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04 Oct 19. Southcom Commander: Foreign Powers Pose Security Concerns. In South and Central America, four foreign powers are operating with differing involvement across all elements of national power, the commander of U.S. Southern Command said. At a Defense Writers Group event in Washington today, Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller said he’s seen Russia, China, Iran and Cuba operating in varying capacities in Southcom’s area of responsibility.
Russia, he said, is helping to prop up the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela with weapons sales and security assistance. They’re operating elsewhere, too, he added.
“They have traditional arms sales relationships with countries in the region, and that continues, particularly in Venezuela [and] Nicaragua,” Faller said. “Russia has deployed nuclear-capable bombers [and] Russia has deployed their most advanced warship that is capable of firing nuclear cruise missiles throughout the region, all within the last year. Russia has provided significant assistance to Venezuela.”
It’s pumping a lot of information out in those spaces, and then misinformation.”
Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command
Hundreds of Russians — both forces and contractors — are in Venezuela “helping Maduro continue his reign of terror on the nation,” the admiral said. In Nicaragua, he told the defense writers, Russia runs a counternarcotics and counterterrorism training center that “has dubious dual purposes.”
Russian information operations are strong in South America as well, he said, with a large Spanish-language media presence. “It is Russia’s largest language operation outside of their native language, outside of Russia,” he said. “It’s pumping a lot of information out in those spaces, and then misinformation.”
Faller said at one point, he was in Washington meeting with lawmakers and Russian propaganda outlets reported he was on the Columbia-Venezuela border planning an invasion into Venezuela.
China has legitimate economic interests in the region, the admiral said, but it also is involved heavily in the information space, including in the information technology, cyber and space realms.
“Their arms sales have grown,” he said. “They have deployed some assets — that’s ticked up consistently in the last couple of years. They are also increasing their military engagement.”
Russian weapons systems sales [are] in the billions, and China’s [are] increasing.”
Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller
He said the Chinese have created Spanish-language schools and training centers and in addition to military sales, have been giving hardware to various nations.
There is significant evidence of investment in Chinese and Russian weapons systems in Southcom’s area of responsibility, Faller said. “Russian weapons systems sales [are] in the billions, and China’s [are] increasing. China is also gifting a lot of military hardware to … partners. The extent to which it undermines partnerships with the U.S. [and] contributes to instability … is a concern for the security of the U.S.”
Dozens of Chinese infrastructure projects in South America are contributing to instability, Faller said, noting that China is working on 56 port deals in the region. Some of those deals are locked up with onerous leasing agreements, he said, and some of those agreements have left host nations with little access to and little control over what the Chinese have built.
In one partner nation, he said, a Chinese-built road has a 99-year lease in which the Chinese have land rights on both sides. “Thousands of acres, and they have the ability to control the tolls on that road for 99 years,” the admiral said. “That’s the price you get for having the Chinese come in and build a road. We’ve been watching that closely, and it has our attention and has contributed to a sense of urgency I feel about the overall security.”
While Russia has hundreds of people in Venezuela, Cuba has thousands, Faller said. In fact, he told the writers, 100% of the Venezuelan “palace guard” protecting Maduro are Cuban.
When it comes to terrorist activity, he said, Iran’s influence and presence are felt in South America.
… The long arm of Iranian malfeasance is alive and present around the world, not just in the Middle East.”
Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller
“We have uncovered terrorist plots,” he said. “We know that there is a significant Lebanese Hezbollah presence through the region with connections back to Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran. … Iran’s hand is in this. They are the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. And the long arm of Iranian malfeasance is alive and present around the world, not just in the Middle East. We are continuously keeping our eye on that ball, along with interagency partners.”
Key to Countering Threats
Faller said strengthening U.S. partnerships in the Southcom area of responsibility is the key to countering threats from Russia, China, Iran and Cuba.
The best approach is to work with those partner nations, learn their needs and determine how those needs support the defense of the hemisphere and the United States, he said. “That’s where we focus,” he added. “And it’s different country to country.” (Source: US DoD)
04 Oct 19. Here’s how many foreign military sales the US State Department OK’d in FY19.
The U.S. State Department cleared $67.9bn in weapons in fiscal 2019, in an indication that America’s position in the global arms trade remains strong.
The number, spread across 64 individual procurement requests from 28 different countries and a NATO consortium, represents the second year in a row that the overall value of foreign military sales requests have slightly declined. But the total still represents almost double the total cleared by the State Department in fiscal year 2016.
These numbers represent potential arms sales that the State Department cleared internally, then passed on to Congress through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The notifications do not represent final sales; if Congress does not reject the potential sale, it then goes into negotiations, during which dollar figures and quantities of equipment can change. In some cases, as highlighted by the large FMS request notification for Turkey to buy Patriot batteries, those sales will never happen.
However, while not solid dollars, notifications are a notable way of tracking interest in procuring American arms from foreign partners, and can be a leading indicator of final sales to come.
Geographically, the Pacific region led the way with 21 requests, totaling $24.8 bn in potential sales – notable given the emphasis put forth by the Trump administration that the Pacific represents a priority theater for the future. Following that was the Middle East, with 18 requests totaling $15.2bn. Europe had 18 requests for $19.8bn; the only nation from Africa, Morocco, put in six requests totaling $7.26bn; and Canada put in three requests, for $731m.
The biggest potential customer, at a time of a whole-of-government effort against China is underway, is Taiwan. Over four different requests, Taiwan requested $10.7bn in sales, driven primarily by $8bn for long-sought F-16 aircraft, as well as $2bn for Abrams tanks.
In second place was Japan, with $7.54bn in requested sales, spread over six requests. That was driven by three different tranches of SM-3 missiles and an Aegis Ashore missile defense system. Morocco, which was cleared for six separate requests totaling $7.26bn on U.S. arms, came in third. Their procurement was driven mainly by its purchase of new F-16 fighter jets and the associated equipment, as well as a request for Abrams tanks.
As always with FMS notifications, a few large sales can drive the overall total. Sixteen of the 63 sales requests topped $1bn, led by Taiwan’s F-16 request ($8bn), Poland’s F-35 request ($6.5bn), Morocco’s F-16s ($3.79bn), the U.K’s procurement of Chinook helicopters ($3.5bn), Turkey’s Patriot request ($3.5bn) and Japan’s largest SM-3 request ($3.3bn). The F-16 was a significant driver of FMS requests this year, showing the Lockheed Martin legacy plane remains popular around the world. Eight requests, with a potential total of $15.8 bn in sales, involved the F-16, raging from the request for tranches of fighters from Taiwan, Morocco and Bulgaria to $125m for Pakistan security support related to their F-16 fighters.
While the numbers are strong, Roman Schweizer, an analyst with Cowen, notes that political realities could upend an unusual number of these potential deals in the coming year.
“Notably, for FY19, there are a number of large sales that may be unlikely for political or other reasons: these include a $3.5bn sale to Turkey of Raytheon’s Patriot missile system, a $2bn sale to Taiwan of General Dynamics’ M1 Abrams tanks, and an $8bn sale to Taiwan of Lockheed Martin F-16s,” he wrote in a note to investors. “We don’t think a Turkish Patriot purchase is possible as they continue to own/operate Russian-made S-400s. And while Taiwan needs U.S. weapons (fighters, tanks and more), there is a legitimate concern that those sales could be halted if there is a broader strategic agreement with China on trade and economic issues.
“If that’s the case, about 20% of this year’s potential deals aren’t viable, meaning this would be a step-down year but not quite as low as FY16’s $37bn in announcements.”
From a corporate level, Schweizer estimates Lockheed Martin is the big winner for the year with $32bn, followed by Raytheon at $15bn, Boeing at $9bn, General Dynamics at $3bn, Northrop Grumman at $1.2bn and Textron $600m.
A specific wrinkle for FY19’s accounting was the inclusion of $3.9bn as part of a controversial emergency package pushed through by the Trump administration for Saudi Arabia and the UAE. For the better part of a year, those weapons were tied up in Congress over concerns of how they will be used as part of the Saudi-led actions against Iranian-backed fighters in Yemen, an operation that has contributed to a humanitarian crisis in that country. The issue escalated following the death of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which has been tied to the Saudi royal family.
In May, the State Department announced that an emergency exemption would be used to push those arm sales through; while the administration cited a broad threat from Iran in the region as the reason, the move received bipartisan rebuke from both the Senate and the House, with some members expressing concern this was a precedent-setting move to take away arms sale veto powers from Congress. That $3.9bn was divided among seven FMS notifications, four for the UAE and three for Saudi Arabia. (Source: Defense News)
03 Oct 19. Background investigations move to their new home at the Pentagon. The Department of Defense formally became the lead agency for conducting background investigations for current and potential feds and contractors Oct. 1, fulfilling congressional and administration requirements that the Pentagon take charge of such investigations at the start of the 2020 fiscal year.
According to a Department of Defense official who spoke on background to reporters Oct. 1, the transfer consisted of approximately 2,900 federal employees from the Office of Personnel Management’s National Background Investigation Bureau to the DoD’s new Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, which encompasses both background investigation duties and industrial and technological security.
“We’ve created what is arguably the single largest security-focused agency in the federal government,” the official said.
Employees of the background investigation agency moved from being Title 5 employees at OPM to Title 10 employees at DoD, a position that is effectively the same, according to the official, and only a handful of employees chose to take discontinued service retirement rather than move to DoD.
“Merging the components into one organization will allow us to execute our two core missions: personnel vetting and critical technology protection, underpinned by counterintelligence and training,’’ said Charles Phalen Jr., acting director of DCSA, in the news release on the merger.
The background investigation transition was initiated by Congress through provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, which required that the Pentagon take back responsibility of vetting its own staff and contractors.
That work makes up about 75 percent of the total background investigation mission, and as such the Trump administration determined that it would be more effective to move the whole operation to DoD.
“Moving the entire mission intact, from essentially one spot to another spot, reduced significantly the potential for mayhem to be created,” the official said. “That allows us to continue working towards those goals of the reducing the time [to investigate] numbers, reducing the inventory [of cases] and staying focused.”
The total inventory of the security clearance backlog currently sits at 302,000 cases, and officials have the goal of reducing that number to 200,000 by the first day of 2020.
Employees that transitioned from NBIB to DoD have no change to their duties or duty location, and the leadership at the agency will also remain largely the same: Charles Phalen retired his previous role as director of NBIB and moved to become solely the acting director of DCSA. According to the official, the agency is examining who would be best suited to take over as permanent director of the new agency, but there is no set timeline for doing so and Phalen is expected to oversee the transition.
”Transition teams from DCSA and NBIB have worked together closely to prepare for this merger. Their efforts have enabled the transfer of NBIB’s mission, personnel, resources and assets to the DoD in a transparent and seamless way,” said Joseph Kernan, under secretary of defense for intelligence, in the news release.
”This merger advances National Defense Strategy objectives to enhance our security environment and maintain lethality by protecting critical defense information from theft or disclosure.”
Although employees and operations of NBIB were fully transferred over to DoD as of Oct. 1, the agency will still have work to reformat the industrial and technological security components of its mission, as well as work to develop a new system for processing security clearances.
The DoD will still continue to use OPM IT systems to process investigations until the planned National Background Investigation System is up an running.
The official said that the first component of that system the public is likely to see is a more effective e-QIP, the electronic system that potential employees fill and submit their background investigation forms through. (Source: Defense News)
03 Oct 19. Aid to Ukraine Successful, DOD Spokesman Says. Earlier this year, the Defense Department made plans to provide some $250m in aid to Ukraine, with the goal of transitioning that aid before the end of the fiscal year. The department was largely successful in that goal, a Pentagon spokesman said.
“As of today, the bulk of this $250 million is on contract, the rest should be out soon,” Jonathan Rath Hoffman, the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said during a news conference at the Pentagon today.
“As the secretary stated, the brief pause on obligating funds did not negatively affect our national security,” Hoffman said.
Around 85% of the funds have already been transitioned to Ukraine, and Hoffman said the remainder “will be going out in the next few days to a week.”
Those funds, he said, provide equipment to support Ukrainian training programs and operational needs. Hardware includes rigid hull boats, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, counter-artillery radars, electronic warfare detection equipment, secure communications gear, night vision equipment and military medical treatment devices.
“This assistance helps to build Ukraine’s capacity to defend itself against aggressive Russian actions in the region,” he said.
In July, President Donald J. Trump spoke on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and discussed, among other things, the aid the U.S. would provide to Ukraine. Hoffman said no DOD personnel were listening in.
“To my knowledge, no one from the DOD was on that call,” he said. “I specifically asked the secretary of defense that question — and he was not on that call.”
The department’s inspector general requested any documents and communications related to the security assistance aid to Ukraine for cataloging and review, Hoffman said.
We want partners and allies to not only be standing with us, but to have capabilities when they are standing with us.”
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs
That collection of documents, Hoffman said, is a fairly standard practice if there’s congressional or inspector general interest in a matter. It’s a “fairly routine, but proactive measure we’re taking.” he added.
Today, Hoffman said, the department’s stance on security remains the same as it has been in the past.
“We have been very consistent that we are going to be supportive of our allies and partners,” he said. “We are going to follow through and present and press forward on aid packages. One thing that’s been consistent that the administration has said, and the president has reiterated and the secretary has reiterated to our allies and partners, is that we are expecting our partners … to do more. We want partners and allies to not only be standing with us, but to have capabilities when they are standing with us.”
Hoffman also said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper has continued to stress the need for a fiscal year 2020 budget. The federal government, and the department, are operating on a continuing resolution.
“In the near term of one to three months, continuing resolutions disrupt major exercises and training events, effect radians and maintenance, [delay] hiring and recruitment actions, and adversely impact contracting negotiations,” Hoffman said. “The department’s ability to implement the National Defense Strategy depends on steady predictable funding from Congress, and Secretary Esper will continue to engage with members on this topic.” (Source: US DoD)
04 Oct 19. US demonstrates distributed lethality of Navy LCS and Air Force Bombers. The US Navy has combined the distributed lethality of an up-gunned, Australian-designed LCS equipped with the Naval Strike Missile with the long-range strike capability of the Air Force’s B-52H, giving credibility to the concept of an up-armed light frigate designed for rapid response and long-range sea-control and forward presence operations.
In 1890, American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan in his work The Influence of Sea Power upon History outlined that “whether they will or not, Americans must now begin to look outward. The growing production of the country demands it”, establishing the basis of America’s foreign and strategic policy well into the 21st century despite periods of isolation.
Indo-Pacific Asia’s evolving power paradigm is changing the way Australia views itself and its position in this changing world. The need for both continental and forward defence highlights the necessity for the nation to balance the strengths and weaknesses of Australia’s historic doctrines to form the basis of a reinvigorated Australian presence in the Indo-Pacific.
This renewed focus on the Indo-Pacific makes a great deal of sense, particularly given the position of key regional and global economic and strategic partners across the region.
However, this strategic reorientation and the dominance of the maritime environment is not without its challenges, as both traditional state and emerging asymmetric threats evolve to challenge the enduring economic, political and strategic stability of both the region and Australia.
The Royal Australian Navy has emerged as one of the major beneficiaries of the nation’s largest peacetime military recapitalisation and modernisation program – the $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding program has focused on enhancing and future-proofing the capability of both the surface and submarine fleets during a period of rapid modernisation and expansion of regional navies and, more broadly, advanced weapons systems.
Recognising these emerging challenges and the growing responsibilities Australia will come to bear – the surface combatants of the RAN will become increasingly important factors of the broader regional security order. However, force structures and concepts of operations (CONOPS) will become increasingly important force multipliers for the Australian Navy.
Further complicating the tactical and strategic equation, China continues to expand its web of integrated anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) systems in the South China Sea and the US has sought to adapt to the changing tactical and strategic environment, resulting in the development and introduction of a range of disparate long-range precision strike weapons, multi-domain tactics and distributed lethality networks.
Australia is dependent on unlimited access to the ocean – as the regional paradigm changes, placing greater strain on the Navy to protect the national interests, is the Navy large enough to execute the mission in a radically evolving geo-political and strategic order?
The US Navy’s distributed lethality network
Most recently the US Navy has moved to enhance the offensive capability of the Independence Class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), designed by Australian company, Austal by incorporating the joint Raytheon-Kongsberg-designed Naval Strike Missile (NSM) to provide an enhanced, long-range naval strike capability.
The launch of an NSM from the Littoral Combat Ship USS Gabrielle Giffords at the decommissioned frigate USS Ford off the coast of Guam marked the first time the NSM has been tested in a live-fire scenario in the Pacific.
This test firing was not a solely navy dominated affair, with the US Navy working with the B-52s from the US Air Force’s Expeditionary 69th Bomb Squadron and other multi-national forces to demonstrate the power of an integrated yet distributed, multi-domain kill-chain incorporating a disparate web of platforms and systems into a cohesive battlespace sensor/shooter solution.
As part of the test, the bombers dropped ordnance and were supported by missiles launched from maritime patrol aircraft, and surface-to-surface Harpoon missiles fired from two of Singapore’s frigates, the RSS Formidable and RSS Intrepid, according to a US Navy media release.
Combining operations on sea, air, land, space and cyber space is the central concept of the Army-Air Force concept of Multi-Domain Operations, which the Navy and Marines aren’t yet fully on board with.
Recognising the power presented by the up-gunned LCS, US Navy Rear Admiral Joey Tynch, commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific, said, “LCS packs a punch and gives potential adversaries another reason to stay awake at night. We are stronger when we sail together with our friends and partners, and LCS is an important addition to the lineup.”
Looking to Australia, the combination of increasing Chinese capacity in the region, combined with rising tensions in the Persian Gulf and the growing need for an allied presence to ensure the stability and security of the global energy supplies in the event of conflict between the US and Iran will require a greater presence from major nations, including Australia placing greater operational pressure on existing platforms like the Anzac Class frigates, Hobart and eventually Hunter Class vessels.
Back to the future – convoy escort
Convoy escort operations figured as prominent operations during the First and Second World Wars and served as a constant challenge for strategic and operational commanders and planners in the US, UK and France during the Cold War – as convoys of materiel, manpower and resources from North America would prove pivotal in countering any Soviet invasion of western Europe.
Fast forward to the 21st century and increasingly congested and contested global sea-lines-of-communication requires renewed focus on developing escort capabilities to support increasingly vulnerable commercial tankers and commercial shipping. This increasing vulnerability is driven largely by the proliferation of advanced anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, increasingly powerful conventional submarine fleets and the cost-effectiveness of small arms, asymmetric threats and aircraft all compound the challenging environment.
Furthermore, the rising cost of high-end weapons platforms like the Royal Australian Navy’s Hobart and future Hunter Class vessels and the size limitations of the Arafura Class vessels and similar international contemporaries equates to a number of challenges, namely the overkill of deploying a multibillion-dollar warship to conduct a constabulary operation and the glaring capability gap between ‘high’ and ‘low’ end capabilities.
Recognising these challenges, both the US and British Royal Navy have initiated the development and acquisition of multi-role patrol frigates to free up ‘high’ end capabilities like the Arleigh Burke, Type 45 and Type 26 Class vessels to support power projection, high-value task group escort and missile defence roles – while platforms like the Littoral Combat Ships, to be complemented by the FFG(X) program and the British Type 31 program, are designed to support ‘high’ and ‘low’ intensity operations.
These vessels are designed to operate in contested environments – countering air, missile and submarine threats in a manner beyond the limited capabilities of offshore patrol vessels like the Arafura, the British River and US Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter Class vessels.
The utility of patrol frigates goes beyond the basis of convoy escort operations and extends to supporting operations and personnel development. (Source: Defence Connect)
01 Oct 19. U.S. Competition With China Ongoing Challenge. The U.S. competition with China is the ongoing challenge of this generation, Randall Schriver said at a Brookings Institution event in Washington. Schriver, the assistant defense secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs, spoke as the Chinese Communist Party celebrated 70 years of rule in the world’s most populous nation. He said the United States military must adapt to deter China. Schriver spoke about why the competition is happening and what the two nations are competing for.
U.S. strategic competition with China is a major element of national strategy, he said. “We feel we are in competition because fundamentally we have different visions, different aspirations and different views of what regional security architecture should look like,” Schriver said.
The United States wants a free and open Indo-Pacific founded on enduring principles and values that “are near universal and widely shared,” he said. These include respect for national sovereignty, fair, free and reciprocal trade, a rule-based order and peaceful dispute resolution.
The department views military developments in China as seeking to erode U.S. military advantages.”
Randall Schriver, the assistant defense secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs
“We observe that China [under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party] has a different vision and aspirations and is increasingly developing the tools to pursue its vision and seems willing to accept more friction in pursuit of that vision,” he said. “Globally, China seeks to shape a world consistent with its authoritarian model and national goals. We see that domestic governance in China as a result of CCP rule is increasingly authoritarian and less respectful of human rights and dignity.”
China has launched influence operations to undermine free elections, used economic coercion on neighboring countries and encourages outright theft of other nations’ intellectual property. “We see them extending their military presence overseas and expanding the ‘One-belt, One-road’ initiative to include military ties with China,” Schriver said. “And we see [China] deploying advanced weapons to militarizing disputed features despite pledges at the senior-most level that they would not do so.”
For years, China has said it would field a world-class military by 2049, and DOD takes the country’s statements at face value. “The department views military developments in China as seeking to erode U.S. military advantages,” Schriver said. “They are working to become the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific while simultaneously making plans to expand its presence and sustain its capabilities farther from Chinese shores.”
China is seeking to base troops and develop military capabilities in Africa, the Middle East and in the Western Pacific Ocean area.
Instead of expecting to dominate an opponent, our armed forces are learning to expect to be contested throughout a fight, while achieving the political objectives set for them.” Randall Schriver
At the most basic level, what the United States is competing for is to “sustain a position within the regional and international system that allows us to promote, support and protect a liberal rules-based order whose institutions, rules and norms have fostered peace for decades,” the assistant secretary said.
This matters, he said, because if the Chinese Communist Party wins, the world will look very different. Sovereignty would erode, leaving states with less or no control over their decisions. International and regional organizations would have less influence and sway. “Freedom of the seas and overflight in the Indo-Pacific may be challenged,” he said. “We could also see a normalization of the lack of respect for individual and human rights. All this portends a less free and less open Indo-Pacific region with high potential for these trends to manifest on a global scale.”
The U.S. goal is to deter China from a fait accompli, “and to preserve our capacity to deter and prevail at the outset of a crisis,” he said.
U.S. forces are adapting to fight against near-peer competitors. “Instead of expecting to dominate an opponent, our armed forces are learning to expect to be contested throughout a fight, while achieving the political objectives set for them,” he said.
The United States will also rely on its alliance system to counteract Chinese advances. The United States has many treaty allies in the Indo-Pacific and good relations with many more countries. U.S. troops routinely train and operate with allies and partners in the region. All this ensures American and partner forces can act together should the need arise. Schriver said that the bottom line is the United States will cooperate with China where it makes sense and oppose the nation when that need arises. (Source: US DoD)
27 Sep 19. F-35 Testing Delays Continue, Even as Aircraft Has Made Its Combat Debut. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will not complete its already-delayed formal operational test phase this fall because of a setback in the testing process, according to a source close to the program. While the F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) was supposed to be complete by late summer, a source with knowledge of its development said the testing is still incomplete due to an unfinished phase known as the Joint Simulation Environment.
The JSE simulations project characteristics such as weather, geography and range, allowing test pilots to prove the aircraft’s “full capabilities against the full range of required threats and scenarios,” according to a 2015 Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) report.
The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), in coordination with the Defense Department, confirmed that the Joint Simulation Environment testing phase is still being worked through, but could not provide a timeline for its completion.
“This final phase of IOT&E will occur when the JSE is ready to adequately complete the testing,” DoD spokesman Air Force Lt. Col Mike Andrews said in a statement Wednesday. “The JSE is required to adequately perform F-35 IOT&E against modern adversary aircraft and dense ground threats in realistic scenarios.”
(defense-aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE: While the Joint Simulation Environment is blamed for causing the delay in the IOT&E, such a delay was expected since POGO in August revealed that the 23 F-35 aircraft of the IOT&E fleet were averaging an 11% availability rate, instead of the 80% required to complete operational testing within the allotted nine-month time-frame.
Unless the planned tests are cut short, it is difficult to see how the test fleet could have flown enough hours to allow completion of the full test schedule, which is a legal requirement before the program can move into full-scale production.) (Source: (Source: defense-aerospace.com/ Military.com)
26 Sep 19. USMC performs trans-Pacific flight in MV-22 Osprey. The US Marine Corps (USMC) has conducted a trans-Pacific flight in four MV-22 Ospreys from Darwin, Australia, to Hawaii. The aircraft from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363 Reinforced were flown by US Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) to their home station on Marine Corps Base Hawaii on 19 September. This is the fourth trans-Pacific flight for the MV-22 Osprey aircraft. Two KC-130J Hercules from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 accompanied the Ospreys during the flight. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced operations officer US Marine major Kyle Ladwig said: “Being able to fly our aircraft from Australia to Hawaii is a great example of the flexibility and options that the Ospreys create for a commander.”
The flight was intended to improve upon the Osprey trans-Pacific concept. Ladwig noted that the flight showcased the capability of the aircraft.
The KC-130J Hercules supported the flight by conducting air-to-air refuelling to help increase the range of the Osprey aircraft.
Trans-Pacific mission KC-130J strategic area refuelling commander US Marine captain Anthony Walters said: “We are responsible for managing the fuel state of all aircraft in their flight during tactical ferries of assets from location to another with minimal or no viable diverts.
“On this trip, we pioneered a southerly island-hopping route with plentiful diverts to safely employ the MV-22s to or from MRF-D and Hawaii.”
The MV-22s are part of the MRF-D aviation combat element. The four aircraft were deployed in Australia for the past six months supporting training exercises. MV-22 is the variant meant for the USMC while the CV-22 variant serves the US Air Force. (Source: naval-technology.com)
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