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06 Nov 20. Littoral combat ship Detroit is being towed into port after another engineering failure. The littoral combat ship Detroit suffered another engineering casualty on its return trip to its home port in Florida and is being towed into Port Canaveral, the U.S. Navy confirmed Friday.
The ship lost power on its return journey from a deployment in Latin America, which it was forced to depart after a casualty to its combining gear. It is being towed back to port by the tug and supply vessel Gary Chouest, according to U.S. 2nd Fleet spokesperson Cmdr. Ashley Hockycko.
“While conducting routine operations in the U.S. Fourth Fleet area of responsibility, the USS Detroit (LCS 7) experienced an engineering casualty. After a thorough technical evaluation, it was determined that repairs would need to be made in port,” Hockycko said in a statement.
“During the ship’s return transit to her homeport of Mayport, Fl., the ship lost electrical power. The ship is currently being towed to Port Canaveral by MV Gary Chouest. Due to deteriorating weather in the area, the ship was towed to Port Canaveral, Fl., the closest port out of an abundance of caution and for the safety and comfort of the crew,” the officer added.
The ship was scheduled to arrive this afternoon, Hockycko said. Online vessel trackers showed Chouest arriving in Port Canaveral around 2:15 p.m.
Detroit is a mono-hulled Freedom variant of the littoral combat ship, designed by Lockheed Martin and built at Marinette Marine in Wisconsin.
Defense News first reported the combining gear casualty in late October. The combining gear is a complex transmission that connects power from two large gas turbine engines and two main propulsion diesel engines to the ship’s propulsion shafts, which propels the ship through the water with water jets.
Detroit will redeploy to Southern Command when repairs are completed, U.S. 4th Fleet Commander Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson said in an Oct. 28 statement.
“USS Detroit (LCS 7) experienced an engineering casualty during routine operations, and a technical evaluation determined that in-port repairs would be required,” the statement read. “USS Detroit has been a vital and productive asset and will be redeployed as soon as possible.”
The incident was reminiscent of one in late 2015 with Detroit’s sister ship, the Milwaukee, was forced to shut down its engines and be towed into port on its maiden voyage from the shipyard to its home port in Mayport, Florida, after suffering a similar combining gear casualty. (Source: Defense News)
06 Nov 20. Head of nuclear weapons agency unexpectedly resigns. Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, has resigned her position effectively immediately, Defense News has learned.
Gordon-Hagerty, who became the first woman to lead the NNSA in February 2018, sent her letter of resignation to the White House Friday, according to a pair of senior NNSA officials, speaking to Defense News on background.
Hours later, the agency confirmed the resignation, announcing that William Bookless, currently principal deputy administrator, would take over as acting head of the agency. And the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla, has blasted the Secretary of Energy for what Inhofe described as forcing Gordon-Hagerty out of office.
The NNSA is a semi-autonomous office located within the Department of Energy. While the Defense Department manages the delivery systems of the nuclear force — ships, planes and missiles — NNSA has oversight over the development, maintenance and disposal of nuclear warheads. While the agency falls under the purview of DoE, much of its budget is set by the Nuclear Weapons Council, which is largely controlled by Defense Department officials.
Per the sources, the resignation was driven by almost a year of clashes between Gordon-Hagerty’s office and Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. That fight first seeped into public earlier this year, when Brouillette requested less funding for NNSA than was sought by Gordon-Hagerty. Defense officials, backed by supporters from Congress, went to the White House and forced the issue in NNSA’s favor.
Tensions never truly receded and continued to play out in Congress during the fiscal 2021 budget season. Inhofe, the SASC chair, led pro-defense lawmakers in an effort to give the Pentagon more official control over NNSA; House lawmakers created several pieces of legislation that would give the Energy department more control.
The issue seemed to come to a head when the Department of Energy Organization and Management Improvement Act, passed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Sept. 9, changed language that made the NNSA a quasi-independent entity, in essence folding the agency more fully under DOE’s control. The move was seen by NNSA officials as an attempt by Brouillette to outright destroy the agency.
In response, Inhofe held a Sept. 17 hearing in which he accused officials from the DoE of performing as “rogue actors” who aim to “undermine” America’s nuclear weapons modernization efforts.
“What bothers me is that people who should be doing all they can to support the critical work of the NNSA are instead trying to undermine it,” Inhofe said. “As chairman of this committee, I won’t stand idly by and allow this to happen. This work is too important.”
On Friday evening, Inhofe released a statement calling Gordon-Hagerty “an exemplary public servant and remarkable leader” of NNSA, while blasting Brouillette.
“That the Secretary of Energy effectively demanded her resignation during this time of uncertainty demonstrates he doesn’t know what he’s doing in national security matters and shows a complete lack of respect for the semi-autonomous nature of NNSA,” Inhofe said.
A DoE official, speaking on background, denied that there were major personality clashes between Gordon-Hagerty and Brouillette, aside from the natural tensions of budget discussions. The official also denied that Gordon-Hagerty was pushed out of office.
The DoE official also cast the resignation as part of the natural attrition that happens to an administration following its first term. However, both NNSA sources said the decision to resign was not impacted by this week’s presidential elections.
Gordon-Hagerty entered the administration with a mix of private sector and public experience. She served as the director for combating terrorism on the White House National Security Council for more than five years, stretching from the end of the Clinton administration into the Bush administration. She also previously worked at DoE, including as acting director of the Office of Nuclear Weapons Surety and a six-year stint as the director of DoE’s Office of Emergency Response.
Notably, the NNSA administrator has a history of being kept on into the next administration. It is not without precedent that Gordon-Hagerty would have been kept on under a Biden administration, should the former vice president become the commander-in-chief.
John Gordon, the first NNSA head, was appointed by Bill Clinton but served for two years under George W. Bush, while Tom D’Agostino was appointed by Bush but continued to serve for the first six years of the Obama administration. Frank Klotz, appointed by Obama, served for over a year under Trump, although not without drama early on. (Source: Defense News)
06 Nov 20. US Army Picks Tomahawk & SM-6 For Mid-Range Missiles. Lockheed Martin won a $339m contract today to integrate two Raytheon-made missiles, now used by the Navy, into a truck-mounted artillery battery by 2023.
Instead of picking a single missile to be its thousand-mile Mid-Range Capability, the Army has chosen to mix two very different Navy weapons together in its prototype MRC unit: the new, supersonic, high-altitude SM-6 and the venerable, subsonic, low-flying Tomahawk.
“Following a broad review of joint service technologies potentially applicable to MRC, the Army has selected variants of the Navy SM-6 and Tomahawk missiles to be part of the initial prototype,” says a Rapid Capabilities & Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) statement released this afternoon. “The Army will leverage Navy contract vehicles for missile procurement in support of the Army integration OT [Other Transaction Authority] agreement.”
Lockheed Martin won the OTA contract, worth up to $339.4m with all options, to integrate the two missiles – both built by Raytheon – into the Army fire control systems, vehicles, and support equipment required for a fully functioning artillery battery. Lockheed builds the current wheeled HIMARS and tracked MLRS launchers, which can handle a wide variety of current and future Army weapons, but neither the service nor the company would say whether they could fire either SM-6 or Tomahawk, citing security concerns.
They are set to enter service in 2023.
I asked the Army if it would modify either weapon to better its needs: The answer is no. “The Army will not modify the Navy missiles,” an official said in an email to Breaking Defense. That means the Army’s going to buy exactly what the Navy is getting.
However, the announcement’s mention of “variants” gives the Army leeway to buy the latest and most upgraded models. That’s important for both weapons.
Fresh off its first major win in the Army’s Infantry Squad Vehicle competition, GM Defense is bringing the commercial capabilities of General Motors to military vehicles.
The subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile is the long-serving mainstay of long-range strike. It was first fielded in the Reagan era and has been much upgraded since, with more than 2,000 fired in combat since 1991. There used to be a whole family of different versions, but nuclear-tipped, land-based, air-launched, and anti-ship variants were retired after the Cold War. That left the Navy’s conventional-warhead Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM), which can only be fired from ships and submarines, and only at stationary targets ashore.
But in recent years, anxiety over the growing Chinese fleet led the Pentagon to build a new anti-ship model, the Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MSM). The Army and Marine Corps are both intensely interested in turning Pacific islands into forward outposts bristling with ship-killer missiles, so they’re likely to buy the Maritime Strike model.
The supersonic SM-6 is the latest and sexiest version of the Navy’s Standard Missile family, whose primary role is defensive, built to shoot incoming enemy aircraft and missiles out of the sky. But the new SM-6 is also capable of striking surface targets on land and sea.
The SM-6 selection surprised me at first, because its reported ranges are well short of the 1,000 miles the Army wants for the Mid-Range Capability. While the real range is classified, estimates range up to 290 miles (250 nautical miles).
However, the Navy is now developing an extended-range model of the SM-6, the Block 1B. (It’ll use the rocket booster from another Standard Missile variant, the ICBM-killing SM-3, which is known to have a range greater than 1,000 miles). What’s more, while the current SM-6 maxes out at Mach 3.5, the SM-6 Block 1B will reportedly reach hypersonic speeds, i.e. above Mach 5. While the Navy plans for Block 1B to complete development only in 2024, it wouldn’t be a stretch to have a handful of missiles available early for the Army’s MRC roll-out in late 2023.
Why mix both SM-6 and Tomahawk in the same unit? Part of the answer is probably cost. Tomahawk is relatively affordable at about $1.4m each, or perhaps $2.5m for the anti-ship variant. The current model of SM-6 is nearly $5m, and the hypersonic, extended-range SM-6 1B will no doubt cost more. That allows the Army to buy more Tomahawks than SM-6s and reserve the faster, more expensive missiles for harder or higher-priority targets.
The other benefit is tactical. The Tomahawks come in relatively low and slow, trying to get under radar, while the SM-6s fly high and fast. A missile defense that stops one may not stop the other, complicating the enemy’s countermeasures.
Both missiles are available in the near term, a crucial consideration given the Army’s urgency to field the Mid-Range Capability by the end of 2023. In the longer run, however, the Army may well develop a new weapon for the MRC role, perhaps derived from DARPA’s hypersonic OpFires experiment.
Why should the Army be launching long-range missiles at all?
That’s not something it’s done since the Pershing was retired, and some critics consider it redundant to the existing Navy and Air Force arsenals. But the Army is eager to prove its relevance to future wars against high-tech adversaries, especially in the vast Pacific, and it argues that truck-launched missiles are cheaper to deploy and easier to hide than weapons mounted on ships and planes.
The Army’s official press release and its full responses to my questions follow.
“The Army and joint service partners have conducted extensive mission thread analysis to solidify the kill chain and communications systems required to support MRC operations. Details are not publicly releasable due to OPSEC considerations,” Army officials wrote me in an email.
“The Tomahawk and SM-6 were chosen in order to accelerate a mature capability to address near-peer threats. They provide the required mix of capability to engage desired targets at mid-range distances. Working closely with the Navy, the Army will be able to integrate these missiles for the MRC prototype battery to meet the FY23 fielding date.
“The Army will not modify the Navy missiles. While working on materiel solutions, the Army is also consistently doing analysis to determine the best mix of weapons systems, how the enemy is going to fight against new capabilities, and how to address capability gaps.
“The MRC prototype battery is planned to include a mix of both SM-6 and Tomahawk missiles to provide the desired capability in FY23.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
03 Nov 20. Warfighters, Decision-Makers at Center of DOD Data Strategy. At its simplest, the Defense Department’s new data strategy, released in September, aims to make it easier for users to get access to the data they need to do their job. At the center of that, however, are the warfighters and decision makers who are most reliant on critical, accurate and timely data to carry out the department’s mission, said the department’s chief data officer.
“This strategy is for warfighters and decision makers,” said David Spirk, who spoke Oct. 28 at the National Defense Industrial Association. “It’s 100 percent focused on improving the speed and execution of decisions — to support informed decision making, to improve situational awareness and knowledge at every level, to improve our ability to anticipate events and resource needs before they were known.”
To ensure the fastest, smoothest distribution of data to warfighters, decision makers, and even artificial intelligence systems, the DOD data strategy lays out a plan to, among other things, standardize how data is collected, categorized, tagged and distributed.
The strategy sets goals for the department to build a data environment that makes it easy for would-be users of data to not only find what data they need, but to also get access to it — wherever that is. That data must also be adequately described in language that is standardized across the department, so that would-be users can easily identify its relevance to their portion of the mission.
Also important within the strategy is that data be trustworthy. The strategy calls for development of standards to ensure that when users get ahold of data, for instance, it’s always accompanied by additional, standardized information that makes it clear where that data came from.
The strategy demands a lot of changes from those across the department who collect, generate and maintain data, so that users in other areas can always have what they need, when they need it. Spirk said getting those people on board will be critical to the success of the data strategy.
One way to do that, he said, is creation of chief data officer positions, where appropriate, to ensure the data strategy is being implemented and, also, to build relationships and trust between agencies so that data can move to where it needs to be more efficiently than it may be doing now.
Spirk said the department will know it has been successful in implementing its data strategy by how the warfighter responds.
“The measure of our success is going to be a recognizably faster warfighting operation tempo,” he said. “This will be achieved by treating data as a weapon system, effective partnerships and a collective focus. And when I say weapon system, I mean we need to think of the data ecosystem as the weapon system that fires the data and ensures it’s available to our warfighters at the time and place they need it before they realize that they did.” (Source: US DoD)
02 Nov 20. US DOD rewrites hypersonic weapons acquisition rules. The US Department of Defense (DOD) has rewritten the acquisition rules to fast-track the delivery of hypersonic weapons to the warfighter.
The US Department of Defense (DOD) has rewritten the acquisition rules to fast-track the delivery of hypersonic weapons to the warfighter.
The existing regulations delayed the acquisition of advanced technology, according to the DOD. The changes could help to rapidly build a hypersonic arsenal.
US Acquisition and Sustainment Defense Undersecretary Ellen Lord said: “We need to build a more lethal force and speed delivery of capability to the warfighter. In other words, DOD acquisition needs to move at the speed of relevance.”
“One of my team’s most significant accomplishments has been rewriting the DOD 5000 series, the overarching acquisition policies that focus on what I call creative compliance so that acquisition professionals can design acquisition strategies that minimise risk.”
One of the areas that the new policy is paying attention to is the early consideration of the sustainment of weapons systems.
Lord added that the change in the acquisition policy could help to decrease the sustainment costs by around 20%.
There are six acquisition pathways included in the 5000 series’ ‘Adaptive Acquisition Framework’ to drive capability fielding faster and affordably.
They are urgent capability, major capability, software, services defence business systems and middle tier.
Lord said: “These pathways implement the six main tenets of the Defense Acquisition System: to simplify policy, tailor in approaches, and empower programme managers, facilitate data-driven analysis, actively manage risk and emphasise sustainment.” (Source: army-technology.com)
02 Nov 20. The U.S. Air Force Wants Lots of B-21 Raider Stealth Bombers. Could the U.S. Air Force someday have 180 B-21s? Some think it might be possible–or at least should be considered.
As Northrop Grumman forges ahead with the production of America’s next-generation stealth strategic bomber, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) is mulling plans to procure almost twice as many B-21’s as originally expected.
The B-21 prototype is slowly taking shape. Earlier this summer, director and program executive officer for the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office Randy Walden offered an update on the B-21 program. “The first test aircraft is being built, and it’s starting to look like an airplane,” said Walden. “Suppliers from across the country are delivering parts that are coming together now. Aircraft programs will always have a few surprises early on, and we won’t be any different, but overall the B-21 Raider is coming along nicely,” he added. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who visited Northrop Grumman’s B-21 design and development headquarters in August, offered an upbeat assessment: “I am thoroughly impressed by the dedication and progress across the B-21 Raider team.”
General Timothy Ray, Commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command reaffirmed that the first serial B-21’s are expected to begin operations in the mid-2020’s, with the first B-21 flight still on track for late 2021 despite logistical disruption wrought by the pandemic.
How Many Is Enough:
With the B-21 program consistently meeting deadlines and budget forecasts, there is now talk of expanding, if not doubling, the early acquisition target. Citing the benefits from economies of scale, Gen. Arnold Bunch, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, suggested that the USAF could go higher—and possibly much higher— than its current target of 100 B-21’s.
“As I look at how we set up the mission system and the open systems architecture for the B-21, we are going to retain those aircraft for a long period of time because I am going to bring new technologies in… for small fleets, it is hard to get a vendor base,” he said in a video interview with Ret. Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. In the same conversation, Deptula suggested that 180 B-21’s could be a feasible number. It was revealed in late October that the Air Force has committed to retraining current Weapons System Officers (WSO’s) into B-21 pilots to reduce the overall number of WSO’s and address an increasing pilot shortage. The retraining program could also help the USAF meet what could be a higher-than-expected number of upcoming serial B-21 units.
What the B-21 Can Do:
The B-21 is a heavy stealth strategic bomber that grew out of the Long Range Strike Bomber program (LRS-B), an acquisition effort by the USAF to procure a next-generation, nuclear-capable long-range strike bomber. The B-21 will be a flying wing bomber, designed with a focus on minimizing radar cross-section. The B-21’s weapons, which will include the newer B61-12 bomb, JASSM-ER cruise missile, and the 30,000 Pound GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb, will be housed solely in the bomber’s internal armaments bay. As with its upcoming Russian PAK DA counterpart, the B-21 will be a subsonic bomber that prioritizes payload capacity and deep penetration capabilities over raw speed and maneuverability.
“Nuclear modernization is a department priority – especially in our efforts to implement the National Defense Strategy,” said Defense Secretary Esper. “We have made great strides in ensuring the strength and reliability of our nation’s nuclear deterrent. The ability to strike any target, anywhere is the ultimate strategic deterrent and the B-21 Raider will bring that capability.” (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
30 Oct 20. US Navy and the USMC working together: the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). “If you look at intelligence, if you look at the threat, if you look at budgets that will be flat or declining, there really is only one way you can go – a truly integrated naval force in support of the joint force,” stated Lieutenant General (LtGen) Eric M. Smith, US Marine Corps, Commander, Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
LG Smith joined Vice Admiral (VAdm)James W. Kilby, US Navy, deputy chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities, for a discussion on The Movement Toward Greater Integration in Naval Warfare, hosted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the US Naval Institute (USNI) on 29 October, 2020.
“Our contribution could be sensing and reporting back to the naval and joint forces. We will inflict lethal effects, but our greatest contribution may be in the ability to sense and detect and cause effects through those capabilities, stated LtGen Smith.
Addressing the challenge of getting networks right between commands, VAdm Kilby said that Project Overmatch was a look at the naval tactical grid and analysing whether it was still compatible with the joint force and with the army, or whether new decisions could drive a better integration. He said the project was considering latency and whether the ‘demand signals’ were aligned in its development.
“There will always be some slight difference between services as we go towards joint all domain control – any sensor, any shooter. The army has modified that to any sensor, best shooter,” said LtGen Smith. Qualifying that he added, “what is the data required to produce target qualified information – the form factor will change whether its on a ship or the back of a soldier.” The goal was to minimise the differences and look into why data transfer cannot be the same across the joint enterprise.
On the question of securing industry buy-in to what would be required, VAdm Kilby pointed to a series of Advanced Naval Tactical Exercises ANTAC), which invited industry to solve particular problems defined by the Navy.
“With the USMC, we produced a definition for the attributes of a naval tactical grid, including looking at the resiliency and how it would be open to other services and build into the future,” explained VAdm Kilby. So collecting multiple programme requirements together, such as Navy Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA) is a great capability, “but there are four independent programmes from the sea pillar that align to create that.” He added that industry was needed to help bring programmes of record together but added that “the normal ebb and flow of the Pentagon is that the programme of record views all new starts as competitors.”
Giving a ‘heads-up’ on the kind of wider technology that USMA.USN integration was looking to acquire, LtGen Smith pointed to areas including “low probability of intercept and detection, low signature management, long duration, and range.” But he warned, when you come to the industry exercise if you bring stuff that we asked for you go into the VIP Tent 1, if you don’t you go into Tent 2 which is somewhere down the road near the port-a-johns. We need you to bring what we are asking for.” (Source: Armada)
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