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01 Jan 20. The US military ran the largest stress test of its sealift fleet in years. It’s in big trouble. The U.S. military in September ordered the largest stress test of its wartime sealift fleet in the command’s history, with 33 out of 61 government-owned ships being activated simultaneously. The results were bad, according to a new report.
In an unclassified U.S. Transportation Command report posted to its website, the so-called turbo activation revealed that less than half of the sealift fleet would be fully prepared to get underway for a major sealift operation in a crisis.
“The relatively low … Qualitative Mission Success Rate indicates the Organic Surge Fleet is challenged to be immediately available for a large-scale inter-theater force deployment without delays/impacts to force closure due to degraded readiness,” the report read.
The Dec. 16 report confirms what senior military and transportation officials have been saying for years now: that the sealift fleet is in urgent need of recapitalization if it is to be relied upon to support a large-scale operation overseas. In a crisis, nearly 90 percent of all Army and Marine Corps equipment would be carried by ship. The Navy is on the hook to pay for recapitalization, but it has so far failed to land on a strategy to do so.
Overall, 40.7 percent of the 61 ships operated by Military Sealift Command and the Maritime Administration were fully ready to support a major sealift operation. Sal Mercogliano, a merchant marine and current professor at Campbell University who closely follows these issues, said the major equipment casualties are the driving factor that is dragging down readiness.
“You had 22 out of the 61 ships in either C-5 or C-4 condition,” Mercogliano said. “C-5 means that you can’t even leave the dock; C-4 means you can leave the dock but you are not in any condition to sail any real distance. In my ballpark, that’s non-mission capable. So right off the bat you lose 22 of the 61 ships. Then of the 33 that they activated, nine of them had issues. Three of them were C-4 level.
“So when you add together the ones that had issues with the ones that couldn’t be activated, they’re saying you can only really count on about 40 percent of the fleet to active when they are aiming for 85 percent.”
Ultimately, the degraded status of the sealift fleet means that combatant commanders won’t be able to count on its capacity for logistics support, Mercogliano said.
“If you are Indo-Pacific Command, or you are Central Command, and you are counting on a certain amount of square footage available to you, that’s going to have huge ramifications,” he added.
In recent testimony, INDOPACOM Commander Adm. Phil Davidson said as much, saying his operational plans depend on logistics support.
“Clearly recapitalization of our sealift system is going to be critically important, as it’s aging out and really has propulsion plants that [are] expiring in capability and our ability to maintain them,” Davidson said. “It’s [a] risk to our troops and all of our people that are forward in the region if there is any delay in our ability to deliver the logistics in accordance with the [operation] plans.”
In a November interview prior to the compilation of the final report, Maritime Administrator retired Rear Adm. Mark Buzby told Defense News that the test validated the data they had on ship readiness and the Maritime Administration’s ability to crew the vessels, which he has long maintained is enough for initial activation but would suffer during a prolonged effort.
“I think given the scale of the test, as we’ve been saying, we are OK for doing initial manning for our ships when they are activated,” Buzby said. “Something that we couldn’t test in this fairly short-term activation was the follow-on aspect.
“We believe we have plenty of manning to man up the ships initially, get them past the sea buoy and get them on the mission. But the problem is going to manifest itself four to six months down the line when some of them want to rotate. Who is going to be standing on the pier ready to take their place? That’s where we have a problem. You just couldn’t show that in this activation.”
One of the primary issues has been, as Davidson intimated, that many of the plants in the Ready Reserve Force are steam-operated plants, which are all but nonexistent in the commercial world, so it is increasingly difficult to find qualified engineers. (Source: Defense News)
24 Dec 19. KONGSBERG signs two agreements with NDLO. KONGSBERG and Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation (NDLO) signs two agreements which strengthens the cooperation between the two parties, respectively on air and sea.
The first agreement is a framework agreement for follow on technical support of systems that KONGSBERG has delivered to the Norwegian Armed Forces. The signing parties are Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and NDLO.
KONGSBERG will support the Norwegian Armed Forces with maintenance and engineering services on equipment on board the Navy’s vessels. This includes the breadth of the company’s portfolio, from missile systems and weapon stations to command / control and navigation systems. The agreement continues and expands KONGSBERG’s previously signed framework agreement with the Norwegian Armed Forces, and the annual minimum scope is NOK 71m for the first years.
The second agreement was signed between Kongsberg Aviation Maintenance Services and NDLO and is related to maintenance and support of the Norwegian NH-90 helicopter fleet. The agreement will initially apply for the years 2020-2026, and there will be annual calls from the agreement. The estimated value is about NOK 400m distributed over the first four years, subject to it being renegotiated after two years.
Maintenance will mainly be carried out at the Bardufoss main base. This means that existing expertise on helicopter maintenance will be utilized, both from KONGSBERG and Finnish Patria. The latter already supports the Norwegian Armed Forces in the maintenance of NH-90 helicopters in Bardufoss today. In addition, KONGSBERG recognise the need to further strengthen the business with new hires.
It is a clear ambition to gradually increase the operational availability of the NH-90 helicopters in the years to come.
“The contracts with KONGSBERG provide us with increased maintenance and engineering capacity and this contributes to enhanced readiness. The ambition is to increase technical availability on sea and air systems and we are confident that these long-term contacts will contribute in this regard. At the same time, the Norwegian defence industry becomes stronger, which is also important for the Norwegian Armed Forces, says Petter Jansen, Chief Executive at the Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation.
“Both agreements are the result of a long-term commitment to maintenance and preparedness by both the Norwegian Armed Forces and KONGSBERG, and they lay grounds for further development of expertise in the area,” says Eirik Lie, CEO of Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace.
“For us, the support agreement for sea systems is an important building block for a long-term commitment for us to develop, in collaboration with the Norwegian Armed Forces. Going forward, this will also contribute to strengthening our activity at Haakonsvern, where we see a significant potential for growth in maintenance, repair and overhaul of such systems.
Lie is also very positive to the possibility of increased activity in Bardufoss related to the maintenance agreement for the NH-90 helicopter.
“KONGSBERG will, through this agreement, and together with Patria, strengthen our presence in Indre Troms. The agreement continues the intention of strategic cooperation and will, over time, contribute to increased operational availability for the Armed Forces,” says Lie. (Source: ASD Network)
27 Dec 19. Vietnam lays down landing ship for navy. Da Nang-based shipbuilder, Song Thu Corporation, has laid down the keel for a 57m roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) landing ship tank (LST) on order for the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) Navy. The vessel, which is being built to a proprietary Damen design, was laid down on 27 December. The vessel was ordered to improve the mobility of Vietnam’s armoured units, an industry source told Jane’s on the same day.
Jane’s also understands that this is the first such ship acquired for the PAVN. Once complete, it will have an overall length of 57.27m, an overall beam of 12m, and a maximum draft of 2.75m. (Source: Jane’s)
28 Dec 19. Riyadh signs deal with Raytheon Saudi Arabia to localize Patriot maintenance. Saudi Arabia signed a deal with the local unit of U.S. weapons maker Raytheon (RTN.N) on Saturday to localise maintenance of its Patriot missile defense system, as part of efforts to boost Saudi’s defense industries and its broader economy.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman plans to diversify the kingdom away from its reliance on oil exports and wants Riyadh to produce or assemble half its defense equipment locally, aiming to create 40,000 jobs for Saudis by 2030.
Saudi Arabia is among the top five defense spenders in the world. It is one of several U.S. allies to use Patriot, a ground to air missile system giving defence against ballistic missiles and other threats.
Ahmed al-Ohali, governor of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI), said the agreement with Raytheon reflected the authority’s efforts to develop Saudi’s military industries and its research and technology capabilities, state news agency SPA reported.
He did not say how many jobs would be involved, the value of the agreement, or the location of any work being moved or localised.
Riyadh-based Raytheon Saudi Arabia supports the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic programme by creating skilled jobs for Saudis in defense, aerospace and cybersecurity through partnerships with Saudi private sector companies and local universities, according to the company’s website. (Source: Reuters)
27 Dec 19. Does the Army have its European weapons stocks right? Defender Europe 2020 will tell. The Army’s division-scaled European exercise coming up in 2020 will tell the service whether it has its European ready-to-go weapons stocks right when it comes to inventory, quantity and positioning throughout the continent.
Defender Europe is set to be the third-largest military exercise on the continent since the Cold War and will test the Army’s ability to deliver a force from the United States to operational areas throughout Europe from Germany to Poland to the Baltic states and other Eastern European nations as well as Nordic countries and even Georgia.
“We will closely assess two aspects of [Army Prepositioned Stock] during Defender: The efficiency of our issue and turn-in processes and whether troops have the right equipment with the right combat enablers for their mission and theater,” Gen. Gus Perna, Army Materiel Command commander, told Defense News in written responses to questions.
The Army has spent the last several years trying to correctly predict and establish the right size and balance of capabilities and position when it comes to APS in Europe.
The exercise will “validate our ability to draw, employ and turn in full unit, configured-for-combat [APS],” Perna said. “For the past three years, we have been focused on adding combat enablers such as communications, surveillance and weapons systems on our APS sets to ensure they are ready for the fight as soon as troops draw them.”
Part of the exercise will test the Army’s ability to mobilize and move troops rapidly into position in Europe, simulating a response to a crisis where time is of the essence.
“We do not want troops spending time working on their equipment before they can move to the fight; we need to provide them the capability to arrive, do a status check to ensure everything works and move to the frontlines within 72 hours,” Perna added.
“We have worked hard on improving APS configuration,” Perna said. “This exercise will show us what work remains.”
Not only will Defender Europe test APS, but it will challenge the entire logistics and supply chain.
“Overall, the exercise is all about seeing ourselves and understanding where we have gaps,” Perna said. “We have made great progress in supply availability, but we expect this exercise to stretch the supply chain and provide an indication of where we must focus efforts.”
During Defender, the AMC enterprise will exercise how it moves soldiers and equipment from “installations to the foxhole,” Perna said.
With that, the service has developed a facilities infrastructure investment plan across all of its installations. Perna said it’s expected the exercise will stress the Army’s power projection infrastructure and reveal structures and facilities that may need to be prioritized or moved down on the list.
At installations, AMC is assessing if the Army’s training ranges, motor pools, supply support activities and other infrastructure and processes can keep up and are modernized to take on a challenge like Defender, according to Perna.
AMC is also analyzing the state of its infrastructure and processes at its Logistics Readiness Centers, railheads, airfields and ports — which will be critical to the Army’s strategic readiness that will be put to the test during the exercise, Perna said.
Meanwhile, AMC is also figuring out how to tackle Defender Pacific, a similar exercise in the Indo-Pacific theater that will take place later in the year at a small scale.
“Defender Pacific will have added challenges due to the sheer difference in timing and distances, as well as terrain,” Perna said. “We will have to move troops and equipment much farther than in the European theater, which means it will take more time to get there.”
That means, for logisticians and maintainers, predicting requirements much further out, he added.
Additionally, communications will be a challenge with a 14-hour time difference. “The exercise will put to the test our 24-hour operations center and support systems,” he said.
The Pacific also requires different weapon systems and combat enablers in its APS.
And unique to the Pacific will be a chance to test the Army’s sealift capabilities more than rail and roads like in Europe. (Source: Defense News)
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