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02 Sep 22. US Air Force clears Ospreys to fly amid unresolved clutch problem. The Air Force cleared its CV-22 Ospreys tiltrotor aircraft to resume flying, some two-and-a-half weeks after grounding them due to a clutch problem that remains unresolved.
Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, on Friday authorized the command’s fleet of 52 Ospreys to resume flying, with measures to limit the risk from “hard clutch engagement” incidents. AFSOC Spokeswoman Lt. Col. Rebecca Heyse said the aircraft are expected to start operating again this weekend.
Slife grounded AFSOC’s tiltrotor Ospreys Aug. 16 after two hard clutch engagement incidents in the preceding six weeks, saying he was concerned about airmen’s safety. AFSOC said it wanted to find the cause of the malfunctions and ways to mitigate them. AFSOC Ospreys, many of which are deployed to Europe and Asia, had experienced two other clutch issues since 2017, making four clutch incidents in all for the command.
The U.S. Marine Corps, which has had 10 hard clutch engagement incidents in its MV-22 Osprey since 2010, did not follow suit, telling reporters that it believes the clutch problem can be managed with training.
Hard clutch engagement happens when the clutch that connects the Osprey’s rotor gear box to its engine slips. This causes the Ospreys to immediately transfer the power load from that engine to the other engine, to ensure the aircraft can keep running in the event of an engine failure.
When the clutch on the original gear box re-engages and the power load transfers back, this creates a large transfer of torque within milliseconds and the Osprey lurches. Air crews are taught to immediately land in these emergencies.
The Air Force and Marine Corps said no one has been injured in their hard clutch engagement incidents, although some gear boxes or engines have had to be replaced, making them Class A mishaps due to their cost.
Heyse said AFSOC is still not sure why the Osprey clutches are slipping, but that the command has put steps in place to try to manage them for the near term. AFSOC studied the data from all 15 recorded hard clutch engagement incidents across the Osprey enterprise to figure out what was a common factor there.
One key risk mitigation step: AFSOC has instructed its Osprey pilots to take a two-second pause immediately after taking off to keep the clutch from slipping, instead of going to full power immediately, Heyse said.
Marine Corps officials told reporters last month that its Osprey pilots are instructed to hover after taking off to check instruments and ensure the clutch isn’t slipping.
AFSOC is also bringing squadron leadership into discussions on ways to mitigate clutch problems, before missions where the Ospreys might have a higher risk of such an incident happening because of their operational requirements.
And AFSOC is modifying its Osprey training simulators to better reflect clutch slipping scenarios, and is increasing training for Osprey pilots on flying under marginal power and aborted takeoffs. Heyse said this is important because the clutch issues usually happen in the takeoff process.
“Until a root cause is identified, and solution implemented, the focus is on mitigating operations in flight regimes where [hard clutch engagements] are more prevalent and ensuring our aircrews are trained as best as possible to handle [them] when they do occur,” Heyse said in an email.
Since the stand-down, all of AFSOC’s Osprey crews have also taken part in briefings from the Osprey joint program office, along with the command’s experts, to help them understand these clutch incidents and how to handle them.
Aircrews also took surveys that allowed them to suggest ways to handle or solve the clutch problem.
CV-22 maintainers are conducting inspections of the aircraft to make sure the systems are tracking the correct information on drivetrain components. AFSOC said that it is reviewing data from the aircraft, and is considering replacing drivetrain components after a certain number of flight hours.
And AFSOC said it hopes to find the root cause of these clutch slippages in the long term, and putting a permanent solution in place.
Heyse said AFSOC’s maintainers used the stand-down period to conduct a great deal of maintenance on the Ospreys.
(Source: Defense News)
01 Sep 22. Lockheed, Pentagon claim they’re reining in F-35 sustainment costs. After years of criticism over sustainment costs of the F-35 fighter, Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon on Wednesday said they are seeing progress in driving down the bill, and they believe the trend will continue.
Lockheed and the F-35 Joint Program Office did not release the annual cost per tail in 2021 for the jet. But in a statement, JPO spokesman Chief Petty Officer Matthew Olay said the amount fell from numbers recorded in 2020.
According to a Government Accountability Office report, it cost the Air Force in 2020 about $7.8m to fly one of its F-35As. That was nearly double the service’s $4.1m goal.
One of the Navy’s F-35Cs, the aircraft carrier variant, cost $9.9m to fly in 2020 — more than the $7.5m goal. For a single Marine Corps F-35B, the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant, the cost came to $9.1m that year; and for one F-35C, the bill came to $7.9m. The Corps’ cost goals for both variants are $6.8m each.
Lawmakers, government auditors and watchdog groups have criticized the F-35 program for its steep sustainment costs and the difficulties involved in keeping it working. That July 2021 GAO report said if the F-35 program does not tame expenses as more fighters come online, annual cost overruns for the entire military could near $6 billion by 2036.
In a Wednesday briefing with reporters at Lockheed’s Arlington, Virginia, office, company officials said they are taking steps to bring down the cost of flying the F-35, some of which involve keeping spare parts on the aircraft longer to cut down on supply costs and maintenance efforts.
The business is already seeing results, the officials added, and they expect the progress to continue over the next few years.
Audrey Brady, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for F-35 sustainment, said more than 90% of parts on the F-35 are staying on the jet longer than predicted, which reduces cost per flight. “Increasing the mean flight hour between failure is absolutely a game changer,” Brady noted.
But the latest costs are not public. The JPO told Defense News that trends are available, but did not provide exact cost figures when asked.
Olay said the annual cost per tail — the metric the Air Force prefers to use instead of the cost per flying hour — dropped at the Defense Department level, as well as for all services and variants, when compared to 2012 figures. That year was when the F-35 was most recently re-baselined, a term for when the program reevaluates its cost and schedule estimates and sets new targets.
The JPO also expects the costs from both metrics to keep dropping through 2024, after which they will somewhat stabilize, Olay said.
In its briefing, Lockheed displayed a chart estimating that its own share of the F-35′s annual cost per tail dropped 37% between 2015 and 2021, and that its cost per flying hour dropped 50% over that period. The firm expects its share of those costs to continue decreasing by 2026. Lockheed would not provide that information in exact dollar figures, describing it as sensitive proprietary data, but it did say its share makes up roughly 40% of the overall cost.
Lockheed Martin has so far delivered more than 825 F-35s to the militaries of 15 nations, and the company expects that number to nearly double over the next five years.
Lockheed also said that newer F-35s are more reliable than older versions thanks to the maturation of design and production processes. A newer F-35 typically flies for 14 total hours before a failure occurs, whereas models produced during the early days of low-rate initial production tend to experience a failure after four to six flight hours.
Buying in bulk
In recent years, Lockheed Martin has focused on several areas to reduce costs, said Mike Aylward, director of the company’s F-35 sustainment strategy. One key approach: taking greater advantage of the economies of scale provided by its massive supply chain.
That involves combining the demands from various aspects of the F-35 program — such as production, sustainment and aircraft modification — in order to buy parts in bulk to yield savings, Aylward said.
Leveraging economies of scale for supply will be most crucial through the mid-2040s, he added, after which major modifications are expected to entirely conclude as F-35 production rapidly wind down.
“It really benefits our suppliers because they’re now able to proactively plan a single demand signal, which allows them to invest in the program,” he explained.
A year and a half ago, Lockheed began signing massive advance contracts with suppliers for five years of total demand. Instead of signing multiple piecemeal contracts with suppliers on an annual basis, Aylward said, those vendors can now better predict what the demand will be over half a decade.
This does present a risk to Lockheed, Aylward admitted, but it could also help improve the F-35′s affordability on procurements, sustainability and upgrades. Paying suppliers in advance for five years also allows volume discounts and locks in prices before inflation or other economic factors drive up costs, he said. It will also improve the health of the supply chain and ensure materials are available when Lockheed needs them, he added, because suppliers know they have five years of business and are less likely to face a cash crunch.
This is reminiscent of a practice Lockheed used across its entire operation during the most challenging economic days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it accelerated billions of dollars of advance payments to its suppliers to keep them operating.
Lockheed Martin started making these aggregate demand purchases about a year and a half ago for roughly 70 systems so far. It expects those purchases to save $1.2bn during the five-year period over what individual procurements would have cost annually, Aylward said.
Those savings are passed on to the government, he added, since Lockheed is legally required to disclose the amount it pays suppliers during contracting processes.
Lockheed is also changing its business operations by using of digital transformation to better automate processes and tools, Aylward said. Digital tools that help manage fleets and supplies are becoming increasingly automated, which frees up humans for other work and allows for quicker decision-making.
This will be increasingly necessary as the F-35 fleet continues to grow, Aylward said, as Lockheed won’t need to expand its staff, which keeps down labor costs. “As the fleet continues to scale and we add more aircraft and more customers, we want to be able to do this with the same amount of people,” Aylward explained.
Lockheed also recently restructured its sustainment business and moved to a different rate structure that allows for more competitiveness and lower labor costs, Aylward said. And the company is trying to find ways it can help its customers — the F-35 Joint Program Office, U.S. armed services and international clients — be more efficient.
“If we can make parts more reliable by redesigning or improving how we maintain a part, those are less demands on the maintainers in the field,” Aylward said. “Anything we can do to reduce their manpower demands will help the overall cost of the program.”
That includes working with maintainers on flight lines to identify ways to improve maintenance plans, he said, and make it easier to maintain certain parts or systems.
Lockheed also wants to broaden the use of conditions-based maintenance on the F-35 — and take advantage of the copious data collected by the planes to better predict when parts might fail before they actually break. The Air Force has experience using conditions-based maintenance on the F-35, but Aylward said Lockheed wants to expand the approach to more customers and more systems on the aircraft.
“If we know when a part’s going to fail with some accuracy, we can actually preplan supply, preplan maintenance action,” Aylward said. “There’s so much data that comes off this jet; we can now start to predict, based on the reliability data, when we need to change this valve or when we need to swap out this widget here. And then we actually preplan to do those maintenance actions, and it creates a lot less strain on the manpower in the field and on the flight line.”
Since 2019, Lockheed Martin has repeatedly proposed a performance-based logistics contract for the F-35 that it said would save the government money, allow faster repairs, and result in improved availability of spare parts.
The Pentagon is open — albeit cautious — to the idea, but lawmakers have expressed skepticism. The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act put restrictions on the department’s ability to enter into a performance-based logistics contract for the F-35, requiring the Pentagon to first show the deal would produce either lower costs or better performance than the current contract, which covers 2021-2023.
Lockheed officials said the company remains interested in a performance-based logistics contract with the U.S. Defense Department, and they hope to have a limited contract in place by the beginning of 2024. The company is working with defense officials to provide data that would help the department determine whether a performance-based logistics contract would be worthwhile, Lockheed officials noted.
In November, Lockheed Martin received a request for proposals from the F-35 Joint Program Office for a performance-based logistics contract covering only supply support and demand reduction, as well as for a companion contract for other elements such as additional support and services now covered by the annual sustainment contracts.
That performance-based logistics contract would last 2024-2028. If all goes well, could be in place by Jan. 1, 2024, said Brady.
Lockheed has worked with the JPO, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Pentagon’s Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation to sort through the data for such a contract — as well as data for the companion contract — to meet requirements in the National Defense Authorization Act.
Brady said the data sets are necessary for the Defense Department to conduct its analysis in comparison to the 2021-2023 figures. And she believes the company and the U.S. military should continue working together to make the F-35 more affordable.
“We know the things that are driving our cost,” Brady said. “But we really need the input from our partners and our customers, our services, to be able to say: ‘Here are the things that we need help with … to reduce the cost overall, or making it easier to maintain.’ ” (Source: Defense News)
01 Sep 22. US: Ban on export of high-performance computer chips to China will elevate tensions, policy risks. On 31 August, the US chip manufacturer Nvidia revealed that it was ordered by the US government to stop exporting two types of computer chips used for artificial intelligence to China. In a regulatory filing, Nvidia said the US Department of Commerce stated the measure aims to ‘address the risk that the covered products may be used in, or diverted to, a military end user in China’. Another US semiconductor maker, AMD, was reportedly also ordered to stop selling some of its chips in China. The bans also cover exports to Russia, though both Nvidia and AMD claim they currently do not sell products in Russia. The revelations demonstrate that political tensions between Washington DC and Beijing remain high, presenting significant policy risks for key sectors such as technology. The bans will exacerbate tensions and likely lead Beijing to apply retaliatory measures, further raising policy risks for US firms that do business with China. (Source: Sibylline)
31 Aug 22. DOD Must Field Capabilities Faster, Hicks Says. In the face of the pacing challenge from China and threats from Russia, Iran, North Korea and extremist groups, the Defense Department must transition from experimentation and prototyping to fielding capabilities much more quickly, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks said.
Hicks provided virtual keynote remarks today for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s “Forward Conference: Advancing the Horizons of National Security,” held at Colorado State University.
“Today, we have to evolve faster than the threats evolve, which means our capabilities must be designed and built to be flexible, adaptable and interoperable from the beginning. We must keep building and growing our enduring advantage,” she said.
“Simply put, we don’t have decades to wait for the latest and greatest concepts and capabilities to proliferate across our military forces. We have to shrink that ‘lab-to-fab’ timeline from decades to years, or even months — which means we’ve got to be thinking early and often about what happens after DARPA approves a concept and prototypes a capability,” Hicks said, meaning to shorten the timeline between laboratory experiments to fabrication and fielding.
For example, when DARPA initiated the project that led to the first experimental stealth aircraft, Have Blue, to when DOD fielded an operational F-117 Nighthawk, that took nearly a decade, she said.
It took another decade for stealth technology to be incorporated into an operational B-2 bomber — and another decade or two after that for stealth to be mainstreamed across much of DOD’s combat aircraft fleet, in the form of the F-22 and the F-35 stealth fighters.
“Perhaps that timeline was tolerable in the Cold War, when our main strategic competitor was relatively lumbering and slow,” but not in today’s fast-paced technologically changing world, she said.
Besides speed, greater collaboration, thinking and acting across sectors and across borders in close coordination with allies and partners will be even more important, because there is so much great innovation happening, whether it’s in the commercial sector or in the science and technology ecosystem, she said.
“As a nation, and together with those allies and partners, we have what it takes. And any other country that might doubt our ability, our ingenuity, our commitment and resolve, should think again,” she said. (Source: US DoD)
30 Aug 22. Message to the Force – One Year Since the Conclusion of the Afghanistan War. Today, we mark one year since the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and I, like so many of you, have been reflecting on the sacrifice that American Service Members, Veterans, their families, and so many others made during America’s longest war.
I first want to express my profound gratitude to all who served in Afghanistan, including everyone on our Department of Defense team. Every American who contributed to our efforts shared a deep devotion to keeping our country safe, working toward a brighter future for the Afghan people, and standing up for liberty, democracy, and the rule of law. As a veteran of the war, I witnessed firsthand the bravery, selflessness, and compassion that our men and women brought to the fight. Your efforts make me proud to be your colleague – and even prouder to be an American.
Two decades of noble service demanded significant and selfless sacrifice. Many Service members still bear the wounds of war, to body and to soul, and 2,461 brave heroes never made it home. To our Gold Star families: We hold your loved ones in our hearts – and we pledge to you the unwavering commitment of a grateful Nation.
The United States went to Afghanistan in 2001 to wage a necessary war of self-defense. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked our country. They were able to plan and execute such a horrific attack because their Taliban hosts had given them safe haven in Afghanistan. Since 2001, no enemy has been able to launch such an attack on our homeland, and that speaks to the entire U.S. government’s efforts to defend our citizens from terrorist threats that could emanate from Afghanistan or anywhere around the globe.
Still, we know this work is not done. We must keep a relentless focus on counterterrorism – and we are. Just a few weeks ago, the United States delivered justice to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden’s deputy at the time of the 9/11 attacks. And in recent months, our military has successfully carried out operations against key ISIS leaders. We also know that preventing terrorist violence requires much more than military might. We’re committed to supporting a whole-of-government effort to address the root causes of violent extremism. No one should doubt America’s resolve to keep our people safe.
For me, there is no greater testament to the strength of a country’s democracy than the fact that ms of people freely choose, every day, to defend it. Those who step up to serve – whether in uniform or as part of our civilian workforce – do so because of the values we fight for: the rule of law, human dignity, and freedom.
So last year, in the war’s final days, the United States, along with our partners and allies, conducted the largest air evacuation of civilians in American history, lifting more than 124,000 people to safety. I’m proud that our military communities – and Americans from all walks of life – have welcomed our Afghan allies as they begin new lives in our country.
And our values continue to drive the important work that American patriots are doing around the world. The United States is rushing urgently needed assistance to Ukraine in the face of Russia’s unprovoked and reckless invasion. We are firmly committed to supporting the people of Ukraine and to defending the rules-based international order against autocrats and aggressors anywhere.
As our country looks back on two decades of combat in Afghanistan, I understand that many people have hard questions about the costs of the war and what their sacrifices meant. These are important discussions, and I hope we will keep having them with thoughtfulness and respect.
Last year, I said that although the Afghanistan war has ended, our gratitude to those who served never will. Today, I renew that pledge. To every man and woman who served in Afghanistan: This country will never forget what you did and what you gave.
May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Lloyd J. Austin, III (Source: US DoD)
30 Aug 22. Defense Department Hosts First Joint Safety Council. Maj. Gen. Jeanie Leavitt, Air Force Chief of Safety and Commander, chaired the inaugural Department of Defense Joint Safety Council at the Pentagon on Aug. 26. The JSC originates from the National Commission on Military Aviation Safety recommendation to provide a dedicated focus on operational safety challenges, as well as augment existing safety programs by helping “bridge the gap between commercial aviation practices and military aviation realities.” Congress endorsed the NCMAS recommendation, authorizing the JSC in the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The JSC will integrate with the Department’s existing safety governance process, which will provide a conduit to elevate operational safety recommendations to the senior Department leaders.
Representatives from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard Bureau, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense convened to review the JSC Charter and FY 2022 NDAA-assigned tasks and discussed specific JSC focus areas and objectives through calendar year 2023. The JSC is scheduled to meet at least quarterly regarding safety of military operations (including aviation, afloat, ground, and tactical vehicles) and related regulations and policy reforms, such as safety data standards and safety-related maintenance, supply chain, personnel management, and training challenges.
The JSC integrates an operationally focused advisory body into the Department’s reinvigorated safety governance structure and reports to the Defense Safety Oversight Council, which is chaired by the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, Honorable Gil Cisneros. Reporting to the DSOC ensures a pathway for safety topics to reach the highest echelons in the Department, through the Deputy’s Workforce Council and Management Action Group.
“The Joint Safety Council provides DoD a dedicated structure to ensure military operational safety remains at the forefront of Department risk management decision-making – the JSC establishment further enhances the Department’s commitment to continuously improve its safety program and protect and preserve the safety of our service members and civilian personnel,” said Cisneros.
Each JSC member provides the subject matter expertise, support, and information necessary to collaborate on operational safety policy, recommendations, studies, safety management systems implementation, and outreach with civil and commercial safety programs.
For more information, visit https://prhome.defense.gov/.(Source: US DoD)
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