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15 Sep 23. Production of key munition years ahead of schedule, Pentagon says. Production of 155mm artillery rounds crucial to the war in Ukraine is years ahead of schedule, according to Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante. The Pentagon’s original goal was to build 85,000 of the rounds per month by fiscal 2028. It’s currently on pace to reach 100,000 per month by FY25, LaPlante said, and at least 57,000 a month by spring 2024.
The current rate, he noted, is 28,000 per month — about double the rate from half a year ago.
This pace is welcome news for a Defense Department intent on bulking up its industrial base. The 155mm rounds have been a case study of sorts for surging production to meet an evolving wartime need, in this case Ukraine’s defense against a Russian invasion.
In his remarks at an event hosted by the Center for New American Security think tank, LaPlante showed a graph of peaks and valleys in the Pentagon’s demand for weapons over time. Starting with the Gulf War about 30 years ago, it displayed a trend: A crisis breaks out, the industrial base rushes to meet increased orders and later those orders plummet. In each instance, procurement and deliveries reached their peak at least two years after each crisis began, according to a visual shown during the event.
“If we want to not have this,” LaPlante said, referencing the boom-and-bust cycle, “then we need to change our behavior.”
Such a shift, he explained, would involve sending a more consistent demand signal to industry. The industrial base shrank after the end of the Cold War, when demand for arms fell. It can expand today, LaPlante argued, as the U.S. supports Ukraine and attempts to deter — or potentially fight — China.
Last year’s Pentagon funding bill included almost $1.5 bn to increase the Army’s production capacity for the 155mm shell. Another $18 bn will be spent over the next 15 years to grow the service’s organic industrial base.
Ukraine will likely welcome the news, as the war there is exhausting the stockpiles of the countries supporting its defense efforts. The Associated Press in April reported Ukraine is firing 6,000-8,000 shells per day, more than suppliers are churning out in that same time frame.
To sustain Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the United States in July began sending the European nation cluster munitions, controversial for the risk they pose for civilians.
Next week, LaPlante will travel to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, along with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, for a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group — a collection of countries supporting Ukraine’s defense. Among other items, LaPlante said, he will discuss how quickly U.S. allies and partners are increasing the production of the artillery round.
This spring, the European Union said, it plans to procure 1 m 155mm shells for Ukraine within a year. LaPlante mentioned the plan, sounding somewhat skeptical.
“Great news,” he said. But “where are your contracts?”
“Nothing happens until you get the contracts going,” he added. (Source: Defense News)
15 Sep 23. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Statement on Two-Year Anniversary of AUKUS. Two years ago, the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia established a once-in-a-generation partnership through AUKUS. As close allies, we set out together on an ambitious mission to strengthen the industrial capacities of our three proud democracies, to expand our collective undersea presence, and to deepen our interoperability—and by doing so, to help secure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
I am incredibly proud of the tireless work of this Department and our U.K. and Australian counterparts, and I am confident in the bright future of our historic partnership. Working together over these past two years, we have accelerated efforts toward our common goals faster than anyone would have thought possible.
Just this year, the first Australian officers graduated from U.S. Nuclear Power School alongside America’s most promising Sailors. Across the ocean, the submariners of USS North Carolina upheld our country’s promise to increase rotations of attack submarines in Australia as the opening phase of the Optimal Pathway to support Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines. And when we recently demonstrated the trilateral deployment of artificial intelligence-enabled assets, we proved that AUKUS can deliver on combined advanced capabilities.
AUKUS is breaking down barriers to strengthen cooperation among the U.K. and Australia and their defense industries. With continued support from our U.S. interagency colleagues and Congress, I am confident that we will be able to realize the full potential of this groundbreaking partnership.
AUKUS reaffirms our three democracies’ bedrock commitment to an international system that upholds the rule of law and insists on the peaceful resolution of disputes, free from coercion, threats, or violence. At the very heart of this free and proud alliance are our people. Today, we not only celebrate this partnership but also the countless individuals who have shaped the success of AUKUS.
As we commemorate this important milestone, I am deeply grateful to everyone involved in the AUKUS journey. We look forward to many more years of cooperation, growth, and solidarity. Together, we will continue to pave the path toward a safer and more secure world. (Source: US DoD)
11 Sep 23. Five teams to change how US Air, Space forces prepare to fight China. The U.S. Air Force secretary on Monday said the service is launching a new effort to revamp how it organizes, trains, equips and carries out missions to deter or defeat China.
Over the next few months, the Department of the Air Force’s senior leadership will lead this review to find ways to make itself and the Space Force operate better in an era of great power competition, Frank Kendall said in his keynote address at the Air and Space Forces Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
Kendall added that he wants the department to start implementing changes by January 2024 and move rapidly that year.
The five teams working on this effort will focus on how the department is organized, both in its headquarters and the field; how the force is equipped; recruitment, training and retention of personnel; readiness; and how the department supports operational air and space missions, including mobilization and demobilization as well as providing installations for service members.
Kendall said the Air Force has no choice but to change to counter the threat from China, which is successfully modernizing its air and naval forces, and has a rocket force capable of targeting crucial U.S. assets such as aircraft carriers, airfields and logistics hubs.
“China has been re-optimizing its forces for great power competition and to prevail against the U.S. in the Western Pacific for over 20 years,” Kendall said. “We must do the same.”
The Air Force in recent years has transformed in several ways, including standing up a new command, control, communications and battle management effort overseen by its own program executive officer, as well as creating multi-capable airmen able to do more than one job on deployment. But more must be done, Kendall noted.
Kendall also urged Congress to swiftly pass a budget so the department doesn’t have to operate under a continuing resolution, and decried the hold Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has on hundreds of general officer nominations.
Kendall also pointed to the Pentagon’s so-called quickstart proposal to Congress — which would allow the military to begin work on some of its most vital new programs before a budget is passed — as an example of a reform that would allow the department to operate more efficiently and “prevent us from losing ground unnecessarily.” (Source: Defense News)
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