Sponsored by Lincad
07 June 19. U.S. will not accept more Turkish F-35 pilots over Russia defences – sources. The United States has decided to stop accepting any additional Turkish pilots who planned to come to the United States to train on F-35 fighter jets, U.S. officials say, in a clear sign of the escalating dispute over Ankara’s plans to purchase Russian air defences. The two NATO allies have sparred publicly for months over Turkey’s order for Russia’s S-400 air defence system, which Washington says poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy. The United States says Turkey cannot have both, but has avoided taking steps until now to curtail or halt planned training of Turkish pilots in the programme, a reprisal that could be seen as an embarrassment in Turkey. The two U.S. officials, who spoke to Reuters this week on condition of anonymity, left open the possibility the decision could be reversed, perhaps if Turkey altered its plans. They said the decision so far only applied to upcoming rounds of Turkish pilots and maintenance crews who would have normally come to the United States.
There has not yet been a formal decision to halt the training of the Turkish pilots and maintenance crews now at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, the sources said. Still, Reuters reported last week that the step was being seriously considered. Four Turkish pilots are currently training at Luke. Two additional Turkish pilots are at the U.S. base working as instructors. Beyond those six Turkish officers, there are an additional 20 Turkish aircraft maintainers at the base undergoing training as well, the U.S. military says.
Turkey has expressed an interest in buying 100 of the fighters, which would have a total value of $9bn at current prices.
If Turkey were removed from the F-35 programme, it would be one of the most significant ruptures in recent history in the relationship between the two allies, experts said.
But strains in ties between Washington and Ankara already extend beyond the F-35 to include conflicting strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of U.S. consular staff in Turkey.
The disclosure of the decision on the pilots follows signs that Turkey is moving ahead with the S-400 purchase. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on May 22 that Turkish military personnel were receiving training in Russia to use the S-400, and that Russian personnel may come to Turkey.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday it was “out of the question” for Turkey to back away from its deal with Moscow.
Kathryn Wheelbarger, one of the Pentagon’s most senior policy officials, said last week that Turkey’s completion of the transaction with Russia would be “devastating,” dealing heavy blows to the F-35 programme and to Turkish interoperability within the NATO alliance.
“The S-400 is a Russian system designed to shoot down an aircraft like the F-35,” said Wheelbarger, an acting assistant secretary of defense. “And it is inconceivable to imagine Russia not taking advantage of that (intelligence) collection opportunity.”
The Pentagon declined comment on whether it would accept new Turkish pilots. But it has stressed discussions are taking place with Ankara on potentially selling Turkey Patriot missile defences, which are made by Raytheon Co. Erdogan said on Tuesday, however, that the United States had not “given us an offer as good as the S-400s.” (Source: Reuters)
06 June 19. New U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers Can’t Launch F-35s Until 2027: Report. Can it be fixed? The U.S. Navy is facing severe scrutiny from Congress after it was discovered that the new Ford-class supercarriers would be unable to launch and recover aircraft, with the legislative branch going so far as to propose refusing deliveries of future carriers until they can sort the issues out.
The primary problems surrounding the carriers come from new technologies being unable to work as a system- namely the F-35C aircraft, the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and the Advanced Arresting Gear. EMALS and AAG have been plagued with issues since the beginning, and the entire Ford-class seems to suffer from cost-cutting measures and overruns, respectively.
According to The Drive, the Government Accountability Office claims that Ford-class carriers might not have the ability to deploy F-35s until 2027 at the very earliest. In response to the Newport News Shipbuilding Company’s inability to produce a properly-functioning carrier, Congress now wants to make it illegal for the Navy to accept delivery of its next Ford-class aircraft carrier, the future USS John F. Kennedy until all the issues are resolved. The Kennedy is expected to commission by 2024. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
05 June 19. Pentagon eyes rare earth supplies in Africa in push away from China. The U.S. Department of Defense has held talks with Malawi’s Mkango Resources Ltd and other rare earth miners across the globe about their supplies of strategic minerals, part of a plan to find diversified reserves outside of China, a department official said on Wednesday.
The push comes as China threatens to curb exports to the United States of rare earths, a group of 17 minerals used in a plethora of military equipment and high-tech consumer electronics.
Although China contains only a third of the world’s rare earth reserves, it accounts for 80% of U.S. imports of minerals because it controls nearly all of the facilities to process the material, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.
“We are looking for any source of supply outside China. We want diversity. We don’t want a single-source producer,” Jason Nie, a material engineer with the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency, said on the sidelines of the Argus U.S. Specialty Metals conference in Chicago.
The DLA, which buys, stores and ships much of the Pentagon’s supplies – ranging from minerals to airplane parts to zippers for uniforms – has also held talks with Burundi’s Rainbow Rare Earths Ltd about future supply, as well as offered to introduce the several U.S. rare earth projects under development with potential financiers, Nie said.
“We can make connections,” he said.
The DLA routinely talks with potential suppliers as part of its due diligence, steps that do not necessarily result in purchase agreements. Still, the inquiries show that the Pentagon is increasingly focused on diversifying supplies of critical minerals.
As of September 2016, the most recent operational report, the DLA held stocks of many critical minerals worth $1.15bn.
For the current 2019 fiscal year, the DLA expects to buy rare earths on the open market (up to a maximum 416 tonnes), lithium ion battery precursors (0.02 tonnes) and tin (40 tonnes), among other strategic minerals, according to a government report.
Some of the equipment the Pentagon buys, including night-vision goggles and aircraft, are made using rare earth minerals. The Pentagon has long supported efforts to require military contractors to buy domestically sourced minerals, though there are no current U.S. rare-earth processing facilities.
China, as part of the escalating trade conflict with the United States, implied through its state-controlled media last month that it could restrict rare earth sales to the world’s largest economy. Such a step would have precedence, as China in 2010 culled exports of rare earths to Japan after a diplomatic dispute.
“If you put yourself in China’s shoes, this is their main weapon in the trade war,” said Mark Seddon, an Argus metals analyst.
Mkango Resources is developing a rare earths mine and processing facility in Malawi that is still several years from coming online. Rainbow Rare Earths began operating in Burundi in 2017 and has an offtake agreement with ThyssenKrupp AG.
China dominates global processing capacity for rare earths, with Australia’s Lynas Corp the only non-Chinese company with any significant capacity.
“It is not a good idea to be reliant on a single major source of any material,” Amanda Lacaze, chief executive of Lynas, told Reuters on the sideline of the conference. Lynas last month signed a memorandum of understanding to build a rare-earth processing facility in Texas with privately held Blue Line Corp.
Texas Mineral Resources Corp is pushing to develop the Round Top rare earth deposit in a remote corner of the state’s western edge, and Rare Element Resources Ltd is moving forward on a Wyoming project. But those projects will take several years to come online, reflecting the reality that efforts to build rare earth processing plants in the United States are still in the early stages.
Privately held MP Materials, which owns the Mountain Pass mine in California, aims to open a processing facility by next year.
The U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday recommended urgent steps to boost domestic rare earth production.
The report includes 61 specific recommendations – including low-interest loans and a buy American provision for defense companies – to increase U.S. rare earths supply. It also called for closer cooperation with U.S. allies, which dovetails with DLA’s outreach to miners in Africa and elsewhere. (Source: Reuters)
03 June 19. HASC to DoD: We’ll Do The Money, You Do A Tech Strategy. In a markup of the 2020 defense budget, the HASC tells the Pentagon to keep developing new tech but inform the Hill about how and where it might be used. The House Armed Services Committee is demanding the Pentagon deliver a roadmap for how it plans to incorporate 5G technologies into its weapons, as part of a push for the military to better track how it is using the new technologies it is so urgently seeking.
The markup, released today, directs the military to begin delivering reports on new technologies “continuously as such technology is developed,” while keeping Congress updated on how it might use new capabilities like hypersonic weapons and artificial intelligence, should the need arise.
The HASC intelligence and emerging threats’ subcommittee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act is an opening salvo from the Hill letting the Pentagon and the White House know what lawmakers’ budget and policy priorities are.
“Technology development often outpaces policy formulation.” the markup says. “For example, the Department is investing significantly in hypersonics, artificial intelligence, directed energy, and other cutting-edge technologies without a cohesive policy regarding development and employment of such capabilities, including the use of these technologies for offensive purposes.”
UPDATE BEGINS “The intent of this provision is compel the Secretary of Defense to take a hard look, clarify roles and responsibilities, and get USDP [the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy] involved way earlier in the process,” a HASC staffer told reporters this afternoon. That includes proper reviews of legal and international treaty implications, as well as broader strategic issues.
“If you look at directed energy, the policy lagged for years,” the staffer said. “They just came out with something comprehensive last year,” well after the Navy had field-tested a working laser in the Persian Gulf
Likewise, on artificial intelligence, “there was a national commission created in last year’s bill, but DoD is still struggling with how do you keep a man in loop, how do you make sure you have integrity of data,” the staffer continued. “We probably should have been having these conversations years ago.”
“We don’t want to [have to] create a commission for every single capability that comes out,” the staffer said.” “This compels the process [within DoD] and then requires a report to Congress. That will help us oversee it.”
Using the National Defense Strategy as its guide, Pentagon leadership over the past two years has charged hard to find the resources to fund rapid development of technologies like hypersonic missiles, electronic warfare capabilities, precision and long-range munitions, and other leap-ahead technologies. But lawmakers, who are not opposed to spending to stay ahead of advances being made by China and Russia, are somewhat wary.
The subcommittee writes that it “believes the Department should better align policy formulation with technology development in order to promote responsible capability development.”
The DoD’s lead for developing advanced capabilities, James Faist, told reporters last month these are all “really urgent needed missions,” prioritized by the Defense Secretary, the Joint Staff, and the armed services. “These are well defined areas that we’re behind our adversaries,” he said. “We have to catch up.”
The Navy is already working to refit its decades-old China Lake weapons testing and research site in the Mojave Desert to begin hosting hypersonic weapons testing from a variety of platforms. Developing hypersonics is the Pentagon’s “highest technical priority” undersecretary for research and engineering Michael Griffin has said, complaining that China “has tested more hypersonics weapons than we have in a decade. We’ve got to fix that — hypersonics is a game changer.”
The markup would also require the Pentagon to notify Congress when the president gives the military the nod to conduct offensive operations in cyberspace. Last year, in a move the White House said would allow the US to act more decisively in cyberspace, the Trump administration gave the president the power to greenlight offensive cyber attacks.
UPDATE BEGINS Besides requiring quarterly reports to Congress on the cyber National Mission Force, the draft bill includes provisions “strengthening current statutory reporting requirements for sensitive military operations in cyberspace [and] requiring notification to Congress by the secretary of defense when authorities dealing with cyberspace ops are delegated,” the staffer said.
Are these new requirements in response to any specific instance when Congress was not notified? No, “it’s not tied to any single specific lack of communication,” the staffer emphasized.
The main driver is the Trump administration’s new policy, unveiled last fall, of delegating authority to launch offensive cyber operations — tightly controlled by the White House under Obama — down to the Secretary of Defense and potentially further to theater commanders. “There’s been such an evolution over the last year and new guidance from the White House on cyber ops,” the staffer said, “members want to be able to understand what’s been delegated as it’s delegated, not just when the operation occurs.” UPDATE ENDS
The markup on Monday would add definitions to what might be considered a “sensitive military cyber operation” requiring congressional notification, including rules to “further define what offensive and defensive operations constitute a sensitive military cyber operation in order to strengthen oversight.” (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
03 June 19. House Armed Services Scrutinizes F-35 Costs, ABMS, Army Modernization. The HASC wants an independent cost estimate on the F-35 and some detail — any detail — on the plan to replace AWACS. It’s also a little curious about robot tanks.
A key congressional committee is demanding more information from the Pentagon on an array of weapons. The biggest ask: an independent cost estimate on the massive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to compare against official figures from the Joint Program Office.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen an independent cost estimate from the services” — the Air Force, Navy, and Marines all use F-35 variants — as well as the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation office (CAPE), a House Armed Services Committee staffer told reporters this afternoon. The committee’s draft of the annual National Defense Authorization Act also seeks details on how the Pentagon plans to control the long-term operations, maintenance, and sustainment costs of the stealth fighter, a timeline to both patch and rebuild the troubled ALIS maintenance system, and more information on the plane’s critical upgrade Block IV software upgrade. The HASC did reject suggestions to break out Block IV as a separate Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP), saying that wasn’t necessary to improve oversight.
That doesn’t mean the committee wants to cut the F-35 buy. Far from it: While today’s briefings and releases gave no monetary details — those will come out later in June — the draft bill does call for buying at least “an economic order quantity” of fighters to get efficiencies of scale. It also authorizes the program to “buy to budget,” meaning that if it negotiates for a lower price per plane than the budget figure was based on, the military can buy more F-35s rather than returning the savings to the Treasury.
The committee also asked for more details on the controversial purchase of new but non-stealthy F-15EX fighters to replace rapidly aging F-15Cs.
“If the Air Force wants to go forward with this program, there’s some documentation that they owe us,” a staffer said. What kind: a formal acquisition strategy, a program funding baseline, and a test and evaluation plan — all the due diligence for a major acquisition program. The draft bill would only allow purchase of two prototype aircraft until the Pentagon provides the necessary documentation.
The bill would also require the Air Force and Special Operations Command to jointly figure out their next steps on a long-delayed low-cost Light Attack aircraft — probably a propeller plane, perhaps a stripped-down jet — to support friendly forces against guerrillas lacking anti-aircraft weapons.
“Generally speaking, I think we’re satisfied [so far],” a staffer said. “The question is where is it going?… Is it an Air Force program? Is it a SOCOM program?” And, once the planes are bought, who will pay to operate, maintain and sustain them for decades to come?
But at least Congress knows what the Air Force is buying with the F-15EX and Light Attack efforts: airplanes. That’s not so with the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which would replace the venerable and easily targetable AWACS radar plane with an ill-defined “system of systems” that would network together everything from — potentially — manned aircraft to drones to satellites.
“Right now it’s just a concept, it’s not a real program,” a staffer said. “We’re trying to get more detail out of the Air Force….When you say a ‘system of systems,’ it’s pretty vague.”
The subcommittee didn’t mention any specific action they were taking to preserve the existing AWACS fleet until the replacement is clearer. But, in a closely related move, they forbade retirement of the RC-135 Rivet Joint recon plane until the Defense Secretary certifies there’s a replacement.
Pounding The Ground
The committee is cautiously optimistic on the Army’s new Futures Command and its rapidly evolving Big Six modernization program. But it’s already zeroing in on a number of the new weapons where it’s not sure technology is ready for prime time.
“I think the Army’s modernization program … is generally coherent, it’s generally funded,” one staffer said in less than ringing praise. “Its affordability is perhaps to be determined.” And there are specific areas — the ones the draft bill singles out — where “technology is probably the biggest question. [It may be] not mature enough.”
What are those programs?
The bill wants the Pentagon to come up with a strategy to integrate various long-range ground-based missiles to take on both land and naval targets. While this would be a joint effort, it’s the Army that’s made such Long-Range Precision Fires it’s No. 1 priority and that has the potential to dramatically increase its surface-to-surface firepower when the INF Treaty expires this August.
The bill would demand quarterly reports on the Army’s effort to rapidly replace the M2 Bradley troop carrier with a new Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle. The name refers to the plan for machine to operate at least part of the time by remote control — and in the longer term, directed by an onboard artificial intelligence — with no humans beings aboard. OMFV is the most urgent program within the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicles (NGCV) portfolio, which is No. 2 of its Big Six priorities.
The committee also wants a comprehensive “strategic plan and modernization roadmap” for the Army’s No. 3 priority, Future Vertical Lift, the effort to replace its current helicopters with revolutionary new high-speed aircraft. FVL is racing towards critical decisions on a new light scout, the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft; a mid-sized Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk; and a family of drones.
In the longer term comes the question of what aircraft will replace the CH-47 Chinook, which the Army decided to stop buying as of 2021. While the committee isn’t considering the 2021 budget yet, to reverse the Army’s decision, they’d have to restore $28m to the ’20 budget now on the table for long-lead advanced procurement to get ready for ’21. Those funding decisions won’t be revealed this week, staff reiterated today, but “the committee is interested and concerned with the Army’s long-range plans for heavy lift.”
The committee also wants to know what the Army’s plans are for the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC), the future linchpin of its battlefield anti-aircraft and missile defense systems. That includes both the near-term purchase of off-the-shelf Iron Dome systems from Israel as an “interim” IFPC and the longer-term development of a permanent solution.
The committee isn’t passing judgment as to whether any of these programs is overreaching for new tech, staff emphasized. “We don’t know that yet, so we’re trying to legislate up front to get the oversight at the start.”
As for the massive reorganization of the service’s acquisition system into a new Army Futures Command, the committee is watching carefully but hasn’t yet seen any shortfalls that would require legislative action.
“There’s still a lot to sort out,” given this is the Army’s biggest reorganization in 40 years, a staffer said, especially since it touches on complex laws and regulations governing procurement programs. “There’s alot of uncertainty associated with what some of that means and we’re playing close attention… [but] I don’t think we found anything to actually legislate on.” Another staffer added: “Yet.” (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
03 June 19. House lawmakers have a list of demands before funding the F-15EX. The U.S. Air Force may be unable to buy the eight F-15EX planes it plans to purchase in fiscal 2020 unless it submits a series of program details to Congress, according to provisions in proposed legislation.
A draft version of the House Armed Services Committee’s defense authorization bill would permit the Air Force to procure two F-15EX prototypes in FY20. HASC staffers who spoke with reporters Monday would not confirm whether the committee had authorized the purchase of all eight fighter jets requested by the service.
However, the bill proposal states that the remaining FY20 funding for the program will only be obligated after the Air Force submits details such as:
- The program acquisition strategy.
- A cost and schedule baseline for the program.
- A test and evaluation master plan.
- A life cycle sustainment plan.
- A post-production fielding strategy.
HASC follows its Senate counterpart and the House Appropriations Committee in releasing its defense budget proposal, and its approach on the F-15EX differs from both committees, which recommended full funding to purchase eight jets made by Boeing.
However, the limitations on the F-15EX are not set in stone. The House and Senate still must pass their respective versions of the defense authorization bill, and once that happens, lawmakers from both chambers will have to compromise on a final version of the legislation — which may not include this language.
Even if kept in, HASC’s provisions indicate some support for buying new F-15EX planes, and thus do not pose an existential threat to the program.
Air Force leaders have made clear that buying more F-15s is a budget-conscious choice that allows the service to replace existing “C” and “D” models that are reaching the end of their service lives.
One of the benefits to this approach, said Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes, is that Air National Guard squadrons that get the F-15EX won’t have to go through a lengthy retraining period for pilots and maintainers to learn a completely new airframe.
“There’s more to think about than just the acquisition cost. There’s the cost to operate the airplane over time. There’s the cost to transition at the installations where the airplanes are — does it require new military construction, does it require extensive retraining of the people, and then how long does it take?” Holmes said in February. “We’re pretty confident to say that we can go cheaper getting 72 airplanes with a mix of fifth- and fourth-[generation aircraft] than we did if we did all fifth gen.” (Source: Defense News)
Lincad is a leading expert in the design and manufacture of batteries, chargers and associated products for a range of applications across a number of different sectors. With a heritage spanning more than three decades in the defence and security sectors, Lincad has particular expertise in the development of reliable, ruggedised products with high environmental, thermal and electromagnetic performance. With a dedicated team of engineers and production staff, all product is designed and manufactured in-house at Lincad’s facility in Ash Vale, Surrey. Lincad is ISO 9001 and TickITplus accredited and works closely with its customers to satisfy their power management requirements.
Lincad is also a member of the Joint Supply Chain Accreditation Register (JOSCAR), the accreditation system for the aerospace, defence and security sectors, and is certified with Cyber Essentials, the government-backed, industry supported scheme to help organisations protect themselves against common cyber attacks. The majority of Lincad’s products contain high energy density lithium-ion technology, but the most suitable technology for each customer requirement is employed, based on Lincad’s extensive knowledge of available electrochemistries. Lincad offers full life cycle product support services that include repairs and upgrades from point of introduction into service, through to disposal at the end of a product’s life. From product inception, through to delivery and in-service product support, Lincad offers the high quality service that customers expect from a recognised British supplier.