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29 Oct 20. Shortfalls of Defensive Hypersonic Weapons Must Be Addressed, NORAD General Says. Hypersonics weapons are changing the nature of warfare and the insular security that North America has enjoyed for centuries, the leader tasked with defending the homeland said today.
Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, discussed hypersonic weapons from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., speaking remotely to the Hypersonics Weapons Summit in Washington.
Russia and China continue to pursue hypersonic technology with national investments, holding the homeland at risk, he said. For instance, the Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can carry a nuclear or conventional payload, is now operational.
Defenses against hypersonic weapons have not kept pace with offensive capability advancements, he said. Adversaries’ hypersonic weapons with independent maneuvering capability challenge the Defense Department’s legacy early warning systems.
The nuclear triad remains the bedrock of the nation’s defense, VanHerck said. “However, we have to move beyond thinking about deterrence by punishment for homeland defense and start thinking about deterrence by denial,” he said.
An attack on the homeland below the nuclear threshold limits U.S. options. That’s why conventional deterrence is also vitally important, he said.
Defense from hypersonics doesn’t require new technology, he said. It can be done with the technology at hand.
An effective defense must include pre-launch awareness, as well as an effective tracking of all stages from launch to impact, he said.
However, “the closer we let the adversary get to launch, the smaller our decision space gets, and our options to respond diminish. Defeat mechanisms should be our last resort. If we have to deploy them, then we’re already in a jam,” he said.
VanHerck said all-domain awareness includes deploying over-the-horizon radars and sensors from subsurface, surface, airborne and space, as well as an effective communications, command and control network, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The department is going in the right direction with these efforts, he said. For instance, the Missile Defense Agency and the Space Force are working to field a space-based hypersonic tracking system and satellites used for missile tracking.
These efforts must not only continue, but they must accelerate, he emphasized.
Also, global plans are needed since adversaries don’t operate with respect to combatant command areas of responsibility. It has to be a coordinated effort across combatant commands and in conjunction with allies, partners and industry, he added. (Source: US DoD)
30 Oct 20. Congressional Research Service provides a closer look at Next Gen Air Dominance fighter. The US Congressional Research Service (CRS) has helped lift the lid on one of the US Air Force’s secretive programs – the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter program. Recently revealed by Dr William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, the program looks to be much closer to fruition than originally thought.
With the growing success of Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the Su-57, J-20 and JF-31, it is no secret that the US has been secretly working away on a suite of programs designed to replace both the ageing F-15 Eagle airframe and the venerable F-22 Raptor with a next-generation platform, designed purely for one thing: air dominance.
While the US has committed to plans to maintain fleets of fifth-generation combat aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 and has recently announced the acquisition of the advanced, new-build F-15EX variant to serve as the backbone for much of the continental US-based air national guard wings, it is the rapid evolution of potential adversaries’ fifth-generation air combat capabilities that has prompted a paradigm shift in US fighter development and acquisition.
In response, the 2016 ‘Air Superiority 2030’ study conducted by the US Air Force sought to identify the capabilities of the ‘Next Generation Tactical Aircraft’ air superiority/dominance fighter jet expected to enter service in the 2030s. As part of this identification process, the US Air Force identified a suite of capabilities needed to survive in the increasingly complex future air combat environment.
“The future system will have to counter adversaries equipped with next-generation advanced electronic attack, sophisticated integrated air defence systems (IADS), passive detection, integrated self-protection, directed energy weapons, and cyber attack capabilities. It must be able to operate in the anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) environment that will exist in the 2030-2050 time frame,” the US Air Force solicitation stated.
Recognising this, and in an announcement that surprised much of the Defence, defence industry and strategic policy communities, Dr William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, recently revealed that the US Air Force had not only prototyped the aircraft, it has flown at least one aircraft as well.
This development comes years ahead of schedule and marks a major paradigm shift in the US Air Force’s research, development and acquisition process following teething problems with the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Dr Roper explained, “We’ve already built and flown a full-scale flight demonstrator in the real world, and we broke records in doing it. We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before.”
This push to rapidly develop the successor to the highly capable, yet limited number of F-22 Raptors, also known as the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) platform, has reached a critical juncture, as the USAF is expected to deliver its final business case by the end of the year.
Shifting from the concepts established in the US Air Force’s ‘Air Superiority 2030’ plan, it is proposed that the future fighter would rapidly prototype technologies with a focus on maturing them for inclusion in an advanced aircraft to be fielded in the early 2030s.
This shift is something highlighted by Dr Roper: “Based on what industry thinks they can do and what my team will tell me, we will need to set a cadence of how fast we think we build a new airplane from scratch. Right now, my estimate is five years. I may be wrong, I’m hoping we can get faster than that – I think that will be insufficient in the long term [to meet future threats] – but five years is so much better than where we are now with normal acquisition.”
However despite this unprecedented progress for an incredibly complex and challenging program, little is known about the NGAD platform, including the as yet to be revealed successful company and design, in response the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) has provided an ‘In Focus’ report with the aim of hopefully revealing a little more about the future aircraft.
Clarifying the ‘air dominance’ role
The concept of ‘air dominance’ is one that elicits imagery of grand, World War Two-style dog fighting against pitched opponents, however, while that possibility remains relevant, both the CRS and US Air Force aren’t so sure that what is delivered under the NGAD program would constitute a “traditional fighter” aircraft.
Explaining this, the CRS report establishes that the objective of the NGAD program is to deliver a platform capable of establishing and maintaining ‘air dominance’ in a contested and heavily defended battlespace, however delivering a platform capable of that seems to be open to a little creative interpretation.
“NGAD could take the form of a single aircraft and/or a number of complementary systems – manned, unmanned, optionally manned, cyber, electronic forms that would not resemble the traditional ‘fighter’. For example, a larger aircraft the size of a B-21 may not manoeuvre like a fighter,” the CRS report explains.
“But that large an aircraft carrying a directed energy weapon, with multiple engines making substantial electrical power for that weapon, could ensure that no enemy flies in a large amount of airspace. That is air dominance. There appears little reason to assume that NGAD is going to yield a plane the size that one person sits in, and that goes out and dogfights kinetically, trying to outturn another plane – or that sensors and weapons have to be on the same aircraft.”
It should be recognised, however, that this over dependence upon high-technology ‘solutions’ at the expense of traditional fighter characteristics and capabilities leaves the platform at the mercy of potential adversaries that continue to develop and field traditional ‘fighter’ aircraft as was disastrously demonstrated during the Vietnam War, which saw American and allied multi-role fighter aircraft, dependent on beyond visual range, infrared and heat seeking missiles, fall prey to agile, fast Soviet-built air superiority aircraft.
Leaving others in their wake
Achieving this will require a focus on three key areas, namely: agile software development – a process by which programmers quickly develop, test and implement code, soliciting feedback from users throughout the process; open systems architecture – enabling a great degree of plug-and-play functionality; and finally, digital engineering – including 3D modelling across the entire program to support lower costs, manufacturing and sustainment programs.
Dr Roper recently expanded on the aforementioned details, telling Defense News, “I hope to have the acquisition plan for NGAD rolling into the Digital Century Series this summer. I don’t want to go more specific than that and timeline and drumbeat for the team, because I have given them an unprecedented task.”
Expanding on this, he added, “How long we keep the aircraft is one of the variables that they are weighing [as part of the business case]. How many years make sense? It’s clearly not two, three, four, five, but we don’t want it to be 30 either. So, they’re looking at that.
“They’re looking at the amount of modernisation that would be expected — what we would expect that to cost and if it gets easier with digital tools. And then summing it all up to see whether the cost of having a lethal airplane per year is less than for the Digital Century Series model than for the traditional.”
Adding to this, Dr Roper explains the focus of the NGAD program, saying, “If it is, that is going to really help us, I hope, because we’ll show that data and argue that it is not just better from a ‘competing with China and lethality’ standpoint. It’s just better from a business standpoint.
“If it breaks even or is less [than traditional methods], I will be exceptionally happy. If it’s more expensive — and I hope not exceptionally more — then we’re going to have to argue on behalf of the program.”
Supporting Dr Roper’s push for the Digital Century Series, the CRS report states: “Ultimately, that vision could result in firms specializing in design that pass their designs to high-tech manufacturing centres capable of producing anything sent to them in digital form, rather than maintaining dedicated airplane factories. Companies with global logistics chains could be tasked with the sustainment mission.
“This reallocation of roles could open Air Force programs to firms that are not traditional military aviation primes. This concept complements the Air Force’s other goal, to move from long programs to short runs of different aircraft, theoretically made possible and economical by flexible production lines. This might lower sustainment costs because they would be replaced by newer designs rather than being kept in service for long periods. This effort is often referred to as the ‘Digital Century Series’, referring to simultaneous Air Force development programs of the 1950s and ’60s.”
Still a little to be worked out
Despite the CRS report positing the possibility of the NGAD resulting in a platform akin to the size of the B-21 Raider currently under development and reportedly entering the early stages of production with Northrop Grumman, the CRS report is clear in identifying that NGAD is aimed at succeeding the mission currently conducted by both the F-22 Raptor and the F-15EX, raising the question: what exactly are we going to see and, more importantly for Australia, can we get our hands on the platform to complement our fleet of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters? (Source: Defence Connect)
28 Oct 20. Will COVID-Stressed Countries Slow Their Arms Buys? State Department’s political-military leader sees mixed signals from abroad. The coronavirus pandemic might prompt U.S. allies to restructure arms deals for American-made weapons, a top State Department official.
But R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said there is still an appetite for U.S. weapons overseas — especially F-16 fighter jets and Patriot missile batteries.
“If we’re looking at long-term modernization plans across the board, we’re seeing what I would say is [a] steady state in that place,” Cooper said Wednesday during a virtual Defense Writers Group meeting.
Since April, the State Department has approved more than four dozen foreign arms deals with a potential total value of more than $91 billion. But just because the sales were approved doesn’t mean they’ll come to fruition. In some cases, U.S. companies are competing against one another and/or overseas firms for contracts.
“On big-ticket modernization, while some states…may have looked to re-frame or push right to a later date particular procurements, we’ve not seen dramatic changes in their planning,” he said. “What it may mean is how they sequence certain procurements.”
Germany last month canceled a multibillion- dollar helicopter competition between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, calling the project too expensive. At the same time, Switzerland recently moved forward with a competition to replace its F/A-18 Hornets.
But economic pressures could prompt some countries to adjust payments schedules, Cooper said.
“Based on their national budgets, [countries] might seek some sort of dependable undertaking,” he said. “Some states might seek foreign military financing or grant assistance.”
By the way, Cooper added, the economic downturns could result in more NATO allies meeting the alliance’s goal of members spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.
“Bizarrely, we may have some states where their numbers look like they’ve had an increase [in defense spending] because they’ve had a drop in GDP,” he said.
Raytheon Technologies will cut 20,000 positions and up to nearly 8 million square feet of office space as the company looks to trim expenses amid a pandemic that has brought commercial air travel to record lows.
The layoffs — which account for about 20 percent of Raytheon’s commercial workers — will largely come at aircraft engine-maker Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace, which makes parts for commercial airliners.
“We’re also actively seeking out additional structural cost reduction opportunities, we are turning our attention towards ensuring we optimize our footprint, accelerate transitions from high to low cost locations, and permanently reduce overhead cost,” CEO Greg Hayes said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call Tuesday.
The disappearing jobs include 16,000 full-time employees, including 1,000 corporate positions that were already scheduled to be cut as redundant after United Technologies and Raytheon merged in April, Hayes said. The total also includes 4,000 engineering contractors who are not Raytheon employees. Hayes previously announced the 15,000 layoffs during a virtual Morgan Stanley conference in September.
Hayes’ Tuesday comments arrived one day after the company announced that it will sell its Forcepoint cybersecurity business to Francisco Partners, a private equity firm. The $1.5 billion sale should close in “three to four months,” Hayes said.
The cuts come as the company’s defense business, which makes up about two-thirds of Raytheon’s portfolio, is growing. The company, which has more than a $70 billion backlog in defense work, is hiring engineers for military-related projects.
“That defense business also gives us the ability to continue to invest through this cycle, and to make sure that we have the right technologies for the future,” Hayes said.
Hayes said the pandemic led the company to expand its plans to shrink its 31 million square feet in office space. The company had already planned a 10 percent reduction as part of the merger, but now it’s targeting between a 20 percent and 25 percent reduction over five years because it expects more employees to work remotely even after the pandemic ends.
“For these last six months as I’ve toured the country and visited facilities where we’ve got literally a handful of folks working there and everybody else has been efficient working remotely, it became very apparent, we don’t need all this space,” he said. “The ability to work remotely with the technology that we have without losing productivity is essential in our go forward plan.”
Raytheon plans to cut leased offices first, Hayes said.
“That’s easy cost savings in my mind,” Hayes said.
Commercial partnerships will be key as Lockheed Martin seeks to help U.S. and allied militaries move to 5G networking — and diversify its offerings beyond fighter jets and missiles, its CEO said in an interview this week.
“I think, an imperative that we Lockheed Martin, and frankly the defense industrial base, partner with [the] commercial industry to accelerate the benefits of what I call 21st-century technologies into the defense [industrial] base, and into our national defense,” Jim Taiclet said in an Oct. 20 interview after his company’s 3rd-quarter earnings call.
A former telecom executive, Taiclet took the reins at the world’s largest defense contractor in June amid an increased push by the Pentagon leaders to better connect the military’s weapons, regardless of manufacturer, so they can more quickly share information on the battlefield. The Air Force alone plans to spend at least $9bn over the next five years connecting its weapons through an initiative known as Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control.
The Pentagon is conducting increasingly ambitious experiments with 5G wireless technology, which promises to link weapons with such high data-transfer rates that military commanders will be able to make decisions faster and with more information.
“We’re interested in operationalizing the technical capabilities of 5G waveforms and technology software and hardware to improve our defense products and our defense products’ performance in an interrelated way,” Taiclet said Tuesday on the company’s third-quarter earning call with Wall Street analysts.
The Pentagon has been increasingly embracing commercial firms like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft as the military shifts to the cloud. It’s also been on a half-decade push to get more commercial tech firms to embrace defense work, which has been a bumpy relationship at times.
Taiclet said the company would pursue partnerships not just in 5G, but also artificial intelligence, edge computing, autonomy, and additive manufacturing.
“I think there’s some incredible runway or open space there for us to be a leader in bringing some of those companies and some of those technology leaders in partnership with us,” Taiclet said in the interview.
He raised the prospect of forming alliances or licensing commercial technology from telecom firms like Qualcomm, NextCom or Nokia. He also said the company could form joint ventures with commercial tech firms. It could include buying companies too.
“We’re just gonna open our aperture wider,” Taiclet said. “And we also want to get more active and mission systems too. So, we’ll see what’s available in that space as well … closer to the home base here. I think there’s a lot of optionality for us going forward.”
On the earnings call, Taiclet also suggested Lockheed could offer “networking as a service, more of a subscription model” to the military.
“Then we do the upgrades and the comm layer and make sure we tie it all together, just like you experience on your cellphone subscription,” he said. You don’t know all the pieces that go into it. So every morning when you turn it on, it works and it works with the latest applications, and it works with the latest technology.
“Those are the kinds of things we’re going to explore,” he said. “It will take a little bit longer to get there, but we’re positioning ourselves to do that as well.”
28 Oct 20. Amid Emirati F-35 talks, Trump administration still ‘committed’ to congressional arms sale reviews. Amid reports the Trump administration is fast-tracking sales of the high-tech F-35 warplane to the United Arab Emirates, the State Department remains committed to consulting Congress on arms sales to foreign governments, a senior administration official said Wednesday.
The comments from Assistant Secretary Bureau of Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper seemed to signal the administration would not seek to bypass Congress, as it has done with certain sales to Saudi Arabia. Some lawmakers are taking steps to slow the F-35 deal, raising concerns about preserving Israel’s military edge in the Middle East and the UAE’s ties to Russia and China.
For decades, the State Department has informally consulted with the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees before formally notifying Congress of sales, which affords lawmakers a chance to block them. Asked broadly whether the department plans to honor that process, Cooper said it was “a good-faith protocol” and “we continue to do that.”
“To your question about consultation with Congress, it’s definitely something we’re committed to. It is something that is going to continue to be required of us,” Cooper said during a Defense Writers Group roundtable. He added that previous clashes between the White House and Congress over arms sale notifications were a “stress test” of the process.
Though Reuters has reported there is a goal to have a letter of agreement between the U.S. and the UAE by Dec. 2, Cooper said “there are no dates associated with the work that’s being done.” He also acknowledged the U.S. is working with Abu Dhabi to address its security requirements while maintaining Israel’s edge, but he otherwise declined to provide specifics.
Following an agreement between Israel and the U.S. to upgrade the former’s capabilities to preserve its edge, Israel said last week it will not oppose the U.S. sale of “certain weapon systems,” considered by some to mean the F-35.
“That process is moving along, it’s a good process,” President Donald Trump told reporters hours later. “We’ve had an incredible relationship long term. We’ve never had a dispute with UAE. They’ve always been on our side, and that process is moving along, hopefully, rapidly.”
Israeli opposition would have been fatal to the deal in Congress, where Israel enjoys strong support. Two key Democrats introduced legislation earlier this month that would place restrictions on F-35 sales to Middle Eastern nations to address their concerns about both Israel’s security and the security of the advanced F-35, which is equipped with sensitive technologies. (Source: Defense News)
28 Oct 20. U.S. Needs Global Posture for Future Advantage. The United States faces a future of multiple adversaries and near-peer competitors with all domains contested. The nation must ensure a solid global posture now, the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command said.
Army Gen. Stephen R. Lyons spoke at the Airlift/Tanker Association’s virtual seminar series today and said such a posture must give the United States positional advantage, as well as physical, psychological and temporal advantage over our adversaries through rapid response.
“That is the essence of Transcom and Air Mobility Command,” he said. “[We’ve also] got to think differently about the future [and] force design that will be informed by a concept or doctrine. The force of design and force to development are future forces [that] must be smaller, lethal and all-domain capable.”
The five warfighting domains comprise cyber, space, air, ground and sea.
Lyons noted the United States must move away from the paradigm of moving the entire city of St. Louis from the continental United States to a location overseas and spending the time building combat power to attack. “We must be more sophisticated in our all-domain warfare,” he added.
The nation must integrate the sustainment of a joint warfighting function across all of our fighting functions, he said, all the way up to the strategic and operational level.
Following his emphasis on the structures that must change, the general turned to what he believes will not change.
“[While] the future is certainly unknown, unknowable and ever-changing, I would say Transcom’s purpose will always be enduring. Our ability to project the Joint Force global distances at our time and place of choosing presents multiple options for leadership.”
In addition, Lyons said, our warfighting framework remains constant.
The idea of a global posture for building capacity operates within that posture. Command and control nodes that allow us to allocate scarce resources to the highest of the defense secretary’s priorities is a sound framework of which we can continue to innovate within the framework, he said.
That applies whether it is with rocket cargo or any number of initiatives in artificial intelligence or machine learning, as we continue to evolve and become better in our decision making and our ability to protect and sustain the force, Lyons added.
Another aspect that’s not changing is people, the commander said. “People are, and have always been, our number one key competitive advantage [that] we will always need as all adaptive leaders of character, [who are] willing to step forward in a crisis and protect this great American experiment in democracy.”
But every one of us who wears the military cloth has a common bond, Lyons said. “We understand teamwork, hard work and higher purpose. We understand that the characterization of success is not about us. It’s not about how much we make. It’s about the team. It’s about serving a greater purpose.”
It’s really the value of our great joint force, he said, adding it’s no surprise why, in poll after poll, the military profession is held in such high regard.
“We will always embrace our service values. We always demonstrate service before self and never break the trust with the American public,” Lyons said. (Source: US DoD)
26 Oct 20. F-35 to move into full-rate production later than expected. The Pentagon will have to put off moving the F-35 program to full-rate production due to another delay in starting critical simulation tests.
Before the Defense Department’s top weapons buyer, Ellen Lord, can clear the F-35 for full-rate production, the jet must undergo a series of tests in the Joint Simulation Environment, which emulates advanced threats that cannot be replicated in live flight tests.
However, testing in the JSE has been postponed from December 2020 to sometime in 2021, Lord’s spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in a statement. News of the schedule delay was first reported by Bloomberg.
The Milestone C (or full-rate production) decision — which was already pushed from December 2019 to as late as March 2021 — could also be held up until later next year.
Although Maxwell did not elaborate on a new timeline for Milestone C, she noted that the simulation tests will inform the statutory report that is a requirement for the full-rate production decision review. Even if JSE tests occur early in 2021, it will take time to validate the results and compile the report, leaving it unlikely that the decision is made by March 2021.
In the meantime, “production of the F-35 will continue in [low-rate initial production] in accordance with Congressional authorization and appropriation,” Maxwell said.
It’s unclear why the JSE test schedule has slipped again. In a Jan. 30 report, Robert Behler, the Pentagon’s independent weapons tester, said the program “appeared to be on a path to provide” a simulator for testing this summer. However, it’s possible JSE development work was disrupted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The full-rate production decision is largely a symbolic one. The Pentagon is already buying the F-35 in numbers that would qualify as full-rate production for most aircraft procurement programs, with 134 F-35s delivered to U.S. and international customers in 2019.
However, the milestone is considered an important show of confidence in the maturity of the program; it signifies that the aircraft has been fully tested in operational conditions.
The delay on the Milestone C decision comes as F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin rebounds from production setbacks caused by the pandemic.
The company projects it will deliver 121 F-35s by the end of 2020 — 20 jets short of the 141 originally forecast this year — as a result of manufacturing slowdowns across its supply chain.
Over the next couple years, Lockheed will ramp up production to about 14 F-35s per month, or upward of 160 jets delivered per year, Darren Sekiguchi, Lockheed’s vice president of F-35 production, told Defense News on Oct. 5. (Source: Defense News)
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