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NEWS IN BRIEF – USA

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17 Sep 20. How The US Is Preparing To Hunt New Chinese, Russian Subs.

“It’s pretty well-known now that our homeland is no longer a sanctuary,” Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, Submarine Forces Atlantic says. “So we have to be prepared here to conduct high-end combat operations in local waters.”

The Navy’s newest fleet and submarine commands teamed up this week for an intensive anti-submarine drill off the East Coast, waters Navy commanders say are now open game for Russian submarines.

“This is where the fight is…where the competition is. Specifically in the Atlantic [and] the undersea capability of the Russians. We have got to maintain that advantage.” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the new Norfolk-based 2nd Fleet, told reporters.

“It’s pretty well-known now that our homeland is no longer a sanctuary,” Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, Submarine Forces Atlantic told reporters Wednesday. “So we have to be prepared here to conduct high-end combat operations in local waters, just like we do abroad now because…nothing’s a sanctuary any longer.”

The exercises come as the Navy is developing new capabilities, including unmanned ships, fast-moving frigates, and a new submarine-basing agreement and expanded base with Norway, to meet the rapid modernization of Chinese and Russian undersea fleets as they operate more frequently in the Arctic and could potentially begin creeping up to the US coastline.

But it’s not clear how interested Moscow is in playing near American coasts. Their submarine fleet is primarily concerned with protecting Russian critical infrastructure and its own ballistic-missile submarines, key to Moscow’s second strike capability. There is probably little appetite in Moscow to send its subs on regular long-range, high-endurance missions near US coastlines. The fleet is small and such a far-flung deployment would leave its other assets unprotected.

What the 2nd Fleet may be most interested in close to US shores, said Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analysis, are the submarines of Moscow’s 10th Department, which operates several massive nuclear-powered subs which operate separately from the Russian navy.

The agency, also known as the Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research, has converted several ballistic missile submarines to act as motherships to dock other submarines or unmanned undersea vessels on special deep-dive missions.

This fleet of submarines also can manipulate undersea cables and other undersea infrastructure, using retractable arms that can reach out and grab items off the ocean floor.

“A secondary concern for the United States is the activity of this second navy,” Kofman said. “Think of them as specialized submarines that have a host of capabilities — some of that surrounding fiber optic cable infrastructure on the ocean seabed — but it’s an entirely different set of operations” from the Russian navy.

The “Black Widow” exercise, which started Monday, puts several high-end assets in the water, including the amphibious assault ship Wasp, destroyers USS Arleigh Burke and McFaul, P-8 surveillance planes, helicopters, and two fast-attack submarines.

A key part of the exercise is to work out any flaws in the command and control between the new submarine command and the 2nd Fleet, as the two organizations work though how to coordinate activities. Things learned over this week will help commanders forge a closer working relationship, and iron out the kinks in coordinating and communicating, in future operations.

“Because I have 2nd Fleet now stood up and a true fleet commander, with a theater undersea warfighting commander working for him, it really is a rehearsal,” Caudle said. “So the submarines and surface ships that are involved in this exercise are in a command and control structure that would be identical that if they were deployed to 6th Fleet.”

Late last month, a Russian submarine unexpectedly popped up on the surface in international waters off the coast of Alaska, catching Northern Command by surprise. The sub, part of a larger Russian military exercise, never entered US waters but its proximity was a signal that many Russian naval capabilities have improved greatly since bottoming out in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War.

The Black Widow exercise follows confirmation earlier this month that Norway had made improvements to a port above the Arctic Circle to pave the way for increased visits by US nuclear submarines, providing a major new jumping off point for watching Russia’s active Northern Fleet as it transits into the North Atlantic.

The Russian sub near Alaska appeared just days after the American fast attack submarine USS Seawolf emerged from the Arctic off the coast of Tromso, Norway to take on new crew members. The boat is one of just three Seawolf-class fast attack submarines specializing in intelligence collection, and the Washington-based submarine was likely operating under the Arctic ice before stopping off the Norwegian coast.

Twice over the past year, the US Navy has publicized its nuclear submarines docking in Norway, sending a clear signal to Russia about the American presence in the region and providing a rare glimpse into the secretive world or undersea deployments. The new work will allow American and NATO submarines to pull into the port and replenish, allowing for longer deployments to the critical Arctic region.

The Navy’s increased focus on submarine operations is a key indicator as to what the Pentagon is most concerned about in coming years the Russians and Chinese deploy new subs. “Anti-submarine warfare is a primary mission for everybody in the United States Navy, regardless of what you wear on your chest,” Lewis said.

The Navy’s Medium Unmanned Surface Vessel — still in development — is expected to play a role in hunting subs in the coming years as part of its intel collection capability, providing a risk-free alternative to expensive, crewed ships or aircraft doing circles in the ocean looking for small submarines in the vast expanses of the ocean.

A new report from the Hudson Institute points out that the current approach that uses slow-moving and easily trackable towed arrays “cannot scale to address more than a few adversary submarines at a time after they leave choke points and deploy into the open ocean,” but employing MUSVs towing active and passive arrays, networked with aerial drones, more submarines can be tracked simultaneously.

Adm. Lewis, without naming the MUSV specifically, appeared to underline that point. “The future of undersea warfare, as well as a lot of other warfare, is in the combination of unmanned and manned and the integration of those,” he said. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)

17 Sep 20. ‘Tipping Point’ Is Here for Nuclear Modernization, Defense Official Says. The Defense Department has long talked about modernization of the nuclear deterrent capability it maintains and operates and has issued warnings about the risks of allowing that deterrent, the nuclear triad, to become too old to effectively perform its mission.

Now, Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said the nuclear enterprise has reached a critical juncture beyond which failure to act will have devastating consequences going into the future.

“Today, we face a stark reality: the long-standing and repeated warnings about the need to modernize and recapitalize the U.S. nuclear deterrent is no longer a warning about the future,” Lord said during testimony today on Capitol Hill before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The tipping point in recapitalization that we have long tried to avoid is here. And we believe the condition of the nuclear enterprise now poses possibly the greatest risk to deterrence.”

In a prepared statement to the committee submitted by Lord and Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, both of whom testified, more details about the state of the U.S. nuclear deterrence were spelled out.

“Previous and well-intentioned directive policy changes and de-emphasis of our nuclear deterrent resulted in decades of deferred investments in nuclear warheads, delivery systems, platforms, nuclear command, control, and communications and supporting infrastructure,” the statement reads. “Although sustainment efforts have allowed us to maintain a viable nuclear triad and to defer modernization investments for many years, continued delays are no longer an option.”

The statement from both of those defense leaders concludes that nearly all of the systems currently a part of the nuclear deterrent are beyond their original service lives and can no longer be cost-effectively maintained to meet future requirements. Additionally, they said, the nuclear weapons production infrastructure used to develop new weapons dates to the 1950s or earlier.

“The majority of this infrastructure is rated as being in no better than fair condition,” the statement reads.

The department is now engaged in a recapitalization of the nuclear triad, which involves new submarines, such as the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines; new intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program; and new bomber aircraft, such as the B-21 Raider.

That effort, Lord said, is something the department will need help with.

“DOD has embarked upon the first recapitalization of our triad since the end of the Cold War, and we cannot do it alone,” she said.

Lord cited partnerships between DOD, the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration as critical to continued work to rebuild the U.S. nuclear deterrence capability. Also a critical part of that partnership, she said, is the Nuclear Weapons Council, an interagency group made up of both the DOD and the NNSC that oversees sustainment and modernization of nuclear weapons and supporting infrastructure. Lord serves as chairwoman of the NWC.

“On behalf of the NWC, I strongly urge full support for the NNSA’s budget request, as well as successful resolution of the language in various FY21 congressional bills that would prevent the NWC from carrying out its statutorily mandated responsibilities,” Lord said. “I want to thank this committee for its long standing bipartisan support to our nuclear deterrent mission and the men and women in uniform who are its backbone.” (Source: US DoD)

17 Sep 20. Vice Chairman Discusses Weapons of Mass Destruction at Symposium. The new Joint Warfighting Concept will be enabled by deterrence — a concept in vogue during the Cold War, but becoming relevant again, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten spoke as part of the virtual National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction 2020 Symposium.

Hyten gave a bit more detail on the Joint Warfighting Concept. He said the overall concept is enabled by four underlying concepts: joint contested logistics, all-domain command and control, joint fires and information advantage.

Speed of action, speed of development and speed of acting will be critical to the future capabilities of the U.S. military. “It’s important that we start training our people and educating our people to understand that whatever concept we have … (it) is underpinned by a deterrent model that has to be ready each and every minute of each and every day.”

Nuclear weapons are the backbone of that deterrent, and while everyone hopes they will not be used, they must be ready and must be in the minds of any adversary or competitor.

“The primary role of our nuclear weapons is to deter our adversaries and make sure that nuclear weapons aren’t used against the United States,” he said. “They’re also there to provide a deterrent backdrop for everything else we do, and understanding that is important.”

The general also talked about the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus is a naturally occurring disease that first manifested itself in Wuhan, China. It was not created in a lab or released on purpose, he said.

“But our adversaries, as they look at the response of our nation and the impact of COVID-19 on our nation, understand how biological capabilities can impact the nation,” Hyten said.

The United States military had a plan for responding to a pandemic. “Like most plans, it was not really accurate,” he said. “It did not survive first contact with the adversary — COVID-19.

But the planning was still useful because the military had the capabilities and people needed and aligned to respond effectively. “It’s still a huge impact on our nation,” he said.

Another example he used was the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. News reports indicate Navalny was poisoned with Novichok — a nerve agent the Soviet Union developed in the 1970s and 1980s. While Hyten did not comment on intelligence matters he did say if the news reports are true and if an adversary applied that weapon more broadly, the results could be catastrophic.

Hyten also spoke about cyber saying that it deserves to be discussed in the symposium. “A catastrophic attack from cyber could be looked at as a weapon of mass destruction. We have to figure out how to defend against that.” (Source: US DoD)

18 Sep 20. Trump plans executive order to punish arms trade with Iran – sources. U.S. President Donald Trump plans to issue an executive order allowing him to impose U.S. sanctions on anyone who violates a conventional arms embargo against Iran, four sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the executive order was expected to be issued in the coming days and would allow the president to punish violators with secondary sanctions, depriving them of access to the U.S. market.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The proximate cause for the U.S. action is the impending expiry of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran and to warn foreign actors – U.S. entities are already barred from such trade – that if they buy or sell arms to Iran they will face U.S. sanctions.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran struck with six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – the U.N. conventional arms embargo is to set to expire on Oct. 18, shortly before the Nov. 3 U.S. election.

The United States, which abandoned the nuclear deal in May 2018, says it has triggered a “snap back,” or resumption, of all U.N. sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo, which would take effect at 8 p.m. on Saturday night or 0000 GMT on Sunday.

Other parties to the nuclear deal and most of the U.N. Security Council have said they do not believe the United States has the right to reimpose the U.N. sanctions and that the U.S. move at the United Nations has no legal effect.

“It is obvious that none of the Security Council members have accepted the eligibility of U.S. claims,” said Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations, adding that the nuclear deal remains in place and all sanctions on Iran will be lifted in under the time-lines agreed in 2015.

Trump’s executive order is intended to show that the United States will not be deterred despite failing to win broader U.N. Security Council backing “snap back,” said one of the four sources.

Another of the sources, a European diplomat, said the new executive order would put teeth behind Washington’s assertion that the U.N. arms embargo would remain in place beyond October by giving the president secondary sanctions authority to punish arms transfers to or from Iran with U.S. sanctions.

Secondary sanctions are those where one country seeks to punish a second country for trading with a third by barring access to its own market, a particularly powerful tool for the United States because of the size of its economy.

Most foreign companies do not wish to risk being excluded from the vast U.S. market in order to trade with smaller countries such as Iran.

The new executive order may be more symbolic than practical because so many Iranian entities and individuals are already subject to secondary sanctions, said one sanctions lawyer, Doug Jacobson.

“It’s essentially piling on,” Jacobson said. “It’s designed to send a message on this particular issue … that the U.S. is unhappy that the other parties (to the Iran nuclear deal) did not agree to a snap back of arms sanctions.”

Speaking on Wednesday, U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela and Iran, Elliott Abrams, said Washington planned to impose sanctions on those who violated the U.N. arms embargo, though he did not say it would do so with an executive order.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo obliquely hinted at the upcoming U.S. action by stressing the power of U.S. sanctions restored since it abandoned the Iran nuclear deal two years ago to deter foreign trade with Iran.

“We’ll do all the things we need to do to ensure that those sanctions are enforced,” Pompeo said of the U.N. arms embargo, recalling many experts argued U.S. unilateral sanctions imposed after it abandoned the nuclear deal would fail.

“We’ve been very successful in spite of what the world said would happen,” he added, saying U.S. sanctions had drastically reduced Iran’s financial resources. (Source: Reuters)

18 Sep 20. US Air Force acquisition chief calls for digital, disruptive acquisition plans. The Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Dr Will Roper, has used his virtual address to the Air Force Association’s 2020 Virtual Air, Space and Cyber conference to outline an agile, digital-focused acquisition model for new capabilities, with the outcomes set to benefit the US and allies, including Australia.

During his Matrix-inspired virtual keynote, Dr Roper discussed the accomplishments and the future of acquisition for the Department of the Air Force while calling for disruptive agility in order to remain competitive in an ever-innovating global security environment.

With service branch leaders – Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Charles Brown jnr and Chief of Space Operations General John Raymond – making it clear that the Air and Space Forces must accelerate change to win, Dr Roper explained that acquisitions must also evolve, so services can be ready for whatever comes its way – whether it be something like artificial intelligence, ever-present drones, gene editing or human augmentation.

Dr Roper explained, “If you look at the world in which we live today, we must be agile. There are too many possible futures for us to pick one and build a force that’s geared to defeat it.

“There’s no telling what the future can hold. We have to do our part in acquisition and that means being able to develop war-winning systems at a pace that today’s technology, trends and threats require,” Dr Roper explained.

With the use of digital engineering, Dr Roper said the Air and Space Forces can build unique systems in an environment where unique technology is always being redesigned, optimised and tested digitally, as opposed to using blueprints or computer models “that were good approximations for the physical system, but not the same as the real thing”.

Dr Roper likened the use of digital engineering to that of the movie, The Matrix. he explained that with digital engineering, members can learn within an environment where the digital reality is so real, then ‘wake up’ in the real world with that acquired knowledge and less resources spent.

“The more amazing commercial technology becomes, the more amazing our military technology is going to have to be to overcome the advantages that are available to all. The last area that we have to have strategic agility is in being able to computerise or virtualise everything about our development and production, assembly, even sustainment of systems, so that we can finally get past the tyranny of the real world and take learning and feedback into the digital one,” Dr Roper added.

The Air Force has already prescribed to Dr Roper’s idea of the future of design and production. It recently announced its new designator, the eSeries, which includes aircraft – such as the eT-7A Red Hawk – satellites and more that are digitally engineered.

According to Dr Roper, the ability to build an airplane the first time as if it were built 100 times, will open up a paradigm shift for the Air Force and the Space Force. He said that with digital engineering, the learning curve, integration and flying before buying can be a thing of the past if the services choose for it to be so.

It is not just limited to the computer screen or training aircraft, but it has already allowed the Air Force to design, assemble, test and fly its Next Generation Air Dominance aircraft (NGAD) in record time.

“NGAD has come so far that the full-scale flight demonstrator has already flown in the physical world and it’s broken a lot of records in the doing,” Dr Roper said.

In order to accelerate change today and ensure maximum agility on future battlefields, the Air and Space Forces must wake up to a new reality where aircraft, weapons and satellites already exist in an exact digital reality before metal is ever cut.

Dr Roper added, “Digital engineering isn’t a fluke … It is our future. This is how we provide our forces the capabilities they’ll need to win on the unpredictable, rapidly evolving innovation battlefield in this century by fundamentally changing how we build and acquire systems and with whom we build them, so that no matter what our adversaries do in the future, we will have the agility to overmatch and win. Then we will innovate faster, we will adapt quicker and ultimately stay ahead to disrupt and win.”

Further to these points, Dr Roper noted that to achieve the required agility and speed, the Air and Space Forces must embrace the full potential of the US tech ecosystem, and become a dual-use Air and Space Force that regularly employs cutting-edge commercial solutions. Expanding these partnerships while sending a clear, consistent signal to industry on the department’s new approach is imperative. (Source: Defence Connect)

16 Sep 20. Defense industry worries Congress will punt budget deal into 2021. As Congress readies a stopgap spending measure this week, the defense industry is girding for a long-term funding patch that could delay both new procurement programs and needed fiscal certainty into next year. Democrats say they are considering whether to offer a continuing resolution that would stretch 2020 funding levels into next February or March, or whether to go along with a stopgap through mid December, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is seeking.

Trade groups said this week that passing a CR by the Sept. 30 deadline is better than a government shutdown, but they warned that because CR’s ban most new start programs, that will add more turbulence for firms already suffering from pandemic-related economic shocks.

“As threats continue to multiply and the COVID-19 crisis continues, sustained and stable funding in national security takes on new meaning for the U.S. military and the defense industrial base that supports it,” Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Eric Fanning, said in an email to Defense News. AIA represents roughly 340 manufacturers.

“Relying on continuing resolutions, for any length of time, removes that stability, undermining the shared supply chain and endangering the solid progress made in readiness and modernization over the last several years.”

Defense advocates say continuing resolutions of any length are inefficient for government and disruptive to the budget certainty that businesses need in order to make decisions, but the pandemic and sagging economy add new wrinkles.

Smaller defense firms, many hit by cash flow problems related to the pandemic, were of particular concern to shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries, which was among large firms that accelerated millions of dollars in payments to help small suppliers over recent months.

“The effects of a long term continuing resolution can be harmful to the defense industrial base by delaying or prohibiting work,” HII spokesperson Beci Brenton said in an email. “Our greatest concern with a long term CR is the impact to our thousands of suppliers located in all 50 states who are already impacted by the COVID pandemic.”

Despite a longstanding deal on the budget top lines, only the House has passed full-year appropriations bills, which means Congress will need more time to pass an FY21 appropriations package.

Congress would likely need to draft a CR this week and pass it next week to avert a government shutdown. That’s just what House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters this week that House leaders are planning.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., say they have agreed to a “clean” CR, free of policy riders. It’s not expected to include COVID relief funds, but further details have not been announced.

Beyond timing, the defense industry is also watching which anomalies Congress includes to permit select new start programs. The White House sent Congress a list that included the Columbia-class submarine and new W93 submarine-launched nuclear warhead, as well as funds to ramp up the new Space Force ― along with select federal programs across multiple agencies.

The National Defense Industrial Association’s senior vice president, Wesley Hallman, said delaying new starts means delaying new revenue streams for companies and, for some, new hiring decisions.

“How many new starts are planned for 1 October, I can’t tell you, but if we go to March or February there are more new starts over that entire period,” Hallman said. “If it’s bad in October, it’s really bad if it’s going into March.”

Professional Services Council president and CEO David Berteau, whose group represents services contractors across government, said his member are worried about long delays for a budget deal.

“Our members are always concerned because it slows down new contract awards, and it adds uncertainty to every program manager ― not only in the Defense Department, but across the federal government ― because they don’t know how much money they’re going to get or when they’re going to get it,” Berteau said.

The duration of the CR has special political dimensions this year. If the bill runs through December, President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Senate would negotiate over the final spending package. Depending on the outcome of the election, a CR that stretches into the next calendar year could be negotiated by a President Joe Biden or a Democratic-led Senate, which would give Democrats more leverage.

Berteau was concerned that Biden, like Trump in 2017, would not enter office Jan. 20 ready to immediately hammer out a budget deal. It took until that April for Trump to sign a deal, and it took President Bill Clinton ― who entered office under similar circumstances in 1993 ― until that June.

“If you don’t get it now, history says you won’t get it for six months,” said Berteau, “and that’s debilitating for industry.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)

16 Sep 20. Technology Proliferation, Influence Ops May Be as Disruptive as COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has been globally disruptive in nearly every facet of life. But other things may prove as disruptive in the future, said leaders of the military intelligence community.

One advancement that may possibly be as disruptive as COVID-19 is the revolution in information technology that’s available to everybody — not just the U.S. and its allies, Navy Vice Adm. Robert Sharp, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said during an online forum today with the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

“It’s this revolution in remotely-sensed and geo-located data, which is available to everyone,” he said. “It’s available to us, but it’s also available to our competitors. [Also] the revolution in smart machines and artificial intelligence — once again, [it’s a] great opportunity for us, but it’s not only our opportunity. That’s the competition space.”

Another area of concern is something Sharp called “GEOINT assurance.” With the growth of open-source geospatial intelligence coming from multiple sources, it becomes less certain that the information can be trusted, he said.

“How do you have confidence in the ones and zeros that you’re using for making decisions based off of,” he asked.

Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, cited influence operations as the next possible great disruptor. Influence operations, he said, have a very low barrier to entry, enabling just about anybody to engage in them.

“We’ve seen it now in our democratic processes,” Nakasone said. “I think we’re going to see it in our diplomatic processes, we’re going to see it in warfare, and we’re going to see it in sowing civil distrust in different countries.”

Influence operations, he said, are all enabled by the proliferation of inexpensive technology that allows anybody with an agenda to get online.

“The great technology that’s enabling so much of what we’re doing is also that dual-edged sword that malicious cyber actors and others are being able to use to create doubt, or to be able to question authority, or to be able to … to spread messages that are far from true,” he said. “I think influence operations, just in general, will be for us one of the things that we’ll be dealing with not just every two or four years, but this is the competitive space that we’re going to be in as intelligence agencies and as our nation. (Source: US DoD)

17 Sep 20. US Defense Secretary urgently calls for more shipbuilding funding. US Defense Secretary Dr Mark Esper has reaffirmed urgent calls for an increased level of funding for US Navy shipbuilding programs as the naval arms race in the Indo-Pacific continues to gather pace.

Famed American author Mark Twain is credited with what is perhaps one of the most poignant and relevant quotes in human history: “It is said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes”, and nowhere is this more evident than in the expansive naval arms race reshaping the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific.

In the lead up to the First World War, the global hegemon, the British Empire, was challenged by the rising economic, political, industrial and strategic might of Imperial Germany, with the naval arms race the major battleground following the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906.

As we now know, the race between the British Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy to design, build and field the largest, most capable fleet of battleships was one of the major catalysts for the tensions between the two nations that would ultimately culminate in the devastating First World War.

Today, as we look not only across the Indo-Pacific, but more broadly around the globe, many established and rising powers are expanding the capability and composition of their respective naval forces as tensions continue to mount in the post-COVID world.

However, perhaps most concerningly and true to Twain’s statement, across the vast swathes of the Pacific Ocean, the world’s two superpowers are circling one another, each probing for weaknesses and making move and countermove to assert and in some cases reassert their prominence.

The US, divided domestically and weary from decades of serving as the world’s policeman is feeling the weight of its global responsibilities, is being stalked by the ‘newcomer’; Communist China, an ancient power, with a proud and storied history, reinvigorated by decades of development seeking to extend its influence and prestige as a truly global power once again.

This economic, political and strategic competition is gaining increasing traction in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly as both sides embark on one of the single largest naval modernisation and recapitalisation programs in history.

China’s rapid recapitalisation and modernisation has seen the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) evolve into one of the world’s most powerful and modern navies, capable of global reach on an increasing scale, with aircraft carriers, ballistic missile submarines, amphibious warfare ships and next-gen large surface combatants all on the shopping list.

Across the Pacific, the US Navy is struggling to modernise, repurpose and recapitalise a range of Cold War-era platforms that have formed the backbone of the world’s most powerful navy since the end of the Second World War, increasing budget overruns, delivery delays and a focus on land-based wars in the Middle East have seen the fleet fall by the wayside.

Despite efforts by US President Donald Trump to establish a 355-ship fleet capable of reaffirming America’s global responsibilities and reassuring allies in the face of growing great power tensions, funding has been hit and miss, with many large-scale programs absorbing much of the additional funding promised.

This is particularly relevant as Beijing’s own fleet strengths continues to grow. In response, US Defense Secretary Dr Mark Esper has redoubled calls for more funding to directly support America’s naval modernisation.

More funding is necessary

Reaffirming America’s naval primacy is a critical component of maintaining the balance of power, security and stability in the Indo-Pacific, particularly as Beijing becomes increasingly confrontational and bold in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Dr Esper expanded on comments made earlier in the year, telling Rand Corporation experts: “We will build this fleet in such a way that balances tomorrow’s challenges with today’s readiness needs, and does not create a hollow Navy in the process. To achieve this outcome, we must increase funding for shipbuilding and the readiness that sustains a larger force. Doing this, and finding the money within the Navy budget and elsewhere to make it real, is something both the Navy leadership and I are committed to doing.”

This call is backed by a record US$207bn request for the US Navy as part of the Pentagon’s 2021 budget request as the force pivots to respond to key capability developments by Beijing, namely, a powerful fleet, paired with shore-based, long-range anti-ship missile capabilities designed to blunt traditional US and allied advantages and, critically, to keep the US Navy’s powerful carrier air wing out of striking distance.

All of this aims to keep pace with Beijing’s ambitions to build a fleet of 425 ships by 2030, making it the world’s largest navy, expanding its already formidable and growing global reach. In response, Secretary Esper’s calls for increased shipbuilding funding builds on traction in congress.

Echoing calls for an increase to the US shipbuilding enterprise in response to the rapidly evolving geo-political reality, US Republican senator for Georgia David Perdue jnr has recognised that the US can and should be doing more to keep pace with its rivals.

“Right now, the world is more dangerous than any time in my lifetime. The United States faces five major threats: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and terrorism. We face those threats across five domains: air, land, sea, cyber space and space,” Senator Perdue explains.

“The US Navy is one of the most effective tools we as a country have to maintain peace and stability around the world. Today, however, the Navy is in danger of being surpassed in capability by our near-peer competitors. On top of that, our competitors are becoming even more brazen in their attempts to challenge our Navy every day.

“To address this, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act called for a 355-ship Navy to be built as soon as possible. This effort is extremely expensive: $31bn per year for 30 years. This can’t be funded by new debt. We must reallocate resources to fund this priority.

“It is unclear at this time whether we will be able to achieve this goal, however, because Washington politicians have failed to provide consistent funding to our shipbuilding enterprise over the years.

“The last two Democratic presidents reduced military spending by 25 per cent. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did it. Also, since 1975, Congress has only funded the government on time on four occasions due to our broken budget process. As a result, Congress forces the military in most years to operate under continuing resolutions, which further restricts the Navy’s efforts to rebuild.”

This echoes concerns regarding the potential for a ‘hollow force’. Secretary Esper speaking to DefenseNews articulated his commitment and ambitions to getting the US Navy to a 355-ship fleet by 2030, with an aim to achieve a much higher number in response to the mounting global challenges.

“To me that’s where we need to push. We need to push much more aggressively. That would allow us to get our numbers up quickly, and I believe that we can get to 355, if not higher, by 2030,” Secretary Esper said.

There needs to be a balance of platforms to meet challenges

Expanding on these earlier comments, Secretary Esper’s commitment to increasing shipbuilding funding, billed as a “game-changer” comes as a result of an internal ‘Future Naval Force Study’, led by Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, which focused on balancing traditional platforms and next-generation technologies and platforms to better meet the operational requirements of the US Navy.

Esper explained, “[The report envisioned fleet will include a number of unmanned systems that will] perform a variety of warfighting functions, from delivering lethal fires and laying mines, to conducting resupply or surveilling the enemy. This will be a major shift in how we will conduct naval warfare in the years and decades to come.

“In short it will be a balanced force of over 350 ships, both manned and unmanned, and will be built in a relevant time frame and budget-informed manner.”

Again, looking to comments made by Esper earlier in the year, Secretary Esper posited some interesting ideas for consideration, leveraging advances in unmanned and autonomous/semi-autonomous ships to ensure the US Navy meets its force structure obligations.

“What we have to tease out is, what does that future fleet look like? I think one of the ways you get there quickly is moving toward lightly manned [ships], which over time can be unmanned,” Secretary Esper added.

“We can go with lightly manned ships, get them out there. You can build them so they’re optionally manned and then, depending on the scenario or the technology, at some point in time they can go unmanned.” (Source: Defence Connect)

16 Sep 20. The Air Force’s new information warfare command still has work before fully integration. While the Air Force’s new information warfare command has reached its full operational capability less than a year after it was created, leaders still have work to do to fully integrate its combined capabilities in a mature fashion.

That assessment comes from Brig. Gen. Bradley Pyburn, deputy commander of 16th Air Force, who on Tuesday laid out a three-pronged criteria — deconfliction, synchronization and integration — for assessing the command’s maturity during a virtual event hosted by AFCEA’s Alamo chapter.

The command combines what was previously known as 24th and 25th Air Force, placing cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare and weather capabilities under a single commander.

The first category Pyburn coined is deconfliction, which essentially means “do no harm.” Pyburn described the need to have situational awareness of the battlespace and understand what friendly and enemy forces are where, what authorities exist, what targets forces are looking at and what capabilities they have.

The second phase of maturity is synchronization, which involves aligning all the capabilities and actions in the battlespace. Pyburn said if the command adds activity A to activity B and C, it will end up with a greater result, because it can change the timing and tempo of how the effects are delivered for maximum impact.

Lastly, Pyburn described integration as the most mature aspect of where 16th Air Force currently is. This involves baking in planning, assessment, command and control, all the desperate effects and operations from the beginning. This is where the command really begins to break down all the stovepipes that previously existed with all these capabilities, a key reason for integrating and creating the new organization.

“From a maturity perspective, where do I think 16th Air Force is? We’re probably somewhere between deconfliction and synchronization. We’ve got some examples of where we approach integration but I think it’s healthy we understand where we’re at today and where we want to go forward in the future,” Pyburn explained.

The command has created what Pyburn called a J9 to help with assessing maturity. The J9 would be plugged into real world events and exercises to help with those self assessments.

In a generic example, Pyburn outlined what full maturity integration would look like. A mission partner requests support, which could be in the form of air domain awareness, finding particular targets or threats or ISR assistance. 16th Air Force, in turn, would be able to link that request with other needs, either in the same geographic area or in other areas of operations, pioneering what its top officials describe as a “problem-centric approach,” which aims to look at the specific problems the commands they support are looking to solve and starting from there.

“[In] our problem centric approach, as we look to generate insights across all of our 16th Air Force capabilities, what we may find is that particular problem set is linked to other problem sets and we’re able to focus on the root cause of the problem,” Pyburn said.

Based on a raft of authorities from cyberspace to intelligence collection as well as the relationships built through other communities and organizations, 16th Air Force can look at the root cause of a problem and build from there.

“We can build a community of interest, we can start to put mission partners together into [an] operational planning team and we can not only generate better insights against that root cause, we can start to look at how we can layer in effects at speed and at scale across all domains of warfare and give the options to the combatant commander and the mission partner as the authorities to go after that adversary,” Pyburn said.

Pyburn also offered insight into the command structure of 16th Air Force, which has his deputy commander job along with a vice commander role. That latter job, held by Brig. Gen. David Gaedecke — who previously served as the lead for the Air Force’s year long electronic warfare study — does more of the traditional operational, test and evaluation functions.

In the deputy commander role, Pyburn said his job is similar to the director of operations. He comes up with the requirements in support of combatant commanders.

“Part of it is, I may think I know what I want, but if I don’t see what the art of the possible is, it’s really hard to know what I want, if that makes sense. It’s a little bit of a chicken and egg,” he said. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

 

16 Sep 20. Esper Describes Steps to Maintaining Future Maritime Superiority. In this era of great power competition, the Defense Department has prioritized China, then Russia as its top strategic competitors, the defense secretary said.

“These revisionist powers are using predatory economics, political subversion and military force in an attempt to shift the balance of power in their favor — and often at the expense of others,” Dr. Mark T. Esper said today at the RAND Corp. in Santa Monica, California.

The secretary mentioned steps the department is taking to counter these peer competitors, per the National Defense Strategy, which contains the three key pillars: readiness and modernization, strengthening relations with allies and partners, and reform. He touched on each of these pillars and then focused on China and the maritime domain.

The Indo-Pacific region is the priority theater, Esper said. In the face of destabilizing activities from China’s People’s Liberation Army, particularly in the maritime domain, the United States must be ready to deter conflict and, if necessary, fight and win at sea.

The Chinese Communist Party intends to complete the modernization of its armed forces by 2035. Beijing is also investing in long-range, autonomous and unmanned submarines, which it believes can be a cost-effective counter to American naval power.

“I want to make clear that China cannot match the United States when it comes to naval power. Even if we stopped building new ships, it would take the PRC [People’s Republic of China] years to close the gap when it comes to our capability on the high seas,” Esper said.

“Nonetheless, we must stay ahead. We must retain our overmatch. And, we will keep building modern ships to ensure we remain the world’s greatest Navy,” he said.

To compete in a 21st century, high-end fight, America will need a future fleet that optimizes the following operational attributes:

  • Distributed lethality and awareness;
  • Survivability in a high intensity conflict;
  • Adaptability for a complex world;
  • Ability to project power to control the seas and demonstrate presence; and
  • Capability to deliver precision effects at very long ranges.

This future naval force will be more balanced in its ability to deliver lethal effects from the air, from the sea and from under the sea. This fleet will be made up of more and smaller surface combatants; optionally manned, unmanned and autonomous surface and subsurface vehicles; unmanned carrier-based aircraft of all types; a larger and more capable submarine force; and a modern strategic deterrent, Esper said.

This fleet must be affordable and must be manned by a highly skilled and ready workforce and supported by a robust shipyard and industrial base, he added.

Esper said that earlier this year, he asked the deputy secretary of defense to lead a Future Naval Force Study tasked with assessing a wider and more ambitious range of future fleet options.

The Navy, Marine Corps, Joint Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense and outside advisors conducted a comprehensive, cost and threat-informed review and analysis, he said.

First, they examined the current fleet. Second, they explored future force options needed to retain dominance in 2045 given China’s likely modernization plans. And,  third, they war-gamed these options, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each combination of ships against different future mission sets, Esper said.

This week, Esper said he met with those involved in this study to discuss their findings.

“The results are a game-changer that reflect a good deal of serious work and effort based on facts and data. This study will serve as our guidepost as we decide on, program and build our future fleet and conduct follow-on assessments in select areas,” he said.

“In short, it will be a balanced force of over 355 ships — both manned and unmanned — and will be built in a relevant timeframe and budget-informed manner. And we will build this fleet in such a way that balances tomorrow’s challenges with today’s readiness needs and does not create a hollow Navy in the process,” he said.

To achieve this outcome, the department will increase funding for shipbuilding and the readiness that sustains this force, he said.

As an example, earlier this year, the Navy granted a $795m contract to purchase the first ship of a new class of guided missile frigates — with an option to purchase nine more totaling nearly $5.6bn. This is the first new, major shipbuilding program the Navy has sought in more than a decade, Esper pointed out.

Also, the Navy is making good progress on unmanned surface vessels and unmanned undersea vehicles, Esper mentioned. Earlier this month, for example, the autonomous, unmanned surface vessel Sea Hunter prototype completed operations with the destroyer USS Russell, demonstrating various aspects of manned and unmanned teaming. “These efforts are the next step in realizing our future fleet, one in which unmanned systems perform a variety of warfighting functions — from delivering lethal fires and laying mines to conducting resupply or surveilling the enemy. This will be a major shift in how we will conduct naval warfare in the years and decades to come.”

Also, the Navy and Marine Corps will employ novel concepts such as distributed maritime operations and littoral operations in a contested environment, which will modernize the way we fight as they enable our future joint warfighting doctrine, Esper said. (Source: US DoD)

15 Sep 20. Trump Administration Releases COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Strategy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DoD) today released two documents outlining the Trump Administration’s detailed strategy to deliver safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine doses to the American people as quickly and reliably as possible.

The documents, developed by HHS in coordination with DoD and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provide a strategic distribution overview along with an interim playbook for state, tribal, territorial, and local public health programs and their partners on how to plan and operationalize a vaccination response to COVID-19 within their respective jurisdictions.

“As part of Operation Warp Speed, we have been laying the groundwork for months to distribute and administer a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it meets FDA’s gold standard,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “This in-depth, round-the-clock planning work with our state and local partners and trusted community organizations, especially through CDC, will ensure that Americans can receive a safe and effective vaccine in record time.”

The strategic overview lays out four tasks necessary for the COVID-19 vaccine program:

  • Engage with state, tribal, territorial, and local partners, other stakeholders, and the public to communicate public health information around the vaccine and promote vaccine confidence and uptake.
  • Distribute vaccines immediately upon granting of Emergency Use Authorization/ Biologics License Application and once CDC has made vaccine recommendations, using a transparently developed, phased allocation methodology.
  • Ensure safe administration of the vaccine and availability of administration supplies.
  • Monitor necessary data from the vaccination program through an information technology (IT) system capable of supporting and tracking distribution, administration, and other necessary data.

On August 14, CDC executed an existing contract option with McKesson Corporation to support vaccine distribution. The company also distributed the H1N1 vaccine during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009-2010. The current contract with McKesson, awarded as part of a competitive bidding process in 2016, includes an option for the distribution of vaccines in the event of a pandemic.

“CDC is drawing on its years of planning and cooperation with state and local public health partners to ensure a safe, effective, and life-saving COVID-19 vaccine is ready to be distributed following FDA approval,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield. “Through the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, CDC will play a vital role in deciding, based on input from experts and stakeholders, how initial, limited vaccine doses will be allocated and distributed while reliably producing more than 100 million doses by January 2021.”

Detailed planning is ongoing to ensure rapid distribution as soon as the FDA authorizes or approves a COVID-19 vaccine and CDC makes recommendations for who should receive initial doses. Once these decisions are made, McKesson will work under CDC’s guidance, with logistical support from DoD, to ship COVID-19 vaccines to administration sites.

“The Department of Defense is uniquely positioned to help guide the OWS distribution strategy due to its vast logistical experience,” said General Gustave Perna. “Americans can trust that our country’s best public health and logistics experts are working together to get a vaccine to them as soon as available.” (Source: US DoD)

15 Sep 20. AFA 2020: Lockheed Martin projects fewer F-35 deliveries in 2020 due to Covid-19. Lockheed Martin is lowering delivery expectations in 2020 for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to roughly 121 from 141 due to Covid-19 impacting suppliers, according to a company executive.

Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin F-35 vice-president and general manager, told Janes on 14 September during the Air Force Association’s (AFA’s) annual conference that aircraft unit prices could be impacted if there are reductions in aircraft quantities. Unit prices generally rise as aircraft procurement quantities decline. Lockheed Martin spokesman Brett Ashworth said on 15 September that those 121 deliveries estimated for 2020 would be F-35A conventional variants and F-35C aircraft carrier models. The company so far has delivered more than 555 F-35s.

Ulmer also said Lockheed Martin in late June offered slightly fewer aircraft to the Pentagon for Lots 15-17. The company on 29 October 2019 contracted for 478 aircraft for Lots 12-14 as part of a USD34bn deal that delivered Lot 14 unit prices at USD77.9m for the F-35A, USD101.3m for the F-35B, and USD94.4m for the F-35C. He said that the company will watch to see if there is concern among all the customers about their budgets due to Covid-19.

Ashworth declined to provide the exact number of aircraft, citing an ongoing negotiation. Ulmer said that Lockheed Martin is focusing on implementing the F-35’s Technology Refresh 3 effort; which will improve the aircraft’s data storage, display processing, and throughput capabilities; as well as the Block 4 full combat standard. (Source: Jane’s)

14 Sep 20. Stratcom Commander: DOD on Track to Face 2 Peer Nuclear-Capable Competitors. Russian and Chinese military capabilities are growing, said the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, who outlined steps the department is taking to meet those challenges.

”Our competitors have continued to develop non-strategic and strategic capabilities in an effort to outpace us,” Navy Adm. Charles ”Chas” A. Richard said during a Pentagon press briefing today.

”We are on a trajectory for the first time in our nation’s history to face two peer nuclear-capable competitors who have to be deterred differently, and we’re working very hard to meet that challenge,” he said.

Richard mentioned that the nations are not just increasing their nuclear capabilities, but they’re also involved in military ventures in space and cyberspace and are advancing key weapons systems, including hypersonics.

”China [is] developing a stack of capabilities inconsistent with their stated ‘no-first use’ policy,” he added. For instance, Beijing is now capable of threatening the U.S. homeland with its ballistic missile submarine fleet.

In response to these challenges, Richard said U.S. Stratcom has been modernizing all of its capabilities.

For instance, the Nuclear Command, Control and Communications Enterprise Center (dubbed NC3) is progressing nicely and will eventually be nested with the Joint All-Domain Command and Control, he said.

JADC2 is a combination of new technology and processes that will enable the joint force to connect sensors, data and communications with shooters. NC3 is the nuclear forces command and control element.

In another example, Richard said bomber task force missions are operating worldwide and, in particular, they’re supporting allies and partners in the U.S. European Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command areas of responsibility.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the 150,000 personnel at U.S. Stratcom are continuing to do their work, either on-site or remotely, he said.

”We are fully mission capable,” he said. ”The bottom line is we’re ready.”

A positive result of the pandemic is that personnel were able to efficiently and effectively telework and engage in distributed learning, Richard said, adding that his command will not go back to the way it did business before the pandemic, meaning he’d like to keep a lot of this capability in place permanently.

According to U.S. Stratcom’s mission statement, the command’s purpose is to deter strategic attack and employ forces, as directed, to guarantee the security of our nation and our allies. (Source: US DoD)

14 Sep 20. US Air Force launches new ‘eSeries’ aircraft designation. The internet has questions. Aircraft, satellites and other weapons that are designed using digital engineering will be designated as part of the Air Force’s new “eSeries” and receive the prefix “e,” Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett announced Monday.

The move is mean to “inspire companies to embrace the possibilities embraced by digital engineering,” Barrett said during a Sept. 14 speech at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference.

Service leaders — including Barrett and Air Force acquisition exec Will Roper — see digital engineering as a key enabler to reduce the cost and time needed to develop new weapon systems, using virtual modeling and simulation tools to design and test the product before a physical prototype is produced.

Boeing’s T-7A Red Hawk trainer jet will be the first aircraft to receive the new eSeries designator, Barrett said.

“The eT-7 is just the first in our vision of a long line of e-planes and e-sats,” she said. “For 73 years, the entire history of the Air Force, X-planes have represented technological innovation. Today, the e-plane and e-sat will join them in making history and ensuring airmen and space professionals have modern tools to protect our nation.”

The announcement initially prompted confusion over social media as users pointed out that the U.S. military already uses the prefix “E” to designate aircraft that carry equipment for electronic warfare, airborne early warning and airborne command and control missions, as well as those that provide communications relay and tactical data links.

These aircraft include the Navy’s EA-18 Growler electronic attack plane, the Air Force’s E-8 JSTARS surveillance aircraft and the E-6 Mercury, used as an airborne command post for launching intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“Usually aircraft designations are designed with functionality in mind,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with the Teal Group. “It’s never been used to describe how they were developed, and I’m not so sure what that has to do with anything that the people who need to keep track of designations need to know. What’s the objective here?”

The new designation “breaks with precedent in replacing functionality with branding, it’s completely confusing for the users, and it’s already been taken,” Aboulafia said. “Other than that, it’s a great idea.”

The Air Force then clarified that the eSeries designator “e” should be rendered in lowercase to differentiate it from electronic warfare and early warning aircraft that get the “E” prefix.

“Instruction 16-401 is being updated to include the process for determining and assigning the ‘ePlane’ designation,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said. “The Service Acquisition Executive (SAE) will determine whether an acquisition program meets the digital acquisition threshold. If the system meets the digital acquisition requirements, the “e” designation will be authorized for use on that program.”

The service also noted that the “e” designator is temporary and that “the program office will request the aircraft mission design series update to drop [the] ‘e’ [designator]” once the program moves into production, Stefanek said. (Source: Defense News)

14 Sep 20. Trump’s talk of secret new weapon fits a pattern of puzzles.  President Donald Trump is expanding his arsenal of spectacular, but hard to explain, claims about U.S. military might.

First, there were invisible airplanes. Then, a “super duper” missile.

And now, a secret nuclear weapon.

“I have built a nuclear, a weapon, I have built a weapon system that nobody’s ever had in this country before,” Trump said in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward for his book published this week.

“We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before,” Trump said, referring to Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China. “There’s nobody. What we have is incredible.”

Weapons experts are puzzling over Trump’s words. Some think he may have been talking about a nuclear warhead that was modified to reduce its explosive power. Known as the W76-2, this weapon certainly is unknown to the general public — not because of secrecy or mystery but because of its obscurity.

Asked by a reporter to clarify his comment, Trump on Thursday said he’d rather not.

“There are systems that nobody knows about, including you, and we have some systems that nobody knows about. And, frankly, I think I’m better off keeping it that way,” he said.

James Acton, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in an interview Friday that Trump may have been referring to the W76-2 warhead. Although its existence was not a secret, the timing of its first deployment was. The warhead is on the business end of a Trident II D-5 missile carried aboard Navy ballistic missile submarines.

“The timing matches up,” Acton said.

The Woodward interview was Dec. 5, around the time of the first W76-2 deployment, which was not announced publicly until Feb. 4. The weapon itself is not revolutionary. It’s not even the only low-yield warhead in the U.S. arsenal. It is, however, the first major addition to the strategic nuclear force in recent decades and is a departure from the Obama administration’s policy of lessening dependence on nuclear weapons in pursuit of a nuclear-free world. Joe Biden, Trump’s rival for the White House, has said the new weapon is overkill, suggesting he might shelve it if he wins in November.

Acton says Trump may well have been making a garbled reference to some other weapon.

“It’s clear that the president likes boasting about military capabilities and doesn’t always have the tightest grasp on the details,” he said.

It cannot be ruled out that the U.S. is developing a new nuclear weapon in complete secrecy. This seems unlikely, however, for two reasons — the cost would be too much for the classified, nonpublic portion of the budget, and too many people would be involved in the project for it to stay secret for long.

It’s also possible that Trump had a non-nuclear weapon in mind when he spoke, although he used the word “nuclear.”

The president has previously made extravagant claims about U.S. weapons, sometimes straying beyond reality or exaggerating their importance. He has asserted, for example, that the F-35 fighter jet, built with low-observable technologies generally referred to as stealth, is all but invisible.

“You can’t see it,” Trump said in October 2017. “You literally can’t see it. It’s hard to fight a plane you can’t see.”

Just last month he said of the F-35: “Stealth. Total stealth. You can’t see it.”

The F-35, like other stealth aircraft such as the B-2 bomber and the F-22 fighter, are designed to be harder to detect on radar than conventional planes. But they are not invisible, nor does the military claim they are.

Trump occasionally mentions his interest in hypersonic weapons, sometimes without using the term. Details of these weapons’ planned capabilities are mostly classified. In February, Trump said: “We have the super-fast missiles — tremendous number of the super-fast. We call them ‘super-fast,’ where they’re four, five, six and even seven times faster than an ordinary missile. We need that because, again, Russia has some.”

And in May, he said: “We have no choice, we have to do it, with the adversaries we have out there,” mentioning China and Russia. He added, “I call it the super-duper missile.” He said he “heard” it travels 17 times faster than any other U.S. missile.

A hypersonic weapon is one that flies at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. Most American missiles, such as those launched from aircraft to hit other aircraft or ground targets, travel between Mach 1 and Mach 5, although the Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile, which has operated for decades, can reach hypersonic speeds. (Source: Defense News)

11 Sep 20. Lockheed-Boeing Battle Heats Up as USAF Looks to Buy F-15EX. The F-35 maker is fighting to keep its monopoly on the Air Force’s fighter-jet shopping list. While it’s not unusual for companies to battle one another for weapons deals, these fights often occur behind the scenes, as lobbyists and executives spar inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.

But the fight over whether the U.S. Air Force should buy one or two types of $80m fighter jets is spilling into the public view, in the pages of the trade press and in think tank reports. Air Force leaders say they need both the F-35 Lightning II, the newest fighter in the U.S. military arsenal, and the F-15EX, the latest version of the twin-engine jet first flown in 1972.

Early last year, Lockheed began to fight back against Boeing’s reappearance on the service’s tactical-jet shopping list.The battle became a war in July when the Air Force placed a $1.2bn order for eight jets and said it might spend up to $23bn to buy up to 144 new F-15s in the coming years.

It’s rare for a conservative think tank to explicitly call for canceling defense programs; typically, they argue for increasing defense spending and buying more weapons. But the influential Heritage Foundation has consistently urged the Air Force not to buy the F-15EX.

“I’m just kind of surprised by the broadsides that have been occurring lately,” Jeff Shockey, vice president of global sales and marketing for Boeing Defense, Space & Security and Boeing Global Services’ government services portfolio, said in an interview Friday.

The stakes are also higher now as defense spending has flattened and not expected to grow in the coming years. The latest attacks on the F-15 come as Congress is reviewing the fiscal 2021 defense spending and policy bills.

J.V. Venable, a retired Air Force F-16 pilot who is a senior research fellow at Heritage, compared the F-15EX to antiquated dial-up internet. “In deciding to fund the acquisition of the F-15EX, Congress has chosen the dial-up option,” he argued in Defense One last month. “When the Air Force signs that contract, it will be stuck with already-dated equipment for the next 30 years.”

This week, the Mitchell Institute, the Air Force Association’s internal think tank, published a report that argues the F-15EX “ may address immediate shortfalls, but it ultimately fails to anticipate or prepare for a much more demanding future combat environment.”

More than a decade ago, as the F-35 struggled with a long list of development problems and cost overruns, Boeing and its surrogates pushed Air Force leaders to consider buying new F-15s or even Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets. Now as the service prepares to buy new F-15s for the first time in nearly two decades, the script has flipped.

The Air Force appears to have been persuaded by arguments that the F-15 is cheaper to fly than the F-35, and can more easily accept new applications and weapons.

But Lockheed is firing back with arguments that the fifth-generation F-35 has stealth, weapons, sensors, and data capabilities that make it a far superior choice.

“We believe the F-35 is a superior platform,” said Michele Evans, the president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, in an interview Thursday. “With its fifth-[generation] capabilities, we believe it brings capabilities that other platforms can’t.”

The F-15EX is intended to replace F-15C Eagles, planes that are largely flown by the Air National Guard for homeland defense. The F-15C is considered an air superiority fighter — meaning it’s fine-tuned for air-to-air combat — and cannot strike ground targets. But the Air Force also flies the ground-pounding F-15E Strike Eagle, of which the F-15EX is a modernized derivative.

“The F-35 and [F-15]EX are very complementary to one another,” Shockey said. “They do very different mission sets.”

Evans, who oversees Lockheed’s combat aircraft projects, said she does not view the F-15EX as a threat to the F-35.

“I certainly respect the Air Force, that they’ve made a decision to procure the F-15EX and we’re going to continue to make sure that we’re driving upgrades and capabilities into the F-35 to keep it competitive and keep it the platform of choice for the U.S. Air Force, the Navy, the Marine Corps and our partner and [foreign military sales] nations,” she said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense One)

11 Sep 20. Lockheed: New Demand for F-16s Could Push Type Past 5,000 Mark.  After nearly shutting down production several times, Lockheed Martin is getting a surge of orders for the F-16. With a current backlog of 130 jets, and several countries on the cusp of making orders, the company sees a possibility of surpassing the 5,000th airplane of the type, Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President of Aeronautic Michele A. Evans said Sept. 9.

“We’re seeing a … resurgence of the F-16 business,” Evans said in an interview with Air Force Magazine. The company is producing Block 70 Falcons for Bahrain, Bulgaria, and Slovakia at its Greenville, S.C., plant, where it moved the F-16 line last year, freeing up space at its Fort Worth, Texas, plant for the F-35 production line.

“We’re up to about 4,600 aircraft delivered and can see possibly getting up to 5,000,” Evans said.

Production is ramping up to four aircraft a month at Greenville, which has increased its workforce to 400 employees, she noted. It is also operating under an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity Air Force contract to supply F-16s to Morocco and Taiwan and potential future or repeat customers. The IDIQ vehicle will streamline and speed up contracting so there is a “base configuration” of aircraft to be built, “and then we propose only the unique capabilities for each country,” in the form of specific sensors or capabilities, she said. “We then just negotiate that contract with those countries.”

The backlog does not include India, where Lockheed is seeking a contract for an advanced version of the F-16 to be called the F-21. Along with partner Tata, Lockheed would build 114 airplanes in India, under license, if it wins the competition.

The F-16 sales could also create future F-35 customers, Evans said. “For a lot of these countries, … as we get them capable with the F-16, we believe the next step for many … is future procurement of the F-35.”

Evans said the U.S. Air Force is seeking more operational flight program and software updates for its own F-16s, and may be interested in other improvements as well. The Air Force is “looking to advance the capability” of its Falcons, she said.

The current backlog will keep the F-16 in production through 2025, Evans noted, but Lockheed would consider increasing the rate of production if demand increases. Hitting 5,000 Falcons delivered would likely take more than seven years of sustained work, she said. However, “We don’t see any issues in terms of being able to meet customer demand,” she added. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Airforce Magazine)

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