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20 Dec 22. USAF’s B-2 fleet grounded after $2bn jet caught fire on emergency landing. The US Air Force has grounded its entire fleet of B-2 Spirit stealth bombers after one of the $2bn jets caught fire during an emergency landing. A bomber experienced an in-flight malfunction and then caught fire during an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where the fleet is based.
The aircraft cost $2bn each and the USAF has 20 of the stealth fighter jets, which are all capable of deploying nuclear bombs.
Military officials grounded the fleet so each plane can be checked over, although there is no timeline on when the B-2s will fly again.
The malfunction happened during a routine operation and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing on 10 December.
A fire on board was extinguished and no personnel were injured in the incident.
An official investigation is under way and further details will be released when it is complete.
The Whiteman Air Force Base runway remains closed, and recovery teams are working around the clock to minimize further disruptions.
Due to the incident, the air force base will nort be participating in the 2023 Rose Parade or Rose Bowl Game flyovers.
Instead, B-1B Lancer bombers from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, will carry on the tradition.
Colonel Daniel Diehl, 509th Bomb Wing commander, US Air Force, said: “Our number one concern is the safety and security of our personnel and fleet.” (Source: forces.net)
20 Dec 22. Congress boosts Pentagon budget, Ukraine spending in omnibus. Congress on Tuesday released its fiscal 2023 omnibus spending bill that includes $27.9bn in emergency U.S. Department of Defense spending for Ukraine on top of a $69.3bn budget increase for the Pentagon over FY 22 levels. The bill funds the 8% total defense budget increase that Congress passed last week and includes $797.7bn in DoD funding to help the Pentagon cope with inflation, bolster the Navy and expand industrial base capacity.
“This legislation will keep America safe by giving our troops a well-earned pay raise, ensuring our servicemen and women are well-trained and well-equipped with the most up-to-date technology and shifting resources toward cutting-edge programs that’ll maintain our fighting edge over adversaries like China and Russia,” Senate defense spending panel Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement.
A congressional report accompanying the bill notes that it provides $8bn “to offset cost factors that have increased” since President Joe Biden submitted his budget proposal in March. The inflation adjustment includes $1bn in acquisition-related costs and $3.7bn for fuel. Republicans and some centrist Democrats have hammered the Biden administration for underestimating the inflation rate in its budget proposal.
The Defense Department topline is $24.7bn more than Biden sought in his FY 23 budget proposal. And the emergency Pentagon aid for Kyiv is $6.2bn more than the White House requested when it submitted its fourth Ukraine supplemental spending request to Congress last month.
The defense appropriations topline also excludes a further $19bn for military construction, including family housing projects. That’s up more than 27% from fiscal 2022 levels.
If Congress passes the omnibus by the Dec. 23 deadline to avoid a government shutdown, this will bring the total level of emergency Pentagon spending for Ukraine that lawmakers have passed to $61.4bn in less than a year to help Kyiv ward off Russia’s invasion.
The omnibus includes $9.3bn for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which allows the Pentagon to contract for new weapons and equipment to Kyiv.
Another $11.9bn in the Ukraine supplemental spending is allocated for the Defense Department to replenish weapons that the U.S. has already sent to Kyiv from its existing stockpiles under presidential drawdown authority. The bill also increases Biden’s drawdown authority for Ukraine to $14.5bn for FY 23, allowing him to continue transferring weapons from U.S. stocks.
On top of that, the omnibus includes $924m to expand the defense industrial base’s capacity to produce munitions in the hopes of allowing DoD to procure munitions at a faster rate. The FY 23 National Defense Authorization Act also approved $2.7bn in across-the-board munitions funding while granting emergency waivers to Pentagon purchasing requirements and multi-year contracting authorities in a bid to faster replenish U.S. munitions sent to Ukraine.
The Ukraine spending in the bill also requires the Defense Department to report on enhanced end-use monitoring of weapons supplied to Ukraine, while providing $6m to the Pentagon Inspector General to oversee the aid for Kyiv. It also gives $7.5m to the Government Accountability Office for additional oversight of Ukraine aid.
Ships and F-35 procurement
The omnibus allocates $31.9bn for the Navy to procure an additional 12 ships. That includes $6.9bn for three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers despite the White House’s opposition to acquiring a third such ship.
Additionally, the bill provides $4.5bn for two Virginia class fast attack submarines, $3.1bn for the Columbia Class ballistic missile submarine, another $31bn for two amphibious assault ships and $1.1bn for a Constellation Class Frigate.
In addition to shipbuilding, the omnibus provides $8.5bn to procure 61 F-35 fighter jets and restore another 19. That’s on top of another $2.1bn to continue modernizing the F-35 program. The bill also includes an additional $2.2bn for space-related procurement. (Source: Defense News)
19 Dec 22. Washington is waking up on weapons for Taiwan. The U.S. Senate voted 83-11 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2023 after the U.S. House of Representatives advanced the same legislation in a resounding 350-80 vote. The annual defense bill, which now heads to President Joe Biden for his signature, includes landmark legislation related to Taiwan that can begin to close the gap between words and actions in Washington and play a decisive role in deterring Chinese aggression and avoiding great power war.
The bill includes three key elements that will: 1) strengthen Taiwan’s ability to counter an attack by Beijing; 2) improve the U.S. military’s ability to quickly surge in support of Taiwan in the event of an attack; and 3) establish long-overdue U.S.-Taiwan joint military planning and exercises. Together they represent the most consequential U.S. legislation related to Taiwan since the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.
The NDAA includes investments in and support for Taiwan’s armed forces, such as the provision of up to $2bn a year in Foreign Military Financing for Taiwan over five years if the U.S. secretaries of defense and state can certify that Taiwan has increased its defense spending compared to the previous year. If maximized, this is effectively a 10 percent to 12 percent increase in Taiwan’s defense spending and rewards Taiwan for getting its defense spending up to about 2.3 percent of its GDP. At least 85 percent of this annual foreign military financing must be spent in the United States, which will strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base.
The legislation also includes much-needed guidance to the U.S. Defense and State Departments to prioritize the delivery of arms to Taiwan. There is a nearly $19bn backlog of weapons intended for Taiwan thanks to a persistent combination of insufficient U.S. industrial capacity and a sluggish bureaucratic process dangerously disconnected from the serious threat the U.S. and Taiwan confront. The delay in the delivery of the Harpoon coastal defense system and associated missiles to Taiwan is a perfect example. The sale was announced in 2020, but delivery may not be complete until 2029, barring urgent intervention.
Even more embarrassing is that more than 200 Javelin missiles and launchers and 250 Stinger systems were approved for sale to Taiwan in 2015 and have not been delivered. Given the need to supply Ukraine and restock U.S. and allied inventories, it is not realistic to expect them before 2026 or 2027. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency that runs the arms sales process for the Pentagon issues world class press releases to announce sales but, despite individual staff efforts, the agency’s ability to deliver those capabilities at the speed of relevance is something less than world class. Congress’ attention and oversight can help.
The NDAA also authorizes the Pentagon to establish a regional contingency stockpile for Taiwan that consists of munitions and other defense articles. That’s essential because munitions would be depleted quickly in a conflict and traditional assumptions about the ability to resupply forces would not necessarily apply in conflict with China’s People’s Liberation Army. Demonstrating Congress’ seriousness, the section includes an increase in program authorization focusing on Taiwan contingencies of up to $300m per fiscal year for three years.
The legislation also specifically identifies Taiwan as a participant in the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, a great tool for training individual foreign officers and senior enlisted personnel. That builds valuable connections with their American counterparts. The NDAA also provides authorization for Taiwan to benefit from both Presidential Drawdown Authorities (up to $1 bn per year) and Special Defense Acquisition Funds. As the Pentagon has demonstrated this year in Ukraine, drawdown authorities will allow the U.S. military to arm Taiwan much more rapidly in a crisis by using U.S. stocks. Finally, there is a $2bn loan program for Taiwan’s military purchases, which could help further close the gap between the military Taipei needs and the one it currently has.
Even with these measures, Taiwan will still struggle to counter a Chinese invasion. At best, these programs are designed to strengthen Taiwan’s ability to stall Chinese progress, thereby providing the U.S. military time to surge into theater, augment U.S. forward deployed forces, and join up with other allies willing to fight.
To be clear, a successful outcome in the Taiwan Strait will require a more capable U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. Accordingly, the NDAA looks to maximize investments in these two services’ capacity and capability to fight a high-intensity conflict against a peer adversary. Laudable steps include the accelerated and continued development and procurement of fifth generation fighters, refueling aircraft, new airborne early warning aircraft, attack submarines, and multi-mission destroyers.
The new defense bill also includes a wide range of congressional initiatives to address the U.S. military’s insufficient munitions arsenal and the associated munitions production capacity crisis in the industrial base in the short, medium, and long terms. There is specific funding for defense industrial base (DIB) production expansion, starting with the Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM). This is much needed since it will take more than a decade to grow the current inventory of 200 or so LRASMs to a more desirable inventory of 1,200 LRASMs with current production rates of 88 missiles a year. The NDAA includes similar DIB expansion efforts for Standard Missile, Harpoon Missile, Naval Strike Missile, and the air-launched standoff land attack (JASSM) missile.
The NDAA also includes permission to establish multi-year contracts for the LRASM (up to 950 missiles), Harpoon (2,600 missiles), Naval Strike (1,250 missiles), SM-6 (1,500 missiles), and nearly 15,000 AIM-9X, AMRAAM, and Patriot air defense missiles. This provides industry much-needed predictability and encourages private sector investments that will build valuable additional capacity over time. There are also increases in specific munitions procurement for 2023, including MK 48 and MK 54 torpedoes.
Finally, Congress looked at the Defense Department’s plan for the defense of Guam (which is relevant to a Taiwan crisis) and wisely directs the Pentagon to procure and field no later than December 31, 2023, up to three shore-based vertical launch systems that can accommodate interceptors operated by the Navy.
The third line of effort in the NDAA aimed at deterring China is building U.S.-Taiwan interoperability. The warfighting integration of the U.S. and Taiwan militaries is currently at the lowest level of collaboration — deconfliction; i.e., “let’s stay out of each other’s way.” That is not an effective posture for dealing with the Chinese military. The U.S. and Taiwan militaries need to rapidly transition up to “coordinated” or even “integrated” levels of cooperation across multiple domains of warfare.
Accordingly, the NDAA provides explicit guidance to the Defense Department to plan and execute joint exercises to both build Taiwan’s forces readiness and increase interoperability with U.S. forces across all elements of military power. This is the most cost-effective element of the plan. Tabletop exercises, war-games, joint exercises, and rotational deployments can yield significant warfighting improvements from reasonably small investments.
The NDAA also provides direction for the conduct of extensive planning to identify and address gaps in Taiwan’s capabilities. This includes specific efforts to improve Taiwan’s domestic resilience and civil defense, another good lesson from the Ukraine experience.
Americans frustrated with inaction and partisan gridlock in Washington should look to the new defense bill for encouragement. The landmark legislation demonstrates that Americans and their representatives in Congress can still come together and act when core American interests are on the line. That’s certainly the case with Taiwan. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
19 Dec 22. Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks’ 2022 Holiday Message. Attributable to Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks:
The holiday season is a time of gratitude, and before 2022 comes to a close, I want to personally express my gratitude to our total force — our service members, military families, civilians, and contractors — across the country and around the world — for all you’ve done throughout the year in service and defense of our nation.
As families throughout the United States gather and settle into their holiday traditions — whether it’s a meal and joyous conversations around the dinner table, or like my family, decorating the Christmas tree — we remember the sacrifices you make to secure the freedoms we celebrate here at home.
For our service members reuniting with family and friends this season, I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy the traditions that make the holidays special for you.
For those who will be spending the season on duty standing watch at sea, or on posts defending our nation, please know you are in my thoughts. I know how difficult it is to be separated from loved ones at this time of year. Our nation so values the sacrifices you make so that we can be safer, stronger, and more secure.
And to all our fellow Americans — wherever you’re celebrating, however you’re celebrating — I hope your holiday season is filled with warmth and cheer. Have a safe, healthy, and happy new year.
The holiday season is a time of gratitude. I want to personally express my gratitude to our total force — our @DeptofDefense service members, military families, civilians, & contractors around the world — for all you’ve done throughout the year in service & defense of our nation. pic.twitter.com/lWOhQ2ySib
— Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks (@DepSecDef) December 19, 2022 (Source: US DoD)
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