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14 Sep 18. Pentagon prepared to offer industry better cash flow – if they deserve it. Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s head of acquisition and sustainment, thinks she has found a way to incentivize defense contractors to work more quickly and efficiently. And as a wise man once said, it’s all about the benjamins. In an interview after her keynote at the second annual Defense News Conference, Lord said that as part of a broader package of initiatives, she is looking at ways to offer better cash flow for defense firms if they are working smartly on their projects.
“I believe the lifeblood of most industry is cash flow, so what we will do is regulate the percentage of payments or the amount of profit that can be achieved through what type of performance they demonstrate by the numbers,” Lord said.
Hence, “we’re going to begin to reward companies through profit or through progress or performance payments, as a function of how they manage all of that, as well as quality and delivery and a variety of other things.” In essence, good actors in industry who are efficient, in both cost and time, will be rewarded; companies who may not be as efficient won’t be likewise rewarded. It’s an idea that wouldn’t work without the wide variety of data — both current and historical — now available to provide the Pentagon with a baseline of what should be acceptable and what is not. Lord early in her tenure zeroed in on the need to exploit that data. The data allows the Pentagon to measure how industry manages “their factories, how they manage their overhead structures, how they are using all of that to manage costs to the actual systems that we are purchasing,” Lord said.
“Do they get proposals in in time, are they good quality, are they meeting their small business targets — a whole variety of things that distill down into data that allows us to measure performance.”
Whether this will work remains to be seen. Traditionally, defense firms have a better cash flow than their nondefense counterparts in the industrial space, and several experts who spokes to Defense News on background wondered if the enticement of cash flow would be enough to convince companies to share data and change their production plans.
Lord said to expect this policy to go into effect sometime before the end of the year. (Source: Defense News)
14 Sep 18. F-35 inventory soars in new Pentagon spending bill. Beyond the 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters authorized by the 2019 defense policy bill, congressional appropriators are adding another 16 for a total of 93. Congressional conferees on Thursday finalized a $674.4bn defense spending bill for next year packaged with funding for the departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, or Labor-HHS — and a continuing resolution through Dec. 7 for some other parts of the government. As usual, appropriators used their annual defense spending bill to offer tweaks to the existing shopping list for military hardware from the previous version, which President Donald Trump signed into law last month. The new compromise spending bill, which trumps the authorization bill, buys three littoral combat ships instead of two and 13 Bell-Boeing V-22 Ospreys instead of seven — among other differences. The Navy and Marine Corps continue to invest in vertical takeoff aircraft and announced a $4.2bn contract for dozens of new V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft just weeks ago. But the Navy has been trying to cap its purchases of the LCS amid the program’s troubles. In June, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told appropriators three ships were two too many.
“These two additional ships are not needed,” Mulvaney said in a memo. “One LCS in FY 2019, when combined with the three funded in FY 2018, will keep both shipyards supplied with enough work to remain viable for the Frigate competition.”
One LCS manufacturer is Austal, in Mobile, Alabama, which happens to be the home state of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby. For that matter, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger’s Fort Worth, Texas, district includes the massive Lockheed Martin assembly plant for the F-35. The House and Senate are expected to pass the measure before the start of the fiscal year, Oct. 1, to avoid the optics of a government shutdown ahead of midterm elections in November.
“We expect to have a good, strong support in this, looking at job base as well as military strength. And I’m proud of the bill, and I think those who voted for it will be proud of it too,” Granger said Thursday.
Appropriators otherwise took a special interest in weapons and munitions RDT&E, adding $482m to the Trump administration request for $40 m in related categories. Lawmakers added another $508 m for hypersonic prototyping that the administration did not include in its budget submission.
Again, this looks like good news for Lockheed. The U.S. Air Force picked the defense giant last month to design a second hypersonic weapon prototype, setting it up as a hypersonic powerhouse. On the flip side, the bill includes language echoing the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act’s pause on sales of F-35s to NATO ally Turkey, pending a new assessment of U.S.–Turkey relations. The move bucks Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who has warned this would cause an international supply chain disruption, as the aircraft is co-produced with Ankara.
The bill includes $606.5bn in base discretionary funding, an increase of $17bn above the FY18-enacted level, and it parks $67.9 bn in off-budget Overseas Contingency Operations account. Overall, it hews to the two-year spending deal that eases statutory budget caps to allot $716bn to national defense in 2019. Military personnel and pay totals $143.2bn (which includes a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops); operations and maintenance totals $243.2bn (about $3bn less than the NDAA); research, development test and evaluation totals $94.9bn; and procurement totals $148bn. (Source: Defense News)
14 Sep 18. Did the USAF just expose a top-secret jet? ‘Supersonic TR-3B’ spotted on aircraft carrier. A secret government project has been exposed by a US pilot revealing a supersonic black project, according to wild claims online. Video footage captured from the cockpit of a USAF fighter jet shows the moment another plane lands on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean sea. But as the plane slows on the runway, it passes a number of the military vehicles. One of which does not look any plane we have ever seen the Air Force used before. The footage was uploaded to YouTube where it has now racked up nearly 500,000 hits. And users think a secret programme may have been exposed.
“I think it’s a TR-3B, the latest of black projects vehicles,” one claimed.
“This is the next generation of secret technology developed by the secret programmes.”
Another simply added: “That is a TR-3B.”
And a third suggested: “Nothing new. They’ve been doing this for some time now. This is why no one respects the military anymore.”
The TR-3 Black Manta is the name of a surveillance plane of the United States Air Force, speculated to have been developed under a black project. It is said to be a supersonic stealth spy plane with a triangular design. Believers in the programme say it was used during the Gulf War to provide laser designation for Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk bombers. Just last week, video footage emerged that apparently showed the vehicle back in action again. And before that, one Australian family were left stunned after apparently spotting one from their driveway. (Source: News Now/www.dailystar.co.uk)
13 Sep 18. F-35 Jets for Turkey Held Back in Compromise Pentagon Bill. Congress is taking the unusual step of trying to block the transfer of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Turkey, even though the country is a NATO ally and a partner in building the jet. Congress’ most recent move comes as part of the 2019 Pentagon spending bill that both chambers are expected to consider later this month. Transfers of the F-35 would be held back under a compromise struck on the spending bill for the next fiscal year, according to Rep. Kay Granger. Turkey finds itself in an unfurling diplomatic conflict with the U.S. over the imprisonment of an American pastor and the country’s willingness to strike a deal with Russia for air defense systems. U.S. lawmakers’ decision to temporarily block the transfers to Turkey coincides with Ankara’s recent decision to buy a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system. Russia is expected to deliver the air-defense system to Turkey by the middle of next year, even as the Trump administration is still trying to persuade the NATO ally to buy Raytheon Co.’s Patriot system. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Bloomberg Government)
13 Sep 18. Pentagon set to win first on-time budget since 2008. The U.S. Congress is poised to pass the defense budget on time for the first time in a decade. A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers formally announced a deal Thursday for a $674bn defense appropriations bill, packaged with funding for the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and other government agencies, or Labor-HHS. A joint conference committee finished reconciling the two chambers’ bills, teeing up a compromise report to pass before the start of the fiscal year, Oct. 1. If successful, it would avert a partial government shutdown.
“The Defense and Labor-HHS bills account for the lion’s share of discretionary spending, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. “Pairing these two bills was the lynchpin of our strategy to pass appropriations bills in the Senate. One, the top priority for Republicans; the other, the top priority for Democrats. Both important to all Americans.”
The bill contains a rescission of $3.8bn in 2018 funds the Pentagon asked for last year but could not be spent. But most details of the bill were not immediately released, such as how it reconciled competing visions for the JSTARS ground surveillance, command and control plane, and a divide on the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The final bill is expected to be made public before the end of the week. The House is scheduled to recess Thursday until Sept. 25, when it will have only four days in session to approve the package. The Senate will have next week and the week after. A good sign for its passage of defense/Labor-HHS “minibus” is that conferees rebuffed controversial policy riders from both sides of the aisle, lawmakers said.
“I am also pleased that this bill is free of controversial poison pill riders,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “We did our job and focused on the task at hand, which is making responsible, thoughtful decisions about how to fund these federal agencies. This is how it should be done.”
The defense/Labor-HHS “minibus” is next in the queue after Congress’s first 2019 “minibus,” which includes money for next year’s Veterans Affairs and military construction funding, along with energy and water programs and the legislative branch. The bill also includes a boost for nuclear weapons funding. For the rest of government, the defense/Labor-HHS conference report includes a continuing resolution through Dec. 7, to allow Congress to complete work on spending bills. Leery after years of unstable budgeting, pro-defense lawmakers have pressured appropriators to work quickly so the military is fully funded before the end of the fiscal year. Congress has already completed its annual defense policy bill, named for the late Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, which President Donald Trump signed last month.
Signing a Pentagon spending bill into law before Oct. 1 is an achievement the U.S. government hasn’t managed since 2008, when President George W. Bush signed the 2009 defense spending bill on Sept. 30. The record through the Clinton and both Bush administrations is spotty. Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, said the package fulfills the requests of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford for stable, timely funding.
“We can all be proud to say the cycle of continuing resolutions stops here and it stops today,” Granger said. “This agreement provides critically needed funding for readiness, equipment and research which allows Secretary Mattis to and the (service) chiefs to continue to rebuild our military and meet the diverse threats to our national security.”
Democrats expressed hope the Pentagon would use the stable funding with prudence and transparency. They pointed to the Defense Department’s first-ever department-wide audit, to be made public in two months.
“This bill contains a lot of money, just shy of $674bn,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and vice chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “Secretary Mattis will have his hands full making sure these funds are spent wisely and not wasted, but I trust him.” (Source: Defense News)
13 Sep 18. USAF to use F-35B Lightning II against Russia’s Su-57 and S-400 systems in Syria? The US military intend to use F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft in Syria. According to experts, this type of aircraft has a potential to intimidate forces of the enemy. It is expected that the F-35B Lightning II will be able to perform any mission in Syria. This is the only deck-based aircraft in the Middle East, and the US military may use them for military operations on the territory of Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. The US Air Force has never used this type of aircraft in combat action before, the USNI News website wrote. “The deployment of the F-35B into U.S. Central Command is a major milestone for the program and validates the aircraft is in the fight right now, conducting real-world operations; it is actively supporting combatant commanders. We look forward to demonstrating the capability of our newest, advanced stealth aircraft during this deployment,” Capt. Christopher Harrison, a spokesman at Headquarters Marine Corps at the Pentagon, told USNI News on September 12.
The F-35B Lightning II aircraft is equipped with Block 3F software, which enables the maximum use of data transmission lines and increases the weapon delivery potential. According to Harrison, the ability of the F-35 to operate in A2/AD zones with restricted or denied access gives the US an advantage in conducting military operations. The official also said that the United States, unlike in Iraq and Afghanistan, does not have air superiority in Syria, where Russia also deploys her powerful aircraft and air defences. Therefore, it will be hard for F-35s to compete with Russian aircraft in case of a military conflict between Russian and US forces in Syria. In addition, the US fighter jet will not be able to overcome Russia’s S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems.
As for the low-visibility technology, the F-35 is inferior to both the F-22 and the Su-57, because the radars of Russian air defence systems operate in a wide frequency range. The manoeuvrability of F-35 aircraft is comparable to that of F-15 and F-16 jets. The armament of the aircraft also raises questions. For example, the air-to-air close combat AIM-9X Sidewinder missile is incapable of overcoming anti-aircraft missile systems. In addition, the aircraft gun that fires 3300 rounds per minute causes the aircraft to swing horizontally. Even if US pilots use the onboard radar of the F-35 to detect and avoid air defence weapons, they will come across serious problems, because all of Russian military facilities are protected with a radar field. One should bear in mind the fact that Russia is significantly superior to the United States in the field of radio electronic struggle. (Source: News Now/http://www.pravdareport.com)
12 Sep 18. F-35 operational testing delayed until latest software delivers. The F-35 fighter jet was slated to fly into operational testing this month, but that entry date will be pushed back a couple months as the Pentagon’s independent weapons tester waits for the latest software to be delivered.
Robert Behler, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, has delayed the start of the F-35’s initial operational test and evaluation, or IOT&E, until his office gets the newest software release — a version of the jet’s 3F software known as 30R02 — according to an Aug. 24 memorandum obtained by the Project on Government Oversight.
Earlier this year, the DOT&E office began some testing of the F-35 prior to the official start of IOT&E using the stealth fighter’s 30R00 software, which is currently operational on the newest Joint Strike Fighters. That version was sufficient for those initial tests, which involved two-ship missions taking on low-end threats, Behler stated.
“Software version 30R02, which is fielding in the next two months, provides the latest instantiation of operationally relevant and production representative aircraft software that will better support the required testing to adequately address the remaining mission areas,” including air interdiction, offensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defenses and electronic attack, according to Behler.
If the software is delivered by October, as Behler seems to predict in his memo, IOT&E could potentially start around the November time frame. The Pentagon is expected to make a decision on whether to move the F-35 into full-rate production by October 2019, the Government Accountability Office wrote in a June 2018 report. Behler goes on to say that the 30R00 contains deficiencies with regard to the Air-to-Air Range Infrastructure system — which allows for range-based testing and training — that are fixed in 30R02.
“AARI must be functioning adequately to ensure test results are accurate, understandable and defensible. Changing AARI software versions in the midst of IOT&E could potentially result in inconsistencies in data collection and affect the validity and adequacy of the test and evaluation,” Behler noted. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
10 Sep 18. State official predicts US weapon sales increase in 2019. The U.S. has sold more weapons to other nations in the first half of fiscal year 2018 than it did in all of fiscal year 2017. Is that sustainable?
It is if you ask a top State Department official.
“I would anticipate—I am an optimist and a realist—that next year’s numbers will be higher than this year’s numbers,” Andrea Thompson, Undersecretary of State- Arms Control and International Security, said during a Sept. 7 meeting with reporters.
That would appear to be a tall order. According to numbers from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the U.S. has signed $46.9bn in weapons sales to foreign partners and allies, smashing past the $41.9bn figure from all of fiscal 2017. But Thompson points to new policies put forth earlier this year from the Trump administration, designed to encourage American arms exports and bolster domestic industry, as a factor that will have a direct impact next fiscal year.
“The CAT [conventional arms transfer] policy will have been in place, we’ll have gained those efficiencies and feedback from industry and partners,” she told the Defense Writer’s Group, adding that the policy is designed to go through continual updates to keep it relevant. “So I would anticipate that would increase sales, one would think.”
Other policies targeted at encouraging partners to buy American goods, including dropping surcharges on products and lowering the cost of transportation for weapons, are also under way, with DSCA head Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper leading the charge.
One potential boost could come from India, a lucrative market that U.S. firms have long eyed.
While travelling to India, Hooper told reporters that he is “quite confident” that the systems America is selling will find an audience in India.
“Whether it’s the aerospace domain, land systems or maritime systems, all of our systems are extraordinarily competitive, and I’m sure. will suit India’s needs now and into the future,” Hooper said.
However, any expectations for India should be tempered by reality. The nation is famously slow to procure weapons, with some deals falling apart or altering even after contract are signed. Compliance with the country’s Make in India policy is also complicated. Asked about that challenge, Hooper said updates to how the DSCA process works, including greater transparency about costs and timelines at the start of the process, “helps a great deal” to speed up the process. (Source: Defense News)
09 Sep 18. US to release $1.2bn in military aid to Egypt. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has authorized the release of $1.2bn in U.S. military assistance to Egypt, despite human rights concerns that have held up previous funding. The State Department said Friday it is notifying Congress that Pompeo has signed national security waivers allowing the money known as foreign military financing, or FMF, to be spent. Congress has 15 days to weigh in on the waivers, which were signed on Aug. 21 but not previously made public. It was not immediately clear why there was a delay in the notification. The money includes $1bn for the current 2018 budget year and $195m appropriated for 2017 that would have had to have been returned to the Treasury had it not been spent by Sept. 30.
In July, Pompeo had lifted a hold on another $195m in FMF that Congress had approved for budget year 2016 but which former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had frozen due to the continuing human rights issues.
The department said Friday the Trump administration still had “serious concerns about the human rights situation in Egypt” and would continue to raise those concerns with senior Egyptian officials.
“At the same time,” it said, “strengthened security cooperation with Egypt is important to U.S. national security. Secretary Pompeo determined that continuing with the obligation and expenditure of these FMF funds is important to strengthening our security cooperation with Egypt.”
Independent monitoring groups have documented continued human rights abuses in Egypt over the past year and one such organization, Human Rights First, condemned Friday’s announcement.
“Sending more military aid is just doubling down on July’s terrible decision,” it said. “This is a clear signal that the Trump Administration is more than okay with President Sisi’s targeting of human rights defenders. Green lights don’t come much bigger than this.”
The New York-based Human Rights Watch has described the situation in Egypt as the “worst human rights crisis in the country in decades.” Egyptian police, the group said, systematically use “torture, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances to silence political dissent,” according to a recent assessment. Amnesty International reported an escalation in Egypt’s crackdown on civil society and pointed to routine “grossly unfair” trials of government critics, peaceful protesters, journalists and human rights defenders. The suspension of the U.S. military aid to Egypt in August 2017 came as a surprise as the two allies had forged increasingly close ties under President Donald Trump. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military Times)
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