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02 May 19. Pentagon Does Not See Path to Reduce F-35 Jet’s Cost – Program Evaluation Director. The US Department of Defense does not see a way to reduce the cost per flying hour for the fifth generation F-35 jet by fiscal year (FY) 2025, and projects that the cost will increase, Pentagon Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation Director Robert Daigle said in a congressional hearing on Thursday.
“The Department does not see a path to get to $25,000 per flying hour by FY 2025,” Daigle told the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.
The F-35A Joint Program Office, Daigle said, estimates the cost per flying hour for the F-35A variant of the aircraft in 2024 would be $34,000. “Our [Pentagon] estimate is $36,000 for the [F-35]A — About the same,” Daigle said.
Daigle pointed out that after fiscal year 2024, the Defense Department projections are the cost per flying hour for the F-35 will flatten out and increase because the jets are starting to age and will have to be brought to depots for check-ups and repairs.
Vice Adm. Mathias Winter said during the hearing that the current F-35A cost per flying hour stands at $44,000. (Emphasis added throughout—Ed.)
“We know the levers and we know the initiatives in spare parts in what we call ‘depot level repair,’ being able to repair those parts, the ability for our service members to conduct the maintenance on the flight line which reduces the turnaround times and being able to give them the tools and the maintenance plans to do that work,” Winter said.
Winter said the Pentagon’s target cost for the F-35A is $25,000 by 2025. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/UrduPoint News)
01 May 19. DOD to Release 2019 Report on Military and Security Developments in China. The 2019 edition of the Department of Defense’s annual report, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, was released the afternoon of May 2, 2019, and will be found at https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/, under “Publications.”
This report informs Congress of the Department of Defense’s assessment of military and security developments involving China.
The report is required by law. DOD produces the report annually and transmits it to Congress. It is coordinated with other departments and agencies across the U.S. government, and is the authoritative assessment from the U.S. government on military and security developments involving China.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall G. Schriver will conduct an on-the-record, on-camera press briefing on Friday, May 3, at 11 a.m. EDT in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room (2E973). Both U.S. and foreign journalists without a Pentagon building pass must be pre-registered in the new Pentagon Visitor Management System to attend the briefing; plan on being escorted from the River Entrance Pedestrian Bridge or the Pentagon Metro Entrance Facility only. Please arrive no later than 45 minutes before the briefing; have proof of affiliation and photo identification. Please call 703-697-5131 for any questions and escort into the building. (Source: US DoD)
30 Apr 19. US Air Force conducts airstrikes with F-35 for first time ever. The U.S. Air Force has finally flown its variant of the F-35 in combat, using two of the aircraft to take out an ISIS tunnel network and weapons cache in Iraq on April 30. Tuesday’s airstrikes — the first U.S. use of the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing model at war — follow the combat employment Israel Defense Forces’ F-35As in May 2018 and U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35Bs in September 2018.
According to U.S. Air Forces Central Command, the airstrike occurred at Wadi Ashai, in northeast Iraq. An April 24 news release from U.S. Central Command stated that ISIS fighters “have been attempting to move munitions, equipment and personnel” to Wadi Ashai in order to “set conditions for their resurgence,” prompting a counter-offensive by Iraqi Security Forces and supported by Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
“The F-35As conducted the airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched Daesh tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains, a location able to threaten friendly forces,” stated the AFCENT release, which used an alternative name for ISIS.
Further information about the event, including whether the strikes were successful, was not made available in the release.
An Air Force airstrike using the F-35A has been widely anticipated for weeks, after the service deployed the fighter jet to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on April 15. The service has not specified how many F-35s are now operating in the Middle East, but all jets are from the 388th Fighter Wing and the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
The F-35, made by Lockheed Martin, is the U.S. military’s newest fighter jet. The program has been beset by cost and schedule overruns since its start about 20 years ago, and the Government Accountability Office estimates that the program will cost in excess of $1trn over its lifetime.
F-35 operators deployed to Al Dhafra praised the utility of the aircraft’s high-end sensor suite and computers in a combat environment.
“We have the ability to gather, fuse and pass so much information, that we make every friendly aircraft more survivable and lethal,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander and F-35A pilot. “That, combined with low-observable technology, allows us to really complement any combined force package and be ready to support AOR [area of responsibility] contingencies.”
Staff Sgt. Karl Tesch, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons technician, added that “this jet is smarter, a lot smarter, and so it can do more, and it helps you out more when loading munitions.” (Source: Defense News)
29 Apr 19. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Action Needed to Improve Reliability and Prepare for Modernization Efforts. The F-35 program has made slow, sustained progress in improving the aircraft’s reliability and maintainability (R&M). The F-35 aircraft (see figure) are assessed against eight R&M metrics, which indicate how much time the aircraft will be in maintenance rather than operations. Half of these metrics are not meeting targets.
While the Department of Defense (DOD) has a plan for improving R&M, its guidance is not in line with GAO’s acquisition best practices or federal internal control standards as it does not include specific, measurable objectives, align improvement projects to meet those objectives, and prioritize funding. If the R&M requirements are not met, the warfighter may have to settle for a less reliable and more costly aircraft than originally envisioned.
In 2019, the F-35 program will start modernization efforts—estimated to cost $10.5bn—for new capabilities to address evolving threats, without a complete business case, or a baseline cost and schedule estimate. Key documents for establishing the business case, such as an independent cost estimate and an independent technology assessment, will not be complete until after the program plans to award development contracts (see figure above).
Without a business case—consistent with acquisition best practices—program officials will not have a high level of confidence that the risk of committing to development has been reduced adequately prior to contract awards. Moving ahead without a business case puts F-35 modernization at risk of experiencing cost and schedule overruns similar to those experienced by the original F-35 program during its development.
Why GAO Did This Study
In 2018, DOD sent an F-35 aircraft to its first combat mission and started initial operational testing. DOD now plans to spend over $270bn to buy more than 2,000 F-35 aircraft over the next 26 years. Since 2011, GAO has found the need for more attention to the F-35’s R&M performance to achieve an operationally suitable system.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 included a provision for GAO to review the F-35 acquisition program until it reaches full-rate production. This is GAO’s fourth report under this provision. This report assesses, among other objectives, (1) the program’s progress in meeting R&M requirements (such as mission reliability) and (2) its plans for spending on new capabilities.
GAO reviewed and analyzed management reports and historical test data; discussed key aspects of F-35 development with program management and contractor officials; and compared acquisition plans to DOD policies and GAO acquisition best practices.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making five recommendations to DOD, including that it identify specific and measurable R&M improvement objectives, align improvement projects, and prioritize resources to meet them. In addition, DOD should complete its business case for modernization before beginning additional development efforts. DOD did not concur with this recommendation, but did concur with the R&M recommendations and plans to take action to address them. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/US Government Accountability Office)
29 Apr 19. Trump’s Withdrawal from Arms Trade Treaty Could Reduce US Exports. The Arms Trade Treaty has helped keep U.S. companies competitive in the global market by requiring other countries to adopt standards similar to America’s.
In a fiery speech at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association on Friday, President Trump announced that the United States would “unsign” the Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT. This decision is a mistake, not only because it undermines the United States’ important role in multilateral diplomacy on issues crucial to national and international security, but because it harms U.S. defense industry interests as well.
Adopted by the United Nations in 2013 and in force since the following year, the ATT is historic: it is the first legally binding international agreement to regulate the global trade in conventional arms by establishing common international standards for member countries to incorporate into their national transfer control systems. The ATT now has 101 states parties and an additional 34 signatories, including the United States, which signed but did not formally ratify the treaty.
Put simply, the ATT is intended to stop the irresponsible transfer of conventional arms, which are often used to commit violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The treaty also aims to promote cooperation in the global arms trade by establishing clear elements of national control systems, encouraging efficiency and predictability in transfer decision processes, and facilitating transparency to build confidence among trading partners.
The ATT’s objectives are in the United States’ interest – strategically, politically, and commercially. In walking away from this agreement, the Trump administration is needlessly putting U.S. interests at risk, particularly (and ironically) for the U.S. defense industry.
In 2010, while the treaty was being drafted, we convened the U.S. Industry Working Group on the ATT to ensure that the proposed agreement would not inadvertently harm U.S. defense industry. U.S. laws and regulations already comprehensively control American weapons exports and imports in order to protect U.S. national security interests and keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists, human rights abusers, and other nefarious actors.
The U.S. defense industry’s involvement helped ensure that the ATT reflected the realities of the global arms trade and did not undermine legitimate and legal business. To the contrary: when implemented effectively, the ATT helps level the playing field by requiring other countries to adopt standards similar to those that U.S. companies must follow. While Russia and China have not joined the treaty, the ATT provides a principled basis for the United States and its allies to challenge these countries’ arms exports, where appropriate, as inconsistent with international norms.
The ATT is also intended to harmonize arms transfer laws and regulations around the world. Rather than making industry follow a patchwork of rules, the ATT lays out clear elements of a national control system and criteria for states to consider when making arms transfer decisions. Clarity and consistency in national systems contribute to efficiency and predictability in the global arms market. This was a key objective for U.S. industry in the ATT negotiations.
The international arms trade is becoming increasingly globalized. U.S. defense companies rely on a diverse set of actors across the supply chain. Virtually all of our closest allies and partners are ATT members, including all of Europe.
Now the United States will have to live with the consequences of these key defense partners being inside the treaty while it remains in the company of Syria, North Korea, and Iran.
In short, the decision to unsign the ATT puts U.S. industry at risk. The President repeatedly referenced “America First” and U.S.sovereignty in his announcement, but his decision undermines the ability of the United States to secure its own interests. If the United States is not in the room when the treaty is discussed, there is no way to influence the treaty process, to share good practices, or to encourage governments to follow the U.S.example. As the world’s largest arms exporter, the United States would be well served to ensure that treaty interpretation and implementation is consistent with U.S. policy and practice. Trump’s decision undermines U.S. leverage and leaves America and its industry isolated from U.S. allies. (Source: Defense One)
27 Apr 19. It’s time to advance America’s asymmetric advantage by equipping the Air Force. Earlier this month, America lost an airman whose dedication to duty in the face of overwhelming odds stands as second to none: retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole. Best known as Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot on the famed April 18, 1942, air raid against Japan, Cole and 79 other airmen took to the sky that day for a simple reason — they were the only way U.S. forces could strike key targets in Japan.
Four months after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, there was no way that troops on the ground or ships at sea could project power directly into the heart of Japan. Combat aircraft, able to rapidly transit vast distances and fly over opposing forces, offered the only viable solution. The same holds true today, which is why air power is so important. However, despite the revered status of the Doolittle Raid and other similar acts of air power necessity and airmen bravery in World War II, the era also stands as a cautionary tale for today’s leaders.
Success demands smart, realistic preparation. Too often, World War II airmen unnecessarily sacrificed their lives because the nation had failed to invest in and build the air force our nation would need. Today’s airmen find themselves facing eerily similar circumstances. With threats on the rise, the Air Force has too few modern aircraft to meet mission objectives and get crews home safe. Never has the Air Force aircraft inventory been so small or so old. The time has come to reset the force.
Sending airmen into harm’s way is a responsibility like none other. It involves a dual obligation of meeting campaign objectives as fast and effectively as possible, while also working to ensure individuals under your command return to base unharmed, ready for the next mission. The linchpin that makes this possible is capability — the right set of tools in enough numbers to empower smart strategies. American air commanders in World War II lacked the necessary capabilities and capacity for the first two years of the conflict. The price was severe — our nation and allies balanced on the precipice of near defeat and lost thousands of men in the process.
When then-Brig. Gen. Ira Eaker took command of initial bombing operation in England, the entire force consisted of six officers and no planes. The men charged with getting Eaker his bombers and crews faced nearly impossible odds. Strategic bombardment icon Curtis LeMay had only three B-17s to train 35 crews in the early months of 1942. Two of these aircraft crashed in short order. Once airmen were in combat, they did not have the capacity to overwhelm the German Luftwaffe. The vast majority were shot down, and the could not be readily replaced.
According to one air commander: “The morning after each mission saw the breakfast table growing smaller. … The crews developed a new and morbid game. Graphs were plotted and re-plotted and discussed and examined … when the straight line crossed the abscissa, in about three months, everyone would be gone.”
Airmen were simply trying to not lose, an objective far different than winning. Things did not improve until 1944 — with the fate of the war hanging in the balance for two whole years. Summarizing this experience, Gen. LeMay later remarked: “There is nothing worse that I’ve found in life than going into battle ill-prepared or not prepared at all.”
Today, airmen are taking to the sky in a world where threats are on the rise. On the high end of the spectrum, Russia is aggressively asserting itself in ways not seen since the Cold War, and China now stands as a military peer. Nations like Iran and North Korea — once regional concerns — can now threaten targets around the globe due to their nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. Added to this, nonstate actors continue to threaten stability in the Middle East, Africa and beyond.
No matter the military operation, Air Force air power provides commanders crucial options. However, leaders outside the service opted to take a “procurement holiday” in the years following the Cold War. Furthermore, wartime priorities in Afghanistan and Iraq focused on an incredibly narrow niche of combat. Consequently, America’s airmen are flying aircraft that are literally worn out. Leaders have known about this trend for years, but budget pressures and competing priorities truncated potential solutions. Now, nearly the entire Air Force demands aircraft recapitalization, or entire missions will sunset for want of viable aircraft.
Nor are any of these aircraft mission sets equipped with enough aircraft. Each mission area is too small to meet the current national security strategy, not to mention actual wartime demands where things like attrition and unplanned complications demand numerical resiliency. These challenges are exactly the type that faced airmen in World War II.
The only way to address these concurrent shortfalls is to buy modern replacements in sufficient numbers as fast as possible. Commanders in World War II could work a holding strategy to allow the defense-industrial base and training pipeline to ramp up — but at a cost of thousands of lives. Today, things happen far faster and success or failure will be determined in a matter of weeks, days or even hours. Adversaries have studied American combat strategies for decades and understand how we operate, and have specifically designed counter-technologies and strategies that will defeat our legacy designs.
The one advantage America still holds, especially when it comes to air power, is technology. Attributes like stealth, data gathering and processing, networked collaboration, and precision are unique strengths. We no longer hold the decisive edge we once did, but we are still the leaders. That is why programs like the F-35 and B-21 are so important. They embody the very advantages airmen will need to fight and win in tomorrow’s conflicts. It is also why concepts like the F-15EX are so troubling. The notion that a design whose roots extend back 40 years can fight and win against modern threats is ludicrous. No amount of system upgrades can make up for a core design that is from the 1960s.
When Secretary of War Henry Woodring departed the War Department in 1938, he warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt that “we are not prepared for a major conflict. Billions appropriated today cannot be converted into preparedness for tomorrow.”
He was right, and Dick Cole’s generation paid the price. Equipping airmen for the challenges of tomorrow is a long-term process. It cannot be achieved with a flip of a switch — or by Rosie the Riveter. It is a certainty that the aircraft we buy today will go to war, probably several times. Ensuring those airmen prevail demands that we rise to the occasion and make smart decisions now. (Source: Defense News)
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