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22 Jul 22. Northcom Commander: We Need Better Domain Awareness. The U.S. Northern Command is responsible for protecting the U.S. homeland. Domain awareness is a major part of defense, and it’s in President Biden’s 2023 budget request currently before Congress.
“What … challenges us is the unknown,” Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, the commander for U.S. Northern Command, said while speaking at the Aspen Security Conference in Colorado on Thursday. “What I mean by the unknown is domain awareness challenges. The first one I would tell you is undersea domain awareness. As competitors develop capabilities, the challenges of monitoring submarines in the future will only grow.”
Domain awareness challenges also exist for hypersonic cruise missiles and cyber domain awareness as well, VanHerck said.
“The good news is we’re working to fix this,” he said. “And the department did a fantastic job in the budget this year — the president’s budget for domain awareness,” he said. “There’s four over-the-horizon radars in the budget, so I look forward to that.”
As for North American Aerospace Defense Command modernization, VanHerck said Canadian Minister of National Defense Anita Anand recently announced plans for new over-the-horizon radar systems that will provide better domain awareness when it comes to tracking threats from the Arctic Circle all the way down to the border between the U.S. and Canada.
Also in the 2023 budget proposal, VanHerck said, is additional capability for undersea domain awareness in the Navy.
“I’m very encouraged with where we’re going, but we still have some challenges to work on,” he said.
Another aspect of domain awareness and allowing Northcom to stay on top of threats posed to the U.S. involves better use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, VanHerck said.
“We need to go faster in developing these capabilities,” he said. “When you have information and data, the question is ‘how are you going to process that and disseminate it in a timely manner?'”
Accurately processing information from sensors provides intelligence that allows leaders, such as the president, to make important decisions regarding the defense of the United States, VanHerck said.
“What I’m trying to do is create decision space; decision space equals deterrence options,” he said. “The way you do that is through analyzing that data and information – that domain awareness data — through the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The machines can count numbers of cars in parking lots, numbers of vehicles in weapons loading areas, and alert you to changes. Today, oftentimes, we don’t use the machines to analyze that data in a timely manner. So, I do think we can go faster there.”
The Defense Department has characterized China as a “pacing threat.” Right now, the threat from China may not be as immediate as it seems, though the threat is growing, VanHerck said.
“Let me just say first, we have the most powerful military on the planet,” VanHerck said. “But the Chinese want to displace us. And they’re on a path to gain significant capability.”
VanHerck, who also commands NORAD, said evidence of China’s military advances include growth of both their nuclear and conventional forces, including hypersonic technologies.
“They’re on a path to approach a peer status with us,” VanHerck said.
Russia is now also identified as an “acute threat” by the United States. And while it appears Russian efforts in Ukraine have not yet panned out the way U.S. defense leaders believe Moscow might have hoped, VanHerck said the threat Russia poses should not be dismissed.
“I don’t want to say that … Russia has failed,” he said. “They’ve struggled in the land domain. What I would tell you is in their conventional capabilities, their long-range standoff capabilities, they’re displaying significant capability. That’s the threat that I worry about to the homeland. So, I would not undersell Russia, and I would not say China is 10 feet tall right now, but they do certainly have aspirations to compete at a peer level with us.” (Source: US DoD)
22 Jul 22. DOD Secures Critical Material for James Webb Space Telescope. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope recently captured the highest-resolution image of the universe in infrared that has ever been seen. The historic photos were made possible by the Defense Department’s ability to secure strategic and critical materials necessary for the mission.
At the top of that list is the unique element beryllium.
Invisible to X-rays and with a stiffness six times greater than steel, beryllium is an element in a class by itself. Due to its properties, DOD and the Department of Energy use beryllium in many important technologies, such as missile and weapons defense systems, surveillance satellites, fighter jet optical targeting devices and much more.
Building a telescope capable of capturing never-before-seen details of entire galaxies required the development of a lightweight, durable material that would maintain a stable shape in extreme conditions during the journey into space. The shift from glass mirrors to beryllium-based mirrors augmented the resolution of the space telescope’s captured imagery.
“Beryllium is a really good material for that,” said Payl Geithner, a deputy project manager for Webb based at Goddard Space Flight Center. “It’s really stiff, and once it gets below about negative 300 degrees Fahrenheit, it basically stops shrinking. This is important because Webb, insulated by a sun shield, operates at about and only experiences temperature swings of plus or minus 30 , never reaching a temperature that would cause it to expand.”
Lee Feinberg, the telescope manager for Webb at Goddard Space Flight Center, said that beryllium is also advantageous because its stiffness makes it better able to withstand the high vibro-acoustic levels experienced during takeoff.
Beryllium, however, is a difficult element to extract, and the DOD has recognized its strategic value for some time. In 2003, Congress directed a study on the domestic beryllium industrial base. The following year, based on the report’s results, Congress appropriated $3 million under the Defense Production Act, a Title III program for the preliminary design of a new primary beryllium facility. In total, the DOD has invested $85 million for capital equipment and process efficiencies to ensure domestic availability of high-purity beryllium.
Through this program, Materion Corp. created the first beryllium metal production facility in more than 50 years and refined the process for transforming beryllium ore into the sturdy, lightweight metal required by NASA for the mirrors used on Webb.
The current investment program with Materion Corp., awarded in 2019, is on cost and schedule to deliver facility enhancements by April 2023 and full production capacity by the end of next year.
The DOD has also long been a silent partner of NASA, which was born from the tensions of the Cold War and the space race with the Soviet Union. Since laying the groundwork for the historic moon landing on July 20, 1969, DOD has worked closely on the research and development of technologies in a mutually beneficial relationship with NASA. With inventions like the Hubble and Webb space telescopes, the U.S. has been instrumental in the scientific understanding of the universe.
Discoveries like this wouldn’t be possible without the right materials. The DOD continues to advance efforts to enable U.S. innovation and to improve supply chain resilience and protect against material shortages. In response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14017 on U.S. supply chains, the DOD has developed a strategic roadmap to increase domestic production capacity of defense-critical materials, like beryllium.
“The U.S. cannot have a secure, reliable domestic supply chain without robust organic capabilities,” said Deborah G. Rosenblum, the assistant defense secretary for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs. “It is critically important for the U.S.’s future economic security that we establish end-to-end, commercial-scale, domestic supply chains across numerous strategic materials supply chains.” (Source: US DoD)
21 Jul 22. US Army’s floating equipment stockpile in Pacific gets first test. The U.S. Army’s floating equipment stockpile in the Indo-Pacific theater was put to the test for the first time in exercises in the Philippines, revealing the changing nature of how the service’s prepositioned stock is used, according Brig. Gen. Jay Bartholomees.
Army Prepositioned Stock is strategically placed around the globe for units to access in theater in response to emergency or urgent operational needs. In Europe over the last several years, the service has begun to take APS out and exercise the equipment to ensure the right balance of capability is available to units and that it is ready to be deployed.
The Army in the Pacific had its first crack at testing out its APS-Afloat capability in March in the Philippines during exercises Salaknib 22 and Balikatan 22. part of Operation Pathways, a larger exercise in the theater. The 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division used it coming from ships designed to harbor complete equipment sets and spares the Army anticipates needing should a crisis unfold.
“It took a lot of coordination with the Philippine government, but it served as a great opportunity to place not only forces but combat equipment for the theater in key terrain with the Philippine Army,” Bartholomees, who is in charge of U.S. Army Pacific’s planning and operations, told Defense News in an interview.
Operation Pathways was born from both Pacific Pathways – a nearly decade-old exercise series – and Defender Pacific, originally envisioned as a large Division-sized exercise that began in 2020.
The APS-afloat is maintained by Army Field Support Battalion-Charleston and is the only floating stockpile in the theater. There are four other land-based APS locations in the Indo-Pacific area of operation.
By using APS-Afloat, the Army also saves money and connects exercises more easily because the equipment is able to move between locations and keep forces forward on the battlefield, Bartholomees said.
Taking lessons learned from the experience in the Philippines, the service is working on ensuring equipment is arranged in a proper “combat configuration” on the vessels so they can be loaded and unloaded in the most optimal way to respond to contingencies, he said.
While only an Infantry Brigade Combat set was used in the first exercise, the Army has several other types of sets that it would like to work through in future exercises to support the Army and the joint force in the theater, Bartholomees said. It’s now looking at how to continue to evolve its APS-Afloat through exercises in 2023 such as Talisman Saber in Australia.
Recognizing the success units in Europe have seen through the employment of APS as part of exercises and rehearsals, the service in the Pacific is looking to replicate and increase the amount of operations it performs using the capability.
“We can’t just wait until they’re needed,” Bartholomees said.
The Army is still working on how best to configure its APS in the Indo-Pacific as threats evolve. Some APS already set up in places including Japan are critical to effective response in the region, he said.
Both land-based and afloat APS have their benefits, Bartholomees said., “but the key thing with Army prepositioned stocks is that the dispersion and the flexibility of them provide multiple options in the Indo-Pacom theater.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
20 Jul 22. UK aviation sustainability mandates could bolster US defense sector. Commercial aerospace companies say the technology they’re developing to help meet a U.K. mandate on net zero emissions by 2050 could have positive implications for the U.S. defense industry.
The U.K. is pushing toward net zero emissions across its economy after becoming the first country to mandate the reduction of greenhouse emissions in 2008. The country’s Department for Transport rolled out a detailed, aviation-focused strategy called “Jet Zero” this week at the Farnborough Airshow in England.
Against the backdrop of record-setting high temperatures this week across Great Britain, the strategy calls for U.K. aviation emissions to stay below pre-pandemic levels. The document builds on the country’s previous 2050 mandate and assigns a more aggressive target for domestic flights and airport operations to reach zero emissions by 2040.
“At current rates, aviation is expected to become one of the largest emitting sectors by 2050,” the strategy states. “We have to break the link between air travel and rising global temperatures. Aviation’s success must no longer damage the planet.”
Throughout the week at the show, U.S. companies showcased their investments in propulsion technologies and alternative fuels as well as internal targets for reducing emissions. Boeing unveiled a new digital modeling tool called Cascade that can predict the impact of different technologies on the industry’s carbon footprint and inform future flight concepts. Raytheon Technologies highlighted efforts to improve the efficiency of its propulsion systems and investments in electrification and sustainable fuel sources.
While much of this work is driven by the U.K.’s mandate and focused on commercial aviation, executives said it will have ripple effects across business areas. They also pointed to a growing interest from the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, in developing a more robust climate policy.
Last year, the U.S. transportation, agriculture and energy departments agreed to use sustainable aviation fuel to meet 100% of U.S. demand by 2050. And President Joe Biden is expected to announce executive orders this week that target the climate crisis.
Will the US mandate sustainable aviation fuel?
Congress is also developing policies to regulate climate impact across several sectors, including defense. House lawmakers just passed a version of the Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act that features energy resiliency initiatives, including a requirement that DoD establish a pilot program to test the use of sustainable aviation fuel in military aircraft.
Chris Raymond, chief sustainability officer at Boeing, said he expects the company’s sustainability targets will have far-reaching impact across business units, in the same way that its defense-focused autonomy efforts have been applied to its commercial work.
“One of the reasons I think I’m at the corporate level with a dedicated team is that this issue doesn’t just stop with commercial aviation,” Raymond said during a July 18 media briefing. “We have governments that have declared net-zero ambitions, ministries of defense are focused on this increasingly going forward.”
Defense-sector requirements are also driving the need for sustainability. Raymond pointed to the importance of fuel and energy security in increasingly contested logistics environments. Eric Fanning, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, added that as the U.S. Department of Defense shifts its focus to the Indo-Pacific region, it will need to ability to fly longer distances with more efficient propulsion systems
“They have their eye on that,” Fanning said July 18. “You want to make sure you’re more efficient not just for sustainability, but so that you can cover those ranges.”
Graham Webb, Chief Sustainability Officer at Pratt & Whitney, said he’s had briefings with the U.S. Navy, Air Force and other DoD agencies to share the company’s progress on the use of sustainable aviation fuel. He said he expects the department to make some decisions soon about adopting more alternative fuel sources and he pointed to the provisions in the House’s NDAA as a good sign of progress.
“I would anticipate to see building momentum in that area,” he said.
Pentagon officials may embrace aviation efficiency
Pam Melroy, deputy administrator of NASA, echoed Webb’s comments. NASA, whose origins are in aeronautics research, leads science and technology efforts to support aviation efficiency. Melroy said she’s been disappointed in the past by DoD’s lack of urgency in this area. However, recent discussions with Pentagon leaders, including Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, have been encouraging.
“The DoD has said they want to go forward and are very interested in that,” Melroy said July 18 at Farnborough. “I see the potential to have an enormous impact.”
Melroy said fuel efficiency and alternative sourcing are two areas ripe for NASA-DOD collaboration, noting that the combination of NASA’s research expertise and DoD’s test aircraft inventory provide a great opportunity for experimentation.
“If we have a technology that we’d like to push out for a flight-test demonstration, we’ve got a whole fleet that’s ready to experiment and . . . knows how to do tests,” she said. (Source: Defense News)
20 Jul 22. DoD Announces the Establishment of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office. On July 15, 2022, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), amended her original direction to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security by renaming and expanding the scope of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Group (AOIMSG) to the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), due to the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2022, which included a provision to establish an office, in coordination with DNI, with responsibilities that were broader than those originally assigned to the AOIMSG.
Today, USD(I&S) Hon. Ronald S. Moultrie informed the department of the establishment of AARO within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, and named Dr. Sean M. Kirkpatrick, most recently the chief scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center, as the director of AARO.
The mission of the AARO will be to synchronize efforts across the Department of Defense, and with other U.S. federal departments and agencies, to detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in, on or near military installations, operating areas, training areas, special use airspace and other areas of interest, and, as necessary, to mitigate any associated threats to safety of operations and national security. This includes anomalous, unidentified space, airborne, submerged and transmedium objects.
The AARO Executive Council (AAROEXEC), led by Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security (USD(I&S)) Ronald Moultrie, will provide oversight and direction to the AARO along these primary lines of effort:
- Surveillance, Collection and Reporting
- System Capabilities and Design
- Intelligence Operations and Analysis
- Mitigation and Defeat
- Science and Technology
(Source: U.S. DoD)
20 Jul 22. Congressional review flags Virginia Class delays, cost pressures. Cost and schedule risks linked to the construction of Block V Virginia Class submarines have been detailed in a newly published report.
A new Congressional Research Services report has flagged issues relating to the United States Navy’s Virginia Class Attack Submarine Procurement program, which include the force-level goal and procurement rate, industrial-base challenges, and cost and schedule risks.
The report has noted a total of 36 Virginia Class submarines have been delivered to the US Navy since the procurement program commenced in 1998, at a rate of approximately two platforms per year.
However, the review references findings from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published last month, which noted delays in the construction of Block V Virginia Class submarines.
“Over the past year, work on Block V submarines fell further behind schedule and construction costs continued to grow above original targets due to overall higher workforce demand and additional factors such as correspondingly less experienced workers,” the GAO observed.
According to the Congressional report, these workforce constraints could be attributed to the simultaneous construction of Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines.
“The Navy’s prioritisation of the Columbia Class submarine relative to the Virginia Class submarine exacerbated the effect of these workforce trends for Virginia Class construction,” the report noted.
“The same companies build both submarine classes and have been challenged to meet both programs’ increasing workforce needs.
“Program officials reported that the shipbuilders added more workers to the Columbia Class construction efforts than the Virginia Class, contributing to delays on the Virginia Class submarines.”
As a result, program officials reportedly expect the first three Block V submarines to be delivered behind schedule, with additional cost increases and schedule delays “likely”.
The Pentagon currently estimates each Block V Virginia Class vessel, equipped with the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), would cost an estimated US$3.6 bn (AU$5.2 bn).
“The Navy’s current cost and schedule projections may be optimistic because they assume a significant amount of improvement in construction efficiency that has yet to be achieved, and the Columbia Class’ growing staffing needs continue to add risk for the Virginia Class,” the report adds.
These findings come amid concern regarding the delivery timeline for Australia’s future fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, promised under the AUKUS agreement.
Along with the UK’s Astute Class Vessel, the Virginia Class submarine is being considered for selection by the Commonwealth government’s Nuclear Submarine Taskforce.
The Congressional report casts doubt over former defence minister and federal leader of the opposition Peter Dutton’s recent call for off-the-shelf purchases of two Virginia Class submarines before 2030, ahead of the local construction of a subsequent eight vessels.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles has dismissed the suggestion, conceding delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine to the Royal Australian Navy before 2030 was “extremely optimistic”. (Source: Defence Connect)
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