspectives and experiences.  Wounded warriors especially bring viewpoints and insights that are not ordinarily found.”


The award’s namesake, Daniel Nega, director of the NAVAIR Cost Estimating and Analysis Department, said McClay’s “commitment and leadership stood out amongst all nominees. He clearly came out on top and exemplifies the leadership the award was created to commend.”


McClay said the successes recognized by the award reflect the empowerment of the team members and credited their initiative. “I believe that responsibility should be delegated when appropriate and not to micromanage the work,” he said.  “Not every decision or communication is required to come through me.  My employees choose solutions and courses of action while I observe. Although my name is on the award, the spotlight is theirs.”


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NAVAIR ISSC wins 2016 FLC Far West Regional Award


NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND – Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) In-Service Support Center (ISSC) North Island, Advanced Aircraft Technologies Team recently earned a 2016 Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) Far West Regional Award.


Located at Fleet Readiness Center Southwest, the NAVAIR ISSC won the award in the “Outstanding Technology Development” category for its F/A-18 Hornet Landing Gear Strut Operational Readiness Monitoring (STORM) System.


The FLC is comprised of more than 300 federal laboratories, research facilities and their parent commands. Its goal is to streamline partnership prospects for federal labs, and to promote resulting federal technologies in the marketplace.


STORM acts as a pressure gauge for F/A-18 landing gear, which endures about 150,000 pounds of force when landing, and was created in view of aircraft mishaps attributed to faulty or improperly serviced shock absorbers.

As an engineering representative to the Naval Safety Center’s Aircraft Mishap Board, NAVAIR aerospace engineer Chrys Starr has analyzed numerous incidents where shock absorbers were suspect catalysts in mishaps.


Starr also serves as the landing gear advisor to a Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) program targeting airframe and landing gear fatigue damage to multi-mission P-8 Poseidon aircraft.


The SBIR encourages private business participation in federal research and development projects that may have the potential for commercialization. The P-8 SBIR project is held in conjunction with ES3, a small San Diego-based engineering firm.


STORM is a portion of the P-8 SBIR.


Starr realized that STORM could be adapted to other existing military and civilian airframes, and formed a team of other aerospace engineers to develop the system for F/A-18 use.


The team collaborated with the P-8 technical point of contact, NAVAIR SBIR, the F/A-18 Program Office and Science and Technology Lead to establish another SBIR with ES3 to develop STORM for the Hornet airframe.

Monitoring landing gear strut oil levels cannot be performed while an aircraft is sitting “weight on wheels.”


Consequently, aircraft need to be removed from service for an extended period while maintenance is performed.

To avoid taking the aircraft out of service, the maintenance plan had been to pump nitrogen into the strut system. An inert gas, nitrogen does not corrode or react with landing gear components. However, its use in place of oil has become a leading cause of landing gear mishaps.


STORM will work much like the oil light in a car, providing a simple means of monitoring the landing gear oil levels of the Hornet. A red-yellow-green lighting system positioned in the wheel well of the aircraft will allow maintenance personnel easy access during routine inspections.


The system will measure temperature and pressure of the shock absorber while the aircraft is in flight, at landing and stationary. Its software is based upon “Boyle’s law,” which states that the pressure and volume of gases are inversely proportional under constant temperatures.


The relationship with SBIR and FRCSW began about one year ago; the project is in Phase 2 of its development where the software is being optimized for the F/A-18 application. SBIR is projected to have a proto-type ready for Phase 3, an implementation phase, by early 2018.


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Sequestration taking toll on Marine aviators’ safety


San Diego Union-Tribune, By Amy Schafer


The collision of two Marine jets off the coast of Southern California in November gave San Diego a front-row seat to the life-or-death consequences of delaying maintenance and denying training hours to Marine Corps aviators. The lack of funding for these core elements of the USMC mission — due mostly to Congress’ self-inflicted wound of sequestration — constitutes a breach of faith with the men and women who risk their lives serving our nation.


Sequestration’s toll on the core “man, train, and equip” missions now has a body count, and United States Marine Corps aviation is the canary in the coal mine.


The recent removal of USMC Fighter Attack Squadron 232’s commander is the fourth involuntary change in aviation leadership in 2016, a phenomenon underscoring a much broader deterioration in the quality of USMC aviation. Facing untenable budgetary instability and frequent deployments, readiness has plummeted and crashes have increased precipitously. Department of Defense accountability may come via an inspector general report in 2017, but that is too little, too late.


Pilots are not being given enough flight time to safely perform their duties, creating unnecessary and deadly risk for pilots and their crews. After a Sept. 2, 2015 CH-53E Super Stallion crash, USMC aviation deaths were already at a five-year high. Less than five months later, two more Super Stallions collided off the coast of Hawaii, with 12 more Marines lost in the crash. The investigation cited pilot error, based on “low aircraft readiness that led to inadequate pilot proficiency.” Following these devastating losses, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller testified to Congress, “our aviation units are currently unable to meet our training and mission requirements,” also noting, “when you don’t have enough airplanes to fly, then your flying hours go down and it becomes difficult to maintain your currency.”


In the wake of these accidents, the Marine Corps Times highlighted the endemic problems facing USMC aviation; the mandatory sequester — followed by budget caps — has limited flight training hours, the maintenance and upgrading of platforms, and the purchase of new systems, plaguing readiness and corresponding with a marked increase in aviation accidents. In the wake of these accidents, USMC spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns confirmed there are 85 F/A-18s available for training, less than half the 171 required.


The aviation community is hamstrung and struggling to prepare to fight future conflicts, all while facing increasingly dangerous training conditions at home. With a high operational tempo, aging equipment, and a shortage of funding, it is nearly impossible to rectify the deadly cocktail of slashed training hours, equipment that hasn’t received on-time maintenance and prioritization of deploying squadrons. Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for USMC aviation, has acknowledged that not only is the situation dire, but “we’re in a deep hole and have a ways to go to climb out.”


After Gen. Neller’s March testimony, the USMC began investigating whether there was a “linear correlation” between the lack of training hours and increase in aviation accidents. As part of debate over the National Defense Authorization Act in April, Lt. Gen. Davis testified to issues arising with the F/A-18 Hornet, noting the operational tempo and overutilization had led to a “low flight time and short training progression” for pilots.


Since the beginning of the summer of 2016, there have been seven “legacy hornet” crashes or incidents involving U.S. forces, three of which have killed their pilots. On Oct. 26, an F/A-18 crashed on a training flight, and two weeks later two F/A-18s collided midair, while in June a Blue Angels pilot was killed in a crash, and on Dec. 17, Naval aviation grounded all F/A-18s in response to yet another problem.


Without change, armed forces aviation will be defined by maintenance failure and deadly training accidents. The USMC stand-down on all nondeployed aviation over the summer played well with critics, and is a first step in re-evaluating the safety with which aviation can function at these low levels of funding, but does not go far enough. The problem is so dire that a single safety review is a drop in the bucket of deferred costs.


Aviation has always been a high-risk endeavor and even in the best of operating environments, accidents do happen. However, the inexcusable degradation of readiness at the hands of an irresponsible Congress is simply unacceptable. This should be a bipartisan issue. Those suffering at the hands of sequestration are our men and women in uniform. It is imperative that Congress remove the danger inherent in allowing aviation to degrade by providing robust funding increases and further safety measures. “It’s a dangerous business” is no longer a sufficient explanation.


Schafer is a research assistant for the Military, Veterans & Society program at the Center for a New American Security.


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What the latest Marine Aviation mishap says about pilot readiness


Task & Purpose, Dec. 30 | Carl Forsling


On Dec. 13, when a Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey landed in the water just shy of Camp Schwab in Okinawa, it became yet another high-profile incident for an aircraft that has had more than its share. The aircraft is notorious after four high-profile mishaps during its development phase, including one that claimed the lives of 19 Marines in 2000.


After that disaster, the Osprey program was revamped and the aircraft substantially redesigned. It became the mainstay of the Marines’ vertical lift and Air Force special operations. As a 20-year Marine aviator, I started my career in the Osprey’s predecessor, the CH-46E Sea Knight. I felt safer in the V-22 than I did in the CH-46. Its mishap rate is comparable to any other platform in the inventory, but I worry that my successors are not as safe though – not because of the aircraft, but because the system is not giving them enough time to train.


What most stories about the accident in Okinawa do not pay sufficient attention to is that the aircraft struck an aerial refueling drogue with its proprotors – in other words, it hit part of the refuelling equipment trailing the tanker with its propellers. The underlying reasons that happened will be the subject of a detailed investigation.


Undoubtedly that investigation will describe a laundry list of causal factors ranging from the flight schedule to the unit’s operating procedures to how much sleep the pilots had the night before to what they had for breakfast. The story here is almost certainly some form of human error on the part of the aircraft’s crew. Those human errors are a lot more likely when pilots don’t get enough practice. A well-practiced crew can usually overcome the friction points that happen in military aviation, be that weather, fatigue, or personal stress. One that isn’t is a lot more likely to have severe problems when events go astray. What’s very unlikely is that the aircraft itself was to blame. That the V-22 Osprey was involved should not be the takeaway from this story.


The most important takeaway is that this incident is very similar to others across the Marine Corps recently. There has been an alarming trend in Marine aviation – a high rate of mishaps, many, if not most, involving aircrew error. Four Marine F/A-18s have been involved in Class A mishaps (involving $2 million, loss of aircraft, or death) just since this October, two due to a mid-air collision. This March, 12 Marines died in a midair collision involving two CH-53Es. Another CH-53E recently suffered severe damage after striking a building. The mishap rate in the first three months of this fiscal year is an astonishing 11.26 per 100,000 flight hours. For the last 12 months, it’s been 5.0. There are well above historical norms, though the Naval Safety Center optimistically rates fiscal year 2017 thus far as the “36th best year in history at this rate.” 36th? Time to celebrate! The Corps’ message should have been to highlight the readiness and training problems that Marine aviation as a whole is experiencing.


This latest incident should serve as another warning that Marine aviation training has reached a dangerously poor level. These accidents were not the result of enemy action, but occurred during normal operations and training. No Marine aircraft is a deathtrap. Or rather, any aircraft can be a deathtrap if you only get to fly it a few times a month, then have to perform demanding missions in order to pack in required training for an upcoming deployment. Even tasks that are the bread-and-butter of military flight operations, like the aerial refueling that claimed the Osprey in Okinawa, are extraordinarily dangerous by civilian standards. They are only made safe by continuous practice.


The Marines are known for doing the extraordinary so often that it has become routine. When pilots don’t get sufficient stick time to be confident in the fundamentals, the extraordinary isn’t routine, it’s pushing one’s luck. According to a Marine Corps source, as of Spring 2016, Osprey pilots were getting an average of 15.3 of 16.2 hours required to maintain proficiency in required skills. CH-53E pilots were getting 10.7 of 15.1. Hornet pilots were getting a truly abysmal 8.8 of 15.7. Fifteen hours a month is the minimal acceptable level to safely fly military aircraft. At least 20 are required to become confident and proficient.


Over the course of my 20-year career, I personally saw my flight time go from an average of 25 per month at the beginning to less than 20 by the time I left in 2015. Now it’s sunk even lower, except that today’s aviators don’t have a foundation of years of consistent flying. Many have known nothing but sporadic training, interrupted by brief periods of frenetic operations while deployed. Even when the average number of flight hours per pilot reaches the minimum of 15, it doesn’t mean that the aviation community is safe, because that distribution is heavily skewed.


A current squadron commander I spoke with told me he is forced to triage his pilots. His key instructors and flight leaders who will fill key roles on the next deployment get what they need, but everyone below that gets whatever is left over, and is barely enough to keep the squadron qualified to fly its assigned mission sets. His squadron “hog board” of pilot flight hours showed his top five senior instructors averaging a decent 24 hours a month. His bottom five, mostly lieutenants, all had less than five hours a month. At five hours a month, every flight is just relearning what one forgot since the last time. Those lieutenants are going to have to step up soon.


Ironically, his top five are planning on leaving the Corps in the near future. Their replacements will come from among those getting less than five hours a month of training. This isn’t getting better until more aircraft are ready to fly. The budget squeeze brought about by the continuing sequester plus the demands of continuing deployments have brought aircraft readiness dangerously low. The new aircraft, like the MV-22B, the UH-1Y, and the AH-1Z don’t have enough parts and maintainers to keep them flying. The old ones, like the F/A-18 and CH-53E, are just worn out.


According to the head of Marine aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Corps is making efforts to bring readiness back to healthy levels, but that depends greatly on the success of acquisitions like the F-35 and CH-53K. President-elect Trump says he has plans to increase the Corps by 8,000 to 12,000 Marines. Hopefully within that plan is one to restore readiness in what the Corps already has first. Otherwise, we’re just sending players into varsity games after attending JV practice.


No pilot goes to fly giving anything other than his utmost. The ones who died bet their lives on the fact that the Corps gave them sufficient training to extricate them from almost any situation. That their training was insufficient to do so is not their fault, but ours.


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Improve land-based electronic warfare aircraft readiness


(U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE NEWS 03 JAN 17) … Col. H. Wayne Whitten, USMC Retired


President-Elect Donald Trump has called for hard-hitting initiatives to be included in a first-100-day thrust to make America strong again. Hoping to be included in that effort are some common-sense, low-cost changes to our land-based expeditionary electronic warfare (EW) force posture that would immediately improve operational readiness and have a positive economic effect to boot.


These changes would delay, if not cancel, the ill-timed phase-out of Marine Corps EW aircraft; retaining the highly-trained aircrews; and a geographic realignment of the Navy’s expeditionary squadrons. These are proactive force posture changes that would signal a higher priority for warfighting readiness without increasing deployments abroad.


As the combatant commanders know – and our adversaries respect – this is about the frontline force they call upon to support warfighters engaged in operations across the spectrum of conflict. EW aircraft and their powerful electronic attack systems were initially designed to counter sophisticated air defenses but now support ground and special operations forces engaged in conventional and asymmetric warfare. These versatile assets are fully integrated into the battlespace command and control architecture to provide commanders unparalleled situational awareness and targeting to support battle management decisions. With an ever-evolving array of offensive EW weaponry that now extends to PSYOPS and on to cyber warfare, they are well equipped for sowing chaos in keeping with a strategy espoused by secretary of defense nominee retired-Gen. James Mattis.


Today EW forces may be tasked to counter improvised explosive devices and communication devices used by ISIS and the Taliban, or target frontline Russian-supplied surface-to-air missiles in Syria that they may be tasked to jam later on. In the Pacific, they stand ready to take on the sophisticated Chinese air defense systems protecting made-made islands as part of their anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategy.


Since the retirement of the U.S. Air Force EF-111s in the mid-1990s, the expeditionary EW mission has been entrusted to the Navy and Marine Corps. That meant the Navy began sharing a mission pioneered by the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and performed with distinction in the Persian Gulf and Balkan campaigns. For many years both services employed the EA-6B Prowler, initially designed to counter integrated air defense networks but quickly modified during the Iraq War to provide direct support to U.S. and coalition ground and special operations forces. Those efforts came in time for the Prowlers to support Marines engaged in the bloody fight for Fallujah in 2004.


The Navy has now retired its EA-6Bs and is transitioning both its carrier-based and expeditionary squadrons to the EA-18G Growler, a hybrid variant of the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Standup of the Navy’s expeditionary squadrons is not complete, with about 40 new production EA-18Gs yet to be delivered. The expeditionary and carrier-based squadrons are all to be homeported at NAS Whidbey Island, WA.


In a departure from the Navy’s aircraft modernization strategy, the Marine Corps some years ago chose to pass on the Super Hornet and Growler in favor of awaiting development of the F-35B, the V/STOL (vertical and/or short take-off and landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. Unlike the Navy, the Marines saw the promise of the stealthy fifth-generation F-35B with its integrated EW systems as obviating the need for external support in high-threat environments. That premise resulted in the decision not to replace their aging EA-6Bs with new production EA-18Gs. Instead, their VMAQ squadrons are to be phased out in favor of a system-of-systems concept designed around non-dedicated platforms including UAVs to support the ground combat element. The first of four squadrons has already stood down and the second is scheduled to sunset in June 2017. Overall this plan stands down 50 percent of the joint expeditionary EW force and drops a Marine aviation capability that dates back to the Korean War.


These changes are still taking place as scheduled despite major delays in fielding the F-35B and its as-yet unproven capabilities to penetrate emerging air defense radar networks. It will be well over five years before half of the Marines F/A-18 Hornet aircraft that heavily depend on EA-6B support are replaced, and at least three years before the system-of-system concept bears fruit.


There is no planned back-up reserve capability.


The resulting three- to five-year gap in expeditionary EW capability impacts Marine Corps and joint force readiness and must be dealt with quickly by the new administration. Suspending the retirement of the VMAQs and retaining their highly trained and career-oriented EW officers is an obvious first step. They remain a vital component of the force that must be able to “fight tonight” and contribute to joint warfighting requirements. Given the circumstances, this should garner Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller’s support, as it is in keeping with his recently stated priorities to beef up the Marine Corps’ cyber/EW capabilities.


Luckily the former chief of naval operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, an avowed EW advocate, committed the Navy to taking additional EA-18Gs funded by a far-sighted Congress to support both carrier-based and expeditionary requirements. This will help bridge the capability gap but raises operational readiness issues given that all the EA-18Gs are destined to be homeported at NAS Whidbey Island. It’s noble in intent but highly questionable from a roles and mission standpoint that all land-based EW aircraft will be owned by the Navy, the service with the least natural ties and expertise in ground combat operations.


To compound that issue is the imbalance in cross-training afforded joint forces if the entire expeditionary EW force is based on the Northwest coast. The inherent logistical advantages of single-site basing must be secondary to restoring joint force operational readiness and improving joint force warfighting capabilities, two key stated objectives of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. It is also counter to warfighting doctrine which calls for synergistic training of all combatants under train-as-you-will- fight scenarios. Bear in mind over half of the Army, Marine Corps, SOF and tactical Air Force units are in the eastern U.S. Additionally, DoD has a sizable investment in East Coast ranges that continue to be under-utilized for EW training.


Given the increasingly unsettled Middle East and NATO commitments, a realignment of expeditionary forces would send a message to Russia, its Syrian cronies and Iran that the pivot to the Pacific is not an open door for adventurism elsewhere in the world. Achieving a geographic balance by establishing an East Coast homeport for the EA-18Gs is consistent with long-held Navy policy. Eventual re-commissioning of a reserve squadron on the East Coast should also be considered, as there was an EA-6B squadron based at Joint Base Andrews before the transition from Prowlers to Growlers began. Again, the timing is right, as new production deliveries will support standup of EA-18G squadrons on the East Coast.


Finally, the regional economic benefits must not be ignored. Ironically, the increase in aircraft loading at NAS Whidbey Island has created an environmental impact even as the draw down in EA-6Bs at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC, and delays in the F-35B deliveries are causing serious economic concerns. One would think North Carolina officials would see now is the time to put aside fears that questioning the EA-6B drawdown would somehow be viewed as threatening the F-35B. In fact, they should be making the case to homeport the Navy expeditionary EA-18Gs at MCAS Cherry Point.


For the first time since the Reagan years the Pentagon’s table of change is set and invitations sent from the new commander-in-chief. For the Marine Corps, this may mean more Title 10 missions “such as the President may direct.” No regrets please, the joint warfighters now more than ever need you to bring your proven EW assets to the table.


Col. Whitten flew nearly 200 combat missions over North Vietnam before going on to a career that spanned operations, requirements, acquisition and testing of EW aircraft and systems. While on the HQMC staff, he worked closely with President- elect Reagan’s DoN transition team, and later served in the Navy Secretariat as Special Assistant for Marine Corps Programs.


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China’s air force is becoming very powerful

But Suffers from One Super Fatal Flaw


(THE NATIONAL INTEREST 03 JAN 17) … Dave Majumdar


Will the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E be the last jet fighter that China imports? The Chinese government’s official media certainly seems to believe so. “With the commissioning of the J-20, the Su-35 will soon lose its value in the Chinese market,” the People’s Daily states.


It is certainly possible that the advanced Russian-made jet will be the last fighter aircraft that Beijing imports, however, China will likely be dependent on Russia for subsystems such as engines for some time to come. Beijing has made tremendous progress with developing its own combat aircraft and the avionics needed to equip those machines, but China continues to be hampered by its inability to develop and produce reliable jet engines.


Indeed, China has demonstrated progress with developing not only stealthy new airframes such as the J-20 and the FC-31, but also seemingly with the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, electro-optical/infrared sensors and electronic warfare systems, data-links and even the cockpit displays that are typical of fifth-generation fighters.


At the Zhuhai airshow last November, the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation exhibited a video of the FC-31 showing off capabilities such as a distributed aperture system (DAS) and an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) similar to those mounted on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The aircraft is also reputed to feature a KLJ-7A AESA radar that is being developed by the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology.


However, it remains to be seen if China has come close to mastering “sensor fusion” – which is to tie all of those myriad sensor and data feeds into a single coherent picture. That’s a capability found onboard the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35, but it has taken years of effort and billions of dollars to master (and in the case of the F-35, it’s still a work in progress). Beijing will eventually get there in time, but it’s hard to say how long that will take.


Engines, however, continue to remain a weak spot for Chinese industry. But jet engines are inherently difficult to develop and produce. Indeed, only a handful of advanced industrial nations have the technological capacity to independently develop and build their own working and producible jet engines – the United States, Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany and Japan. Almost every other power is dependent on others to develop propulsion technology.


China is determined to close that gap, but it has not yet succeeded in doing so. Last year, Beijing setup the Aero Engine Corp. of China (AECC) as part of its efforts to solve the problem. The firm has $7.5 billion in capital and 96,000 employees. According to a CNN report, Beijing’s most recent five-year development plan states that developing and producing indigenous engines is one of China’s most important goals.


China has the money and the willpower to develop its own aerospace engine industry. It’s just a matter of time before Beijing masters jet engine technology and starts developing and mass-producing its own propulsion systems. When that day comes, China will be independent of Russian engine technology and might indeed become a major aerospace industrial power in its own right.


Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest.


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New in 2017: Naval Aviation milestones


(NAVY TIMES 02 JAN 17) … Emily Cole


As Naval aviation continues to transition to its future force, 2017 milestones and transitions may bring a new supercarrier, the first unmanned patrol squadron and improved aircraft including the stand-up of the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron.


The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford is scheduled to be commissioned in 2017, improving upon the Advanced Arresting Gear and engineering efficiencies. “A new nuclear propulsion and electric plant on the Ford class will generate almost three times the electrical power over the Nimitz class,” Naval Air Forces spokeswoman Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld said.


Two squadrons will debut in the coming year, the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, VFA-125, and the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Patrol Squadron, VUP-19. F-35C Lightning II will stand up at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California as a critical addition to carrier strike groups. The MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft squadron held a commissioning ceremony on Oct. 28 and will begin training in mid-2017 with the intention of achieving safe-for-flight status in 2018.


The transition process to the P-8A Poseidon from the P-3C is also scheduled to complete in 2017. To date, six of the 12 fleet squadrons have transitioned, and two more squadrons (VP-4 and VP-47) are scheduled to complete their transition in the next calendar year. The permanent duty station will change from NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington.


The Navy will increase its inventory of E-2D Advanced Hawkeye squadrons to three, including VAW-126 which recently completed their transition, and VAW-124 in late 2017, Groeneveld said.


On the technology side, Naval Air Forces completed delivery in 2016 of the landing software Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, thankfully shortened to Magic Carpet. The final version of the software is targeted to begin installation in late 2017.


“The Magic Carpet capability significantly reduces pilot workload both by causing the aircraft to default to a stable glideslope on approach to landing, requiring only minor inputs to adjust glide path, and by accounting for the motion of the carrier in the display, allowing the pilot to much more easily judge the expected point of touchdown,” Groeneveld said.


In 2017, Naval aviation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Naval Air Station North Island, also known as the birthplace of Naval Aviation. The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway will also be commemorated. The battle marked not only a turning point in the Pacific during World War II but an important moment in naval aviation history.


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Big data, software continue to stump defense programs


(NATIONAL DEFENSE 20 DEC 16) … Sandra I. Erwin


A struggling effort to upgrade Air Force combat operations centers speaks to larger problems that continue to dog information-technology programs across the Defense Department.


Buzzwords like “data fusion” and “open systems” are part of the lexicon in most big-ticket acquisitions of defense technology, but bringing that vision to life has been difficult at best.


The latest illustration of this challenge is an Air Force project to modernize command centers that are deployed in strategic parts of the world to plan and execute air warfare operations. The three-year-old program suffered a major setback last month as it became clear that the upgrades are going to take much longer and cost far more than expected.


The project, known as air operations center, or AOC 10.2 is a complex “system-of-systems” made up of least 45 different third-party software applications. The improvements are intended to give commanders modern decision-making tools, including real-time intelligence and data to make targeting faster and more accurate. That requires considerable software integration and machine-to-machine data transfer to produce more timely data and reduce human error. Making this effort even tougher are stringent cybersecurity requirements to protect highly sensitive information.


AOC 10.2 appeared to be sailing smoothly after the Pentagon signed off on a preliminary design review in 2013. After that Milestone B decision, prime contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. was awarded a new contract option to continue the development.


But after discovering significant problems over the past year, the Air Force in November submitted a “critical change” report to Congress concerning AOC 10.2. It indicated that the program – considered a “major automated information system” – would need more time and money to reach its goals, doubling development cost from the original estimate.


The critical change report was required due to a schedule delay of Milestone C – production and deployment phase – of more than one year from the original plan, said Air Force spokesman Capt. Michael Hertzog.


Air Force leaders had conducted an in-depth evaluation of the AOC 10.2 program, which led to the revised plan, Hertzog said in a statement. The AOC 10.2 needs to fix “point-to-point integration and cybersecurity shortfalls of the currently fielded version, AOC 10.1.”


Many of the troubles involved converting the legacy AOC environment into a “modular open systems architecture,” which the Pentagon now requires of all its information systems. A modular, open architecture is the Holy Grail in defense systems because it allows the Pentagon to insert new software and keep technologies up to date more easily.


“It improves the Air Force’s ability to integrate similarly modular and modernized application updates or new applications as they become available,” explained Hertzog. That also applies to cybersecurity, as the Air Force seeks to “improve system security more easily as threats continue to evolve.”


The new target for Milestone C is January 2019.


The Pentagon’s top weapons tester J. Michael Gilmore reported that major cybersecurity problems in AOC 10.2 were identified in August and September 2015. “The severity and quantity of the functional and cybersecurity deficiencies identified during the test resulted in the Air Force issuing a cure notice to the prime contractor.”


Northrop Grumman spokesman Brandon “Randy” Belote referred specific questions to the Air Force. In a statement he said the company is working to “ensure that the AOC 10.2 successfully provides for the security of the system including against future threats it will face. While there have been some challenges on the AOC 10.2 program, Northrop Grumman and the Air Force have forged a strong partnership that is working together to address the issues.”


The critical change report submitted to Congress projects the development of AOC 10.2 will cost $745 million, compared to the original $374 million estimate, Bloomberg News reported. The report said the Air Force had underestimated the complexity of integrating numerous third-party software applications and ensuring the networks were sufficiently protected from future cyber intrusions.


The Air Force Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, first issued a request for proposals in December 2010 for the AOC upgrade, estimating the value of the program at more than $800 million over the next eight years.


The modernization of air operations centers has been a long-term pursuit by the Air Force, noted retired Gen. Charles F. (Chuck) Wald, a former air war commander and now vice chairman of Deloitte Services.


The integration and interoperability of equipment at the AOC has “always been an issue,” Wald told National Defense. “How do you make sure you have feeds from the various intelligence sources and monitoring sources, and how do you apply that capability to an air tasking order?” he said. Open architectures and data fusion, if executed properly, are “game changers.”


During an industry conference more than a year ago, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering Stephen P. Welby spoke about the difficulties in developing modular open systems. One of the obstacles is a lack of “technical insight” by government program officials. “These designs will increase demand on DoD engineering competence, capability and capacity.”


Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva recently called out contractors for not being forthcoming about the challenges of building open systems. “For those of you in industry that are in this room, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked the following question, ‘Will your widget subscribe to an open architecture?’ Answer is always, ‘Oh sir, of course,’” Selva said in October at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In reality, though, it’s an “open architecture but only inside of our company or only inside of our proprietary IT that’s in the system,” he said. “We really have to find a resilient open architecture to which all of our systems can subscribe and we’ve only scratched the surface on that.”


The Defense Department’s top weapons buyer Frank Kendall said the idea of modular designs and open systems goes back decades. “It’s been part of my initiation since day one,” he said. “How do you basically keep those systems modern? Well, you do it through modular designs. Modular design gets you the ability to take something out, put something else in,” Kendall said. “Industry always tells us that they like open systems, but they give us a lot of designs that aren’t open. There’s no secret about this. You basically want to retain market share and one way you do that is you have proprietary intellectual property that allows you to do that. It makes hard for people to come in and displace you.”


The Pentagon has to “work hard at this and the devil is in the details,” Kendall added. “That’s the only way we’re going to have technology refresh on reasonable cycles relative to the pace at which technology is moving.”


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F-35’s $400K helmet still blinds pilots on night flights


(DOD BUZZ 20 DEC 16) … Hope Hodge Seck


A software fix designed to make the F-35 Joint Strike fighter’s state-of-the-art helmet easier to use for Navy and Marine Corps pilots landing on ships at night is still falling short of the mark, the program executive officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office said Monday.


One discovery made as the F-35C Navy carrier variant and F-35B Marine Corps “jump jet” variant wrapped up ship testing this year was that the symbology on the pricey helmet was still too bright and distracting for pilots landing on carriers or amphibious ships in the lowest light conditions, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told reporters.


During the final developmental test phase for the F-35C aboard the carrier George Washington in August, officials told they were testing a new software load specifically designed to address this “green glow” problem, which can make it difficult for pilots to detect outside light sources and the cues they need to land their aircraft safely.


While testers were hopeful at the time the problem was solved, Bogdan said officials are not yet satisfied.

“The symbology on the helmet, even when turned down as low as it can, is still a little too bright,” he said. “We want to turn down that symbology so that it’s not so bright that they can’t see through it to see the lights, but if you turn it down too much, then you start not being able to see the stuff you do want to see. We have an issue there, there’s no doubt.”


Bogdan said the military plans on pursuing a hardware fix for the helmet, which is designed to stream real-time information onto the visor and allow the pilots to “see through” the plane by projecting images from cameras mounted around the aircraft. But before that fix is finalized, he said, pilots of the F-35 B and C variants will make operational changes to mitigate the glare from the helmet. These may including adjusting the light scheme on the aircraft, altering how pilots communicate during night flights, and perhaps changing the way they use the helmet during these flights, he said.


“We’re thinking in the short term we need to make some operational changes, and in the long term we’ll look for some hardware changes,” Bogdan said.


The window for making such adjustments is rapidly closing. The first F-35B squadron is expected to move forward to its new permanent base in Japan in January ahead of a 2018 shipboard deployment in the Pacific. The F-35C is also expected to deploy aboard a carrier for the first time in 2018.