Archive for the 'Air Force' Category



Military Transport by Rocketship

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 1 month 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
8 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
8 years, 4 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.

Mocking the Troops at The Onion

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 6 months ago

The sentiment where one opposes the war but supports the troops has evolved into mocking the troops regardless of any war.  The Onion (famous for satirical or fake news) released a report entitled Love Letters from U.S. Troops Increasingly Gruesome.  The Captain’s Journal hates to bring any more attention to this sophomoric tripe (it really is very poorly done and inept), but its real value might very well be the instruction it gives us about the author in contrast with its subject.

According to a Pentagon report leaked to the press Monday, love letters written by U.S. troops have nearly tripled in their use of disturbing language, graphic imagery, and horrific themes since the start of the war.

The report, which studied 600 romantic notes sent over a period of two years, found a significant increase in terrifying descriptions of violence and gore, while references to beautiful flowers, singing bluebirds, and the infinite, undulating sea were seen to decrease by 93 percent.

“Not only are U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq less likely to compare their lover’s cheeks to a blushing red rose,” the report read in part, “but most are now three times more likely to equate that same burning desire to the ‘smoldering flesh of a dead Iraqi insurgent,’ and almost 10 times more likely to compare sudden bursts of passion to a ‘crowded marketplace explosion.'”

According to detailed analysis of the letters, the longer a U.S. soldier had been stationed in Iraq the more macabre the overall tone of his correspondence became. Troops who had been fighting for less than a year lapsed into frightening allegory only 15 percent of the time, while those who had been serving between two and three years described their affection for loved ones back home as more vibrant and alive than any of the children in the village of Basra.

Troops stationed in Iraq for four years or longer composed their letters entirely in blood.

“The more often U.S. soldiers are confronted with images of carnage, the more these elements become present in their subconscious and, ultimately, in their writing,” said Dr. Kendra Allen, a behavioral psychologist who reviewed the Pentagon’s findings. “This is precisely why we see so many passages like, ‘Darling, I miss the way your bright green eyes always stayed inside your skull’ and ‘Honey, how I dream of your soft, supple arms—both of them, still attached as ever, to the rest of your body.'”

Allen went on to say that many of the harrowing details found in the love letters were linked to specific events in Iraq. A bloody clash with Islamic extremists in late March resulted in more than 40 handwritten notes from a single battalion, all of which contained some version of the message “My love for you spills out of me like my lower intestine, my gallbladder, and my spleen.”

“Getting love letters from my husband used to be my favorite part of the week. But these days, they’re almost impossible to get through,” said Sheila Miller, whose husband, Michael, has been in Iraq since 2004. “Yes, it’s still flattering to be told that you’re as beautiful as a syringe full of morphine, or that you’re as much a part of his being as the shrapnel near his spine. But I’m really starting to worry about him.”

“My husband has never really been the romantic type, but even this is strange for him,” said Margaret Baker, the wife of Sgt. Daniel Baker. “How am I supposed to react to hearing that my name is the sweetest sound in a world otherwise filled with desperate cries of anguish? I made the mistake of showing [daughter] Gracie the birthday card her father sent her from Tikrit and she hasn’t spoken for a month.”

That’s enough for the reader to get the basic picture.  It’s a sad testimony to a narcissistic generation which has no value system except self worship.  But self worship inevitably leads to the mocking and denigration of others.  This mockery of the troops could very well have been written about World War II veterans and the horror they witnessed, or any other warrior in any other war.  It has nothing to do with the campaign for Iraq or Afghanistan.  It doesn’t even have to do with whether there can be good wars.

The authors are engaged in heartless, remorseless cruelty in the mocking of the pain and sacrifice of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines on their behalf.  To be able to benefit from the pain of others, and then to mock their benefactors, is a sadistic skill that only the darkest of souls is able to master.  The warriors who fight for America, however, stand in marked contrast to this.  The physical pain, the deprivation, the loneliness and time away from family all testify to the commitment and indomitable spirit of the American warrior.

On the one hand, you have the American warrior who is committed to give his very life if necessary for our protection and freedom, while still others will live out the balance of their lives with PTSD, traumatic brain injury or lost limbs.  On the other hand you have those who would mock this commitment and dedication. The contrast couldn’t be more stark.  America has a future only to the extent that the former rather than the later constitutes her soul.

Developments in Refueling Tanker Controversy

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 7 months ago

We have previously briefly discussed the controversy surrounding the awarding of a $40 Billion contract for a new refueling tanker to a partnership between Northrop Grumman and the European parent of Airbus, putting a critical military contract partly into the hands of a foreign company.

After this article a flood of e-mail and commentary came out about the waste that had been avoided due to selection of the low cost bidder.  Some of this commentary was sent our direction, along with some more personal e-mail arguing in the same manner.  Contact your Congressman was the hue and cry!  Don’t let Boeing undo this pristine process through their various evil political machinations.

The Captain’s Journal will not step in between any defense contractor and accountability.  But we have been involved enough with RFQs (request for quotes), bid review, contractor oversight and followup and postmortem to know how this process goes.  A good (but ethically bankrupt) contractor knows how to work over the system to his own benefit in the low bid process.  The process itself can be the worst, most deceiptful ruse in business.

Businesses are always loath not to accept the low cost bid.  Contractors know this.  Later, holes in the process begin to develop.  The specifications aren’t restrictive enough for some clever engineer – or technology transfer isn’t as complete as the customer thought it would be – or there are cost overruns – or there are schedule delays – or the people are the worst sort of rogues, behaving with the worst possible manners – or the Army of lawyers inevitably deployed for corporate force protection makes it almost impossible to hold a contractor accountable – or you have to keep going back to the contractor for re-work or followup engineering or fabrication, at your own cost.

Better companies know how to avoid these contractors, but because of the awful, grotesque and hideous Sarbanes-Oxley, have to spend the time to craft a sole source justification.  The process is quite often burdensome, and for anyone has been through it several times, childlike faith in the process evaporates in favor of bleak realism.  Belief in the bidding system as the protector of free market capitalism shows a gullibility that is exceeded only by the density of our minds.

Now comes an even better reason to question the awarding of this contract to Airbus.

The lack of ease that accompanies the decision is hardly surprising; the catalogue of horrors at EADS reads like a “how not to” primer in a business-school ethics class. The company has a long and sordid history of bribing governments to purchase their airplanes, especially when competing with U.S. aerospace firms. Former CIA Director James Woolsey has called the practice rampant, and concluded that it was an integral part of EADS’ corporate culture. A European Parliament report in 2003 confirmed these corrupt practices, and that EADS has been embroiled in bribery scandals in Canada, Belgium, and Syria.

According to a New York Times report just last October, a French financial regulator turned over evidence of insider trading by senior EADS executives to prosecutors. The executives failed to inform the public about production delays in the A-380 jumbo jet while they quietly dumped their own stock. When the delays became public, unwitting shareholders watched their holdings plummet in value. The co-CEO and co-chairman of EADS resigned under pressure, and now some EADS executives may face indictments.

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.

That settles it for the Captain’s Journal.  Vladimir Putin is a liar, criminal and ex-KGB thug, and a duplicitous killer with a Napoleon complex.  Any currency flowing his direction as a result of this deal would be a catastrophe, notwithstanding the potentially horrible security concerns.  To be sure, the DoD may have to have a face-to-face with Boeing or some other contractor to reduce costs, or make the process more accountable.  But that doesn’t change our fundamental position.  Vladimir Putin can’t be held accountable in a U.S. court.  Boeing can.

We are open to serious argumentation in favor of awarding this contract to Airbus, but we haven’t seen any yet.  Informing us that they were the low cost bidder gives the Captain’s Journal a good belly laugh.  Someone has got to come up with a better argument than that.  After all – we didn’t come into town and fall off the turnip truck yesterday.  We’ve been around for a while.

Fighter Montage

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 7 months ago

A-10 Supports Campaign in Yugoslavia

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 8 months ago

An A-10 Thunderbolt II takes off on a mission against targets in Yugoslavia. The A-10 and OA-10 Thunderbolt IIs are the first Air Force aircraft specially designed for close air support of ground forces.  High resolution photo from DVIDS.

a_10_in_yugoslavia.jpg

Our readers know what a fan we are of the A-10 and upgraded A-10C.  Her gun is marvelous and causes me to dream about a ride in one of these beautiful aircraft.  To bad she is a one-seater.  Our readers also know what an opponent we are of commitments around the globe when we are waging a war on terror.  This A-10 is doubtless doing great work, but it could also be put to better use in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Can the Tanker Refuel the V-22?

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 8 months ago

Today a defense and security policy analyst and consultant firm in the Washington, D.C. area searched on the following words: “new tanker cannot refuel V-22.”  He found our article taking some issue with Abu Muqawama on the award of the refueling tanker contract to Northrop Grumman rather than Boeing.  He learned nothing from our article, but we learned from his search.  Hmmm … said we, and we cracked our knuckles and did a little work to see just what treasures we could dig up.

As it turns out, the Boeing press release protesting the award of the contract contains some pregnant statements, one of which is:

“It is clear that the original mission for these tankers — that is, a medium-sized tanker where cargo and passenger transport was a secondary consideration — became lost in the process, and the Air Force ended up with an oversized tanker,” McGraw said. “As the requirements were changed to accommodate the bigger, less capable Airbus plane, evaluators arbitrarily discounted the significant strengths of the KC-767, compromising on operational capabilities, including the ability to refuel a more versatile array of aircraft such as the V-22 and even the survivability of the tanker during the most dangerous missions it will encounter.”

Defense Industry Daily has asked Boeing a number of questions on this press release, including:

… which aircraft were left out, and what factors would allow the KC-767 to refuel them where the A330 MRTT could not. We have also requested elaboration on what would make the KC-767 more survivable, given that both aircraft would be equipped with the same defensive systems.

The V-22 Osprey has proven its worth in Iraq.

The Osprey seems to have become a favorite of commanders who need to get to places quickly, including Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq. Petraeus used one to fly around the country on Christmas Day to visit troops.

“Gen. Petraeus flew in the jump seat and was very impressed by the aircraft’s capabilities,” according to Col. Steve Boylan, a spokesman for the general.

“The rate of climb is exceptional, and it can fly about twice as fast as a Black Hawk [helicopter], without needing to refuel as frequently,” Boylan said. “Beyond that, its automatic-hover capability for use in landing in very dusty conditions, even at night, is tremendous.”

Petraeus chose the Osprey for that mission because it was the only aircraft in the inventory that could fly around the country without refueling and not rely on runways, Boylan said.

We don’t know anything else about the new tanker, since no one has contracted The Captain’s Journal to oversee the procurement process for the new Air Force refueling tanker.  But we have always been fans of the Osprey.  As a Marine blog, if the new tanker cannot refuel the V-22, then we say “screw it.”

v22_at_night.jpg

Me v. Abu

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 9 months ago

In a post entitled Well, well, well …, Abu Muqawama says:

The Air Force, in a stunning upset against the Boeing Company, awarded a $40 billion contract for aerial refueling tankers on Friday to a partnership between Northrop Grumman and the European parent of Airbus, putting a critical military contract partly into the hands of a foreign company.

Abu Muqawama knows next to nothing about the way the U.S. Air Force buys airplanes, but he knows enough from reading the Economist that this is huge. The KC-30, virtually everyone agreed, was the better aircraft. But did anyone honestly see Boeing not getting this contract? This gives us at Abu Muqawama hope in the ongoing war against ridiculous F-22 appropriations. If a large domestic lobby can be rejected in favor of common sense in one case…

The Captain’s Journal responds, “well, whatever.”  We aren’t impressed with Abu’s glee and giddiness over the demise of U.S. defense contractors, weapons systems, and new aircraft.  Sure, there is waste and we have spoken against it when we find it.  Sure, the USAF needs to support the COIN campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan to the extent capable, and then press for more support when they think they have maxed out.  Sure, we have praised the USAF on things such as COIN aircraft and the refurbishment of old aircraft to support the campaigns.  Regular readers know of our love for and even infatuation with the A-10, and the upgraded A-10C with its faster kill chain.  Just do a Google search, and you will find that no one can match our coverage on the A-10 or the V-22 Osprey (of which we are also big fans).

You will also find we are have been “good to go” on pushing for the growth of both the size of the military – all branches – and the spending for weapons systems.  But knowing that these things are contingent on things out of our control (but rather, subject to the evil Congress which is controlled by the devil), we knew that future weapons systems would likely suffer as a result of the COIN campaigns.  Want to know the first weapons system we would vote for here at TCJ?  We would like to see a replacement for the M-16A2 / M4 / SAW to a more reliable system less likely to jam.  Ain’t likely to happen, though, and it is more likely that the brass will decide that what we have is good enough.  They always do.

Additionally, SECDEF Gates knows that the F-22 program will suffer due to the COIN campaigns, and is ready to do what needs to be done.

The effect is often jarring, in Washington, when someone inside the Beltway utters an uncomfortable truth. That’s what Defense Secretary Robert Gates did at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, putting a damper on pressure from his own Air Force for Congress to buy more F-22 fighters. Gates believes the 183 F-22s currently planned are sufficient. “I know that the Air Force is up here and around talking about 350 or something on that order,” the Secretary said. But buying more of the costly F-22 will come at the expense of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is about half the price.

“The reality is we are fighting two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater,” Gates said. That’s the kind of statement that sends generals up the wall – not only because it’s true, but because it’s the Secretary of Defense who’s saying it. And the generals know that the next time some eager-beaver congressional budget-cutters want to trim Pentagon spending, they’re going to roll out that quote.

Gates made clear he believes there is a need for the F-22. “It is principally for use against a near-peer in a conflict, and I think we all know who that is,” he said coyly. He’s referring to China, which today represents the only hope for both the U.S. Air Force and the Navy to justify spending billions of dollars on weapons initially designed to battle the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, the phrase “near-peer” has increasingly crept into Pentagon documents meaning a potential foe that could almost match the U.S. on the battlefield.

Well, do we need more F-22 to battle Beijing? Once again, Gates depressed the generals with his unassuming tone and logic. “Looking at what I regard as the level of risk of conflict with one of those near-peers over the next four or five years until the Joint Strike Fighter comes along,” he said, “I think that something along the lines of 183 is a reasonable buy.”

Deep in the Pentagon, Air Force generals know that the Bush Administration’s decision to close down the F-22 assembly line won’t come into effect until 2010. That gives them time to convince a new Administration that additional F-22s are vital to U.S. security. That’s because what Gates finds reasonable, some Air Force generals will treat as treasonable.

So Gates has lowered the bar as it is.  But those who live for the demise of conventional war and the weapons with which it will be fought shouldn’t crow too much and should be careful what they ask for.  All it will take to regret the decision to emaciate the USAF will be for China to cross the Taiwan strait and enslave millions under communism while the Navy and Air Force sit without recourse.  Or, if that doesn’t jar you into reality, then consider that Russia is aiming past the F-22, and is trying to better the U.S. submarine fleet.  Remember, fancy aircraft and ships are in place not only to wage war, but to be a preventative for war.

The Captain’s Journal wants to win the COIN campaigns as much as anyone does.  In fact, we are willing to sacrifice Navy and Air Force money to do it.  But it causes us no joy, and in the end, there will be a price to pay for this course of action.  Finally, Abu should read the Economist more carefully.  We don’t get something for nothing.  We can delay or even outright cancel the F-22 program, but stress corrosion cracking and metal fatigue have caused rising expenses in repair of the existing fleet.  Taking a dollar from the USAF might mean getting 50 cents.

Everyone has a domain he wants to protect.  The real question is why we have forces deployed in Germany and Korea, costing money in a tip of the hat to 50 year old cold war thinking, when they could be stateside or contributing to the global war on terror?  We must be efficient in finding ways to save money and fund the systems we need, both short term and long term.

Prior: Can the Navy Afford the New Destroyers?

12/25/07 Air Power Summary

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 11 months ago

From the U.S. Air Force:

12/26/2007 – SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) — Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations Dec. 25, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, an Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle performed a show of force with flares to deter enemy activities in Gereshk. The mission was reported as successful by an on-scene joint terminal attack controller.

F-15Es performed multiple shows of force in Kandahar and a show of force in Kajaki Dam. The shows of force, including the use of flares, were performed to deter enemy actions. All of the missions were reported as a success by a JTAC.

Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs conducted shows of force with flares to deter enemy activities in Orgune. The shows of force were reported as successful by a JTAC.

In Khowst and Kajaki Dam, multiple shows of force were performed by F-15Es to deter enemy activities in the area. JTACs reported the missions achieved the desired effects.

In total, 39 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

These shows of force have become routine in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  In the best of all possible worlds, they can prevent the need for force by intimidating the enemy.  If this fails, they are available to effect force.  The two taken together are “force projection.”


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