31 Oct 19. ‘Caveat Emptor:’ State Dept. Mocks Russian, PRC Weapon Sales In ‘Buy American’ Pitch. “We have seen countries around the world leap at the chance to obtain high-tech, low cost defensive capabilities only to see their significant investments crumble and rust in their hands.”
A top State Department official mocked Chinese and Russian international arms sales today, calling deals the American rivals make around the globe as being rife with “failed systems, flawed training, false bargains.”
Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political military affairs, wrapped his criticism around a pitch to Buy American, rolling out a series of biting examples of second-rate Chinese gear sold to African and Middle Eastern countries, two regions where Beijing has made inroads that have deeply concerned Washington.
“It is important countries around the world understand the risks of choosing to procure systems from China or from Russia,” Cooper added
He began by pointing to four Chinese-made Harbin Z-9 helicopters purchased by Cameroon in 2015, one of which crashed soon after purchase. Similarly, Kenya bought a handful of Chinese-made Norinco VN4 armored personnel carriers, “vehicles that China’s own sales representative declined to sit inside during a test firing,” he claimed. “Since going ahead with the purchase regardless, sadly dozens of Kenyan personnel have been reportedly killed in those vehicles,” Cooper said, adding “caveat emptor!”
He also slammed Chinese CH-4 armed drones, which various countries in the Middle East have found “to be inoperable within months, and are now turning around to get rid of them… We have seen countries around the world leap at the chance to obtain high-tech, low-cost defensive capabilities only to see their significant investments crumble and rust in their hands,” Cooper said.
Ironically, Cooper’s speech comes on the heels of President Trump’s persistent criticism of America’s closest allies in Europe and, to a lesser extent, Japan and South Korea for not spending enough and not paying enough for American troops in their countries, leading to concern over America’s dedication to its traditional alliances. Washington is also currently consumed with accusations by multiple US government officials that President Trump tied military financing (FMF and FMS) to Ukraine in return for Kiev’s investigating his chief political rival, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, who was working for a Ukrainian energy firm.
A summary transcript of a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is being held up as evidence of the Trump administration’s push to trade the money for an investigation, something a CIA whistleblower, along with State Department and National Security Council witnesses have alleged amounted to a shakedown to smear Trump’s primary rival in the 2020 presidential election.
Allies, of course, continue to line up to buy American kit. In fiscal 2019, the State Department cleared $55 billion in weapons sales overseas, flat from the previous year but still up markedly from $41 billion in 2017, making the US by far the biggest weapons dealer on the planet, followed by Russia. China is further back in the pack of global arms merchants, but is slowly catching up.
The Army seeks a next-generation armed scout helicopter with increased speed, range, survivability and even autonomy – not just a conventional helicopter.
Sales by China and Russia, which come with caveats and questionable financing, are a major concern for Washington and its allies, who worry about the long-term effects of such deals. (Just read our coverage of Russia’s sale of S-400 anti-aircraft batteries to NATO ally Turkey.) “Through a combination of cut-price systems such as unmanned aerial systems, predatory financing mechanisms, and sometimes outright bribery, China is using arms transfers as a means of getting its foot in the door,” Cooper said, “a door that, once opened, China quickly exploits both to exert influence and to gather intelligence.”
Members of Congress have drafted a series of sanctions packages that have yet to be enacted, but would take aim squarely at Turkey’s defense cooperation with fellow NATO members. But the Trump administration has so far spared Turkey from sanctions called for under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which demand sanctions against any country that buys weapons from Russia.
India, a decades-long client of Russian defense equipment, has also reportedly purchased several S-400 batteries, but Washington’s cultivation of India as a partner to counter the rise of China and its own territorial ambitions has insulated them from CAATSA penalties.
Cooper didn’t touch on those issues, and only made a glancing reference to perhaps the most controversial arms export of the Trump administration, the Emergency Certification of billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia earlier this year, in response to the threat posed by Iran. Congress tried and failed to block the sale, which Cooper said “contributes to doubts about the US as a supplier in times of need.”
The US has also sent Patriot and THAAD batteries to Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, along with a new air wing to protect the kingdom and deter Iran, defense officials have said, despite Saudi having the third largest defense budget in the world, trailing only the US and China. Since May, the US has sent 14,000 troops to the Middle East, even as President Trump says he is reducing the US presence in the region and trying to end the so-called “endless wars.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
31 Oct 19. Alternatives for Modernizing the Navy’s Sealift Force. CBO estimates that the Navy’s plan to modernize and operate its sealift ships over the next 30 years would cost roughly $39bn. In this report, CBO explores four alternatives that would vary in cost from $34bn to $40bn.
In March 2018, the Department of the Navy submitted to the Congress a plan to modernize the nation’s sealift force over the next 30 years. Sealift ships move most of the equipment and supplies that the Army and Marine Corps need when they are deployed to overseas theaters of operation. CBO estimated the cost of implementing the Navy’s plan and then compared that plan with four alternatives.
- The Navy’s Plan. The Navy’s plan calls for modernizing the sealift force through a combination of approaches: extending the service life of some existing ships, buying used ships in the 2020s, and then buying new ships starting in 2030. According to CBO’s estimate, the Navy’s plan would cost a total of about $39bn (in 2019 dollars) over the next 30 years, including operation and support costs.
- Buy More New Ships. Of the four alternatives to the Navy’s plan that CBO explored, the first two would have the federal government accelerate the purchase of new ships and not buy any used ships beyond those already authorized by the Congress.
- Buy More Used Ships. In the third alternative, the government would not buy new ships but would rely instead on purchasing used ships.
- Use Chartered Ships. The fourth alternative would have the government contract with private shipping companies over time to charter ships for the sealift mission, eventually relieving it of responsibility for purchasing, maintaining, and operating sealift forces.
All four of CBO’s alternatives would meet or nearly meet the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) goal for the cargo capacity of the sealift force, and the total costs for the Navy’s plan and the four alternatives, including acquisition and 30-year operation and support costs, are similar. The costs of those alternatives would vary from $34bn to $40bin over the next 30 years; the two alternatives for buying new ships would cost more than buying used ships or chartering ships. Three of the four alternatives would cost less than the Navy’s plan, according to CBO’s estimates, by between 5 percent and 12 percent. DoD’s current goal for the sealift force is to maintain at least 15.3 million square feet of militarily useful cargo space on its ships. That space would be used in the event of a war that required transporting the equipment of a large military force overseas. Troops would be flown to the overseas location where the equipment was deposited to begin operations. DoD would like to maintain an additional 4.3 million square feet of cargo capacity in commercially owned ships, available on 18 days’ notice, to transport equipment and supplies to those overseas military forces. The civilian ships would primarily transport supplies for the military units once they were assembled. (Source: Congressional Budget Office)
31 Oct 19. Losing Technology to Competitors Threatens Force Lethality. The loss of technology to strategic competitors has a direct effect on the joint force’s lethality, the director of the Defense Department’s Protecting Critical Technology Task Force said.
And while those technology transfers — some legal and some not quite — are almost always unwanted, they’ve certainly been enabled by a lack of U.S. attention on stopping them, Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas E. Murphy said during an Association of the U.S. Army forum on Russia and China.
“We are in a competition,” Murphy said. “China and the others are stealing our stuff, and it is causing the erosion of the lethality of the joint force.”
China, in particular, is employing a comprehensive national strategy to acquire critical U.S. technologies through both licit and illicit methods, the general said.
“They are pretty good about it,” he added. “They are unrelenting in hacking our businesses, both big and small. It’s no wonder why their stuff looks remarkably like ours. Look at their airlifter and their newest fighter. It looks just like a C-17 and an F-35. That’s not a coincidence. We’ve unwittingly become the [research and development] base for adversary capabilities and for our strategic competitors.”
Murphy’s task force, stood up about a year ago, has been tasked with stopping the exfiltration of critical U.S. technology to adversaries. A big part of that, he said, starts with identifying what that critical technology is, ”If you protect everything as if it’s critical, we protect nothing very well,” he noted.
The task force now has a list that lays out critical programs and technologies, he said, and it is is ensuring those technologies are prioritized and tiered and that protections for that technology are based on the level of criticality.
If, for example, artificial intelligence technology is considered a ”Tier 1” technology — the most critical level — he is ”going to mandate a lot of things for you to do to protect it cyber-wise, personnel security, operational security, physical security, and the whole nine yards,” he said.
For those that develop and handle defense technology, he said, the systems that process information related to that technology must be secure enough to withstand intrusion from adversaries.
A recent audit shows many companies don’t have even the most basic of cyber security controls in place, the general said. The Defense Department is working on cybersecurity maturity model certification, or CMMC, for potential technology partners that would rate their readiness safely process and store important technology information, he added.
China and the others are stealing our stuff, and it is causing the erosion of the lethality of the joint force.”
Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas E. Murphy, director, Protecting Critical Technology Task Force
This will have five levels, he explained. To get contracts to do technology work for the DOD, he said, industry or academia would need to achieve the CMMC level commensurate with the nature of the work.
”So up your game, and get your cybersecurity in order,” he said.
Security will also need to be built into the acquisition process from the onset, he said. Program managers tend to focus on cost, schedule and performance when it comes to contracts, he noted, not the company’s ability to keep the technology it will be developing secure.
”I don’t believe today that we sufficiently consider security when determining with which companies to do business,” Murphy said. As a result, he added, there is limited financial incentive for companies to get more secure.
”We’re changing that as well,” he said. ”We’re going to work through a series of initiatives to elevate the importance of security to ensure that it’s as important as cost, schedule and performance.”
The department must ensure industry and academia do a better job of knowing who is working with critical defense technology — where their allegiance lies and who they really work for, Murphy said.
”China devotes significant resources at a national level to infiltrate our universities and our labs,” he said. ”And they are doing it for a reason. They’ve even coined the phrase … ‘Picking flowers in the U.S. to make honey in China,’ which I would say perfectly illustrates their deliberate plan to steal R&D, knowhow and technology to advance their military capability. They are not even hiding it.”
Researchers shouldn’t be getting paid both by the U.S. government and a foreign government at the same time, Murphy said, and competitors shouldn’t be allowed into labs where new technology has been developed.
”We can’t let our competitors into a lab where a breakthrough advance is discovered only to have them take it back to their country to advance their military capabilities,” the general said. ”We must know if you are a member of a foreign talent program. If we don’t ask the questions, we’re never going to know.”
A completely legal way adversaries get U.S. technology is to simply buy it, Murphy said. ”This is why we are working to strengthen our ability to stop the unwanted transfer of defense-related technology,” he said. ”We need to do a better job of closing the export control loopholes, and getting ahead of these business mergers and acquisitions.”
Doing nothing, Murphy said, might mean ”the lethality of the joint force is diminished to a point that is irreparable.” (Source: US DoD)
29 Oct 19. F-35A, B-21 Buys Must Continue, But Where’s The $$, Says CSIS. The current status of the Air Force fleet is “like a power-stall in an airplane,” Todd Harrison of CSIS says, despite a budget at “full throttle.” The central question not answered in three new congressionally mandated studies on future Air Force force structure is how to ensure affordability, finds a review by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). While the three more or less agree on the overall numbers of fighters and bombers needed in the 2030 force, and that both the B-21 bomber and the F-35A programs should be continued or even accelerated, none of them directly assess how much it will all cost, CSIS says.
In fact, the Air Force’s study is quite clear that it did not factor cost into its analysis, nor did it assume any new technologies coming on line in the 2030 force, explains Todd Harrison, director of CSIS’s Aerospace Security Project. “If you constrain yourself so that you can’t have new capabilities, and you’re fiscally unconstrained, you wind up with a trivial solution: which is just buy more of all the things we’re already buying.”
Harrison explained that the biggest problem for the Air Force right now is growing costs despite a dwindling fleet and sub-optimal mission readiness rates. The current Air Force situation is “like a power-on stall in an airplane,” he said. Despite the budget being “full throttle” and “at an all time high,” the service has fewer aircraft and personnel, a declining mission capable rate, it flies fewer hours per year, and is suffering a higher mishap rate.
According to the CSIS review, the key cost driver is the rising price of operating aircraft — not, as one might assume, due to the increasing age of the fleet or even due to a higher operational tempo (which is actually lower than it was a few years back). Instead, Harrison said, the high costs are caused primarily by maintaining “so many small fleets” of different sorts of aircraft for highly specific missions, such as the B-2 bomber and the RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft. “When you have a large fleet, the cost per plane goes down; for small fleets, the cost per plane goes way up,” he explained. “That’s because you have huge fixed costs with each of your aircraft. … Operating costs of planes is going to be determined by how many you keep in the inventory.”
This is borne out by the three studies, according to CSIS’s review, all of which find that the Air Force should move from “single-mission, platform-centric systems” towards “multi-mission, payload-centric systems.” An example, according to CSIS, is that all three “implicitly or explicitly” endorse moving away from the E-8 JSTARS battle management aircraft to a multi-domain solution that can “leverage other existing platforms where possible.”
Another area where consolidation should be considered is in tankers, Harrison noted. This is also an area where the Air Force might want to consider the potential use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), he said. Currently, drones have the highest mission capable rates, are doing the most flying, and cost the least. So looking at them for other missions besides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) — the bulk of what they do now — and dropping bombs makes sense, Harrison concluded.
The Army seeks a next-generation armed scout helicopter with increased speed, range, survivability and even autonomy – not just a conventional helicopter.
The three studies were mandated by Section 1064 of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and were undertaken by the Air Force, Mitre Corporation and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CBSA). Harrison said Congress wanted to see a public assessment of how the Air Force’s current wishlist — embodied in the September 2018 “Air Force We Need” study calling for 386 operational squadrons up from the current 312 — might or might not be justified. The NDAA language was modeled on a similar study Congress mandated for the Navy in the 2016 NDAA, he noted.
Of the three, Harrison said, the 158-page CSBA study “comes the closest” to answering the congressional call. The other two, however, “are incomplete” because they fail to show their work in an unclassified form, he said. “Congress wanted it out in the open,” he explained.
On the other hand, he said, it is important to recognize that despite different assumptions going in, the three studies are remarkably consistent on a number of key issues. These areas of consensus, he said, preview where future Air Force decisions on force structure mix and budget requirements are likely to go.
The CSIS review found that the studies agreed on the fact that the pivot to great power competition with Russia and China means that the Air Force needs more long-range, long-loiter platforms: bombers, remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), tankers and even bases to support long-range action. The studies also agree that the increased threat environment means the future force must be more survivable.
The studies say the 2030 force should include between some 2000 fighter jets: MITRE says 2633, CSBA says 2198, and the Air Force called for 2294. This includes 762 F-35A jets recommended by MITRE and 911 recommended by CSBA. The Air Force did not give specific numbers of aircraft in its study, Harrison explained, rather he extrapolated the totals by type of plane from its count of squadrons.
As for the number of bombers needed by 2030, MITRE recommended 195 total, with 38 B-21s; CSBA recommended 192, with 55 B-21s; and the Air Force study recommended a total of 238. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
29 Oct 19. Why the Pentagon wants to be more like McDonald’s. If the U.S. Department of Defense wants to find efficiencies and bring down waste, it should look to McDonald’s, the nominee for the department’s No. 3 job said Tuesday.
No, the department isn’t ready to drop its rifles for Big Macs, nor is it taking a side in the perpetual Great Fast Food Competition between Ronald and Col. Sanders. But according to Lisa Hershman, the acting chief management officer who on Tuesday had a confirmation hearing to permanently fill the role, the department would be lovin’ it if they could mirror some of McDonald’s supply chain strategies.
Asked how the Pentagon can trim waste during her hearing, Hershman told senators that there are best practices that can be learned from big corporations in the private sector, including “taking a page from McDonald’s, who is very good at managing and acquiring goods and services by category.”
“We have a large DoD-wide category management reform initiative underway. We are looking at everything from what type, how many contracts we have for certain goods and services,” Hershman said. She held up the example of the humble two-by-four, for which the Pentagon had 22 different acquisition contracts.
“Here’s the problem: We found that amongst those 22, several of the contracts were from the same vendor at different price points,” Hershman said. “We necked it down to two contracts — $18m in savings, which seems small, but when you have 40,000 contracting officers, those small items start to add up very quickly.”
Several times during her hearing, Hershman drew back upon her private sector experience and expressed her belief that common-sense contracting reforms such as the two-by-four case could net the Pentagon savings. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee asked few probing questions and largely gave the impression that Hershman should face limited, if any, opposition for the job.
Hershman formally became acting chief management officer on Dec. 1, 2018, after her predecessor was forced out of the position. But she was not nominated for the full job until August 2019.
The CMO position is not as high-profile a gig as other top Pentagon jobs, but the holder is the third-ranking official in the department, thanks to a series of congressional reforms in recent years. Capitol Hill’s intention was to empower the CMO to find efficiencies inside the Pentagon. Through February 2019, Hershman said her team found $4.4bn in efficiencies and savings — a number she expects to grow in the future both through CMO-directed efforts and savings discovered through the Pentagon’s ongoing annual audit. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
29 Oct 19. Unmanned aircraft could provide low-cost boost for Air Force’s future aircraft inventory, new study says. As the U.S. Air Force looks to increase the size and capability of its aircraft inventory, the service should assess the possibility of using drones as a low-cost and highly available alternative to manned airplanes, posits a new study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The CSIS report, which was obtained by Defense News and other news outlets ahead of its Oct. 29 release, compares three recent congressionally mandated studies on the Air Force’s future force structure by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank, the federally funded research organization MITRE Corp. and the service itself.
All three studies were broadly supportive of retaining existing unmanned aircraft, or as the Air Force terms them, Remotely Piloted Aircraft or RPAs. However, the CSIS report makes the case that the low cost and high mission capable rate of RPAs like the MQ-9 Reaper or RQ-4 Global Hawk merits more attention when making future force planning.
“I think we need a roadmap for RPAs in terms of what are the new missions that we can begin to transition over to RPAs and some new operational concepts for how we use them,” CSIS senior analyst Todd Harrison told reporters at a Oct. 28 briefing.
“I say this more from a cost perspective and a readiness perspective because our RPA fleet stands out from the rest of the Air Force in that it costs a lot less to operate [them] and we utilize them much more,” he said. “We need to leverage that. That’s a strength that we need to double down on.”
Harrison pointed to two data points supporting a wider use case for RPAs.
Despite clocking in the highest number of flight hours per airframe, drones boast some of the highest mission capable rates in the Air Force’s inventory, averaging near 90 percent for the MQ-9 and its predecessor, the MQ-1, and around 75 percent for the RQ-4 Global Hawk. Those aircraft are also cheap to operate, with some of the lowest costs per flying hour or total ownership costs in the inventory, Harrison said.
The Air Force, MITRE and CSBA studies provide solid support for keeping the Air Force’s current RPA force.
The Air Force’s study, which proposes a growth to 386 total operational squadrons, would add two squadrons of unmanned strike aircraft, although it does not say what kind of aircraft should be acquired. It also recommends an increase of 22 squadrons of aircraft devoted to command and control or the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission sets, but does not provide a breakdown of what specific capability gaps need to be addressed or whether they could be filled by unmanned aircraft.
The MITRE and CSBA study, by contrast, advocate retaining the current inventory of MQ-9 Reapers and RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drones. CSBA also recommends the procurement of a new, stealthy MQ-X drone that could be used for strike, electronic attack and other missions in a contested environment.
Despite the broad support, the three studies do not necessarily portend a wider acceptance or demand for unmanned aircraft in the next budget, Harrison said.
“I wouldn’t count on it happening that soon. I think this is a wider term change that’s going to be needed. Part of it is a cultural change within the Air Force and part of it requires some real strategic thinking about what are the types of missions where unmanned is going to make sense and how do we best leverage those,” he said.
“The RPAs that we have today, they didn’t come about overnight. They evolved. A lot of the time they faced a lot of institutional resistance, but they proved themselves. They proved themselves valuable in the kind of fights that we’ve been in in the past 20 years.”
One mission area that could be flown by unmanned aircraft in the future is aerial refueling, Harrison said. The Navy in 2018 awarded Boeing a contract to produce an unmanned carrier-based tanker drone known as the MQ-25. That aircraft, like all Navy planes, will use the simpler probe and drogue for refueling.
Refueling via a rigid boom, as utilized by Air Force tankers, makes for a more challenging development, but the remote vision system on Boeing’s KC-46 tanker — which allows the boom operator to steer the boom using a series of cameras as his or her only visual cue — is a step in the right direction, he said.
Another potential area for expanded RPA use could be the development of low-cost drones that can be flown in swarms or as “loyal wingmen” to manned aircraft, the CSIS report stated. These “attritable” aircraft can be expended during a conflict without making an adverse impact on the mission or putting human pilots at risk. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
29 Oct 19. Chinese Set Sights on High-Tech Product Dominance. China aims to transition from producing inexpensive items to high-tech products, the director of the Defense Innovation Unit said.
“Imagine what the world would look like if China were setting standards in game-changing technologies like hypersonics, quantum sciences, autonomy, artificial intelligence, 5G, genetic engineering and space.” Michael Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit
During a panel discussion today at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington titled “Managing the Risk of Tech Transfer to China,” Michael Brown said China’s plan has implications for U.S. defense because national security and economic security are inextricably linked. He noted that DIU’s mission is to get commercial technology into the hands of the military to maintain overmatch on the battlefield.
Since World War II, the United States has set world technological standards in computing, biotechnology, aircraft design, networking and software, Brown said.
“Imagine what the world would look like if China were setting standards in game-changing technologies like hypersonics, quantum sciences, autonomy, artificial intelligence, 5G, genetic engineering and space,” he said, noting that except for hypersonics, they’re all also important for economic prosperity, not just military overmatch.
Brown cited a past U.S. success in developing the 4G network. He said Recon Analytics issued an April 2018 report estimating that the introduction of 4G contributed to 70% growth in the U.S. wireless industry between 2011 and 2014 and bolstered jobs in the wireless industry by 80%.
“By leading the charge, the U.S. was able to build a global ecosystem of network providers, device manufacturers and app developers that shaped the future of 4G,” he said.
China’s goal is to be the technology leader in all areas by 2049, Brown said. It is already competitive with or ahead of the U.S. in areas such as hypersonics and space, launching more satellites than the U.S. last year; as well as in 5G technology and artificial intelligence, particularly in the area of facial recognition. In addition, China is ahead of or at pace with the United States in quantum sciences, launching its first quantum communications satellite in 2016; as genetic engineering, he said.
In genetic engineering, the United States uses Chinese-made equipment for genome sequencing, Brown noted. China has more data on the genetic sequencing of the U.S. population than the United States has on its own population, he said.
Brown offered some suggestions for the United States maintaining its technology lead.
The federal government should invest more in research and technology, he said. The United States invests just 0.7% of its gross domestic product on research and development, and half of that goes into health, not military, applications. In the 1960s, total research and development spending was 2% of the nation’s GDP.
Export control reform and cooperation with allies are also necessary to ensure technology isn’t transferred to nations such as China, Brown said.
In the commercial sector, research and development investment tax credits and other incentives should be applied so manufacturing doesn’t migrate overseas, he said.
The number of science, technology, engineering and math graduates in the United States. is declining, Brown said, while China has 10 times the number of engineering graduates, so more needs to be done in to attract STEM graduates.
About 25% of STEM graduates in U.S. universities are Chinese foreign nationals, Brown said. Policy should encourage these students to stay in the United States while increasing counterintelligence to help ensure that some of those students aren’t here solely to transfer their technical knowledge back to China, he said. (Source: US DoD)
29 Oct 19. DOD Finalizes Purchase Plan for F-35 Aircraft. The Defense Department finalized an agreement to purchase 478 additional F-35 Lightning II airplanes in a deal totaling $34bn, officials said.
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, announced yesterday’s agreement between DOD and aircraft manufacturer Lockheed-Martin during a briefing today at the Pentagon.
The F-35s will form the backbone of the U.S. and allied fifth generation inventory for the foreseeable future, she said.
According to Lord, the agreement involving Lot 12 includes 149 aircraft, Lot 13 includes 160 aircraft, and Lot 14 includes 169 aircraft.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric T. Fick, the F-35 program executive officer, said those lots include 351 of the F-35A aircraft, which is the standard model used by the Air Force. There are also 86 of the F-35B aircraft, which is the vertical-takeoff model used by the Marine Corps, and 41 of the F-35C aircraft, which are for carrier-based operations.
Those aircraft are not all for the United States. Some of the planes are for partner nations, as well as nations that have purchased through foreign military sales.
Lord said acquisition and sustainment and the F-35 Joint Program Office are “laser-focused” on reducing costs for the aircraft, bringing up quality, and achieving timely deliveries.
“We will reach a unit recurring flyaway cost-per-aircraft target of $80m for a U.S. Air Force F-35A price, by Lot 13 —which is one lot earlier than planned,” she said. “A significant milestone for the department.”
Lord also said that there’s a per-unit cost reduction for each variant of the aircraft that averages around 12.7% when comparing Lot 14 purchases to Lot 11 purchases. “These represent some of the largest achieved savings lot-over-lot for the program.”
Fick said that the most recent contract award slows production of the F-35 from previous awards, giving a break to contractors involved in the aircraft’s manufacture. The lot 12 purchase of 149 aircraft, for instance, is just slightly higher than the 141 aircraft in Lot 11.
“With this award we see from a production perspective the most dramatic rate increases in the production line are now behind us,” Fick said. “This dramatic production rate increase has proven to be challenging for the supply chain, but the comparatively minor quantity changes across lots 12 through 14 should give it some breathing room as we move forward.”
He said that breathing room for manufacturers allows for more timely delivery of parts to the production line and spares and repair parts to the field. Currently, some 440 F-35 aircraft have been delivered to military organizations around the world — including the United States, Norway, Israel, Italy, the United Kingdom, Australia, Korea and Japan. (Source: US DoD)
29 Oct 19. In newly inked deal, F-35 price falls to $78m a copy. Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have finalized a $34bn deal for the next three lots of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, setting the price of an F-35A jet below $80m. The fresh price tag has come a year earlier than expected. The deal includes 478 F-35s for U.S. and international customers across lots 12, 13 and 14. On average, the price per aircraft will fall about 12.8 percent across all variants from Lot 11 to Lot 14, according to the Pentagon.
“This is the first time the F-35 Joint Program Office will award a significant F-35 aircraft procurement in the same fiscal year as the congressional appropriation year,” Pentagon acquisition head Ellen Lord told reporters Tuesday.
“We will reach a unit-recurring flyaway-cost-per-aircraft target of $80 m for a U.S. Air Force F-35A price by Lot 13, which is one lot earlier than planned — a significant milestone for the department,” she added.
The F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing model — which is used by the U.S. Air Force and most international users — is set to decrease from a Lot 11 price of $89.2m to $82.4m in Lot 12; $79.2m in Lot 13; and $77.9m in Lot 14.
The F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing model will fall to $108m in Lot 12, $104.8m in Lot 13 and $101.3m in Lot 14. The F-35C variant, which can take off and land on aircraft carriers, also decreased in price, dropping to $103.1m in Lot 12, $98.1m in Lot 13 and $94.4m in Lot 14.
Lockheed will deliver 149 F-35s in Lot 12, 160 aircraft in Lot 13 and 169 for Lot 14.
Neither Lord nor Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, the Pentagon’s F-35 program executive, could explain why the size of the Lot 12 buy had dwindled from the 157 jets announced in June as part of the handshake deal to 149 jets in the definitized agreement.
However, it’s likely that the decrease is due to Turkey’s removal from the program. After the handshake agreement was announced, a source with knowledge of the deal told Defense News that it included Turkish jets to the order of about five to 10 F-35s per lot.
The Pentagon announced the contract definitization on Monday, awarding Lockheed Martin a $7bn modification to a previous contract vehicle for the F-35. The Defense Department previously obligated funding to Lockheed through undefinitized contracts for about 255 aircraft, Fick said.
The award, which comprises some Lot 12 jets as well as Lot 13 planes added by Congress in the fiscal 2019 budget, includes 114 F-35s:
- 48 F-35As for the U.S. Air Force
- 20 F-35Bs for the U.S. Marine Corps
- Nine F-35Cs for the U.S. Navy
- 12 F-35As for Norway
- 15 F-35As for Australia
- Eight F-35As and two F-35Bs for Italy
- Funds for obsolescent parts, software data loads, critical safety items, nonrecurring and recurring engineering, and the Joint Strike Fighter Airborne Data Emulator.
“We are still left, then with about 100 aircraft to go and about another $7bn to go associated with the work to be done for U.S. services in accordance with the [FY20 budget],” Fick said. “We don’t have that budget yet. We can’t make that contract award for the final aircraft until such time as we have this new statutory authority to do so.”
In a statement, Lockheed’s F-35 program head hailed the progress on the aircraft’s price reduction.
“With smart acquisition strategies, strong government-industry partnership and a relentless focus on quality and cost reduction, the F-35 enterprise has successfully reduced procurement costs of the 5th generation F-35 to equal or less than 4th generation legacy aircraft,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s F-35 program vice president and general manager. (Source: Defense News)
29 Oct 19. Chief Management Officer Nominee Champions DOD Agility, Reform. The candidate nominated to be the Defense Department’s chief management officer told the Senate Armed Services Committee she would eke out every bit of value from tax dollars budgeted to the department.
Lisa W. Hershman has spent her career in business transformation and reform and has served as DOD’s acting chief management officer for more than a year.
Many of the lessons she learned and applied working for Fortune 500 companies can be applied to DOD business practices, she said.
“We know that in order to succeed, companies must be prepared to respond to changing business conditions and global competition, while meeting the needs of their customers,” she said. “While the stakes are very different, responding to changing conditions with agility and an eye toward cost and our global competition is also a priority of the Department of Defense.”
Business reform will be essential to the department’s success in providing the equipment and capabilities needed to defend the nation today and in the future, she said.
“The motto of the [Office of the Chief Management Officer] is ‘efficiency for lethality,'” Hershman said. “It reflects the imperative for our warfighters to be fully prepared to meet and prevail against any threat to our nation’s interests throughout the world.”
Efficiency is the crux of everything the office does — they’re now looking at processes that are often clumsy or outdated, she said. “If I am confirmed, my goal is to institute lasting transformation that becomes an integral part of the Department of Defense, making it easier for the men and women of our military to perform their mission, while ensuring the highest possible value to taxpayers,” she said.
“It also includes putting in place training and system changes, eliminating redundant systems, maximizing shared-service delivery, streamlining business operations, upskilling our workforce, sharing metrics, using data to inform decisions and leveraging the strength of culture that sustain that transformation for a long time,” Hershman said.
These goals are similar to comparable goals in the private sector, she said.
“The risks of change are much higher in the military, and the size of the Department of Defense can make the pace of change painfully slow,” she said. “Nonetheless, I am encouraged by the progress made with nearly $5bn in validated savings, as well as increased operational efficiencies. I am pleased to report that the pace of progress is accelerating.”
Still, Hershman said more needs to be done, and she said she is looking forward to working with all stakeholders to accomplish even more. (Source: US DoD)
28 Oct 19. Esper: Baghdadi Death Provides Warning to Terrorists. The death of ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will not end terrorism, but it will “send a message to those who would question America’s resolve and provide a warning to terrorists who think they can hide,” Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
“The United States — more than any nation in the world — possesses the power and the will to hunt to the ends of the Earth those who wish to bring harm to the American people,” Esper said at a Pentagon news conference today. “Saturday’s operation is just one example of the determination and great skill of the U.S. military.”
Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest rather than be captured by the American special operations forces. The raid was the culmination of a multiyear interagency effort to find the terror leader and then capture or kill him.
“His death marks a devastating blow to ISIS, who are now deprived of their inspirational leader following the destruction of their physical caliphate earlier this year,” the secretary said. “I’d like to thank our brave service members who took part in this daring raid, along with our interagency partners who supported the mission. There is no guarantee of success in an operation of this level of difficulty.”
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. special operations force hit Baghdadi’s compound, located in Idlib province in northwestern Syria. “The assault force was engaged by small arms fire, and the threats were quickly eliminated,” he said. “Our forces isolated the compound and protected all of the noncombatants.
“While clearing the objective, U.S. forces discovered al-Baghdadi hiding in a tunnel,” he continued. “The assault force closed in on Baghdadi, and that ended when he detonated a suicide vest.”
Milley said officials tested the remains to ensure it was the ISIS leader and disposed of the remains appropriately. The chairman also said two men were detained from the compound and are in U.S. custody.
Esper praised the professionalism of the joint-service force that conducted the raid. “They executed the raid in all its facets brilliantly,” he said: “Not a single United States service member was killed in this high-risk operation.”
Despite Baghdadi’s death, the security situation in Syria remains complex, the secretary said, noting that state and non-state actors continue to vie for control of territory and resources. “As we have learned from our recent history in the Middle East, it is very easy to get drawn into continued conflict if our objectives are not clear,” the secretary said. “Acting as a police force out to solve every dispute is not our mission. Our mission in Syria today remains the same as when we began operations in 2014: to enable the enduring defeat of ISIS.”
As part of that mission, the U.S. repositioning of forces within the country will allow U.S. forces to continue the defeat-ISIS mission and give the president options, the secretary said. The rest of the forces will return to the United States.
“Those [troops] that remain will continue to execute counterterrorism operations while staying in close contact with the Syrian Democratic Forces who have fought alongside us,” Esper said. “Additionally, the United States will retain control of oil fields in northeast Syria.”
The oil fields are important because at the height of Baghdadi’s reign, those oil fields provided ISIS with the money needed to fund its terror campaign. “U.S. troops will remain in this strategic area to deny ISIS access to those vital resources,” the secretary said. “We will respond with overwhelming force against any group that threatens the safety of our forces there.”
The Syrian Democratic Forces can use the revenues from those fields to secure ISIS prison camps and conduct operations against ISIS, he noted.
Esper said that the situation in Syria was a major topic of discussion at the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels last week. A number of allies expressed their desire to help with the establishment of a safe zone along the Syria/Turkish border. “Turkey bears full responsibility for the consequences of their unwarranted incursion, which has brought further instability to the region,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
28 Oct 19. After a leadership shakeup at General Dynamics, a murky future for submarine building. Submarine building, the pride of the U.S. Navy’s shipbuilding efforts over the past decade, is facing a mountain of uncertainty, a point underscored by the replacement of senior members of General Dynamics leadership, compounding delays with construction of the Virginia-class submarine and nagging questions about the quality of the work after a high-profile welding issue threatened to trip up the Columbia-class ballistic missile sub program at the starting line.
Adding to the uncertainty for General Dynamics, which operates the Electric Boat shipyard in Connecticut, are indications that profits from constructing Virginia-class subs may be slipping. And challenges in training new workers in the complex world of building subs as well as concerns that the Columbia program might negatively affect General Dynamics’ bottom line are impacting General Dynamics’ partner yard Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News, Virginia, as well as the U.S. Navy.
Furthermore, a contract for the significantly larger Block V Virginia-class submarine, expected to be one of the largest in the Navy’s history, has been repeatedly delayed amid disputes over labor rates, sources told Defense News. That contract is more than a year past due, according to Navy budget documents.
In September, General Dynamics pushed out Electric Boat President Jeffrey Geiger. Industry and Navy sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Geiger’s replacement was the culmination of mounting frustration on the part of the Navy. That came to a head when quality control issues surfaced with missile tubes in production destined for the Virginia Payload Module, Columbia-class subs and the United Kingdom’s replacement ballistic missile sub.
Geiger’s ouster came on the heals of General Dynamics replacing long-time executive John Casey as head of the Marine Systems division when he retired earlier this year.
The shakeup, delays and lingering issues put the Navy and the submarine-building enterprise at a crossroads. It’s clear that the Navy’s efforts to ramp up production of its Virginia-class attack boats ahead of Columbia have encountered myriad issues and delays. But while delays may be acceptable for the Virginia program, the interconnected nature of submarine building means those delays could eek into a program that the Navy has for years insisted cannot be delayed any further: the replacement of its aging Ohio-class ballistic missile subs, part of the nuclear deterrent triad.
The Navy has said Columbia must be ready for its first patrol in 2031 to ensure the nation doesn’t fall below a dangerous threshold where retiring Ohio-class submarines leaving the country without an adequate number of boats to execute its deterrent strategy. But to head that off, the Navy may have reduce its expectations of the industrial base’s capacity to build submarines, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank and a retired submarine officer.
“The Navy is going to have to reduce its appetite for submarine capacity while it gets the construction process in a better position,” he said. “All of the things we have seen in the past year in the submarine-building enterprise are the results of the ramped-up production levels and the challenges that EB [Electric Boat] faces in hiring more workers up in Connecticut.
“They’ve been growing capacity, investing in infrastructure; they’re trying to hire a bunch of workers and design engineers. [But] there just isn’t a large workforce of those kinds of people up there as opposed to in Hampton Roads or the Gulf Coast. So there are a lot of challenges in ramping up production to [increase] Virginia-class production and, in addition, starting Columbia and beginning the Virginia Payload Module-equipped Virginias, which is a 30 percent larger submarine.”
A bridge to Columbia
In March, Defense News reported that all the Virginia-class submarines under construction were between four and seven months behind schedule. Naval Sea Systems Command pointed to the cumulative effect of ramping up to building two Virginia-class submarines per year. In a statement, the service’s top acquisition official said the Navy was continuing to confront material, labor and shipyard infrastructure issues.
Labor issues in particular hit the Newport News yard, which told investors in a recent earnings call that profits had slipped by about 23 percent on the Virginia sub building because of delays associated with labor issues.
In the face of the mounting issues, the Navy should be willing to make difficult choices to get back on an even footing, Clark said.
“Are we going to make some tough choices and dial back submarine construction deliberately to make sure we can get Columbia started correctly?” he asked. “And that means maybe we slow down Virginia, maybe we go to one per year for at least a couple of years to catch up.”
Clark said the Navy should continue to fund two submarines per year but should expect that they will take longer to build while General Dynamics and Newport News stabilize their labor and parts issues.
Paring back submarine production is a tough pill to swallow for the Navy, as it’s been fighting for years to prevent a shortfall of attack submarines in the coming decade. The Navy expects its inventory of attack boats to drop from 52 to 42 by the late 2020s as Cold War-era Los Angeles-class attack subs retire.
Furthermore, there’s the question of whether scaling back production might invite a funding cut, which could make matters worse. The supplier and labor issues, after all, primarily stem from the 1990s when the Navy all but stopped buying submarines, which resulted in a contraction of the number of businesses that built submarine parts and a loss in skilled laborers who knew how to build them.
Less funding would likely have a detrimental effect on sub-building efforts, said Bill Greenwalt, a former Senate Armed Services Committee staffer.
“Under our current budget and appropriations process, slowing down — which likely implies cutting program funding — would exacerbate industrial base problems as it already has in the past due to lack of program demand,” Greenwalt said. “Congress and the Navy need to be prepared for industrial base surprises and seriously face the past problem of the underfunding of naval shipbuilding.”
“A flexible schedule and more realistic and flexible funding mechanisms will be needed to meet whatever industrial base challenges … will inevitably arise,” he added. “In the near term we may even need to look at some of our allies’ capabilities to meet shortfalls and help us keep on schedule until we rebuild U.S. capacity.”
Greenwalt’s view tracks with that of General Dynamics, according to a source with knowledge of the company’s thinking on the difficulties it has faced. The company considers ramping up production on the Virginia-class sub as essential to building a sufficient labor force and supplier capacity so the resources are available to build Columbia class on schedule, the source said.
The Navy’s top acquisition official, James Geurts, has similarly described the issue. On the possibility of building a third Virginia-class submarine in 2023, Geurts told the House Armed Services Committee’s sea power panel in March that it would benefit the Columbia-building effort.
“We can get some of the additional workforce trained up, get some more of the supplier base and get some of the supplier builds out of the way before Columbia gets here,” he said.
Officials everywhere seem to agree that the labor force is the most critical factor when it comes to getting submarine building on track. In an exit interview with Defense News in August, outgoing Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said turnover at shipyards was a challenge but also an exciting chance to build a new generation of skilled labor.
“We’re asking a lot of the submarine industrial base right now to continue with Virginia, two to three per year including that payload module, and deliver Columbia,” Richardson said. “And the workforce is going through a transformation.
“The people who built and delivered the Virginia program, the Los Angeles program and Seawolf — those folks are retiring. We used to have this two-hump camel in terms of the demographics of the shipyard: You had the Cold Warriors and you had the post-9/11 folks. And that Cold War hump is gone. And I think that although it’s going through some friction right now, it’s really inculcating, indoctrinating and educating a brand-new workforce.”
Richardson also sounded a note of warning about work quality, saying that the managers overseeing the work for the submarine-building enterprise must be on top of their jobs.
“We’ve had some welding issues: We’ve got to be on that,” he said. “[It’s] a lot closer oversight as we educate this new team.” (Source: Defense News)