Sponsored by Exensor
02 Jul 20. House slides money into B-21 bomber procurement account. An amendment to the House version of the fiscal 2021 defense policy bill would move some funding for the secretive B-21 bomber program from its research and development account to procurement, a sign that production activities could be picking up.
The amendment transfers $20m into “Long Range Strike Bomber advanced procurement” and would “allow the program to begin some procurement activities ahead of schedule,” according to the legislation.
The language was adopted by the House Armed Services Committee during its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act, and was offered by Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., who chairs the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
The amendment offered scant other details about the current status of the B-21 Raider program or what prompted the transfer of funds. That, in some ways, is unsurprising — the Air Force has remained reticent to give even vague assessments on Northrop Grumman’s progress developing the new stealth bomber, which is expected to begin initial operations in the mid-2020s.
The HASC version of the defense authorization act, which was agreed to Wednesday night, still needs to be passed by the House and go through the conference process with the Senate, where two separate versions of a bill are reconciled into a single piece of legislation. Even if this provision survives that process, it only provides a recommendation of how government funding should be spent to congressional appropriators, who have the real power to allocate money.
But taken together with other public information about the B-21, the move by HASC fuels speculation about the program’s momentum, especially on when the Air Force will begin procuring the bomber and when a test vehicle could be rolled out for its first flight.
In July 2019, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said the Raider could take to the skies in about “863 days,” which would pinpoint an inaugural flight in December 2021.
Randall Walden, who leads the B-21 program as head of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said in October that the December 2021 time frame was the “earliest” tentative date, but that first flight more likely would occur later, according to Breaking Defense.
The B-21 passed its critical design review in 2018, and Northrop has already begun production on the first aircraft. Last August, Defense News and other publications visited the company’s site in Palmdale, California, and observed the construction of new facilities almost certainly linked to the development of the new bomber.
Walden in October declined to give specifics on when the first B-21 would roll off the production line but acknowledged that some “big parts” were in the process of being built. The 420th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, was reactivated earlier that month to conduct all ground and flight testing of the Raider on behalf of the government, including the first flight.
The Air Force intends to order a minimum of 100 B-21s. However, Air Force Global Strike Command head Gen. Timothy Ray has said the service will need at least 220 bombers to meet future threats. That opens the door to a possible expansion of the B-21 program of record, as the Air Force begins retiring the B-2 and B-1B. (Source: Defense News)
30 Jun 20. Missile Defense Chief Looks to Handle Changing Threat. Missile defense has gone from pie-in-the-sky Star Wars technology in the 1980s to a proven military capability in the 21st century, and the Missile Defense Agency is looking to extend those capabilities against new threats.
Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the agency’s director, told the Hypersonic Weapons Systems webinar in London the agency is looking to adapt current technologies against the hypersonic threat while looking toward new capabilities.
“The sad reality is that many of these threats, regardless of how they’re launched and what their profiles are, really do look like hypersonic threats,” he said.
Ballistic missiles as they approach impact are hypersonic, as are many maneuverable cruise missiles. “So if you’re the sailor on the deck of a ship, they all look the same to you,” Hill said. “If you’re a soldier manning a land-based battery, it’s going to be maneuvering and coming in very quickly at hypersonic speeds. If you’re one of the airmen that’s manning one of the many sensors that are out there, it’s going to look fast, and it’s going to be moving quickly.”
So, the hypersonic threat already exists. The Missile Defense Agency now must adapt as the threat morphs, Hill said. Right now, the hypersonic threat is almost ancillary to the capabilities of ballistic and cruise missiles, he added, but as competitors test and build, that threat will become more sophisticated.
“We’re defending the United States, our deployed forces, our allies and friends from missile attacks in all phases of flight,” Hill said. It is a simple mission statement, but not so simple to execute.
The key to the program is the sensor array. “We leverage all sensors, and many, many countries are in the business of fusing data so that you have a complete track picture,” the admiral said. “We call it from … birth-to-death tracking and that is absolutely required. You don’t want to lose track of the threats, particularly if [they are] unpredictable and maneuverable.”
The agency will leverage space sensors, which is typically how it sees initial launches. “We will fly through ground-based sensors,” he said. “We have ships with the sensing capability deployed globally. Another great way that we partner with our allies that sensor architecture is critically important, particularly as the threats become more and more maneuverable over time.”
The existing sensing architecture and battle management system and even existing weapons can counter this very formidable threat, but more needs to be done, he said.
So, the bottom line is that just because a weapon is hypersonic doesn’t mean it can’t be intercepted. “Like all good engineering organizations, we’re going to look for where the vulnerabilities are in a hypersonic flight, whether it’s a glide vehicle or cruise missile,” Hill said.
The glide phase looks to be the most promising place, because it is earlier in a missile’s trajectory, Hill said. “We are now investigating what it would take to move into that first part of the glide phase,” he added.
This means evolving the terminal system, “and then looking at how we can change the propulsion as required — change the front end to get to the glider phase,” Hill said. “It is a tough regime to operate in. But you have to remember that the hypersonic threat is not invincible — in that phase, it’s bleeding off energy, it may be doing a roll, and may be starting its maneuver. But it’s a great place to engage.”
In addition, the admiral said, the agency is looking to build sensing from space.
This is not the 21st century version of pie-in-the-sky. The Missile Defense Agency is working closely with the services and combatant commands and having discussions with international partners on defending against this threat, Hill said. (Source: US DoD)
30 Jun 20. Risk Aversion Impedes Hypersonics Development. Speeding ahead with the development of hypersonic weapons, both offensive and defensive, will require the Defense Department to look back to the 1960s — a time when it was far less risk-averse than it is now, the department’s director of defense research and engineering for modernization said.
“We need to be less risk-averse. And that doesn’t mean we seek to maximize risk. But it also means we’re not afraid to take risks, or we’re not afraid to fail, as long as they’re what I term noble failures,” Mark J. Lewis said during a discussion today with Rebeccah Heinrichs of the Hudson Institute in Washington.
The speed, maneuverability, and trajectories of hypersonic weapons will give whomever masters them first an advantage, Lewis said. A hypersonic weapon traveling at Mach 5, faster than around 3,800 miles per hour, he said, presents challenges to adversaries.
“That doesn’t give your potential adversary a lot of time to figure out what you are, decide that you’re coming, and then take some action,” he said. “So speed is essential.”
But developing and delivering a hypersonic cruise missile or a hypersonic boost/glide system will take some time, he said. He said he expects the department to be able to deliver whatever systems are determined to be most useful “at scale” sometime around the mid-2020s. That’s going to require the department to change the way it operates — to accept more risk in testing and development — much moreso than what it’s got a taste for now, Lewis said.
To illustrate, he contrasted development of the Air Force’s X-51 program just 10 years ago, and the X-15 program during the 1960s.
The X-51 hypersonic aircraft did four test flights, Lewis said. It wasn’t until the fourth that it had a truly successful flight. But the initial failures, and the amount of time in between test flights to determine what happened, presented problems.
For one, he said, between the first and second test flight — a span of more than a year — the original pilot for the B-52 “mother craft” that launched the X-51 had retired. At the same time, more than 70% of the ground crew associated with the first test flight was no longer around.
“We had a loss of expertise,” he said.
The third test flight came more than 14 months after the second, and the final flight close to nine months after that. Fear of failure was a key factor in the slow movement, Lewis said.
“We had people in the program saying, ‘Well, we can’t fly that vehicle, because what if it fails?’ I remember having these surrealistic conversations. … If we don’t, we paid for it,” he said. “It’s sitting in the hangar, why wouldn’t we fly it? ‘Well. [they said] if we fly it, if it doesn’t work, then we’re done.’ We did finally fly it. But there was so much hand-wringing. There was so much worry about this, about what would happen if [it failed]. That kind of illustrates the situation we’ve gotten ourselves into.”
The 1960s-era X-15 program, he said, was a remarkably different situation.
“The X-15 program flew 199 flights, roughly once every two weeks,” he said. “When things went wrong, they figured out immediately what went wrong, and they got those vehicles back in the air.”
While the loss of a fin on the X-51 program during its third test flight led to hand-wringing and fear, he said, the X-15 program managed to press on after researchers lost an entire aircraft, and even a pilot.
“They had one case where a vehicle landed hard, broke in half, and they said, ‘Great — we wanted to make one a little bit longer anyway,'” he said. “They weren’t afraid of failure. They even had a tragedy in the program. They lost one of the vehicles, they lost the pilot. It didn’t end the program. So that’s kind of the mindset that we’re trying to get into.”
Part of that will mean a lot of testing, Lewis said, and over the next four years, he expects as many as 40 different flight tests of hypersonic systems.
“We need to fly early. We need to fly often,” he said.
A robust program with limited time between tests means there’s less chance of losing talent and knowledge between tests, he noted.
“We learn as we’re doing,” he said. “We’re not constantly relearning how to do what we used to know how to do. And that, I think is the secret. I think it’s the path we’re trying to get ourselves on.” (Source: US DoD)
26 Jun 20. Congress aims to strip funding for the US Navy’s next-gen large surface combatant. The U.S. Navy’s interminable quest to design and field a next-generation large surface combatant is going back to the drawing board once again, a victim of the Pentagon’s disorganization around this year’s long-range shipbuilding plan, according to documents and a source familiar with the situation.
The Senate Armed Services Committee stripped $60.4m dollars from the Navy’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget intended to be used for preliminary design work for the future large surface combatant, according to documents released by the committee. Instead, the money is being funneled into a land-based testing facility in Philadelphia that will work on the future combatant’s power system, which is the raison d’être for the envisioned class, a source familiar with the deliberations told Defense News.
The money for the large surface combatant design is one of the victims of the Pentagon’s inability to produce a 30-year shipbuilding plan, an annual requirement that is intended to give Congress an idea of where the Navy wants to steer its fleet, the source said, adding that the large surface combatant was not in the five-year future years defense program which is submitted with the president’s budget.
The 30-year shipbuilding plan has been held up this year by the Office of the Secretary of Defense as the Pentagon struggles to come up with a fleet that more closely integrates the Navy and Marine Corps for the Pacific theater and incorporates a significant fleet of unmanned surface and subsurface systems.
It’s the latest setback in the effort to field next-generation surface combatants, which has seen more than 20 years of false starts and setbacks.
The Navy initially intended to field a fleet of 21st century cruisers and destroyers to replace the current Arleigh Burk-class DDGs and Ticonderoga-class cruisers. But the DDG-1000 program was truncated to just three hulls, and the so-called CG(X) cruiser was cancelled in 2010 at the beginning of the Obama Administration.
Given the long lead times for new ship development, as much as a decade or more, the situation is becoming increasingly urgent for the U.S. Navy. Many of the cruisers have reached their effective service lives and the oldest Arleigh Burke-class ships are closing on 30 years of age, but the Navy is not currently planning a class-wide service-life extension program.
For its next-generation large surface combatant, the Navy is looking to field a ship that uses the latest AEGIS combat system destined for its Flight III DDG, but with a hull and power system that has ample margin for integrating future systems such as lasers and rail guns, and with missile magazines able to haul larger hypersonic strike missiles.
But according to the SASC, the Navy is way too early in the process to justify funding for design, especially when Congress doesn’t know what the Navy’s plans are for fielding it and when.
“The committee lacks sufficient clarity on the Large Surface Combatant (LSC) capability requirements… to support the start of preliminary design for the LSC program or completion of the Capabilities Development Document,” according to a document released by the committee.
The document also shows the SASC directing $75m toward the Integrated Power and Energy Systems test facility in Philadelphia, known as the ITF, which a source said is where the heavy work of fielding a power system with plenty of margin for future weapons would be performed. That facility should be up and running by 2023, according to the documents.
The FY21 NDAA is currently working its way through Congress and is not yet in its final form, meaning funding for large surface combatant design work could still be reinstated at some point in the process.
Congress has been increasingly agitated by the Navy’s design-on-the-fly approach to fielding new capabilities, such as the littoral combat ship’s mission modules or several of the key technologies that have been holding up the lead Ford-class carrier.
In the view of lawmakers, the delays could be mitigated by taking a more cautious approach to developing new classes of systems, by maturing technologies ahead of launching into construction. For example, if the Advanced Weapons Elevators on Ford had been developed before the start of construction, there would not be a months-long delay in getting the carrier ready for deployment because the system would work before it was installed.
To that end, Congress has been inserting itself heavily into the development of unmanned surface vessels, restricting funding for procurement until the Navy can produce a reliable system.
In its markup of the 2021 NDAA, the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee called for restricting funding for procurement of any large unmanned surface vessels, or LUSV, until the Navy can certify it has worked out an appropriate hull and mechanical and electrical system, and that it can operate autonomously for 30 consecutive days.
Furthermore, the Navy must demonstrate a reliable operating system and that any systems integrated into the platform — sonars, radars, etc. — are likewise functioning and reliable.
In short, the language would mean the Navy could not spend procurement dollars on a large unmanned surface vessel until it has a working model, and it may not try to develop those technologies on the fly.
The Defense Department has been championing a major shift away from large surface combatants, based on decisions by Defense Secretary Mark Esper that are in line with his in-house think tank, the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office. The Pentagon wants to focus on fielding more unmanned platforms with missile cells that can be more expendable in a fight and act as an external missile magazine for larger manned combatants with more exquisite sensors.
But Congress has repeatedly balked at the idea because the Navy has yet to produce a concept of operations or a coherent public strategy to back up the investment plan. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
29 Jun 20. US could buy Turkey’s Russian-made S-400 under Senate proposal. The U.S. would be able to buy Turkey’s Russian-made S-400 air defense system under legislation proposed in the Senate last week. The proposal is one powerful lawmaker’s attempt to alleviate the impasse between Washington and Ankara over the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., has proposed an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow the purchase to be made using the U.S. Army’s missile procurement account. The move comes a year after the U.S. expelled NATO ally Turkey from the multinational F-35 program because it received the S-400 in a $2.5n deal.
However, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, has introduced an amendment that would take a tougher stance, mandating the Trump administration implement CAATSA sanctions on Turkey within 30 days of passage of the NDAA. Risch has been critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and accused him of bad faith in dealings with the U.S. over the S-400.
Under CAATSA, or the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, passed in 2017, any nation procuring a major defense article from Russia should face major sanctions.
U.S. President Donald Trump has held off imposing sanctions against Turkey for its purchase, but the sale remains a sticking point in the relationship. Erdogan has refused to give up the system, despite warnings from Washington that the S-400 could compromise the stealthy F-35.
The U.S. routinely buys foreign technology and could both exploit the S-400′s technology and test U.S. tactics, said Jim Townsend, a former Pentagon official for European and NATO policy. If Turkey doesn’t go for the idea, he said, the two countries are still stuck.
“I think the US buying the S-400s from Turkey is a clever way of getting Erdogan out of the jam he put himself in,” Townsend said. “We just want to get the system out of Turkey … and if it enables the Turks to take part in the F-35 then all the better.”
Thune and Risch are both influential senators, but there’s no guarantee either of their amendments would receive consideration to be included in the massive NDAA ― or, if passed into the Senate bill, that they would survive negotiations with the House.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s draft of the authorization bill already contains language pertaining to Turkey and the F-35 program. Specifically, it gives the U.S. Air Force the authority to accept, operate or even modify the six F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing models that were built by Lockheed Martin for Turkey but never officially delivered. (Source: Defense News)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Home land Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company