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28 Mar 19. U.S. senators introduce bill to stop transfer of F-35 fighters to Turkey. Four U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey until the U.S. government certifies that Ankara will not take delivery of a Russian S-400 air defence system, a statement on the move said.
Turkey is a production partner in the trillion-dollar F-35 fighter jet program but Ankara also wants to purchase a Russian missile defence system, which the United States says would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft, which are made by Lockheed Martin Corp.. The senators – Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Chris Van Hollen and Republicans James Lankford and Thom Tillis – have all expressed alarm over Turkey’s planned purchase of Russian S-400 missiles and said the NATO ally cannot have both.
“The prospect of Russia having access to U.S. aircraft and technology in a NATO country, Turkey, is a serious national and global security risk,” Shaheen said.
Reuters last week reported that the United States could soon freeze preparations for delivering F-35s to Turkey. While no decision has been made, any such move would be a massive blow to already strained ties between Washington and Ankara.
“Turkey is an important NATO ally and willing partner in addressing a number of U.S. national security priorities,” said Lankford. “It’s concerning that Turkey would seek close defence cooperation with Russia, whose authoritarian ruler seeks to undermine NATO and U.S. interests at every turn.”
So far Ankara has not shown any willingness to reverse the S-400 purchase, forcing the United States to explore a future for the F-35 program without Turkey, which makes parts of the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays. (Source: Reuters)
26 Mar 19. Army’s $2.3bn wish list would speed up future helo buy, boost lethality efforts. The Army’s $2.3bn unfunded requirements list — or wish list — sent to Capitol Hill includes money to speed up the service’s plan to buy a future long-range assault helicopter earlier and would boost lethality efforts such as outfitting more Stryker combat vehicles with a 30mm gun. The unfunded requirements list is something the military services send to Congress each year shortly following the release of the defense budget request to inform lawmakers on where money would be spent if there was more of it. The lists are usually provided at the request of congressional defense committees. The service has made a major pivot toward six modernization priorities it deems necessary to modernize the force and through a rigorous review of every program within the Army by leadership, billions were found within its $182bn FY20 budget to devote to the ambitious efforts within that modernization portfolio.
But the Army would spend another $243m to advance certain modernization efforts if it could, according to the UFR list.
For instance, if the Army had additional funds, it would want to spend $40 m to buy the XM-913 weapon system — a 50mm gun, ammunition handling system and fire control — to outfit two Next-Generation Combat Vehicle prototypes. The NGCV is the second highest modernization priority.
The service would also want to spend $75.6 m to move the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLARA) — one of the two Future Vertical Lift lines of effort to replace the current fleet — more quickly toward a decision.
Gen. John “Mike” Murray, Army Futures Command commander who is in charge of the service’s modernization, told Defense News in a March 26 interview at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium, that the service would like additional funding to close the gap between what it is seeing now with the two technology demonstrators, which are now both flying, and a decision on the way ahead to procure FLARA.
Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft has been flying for nearly two years and the Sikorsky-Boeing team’s SB-1 Defiant flew last week. The demonstrator aircraft were originally funded to help shape the service’s requirements for a Future Vertical Lift family of aircraft.
The Army also wants additional funding to extend the range of the Q-53 counterfire target acquisition radar and funding to preserve a new start program — Low Earth Orbit (LEO) — a space-based capability which is able to extract data and tactical imagery in denied or contested environments that is critical to the Long-Range Precision Fires program, the Army’s top modernization priority. Lastly, additional funding would also support rapid prototyping for the Next Generation Squad Weapon – Automatic Rifle. The service would want an additional $1bn to address readiness to include $161m in more aviation training, $118m in bridging assets and $128m for mobilization needs.
Also included in the readiness funding the Army would want is money to further enhance interoperable communications with allies and partners, and funding to help restore airfields, railheads and runways in Europe that would enhance better movement.
U.S. Army Europe commanders in recent years have stressed the need to build better infrastructure in order to move troops and supplies more freely in the region and have cited interoperability issues with allies as one of the toughest aspects when operating jointly to overcome.
Funding would also be used to enhance Army Prepositioned Stock in Europe with petroleum and medical equipment.
In the Pacific area of operations, the funding would also cover needed Multidomain Operations capabilities and force protection for radar sites and mobile ballistic bunkers.
Focusing on lethality requirements, the Army wants an additional $249 m to upgrade more Strykers with 30mm cannons. The service is already up-gunning Strykers for brigades in Europe and recently wrapped up an assessment of the enhanced Strykers to inform a decision on whether to outfit more Strykers with a bigger gun.
The Army is expected to make a decision within days on whether it will upgun more Stryker units and how many it plans to upgrade.
Additionally, the Army wants $130m to prototype hypersonic missile capabilities and another $24m to integrate the Joint Air-to-Ground Munition’s (JAGM) seeker and guidance kit into an Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). JAGM is the service’s Hellfire replacement and ATACMS will be replaced with the service’s LRPF missile — the Precision Strike Munition (PrSM) — that it is developing. The Army is also asking for $565bn for infrastructure improvements both in the United States and in the Indo-Pacific area of operation. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
26 Mar 19. Army transforming RCO to tackle and quickly field complex tech. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, formerly known as the Rapid Capabilities Office, is undergoing more than just a name change, but rather a transformation at its core, the acting director of the organization told Defense News in a March 11 interview at RCCTO’s headquarters in the underbelly of the Pentagon.
When the office first stood up just a few years ago in 2016, it was tasked to chase after some high-priority capability gaps identified by combatant commanders in the field — namely electronic warfare, cyber efforts, and position, navigation and timing.
But now the RCCTO will focus on fielding complex technology as quickly as possible, said Col. John Eggert.
And with a name change and refined purpose, Army Secretary Mark Esper signed a new charter for the RCCTO on Dec. 20.
“Like the Army has gone through an evolution of its modernization enterprise, through the standup of the Army Futures Command, we have gone through a mini-transformation, evolving to better support the needs of the Army modernization enterprise,” Eggert said.
When the RCO was established, Army Futures Command wasn’t even a public whisper; but in the fall of 2017, the service announced that it would set up a new four-star command aimed at tackling its top modernization priorities to address future threats.
The AFC reached initial operational capability down in its Austin, Texas, digs in the summer of 2018 and is shooting to reach full operational capability this summer under the command of Gen. John “Mike” Murray.
Under the AFC, the Army formed cross-functional teams focused on its top six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.
The RCCTO will tackle the focus areas on which the CFTs and program executive offices might be unable to focus, and develop technology that wouldn’t fall under a CFT or PEO, according to Eggert.
And the office is moving from a focus on what combatant commanders need in the field through urgent operational needs to what the AFC views as important development efforts needed to modernize the Army quickly.
The Army “needed an organization that could find and harvest emerging critical technologies from somewhere else where it was being developed, either another government agency or industry, academia, to be able to harvest that technology into an Army application and do it quickly,” Eggert said.
For example, Eggert said, hypersonics might be one of the priorities on which the RCCTO will focus.
While a list of priorities has not been issued to the RCCTO from the board that guides it — consisting of Army leadership — Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy said earlier this month that the RCCTO will first and foremost focus on hypersonics, space and directed energy.
The RCO was previously dedicated to rapidly building prototypes, Eggert explained, but now “we have gone into a much larger scalability to do programs from the very beginning of the acquisition cycle, so we can develop, we can deliver and we can deploy much larger-scale systems than we could under the previous charter.”
The changes the organization is undergoing actually didn’t just happen in December. Under the short-lived leadership of the previous director, Tanya Skeen, before she left to lead the F-35’s Joint Project Office, the RCO had begun a pivot to focus on the Army’s top modernization programs instead of a more narrow focus on EW, cyber efforts and PNT.
But the RCO didn’t abandon its efforts in those three areas and a few other efforts it picked up in the past year.
The RCO began work on long-range cannon development, modifying an M777 howitzer to extend the range without losing accuracy. Eggert said the RCO finished up modifications with the service’s armaments and ammunition project offices and is now focusing on enabling the system to achieve accuracy at an extended range.
The RCCTO is also fielding one of the major projects it developed from its inception — an electronic warfare capability for U.S. Army Europe. The project was developed in response to an operational needs statement out of Europe to create a converged electronic support and electronic attack system.
“In effect, you can sense a signal of interest, for example. You can can do something about it and affect that signal of interest through a jamming capability,” Eggert said.
The office is finishing up the last pieces of kit in response to the operational needs statement, he added, and it just scooped up the highest acquisition honor awarded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the project, having fielded the system within 12 months.
The last major project — Dark Bridge — is a cyber capability that the RCCTO is testing for the Army. The system counters small unmanned aircraft systems. It recently completed soldier trials at the National Training Center and received “great feedback and had excellent results,” Eggert said.
The office is now building a second version that will have expanded capability through hardware and software for a specialized unit, likely in Europe first, and then to U.S.-based units.
The RCO also conducted a signals classification challenge last fall where competitors could develop an algorithm that would take a mountain of signal data and pare down the information to signals of interest, Eggert said.
More than 150 teams applied, and the service gave out three cash awards to the top teams. The RCCTO is now in phase two of the effort, where it is weaponizing and operationalizing the algorithms developed during the challenge and putting them into tactical electronic warfare kit that is currently fielded, according to Eggert. Once the kit itself is fielded, the RCCTO will set up a trial and take user feedback that will fold into a program of record. (Source: Defense News)
26 Mar 19. Expanded Army modernization strategy due out in April. A complex take on how the Army will operate using next-generation equipment against threats is expected in April, the under secretary of the Army told Defense News in an interview just ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
Last spring, the service published a modernization strategy focused on the materiel solutions needed to fight in a complex world, and it stood up a four-star command — Army Futures Command — to spearhead efforts to field modern and highly capable weapon systems, from new vehicles and helicopters to long-range fire technology and missile defense systems.
“We wanted to be as transparent to Congress about the capabilities that we are pursuing, how much we think they would cost and what would [be] the financing plan accordingly,” Ryan McCarthy said in a March 22 interview in his Pentagon office.
But now the Army is preparing to come out with its “2.0” version, he said.
The strategy “is bringing that operating model of how it will change how we fight, together with the materiel; and what you will see is how this will take us down the path and ultimately change the structure of our formations over time,” McCarthy said. “It’s a very complex document.”
Leading the crafting of the modernization strategy are the Futures and Concepts Center director, Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley; Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, the Army’s G/3/5/7 chief in charge of operations, plans and training; Lt. Gen. James Richardson, the deputy commander of Army Futures Command; Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the military deputy to the acquisition chief; and Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy, head of the Combined Arms Center, explained McCarthy.
“These five officers are really at the center of all this, bringing all these pieces together,” McCarthy said, “and over time you will see us change that operating model, field those capabilities and then ultimately change the structure.”
Wesley said earlier this month that the Army is preparing to make what it deems as necessary and major organizational changes to its force structure within the next five years. A new organizational structure is necessary, according to Wesley, to better align with the service’s new war fighting doctrine, Multidomain Operations, currently under development.
The Army rolled out the first iteration of its new doctrine more than a year ago, and it debuted a revised version — MDO 1.5 — shortly after AUSA’s annual convention in Washington last fall.
The new doctrine addresses how the service plans to operate against adversaries that have learned to engage in provocative behavior in a gray zone that doesn’t quite classify as conflict, and who have studied U.S. capabilities, developed equipment and produced operating concepts that threaten America’s long-standing capability overmatch.
“The big five weapon systems that are in our formations today,” McCarthy said, “was really the big 64. … The structure of the formation changed because you had to enable them to fight, and that is what is going to happen again, albeit, 45 years later.” (Source: Defense News)
26 Mar 19. Air Force wish list includes more F-35s, tankers … and some money for advanced tech to confuse Russia and China. Twelve additional F-35s and three KC-46 tankers rank among the Air Force’s wish list of items it would like to have, but couldn’t afford in its fiscal year 2020 budget. The service’s annual unfunded priorities list, which was obtained by Defense News and first reported by Inside Defense, was sent to Congress this week. The Air Force places additional F-35s and KC-46s as its third-highest priority on the list — and the most expensive. With an extra $2bn, the service would seek an increase of 12 F-35A conventional models, three KC-46 tankers, associated spares for both aircraft, and long-lead funding for F-35s in FY21.
That sum would give the service a total of 15 tankers — which would help KC-46 manufacturer Boeing maintain a steady stream of production — and 60 F-35As in FY20. The 60 A-models, together with the eight F-15X aircraft requested by the Air Force, would get it within striking distance of its goal of procuring at least 72 fighter jets per year, which Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has said is needed to ensure the Air Force maintains capacity as it modernizes its combat aircraft inventory.
In the past, lawmakers have been fairly receptive to funding big-ticket items on the services’ wish lists, especially aircraft like the F-35 and the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which garner deeply-entrenched support from the congressional delegations where those platforms are produced.
However, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., has indicated he could support a smaller $733bn topline budget for the Defense Department instead of the current $750bn figure — which would make it much more difficult to fund any wish list items.
Although the additional F-35s and KC-46s are the most attention-grabbing items on the list, the Air Force’s highest-ranked unfunded priority is $579m meant for “readiness recovery.”
“If the Air Force does not receive supplemental and reprogramming support in FY19, we will have to take actions that drive unacceptable impacts to Air Force readiness,” the wish list states.
“This [unfunded priority list] item would recover the lost readiness by adding necessary weapon system sustainment funding to 10 weapon systems, and includes funding for B-1 repairs and fatigue testing to address critical structural issues, as well as unanticipated B-52 and KC-135 corrosion inspections and repairs associated with an aging aircraft fleet.”
Although the Air Force does not break down exactly which 10 weapon systems would benefit from this additional funding, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has called for the Air Force to boost mission capable rates for the F-35, F-22 and F-16 inventories to 80 percent by FY19, and that some of this money could be directed toward that initiative.
Furthermore, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has also pledged to get 204 of the service’s 312 operational squadrons to 80 percent readiness by 2020, and the rest reaching that level in 2023.
The number two priority on the list involves accelerating M-Code, a new signal that next-generation GPS III satellites will broadcast to military assets, helping to improve resiliency and prevent GPS jamming.
For $149m, the service would speed up the development of receiver M-Code receivers for weapons including the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Joint Direct Attack Munition, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, and Small Diameter Bombs I and II. It would also create test equipment that would evaluate how the service’s system stands up in contested environments against advanced threats.
The biggest surprise on the unfunded priorities list? The inclusion of a $25m demonstration of a high speed vertical lift aircraft, which the Air Force is calling Agility Prime.
The demo would “prove the employment of non-runway jet operations in a contested environment, which is crucial to the Air Force’s ability to develop a lethal, agile, and resilient force posture and employment.”
The service envisions using the high-speed aircraft to provide “flexible logistics in a contested environment” by combining adaptive basing, vertical lift and autonomous operations. That could point the way toward using rotorcraft drones to transfer cargo, perhaps like a more survivable version of the K-Max unmanned helicopter tested by the Marine Corps.
The list calls for $18m for further development and demonstration of cutting-edge technologies like hypersonics, autonomy — to include artificial intelligence, machine learning and unmanned systems — as well as nuclear command, control and communications. It also includes $61m for prototyping and experiments involving directed energy, joint lethality in contested environments, and a specific prototype effort for Navigation Technology Satellite-3. (Source: Defense News)
25 Mar 19. U.S. and Egypt Hold 31st Military Cooperation Committee Meeting. Senior delegations from the United States and the Arab Republic of Egypt met March 20-22 in Washington, D.C., for the 31st meeting of the Military Cooperation Committee (MCC). The MCC is the premier bilateral defense forum for coordinating defense cooperation, identifying shared security objectives, and consulting on a wide array of strategic issues.
The delegations discussed a broad range of defense issues, including counterterrorism, border and maritime security, security assistance, and security cooperation. The U.S. and Egypt remain committed to a strong bilateral relationship built on common interests and mutual respect. The defense relationship has served as one of the key foundations of the broader strategic partnership for nearly forty years, and the MCC reflects the mutual commitment to cooperation and consultation based on shared priorities.
Specific discussions focused on ways to increase cooperation on counterterrorism and border and maritime security issues. Both sides hailed exercise Bright Star as a pillar of the military-to-military relationship and committed to continuing and expanding these efforts.
U.S. officials also acknowledged the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel, which was signed March 26, 1979 in Washington, D.C., and extended appreciation for Egypt’s continued regional leadership. The U.S. delegation was led by Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger. The Egyptian delegation was led by Assistant Minister for Defense for International Relations Major General Mohamed Elkeshky. (Source: US DoD)
22 Mar 19. Pentagon: We’re Buying Boeing F-15s to Keep 2 Fighter Makers in Business. The acting defense secretary’s ties to the company had nothing to do with the decision, a senior defense official said Friday.
The decision to buy new Boeing F-15s reflects the Pentagon’s desire to keep two American companies making fighter jets into the next decade — and not the acting defense secretary’s ties to the company, a senior defense official said Friday. The 2020 budget request contains $1.1bn to buy eight F-15X jets, a new variant of an aircraft the Air Force last bought nearly a decade ago. The twin-tailed plane was chosen over Lockheed’s cheaper single-engine F-16 in part to keep a second U.S. manufacturer in the tactical-jet business as the Pentagon begins exploring new technologies for a new generation of warplanes, the official said.
“One of the considerations was the diversity of the industrial base,” the official said. “If we look at something as important as the tactical aircraft industrial base and we look forward into sixth-generation [fighter] production and competition and that kind of stuff,…gaining diversity in that industrial base is going to be critical.”
The senior defense official emphasized that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who formerly worked as a Boeing executive, was not involved in the decision to buy the F-15X.
“When it came to any specific platform that involved Boeing, those conversations were held strictly away from him,” the official said.
Upon entering government service in 2017, Shanahan formally recused himself from all dealings involving his former employer. But on Wednesday, the Defense Department’s inspector general confirmed that it had opened an investigation into “complaints that we recently received that Acting Secretary Shanahan allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules,” an IG spokesman said. On Friday, the Pentagon released an updated ethics agreement that Shanahan signed when he became acting secretary in January.
Since Shanahan and other top Trump administration political appointees at the Pentagon have ties to the defense industry, their aides are trained to make sure the officials are not involved in decisions related to their former employers, a second senior defense official said. They were extra cautious, particularly during budget deliberations.
“We had to be very careful about it,” the second official said.
Last fall, the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office recommended that the Air Force buy a mix of F-35s and an in-production fourth-generation fighter — a candidate pool that includes the F-16, F-15, and Boeing’s F/A-18. By mid-October, the Air Force agreed, and picked the F-15. Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis approved the plan, Pentagon deputy controller Elaine McCusker said last week.
Shanahan’s “part of that process was really limited to broad capability discussions and force-shape discussions, but it really didn’t get down into any of the specific platforms,” the first official said.
The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as a growing number of U.S. allies, are buying the fifth-generation F-35, a stealthy warplane with advanced sensors that Pentagon officials say is critical to the wars of the future. For years, the Air Force has refused to buy new F-15s or F-16s even as their existing fleets grew tired from nearly two decades of use supporting ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, opting only for the F-35.
But the senior defense official said Friday that fourth-generation planes, particularly the F-15 has an essential role in the future battles, signaling out homeland defense a protecting U.S. bases in the Pacific.
“We can do those other missions with fourth-[generation] planes more affordably,” the official said. “Our fourth-gen inventory as it is right now is aging out and we’re starting to see some capacity shortfalls.”
The senior officials said that fourth-generation aircraft will remain useful in counterrorism operations, even as the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy focuses on near-peer fights with Russia and China.
F-15E Strike Eagles — an older version of the F-15EX — have been used on and off for close air support missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria for nearly 20 years. The officials said that the F-15s, when armed with long-range cruise missiles, could also play a role in a high-end battle.
“There is a role for penetrating assets [like F-35] to go downtown, to get inside their air defenses,” the official said. “But there’s a role for standoff munitions.”
The decision to buy the F-15s, a move that Congress must still approve, puts pressure on Lockheed to lower the cost of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which for years experienced of developmental delays and cost overruns. The price of the F-35 has been fallingin recent years and the reliability of newer jets improving.
The first senior defense official said the Pentagon expects the new F-15EX to cost about $90m per copy. The F-35 is expected to cost about $80m in 2020.
Lockheed has argued that its F-35 would cost the Pentagon less than new F-15s, and that it could increase production to meet demand.
“Should the U.S. Air Force or any other customer plan to increase their annual procurement rate, we are confident we can meet increased demand — while continuing to deliver an $80m F-35A by 2020, which is equal to or less cost than legacy aircraft,” Michael Friedman, a company spokesman, said in an email Friday.
Right now, the Air Force plans to buy 240 F-35s between 2020 and 2024.
“Lockheed Martin and our partners have been ramping our manpower, material, methods and machines to ensure we are prepared to deliver the maximum number of aircraft across the three Final Assembly and Checkout facilities for our current and growing customer base,” Friedman said. “With these actions, the F-35 enterprise has capacity to deliver about 430 U.S. Air Force F-35As in that same timeframe, or about 190 more than currently planned.” (Source: Defense One)
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