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27 Aug 20. Can AI Solve the Rare Earths Problem? Chinese and U.S. Researchers Think So. A research effort funded by China and the U.S. could speed up the discovery of new materials to use in electronics.
A joint U.S.-Chinese research team has shown that artificial intelligence can help find potent new combinations of materials to replace rare earth metals that are key to military technology.
Rare earths materials drive today’s high-tech batteries and computer chips. It’s possible to engineer new compounds from common materials that can perform as well or better than the rare-earth-based ones found in common devices. But figuring out the right combinations of elements to design, say, new high-ion conductors or other materials useful for electronics, is an enormous task. If you’re looking to make a compound material with just four of the first 103 elements on the periodic table, you’re looking at ten-to-the-12th-power combinations. A tiny fraction of those would work for electronics. That’s where advanced forms of AI are proving themselves useful.
A team of researchers at the University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing and Guizhou University, a research university located in Guiyang, China, with funding from the U.S. and the Chinese governments, have applied an advanced form of artificial intelligence to the task of finding new combinations of elements that could meet future needs for rare earth resources.
“Considering the huge space of doped materials with different mixing ratios of elements and many applications such as high-temperature superconductors, where six to seven component materials are common, the number of potential materials is immense,” notes the paper published in the June issue of NPJ Computational Materials.
The researchers apply a Generative Adversarial Network, or GAN, to the problem. GANs work like conventional neural networks but with a twist. Whereas a conventional network might look at billions of pictures of, say, faces to differentiate a real face from a fake one, a generative adversarial network works that problem in reverse by pitting two neural networks against one another. So, applied to conductive compound discovery, it would work like this: while the first network tackles the problem of analyzing all the potential element combinations to find a good conducting material, the adversarial network works by taking that conclusion and reversing it, reasoning that ‘if this hypothetical material meets the description of being good for electronics, what combination of elements or other factors led to its existence?’ It infers the rules for combining materials to create new conductive compounds based on a hypothetical inorganic material that performs well. The researchers report that they are able to speed up material search by two orders of magnitude.
The paper was supported by grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation as well as the Chinese government’s National Major Scientific and Technological Special Project of China.
Chinese funding of U.S. academic research is facing increasing scrutiny. “For universities, China takes advantage of the commitment to intellectual freedom on campus, which strongly resists government scrutiny of the activities of foreign students in hard science programs and international academic cooperation,” notes a 2018 report from the Hoover Institution.
In January, the head of Harvard’s chemistry and chemical biology lab was indicted for making false statements about receiving funding from the Chinese government. One of his students, a Chinese national, was indicted for attempting to take samples from the lab back to China.
Those high-profile instances deal mainly with the failure of some researchers to disclose funding ties to the Chinese government, which is not the case here. (The paper’s corresponding author declined to answer questions about the National Major Scientific and Technological Special Project of China and its funding process.) But Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has introduced legislation to basically prohibit Chinese graduate students from studying in any science or technology field in the United States.
That could make discoveries like this one harder for the United States to realize in the future. Chinese students and researchers play a key role in the advancement of U.S. technological capabilities, Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and the chair of the Defense Innovation Board, said at the Defense One Tech Summit in June. (Source: Defense One)
27 Aug 20. DIU Making Transformative Impact Five Years In. When then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter created the Defense Innovation Unit in 2015, the goal was pretty clear: Tap into the investment and speed of advances in commercial technology to benefit the Defense Department.
“He saw that there was a lot of investment in commercial technology … and at a faster rate than what we’re able to do with military research and development alone,” Mike Brown, DIU’s director said. “He said we need an organization located in the innovation hubs where we can access that for the military. The military needs the best technology available to support its mission.”
Today — five years later — DIU has headquarters in Silicon Valley, as well as offices in Washington, Boston and Austin, Texas. They’ve awarded more than 160 contracts to commercial companies at a faster rate than what might have been expected from the Defense Department — sometimes in as little as 60 days. DIU has initiated 72 projects and brought 33 to completion, transitioning 20 commercial solutions to the Defense Department.
In 2018, former Defense Secretary James Mattis further set the expectation that DIU’s impact should exceed its relatively small size. “We increasingly are working on projects that will have an impact across the services, combatant commands and agencies. We call it a ‘transformative impact,'” Brown said.
“The Defense Innovation Unit has played a critical role in bringing new processes, methodologies and technologies to the Department,” Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said in a congratulatory letter. “The need for the Department to move at the speed of relevance is only growing, and I challenge DIU to maintain its entrepreneurial approach to continue to deliver and scale transformational capabilities across the joint force.”
DIU looks to the private sector for successfully deployed commercial technologies to solve problems within the Department. Areas of interest include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, autonomous systems, human systems, commercial space, 3D printing, augmented reality and a new area for this coming fiscal year of advanced energy and materials.
“There has never been a more urgent time for DIU’s mission,” Brown said. “I say that because of great power competition and, in particular, China’s civil-military fusion strategy: Every technology developed in the commercial sector is transferred to the People’s Liberation Army by fiat.
“Unlike in China,” Brown continued, “the U.S. government can’t simply take technology developed in the private sector and require its use within the military. Instead, the military must entice the private sector to support the military. That’s DIU’s mission.
“We need the right incentives to ensure that commercial companies want to work with the Department,” he said. “But we’re also trying to achieve that top-level idea — how we ensure that the best of the commercial world is available to the military.”
DIU developed a process called the Commercial Solutions Opening that allows possible contenders for a DOD contract to compete, prove their solution in a military application and move quickly to a production award.
“Making it easier to work with the Defense Department has been an important part of DIU’s success,” Brown said. “One simple way to do that is to describe problems in language familiar to the private sector rather than in language only the military would understand.
“Next,” he continued, “we enable companies to participate in the selection process easily by responding with material they already have. It could be as few as five slides illustrating their solution rather than a long, customized request for proposal. Finally, we work quickly to get to an answer to whether the companies are selected for a prototype contract.
“As proof of the success of DIU’s effort to make working with the Defense Department easier,” Brown said. “The number of companies submitting to projects is up 40% this year. The DIU has also worked with around 120 non-traditional vendors — those not typically involved in defense contracts — and has attracted 60 companies who have never before worked with the Department to come forward with solutions to help the warfighter.
“Among those projects, is a truly transformative one that uses artificial intelligence for predictive maintenance on military aircraft,” Brown said.
“The commercial aircraft world has used predictive maintenance for years. We went to one of the leading vendors and said let’s try this with military aircraft.
“When AI-based software accurately predicts what parts of an aircraft will fail next, when that aircraft is in the maintenance depot, those parts can be replaced before they fail,” Brown said. “That aircraft will spend less time in the maintenance depot for unscheduled work which, in turn, increases aircraft reliability and readiness and saves taxpayer dollars.”
DIU prototyped predictive maintenance originated with the Air Force’s E-3 Sentry, the C-5 Galaxy and then with the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. After proving its value with the Air Force resulting in a production contract for a vendor, C3.AI, a company that never thought about pursuing a Defense Department customer. DIU is now working with the Marines and the Army for use in ground-based vehicles and helicopters and hopes to test this technology with the Navy for use in ship maintenance.
“Another DIU project provides real-time video to the naval special warfare community through the use of hand-held quadcopters made by a company founded by a veteran called Shield AI,” Brown said. “In addition to real-time video, the small drone has infrared capability to allow operators to clear a building. That potentially saves lives. This is very attractive for any warfighter involved in close urban combat.
“One of DIU’s most recent transformative projects coming to fruition is the Blue sUAS initiative that builds on the short-range reconnaissance program for the Army. This Army program is selecting a small drone supplier so that the Army has an alternative to Chinese-made drones. The Blue sUAS initiative standardizes on the product the Army tested, for use across the Services (rather than each Service developing its own requirements and suppliers) and then aggregates the buying power across the federal government so that American suppliers are more economically viable. DIU has made five proven suppliers available to any federal agency through the GSA catalog,” Brown said. DIU has already had conversations with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency to offer these American suppliers the opportunity for foreign military sales, as well, “to aggregate that buying power across our allies.”
As an example of a project that grew beyond its original intent to a new capability for the military is Kessel Run. It started as a software development prototype for more efficient re-fueling by Air Force tankers and now has scaled into the Kessel Run Agile Software Development methodology, developing multiple software applications for the Air Force.
Right now, Brown thinks DIU is just scratching the surface of what’s possible. DIU influences about $500m to $600m of procurement every two years — over the course of projects underway, but the Department might buy somewhere between $300bn and $400bn in that same two-year period.
“So, there’s a lot more that the department buys that might benefit from commercial purchases,” he said.
“DIU received a 55% budget increase for FY20 from Congress, and we’re using that to expand capacity to do more projects. In fact, we’re doing 50% more projects this year than we did last year and that is triple the projects we did in 2018.
“There’s also a new element of DIU,” Brown said, “called National Security Innovation Capital which was approved in the 2018 NDAA. If that receives funding, DIU will serve as a catalyst to get private money aimed at dual-use hardware technology — like batteries, quantum sensors or space components — that supports departmental priorities where private capital has not typically been invested. In this way, we can grow some of the future suppliers we need in the supply base.
“We’re proud of what we’ve done in our first five years, but there’s a lot more to do,” Brown said. “There couldn’t be a more urgent need for what we’re doing in a future where our defense budgets may be under pressure and where China is making large technology bets along with civil-military fusion. DIU is one of the Department’s answers in that future.” (Source: US DoD)
25 Aug 20. Trump administration sends mixed signals on nuclear weapons budgeting. Defense hawks in Congress are pushing a contentious plan to give the Pentagon a stronger hand in crafting nuclear weapons budgets, but the Trump administration has been sending mixed messaging over recent weeks about whether the change is needed.
The Senate-passed version of the annual defense policy bill would give the Pentagon-led Nuclear Weapons Council a say in the budget development of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy that’s responsible for the stockpile’s safety, security, and effectiveness.
However, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities Vic Mercado told reporters that change is unneeded; the status quo between the Defense Department’s nuclear modernization efforts and NNSA is appropriate.
“I think right now we have it about right,” Mercado said in an interview this month. Nuclear deterrence falls under Mercado’s portfolio as an adviser to the defense secretary and undersecretary for policy.
The remarks could be read as neutral as the House and Senate debate competing proposals as part of their deliberations on the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
A Senate-passed proposal would grant the Nuclear Weapons Council new authority to edit NNSA’s budget request after the Energy Department crafts it and before the request is submitted to the White House budget office.
The House-passed bill would instead establish the secretaries of defense and energy as co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons Council, versus the undersecretary of defense for acquisition of sustainment and the NNSA administrator today.
Mercado said that he had “heard of all these initiatives to try to skew it one way or the other,” but that the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition of Sustainment Ellen Lord, NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the armed services and DoD’s policy shop, today all share, “a very healthy and productive” relationship on the topic of nuclear weapons.
“The work we’ve done with NNSA, as we we go through modernization, prioritization and efforts like that to make sure that their industrial base and [plutonium] pit generation is healthy and supports us ― I think there’s there’s always creative tension, but I think it’s healthy tension,” Mercado said.
Separately, the House passed a prohibition on DoD coordinating the NNSA budget within the Nuclear Weapons Council as part of a larger appropriations package.
The White House’s July 30 threat to veto the package objected to that provision, saying: “While respecting the independence of each department is important, ensuring the proper degree of coordination in the nuclear modernization efforts of both departments is also important.”
Key Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee have been pressing for more public advocacy from the administration against those Democrat-led proposals.
At an Aug. 6 hearing, several lawmakers prompted the nominee to be assistant secretary of defense nuclear, chemical, biological, and defense programs, Lucas Polakowski, to argue the council should provide guidance and assistance to the NNSA as it develops its budget each year.
SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and a top nuclear modernization advocate asked Polakowski: “If confirmed, what would you think if you were prevented from even seeing the NNSA budget until after it was finalized for submission to Congress?”
“I think that would be a mistake and would severely impair not only our existing triad but our modernization efforts going forward in the future and, in fact, could potentially jeopardize our national defense quite significantly,” Polakowski responded.
Inhofe outlined the House proposal, eliciting Polakowski’s opinion: “I think that’s a mistake and I would not support it, senator.” Polakowski also agreed with Inhofe that this would give the energy secretary new, “veto power” in the budgeting process.
Inhofe earlier in the year clashed with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette after he backed a larger budget request than Brouillette sought.
In an exchange with Airland Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Polakowski warned that if DoD didn’t participate in NNSA’s budget process, it would lead to “uncontrolled spending. And most importantly, our nation’s deterrent would suffer.”
Polakowski would be designated staff secretary for the Nuclear Weapons Council. A managing member at IT firm Everest Technologies, he previously served as deputy director at U.S. Strategic Command’s Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Earlier in the hearing, SASC ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., told Polakowski of his, “concerns about your expertise in nuclear matters, since you have great experience in chemical and biological weapons. I would hope you will focus a great deal of your attention on getting up to speed with respect to nuclear matters.”
As Congress deliberates on the defense policy bill, the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank released its recommendations Tuesday, which argued against elevating the chairmanship of the Nuclear Weapons Council to the secretary level, as the House proposed. For one, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition of sustainment has, “the expertise and time to give nuclear weapons the attention they deserve.”
“The House change would put the Secretary of Energy in a position to veto decisions that relate exclusively to DOD capabilities,” the report reads. “As the customer of the NNSA, the DOD should maintain its sole leadership of the council.” (Source: Defense News)
25 Aug 20. Overhauling US Navy’s 355-ship force concept to better fit growing challenges. The 355-ship force has emerged as the pinnacle for America’s naval recapitalisation and modernisation efforts. While concerns about costs remain consistent, former assistant secretary of the US Navy for shipbuilding and logistics, Everett Pyatt, has presented some options that benefit the US Navy and allies seeking niche, yet aggregated allied capability.
Naval power has always played a critical role in the way great powers interact – competitions to design the most powerful warships often characterising the great power competitions of the past.
The decades leading up to the outbreak of the First World War saw an unprecedented competition between the UK and German Empire, with much of the emphasis placed on Dreadnought battleships echoing a similar, albeit smaller, naval arms race gathering steam between the US and China.
In recent years, nations throughout the Indo-Pacific have begun a series of naval expansion and modernisation programs with traditional aircraft carriers and large-deck, amphibious warfare ships serving as the core of their respective shift towards greater maritime power projection.
At the end of the Second World War, the aircraft carrier emerged as the apex of naval prestige and power projection.
Today, naval power remains one of the central pillars of any nation’s strategic policy and the world’s premier navy, the US Navy, is increasingly facing the very real limitations of US economic, industrial and political will at a precarious period in global history.
While US President Donald Trump has been rather inconsistent on the subject, he remains committed to achieving a 355-ship fleet, capable of guaranteeing global maritime security, freedom of navigation and stability in the face of increased peer and near-peer competitors.
This push has seen many within the US Navy and within the US naval shipbuilding industry seek to balance shipbuilding and ‘readiness’ in a new era of state-based competition.
Indeed recently, Defense Secretary Mark Esper explained the importance of balancing readiness with force and platform modernisation, explaining to the Senate Armed Services Committee:
“This need to balance current readiness with modernisation is the department’s central challenge and will require strong leadership, open and continuous dialogue with others, and the courage to make tough decisions.”
Learning the lessons of today and yesterday
Entering the ever-evolving debate about America’s naval shipbuilding, recapitalisation, modernisation and force structure plans in the face of mounting budgetary pressures and rival great powers beginning to exercise their own industrial capacity and political will, former assistant secretary of the US Navy for shipbuilding and logistics, Everett Pyatt, has presented an interesting take on the challenges.
Setting the scene, particularly regarding the spiraling costs associated with such an immense recapitalisation program, Pyatt states, “Expansion of the force over a 10-year period requires about 70 ships above replacement quantity or seven ships a year. Total annual ship acquisition for the next 10 years should be about 15 ships. Average procurement recently has been about eight ships. At this rate, force expansion is impossible.
“Recent administrations have not shown much creativity in the acquisition process. In 1981, the president established the 600-ship Navy goal. Leadership invented new acquisition processes, including two-ship carrier acquisition, competition in the cruiser and submarine programs, the build and charter for 17 logistics ships, acquisition of 100 used cargo ships, carrier service life extension, and battleship reactivations and others.
“Strict cost control was achieved with cost-centered management of requirements, future block upgrades, change orders and enforcement in production by contract competition. These actions were essential in attaining program-wide ‘on schedule, on budget’ successes.
“Nothing equivalent has occurred in the current Navy acquisition system.”
Pyatt expands on this, raising concerns about the steady increase in platform price since the US Navy’s last great modernisation and recapitalisation program in the 1980s, and its subsequent impact upon the number and availability of US navy combatants at sea, something Beijing’s military planners are playing close attention to.
“But the bigger cost control failure is doubling of average ship-constant-dollar cost from $1 bn in the 1980s to $2bn today. This assures force decline since the shipbuilding budget has not doubled, but is rather likely to decline,” Pyatt explains.
“Chinese naval leadership has to be elated with the US failure to make progress toward the Navy force goal. They noticed the inability to maintain a 12-carrier force. The Chinese are pursuing their goal of a six-carrier Navy by 2035. They are building combatant ships at an alarming pace. They built a second shipyard for carrier production.”
Addressing these issues is the central premise of Pyatt’s thesis, namely addressing the budgetary concerns, building on the success of existing programs like the Arleigh Burke Class and Virginia Class programs and avoiding the costly mistakes of the Littoral Combat Ship program.
This can be encapsulated by Pyatt, who explains the challenges and outlines some responses at a policy, regulatory and industry level, where he states: “The challenge is quite clear. Change in all aspects is needed:
- Policy: The 355-ship Navy is established law.
- Budget: The Navy shipbuilding budget should be set at the Cold War constant-dollar average of $26.7bn. This will be a design-to-cost Navy.
- Average ship cost: In the 10-year force increase period, average cost for 15-ship annual production is $1.78bn. Following that, in the sustainment period of a 355-ship Navy, average cost can be $2.67b.
- Organise for success: First, give leadership authority, responsibility and accountability for achieving the 355-ship Navy to the Secretary of the Navy. Secondly, since the current combination of technology, production and sustainment has proven a failure in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Navy, the implementing organisation should revert to the Cold War model with:
o One assistant secretary devoted to identifying and implementing technology necessary for success of offense and disruption of the adversary.
o The second assistant secretary devoted to efficient acquisition and excellent sustainment. The Cold War success proves this organization works.”
Expanding on this, Pyatt identifies a number of examples for existing US Navy surface and submarine combatant programs to ensure that the US Navy is capable of maintaining its qualitative and a measure of quantitative edge of peer and near-peer competitors around the globe.
The backbone of the US Navy’s power projection capabilities, aircraft carriers and big-deck amphibious warfare ships are critical to this plan, despite repeated and costly overruns for major programs like the Gerald R Ford and America Class vessels.
Pyatt explains a direction, “New approaches for future carriers should be evaluated, including:
- Stripping unnecessary specifications from the Ford Class ships;
- Evaluating a Ford-based design using modern conventional power;
- Evaluating a smaller conventionally powered carrier; and
- Refuel Nimitz Class carriers the second time.”
Expanding on this, Pyatt explains there should be significant cross-pollination between the Army and Marines for the amphibious transport needs, stating, “Marines should use Army landing ships and logistics-over-the-shore concepts that have been in multi-service development for decades. Equipment is ready to buy with no development.”
Turning to larger surface combatants, Pyatt states that the success of the Arleigh Burke Class evolutions, particularly with the advent of the Flight III variants, is reason enough to continue with the evolution of the platform, as opposed to following the disastrous and costly Zumwalt Class development process and developing a new ‘Large Surface Combatant’.
Pyatt also states that the early progress made on the FFG-X, small surface combatant, future frigate program should be continued, avoiding the problems of the littoral combat ship, stating, “Congress saved the Navy from more littoral combat ships and provided a very sensible path for a replacement. The winner of that competition has been selected. Action is needed now to involve multiple sources.”
The US Navy’s other large capital expenditure programs, the Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines and the Virginia Class fast attack submarines are a mixed bag for Pyatt, who raises no issues with the Columbia program, yet raises some concerns with the Virginias.
In particular, Pyatt adds, “Submarine force planning is totally inconsistent with any concept of cost realism. Submarines have the biggest force gap, but planners show little interest in reducing unit cost, now approaching $4bn. Other categories of ships have large and small ships, but submarines only get larger and more expensive. It is time to rethink the submarine force philosophy of ‘bigger is better’.”
Unmanned and autonomous platforms are also identified as a growth area for the US Navy as it seeks to reassert its qualitative and quantitative edge over potential adversaries, with Pyatt explaining, “It has taken decades to develop an unmanned mine countermeasures system. This is an important fact to understand when considering new unmanned missions. Rapid progress is not likely. A Senate Armed Services Committee report challenges the Navy’s approach and points to the success of the ‘build a little, test a little, learn a lot’ philosophy of the Aegis program. This is strong indication of lack of confidence in the Navy’s management of research and development efforts.”
Each of these programs provides an opportunity, however, for the US Navy to work more collaboratively both with US service branches and with allied navies, like Australia and Japan as they seek to develop key capabilities, technologies and platforms that will not only serve to strengthen the alliance and respective industrial bases, but equally to nurture a high level of interoperability that results from platform commonality.
Pyatt explains the impact his suggestions would have on the Indo-Pacific force structure and Beijing’s as yet unprecedented naval build-up, without accounting for the role regional allies could play in supporting such large-scale programs, stating: “The Chinese have taken full advantage of this failure and press on with major shipbuilding programs designed to implement parity and dominate the seas surrounding China as well as the resources of the Pacific Ocean, while spreading maritime influence worldwide.
“The United States can and must do better by taking full advantage of the lessons learned in defeating the Cold War-era Soviet Navy.”(Source: Defence Connect)
21 Aug 20. Here’s What Might Not Survive COVID Budget Cuts. Like baby antelope at the watering hole, military weapons and vehicles still in early development might be the first to go.
With global military spending expected to flatten or contract in the coming years as countries try to repair coronavirus-decimated economies, defense projects already on the books stand the best chance of survival, according to a budget expert.
That could spell delays, deferrals or cancellations for weapon projects still in early development, including new Air Force fighter jets, Army helicopters and Navy ships.
“Things that tend to already be in production, or already have contracts awarded and source selection completed, those tend to have more staying power, just because of the built-in congressional support for them,” said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Programs that are still very early and development tend to have less of that support.”
Projects still under development with a key role in the National Defense Strategy that guides U.S. defense spending — and which isn’t expected to change much whether President Donald Trump is elected to a second term or if he is beaten by Democrat nominee former Vice President Joe Biden — stand a better chance of survival. That plan directs the United States to prepare for great power competition between the United States and Russia and China in the years to come.
One Army project at risk of being delayed or canceled is the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, a light helicopter that would replace the OH-58 Kiowa, Harrison said.
“I kind of have to scratch my head and say: ‘Really, how does this fit into the NDS? How does this fit into great power competition?’” Harrison said. He questioned why the Army wouldn’t use existing Gray Eagle or Reaper drones for the same kinds of armed reconnaissance missions, particularly in areas of lightly defended airspace. Neither the new helicopter or those drones would be able to fly in airspace defended by fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles, as would be expected with major countries like China or Russia.
Budget cuts could also lead the Army to buying fewer Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, remanufactured Abrams tanks, and other ground vehicles.
“But honestly, the Army doesn’t have a lot of money invested in acquisition programs to begin with … it’s only about 21 percent of the Army’s budget,” Harrison said. “Overall, I think if the Army’s forced to make cuts, it’s going to have to cut force structure.”
Air Force projects at risk include the Next Generation Air Dominance, or NGAD, a new series of fighter jets.
“Is that really going to produce a short-range fighter that’s going to be really relevant against Russia and China in the foreseeable future?” Harrison said.
The new fighter jets would compete for funding against the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and its strong backing in Congress.
NGAD “doesn’t have a built-in constituency yet,” Harrison said. “It is competing directly for funds with things like the F-35 that do have a built-in constituency. And it’s not well defined enough yet to defend it.”
As for the Navy, it will continue to have difficulty trying to build a 355-ship fleet and buy new nuclear ballistic missile submarines, according to Seamus Daniels, a research associate and program manager for defense budget analysis at CSIS.
“We know that representatives from shipbuilding districts with the shipyards [are] a very strong constituency,” he said. “I think the bigger question … in terms of the ship programs, is whether they’re going to adjust the ship count method so then they will actually be able to get closer to 355.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense One)
21 Aug 20. F-35 Will Finally Go into Full Production Next March, Acquisitions Chief Says. The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer said Thursday that the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter should finally go into full production by next March following a series of delays — the latest for COVID-19 workplace restrictions.
“I am confident that we are going to meet the March date,” said Ellen Lord, undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions and Sustainment.
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However, Lord said she is going to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, next week with Robert Behler, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, to check on issues with the Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) facility for flight operations testing.
She said the trip is necessary to “understand exactly where we are” on the ability to run the JSE and get to full production.
“There have been setbacks within the JSE” on getting to full production for the F-35, the most expensive weapons system ever bought by the Pentagon, at $398bn thus far.
The March 2021 target date, first reported by Bloomberg, was forced by delays to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines “to make sure we had a safe working environment,” Lord said at a Pentagon briefing.
More than 440 F-35s have been delivered around the world as of October 2019; full rate production approval would allow Lockheed to start producing upward of 160 aircraft per year.
Military.com reported last September that issues with the Joint Simulation Environment were delaying Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) for the F-35s.
The IOT&E will go ahead “when the JSE is ready to adequately complete the testing,” DoD spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in a statement at the time. “The JSE is required to adequately perform F-35 IOT&E against modern adversary aircraft and dense ground threats in realistic scenarios.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military.com)
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