13 Aug 14. USAF General: DoD Must Change How it Buys Satellites. The Pentagon needs to fundamentally change the way it buys satellites in an effort to lower costs as US defense spending contracts, a top Air Force general said. The military oftentimes spends between $3bn and $5bn to design, develop and test new satellites, Lt. Gen. John Hyten, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, said. Those so-called non-recurring engineering costs come before DoD buys an operational satellite.
“We should not have to spend billions of dollars in non-recurring engineering to build these kinds of satellites,” Hyten said Tuesday while speaking at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium.
At the same time, Hyten, who is scheduled to pin on a fourth star on Friday when he becomes the commander of Space Command, said that although the Air Force and industry have effectively brought down the costs of new satellites, much of the architecture is dated and “the world has changed.”
“The industry knows how to build those satellites today,” he said. “We have to define our requirements correctly. “They should not push the envelope too much,” Hyten said. “Any place where we push the envelope, we have to retire that technology risk before we actually start the production program, so that when we start the production program, we know what it’s going to cost, and we’re going to pay that amount and we’re not going to pay anymore.”
The general said that although the Pentagon does not face a threat of sequestration in 2015, looming budget caps in 2016 pose challenges for Space Command.
“16 scares the heck out of me,” Hyten told a small group of reporters after his speech. “Our [operations and maintenance funding] is very different in our command. It’s bad on the aviation side, but they can ground squadrons. We can’t.”
The problem, the general said, is that the entire military relies on satellites routinely. The command’s GPS satellites are used by the military, commercial industry and civilians globally.
“Everything we put forth is critical to some military mission,” he said.
Many cuts offered up by the command when sequestration hit in 2013 were rejected because of the negative operational impact, Hyten said. Back then, the command made cuts to contractor support and weapon system sustainment. (Source: Defense News)
13 Aug 14. Further Restrictions Lifted for F-35 Test Fleet; Army Awarded Contract. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter test fleet will be able to fly six hours between engine inspections for weapon test and refuelling missions, as restrictions on the fifth-generation fighter continue to ease. Previously, the entire F-35 fleet was limited to three hours of flight time before an engine inspection was required as an investigation continues into a fire that heavily damaged an F-35A model on June 23.
The test fleet is made up of 20 F-35 fighters. The remaining 79 F-35s are still operating under the full restrictions. During the inspection into the cause of the June 23 fire, the Pentagon grounded the entire fleet. On July 15, the planes were cleared to fly with heavy restrictions. In late July, the Pentagon eased up on some restrictions for the test fleet. Speed restrictions were relaxed from Mach 0.9 to Mach 1.6, while maneuverability restrictions were eased slightly from 3 Gs to 3.2. The Department of Defense is taking a “multipronged approach to expanding the envelope for our flight test engines,” said Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the F-35 joint program office. Bumping the operating limit from three to six hours “allows our test fleet to conduct dedicated weapon test and refuelling missions.” DellaVedova also said the root cause analysis into the fire continues. While inspectors have determined the fire was caused by ‘excessive’ rubbing of a fan blade inside the Pratt & Whitney designed F135 engine, it is unclear why the issue arose. Top officials from the US Air Force, the largest customer for the F-35, have expressed confidence