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17 Jul 19. Army Futures Command is ready for prime time. The Army Futures Command is set to run on all cylinders by the end of the month when it plans to declare full operational capability, a graduation from the new command’s developmental stage it entered roughly a year ago.
AFC commander Gen. Mike Murray and Bruce Jette, the Army’s acquisition chief, told reporters July 16 at an event showcasing its modernization headway at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, that the command would reach full operational capability July 31.
The new four-star command, which is aimed at accelerating modernization and staying ahead of peer adversaries Russia and China, set up shop in a few unfinished floors of a high-rise owned by the University of Texas, overlooking the heart of downtown Austin, in late August 2018.
Those working for the command intended to regularly ditch the uniform in favor of civilian attire and would spend the next year rubbing elbows at the local coffee shops with the young and hip start-up community that permeates the business environment in the city center.
And the service embedded roughly 100 personnel at the neighboring Capital Factory — an innovative entrepreneur’s hub — that shares a building with an Omni hotel.
The command also gained roughly 10,000 square feet of office space and laboratories at the Cockrell School of Engineering, just a five minute drive from its new headquarters. Over the past year, AFC moved outside of the usual Army acquisition box to seek ideas and innovation beyond its own labs and big defense firms and even made an out-of-character appearance at South By Southwest, which has become a see-and-be-seen gathering of the interactive, film and music industries held in Austin annually. But forging a new path in the way the Army does business isn’t perfect. Just this week, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating the AFC needs to better engage small businesses vital to the defense industrial base. A year building up the command may not be enough time to determine if the Army has broken its archaic procurement mold, but the eight cross-functional teams formed under the AFC to tackle the Army’s top six modernization priorities have made headway with low-hanging fruit, but have also truncated daunting timelines for some major future weapons systems.
Leaders from the CFTs descended on Washington to showcase accomplishments, presenting small 3D models and displays to media over a brief 45 minutes at Fort Myer and then again on Capitol Hill July 17.
Within the Army’s top priority — Long-Range Precision Fires — the service is beginning integration of Extended-Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) onto an M109A7 self-propelled howitzer.
And Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are scheduled to competitively demonstrate Precision Strike Munitions this summer that will reach an INF-compliant range of 499km. The goal is to replace the Army Tactical Missile System with the longer-range capability as soon as 2023, which dramatically pushes up an original goal of 2027.
The service will shoot a hypersonic missile out of a 50-inch missile booster stack in the second quarter of 2020, the Army’s military deputy to the acquisition chief, Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, told an audience at an Association of the U.S. Army breakfast July 16.
Some of the earliest efforts to reach soldiers are the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular. Soldiers, Marines and special operators are already trying out the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) — a set of goggles that empower forces with targeting and navigation aids as well as other situational awareness features — on live ranges.
In the training realm, the service awarded contracts to build virtual trainers, which will make up a critical part of its emerging Synthetic Training Environment (STE) — a virtual world in which to train soldiers for war across domains with the goal to move the service away from its stove-piped, technologically ancient systems from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The Army is also building Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) prototypes that will be ready for soldier testing in October this year, according to Col. Chuck Worshim, program manager for cruise missile defense systems with the Army’s Program Executive Office Missiles and Space. The program is right on schedule to fill an urgent operational need in Europe by providing four battalions’ worth of systems by fiscal year 2022.
The M-SHORAD effort resides within the Air-and-Missile Defense CFT.
But some of the bigger tests are coming when the Army, for example, embarks on buying two brand new state-of-the-art helicopters back-to-back to fill the foreseen vital missions of long-range assault and attack reconnaissance.
The Future Vertical Lift CFT director said the Army recently passed an Army Requirements Oversight Council (AROC) review approving its abbreviated Capabilities Development Document (CDD) this month for its Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA). That means service leadership is on board with the requirements set forth within the program office to proceed with a request for product proposals from industry to begin a competition.
The Army will host an industry day July 31 to discuss the way forward and to outline the requirements leading into a competition.
FVL CFT Director Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen told Defense News that because of how well the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program has gone — an effort that looked at the realm of the possible for vertical lift air vehicles — the Army is now looking at a promising “multiyear acceleration” of the FLRAA program. This comes as no surprise since the Army has been looking for a way to speed up the program for several years.
The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program is also on an ambitious schedule. The Army has awarded design contracts to five teams. Only two teams will move forward to build prototypes that are expected to fly by 2023. The five teams will deliver designs by next winter. A production decision could happen in 2028, but the service is looking at any way possible to speed up that timeline.
But with the Army’s dismal track record when it comes to pursuing new helicopters, many in the defense community are questioning whether the service can get one aircraft flying, let alone two.
Same goes with the rapid timeline the Army has set for the acquisition of an Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) to replace the Bradley fighting vehicle. It is the first vehicle the service is pursuing in its Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) portfolio.
The Army’s history in vehicle procurement is also painful with the cancellation of its Future Combat System as well as the failed Ground Combat Vehicle program. The NGCV CFT aims to get beyond the FCS heartburn and field a more capable vehicle by 2026.
Bradley-manufacturer BAE Systems has already taken itself out of the running for the OMFV program, leaving an uncertain number of competitors in the field. Solicitations are due in the fall and the Army is expected to downselect to up to two to build 14 prototypes in the spring next year.
The Army has also wrestled with the replacement of its Patriot air-and-missile defense system — struggling the most to replace its radar with something more capable to go up against evolving threats. The service allowed teams to demonstrate new radars this spring and vendors are now submitting proposals, with several confirming participation this week, to compete in the Lower-Tier Air-and-Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) competition.
Despite struggles of the recent past to bring on major weapons systems to fruition, there are many who are hopeful that the AFC’s focus on flexibility will help finally push these big programs over the edge into the hands of soldiers in the field. (Source: Defense News)
17 Jul 19. Ejecting Turkey from the F-35 Effort Will Cost At Least Half a Billion Dollars. That’s the Pentagon’s low estimate for replacing Turkish suppliers of more than 900 parts. It will cost the U.S. Defense Department between $500m and $600m to remove Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Pentagon acquisition chief said Wednesday.
That’s the cost of finding and setting up U.S. suppliers to make the 900-plus components currently made by ten Turkish manufacturers, Ellen Lord, defense undersecretary of acquisition and sustainment, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday. Lord described Turkey’s removal as having “minimal impact on the larger F-35 partnership.”
She spoke just hours after the Trump administration said it would remove Turkey from the multibillion-dollar stealth fighter project because Ankara purchased S-400 missile interceptors from Russia.
“We have worked on alternate sources for the over 900 parts — we have been working since 2018 on this,” Lord said. “We are proceeding with a very orderly wind down through March 2020 … so we expect minimal impact to the program.”
Asked if Turkey would be reimbursed for planes they have purchased, Lord said, “We are discussing the specifics about the aircraft they have purchased so far as we speak.”
Turkey has ordered 30 F-35s, four of which are at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where they are being used for pilot training. The rest are in various stages of production, according to a person with knowledge of Ankara’s orders.
Turkish military pilots and maintenance workers were told Wednesday they must leave the United States, Lord said.
“[W]e doubt there’s a significant impact on the F-35,” Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, said in a note to investors shortly after the formal announcement was made.
Lord said the ten Turkish manufacturers had been slated to make about $9bn on F-35 parts contracts. As of July, they already had about $1bn in commitments, she said.
“Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision,” she said.
Initially, the Pentagon plans to use U.S. suppliers to fabricate the Turkish-made parts, but will eventually open that work up to companies in countries buying the F-35, Lord said.
In addition to making parts, an F-35 engine maintenance facility was supposed to be based in Turkey. (Source: Defense One)
18 Jul 19. U.S. House rejects Saudi weapons sales; Trump to veto. The U.S. House of Representatives backed resolutions on Wednesday to block the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, sending them to the White House, where President Donald Trump has promised a veto. Nearly a month after the Senate supported 22 resolutions disapproving of Trump’s plan for billions of dollars in weapons sales despite Congress’ objections, the House passed three of the 22, two on a vote of 238-190 and the third by a 237-190 margin, largely along party lines.
The three resolutions would block the sale of Raytheon Co precision-guided munitions and related equipment to the two countries. The House’s Democratic leaders opted to take up those three before the others because the PGMs could be delivered quickly, aides said. Some lawmakers also suspect that the PGMs have been used against civilians in Yemen’s civil war
Many members of Congress, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, have been frustrated by what they see as Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia.
The Senate’s backing of the resolutions of disapproval was one of the few times the Republican-led chamber has opposed his foreign policy.
Lawmakers want Washington to push the kingdom to improve its human rights record and do more to avoid civilian casualties in the four-year-long war in Yemen, where the Saudis and UAE are leading an air campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Frustration grew after the murder at a Saudi consulate in Turkey last year of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident.
“This is a strong message, I think, that our values must guide our foreign policy,” said Representative Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urging support for the resolutions before the vote.
Trump wants to retain close ties to Riyadh, which he considers an important partner in the Middle East and counterweight to the influence of Iran.
Trump also views foreign military sales as a way to generate U.S. jobs. Officials from his administration had been unhappy with Democrats in Congress who blocked the planned sales, in some cases for more than a year, over civilian casualties in Yemen. Trump announced in May that he would sidestep congressional review of the military deals, worth more than $8bn, by declaring that the threat from Iran constituted an emergency. Tensions with Iran have decreased since then, and administration officials have acknowledged that the military equipment has not been delivered.
Several Republicans joined Democrats in condemning that decision and voting for the resolutions. However, they would have to attract far more support in both the Republican-led Senate and House to garner the two-thirds majorities needed to override Trump’s vetoes.
But lawmakers from both parties are not dropping the matter. Several pieces of legislation making their way through Congress include Saudi-related provisions. And the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is due to vote on two Saudi-related bills on Tuesday. One, sponsored by seven Republican and Democratic senators, includes sanctions to support a peaceful resolution of the Yemen war, address the humanitarian crisis and hold perpetrators responsible for murdering Khashoggi.
The other would mandate an in-depth review of U.S.-Saudi policy and bar travel to the United States by many members of the Saudi royal family. (Source: Reuters)
17 Jul 19. From Iraq to Yemen, drones raise U.S. alarm over Iranian plans. The increased use of drones by Iran and its allies for surveillance and attacks across the Middle East is raising alarms in Washington. The United States believes that Iran-linked militia in Iraq have recently increased their surveillance of American troops and bases in the country by using off-the-shelf, commercially available drones, U.S. officials say.
The disclosure comes at a time of heightened tensions with Iran and underscores the many ways in which Tehran and the forces it backs are increasingly relying on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in places like Yemen, Syria, the Strait of Hormuz and Iraq.
Beyond surveillance, Iranian drones can drop munitions and even carry out “a kamikaze flight where they load it up with explosives and fly it into something”, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthis have significantly increased their UAV attacks in recent months, bombing airports and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, a main rival of Iran.
Last month, Iran came close to war with the United States after the Islamic Republic’s unprecedented shoot-down of a U.S. drone with a surface-to-air missile, a move that nearly triggered retaliatory strikes by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump withdrew from a major 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions to cut off Iran’s oil exports and pressure the Islamic Republic to negotiate over its ballistic missile programme and regional policy.
The increased use of drones by Iran or its regional allies is a strategy aimed at pushing back and defending against pressure from the United States and foes like Saudi Arabia and Israel, current and former security officials and analysts say.
Iran now flies two or three drones over Gulf waters every day, the first U.S. official estimated, making it a core part of Tehran’s effort to monitor the Strait of Hormuz, through which one fifth of the world’s oil consumption flows.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of carrying out attacks against six oil tankers near the Strait in the past two months, a claim Tehran has denied.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to quantify the extent to which surveillance near U.S. forces has increased in Iraq or to specify which militia were carrying it out.
“We have seen an uptick in drone activity in Iraq near our bases and facilities,” the first official said. “Certainly the drones that we have seen are more of the commercial off-the-shelf variant. So they’re obviously a deniable type UAV-activity in Iraq.”
A second official said the recent increase in surveillance was worrying but acknowledged Iran-linked militia in Iraq had a history of keeping tabs on Americans.
Reuters has previously reported that the United States has indirectly sent warnings to Iran, saying any attack against U.S. forces by proxy organizations in Iraq will be viewed by Washington as an attack by Iran itself.
In recent weeks, mortars and rockets have been fired at bases in Iraq where U.S. forces are located but no American troops have been injured. U.S. officials did not link those attacks to the increased surveillance.
Attempts to reach the Iranian ministry of foreign affairs and the Revolutionary Guards, who are most closely linked to militant groups in Iraq, for comment were unsuccessful.
Iraqi militia groups linked to Iran began using drones in 2014 and 2015 in battles to retake territory from Islamic State, according to militia members and Iraqi security officials.
These groups received training on the use of drones from members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah, two Iraqi security officials with knowledge of militia activities said.
“Key militia groups have the ability to launch aerial attacks using drones. Will they target American interests? That hasn’t happened yet,” said one Iraqi security official. “They used Katyusha [rockets] and mortars in very restricted attacks against American interests in Iraq to send a message rather than trying to inflict damage. Using explosive-laden drones is very possible once we have a worsening situation between Tehran and Washington.”
HOW SOPHISTICATED ARE IRAN’S DRONES?
In March, Iran boasted about a complex military exercise involving 50 drones. In a slickly edited video aired on state TV, waves of drones streak across a clear blue sky, bombing buildings on an island in the Gulf.
The show of force was intended to highlight Iran’s locally developed UAV programme, which it has been building up for several years.
Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, however, cautioned that some of Iran’s claims were “best viewed through the prism of domestic messaging”. “That Iran has a growing capability in UAVs isn’t debatable. What is an open question is the actual levels of technology it often employs,” Barrie said, adding that Israel had the most advanced programme in the region.
American technology may have been used to enhance the Iranian drone programme: an advanced U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance drone went down in eastern Iran in 2011, and Revolutionary Guards commanders say they were able to reverse engineer it, a claim which some security officials and analysts dispute.
“They’ve really come up with some aircraft which are looking increasingly sophisticated in terms of their ability to carry guided weapons and carry out long range surveillance missions,” said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East and Africa editor for Jane’s Defence Weekly.
U.S. forces have shot down Iranian-made drones in 2017 in Syria, after deeming them a threat to both U.S.-backed forces and their advisers.
EXPORTING DRONE TECHNOLOGY
Iran has passed on its drones and technical expertise to regional allies, current and former security officials and analysts say.
The Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah advise the Houthis on the use of drones and operate video uplinks from Tehran and Beirut to beam in technical expertise when needed, an official from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said.
Iran has denied any role in the conflict in Yemen.
U.N. experts say the Houthis now have drones that can drop bigger bombs further away and more accurately than before. In May, drones hit two oil pumping stations hundreds of kilometres inside Saudi territory.
“Either the drones that attacked the pipelines were launched from inside Saudi territory or the Houthis just significantly upped their capability with satellite technology and were provided with the capability to extend the distance,” said Brett Velicovich, a drone expert and U.S. Army veteran, about the May attack.
A commander of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia closely linked to Iran, using the nickname Abu Abdullah, told Reuters in 2014 that Iran had provided training for operating drones, which were mostly used to target Islamic State positions.
He said at the time that they had also used the drones to carry out surveillance on American military positions in Iraq and in the conflict in Syria, where Kataib Hezbollah fought in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
Iraqi militia groups have now acquired enough expertise to modify drones for attacks, two Iraqi security officials with knowledge of the militia activities said. (Source: Reuters)
17 Jul 19. Security Forum, Infrastructure Among Needs For Arctic. As Activity Increases, Senators Stress. The opening of the Arctic to increased maritime activity for different purposes and by different
nations is driving the need for an international forum to deal with potential security issues, two U.S. senators said on Wednesday. The senators also said that the U.S. needs to expand its infrastructure and other capabilities in the Arctic region for disaster response, search and rescue, to advance and protect sovereign interests, and meet the needs of local residents.
“So, security is definitely a part of the picture,” Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), said at an Arctic symposium hosted by the Wilson Center, a policy think tank in Washington, D.C. “Here’s the problem. We don’t have a structure to deal with security because the Arctic Council’s
constitution or charter explicitly says no discussions of security.”
This means that other institutions such as the United Nations come into play, he said, adding that there needs to be a discussion about a structure for security issues in the Arctic. The purpose of such a forum would be help reduce potential conflicts, peacefully resolve disputes
and preserve freedom of navigation as various national interests explore the Arctic, he said. The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that promotes cooperation among the eight Arctic nations including the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), speaking at the same event, highlighted a speech earlier this year by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at an Arctic Council ministerial meeting where he suggested that the council’s role should be expanded to include security. She said his speech
“kind of rattled folks” given the council’s charter, but she noted that Pompeo was highlighting that the new reality in the Arctic is increased interests, some of which are competitive. Murkowski noted that the following day a Finnish minister acknowledged the changing circumstances, saying “’it’s not like we can really put a do not disturb sign on the Arctic.’ We can’t do that. The investment is happening. The activity is already occurring so this is our present reality whether we like it or not.”
Murkowski pointed to Russia’s investments in its Arctic interests in port development, icebreakers and shipping. She also said that China is focused on the Arctic for science and economic reasons and is staunchly committed to a “Polar Silk Road.”
The U.S. needs a fleet of icebreakers for the Arctic and a deep water port or ports, she said, pointing out that the Senate’s version of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act directs the Defense Department to designate at least one site for a strategic Arctic port. The bill also requires DoD and the Department of Homeland Security to do mass casualty and disaster response missions in the Arctic. She said that passenger and cruise ships have run aground in parts of the Arctic during the past year, which means “You have to have a response plan, there’s no other way around it. As is developing our infrastructure.”
Adm. Charles Ray, vice commandant of the Coast Guard, also speaking at the symposium, said his service would benefit if the U.S. creates a deep water port near the Arctic. King said the forecasts for ice melt in the Arctic are accelerating, which means the U.S. will be
confronting issues there faster than thought just a few years ago. Another key need is the ability to navigate in the region, which he said is currently “unpredictable.” Calvin Biesecker(Source: Defense Daily)
17 Jul 19. GAO Recommends Army Improve Futures Command’s Small Business Engagement. The Army is working to improve the new modernization-focused Futures Command’s engagement with small businesses, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday. The report notes the Army has concurred with several recommendations to push Futures
Command toward developing measures for tracking partnerships with small businesses and coordinating with other organizations on utilizing these companies to bolster research and development efforts.
“According to command officials, they prioritized setting up the command structure and engaging with small businesses quickly, instead of focusing on coordination,” GAO officials wrote. “The command has recently been working to improve coordination, but has not formally coordinated such as by establishing agreements with other Army organizations that have small
GAO specifically recommended that Futures Command establish a process for systematically tracking its small business engagement moving forward.
“Tracking and measuring engagement would help ensure the command obtains quality information that may help the Army evaluate, and potentially enhance, its small business engagement,” officials wrote.
Army officials said they have heard from small businesses with concerns over delays between initial outreach and entering into potential contracts, GAO noted in its report. The report also recommends Futures Command work with the Army Office of Small Business Programs to assist with improving its small business coordination. (Source: Defense Daily)
17 Jul 19. Trump formally expels Turkey from F-35 programme. Ban for Nato ally comes after Erdogan’s purchase of Russian air defence system. Donald Trump has formally expelled Turkey from the US-led F-35 fighter jet programme after Ankara took delivery of a Russian air defence system over American objections. Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system comes despite repeated US warnings that it would allow the Kremlin to gather intelligence on one of its most advanced aircraft. Ankara also faces potential US sanctions over the purchase of the Russian system, which has exacerbated already deep rifts between the two Nato allies. A White House spokesperson said it would now be “impossible” for Turkey to continue to be a part of the F-35 programme, the Pentagon’s largest weapons programme in its history. Last month, the Pentagon wrote Hulusi Akar, the Turkish defence minister, to outline US plans to remove Turkey from the manufacturing supply chain for the F-35, a single-engine stealth fighter which will replace many Nato countries’ existing F-16 fleets.
The Pentagon also ordered Turkish pilots training on the F-35 in the US to leave the country by the end of this month. Turkey had purchased about 100 F-35s and was part of the multinational fighter development programme from its inception more than 25 years ago. Because of the fact [Mr Erdogan] bought a Russian missile, we’re not allowed to sell him billions of dollars worth of aircraft. It’s not a fair situation President Donald Trump Ellen Lord, a top Pentagon official, said shifting the production of Turkish-made F-35 parts to other suppliers would cost the US between $500m and $600m. Although the White House said the S-400 amounted to a “Russian intelligence collection platform” that undermined the commitment Nato allies had made to “move away from Russian systems”, it also insisted the US would remain a close strategic ally of Turkey. “As Nato allies, our relationship is multi-layered, and not solely focused on the F-35,” the White House statement said. “Our military-to-military relationship is strong, and we will continue to co-operate with Turkey extensively, mindful of constraints due to the presence of the S-400 system in Turkey.”
Alongside withdrawal from the F-35 programme, Turkey faces the threat of sanctions under CAATSA, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which punishes significant purchases of Russian-made weapons. The law was passed in 2017 in a bid to make sure Mr Trump could not take a soft stance towards Moscow. There is broad, bipartisan congressional support for US sanctions on Turkey. According to legislation pending on Capitol Hill, any potential presidential waiver is likely to face stiff opposition in Congress. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that he expected Mr Trump to “find a compromise” over the purchase, arguing that he can “waive or delay . . . sanctions”. In recent days, Mr Trump has repeated sympathetic remarks on Turkey’s argument that it had no choice but to buy the S-400 system. On Tuesday, Mr Trump blamed the Obama administration for not selling Turkey Patriot missile batteries instead of the S-400, describing the Turkey’s situation as “not really fair”. “Because of the fact [Mr Erdogan] bought a Russian missile, we’re not allowed to sell him billions of dollars’ worth of aircraft,” said Mr Trump. “It’s not a fair situation.” (Source: FT.com)
16 Jul 19. Lawmakers say Trump is locked into Turkey sanctions. After days of silence about whether Turkey will be punished for accepting a Russian-made air defense system, U.S. President Donald Trump reluctantly seemed to agree Turkey will now be cut off from the F-35. Though Washington has repeatedly warned that the Russian system, the S-400, is incompatible with NATO systems and is a threat to the F-35, Trump expressed sympathy toward Turkey’s decision. Trump portrayed the Obama administration as refusing to sell Turkey an American alternative, the Patriot missile defense system, until after the S-400 purchase was complete.
“So what happens is we have a situation where Turkey is very good with us, very good, and we are now telling Turkey that because you have really been forced to buy another missile system, we’re not going to sell you the F-35 fighter jets,” Trump said. “It’s a very tough situation that they’re in, and it’s a very tough situation that we’ve been placed in, the United States.”
“With all of that being said, we’re working through it, but it’s not really fair,” Trump added. “Because they bought a Russian system, we’re not allowed to sell them billions of aircraft. It’s not a fair situation.”
The administration’s delayed response has fueled speculation Trump was looking to avoid a fight with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom he has sympathized with in the past. And notably, the president did not say whether he would impose sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.
But members of Congress this week said the law is very clear: Trump has no choice but to sanction its NATO ally.
Days ago, Erdoğan has expressed a belief that Trump has the authority to waive sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of the Russian air defense systems and must “find the middle ground.” But Trump may find Congress closed the door to compromise last year when it set a high bar to waive U.S. sanctions on countries that buy Russian weapons.
Lawmakers from both parties said the waiver language was included to accommodate allies India and Vietnam, it was tailor-made not to let Turkey off the hook for its purchase of the S-400, and a waiver would be impermissible under current circumstances. The White House, under the law, will instead have to choose from the law’s menu of sanctions, several lawmakers said.
“There’s wide latitude about what to do about the sanctions, but the sanctions certainly need to be put in place,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a Turkey critic and one of the lawmakers involved in drafting the waiver provision, said Tuesday.
For years, the U.S. and other NATO allies have expressed alarm that plugging the Russian system into the alliance could lead to data leaks and security breaches, voicing fears it would allow Russia to gain information about the stealthy F-35 fighter.
The Turkish Defence Ministry on July 12 announced it has received the first pieces of the S-400 at Murted Air Base, near Ankara. That delivery was marked as a trigger for sanctions against Turkey and breaking point for its participation in the F-35 program.
The Pentagon initially called a press briefing the morning of July 12, then rescheduled it for later that day; it was eventually postponed indefinitely. While defense secretary nominee Mark Esper breifly said Friday that the “position regarding the F-35 has not changed,” no detailed statement about the F-35’s fate had been issued until Tuesday, when Esper was asked about it during his Senate confirmation hearing.
“It’s certainly disappointing. Those are my words. Very disappointing,” Esper said. “The policy that I’ve communicated to my counterpart, if confirmed, defense minister, is you can either have the S-400 or the F-35. You cannot have both. Acquisition of the S-400 fundamentally undermines the capabilities of the F-35 and our ability to maintain that overmatch in the skies going forward.”
Turkey, a partner in the F-35 program that helped fund the development of the jet, planned to buy 100 F-35As. Its first jet was rolled out in June 2018 in a festive “delivery ceremony.”
Though Turkey formally owns its jets, the U.S. has the power to keep the planes from moving to Turkish soil and intends to keep all four existing Turkish jets from leaving the U.S. The U.S. has already stopped training Turkish pilots on the F-35 and has given Ankara until the end of July to get its personnel out of the U.S.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Washington Post on Sunday he was confident the president would levy sanctions as CAATSA requires. “The law requires that there be sanctions and I’m confident that we will comply with the law and President Trump will comply with the law,” Pompeo said.
Turkey has refused to bow to U.S. pressure, insisting that choosing which defense equipment to purchase is a matter of national sovereignty.
Although Trump expressed sympathy toward Turkey’s decision to purchase the Russian system during a meeting with Erdoğan on the sidelines of a G-20 meeting in Japan, Washington has repeatedly said that the Russian system is incompatible with NATO systems and is a threat to the F-35.
Lankford and Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., echoed that argument this week as reason to punish Turkey.
“Unlike India, Turkey is a NATO ally, the interoperability of our systems is critical, the inability of us to have a F-35 next to an S-400 is crystal clear, and [Turkish officials] were given options,” Menendez said. “In every respect, they turned their backs on us. They had an option and they refused to do so. That’s why there’s not going to be a waiver.”
“We’re trying to make it clear that if you get Russian equipment, especially with them parking an F-35 next to an S-400, there’s no way you can do that, they’re not compatible,” Lankford said. “All this conversation about we’re going to study it, we’re going to examine it? We already know what the end result is on that. We don’t want to incentivize people using Russian and American equipment together.”
Erdoğan’s comments, that Trump “has the authority to waive or postpone CAATSA,” came two days after NATO member Turkey took delivery of the first tranche of advanced Russian S-400 missile defense system parts, despite warnings from Washington that the move would trigger CAATSA.
“Since this is the case, it is Trump who needs to find the middle ground,” Erdoğan told Turkish journalists, per Reuters.
In 2017, Congress overwhelmingly passed CAATSA, which was aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election by targeting its defense and energy businesses. If the president determines a person has engaged in a “significant transaction” with the defense or intelligence sectors of the Russian government, the president must choose to enact five from a dozen types of sanctions it outlines.
Congress passed the subsequent waiver after lobbying by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He argued the sanctions offered no flexibility for allies in Asia who still needed to deal with Russia to maintain their older equipment.
The language inserted in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act offers a national security waiver, but only if Trump certifies the transaction would not be with an entity that directly tied to cyber intrusions; endanger U.S. multilateral alliances or operation; increase the risk of compromising U.S. defense systems, or negatively impact defense cooperation with the country in question.
The president also must certify that the country is taking steps to reduce the share of Russian-produced arms and equipment in its total inventory or is cooperating with the U.S. on other matters critical to U.S. national security. As of yet, the administration has not used this waiver authority.
“It was drafted very stringently,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and the Senate Armed Services Committee’s ranking member, said of the waiver language. “[Middle ground] would be very difficult because we have made it clear repeatedly, myself and my colleagues, that if Turkey is going to buy the S-400, they cannot have the F-35, and similarly the language of CAATSA suggests sanctions have to be applied.”
According to the Center for a New American Security’s Neil Bhatiya, the CAATSA waiver was written so it could not be granted to Turkey. Still, Trump could act unilaterally, more or less daring Congress to take action legislatively to ramp up sanctions, he said.
“They would be the only state that would be getting the S-400 and part of a multilateral alliance where we would be introducing technology that would be put at risk,” Bhatiya said. “So the reputational risk Trump would be taking by granting a waiver would be quite high, especially because the Pentagon and State Department have said, essentially, they want the sanctions.”
If Trump were to attempt to provide a waiver, he would see a strong bipartisan response, according to Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and a senior member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I would think there is support in Congress to do everything we can to make sure there is no waiver. Turkey’s been on notice on this, and it’s a pretty clear violation.”
Sanctions would mark a new low in the already-tense relations between Turkey and the U.S. Last year, the United States imposed sanctions on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, triggering a Turkish currency crisis.
Because CAATSA provides an array of options, Trump could opt for lighter sanctions or target members of Turkey’s defense apparatus who have little or no connection to U.S. financial systems anyway, Bhatiya said.
“There is a menu of options and there could be something that’s not the death penalty for the Turkish economy,” Bhatiya said. (Source: Defense News)
15 Jul 19. USAF Warns Against Area 51 Assault Plans as Alien Memes Swamp the Internet. More than 1 million people have signed up to storm the U.S. Air Force’s clandestine base in Nevada, commonly known as Area 51, this September in hopes of seeing “them aliens,” but the service is cautioning individuals against participating.
The viral Facebook event, “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” calls for alien enthusiasts to show up outside the base Sept. 20 and break through its barriers by “naruto running,” or weaving like a ninja to evade lethal force. This technique, group members say, will help bypass base security and any protective measures.
The USAF is trying to discourage the alien hunters.
“The United States Air Force is aware of the Facebook post,” service spokeswoman Laura Mcandrews told Military.com in an email Monday. “The Nevada Test and Training Range is an area where the Air Force tests and trains combat aircraft. As a matter of practice, we do not discuss specific security measures, but any attempt to illegally access military installations or military training areas is dangerous.”
Related: More Than 286,000 Join Prank Event to Storm Area 51: ‘Lets See Them Aliens’
While the government hasn’t said whether there are plans in motion to stop the event, users in the evergrowing Facebook group have publicly stated the planned invasion is a joke. But interest — mostly lighthearted — continues to surge.
Photos, tweets and social media posts have quickly become viral memes.
“Life is short. Write that novel. Paint that painting. Try that recipe. Hang out with friends. Form a militia. Create a compound. Acquire weapons. Rush Area 51. Regroup. Discuss stateless society. Knit that sweater. Take that vacation,” says one post from @petersack16 urging individuals to live their best life. The screenshotted Twitter post is circulating on Instagram.
Another popular meme features Billy McFarland, former CEO of Fyre Media Inc., who has faced multiple class-action lawsuits for defrauding investors, among other crimes, in the disastrous Fyre music festival. The meme, a photo of the currently imprisoned McFarland smiling, says, “Backstage passes to Area 51 for $1,500, bro.”
Another has two side-by-side photos of a bicycle, one on the ground, the other from the famous movie scene in “E.T.” in which E.T. and Elliot fly across the moon. The caption reads: “How I’m gonna enter Area 51 vs how I’m gonna leave.”
While the posts make light of the issue, the online plan to storm the base comes as one of the Air Force’s sister services has been more vocal about unidentified flying objects.
Navy pilots in recent months have publicly stated there has been an increase of unidentified flying objects over the years, prompting the service to issue new guidelines on how to best document sightings or encounters.
That said, the U.S. government has looked into UFOs for years, most notably between 2007 and 2012, when the Pentagon began its Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
The program was meant to “pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena,” the Defense Department has said, motivated by notorious events such as the 2004 “Tic Tac” incident.
In that incident, F/A-18 pilots from the aircraft carrier Nimitz, operating off the San Diego coast, reportedly spotted a large, white Tic Tac-shaped object that appeared to be floating without the assistance of an engine or exhaust plume. (Source: Military.com)
15 Jul 19. US ‘Raptor regret’ raises questions and possibilities. A US Air Force combatant commander in Australia for Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019 has seemingly expressed regret from within the USAF about allied access to the world’s leading fifth-generation fighter aircraft, the F-22 Raptor, raising questions about the possibility of a combined allied push to reopen and modernise the Raptor line.
Designed to establish and maintain air superiority or air dominance, fighter aircraft have evolved from relatively simple wood and canvas air frames during the First World War, to the highly manoeuvrable, long-range aircraft that dominated the skies of Europe and the Pacific during the Second World War; the latest two generations of fighters are the pinnacle of these earlier designs.
Fighter aircraft, like every facet of military technology, are rapidly evolving. The current global and regional transition from fourth to fifth-generation fighter aircraft, like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter platforms, is reshaping the role of fighter fleets and the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region.
Designed to be the world’s premier air superiority platform – and increasingly developed as a result of air-to-surface penetrating strike operations in heavily defended integrated air and missile defence networks in the Middle East – the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor represents the pinnacle of air combat system evolution and technological development.
Fifth-generation fighter aircraft represent the pinnacle of modern fighter technology. Incorporating all-aspect stealth even when armed, low-probability-of-intercept radar, high-performance air frames, advanced avionics and highly integrated computer systems, these aircraft provide unrivalled air dominance, situational awareness, networking, interdiction and strike capabilities for commanders.
The Raptor Ban – driving unit cost and hindering allied operations
The world’s first fifth-generation aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor was first introduced in the mid-2000s and designed to replace the US Air Force’s fleet of ageing F-15C/D Eagles – incorporating full spectrum, low-observable stealth characteristics, super cruise, and super manoeuvrability in an air frame designed to fight, win and maintain US and allied air superiority against even the most advanced enemy integrated air-and-missile defence systems and air combat capabilities.
However, shrinking defence budgets in the aftermath of the Cold War, a lack of credible peer adversary to US air superiority and a Congress-implemented export ban despite requests from Japan, Australia and Israel hindered even America’s ability to field a credible fleet of these technological marvels – with an original order of 750 units cut to 195, the unit price rose beyond what was sustainable, paving the way for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter family to fill the role.
Despite this, US Air Force Colonel Brian Baldwin, Group Commander 13th Air Expeditionary Force, who is in Australia to participate in the 2019 Exercise Talisman Sabre, has set tongues wagging with statements made to the Australian media regarding allied access to the formidable air dominance platform.
“I wish we had more of them. I wish all of our closest friends could have some. We obviously have to take care of where we take the jet so we keep it as a special capability and it’s a pleasure to be able to bring it down to Australia,” COL Baldwin is reported saying at RAAF Base Amberley in south-east Queensland.
The export ban on the F-22 was driven largely by US-concerns about the possibility of Israel exporting the top secret technologies present in the F-22 to potential adversaries like Russia and China – this ban subsequently left key US-allies like Australia, Japan and the UK with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, while also placing the increasing burden of establishing and maintaining air superiority and air dominance on a limited number of American Raptors and fourth-generation fighter aircraft.
A return to air superiority and air dominance
Looking abroad, the growing success of Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the Su-57, J-20 and JF-31 – combined with reports of Russia offering the Su-57 for export to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the increasing introduction of highly-capable fourth plus generation combat aircraft – is threatening to serve as a repeat of the air combat battles over Vietnam that saw dedicated Soviet designed and built air superiority fighter aircraft severely challenge US air superiority despite the advances in air-to-air missiles promising the end of traditional dog fights.
Enter the International Paris Air Show and revelations by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), which has been urged by the Turkish government to step up its development of a highly capable, twin engine, air superiority focused fifth-generation fighter aircraft following continued disputes between the US and Turkey over the latter’s planned acquisition of the Russian-designed S-400 air and missile defence system in conjunction with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Turkey’s push for a highly capable, fifth-generation fighter aircraft highlights the seeming proliferation of the technologies that characterise fifth-generation aircraft and lends growing credibility to the continuing specialisation of aircraft – with a focus on air superiority and multi-role capabilities in the form of a traditional ‘high-low’ capability mix.
By our powers combined
In response to the rapidly changing global environment and air combat capabilities, allies in Japan, the UK and across Europe have initiated the development of their own fifth and ‘sixth’-generation fighter aircraft – Japan in particular has been one of the most vocal aspirants of a potential lax in America’s ban on the Raptor – beginning the collaborative development of a replacement for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force’s (JASDF) fleet of F-15J.
Recent changes within the US political establishment, notably the election of President Donald Trump, has triggered a major rethink in the policies that govern America’s arms exports, opening the door for Japan to engage with major US defence contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to support Japan’s domestic development of a large, low-observable air superiority fighter to replace its fleet of locally built F-15J aircraft.
While Japan has publicly committed to acquiring a fleet of 147 F-35s, including a fleet of 42 short-take off, vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B variants, the Japanese government has remained focused on procuring a fifth-generation air dominance fighter, with or without US help, to counter the growing challenges it faces in its direct region.
This resulted in the development of the X-2 Shinshin, a technology demonstrator that proved Japan’s domestic aerospace industry could produce an indigenous stealth fighter design capable of competing with the world’s best. Both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have actively supported Japan’s continued development of the Shinshin concept, raising renewed questions about a US commitment to reopening the F-22 Raptor line.
Recognising the increasing proliferation of fifth-generation technology and the emerging peer competitor capabilities and previous attempts at acquiring the F-22, both Japan and Australia are well positioned to support the reopening and modernisation of the US F-22 Raptor line, estimated to be worth approximately US$9.9bn for non-recurring start-up costs according to a US Congress report, and an additional US$40.4bn to acquire 194 Raptors for the US Air Force.
What this House armed services committee report fails to account for is an allied acquisition and integration within the advanced Raptor development supply chain – most notably Japan and Australia, which are both widely respected US allies and industrial partners within the existing F-35 supply chain. The acquisition is not without risk, however, as both Japan and Australia would need to at least match the US order of 194 air frames – in a combined manner.
While a joint US, Japanese and Australian acquisition of at least 388 air frames would serve as the basis for re-opening the Raptor line – expanding the export opportunities of the Raptor to include other key ‘Five Eyes’ allies like Canada and the UK, both of which are currently undergoing an air force recapitalisation, modernisation or research and development programs of their own, would further reduce the costs associated with reopening the line and acquiring new Raptor air frames.
Australian procurement could mean enjoying a highly capable, interoperable and future-proofed air frame operated by Japan, a key regional ally, and potentially the US and UK, which agreed with the Japanese government in 2017 to collaborate in the joint development of a fifth-generation aircraft to replace the Royal Air Force’s Typhoons within the next two decades.
For Australia, the future operating environment to the nation’s immediate north, particularly in the face of increasingly capable Russian and Chinese air frames and integrated air and A2/AD networks, will necessitate investment in and acquisition of a highly capable, long-range, air dominance fighter aircraft to complement the RAAF’s fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and replace the ageing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, beginning in the mid 2030s. (Source: Defence Connect)
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