Archive for the 'Air Force' Category



Air Superiority and Expeditionary Warfare

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 8 months ago

The U.S. Marines brass is happy about the recent performance of the F-35.

Well, no one can say the Lockheed JSF team hasn’t had a good week. First came the hover and short takeoff and short landing. Today, they capped it with the plane’s first true vertical landing.

The Marines were officially happy. “Having the F-35B perform its first vertical landing underscores the reality of the Marine Corps achieving its goal of an all STOVL force,” said Lt. Gen. George Trautman, deputy commandant for aviation. “Being able to operate and land virtually anywhere, the STOVL JSF is a unique fixed wing aircraft that can deploy, co-locate, train and fight with Marine ground forces while operating from a wider range of bases ashore and afloat than any other TacAir platform.”

In the end, the Marines’ relentless pursuit of forcible entry and expeditionary warfare capabilities, along with their penchant for operating alone, is driving them to be disconnected from the U.S. Navy.

The future of Marines on aircraft carriers may hinge on the F-35 program.

The Marine Corps, which is the only U.S. service that has not announced a significant delay for the Joint Strike Fighter, remains fully committed to the F-35B Lightning II short take-off, vertical landing variant. Marine officials already have purchased 29 planes in the fiscal 2008-2010 budgets and officials insist they are on track to see a squadron operational by December 2012.

The test plane, BF-1, conducted its first vertical landing March 18, checking off a major milestone in the F-35B program. But that event was delayed by almost a year. Still, officials with Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s lead manufacturer, and the Corps said they are confident the timeline will be met, adding that the first two training aircraft are expected to be delivered by the end of 2010.

“We are going to be able to operate our planes from the sea, on our amphibious force fleets initially, and we’ll move ashore to the same kinds of forward operating bases that we operate the AV-8B,” Lt. Gen. George Trautman, the deputy commandant for aviation, said in a conference call with reporters.

Trautman said nothing about the Corps’ jets operating from carriers — as the Marines F/A-18 Hornets do today — but he did say the first F-35 squadron is expected to deploy with a Marine expeditionary unit in 2014.

Some observers say the Corps’ commitment to the F-35B is driven by a long-term desire to break away from Navy carriers. A powerful and versatile fighter jet that could operate from smaller-deck amphibs would grant the Marines more autonomy than ever before.

Commandant Conway is also still bullish on the redesigned EFV (Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle), but take particular note of this comment concerning the order of battle concerning the most expensive forcible entry vehicle ever conceived.

Interesting that our Marines would be expected to fight their way ashore, and then dismount to add armor so they can actually drive around? Would one vehicle protect the others while some put on additional armor? Would the armor be pre-positioned where the Marines were gonna storm ashore???

All programs can have high hopes – until tin is bent and problems show up.

Since the EFV has a flat hull in order to speed along the top of the water, it must be armored-up to survive IEDs on land.  So how does it get that way?  Why, the U.S. Marines put the armor on it.  They shoot their way on to shore and then stop, get out, wait on Navy supplies, and then fix up the EFVs.

Doesn’t sound like a good plan to you?  Well, this confused thinking permeates the expeditionary concept at the moment.  Consider also this comment.

So we’ve got 60% of the world living in cities near the ocean. We think those cities will be the areas where Marines are called upon to restore stability, work with local security forces, etc.

How do you protect the ships from missiles with stand-off distance, yet get the Marines some sort of armor protected vehicle? EFV was the answer.

Or, we just wait until all the bad guys go to bed, then we row ashore with M1′s on LCACs!

So this commenter poses the following scenario: we are conducting forcible entry to a shoreline where the Navy must be protected from missiles by being over the horizon (i.e., 25 miles out to sea), but these missiles are coming from a nation-state that is in such bad need of stabilization that the Marines must conduct forcible entry to work with security forces.

So you say that it sounds like someone is working with an infeasible or implausible scenario?  The QDR doesn’t help, giving no hint that the DoD even pretended to study the future situation and appropriately plan budgetary expenditures to match the needs.  One searches in vain for any forward thinking or strategic vision beyond adequate funding for fourth generation warfare and transnational insurgencies.

Crush at Blackfive links two studies performed out of Australia:

Why the F-22 and the PAK-FA have the “Right Stuff” and why the F/A-18 and the F-35 do not

Assessing the Sukhoi PAK-FA

Crush questions whether we may be surrendering our air superiority if we relinquish the F-22 in favor of the troubled F-35 program.  I have also clearly sided with the F-22 as being a far superior fighter.  W. Thomas Smith also smartly points out that the aircraft do completely different things.

Russia and China will continue to be almost bankrupt into the near future (just like we are).  But it’s also important not to allow our current air superiority to lull us into a false sense of security.

In conclusion, I would offer up the following points from these links and previous ones at The Captain’s Journal:

  1. Existing air frames will need continued and even increased refurbishment in order to keep them functional.
  2. The U.S. is in need of an air superiority fighter.  The F-35 is not it.  The F-22 is it.
  3. The QDR doesn’t even begin to give us a starting point to determine how to properly utilize the F-35 or why it is needed.
  4. The Marines are off on their own with their expeditionary warfare doctrines, and want to be even more off on their own than they are.  Who they intend to attack with the EFV is anyone’s guess.
  5. I have previously recommended that the Marines invest in an entirely new generation of helicopters in addition to continued investment in the V-22 Osprey.
  6. It isn’t obvious why the Marines need aircraft beyond rotary wing.  The Navy should be able to handle support, and if they aren’t. they should become capable.
  7. Whatever the disposition of the F-35, there is no obvious reason for it to replace the awesome A-10.

One final thought is in order.  I am convinced that fighter drones (ones to which we can truly entrust the security of America) are many years off, if they are even feasible.  Beyond this, true leadership is needed for such expensive weapons systems – the kind of leadership that has vision rather than the kind that conducted the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Prior:

Marine Corps Commandant on DADT and Expeditionary Warfare

Strategic Decisions Concerning Marines and Expeditionary Warfare

Arguments Over EFV and V-22

F-35 Over Budget and Behind Schedule

Scraping the F-22?

Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts

Just Build the F-22, Okay?

The Refueling Tanker War is Over: Boeing Wins

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 9 months ago

Boeing wins by default.  Northrup Grumman has pulled out of the refueling tanker competition.  Apparently they won low bid about two years ago, but the stipulations and structure of the contract is suspect.  Northrup Grumman has pulled out because they have decided that they can’t make any money.

Defense giant Northrop Grumman said Monday that it is pulling out of the $40 billion competition to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force, a move that defense analysts and procurement specialists say leaves its rival Boeing as the likely winner.

Northrop’s decision marked the latest twist in the nearly decade-long fight over one of the Pentagon’s biggest and most controversial contracts and raised questions about the impact of procurement reforms proposed by the Obama administration.

In announcing its withdrawal, Northrop said that the government’s requirements did not recognize the value of the larger refueling platform it had proposed and instead favored Boeing’s proposal to build a smaller tanker using a prototype of its 767 aircraft.

Wes Bush, chief executive of Los Angeles-based Northrop, said that under those conditions, it no longer made financial sense to stay in the competition …

Northrop executives and defense industry analysts have questioned how profitable the tanker contract would be, given the Pentagon’s push for setting a fixed price for the contract before design and testing of the aircraft are completed.

I had previously weighed in against the awarding of contracts based solely on low bid because of the requirements of the awful Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  Bidders learn to game the system.  Northrup Grumman had previously won under the provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley, but this time around apparently wanted to perform design and testing under a time and materials arrangement.

As for the technical aspects of the refueling tanker, General John Handy makes an outstanding case for the smaller Boeing 767 tanker.  Furthermore, the large Airbus is able to land on only about half as many airfields as the Boeing KC-767.  Finally, EADS is foreign-owned, and in fact Vladimir Putin now holds enough stock to have a significant influence in the corporation.

Andrew Exum danced on the apparent grave of Boeing’s demise in this contract, and extended his dislike of military contractors and heavy spending to F-22 appropriations.  Indeed.  Now with the F-35 over budget and behind schedule, the F-22 might not have been such a bad idea after all.  UAVs are all the rage now, but their slow, lumbering air frames make them sitting ducks if they ever come up against anything but poorly armed insurgents.

Things are often not quite what they seem, and the big, bad, evil defense contractors occupy the same space as the big, bad, evil health insurance companies and other corporations.  There are some of them, and their senior management makes way more money than they’re worth.  But in the end, that is oftentimes an accidental rather than an essential feature of the problem.  Giddiness over the demise of a major defense contractor can mean joy over lost jobs in the U.S., technology transfer to foreign companies, and unintended consequences of our decisions.

Northrup Grumman surely has many highly skilled people in the U.S., and I hope that they fare well through subsequent competitions.  We need good competition to keep our contractors honest.  Northrup Grumman folks can’t help that Vladimir Putin holds a significant interest in their company.  But as for the apparent Boeing success in the tanker wars, it appears that the best candidate has won (from technological capabilities to national security), and the U.S. military will be better off for it.

Prior:

Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts

How to Pay for a 21st Century Military

Can the Navy Afford the New Destroyers?

Developments in the Refueling Tanker Controversy

F-35 Over Budget and Behind Schedule

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 10 months ago

Matthew Potter has penned a very important article at BNET concerning the F-35.  I will cite it at length.

Veteran newspaper reporter George C. Wilson asked in a recent column that appeared in CongressDaily why rush the F-35 into production? In that gentleman’s eyes the program is experiencing delays in testing and development as well as overall cost to product and operate. In Wilson’s view it might make sense to save the whole $298 billion planned to procure the F-35 since there may not be the necessary threat to justify its purchase.

Wilson compares the F-35 to a similar program from the 1960’s where an attempt was made to develop one aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and Navy. This TFX program did result in the F-111 supersonic bomber used by the Air Force and Australia. The Navy rejected the aircraft and went on to purchase the F-14 Tomcat long range fighter. The F-111 had a drawn out development and the desire to have it due multiple missions for different services increased this and the cost increases reflected this.

In the upcoming 2011 defense budget the F-35 program will be restructured again to delay production and extend development. Money will have to be reprogrammed from buying aircraft to paying for this development extension. Lockheed Martin (LMT) the lead contractor on the program has offered up taking some money out of its fee from the development phase but the extended production run will only add money to the back end. Lockheed will make up some of the money lost in 2011 – 2013 through these quantities.

Of course the question to ask if Wilson’s suggestion was acted on would be what to do for a new fighter? The F-35 is it. It will replace F-16, A-10, F-18 and AV-8 aircraft in service with the U.S. Air Force, Marines, Navy and allied inventories. The F-22 is a purer, long range fighter that was supposed to replace the F-15. Now less then 200 will be built and they cannot supplant the large numbers of other aircraft. It also doesn’t exist in a carrier based version so it cannot do the F-18 or AV-8 mission. There had been attempts to restart the F-15 production line in the early part of this decade but nothing came of that. Perhaps the F-18E/F/G could be built for the Air Force as well as the Navy and Marines?

So if an existing aircraft cannot be produced to replace the aging F-16, F-18 and AV-8 force then a new replacement program will have to be started. Even if there are no advanced requirements but a straight replacement there will be the great cost of beginning again a development program and ramping up a production capability. It would also make little sense in building a new aircraft without adding advances in sensors, weapons, survivability and electronics. This will increase the cost to both produce and operate the aircraft.

I know one officer whose way was paid through the Air Force Academy, who trained other fighter pilots for several years, and who now wears shorts and a polo shirt and works on finish carpentry every day for his base because the Air Force has no fighter for him to fly and nothing else for him to do.  The existing fleet of aircraft is aging.  This means that stress corrosion cracking and fatigue on structural members and rotating parts has begun to take its toll.  Aircraft cannot fly forever, and while it was in vogue to bash the F-22 several months ago, remember what The Captain’s Journal said.

Basically, this amounts to crafting a model of hybrid wars as the primary mission (along with jettisoning the two-war paradigm under the QDR), and telling the Air Force to plan for it.  This is circular, and proves little if anything regarding whether the F-22 is needed.  It may not matter, since Obama has apparently won this victory, calling the F-22 wasteful and threatening a veto of any legislation that includes more F-22s …

The Captain’s Journal would feel better about the F-35 as the next generation all purpose fighter aircraft if it had seen production and flying hours.  But it is inferior in air-to-air combat and yet to be flown by U.S. AF pilots.  Also note that in spite of what the QDR might conclude, we have recommended replacement of the sea-based expeditionary model for forcible entry with a combined sea-based and air-based approach that doesn’t rely on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

We have recommended heavier reliance, not less reliance, on manned air power both from land bases and sea-based craft as an important leg of conventional, expeditionary, counterinsurgency and hybrid warfare.  We will grant the point that the VTOL F-35 will be a mainstay in the Marines’ model rather than the F-22, but if the skies are controlled by rockets and enemy aircraft, the sinking of an Amphibious Assault Dock with an entire Battalion of Marine infantry on board would end whatever expeditionary entry that was planned.  Air power is critical to the success of every form of warfare mentioned above.

It may be that the F-35 will come along in time to contribute to interim needs, and that its inferiority to the F-22 won’t do harm to the conduct of its mission.  But this hasn’t been proven to our standards.

I sounded the alarm, but Mr. Potter is placing meat on the skeleton.  Listen carefully to what he is saying.  This will become an urgent situation without action.  The F-35 is behind schedule, so the DoD is rearranging the deck chairs.

The U.S. Defense Department is slowing Lockheed Martin Corp’s $300 billion F-35 fighter jet program, a multinational effort, to stabilize its schedule and costs, according to draft budget documents obtained by Reuters.

The department’s fiscal 2011 budget will request $10.7 billion to continue the F-35′s development and to procure 42 aircraft, a budget overview shows.

Overall, the plan is to cut planned purchases by 10 aircraft in fiscal 2011 and a total of 122 through 2015.

The Pentagon “has adjusted F-35 procurement quantities based on new data on costs and on likely orders from our foreign nations partners and realigned development and test schedules,” the document said without giving details.

“Stabilize its schedule and costs …”  This is a euphemism to indicates that the DoD won’t outspend the development capabilities of the program, and since the program is behind schedule, the development dollars will decrease.

All the while, aircraft are being retired, trained pilots are busy doing carpentry work on board their base, and as The Captain’s Journal pointed out, the F-35 has yet to log a single flying hour – even though it is supposed to be the cornerstone of the U.S. air fleet.  There is trouble in the air, and it isn’t of the sort that can be solved by wishful thinking about future weapons systems or flying gadgets that have yet to be designed or tested.  We told you so.

Scraping the F-22?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

This commentary by K T McFarland has become typical of the current F-22 bloodsport.

If we had an infinite amount of money to spend on defense, of course, the F-22 would be great. But we don’t. We need to increase the size of the Army and Marines. We need to increase resources devoted to intelligence. So let’s do the same job the Raptor would do but with cheaper weapons systems.

The F-22 Raptor: The Air Force doesn’t want it. The Secretary of Defense doesn’t want it. Security experts say we don’t need it. And fiscal hawks say there are much less expensive and better alternatives. Yet the pork barrel spenders in Congress insist on putting the Raptor back in the Defense Budget.

Why? Because incumbents figure they can buy votes by bragging to their constituents that they brought home the bacon with defense spending in the district. That’s why the Raptor’s subcontracts were sprinkled across 44 states — to insure Congress would add it back in the the budget even if the Pentagon cut it out. They’ve figured out a simple but fundamental truth — they can bribe the public with the public’s money. The incumbents get to keep their jobs but to the nation’s detriment.

If we had an infinite amount of money to spend on defense, of course, the F-22 would be great. But we don’t. We need to increase the size of the Army and Marines. We need to increase resources devoted to intelligence. So let’s do the same job the Raptor would do but with cheaper weapons systems — pilotless combat drones like the Predator and its successor the Reaper ($8 million each) — which have proven effective and lethal in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I was in the Pentagon in the early 1980′s when we first ordered the Raptor — at $60 million apiece. But so far the Raptor has taken almost thirty years to produce and come in at $350 million per plane, with future orders at $167 million a piece.

The original plan for the Raptor was to deal with anything the Soviets could put in the air. But the Soviet Union is no more and its successor, the Russian Air Force, can be bested with something far less costly and more reliable than the Raptor.

And while no one disputes that the Raptor has lots of bells and whistles, only half of the current fleet are flight-ready, and none of them have been used in combat missions Iraq or Afghanistan.
We should scrap plans for more Raptors in favor of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft — which is cheaper, more flexible and represents the next generation of technology. It is a better investment in national security. But it’s not as good for pork barrel spending, so Congress CUT $530 million from the Joint Strike Fighter’s budget!

The only thing we should do with the F-22 Raptor is rename it — The White Elephant.

She’s just making stuff up.  The only reason that Gates has had to make the tough call to limit the production of F-22s is because at least some in the Air Force do indeed want it.  Granted, this seems to point otherwise.

It’s official: The USAF did want more F-22s and considered a 180-some force to be a high risk approach, but after the Defense Department provided the service with a new assessment of future wars, the USAF changed its mind. That’s what the service’s top leaders say in a signed piece in this morning’s Washington Post.

The most important fact about this story is that it had to be written at all. Gates said on Monday that the AF had fully supported the decision to close the F-22 line. Nobody with any great power and influence (current or retired officers, for example) has spoken against it, except for the usual suspects on the Hill. Maybe Gates is reading the all-time-record comment thread on Ares.

The second important piece is here: First, based on warfighting experience over the past several years and judgments about future threats, the Defense Department is revisiting the scenarios on which the Air Force based its assessment.

Read this in conjunction with the paragraph before it, which states that Donley and Schwartz concluded last summer that a 381-aircraft force was “low-risk” and that 243 was “moderate risk”. It’s not a huge logical leap to say that 183 was termed “high risk” – that is, likely to prove deficient against future threats.

The USAF has not changed its methodology, but the DoD “is revisiting the scenarios” – that is, changing the inputs to the process. That is of course the DoD’s job; but the Gates team seems to have done this in only one specific case. And when was it done? As we’ve reported before, the USAF in March was saying that it needed more F-22s.

Basically, this amounts to crafting a model of hybrid wars as the primary mission (along with jettisoning the two-war paradigm under the QDR), and telling the Air Force to plan for it.  This is circular, and proves little if anything regarding whether the F-22 is needed.  It may not matter, since Obama has apparently won this victory, calling the F-22 wasteful and threatening a veto of any legislation that includes more F-22s.  Sidebar comment: when the Obama administration is spending the U.S. into oblivion with waste and wealth redistribution, this claim on the F-22 is so hypocritical that it’s laughable.  It’s a tough call for Gates because he has no other option given the need for more ground troops.  Obama left him with Hobson’s choice.  Diabolical – and shortsighted.

The Captain’s Journal would feel better about the F-35 as the next generation all purpose fighter aircraft if it had seen production and flying hours.  But it is inferior in air-to-air combat and yet to be flown by U.S. AF pilots.  Also note that in spite of what the QDR might conclude, we have recommended replacement of the sea-based expeditionary model for forcible entry with a combined sea-based and air-based approach that doesn’t rely on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

We have recommended heavier reliance, not less reliance, on manned air power both from land bases and sea-based craft as an important leg of conventional, expeditionary, counterinsurgency and hybrid warfare.  We will grant the point that the VTOL F-35 will be a mainstay in the Marines’ model rather than the F-22, but if the skies are controlled by rockets and enemy aircraft, the sinking of an Amphibious Assault Dock with an entire Battalion of Marine infantry on board would end whatever expeditionary entry that was planned.  Air power is critical to the success of every form of warfare mentioned above.

It may be that the F-35 will come along in time to contribute to interim needs, and that its inferiority to the F-22 won’t do harm to the conduct of its mission.  But this hasn’t been proven to our standards.  Either way, while bashing the F-22 has become oh so posh and in vogue, we here at The Captain’s Journal don’t get into posh. We trust only in hard analysis.

Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

Following are some related but disaggregated thoughts on the upcoming U.S. Department of Defense budgetary cuts, along with some very good required reading on this subject.

Gates Readies Big Cuts in Weapons

As the Bush administration was drawing to a close, Robert M. Gates, whose two years as defense secretary had been devoted to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, felt compelled to warn his successor of a crisis closer to home.

The United States “cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything,” Gates said. The next defense secretary, he warned, would have to eliminate some costly hardware and invest in new tools for fighting insurgents.

What Gates didn’t know was that he would be that successor.

Now, as the only Bush Cabinet member to remain under President Obama, Gates is preparing the most far-reaching changes in the Pentagon’s weapons portfolio since the end of the Cold War, according to aides.

Two defense officials who were not authorized to speak publicly said Gates will announce up to a half-dozen major weapons cancellations later this month. Candidates include a new Navy destroyer, the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet, and Army ground-combat vehicles, the offi cials said.

More cuts are planned for later this year after a review that could lead to reductions in programs such as aircraft carriers and nuclear arms, the officials said …

Gates is not the first secretary to try to change military priorities. His predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, sought to retool the military but succeeded in cancelling only one major project, an Army artillery system.

Former vice president Dick Cheney’s efforts as defense chief under the first President Bush, meanwhile, are cited as a case study in the resistance of the military, defense industry, and Capitol Hill. Cheney canceled the Marine Corps’ troubled V-22 Osprey aircraft not once, but four times, only to see Congress reverse the decision.

And we’re glad that the V-22 Osprey program was completed.  It is already making an impact in the Marine Corps expeditionary concept.  The Captain’s Journal is still a supporter of Secretary Gates, but these defense cuts are both unnecessary and ill-advised (although not of Gates’ choosing in a perfect world).  Beginning in 2011, Russian armed forces will undergo a comprehensive rearmament to refurbish and replaces weapons systems.  While the U.S. is disarming, one of the only two near peers in the world is increasing and rearming its military.  No, wait.  Make that both near peer states.

Beijing Considers Upgrades to Navy

China’s top military spokesman said it is seriously considering adding a first aircraft carrier to its navy fleet, a fresh indication of the country’s growing military profile as it prepares for its first major naval deployment abroad.

At a rare news conference Tuesday, Chinese defense-ministry officials played down the importance of Beijing’s decision to send warships to the Gulf of Aden to curb piracy — China’s first such deployment in modern history — saying it doesn’t represent a shift in defense policy. The two destroyers and supply ship are to depart Friday for the Middle East.

But officials also made clear that China’s navy, which has been investing heavily in ships and aircraft, now has the capability to conduct complex operations far from its coastal waters — and that Beijing is continuing to expand its reach and capability, perhaps with a carrier.

It’s unclear what parts of an aircraft carrier China would build itself and what parts it might need to acquire from abroad. China has bought carriers before, but none ended up in the country’s fleet.

In some of the most direct public statements on current thinking behind Beijing’s naval policy, defense military spokesman Col. Huang Xueping said Tuesday that “China has vast oceans and it is the sovereign responsibility of China’s armed forces to ensure the country’s maritime security and uphold the sovereignty of its costal waters as well as its maritime rights and interests.”

At Information Dissemination, Galrahn makes a good observation on the importance of the expeditionary concept.

As we have noted many times on the blog, the amphibious ship is the hardest working type of ship in the US Navy in the 21st century. The data says all that needs to be said regarding the requirement.

They are flexible platforms that bring together a wide variety of capabilities that can effectively perform the range of mission profiles from soft power to forward afloat staging bases to even assault roles when necessary. They are the rapid responders when crisis breaks out on land, and best fit the most often called upon requirements of the US Navy when problems occur, whether it is Hezbollah/Israel or a natural disaster, the amphibious ship, not the aircraft carrier, is the type of platform sent into to help out people … The biggest problem with the sea basing concept isn’t the idea regarding how to get troops to land, but how to sustain troops from sea once we get them on land. The single largest factor that limits support is fuel.

The Captain’s Journal agrees with Galrahn and the importance of force projection – whether hard or soft power – with the Marines Expeditionary Units (including the “combined arms” concept of multiple naval vessels with various defensive and offensive capabilities.  But with us it isn’t a matter of either-or.  It’s both-and.  We need both the carrier battle groups and the MEUs.

We will learn the lesson, again, the easy way or the hard way.  But we must be prepared to fight both near peers and counterinsurgency campaigns.  As for China, when they want to expand their global influence, the first big ship they go after is the carrier.  Concerning Galrahn’s warning on the need for fuel, this highlights all the more the need for ports and air superiority for refueling tankers.  Concerning overall air superiority, if the sole focus of our national defense dollars is in counterinsurgency, littoral combat and small wars, the MEUs will be left to the slaughter once the ordnance begins raining down from the sky.

Concerning this issue of being able to fight two wars at one time, the current administration is toying with this age-old doctrine.

The protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.

For more than six years now, the United States has in fact been fighting two wars, with more than 170,000 troops now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The military has openly acknowledged that the wars have left troops and equipment severely strained, and has said that it would be difficult to carry out any kind of significant operation elsewhere.

To some extent, fears have faded that the United States may actually have to fight, say, Russia and North Korea, or China and Iran, at the same time. But if Iraq and Afghanistan were never formidable foes in conventional terms, they have already tied up the American military for a period longer than World War II.

A senior Defense Department official involved in a strategy review now under way said the Pentagon was absorbing the lesson that the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns likely to be part of some future wars would require more staying power than in past conflicts, like the first Iraq war in 1991 or the invasions of Grenada and Panama.

In an interview with National Public Radio last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made it clear that the Pentagon was beginning to reconsider whether the old two-wars assumption “makes any sense in the 21st century” as a guide to planning, budgeting and weapons-buying.

Be careful here.  This seems like a prelude to deep cuts in the men and materiel necessary for air superiority, Naval superiority and force projection.  Wait, we’ve already discussed this above, and it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Finally, you will note that the cuts also target both nuclear refurbishment and development and the F-22 program.  The Captain’s Journal has already weighed in on these issues.

Just Build the F-22, Okay?

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

The three links above are required reading, as are the two links below (for those readers who aren’t convinced of the need to refurbish our existing nuclear weapons stockpile or continue further development).

Report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management

National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century

Finally, read this:

Remember Near Peer Threats?

Just Build the F-22, Okay?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

Over at Abu Muqawama, Abu M. is telling us about his lamentable bent towards socialistic jobs programs by finally advocating the F-22 program.  Well, not quite.  The kind of people who will continue to work – engineers, highly skilled technicians, programmers, etc. – are not who the current administration is targeting for their programs.  Abu M., our friend, is still not synched up with the administration.  Really.  We have our doubts that he ever will be completely.  This is good.  As for the GOP turncoats who advocate the F-22 because it will bring jobs (as Abu M. notes), their districts have a bunch of pansy-ass panty-waist sniveling lackeys for Representatives who need to be summarily run out of Washington and then tarred and feathered.  The right reason to support the F-22 is – as I learned just recently from a reputable source – technical.

By month’s end, President Barack Obama must decide whether to order the building of more F-22 Raptors or let the production lines close. Only 203 of the aircraft described by the think tank Air Power Australia as “the most capable multirole combat aircraft in production today” have been built or ordered.

The F-22 Raptor performs as impressively as it looks.

Support for the aircraft is not limited to defense hawks. Last month, 44 U.S. senators, including Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, sent the president a letter requesting an additional order of unspecified size to prevent the planned 2011 shutdown. Bowing to political reality rather than reflecting true military needs, the Air Force now claims it could possibly get by with just 60 more aircraft.

Despite this, and notwithstanding the current Boeing and Lockheed Martin publicity campaign, the Raptor may well have its wings clipped. The main reason: Strategists plan to fight the next war based on the last (or current) one. Where once we planned for massive set-piece battles, now it seems many can’t see beyond guerrilla warfare with lightly armed insurgents. Conventional war weapons programs are being eliminated or slashed.

The F-22, which entered service three years ago, blends key technologies that formerly existed only separately on other aircraft — or not at all. Its stealthiness will make trigger-happy combatants shoot at birds. It has agility, air-to-air combat abilities and penetrability far beyond that of the F-15 Eagle which entered service 33 years ago. It cruises at Mach-plus speeds without using fuel-guzzling afterburners.

But the end of the Cold War, the current guerrilla wars, and what Air Power Australia calls a deliberate campaign of “concocting untruthful stories about its capabilities, utility and cost,” has devastated Raptor purchases. Originally the Air Force requested up to 762, but the Pentagon’s 1990 Major Aircraft Review reduced that to 648. This was subsequently cut to 442, then 339, then to 277, before the current 203, of which 134 have been built.

A major criticism of the Raptor is the cost, which at about $339 million per aircraft is many times the original estimate. But much of this reflects a wisely added ground attack role, inflation, and a sneaky but common ruse used to cut weapon procurements.

Technology development costs are fixed. So each time an order is reduced, per-unit prices go up. Critics slashed the F-22 order, and then cited the “stunning” per-unit cost to slash away again. This game has played out with one weapon system after another, helping explain why an initial plan for acquiring 132 B-2 Spirit bombers ended with a pitiful purchase of 21. But the current per-unit cost for each additional F-22 is around $136 million, according to the Air Force.

If necessary, the Air Force says it will try to fill the F-22 shortage by keeping F-15s flying to 2025. It won’t work. Even eight years ago, “some foreign aircraft we’ve been able to test, our best pilots flying their airplanes [from other countries] beat our pilots flying our airplanes every time,” then-Air Force Commander John Jumper told Congress.

Two years earlier, the independent Federation of American Scientists (FAS) noted that the Russian Sukhoi Flanker Su-27, which entered service eight years after the Eagle, “leveled the playing field” with the F-15. Su-27’s, both Russian-built and Chinese pirated copies, are now in arsenals around the world.

Nor are enemy fighters our only worry. Russian surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) have improved dramatically in recent years. The country’s S-300 system is “one of the most lethal, if not the most lethal, all-altitude area defense,” noted the International Strategy and Assessment Service, “a Virginia-based think tank focused on U.S. and Allied security issues.” three years ago. China also has the S-300 and the Russians announced in December they’ll soon sell units to Iran.

The F-22 may be the only aircraft that can penetrate the Soviet S-400 missile system, yet opponents focus entirely on dogfighting.

The sale not only would threaten stand-off warning and control systems like AWACS but also tremendously boost defense of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor and Natanz uranium-enrichment site.

The newer S-400 system, already deployed, is far better able to detect low-signature targets and aircraft generally, as far away as 250 miles away, according to the FAS. That’s twice that of the S-300. When mated with the Triumf SA-20/21 missile, which Russia claims it tested in December, it can even knock down ballistic missiles.

“Only the F-22 can survive in airspace defended by increasingly capable surface-to-air missiles,” declared Air Force Association President Mike Dunn in December.

Some have demanded trading off F-22s for more of the cheaper F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), although it’s vastly inferior in both air-to-air combat and ground defense penetration. Further, much of that lower price reflects the economy of scale of the vastly larger order F-35 orders, even as increased development costs have tremendously upped the Lightning II price tag.

The current Air Force budget estimate says the “flyaway unit cost” of its F-35 version will be strikingly higher than that of the F-22 during the first four years of production. Only then will assembly line expansion drop the F-35 sticker to $91 billion by FY 2013.

The Russia bear has awakened from hibernation to rebuild its lost empire. China continues its inexorable military expansion. Iran desperately wants The Bomb, while North Korea revels in unpredictability. Yes, Virginia, we really do have potential enemies with weapons other than AKs and IEDs. We desperately need far more F-22 Raptors — preferably to prevent wars but if need be to win them.

Sorry to steal Michael Fumento’s thunder by duplicating his post completely, but it deserved complete mention, and also complete attribution.  And so just build the F-22 and say thanks to Fumento for a good article.  And stop the socialistic jobs programs, okay?

How to Pay for a 21st Century Military

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 12 months ago

Defense Tech links an editorial by the New York Times on How to Pay for a 21st Century Military.  Ward at Defense Tech doesn’t like the editorial very much, and neither does The Captain’s Journal.  Ward summarizes the recommendations as follows:

End production of the Air Force’s F-22. (Recommends the use of “upgraded” F-16s until the F-35 comes into production.)

Cancel the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyer. (Advises the production of the Littoral Combat Ship instead.)

Halt production of the Virginia class sub. (Recommends extending the life of existing Los Angeles class submarines instead.)

Pull the plug on the Marine Corps’s V-22 Osprey. (Recommends buying more H-92s and CH-53s instead.)

Halt premature deployment of missile defense.

Negotiate deep cuts in nuclear weapons.

Trim the active-duty Navy and Air Force.

Some, if not most, of these recommendations are stupid to the point of being dangerous.  We have already discussed the fact that existing nuclear weapons systems are in need of refurbishment in order to maintain viability, and also the fact that new nuclear weapons systems must be pursued in order to maintain deterrence and modernize the force.

While aircraft carriers can project U.S. power deep into foreign terrain, and guided missile cruisers even deeper, the Navy hasn’t given us a single viable littoral combat scenario or reason to believe that the littoral combat program is anything but daydreaming.  On the other hand, every single ship in the active U.S. Navy has produced and participated in the national defense, whether actively or passively through deterrence.

As for the F-22, we have already halted production after 183 have been purchased.  Good enough.  Continue with the 183 and halt any further production after that.  The proposal to cut the 183 that have been purchased comes from the same presupposition as the proposals to cut the nuclear weapons program deeply, pursue the littoral combat ships and halt missile defense.  This presupposition is that the only thing we will ever face in the 21st century will be asymmetric threats, guerrilla warfare and insurgencies.

The Captain’s Journal believes in fighting and winning the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s foolish and shortsighted to assume that the future will necessarily look like the present.  Finally, short cutting planning, training and equipping for a conventional struggle and proper deterrence might just ensure that that’s the threat that is faced in the future by creating the very weakness that larger near-peer nation states seek.

Robert M. Gates on a Balanced Strategy for the Pentagon

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Littoral Combat and Other Navy Adventures

The 26th MEU Stuck at Bahrain

The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio and Military Equipment

Military Transport by Rocketship

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, you heard right. The title is correct.

In the future, U.S. troops could be on the ground in hotspots anywhere on the globe in only two hours. This may sound like science fiction, but it is exactly what a group of civilians and military officials met to talk about at a two-day conference.

The meeting’s purpose was to plan the development of the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) program. USA Today reports that the invitation to the conference called the idea a “potential revolutionary step in getting combat power to any point in the world in a timeframe unachievable today.”

The biggest challenge for the SUSTAIN program is certainly the technology. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Brown, a spokesman for the space office said that the next step in the plan is addressing technological challenges and seeking military input.

The goal of the program is to be able to insert a team of 13 soldiers anywhere on the globe in two hours. John Pike, a military analyst told USA Today, “This isn’t even science fiction. It’s fantasy.” Pike says that the concept defies physics and the reality of what a small number of lightly armed troops could accomplish.

Burt Rutan, the rocket pioneer who won the X Prize in 2004 for building a private spacecraft capable of flying into space says that the plan is technologically possible. Rutan wrote in an email to USA Today, “This has never been done. However, it is feasible. It would be a relatively expensive way to get the troops on the ground, but it could be done.”

Some things leaves one speechless. Well, not quite. Absurd. “Relatively expensive?” Try ridiculously expensive for no purpose (13 Soldiers can accomplish nothing useful). John Pike, who is smart and whom The Captain’s Journal likes, is correct. This is nothing but fantasy, but the sad part is that dollars are being wasted on even contemplating such a thing.

The litany of potential problems are too long to be enumerated (e.g., If ingress by rocketship, by what means egress? What kind of emergency could possibly warrant the deployment of troops within two hours, but only 13 troops in number? Who is going to maintain this rocketship launch capable 24 hours per day, 365 days per year? Etc.) Want “ready reserve?” That’s what Marine Expeditionary Units are for. Rather than wasting dollars on rocketships, spend them on increasing the size and deployment of Marines in ready reserve.

The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio, and Military Equipment

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 3 months ago

The Captain’s Journal will take great interest in the 26th MEU for the remainder of its current deployment. The 26th MEU consists of the USS Iwo Jima and USS San Antonio, are they are joined by amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall, the guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf, the guided missile destroyer USS Ramage, the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford.

The USS Iwo Jima, which carries the 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment (2nd Marine Division), left the Norfolk Naval Station on Tuesday. On the other hand, the USS San Antonio has had equipment malfunctions that kept her in port.

Hydraulic problems have delayed the maiden deployment the amphibious transport dock San Antonio (LPD-17), which was supposed to leave Aug. 26 with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group.

The ship, which has endured lengthy delays and cost overruns, had to stay back in Norfolk due to a broken stern gate that will take days to repair, said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Herb Josey, spokesman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

The amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima left the pier at 11 a.m. without San Antonio and is headed to North Carolina to onload the rest of the Camp Lejeune-based 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Capt. Brian Smith, Amphibious Squadron 4 commander, said the problem with San Antonio was discovered Aug. 24 and he expects the new amphib – the lead ship of the LPD 17 class – to be repaired and outbound by the end of this week.

“There is nothing that will keep San Antonio from getting underway,” he said. The problem is a mechanical failure in a ram cylinder piston that controls the stern gate, he said, crucial for conducting well-deck operations, an amphib’s very reason for existence.

San Antonio’s fleet debut has been a rocky one. It underwent two scathing inspection reports and had to miss its first shot at deployment in February with the Nassau ESG.

Smith defended both San Antonio and the San Diego-based amphib New Orleans, the second ship in the class, which was deemed “degraded in her ability to sustain combat operations” by a recent Navy inspection.

“Any new ship is going to be scrutinized and discrepancies will be generated,” he said.

But intense scrutiny isn’t really the problem. The problems run far deeper, into management of the design and construction process.

… the San Antonio had a troubled fleet debut. After arriving late and over-budget in 2005, an initial inspection report revealed major problems.

Board of Inspection and Survey officers found the ship “incomplete” and unsafe for crew members to board in a July 5, 2005, report. Inspectors found “poor construction and craftsmanship … throughout the ship.”

Wiring was also problematic.

“Poor initial cable-pulling practice led to what is now a snarled, over-packed, poorly-assembled and virtually uncorrectable electrical/electronic cable plant,” the report states.

The San Antonio made headlines again in April 2007, after the ship was deemed “unsuccessful” because of several equipment failures and “unreliable” steering during March sea trials. However, the report commends the crew for presenting the ship “professionally.”

Still, the catalog of problems prompted Navy Secretary Donald Winter to write a June 22, 2007, letter to shipbuilder Northrop Grumman complaining that two years after commissioning, the fleet “still does not have a mission-capable ship.”

Over its early life, San Antonio’s price also rose from a 1996 estimate of $876 million to $1.85 billion, once all of its discrepancies were corrected.

Unless the cable raceways and trays are done per specification, the wiring and cabling are all marked and labeled, the terminal cabinets are all labeled, the terminations are all numbered, the sliding links are all clearly marked, the relays are all labeled, and electrical engineering, logic diagrams and wiring tabulations are all certified and quality assured, the contractor has left the Navy with an unmaintainable situation.

We’ve discussed this before in Can the Navy Afford the New Destroyers, where we cataloged the demise the ship building industry in the U.S., concluding that:

Anything as complex as the engineering behind shipbuilding cannot be long sustained if a country is not actively engaged in the process. Certainly, contractors who bid the jobs believed that procedures for doing dye penetrant and radiography on welds were the same as before, and protocols for QA had not changed since the last time ships were constructed. Engineers are, after all, plug-and-play, white jumpsuit experts at everything under the sun, and also certainly the technology can be rapidly learned and applied by new, young engineers straight out of school, or who had been the understudy of engineers who had done this work before.

Only, none of this is exactly true … To be sure, accountability is the order of the day, and strict management of costs will be necessary for the Navy to be allowed to move forward with its Destroyer program. But shipbuilding is a lost science in the U.S., and recapturing it as an institution will be difficult and fraught with hidden problems for the DoD to deal with. This is not so much an issue with the Navy, or what they call the ‘Destroyers’, or how much they control the contractors, as it is with the fact that the U.S. has lost the ability to do large scale steel projects and shipbuilding.

The USS San Antonio is not a destroyer, but the basic principle remains the same. Day laborers are no substitute for professionals, hope is not a substitute for a QA program, poor design and construction practices lead to problems with maintenance, and rework always increases the cost and decreases the quality.

While at least somewhat unrelated, this brings up the issue of the refueling tanker. We have previously weighed in on this issue, but a good technical discussion is contained in a Human Events article by General John Handy, USAF (Ret.). A brief quote gives his perspective on the tanker controversy.

Somewhere in the acquisition process, it is obvious to me that someone lost sight of the requirement. Based on what the GAO decided, it’s up to people such as myself to remind everyone of the warfighter requirement for a modern air refueling tanker aircraft.

Recall that we started this acquisition process in order to replace the Eisenhower era KC-135 aircraft with a modern version capable of accomplishing everything the current fleet does plus additional needs for the future. Thus the required aircraft is of small to medium size much like the KC-135. Not a very large aircraft like the current KC-10, which may be replaced later with a comparably large aircraft.

Why a smaller to medium size aircraft? Because, first of all, you want tankers to deploy in sufficient numbers in order to accomplish all assigned tasks. You need to bed them down on the maximum number of airfields around the world along with or close to the customer — airborne fighters, bombers and other mobility assets in need of fuel close to or right over the fight or crisis. This allows the supported combatant commander the ability to conduct effective operations around the clock. The impact of more tankers is more refueling booms in the sky, more refueling orbits covered, wider geographic coverage, more aircraft refueled, and more fuel provided. A “KC-135 like” aircraft takes up far less ramp space, is far more maneuverable on the ground and does not have the risk of jet blast reorganizing your entire ramp when engine power is applied.

Just so. And TCJ wondered why, if from the beginning the specifications targeted a medium refueling tanker, extra credit would be awarded to larger air frames. It makes absolutely no sense. But regardless of this technical point, there is a more salient point that TCJ made several months ago concerning who holds a major share of EADS.

Even more worrisome is the power grab by Vladimir Putin, who is buying up the depressed shares of EADS like a corporate raider. The prospect of the authoritarian Russian leader, whose political opponents are harassed and jailed while prying journalists turn up missing or murdered, having a heavy hand in EADS affairs is deeply troubling. Russia opposed the invasion of Iraq and has sought to undermine U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The most troubling aspect of the tanker contract is the danger it poses to U.S. national security. According to a report by the Center for Security Policy, EADS has been a leading proliferator of weapons and technology to some of the most hostile regimes in the world, including Iran and Venezuela. When the U.S. formally objected to EADS selling cargo and patrol planes to Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez, EADS tried to circumvent U.S. law by stripping American-built components from the aircraft. Chavez is now building an oil refinery in Cuba to keep Castro’s failed Communist state afloat, funding terrorists seeking the violent overthrow of Colombia’s government, and recently meddled in the presidential election in Argentina with secretly smuggled cash contributions. If EADS had its way, Chavez would now be advancing his anti-American designs in the Western hemisphere with U.S. technology and components.

EADS entanglements with Venezuela make the Pentagon’s decision to waive the Berry Amendment, which prohibits the export of technology that might be developed during the building of the tanker to third parties, indefensible. Given the sophisticated radar and anti-missile capabilities of military tankers, this is no small matter. Such technology falling into the hands of state sponsor of terrorism would devastate our war fighters.

EADS entanglements with Venezuela make the Pentagon’s decision to waive the Berry Amendment, which prohibits the export of technology that might be developed during the building of the tanker to third parties, indefensible. Given the sophisticated radar and anti-missile capabilities of military tankers, this is no small matter. Such technology falling into the hands of state sponsor of terrorism would devastate our war fighters.

And such a scenario is hardly unreasonable. EADS executives recently attended an air show in Iran and were caught red-handed trying to sell helicopters with military applications. When confronted, an EADS executive said the company was not bound by the U.S. arms embargo against Iran. EADS also sold nuclear components vital to exploding a nuclear device to an Asian company that in turn sold them to an Iranian front operation.

As TCJ coverage of the unwarranted Russian aggression against Georgia has made clear, we consider Vladimir Putin to be a gangster and international criminal. Any involvement with Putin - any involvement, including the Airbus - should be rejected without further consideration.

Technology is hard to regain once it has been lost. This is true of ship building, engineering QA, and air frame design. It is not only good for the U.S. economy and technological capabilities to have this done in the States, but it enables holding contractors accountable, something that we can never do with gangsters and criminals. It is yet to be seen how this will play out. But only the U.S. could be so stupid as to award a contract for our military refueling tankers to Vladimir Putin.

Sleeping Launch Crews and Outdated Launch Codes

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

From MSNBC.

Three ballistic missile crew members in North Dakota fell asleep while holding classified launch code devices this month, triggering an investigation by military and National Security Agency experts, the Air Force said Thursday.

The probe found that the missile launch codes were outdated and remained secure at all times. But the July 12 incident comes on the heels of a series of missteps by the Air Force that had already put the service under intense scrutiny …

Ford and other Air Force officials said the Minot-based crew had code devices that were no longer usable, since new codes had been installed in the missiles.

The three crew members, who are in the 91st Missile Wing, were in the missile alert facility about 70 miles from Minot. That facility includes crew rest areas and sits above the underground control center where the keys can be turned to launch ballistic missiles.

Officials said the three officers were behind locked doors and had with them the old code components, which are large classified devices that allow the crew to communicate with the missiles. Launch codes are part of the component, and the devices were described as large, metal boxes.

Ford said they were waiting to get back to base “and they fell asleep.”

It is not clear how long they were asleep.

There are periodic, regularly scheduled code changes, and there was a crew of four on duty. One of the crew members was not in the room with the other three at the time they fell asleep, the Air Force said.

The investigation concluded that the codes had remained secured in their containers, which have combination locks that can be opened only by the crew. The containers remained with the crew at all times, and the facility is guarded by armed security forces.

The Captain’s Journal knows a Marine who stayed awake for three days and nights in Fallujah in the summer of 2007.  Message to the Air Force: suck it up.  As for the outdated codes, many more words.

How does this happen?  Of course the codes are revised periodically.  Where is the independent verification?  Where are the signoffs and QA signatures?  Where is the oversight?  Where is the proper training?  What happened to the procedural guidance?  What programmatic controls failed, and why?

The Air Force needs a good review of this incident, including but not limited to a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) and a Management Oversight and Risk Tree analysis (MORT).  This cannot happen again.


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