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13 Sep 19. Partnerships Critical for U.S. Arctic Strategy. With the melting and thinning of Arctic sea ice, there has been an influx of tourist and commercial shipping, an increase in mining and petrochemical extraction and an expanded military presence by allies as well as by Russia and China, the U.S. Coast Guard’s vice commandant said.
Adm. Charles W. Ray spoke today at the American Society of Naval Engineers-sponsored Arctic Day 2019 in Washington.
“Our nation is an Arctic nation. We’ve been operating in the Arctic nearly 150 years,” Ray said, mentioning that he was stationed in Kodiak, Alaska, 30 years ago.
However, the Arctic is a much different place than three decades ago, he said.
Since 2013, the Russians built 14 icebreakers and six new military bases in the Arctic. Likewise, China has built icebreakers, he said, while the U.S. only has two heavy icebreakers, both over 43 years old and past their normal service lives.
One of the main missions the Coast Guard has in the Arctic is enforcing rules-based behavior, he said.
“Anything we do in the Arctic requires a collaborative effort,” Ray said. “We are a much better off as a nation when we operate in coordination with other nations that have a similar interest there. And, while we have significant strategic competition, that doesn’t mean that there has to be conflict.”
America, along with other Arctic nations, have significant roles in the Arctic Council and other forums that promote rules-based behavior, Ray said.
The Coast Guard’s collaborative effort extends to the Navy as well. Ray said he expects to see more Arctic-area exercises in the future involving the Coast Guard, Navy, Marine Corps, as well as allies and partner militaries. The Navy and Coast Guard in fact have an exercise coming up in the next couple of weeks in the Alaskan waters.
The Navy also assists the Coast Guard in shipbuilding and requirements development as well as helping shape the contracts for its new cutters. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without the Navy,” he said.
Capability means having a credible presence in the Arctic, Ray said.
At a minimum, three heavy ice cutters and three medium ice cutters are what the Coast Guard needs to have this presence, he said, noting that one heavy ice cutter, known as the Polar Security Cutter has received funding and funding has also been provided for a service life extension on the old heavy cutter, the Polar Star. The Polar Security Cutter should be sailing by 2024, he added. (Source: US DoD)
12 Sep 19. US State Department clears Ukraine security assistance funding. Is the Pentagon next? The U.S. State Department has cleared $141.5m in security assistance for Ukraine, including money for sniper rifles and grenade launchers — and another $250m from the Defense Department, controversially delayed by the Trump administration, appears set to move as well. Speaking at a Defense Writers Group event Thursday, R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, announced that Congress was notified late Wednesday about the funding. Those dollars can be used 15 days after the notification, should there be no objection from Capitol Hill.
“The Department of State has assessed further opportunities on foreign military financing and additional opportunities on the Countering Russian Aggression accounts,” Cooper said. “We also have support to the conventional weapons destruction and abatement and weapon storage. So there is a whole host of security assistance that we have outlined and identified for Ukraine.”
“I would anticipate there would be further notifications, but we were able to get all that paperwork done and pushed to Capitol Hill yesterday,” he added.
An hour later, during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., indicated that the Defense Department’s funding for Ukraine may also move forward, saying Ukraine is “going to get the money.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., later claimed that the Trump administration moved the funds in part because the Whie House was embarrassed Congress was poised to act on the issue.
The $250m become a political flashpoint at the end of August, when reports emerged that the White House requested Defense Secretary Mark Esper and then-national security adviser John Bolton to review that security assistance package. The delay resulted in bipartisan criticism from Congress, where support for Ukraine remains strong. The situation expanded days later, when The Washington Post’s editorial board wrote that it was “reliably told” the Trump administration suspended the aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to relaunch a corruption probe into former Vice President Joe Biden — the front-runner in the Democratic primary to challenge President Donald Trump — and his son. Reportedly, a prosecutor previously investigated Biden’s son, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm. As a result of the Post’s claim, House Democrats threatened to launch an investigation.
The latest approval for funding comes from fiscal 2018 foreign military financing and overseas contingency operations accounts ($26.5m) and from fiscal 2019 foreign military financing funds ($115m).
The projects break down like this:
- $10m to the Countering Russian Influence Fund, which helps provide “advisors, equipment, spare parts and training to build maritime domain awareness, secure communications, command and control, marksmanship, night vision disaster preparedness and special operations and territorial defense units.” Some money may also be used for cyber resiliency efforts.
- $16.5m in Europe and Eurasia regional funds, targeted to Black Sea maritime security efforts with a focus on “detecting, identifying and tracking Russian surface, subsurface and long-range aircraft combatants.” This may include funding for naval special warfare training.
- $115m in foreign military financing funding for FY19. Included in that funding are English language training, medical equipment, an improvised explosive device simulator and urban operations simulation equipment. Other areas of focus include naval and maritime capability support, refurbishment of equipment, airfield defense, night vision devices, radars, vehicles and tactical communication equipment. More specifically, funding “seeks to improve anti-armor, anti-personnel and counter-sniper capabilities against Russian-led separatists by modernizing Ukraine’s small arms weapons inventory with more precise and capable weapons, including sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.”
Cooper, for his part, said the number of different accounts for Ukraine, along with a recent visit from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, is a sign of the Trump administration’s focus on the region.
“There is a whole host of security assistance that we have outlined and identified for Ukraine.” he said. (Source: Defense News)
11 Sep 19. US targets companies with Chinese military ties. Pentagon compiles list of army-linked businesses to protect sensitive technologies The US defence department has been looking to identify Chinese companies with direct and indirect relationships with the People’s Liberation Army © AFP Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Share Save Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington 2 HOURS AGOPrint this page10 The Pentagon is compiling a list of companies with ties to the Chinese military as part of a stepped-up Trump administration effort to stop Beijing from obtaining sensitive technologies and protect US defence supply chains. The US defence department is trying to identity Chinese companies and organisations with direct and indirect relationships with the People’s Liberation Army to help reduce the chances of US weapons supply chains being compromised, according to seven people familiar with the effort, which has strong support from the White House. The Pentagon has become increasingly concerned about supply chains, seeking ways to tackle critical gaps in the US industrial base and prevent infiltration by adversaries. The focus has intensified under the Trump administration, which in 2017 named China a “revisionist” power in its first national security strategy. The review aims to detect supply-chain vulnerabilities to help ensure US companies do not help the Chinese military through sales or procurement. In much the same way the US has clamped down on Huawei, the Chinese telecoms company, the list will help the government to reduce potential threats from China by utilising export-control rules and federal acquisition regulations that can be used to bar government agencies from buying technology from designated companies. It’s critical that American institutional and retail investors know which companies are involved not only with the Chinese Communist party’s military, but also with its espionage, human rights abuses and ‘Made in China 2025’ industrial policy Marco Rubio, Republican senator from Florida “The Pentagon is going whole hog,” said one person familiar with the project. “When it comes to changing trade and supply chain patterns, the federal acquisition regulations are the most powerful weapon in the Pentagon arsenal, even more potent than our nuclear weapons, and are a formidable wedge for forcing decoupling.”
General Paul Selva, the recently departed vice-chairman of the joint chiefs, focused the review on semiconductors and integrated circuits since both are critical for weapons, according to the person. The Pentagon declined to comment on any aspect of the supply chain review, saying it was unable to do so “for classification reasons”. The commerce department, which is also involved in the project, also declined to comment. Paul Triolo, head of the geotechnology practice at Eurasia Group, said the Pentagon had become increasingly concerned about critical areas such as semiconductors because of the potential for Beijing to insert sophisticated implants that could be used to compromise weapons during a time of conflict between the US and China. “These types of supply chain operations are extremely difficult to detect, and the Pentagon’s preferred approach seems to be evolving around attempting to identify trusted suppliers, much like in the case of next generation 5G [mobile] systems, and blacklisting those suppliers that are deemed potentially subject to Chinese intelligence services influence,” Mr Triolo said.
The effort to secure supply chains for weapons ranging from cruise missiles to fighter jets comes as China pushes ahead with a “military-civilian fusion” programme that experts say further underscores the need for the US government and private sector to be vigilant about companies that may have hard-to-detect connections to the PLA. Christopher Ford, a top state department official, has urged the US to “wake up” to the implications of the programme for areas such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and semiconductors. “This is not a call for anything like a complete high-technology ‘boycott’ of China, but there is a need for serious risk mitigation,” he said in July. The push to be more vigilant about PLA connections comes 20 years after Congress passed a law requiring the Pentagon to publish a list of Chinese military companies and groups operating in the US. The Clinton administration did not act on the law, which has remained dormant until it was resurrected by the Trump administration. The issue is receiving more attention from Congress as lawmakers become increasingly concerned about China. Tom Cotton, a senior Republican on the Senate armed services committee, told the Financial Times that the Trump administration “should re-examine all the statutory authorities at its disposal to confront the Chinese Communist party, including powers that have lain dormant for years” such as the 1999 requirement.
Mr Cotton has joined forces with Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, and members of the House of Representatives that include Mike Gallagher, a Marine Corps veteran from Wisconsin, to call on the Pentagon to make sure that the US is doing enough to tackle the threat. According to a bipartisan letter that the lawmakers plan to send Mark Esper, defence secretary, they want the Pentagon to consider the issue in the context of the Chinese military-civilian fusion strategy, citing comments by Mr Ford that the programme was the “blueprint for China’s global ‘return’ to military pre-eminence”. “The CCP relies on companies under its influence to steal technology abroad, particularly from the US,” Mr Gallagher told the FT. “Americans deserve to know if PLA-directed companies are operating in the US and threatening our national security.” US security officials are also increasingly concerned about “Made in China 2025”, a Chinese plan to become self-sufficient in critical technological areas such as robotics, 5G, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
Beijing has downplayed the goal following US objections but American officials insist that it remains in place. Marco Rubio, a top Republican on the Senate foreign relations committee, told the FT that the publication of an exhaustive list of PLA-affiliated companies was “long overdue” and would help investors evaluate Chinese businesses. “It’s critical that American institutional and retail investors know which companies are involved not only with the Chinese Communist party’s military, but also with its espionage, human rights abuses and ‘Made in China 2025’ industrial policy,” the US senator from Florida said.
Recommended Huawei Technologies Co Ltd US agencies barred from buying Huawei equipment Larry Wortzel, a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review commission, said the list would promote the disclosure of material information about Chinese companies. He said this was critical because Beijing blocks the US Public Company Accountability Oversight Board from inspecting businesses that audit listed Chinese companies. “Chinese companies are making venture capital investments in the US, but it is more difficult to conduct screening of the companies by the US,” he said. “From a security standpoint, this means that the US does not always know about relationships to the Chinese Communist party or the PLA by corporate boards or officers.” Another person familiar with the project said the Pentagon was contacting companies to request details about their supply chains and explaining that the list would help them identify vulnerabilities. He said some US companies were nervous about providing such information because it was unclear if the Pentagon would make clear why they had identified certain Chinese companies as requiring extra vigilance. The outreach is partly necessary because of the complex nature of global production. Mr Triolo said one challenge when it came to semiconductors was their supply chains “touch China” at some point in the production process. “It will be difficult for the Pentagon to alter global value-added supply chains in a way that gives US military planners complete assurance that their equipment is safe from potential Chinese meddling,” he said. “The key will be how far back in the supply chain to exclude some China nexus in the development and testing of complex systems such as semiconductors.” (Source: FT.com)
09 Sep 19. U.S. eyeing sanctions over Turkey’s S-400 buy – Mnuchin. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that the Trump administration was considering imposing sanctions on related to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air defense missile system, but no decisions have been made.
“We’re looking at that, I’m not going to make any comments on any specific decisions, but we are looking at it,” Mnuchin told reporters outside the White House when asked if the Treasury was considering such sanctions. He did not specify any potential targets.
Turkey’s dollar-denominated sovereign bonds fell after Mnuchin’s comments.
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 system, which the United States says is not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin’s (LMT.N) F-35 ‘stealth’ fighter jet.
Russia delivered a second battery of S-400s last month, according to Interfax news agency, which cited Russian Vladimir Putin. Ankara had received its first shipment in July. Washington has previously warned Turkey that it will face sanctions over the purchase and removed the country from its f-35 program, but Ankara has so far dismissed the warnings. The dispute over the air defense missile system is one of several issues straining ties between the United States and Turkey that include the ongoing conflict in Syria, among others. (Source: Reuters)
06 Sep 19. Military Builds on Strategy to Address Threats, Dunford Says. The United States military is building on the National Defense Strategy to address the complex threats and problems in the world today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a Council on Foreign Relations event. New York Times correspondent David Sanger asked Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford about the security situation with Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and with extremist organizations. He bored in on Afghanistan and the fight against ISIS.
Sanger asked Dunford to compare the world when he took office four years ago to how it is today. The chairman gave a tour of the challenges confronting the United States, with an emphasis on China and Russia. This is the return of great power competition, with Russia being the chief revisionist state, he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin wants his nation to be taken seriously and to be relevant on the world stage, the chairman said, and he sees the Russian military is the vehicle for much of this.
Before Dunford took office, Russia invaded Georgia, annexed Crimea from Ukraine and fomented trouble in Eastern Ukraine. Since 2015, he said, Russia has gone into Syria, has conducted a nerve-agent operation in England, and has attempted to interfere with democracy in Europe and the United States. “They’ve fielded capabilities that are not compliant with the [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty, and President Putin has trumpeted the capabilities of weapon systems designed to put the American homeland at risk,” he added.
In China, despite promises from Chinese leaders to not militarize the South China Sea, they have done just that, Dunford said. Artificial islands in the region now bristle with weaponry. China has invested heavily in its military capabilities and reorganized their military trying to mirror the joint capabilities of the United States, Dunford said.
Both Russia and China have studied the U.S. way of war dating back to operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and both nations have invested in capabilities to counter American advantages, he said.
During the chairman’s time in office, North Korea has developed missile systems and tested an atomic device.
“I think you would have to say that Iran is more aggressive today in projecting malign influence than they were in 2015,” the general said.
One area with positive change is that the operations against ISIS have succeeded, Dunford said. In 2015, ISIS had proclaimed its so-called caliphate and controlled vast stretches of Syria and Iraq. “While the fight against violent transregional extremism is far from over, we’ve made significant progress against ISIS,” he said.
After the attacks on Sept 11, 2001, the United States concentrated on the conflicts against violent extremism. Near-peer competition was not part of the strategic calculus at the time. China and Russia began building and fielding weapons systems that eroded America’s advantages. The United States maintains its competitive advantage today, “but the art for us is to deal with the challenges we have today … and at the same time, shift sufficient resources to ensure that we sustain the competitive advantage … well into the future,” the chairman said.
Sanger quizzed the general on the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and where it is heading. The general noted that the United States went into Afghanistan to stop al-Qaida from launching attacks on the homeland from a safe haven. “We have prevented another attack,” Dunford said. “We’ve disrupted plots against the United States and degraded al-Qaida.”
As he provides military advice to civilian leaders, the chairman said, “it is very clear to me what our interests are in South Asia, and against which we should measure the level of commitment that we have in Afghanistan and the region.”
Dunford said he looked at the mission and what is needed politically, fiscally and militarily with Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, and Army Gen. Austin Miller, the commander of forces in Afghanistan. The question becomes what the appropriate counterterrorism platform would be in Afghanistan that would allow the United States to maintain the partnership with the nation and allow U.S. and Afghan forces to pursue their mutual objective of disrupting violent extremism in the region.
The number of U.S. troops needed is around 8,600 and was informed by the mission and the strategy in the nation, Dunford said.
The talks in Qatar now between the United States and the Taliban are aimed at beginning an inter-Afghan conversation, Dunford said. Any agreement made will be conditions-based, the chairman said, and trusting the Taliban is not part of the equation. (Source: US DoD)
06 Sep 19. Intelligence Communications System Gets Tech Refresh. An overhaul of the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, or JWICS, is underway to make it better able to serve its expanded mission and to potentially extend its capabilities to other parts of the defense community and to more parts of government, the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said.
Suzanne White spoke Sept. 4 during the Intelligence and National Security Summit at National Harbor, Maryland.
White said that JWICS — a top secret, “sensitive, compartmented information” network designed initially to serve the intelligence community — has seen great growth in use since it was created.
“JWICS needs to be modernized, … and we are undertaking some investments and some approaches to do exactly that,” she said, adding that it’s a top priority for DIA.
The JWICS system started as the core network for the military intelligence community on which to conduct intelligence operations, White said, but users are asking more of it now and are using it as “the daily system.”
Rather than switch back and forth between using JWICS and SIPRNET, another classified military network that handles a lower classification of information, users might instead just use JWICS.
“It’s very useful and efficient to many users,” she said. “So we’re trying to generate more of that conversation of ‘If we were to create JWICS today, what would it look like for the entire community, the [intelligence community], the DOD and even broader, federal?'”
Questions involve how such a new system would be structured and how it would be managed.
“We’re looking at this as an opportunity to have exactly that conversation, because there is such a demand signal,” White said. “So we are trying to understand that so that as we head down our path of modernization, we are addressing all of those concerns and those potential scenarios for where JWICS will go.” (Source: US DoD)
06 Sep 19. Esper: Russia, China Want to Disrupt International Order. Warning that Chinese economic power and Russian aggression pose threats to global security, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper urged European allies to commit to keeping the world safe.
Speaking today at London’s Royal United Services Institute, Esper said the political and economic leverage wielded by the Chinese is already eroding the sovereignty of some nations and Russian invasion of Georgia, annexation of Crimea and violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, as it continued to build up its inventory of strategic arms, shows that Russia is unwilling to be a responsible international actor, he said.
“[We] cannot stand idly by while authoritarian nations attempt to reshape the global security environment to their favor at the expense of others,” Esper said. “Doing so would invite continued aggression and diminish our ability to deter future conflicts. As such, America’s National Defense Strategy makes it clear that great power competition is once again the primary concern of U.S. national security.”
The United States is facing the challenge head-on, he said, but freedom-loving nations must recognize the threats to their security and commit to doing their part to keep the world safe.
Esper said Europe is most concerned about Russia, noting Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine and efforts to serve as a spoiler to peace in Syria.
“Even as far away as Venezuela, we see Russia making allegiances with discredited and failing regimes in an attempt to promote instability,” he added. “And right here in the United Kingdom, you know well of the lethal poisonings that occurred in 2006 and 2018.
“To put it simply,” he continued, “Russia’s foreign policy continues to disregard international norms. This is why the United States, in consultation with our NATO allies, is expanding our presence in Poland, and continuing our close collaboration with the Baltic States. The NATO alliance remains vigilant and continues to adapt, to improve unit readiness, to build a more credible deterrence, and to fight and win if necessary.”
During his recent trip to the Indo-Pacific region, Esper said he saw firsthand how China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative is manifesting itself throughout the region. “The more dependent a country becomes on Chinese investment and trade, the more susceptible they are to coercion and retribution when they act outside of Beijing’s wishes,” he said.
Ultimately, Esper said, this influence trickles down to the security arena, and leads countries to make suboptimal defense decisions for fear of upsetting the Chinese Communist Party and being punished through economic measures or political backlash.
Esper said China has stolen technology to push forward military gains. “Indeed, every Chinese company has the potential to be an accomplice in Beijing’s state-sponsored theft of other nations’ military and civilian technology.”
Chinese companies also pose a risk to the secure and resilient telecommunications infrastructure on which U.S. allies and partners depend for interoperability, intelligence sharing and mobilization, he added.
If we are to preserve the peace and order that our nations sacrificed so much for in the past, we must remain vigilant, committed and prepared to respond to aggression where it threatens our interests.” said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper
The secretary said the U.S. National Defense Strategy – based on a three-pronged approach of lethality, partnerships and allies and Defense Department reform — takes into account the realities of today’s environment — with a particular focus on the new era of great power competition.
“This is not because we are naive about other threats or seek to rekindle another Cold War,” Esper said. “Rather, we are aligned in this focus because of the magnitude of the threats Russia and China pose to U.S. national security and prosperity today, and the potential for those threats to increase in the future.”
Deterring potential aggression in the first place, prior to the onset of conflict, is paramount to the strategy, he said.
“This is why we are working with our allies and partners to improve our capabilities, capacity and defense posture throughout our priority regions,” the secretary said. “With regard to NATO, our top priorities are burden sharing and unit readiness. While we have made great improvements in recent years, we still have a number of allies not meeting the 2% defense commitment as agreed to under the 2014 Wales Declaration.”
Member nations at the alliance’s Wales summit agreed to work towd spending at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense.
“[President Donald J. Trump] has been very clear – and I will continue to push my counterparts — that all NATO members must live up to this obligation,” the secretary said. “The strength of our collective response requires that all alliance members be ready to do their part when called. Building this readiness demands greater investments so that NATO forces remain the most highly trained and best equipped in the world.”
Esper thanked the United Kingdom for its strong defense investment, noting that it is one of the eight NATO members meeting the target.
“If we are to preserve the peace and order that our nations sacrificed so much for in the past, we must remain vigilant, committed and prepared to respond to aggression where it threatens our interests,” Esper said. “I am confident that we will continue to work closely together to maintain the freedoms we worked so hard to achieve.” (Source: US DoD)
12 Sep 19. US Air Force restricts KC-46 from carrying cargo and passengers. In a move that could have major impacts on the already-delayed tanker program, the U.S. Air Force has indefinitely barred the KC-46 from carrying cargo and passengers, Defense News has learned.
The decision was made after an incident occurred where the cargo locks on the bottom of the floor of the aircraft became unlocked during a recent flight, creating concerns that airmen could potentially be hurt or even killed by heavy equipment that suddenly bursts free during a flight.
“As a result of this discovery, the Air Force has submitted a Category 1 deficiency report and is working with Boeing to identify a solution,” Air Force Mobility Command spokesman Col. Damien Pickart said in a statement. The service uses the term Category 1 describe serious technical issues that could endanger the aircrew and aircraft or have other major effects.
“Until we find a viable solution with Boeing to remedy this problem, we can’t jeopardize the safety of our aircrew and this aircraft,” he said.
The problem was discovered during a recent overseas operational test and evaluation flight, when KC-46 aircrew noticed that numerous cargo restraint devices had come unlocked over the course of the multiple legs of the trip.
“Prior to departing for each of these missions, aircrew fully installed, locked and thoroughly inspected each restraint, and performed routine inspections of the restraints in flight,” Pickart said. “Despite these safety measures, the unlocking of cargo floor restraints occurred during flight, although no cargo or equipment moved and there was no specific risk to the aircraft or crew.”
A source with knowledge of the issue told Defense News that if all restraints on a particular pallet had become unlocked, it would be able to roll freely throughout the cabin. If all cargo became unlatched, it could pose a safety risk to aircrew or even unbalance the aircraft — making the plane “difficult, if not impossible” to control.
While this problem has only been observed on one KC-46, the Air Force does not have enough information to rule out other aircraft having a similar defect.
The problem also poses a danger to the tanker’s operational test schedule, Pickart said. The program was set to start initial operational test and evaluation this fall, with pre-IOT&E activities already initiated.
“This is a multi-mission aircraft, it’s for carrying cargo and passengers, it’s for refueling and also the aeromedical evacuation mission,” he said. “If you can’t carry cargo pallets and patient litters, a significant amount of your core missions cannot be properly tested.”
In a statement, KC-46 manufacturer Boeing acknowledged that it had been notified of the new issue.
“The company and the Air Force are cooperatively analyzing the locks to determine a root cause,” Boeing stated. “The safety of KC-46 aircraft and crew is our top priority. Once a cause has been identified, the tanker team will implement any required actions as quickly as possible.”
The latest Cat-1 deficiency brings the total up to four:
- The tanker’s remote vision system or RVS — the camera system that allows KC-46 boom operators to steer the boom into a receiver aircraft without having to look out a window and use visual cues — provides imagery in certain lighting conditions that appears warped or misleading. Boeing has agreed to pay for potentially extensive hardware and software fixes, but the Air Force believes it will be three or four years until the system is fully functional.
- The Air Force has recorded instances of the boom scraping against the airframe of receiver aircraft. Boeing and the Air Force believe this problem is a symptom of the RVS’s acuity problems and will be eliminated once the camera system is fixed.
- Boeing must redesign the boom to accommodate the A-10, which currently does not generate the thrust necessary to push into the boom for refueling. This problem is a requirements change by the Air Force, which approved Boeing’s design in 2016. Last month, Boeing received a $55.5m contract to begin work on the new boom actuator.
While the KC-46 program has clocked several key milestones this year, it has also hit some publicly embarrassing stumbles.
After several years of delays, the Air Force finally signed off on the acceptance of the first tanker. However, due to the list of technical problems, Boeing was forced to accept an agreement where the service could withhold up to $28m per aircraft upon delivery. About $360m has been withheld so far, Defense One reported in July.
The Air Force plans to buy 179 KC-46s over the life of the program, and 52 are currently on contract. So far, Boeing has delivered 18 tankers to McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., and Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
But deliveries were interrupted earlier this year by the discovery of foreign object debris in multiple planes. The Air Force suspended KC-46 flights at Boeing’s production line in Everett, Wash., this February after finding debris. Then it paused all tanker deliveries in March as the service investigated the extent of the problem. The service began accepting tankers again later that month, only for deliveries to stop — and restart — in April due to similar problems.
Will Roper, the service’s acquisition executive, told reporters at the Paris Air Show this July that the service expects to find foreign object debris in KC-46s moving through the line, and it may be months before planes are reliably clean.
“As those airplanes flow forward down the line, we think it’s going to take some time for the new quality assurance inspection processes to start early enough so that airplanes will flow that are FOD-free,” he said, according to Defense One. “It’s not the way we want to get airplanes into the Air Force, but it’s what we’re going to have to do in the meantime.” (Source: Defense News)
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