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31 Dec 18. First KC-46 delivery stalled by Mattis’ departure. Boeing won’t be delivering the first KC-46 tanker to the Air Force in 2018 as planned, due to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ surprise ouster from the Pentagon, a source told Defense News on Monday. The Air Force had intended to accept the first KC-46 by the end of December and was awaiting signature from Mattis, which would finalize the delivery plans, Reuters first reported on Dec. 20.
However, later that day, Mattis announced that he would step down from the top Defense Department post in February, and just three days later, President Donald Trump tweeted that Mattis would wrap up his work as secretary of defense by the end of 2018.
With sweeping changes in leadership at the Pentagon imminent, a decision on KC-46 was pushed out, a source close to the program told Defense News. The situation was further complicated because Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan — who by the end of Dec. 31 will temporarily take over Mattis’ role as defense secretary — is a former Boeing executive and must recuse himself from all decisions involving the company.
Boeing declined to confirm that the delivery would not take place on Dec. 31.
“KC-46 remains a top priority and we look forward to delivering tanker aircraft in partnership with the Air Force,” said Kelly Kaplan, a spokeswoman for the company, in a statement to Defense News.
The Air Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The delay is a blow for Boeing, which had promised to deliver the first tanker by the end of 2018 after a string of missed delivery dates stemming back to August 2017.
“We continue to make steady progress toward final certification of the KC-46 tanker,” Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in an October earnings call. “We are working with our U.S. Air Force customer toward completing all the steps required to deliver the first tanker aircraft this quarter.”
The company has now racked up more than $3bn in pre-tax charges on the program, as it is responsible for any costs beyond the $4.9bn fixed price contract value originally awarded in 2011.
Boeing officials are hopeful that the Air Force will be able to move forward with delivery after a set of meetings in early 2019, one source said.
But at the moment it is unclear who will authorize the KC-46 delivery with Shanahan barred from the process, though it may fall to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson or to Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. The Air Force plans to buy 179 KC-46s throughout its program of record. McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas is set to become the first installation to receive the new tankers, and training for pilots and boom operators has already begun. (Source: Defense News)
01 Jan 19. Statement From Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan. Under the direction of President Trump, the Department of Defense remains focused on safeguarding our nation. We have deep respect for Secretary Mattis’ lifetime of service, and it has been a privilege to serve as his deputy secretary. As acting secretary of defense, I now look forward to working with President Trump to carry out his vision alongside strong leaders including the service secretaries, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the combatant commanders, and senior personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The Department of Defense continues to be one of our nation’s bedrock institutions. Our foundational strength lies in the remarkable men and women who volunteer to serve our country and protect our freedoms, while making immense personal sacrifice. It is an honor to work with such a dedicated team committed to the greatness of our nation. (Source: US DoD)
27 Dec 18. Six things on the Pentagon’s 2019 acquisition reform checklist. Under the purview of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, reform has become a buzzword inside the Department of Defense, with every office trying to find ways to be more efficient, whether through cost savings or changes to bureaucracy. The department’s Acquisition and Sustainment office, headed by Ellen Lord, manages billions of dollars in materiel; and by Lord’s own belief, it is ripe for changes that could net the department big savings. On Dec. 17, Lord sat down with reporters and outlined a series of goals for 2019 that she hopes will help transform how the Pentagon buys equipment. Here, then, are six key items to watch for in the coming year.
- Rework the department’s key acquisition rules: The DoD Instruction 5000.02 is a key bedrock that forms the basis of how the defense acquisition system works, guiding acquisition professionals in their day-to-day program execution. And if Lord gets her way, she’ll largely rip it up and start over.
“In 2019, one of my key objectives is to rewrite 5000.02. We have, right now, this huge, complicated acquisition process that we encourage our acquisition professionals to tailor to their needs,” Lord said. “We are going to invert that approach and take a clean sheet of paper and write the absolute bare minimum to be compliant in 5000.02, and encourage program managers and contracting officers to add to that as they need for specific programs.”
Lord envisions taking the massive, unwieldy 5000.02 guidance and getting it down to “a couple page outline of what you need to do,” with “simple” contract language and an easy-to-follow checklist “so that this isn’t an onerous process.”
“I’m encouraging what I call creative compliance. I want everyone to be compliant, but I want people to be very thoughtful and only use what they need,” she said. “This is literally starting with a clean sheet of paper, looking at the law and the intent, and working to vastly simplify this.”
Andrew Hunter, a former Pentagon acquisition official now with the Center for International and Strategic Studies, notes that the instruction is supposed to be rewritten every five years to keep it fresh, and now is probably the right time to start looking into that.
But, he added, “a lot of what she says she wants to do are things that sound very similar to my ear to what [Lord’s predecessor] Frank Kendall was trying to do in the last rewrite. He tossed stuff out left and right, worked very hard to create the different models, put in extended discussions of different potential models of programs so that it would be obvious to people there’s not one single way to do a program.”
Hunter is cautious when it comes to a massive shift in the 5000.02 system. “If you literally tell the system, ‘All the rules are repealed, go do everything you want,’ the reaction won’t be a sudden flood of creativity that astounds you with the amazing talent at the department, even though there is a lot of talent there,” he said.
“What’s more likely to happen is you have total paralysis because everyone is sitting around going: ‘Oh no, the rules are gone. How do we know what we can do? What do we do now?’ But over time that might shake out.”
If Congress needs to get involved, Lord said, she’s prepared to go to Capitol Hill “because I know they are partnering with us and they want to make sure we do things in a simpler, most cost-effective manner.”
- Intellectual property rules: A long-standing fight between the department and industry is over who should own the intellectual property used by the American military. Before fully taking on 5000.02, Lord hopes to write a departmentwide intellectual property policy.
Lord pointed to the “very good job” done by the Army on creating an IP policy and said her goal is to build on that to create a standard across the DoD.
“From an industry perspective, we are trying to be consistent across all the services and agencies, so that we don’t have different requirements for similar needs,” Lord said. “So intellectual property is a good example. We’d like to have the same kind of contract language that can be tailored to individual needs, but basically have consistent language.”
David Berteau, a former Pentagon official who is now the president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, noted it is hard to read the tea leaves for what Lord may be planning based on her public comments.
But he pointed out the long-standing challenge for the Pentagon — that nearly 70 percent of all program costs are life-cycle sustainment and maintenance costs — as a sign that something needs to change so the department can avoid major issues in the future.
Depending on how new rules are implemented, the use of IP might drive down costs — or, he warned, it might lead to companies unable to compete, forcing the Pentagon to pay more or be less prepared for challenges. Put plainly, Berteau said, “it’s complicated.”
He hopes Lord will begin interacting with industry on this issue in ways similar to the current “listening tour” on changes to progress payments.
- Better software development: It’s become almost cliché that the department needs to do better at developing software, but in this case it’s a cliché that experts, including Lord, agree with.
The Defense Innovation Board, a group of tech experts from outside the department, is working on a series of studies on software, including one focused on how to drive agile development techniques inside the building. Lord said to expect that report before the end of March, adding: “I think that will be important in terms of capturing a road map forward on how to do this correctly.”
- Increase use of OTAs: In 2018, Lord’s office released a handbook on when and how to use other transaction authorities — legal standards designed to speed acquisition that critics say are underutilized by the department. Lord called it “sort of a warmup” for creating more useful handbooks for the acquisition community, but said that the goal for 2019 is to get people to correctly employ OTAs.
“Usually they should be used when you don’t have a clear requirement. So, true prototyping when you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Lord said. “Prototyping early on, probably before you get to the middle-tier acquisition.”
- Greater use of prototyping: Speaking of which, Lord said the department has about 10 projects underway for rapid prototyping at the mid-tier level, with the goal of growing to about 50 in the next year. The goal is to take the systems into the field, test them out and then grow the next iteration of the capability based on what is learned.
“We’re taking systems that are commercially available and perhaps need a little modification, or defense systems that need a modicum of modification to make them appropriate for the war fighter,” Lord said. “That’s one of the authorities we are very appreciative for, and we will continue to refine the policy. I signed out very broad policy on that this year. We’ll write the detailed policy coming up early next year.”
- Making the Selected Acquisition Reports public again: Until recently, the department publicly released annual Selected Acquisition Reports for each of the major defense programs. Those reports can inform the public of where programs stand and the costs associated.
However, under the Trump administration, those reports have been largely classified as “For Official Use Only,” or FOUO, a higher level of security. Critics, including incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., have argued there is no need for those once-public reports to be listed as FOUO. It appears Lord is working to open those back up.
“We’re going to try to minimize the FOUO on that,” Lord said in response to a question about it. “There are certain information [issues] that we have to protect, but [we] understand the need, the requirement, and I will put our guidance to make everything open to the public to the degree we can.” (Source: Defense News)
22 Dec 18. Trump fires Mattis early, Shanahan to take over Jan. 1. Just days after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced he would step down from that post in late February, President Donald Trump announced he would push the popular Cabinet member out even earlier. In a tweet Sunday morning, Trump announced that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan will become acting secretary of defense starting Jan. 1. He praised the Pentagon’s second-in-command as having “a long list of accomplishments” and added, “He will be great!”
The move cuts short Mattis’ tenure by two months, and adds to an acrimonious end of the relationship between the commander in chief and his top military leader. On Thursday, Mattis in a resignation letter told Trump he was making the move to allow the president to find “a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”
He said his February departure date was designed to minimize disruption on the department during the leadership transition.
But Mattis’ criticism of Trump’s national security policies in the letter — in opposition to his announced withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria and his past negative comments towards U.S. foreign allies — clearly irked Trump, leading to the early dismissal.
On Saturday, Trump appeared to fire back at Mattis on social media, tweeting that “when President Obama ingloriously fired Jim Mattis, I gave him a second chance. Some thought I shouldn’t, I thought I should.”
In a statement after Sunday’s announcement, Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning said only that “the secretary of defense serves at the pleasure of the president. The department remains focused on national security.”
Mattis remains popular among lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the armed forces. A Military Times poll conducted in late September found that nearly 84 percent of troops had a favorable view of his work leading the armed forces. Among officers, the figure was almost 90 percent.
But Mattis’ relationship with Trump had appeared to sour in recent months as the president pushed for more aggressive military policies.
Pentagon officials appeared caught unaware by sudden decisions made in the Oval Office on forming a new Space Force, sending troops to the southern U.S. border, and banning transgender recruits from the ranks.
Most recently, Trump’s decisions to begin massive troop withdrawals in the Middle East and Afghanistan seemed to go against military commanders’ advice.
Shanahan, who is among the candidates to permanently replace Mattis, is now in a position to drive changes he’s championed as Mattis’ deputy.
The former Boeing executive in his current role has pushed for systemic changes to the acquisition system that pushes the Pentagon’s focus away from annual budget cycles and more on making programs successful.
“Too often we focus on process, or budget, or level of effort,” Shanahan told Defense News in an earlier interview. “The Pentagon should focus on outcomes and outputs — our performance. This focus on performance should drive us to field unmatched lethality, execute on our modernization plans and achieve this affordably.”
He has also focused on eliminating duplicative programs — for example, situations where the Army and Air Force both have a need for a similar system and develop unique solutions on their own, rather than joining up and creating a single system that can be used department-wide.
In the past, services have pushed back on that idea because of the unique needs of, say, a Navy system designed to go to sea and survive the elements and sea-salt air, or an Army system designed to work on land.
Shanahan has risen to the top of the list of likely successors to permanently replace the now-fired Mattis, partly because of his business background and good relationships with both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
But Shanahan has clashed with some in the Pentagon who say he’s is too focused on having meetings, sucking up staff time without having many concrete victories to point to, according to officials who have worked with him who spoke to Defense News. (Source: Defense News)
21 Dec 18. Pentagon withdrawing 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. First Syria, now Afghanistan. President Donald Trump has directed the Pentagon to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in coming months, with an eye towards ending the 17-year deployment of American forces there, a U.S. official confirmed to Military Times. The Wall Street Journal first reported that more than 7,000 service members will begin returning from Afghanistan in coming weeks, per a White House order. The move comes just a day after Trump signaled plans to remove all U.S. forces from Syria, declaring that “We have won against ISIS.”
The U.S. official said there is no timeline set for the return of the troops.
The news also comes on the same day as the announced resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who said he is leaving the administration so Trump can find a military leader “whose views are better aligned with yours.”
The withdrawal announcement also comes amid news first reported by Military Times that Erik Prince’s former security contractor firm, Blackwater USA, had announced its return. Prince has lobbied the Trump administration since the president took office to privatize the war in Afghanistan.
“We are coming,” a full-page ad in the January/February 2019 issue of “Recoil” gun and hunting magazine announces.
Mattis referenced several conflicts with Trump in his resignation letter, including Trump’s lack of support for American alliances in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Like the Syria withdrawal, the rapid reduction in U.S. forces in Afghanistan represents an abrupt reversal of previous administration policies. Earlier this month, Mattis said the president and the country were “still committed to this effort” and the Taliban still posed a formidable threat in the region.
Last month, in a nomination hearing to take over U.S. Central Command, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the nominee to lead CENTCOM, said terrorist groups in the country still represented a credible threat to the American homeland. He added that despite years of training from coalition troops, local security forces still did not have the ability to defend the Afghan government without assistance.
“They’re not there yet,” he said. “If we left precipitously right now, they would not be able to successfully defend their country.”
Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign promised less U.S. military intervention overseas, but after he took office increased the U.S. presence in both the Middle East and Afghanistan upon the advice of his military commanders. A 7,000-service member cut would roughly half the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan today. Troops are serving in training and support roles, with less direct contact with enemy fighters. Still, this year has proven to be deadly for American troops in the country. At least 14 since the start of the year. More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel have died since the initial invasion of American forces in 2001. (Source: Military Times)
21 Dec 18. Mattis resignation spreads alarm in Washington and abroad. Allies worry departure of US defence secretary might herald erratic foreign policy. One former official familiar with the Trump/Mattis relationship said the defence secretary had become increasingly frustrated with the lack of a decision-making process. When Donald Trump chose Jim Mattis as his defence secretary, he described the retired Marine general as the “closest thing to General George Patton”— a reference to the larger-than-life second world war military leader. Weeks later, he said he was out of “central casting” as he praised the generals in his team who would “keep us so safe.” But the relationship between the men imploded on Thursday when Mr Mattis resigned and voiced criticisms of the president in a stinging letter that suggested Mr Trump was putting America at risk. His resignation has sent shockwaves among allies who saw the 68-year-old retired general as the only “adult” in the Trump team. His exit will have serious ramifications for US foreign policy — from the conflict in Syria and the war in Afghanistan to how the US tackles Iran following the withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. But it will be felt particularly hard in Europe due to his efforts to soften the abrasive stance that Mr Trump has taken towards Nato allies. Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister, tweeted that it was a “morning of alarm in Europe”. William Cohen, a former US defence secretary and friend of Mr Mattis, said US allies should be “very concerned” about the exit of the retired four-star military officer. “They turned to Secretary Mattis as the trusted figure in the Trump administration. They could say as long as Jim Mattis is there, we’re okay,” Mr Cohen told the Financial Times. “They felt that given his stature and the position he holds with most Americans, people felt comforted that he was there and that there would be no rash decision made without his sound counsel.” Nathalie Tocci, head of the Institute of International Affairs in Rome who advises Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, said “the last transatlantic bastion of the Trump presidency has fallen.” A senior EU diplomat said it was “not a good sign . . . when one of the last adults in the room throws in the towel”. Although Mr Trump shocked his military advisers with the sudden Syria decision, the move returned the president to his isolationist “America First” rhetoric. While Mr Trump frequently praised “my generals”, he has also been disparaging. “I know more about Isis than the generals do,” he claimed during the presidential campaign. While Mr Mattis bristled at the way Mr Trump lashed out at allies, the defence secretary resented that the Syria move would expose the Kurds fighting with the US in Syria. After his resignation, it transpired that Mr Trump is also considering pulling troops out of Afghanistan. Mr Cohen, who spoke to Mr Mattis the evening before his resignation, said that while the “last straw” was the Syria decision, the “second last straw” was the decision by Mr Trump to order the deployment of forces to the US border with Mexico as thousands of asylum seekers from Central America made their way to the border. “That was a pure political move. This gets back to using and abusing our military which is one of the few institutions in our country that is held in high regard,” Mr Cohen said. Read the letter here Jim Mattis: Letter of resignation Tom Wright, a Brookings Institution foreign policy expert, said the resignation was “the culmination of a deliberate strategy by Trump to replace independent thinkers with sycophantic loyalists” and meant that Mr Trump was now unshackled. “Everything Trump spoke about before — pulling troops out of Korea, suspending the Article 5 principle of collective defence enshrined in the Nato treaty — is now back on the table,” said Mr Wright. After his confirmation, Mr Mattis made South Korea and Japan his first international trips to reassure Seoul and Tokyo that Mr Trump would not pull troops out of the nations as he suggested in the campaign. His exit is already spurring concern in those capitals that Washington could become a less reliable ally in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Japan faces an immediate issue on the Korean peninsula and to lose General Mattis, who strongly respected the Japanese position, is a blow,” said Masato Ushio, a former officer in the Japanese Air Self-Defence Forces. Mr Cohen added: “If I were Japan and South Korea, I would worry because he has said that he wants our troops out of there.” Mr Mattis disagreed with Mr Trump on numerous occasions, but tended to voice his concerns in private to the president. One former official familiar with their relationship said he became increasingly frustrated with the lack of a decision-making process. “If you precipitously withdraw with no apparent process, do so via tweet, and not with the consultation of allies, not with the consultation of senior uniformed military personnel, that is anathema to both process and the ability to achieve a sustainable posture that defends the country,” the former official said.
He added that over time it had become obvious to Mr Mattis that Mr Trump was seeking his advice less and less, and was relying on “a small group in the White House” or even his own instincts. He was blindsided, for example, when Mr Trump said without warning after his June summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un that the US would halt military exercises on the Korean peninsula. Signs of tension emerged earlier this year when Mr Trump said in an interview that he thought Mr Mattis was “a Democrat”. While many members of the cabinet have shown a tendency to praise Mr Trump, Mr Mattis has been restrained. After Mr Trump invited his team to speak at the opening of a cabinet meeting last year, most lavished praise on him, in a spectacle that critics said was akin to North Korea. Mr Mattis simply remarked it was “an honour to represent the men and women of the Department of Defense.” Again this week, in his resignation letter, he failed to thank the president. “I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform,” he wrote. (Source: FT.com)
21 Dec 18. Mattis is out, and Blackwater is back: ‘We are coming.’ Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is out. Mattis’ resignation comes amid news that President Donald Trump has directed the drawdown of 2,000 U.S. forces in Syria, and 7,000 U.S. forces from Afghanistan, a U.S. official confirmed to Military Times, a story first reported by the Wall Street Journal. This month, in the January/February print issue of the gun and hunting magazine “Recoil,” the former contractor security firm Blackwater USA published a full-page ad, in all black with a simple message: “We are coming.”
Is the war in Afghanistan — and possibly elsewhere ― about to be privatized?
If Blackwater returns, it would be the return of a private security contractor that was banned from Iraq, but re-branded and never really went away. By 2016 Blackwater had been re-branded several times and was known at the time as Constellis Group, when it was purchased by the Apollo Holdings Group. Reuters reported earlier this year that Apollo had put Constellis up for sale, but in June the sale was put on hold.
Blackwater’s founder and former CEO Erik Prince has courted President Donald Trump’s administration since he took office with the idea that the now 17-year Afghan War will never be won by a traditional military campaign. Prince has also argued that the logistical footprint required to support that now multi-trillion dollar endeavor has become too burdensome. Over the summer and into this fall Prince has engaged heavily with the media to promote the privatization; particularly as the Trump administration’s new South Asia Strategy, which was crafted with Mattis, passed the one-year mark. Prince has no connection to the current Constellis group; if Blackwater does return to operations, it is not clear what, if any tie, Prince would have to the endeavor.
Constellis, which had maintained a footprint at Camp Integrity by the Kabul Airport through its previous iteration as “Academi” has leased land at the facility to hold another 800 personnel, Military Times learned.
The news of a leaning on a smaller number of privatized forces, instead of a larger U.S. military footprint — and contracted support for U.S. forces that knew few bounds and at times included coffee shops, base exchanges, restaurants, a hockey rink and local vendor shops — may be welcomed by current U.S. military leadership on the ground. That includes former Joint Special Operations Command chief Army Lt. Gen. Scott Miller, a source familiar with Miller’s approach told Military Times. Miller replaced Gen. John Nicholson as the head of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in September.
In an previous exclusive interview with Military Times, Prince said he would scrap the NATO mission there and replace the estimated 23,000 forces in country with a force of 6,000 contracted personnel and 2,000 active-duty special forces.
The potential privatization of the Afghan War was previously dismissed by the White House, and roundly criticized by Mattis, who saw it as a risk to emplace the nation’s national security goals in the hands of contractors.
“When Americans put their nation’s credibility on the line, privatizing it is probably not a wise idea,” Mattis told reporters in August.
But Mattis is out now, one in a series of moves that has surprised most of the Pentagon. Drastic change would “be more likely” now, one DOD official said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military Times)
22 Dec 18. The Navy’s Version of the F-35 Has a Big Problem. The F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter has weathered years of controversy over cost overruns, delays and performance trade-offs. The Pentagon has steadfastly maintained the type’s ability to penetrate enemy air defenses and network sensor data through its sophisticated computers will prove worth it. Indeed, by 2018, some of the persistent problems seemed to be abating, per-unit costs have begun to decrease, and the type saw its first combat operations serving with the Israeli Air Force and the U.S. Marines.
However, the carrier-based F-35C model has arguably posed some of the biggest technical challenges for the program, and has thus been scheduled last for declaration of Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in 2019. Critics have repeatedly warned that IOC status has basically been declared arbitrarily for all models of the F-35 as a political decision, regardless of persistent technical defects and the fact that testing and evaluation were not yet complete—as is usually the case for IOC systems.
Indeed, in December 2018, John Pendleton of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified to Congress that only 15 percent of the Navy’s F-35Cs were rated fully mission-capable in 2017. You can see these figures in this GAO report, which also implies that the figures remain abysmal in 2018: “In June 2018, we reported that the F-35 program had not improved its reliability and maintainability over the past year and continued to fall short on half of its performance targets.”
The Navy’s F-35C is over 50 percent more expensive than the land-based F-35A at roughly $150m per aircraft. The world’s first naval stealth fighter has dramatically larger “bat-like” wings to help generate the additional lift necessary to execute a short takeoff from a carrier deck. The F-35C also incorporates an arrestor hook to snag the cable while coming for a landing, reinforced two-wheel nose landing gear designed to better endure the harsh impact, and folding wing tips for easier stowage below deck.
The Navy has also tailored the F-35C with larger fuel tanks to makeup for its added weight, as well as compatibility with the service’s drogue probe-and-drogue refueling-system rather than the boom-type used by the U.S. Air Force—though reportedly, the probe’s tips are breaking off worrisomely often. The added weight of these features leaves the F-35C a little more sluggish than its land-based peers, as is typical of naval fighters.
Unlike the land-based F-35A, the F-35Cs do not have an internal 25-millimeter cannon in order to save weight on missions in which it is unlikely to be used. An optional external gun pod is undergoing testing, which has ironically found they perform better than the F-35A’s internal weapon, which has a tendency to drift shots to the right.
However, the type’s reinforced nose-landing gear has proven troublesome. In catapult-takeoff tests performed in 2017, pilots experienced severe buffeting due to a vibrating nose-gear strut during launch. This impaired their ability to read cockpit displays and caused them to to report “moderate” to “severe” pain in 92 out of 105 catapult shots. However, this problem only reportedly manifested when not carrying a full combat load. Structurally adjustments to address the flaw are not planned to begin until 2019.
However, the F-35C’s greatest problems may be logistical. Pendleton told Congress: “It took months, sometimes six months or more to get parts repaired and back out to the fleet.”
This is because Lockheed has focused on churning out F-35 airframes as quickly as possible to meet demand, but has not built up adequate reserves of spare parts. This has caused repair capabilities at depots to be “six years behind schedule,” meaning it took twice the expected amount of time to repair parts. This problem is particularly endemic to F-35s of all types, but all aircraft in the navy and marine corps have been suffering from severe readiness problem related to their ageing inventory. While Air Force squadrons have maintained readiness rates of 60-70 percent, the Navy and Marine squadrons make do with 40 to 50 percent, and have taken to cannibalizing many ostensibly “operational aircraft” for necessary spare parts. This means the actual number of combat-capable aircraft in each squadron is lower than the official number. A requirement set by Secretary of Defense James Mattis to boost readiness to 80 percent in 2018 only succeeded in increasing the rate to around 60 percent for the maritime services.
Nonetheless, F-35Cs began flying regular operational tests from the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in August 2018 in preparation for the reception of IOC status in 2019. Operating stealth fighters from carriers poses a number of logistical challenges, such as regular maintenance of radar-absorbent materials, instituting cyber-security for the F-35’s ALIS logistics system, and ferrying new replacement parts like the F-35’s power module, which is too large to fit inside available transport aircraft and must be slung under helicopters or vertical-lift CV-22B Ospreys instead. However, the Lincoln’s commander told meda that F-35 operations quickly came to feel routine. Initially intended to fully replace the navy’s Super Hornet fighters, the F-35C order has been curtailed in favor of maintaining a mixed force of Lightnings and upgraded Block III Super Hornets. The naval fighters have two rolls: striking targets on land and sea, and defending carrier task forces from attacking bombers and missiles. The Lightning’s stealthy radar-cross section is well optimized for the former mission, save for a deficit in range which may force a carrier to approach closer to deadly adversaries equipped with anti-ship missiles. However, the Lightning isn’t designed to max-out speed, which is vital for an air defense fighter racing to intercept enemy bombers and missiles before they can strike their targets. Indeed, as discussed in this article, the F-35’s sensors, networked with faster Super Hornets carrying heavier weapons loads, could allow the two types to complement each other. The U.S. Marine Corps will also operate five F-35C squadrons from Navy supercarriers, in addition to their F-35B jump jets which can lift off from smaller amphibious carrier.
Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
20 Dec 18. What happens next after China’s alleged theft of American business secrets. The Department of Justice indicted two hackers associated with the Chinese based ATP-10 group on Dec. 20 for conspiracy to commit computer intrusions against at least 45 organizations in the U.S. and worldwide, sparking calls for the U.S. to be more aggressive in cyberspace. The focus of the hacking spree was an apparent attempt to steal American trade secrets for the benefit of Chinese firms, with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Goddard Space Center and seven companies involved in the aviation, space and satellite industry among the targets. More than 100,000 Navy personnel were also victims, with names, social security numbers, and other personal details stolen, according to the indictment against the two alleged Chinese hackers, Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong.
“China’s goal simply put is to replace the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower and they are using illegal methods to get there,” said FBI director Christopher Wray. “They are using an expanding set of non-traditional and illegal methods.”
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not return an email seeking comment.
How the Chinese hacked
The Chinese hackers relied on phishing messages sent over email to gain access to victims computers, according to the indictment.
“C17 antenna problems,” read the subject line of one apparent phishing email, which had an attachment containing a malicious Microsoft Word document.
Managed service providers, who remotely store clients’ information, were an apparent target for the Chinese hackers.
“By targeting managed service providers, or firms that store commercial data and intellectual property, the Chinese hackers could steal sensitive business information that gives Beijing based firms an unfair advantage,” said Ron Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.
The Chinese tactics could put more attention on machine learning programs that can spot the intrusion method. More than 80 percent of cyber attacks and over 70 percent of those from nation states are initiated by exploiting humans rather than computer or network security flaws, according to a fact sheet from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
A DARPA project, the Active Social Engineering Defense, experiments with using automated learning to warn users of phishing attempts.
Breakdown of Obama-Xi accord
The indictment marks the second time the U.S. has accused China of breaking a 2015 agreement between the two countries which prohibited the use of hacked data for commercial benefit.
“The activity alleged in this indictment violates the commitment that China made to members of the international community,” Rosenstein said.
“We strongly urge China to abide by its commitment to act responsibly in cyberspace and reiterate that the United States will take appropriate measures to defend our interests,” said a joint statement by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
But experts told Fifth Domcain that the breakdown of the accord, known as the Obama-Xi agreement, would not have a significant impact.
“The accusation from the U.S. government today that China has violated the 2015 Cybersecurity Agreement means little without a case study or data to support,” Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future, a threat intelligence firm, told Fifth Domain. “Demonstrating a violation would require compiling data into an end-to-end narrative; compiling evidence that Chinese intelligence or military officials not only conducted the theft of intellectual property, but then passed that information to a Chinese company, which then used it in a product in a competitive situation with a U.S. business.”
Lawmakers want more cyberattacks and better defense
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers hailed the indictment and called for a strong response from the Trump administration.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., reiterated his call for the Trump administration to take more aggressive action in cyberspace.
“While legal action is important, a truly effective response will require a coordinated approach with our allies and a comprehensive strategy to protect our national security and enhance U.S. competitiveness and resiliency,” Warner said.
But others used the indictment to trumpet legislation. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., pushed for the passage of the Cyber Deterrence and Response Act, which he said would “codify important authorities and allow the government to take swift action in response to violations of international norms.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
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