AF Space Buying Strategy Dismissed

AF Space Buying Strategy Dismissed

It is a grim drum roll: Future Imagery Architecture; Transformational Satellite Communications System; Space Radar; Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle; SBIRS; NPOESS. They are the markers of perhaps the most cocked up decade of space acquisition. The first three satellite programs were canceled with extreme prejudice (ie, killed). The others endured enormous cost and schedule overruns. Those failures and struggles have left a very bad taste in the mouths of many congressional aides who monitor space programs, as well as those few experts who track NRO and Air Force satellites.

To help reverse this perception and to prepare for the next decade of space acquisition, the Air Force unveiled a new space acquisition strategy called Evolutionary Acquisition for Space Strategy, also known as EASE, in its 2012 budget request. It proposes the use of fixed price contracts and block buys of satellites such as the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) and SBIRS to help stabilize the wobbly space industrial base and to lower costs. In budget briefings, Air Force officials said they hope this approach will save roughly 10 percent.

This will require congressional approval, something Erin Conaton, Air Force undersecretary, acknowledged this morning might be difficult and would be critical to EASE’s success.

But one of the most respected experts in space acquisition and operations, consultant and former advisor to the head of Air Force Space Command Bob Butterworth, told reporters this morning he thinks EASE will make things worse. “I don’t have any dout in my mind that this iniative will fail and will probably cost us more in the long term,” he said at a seminar organized by the Marshall Institute.

The Air Force strategy requires that it budget with consistency and fidelity over a long period of time — at least five years — and locks the country into buying the same satellites for some time.  Plus it requires Congress to change how it does business, something that can be very difficult to achieve.

Butterworth said he believes program officials will react by “weaving” more requirements into existing programs, perhaps leading to exactly the kind of program bloat that has afflicted so many of the troubled programs listed above. Also, he said it will probably lead to a smaller — not a more stable — industrial base and lead to lower cost savings.

For example, he said it would probably prompt a company like the United Launch Alliance, which builds and launches the EELV, to “buy lots of stuff and put it in storage” instead of encouraging it to buy steadily over time and thus preserve the smaller companies that provide unique hardware and find it difficult to weather the sharp ups and downs of the defense buying cycles.

Todd Harrison, a budget expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, agreed with the difficulties of such budgetary planning over time. “The problem is, form a budget perspective , we are at an inflection point,” he said, noting that the last time the US faced similar choices in 1986 the budgets projected increases of 40 percent. In reality, budgets declined 6 percent in real terms.

Join the Conversation

“The Air Force strategy requires that it budget with consistency and fidelity over a long period of time — at least five years — and locks the country into buying the same satellites for some time.”

“Block buy” satellites will only be “the same” if you consider a Block 60 F-16 to be “the same” as the YF-16.

I’m actually rather shocked to see a “one of the most respected expert in space acquisition and operations” fail to understand the notion of incremental upgrades.

Well, here’s a test for you. What does this mean:

“The first three satellite programs were canceled with extreme prejudice (ie, killed). The others endured enormous cost and schedule overruns. Those failures and struggles have left a very bad taste in the mouths of many.”

Why don’t you try reading the article first and then commenting, genius?

You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about, because putting FIA, TSAT, and Space Radar into the same paragraph is like saying “here are examples of technological failures: Chernobyl, Duralumin, and the luminiferous aether.”

If nothing else, TSAT and Space Radar did not incur any cost or schedule overruns because they never actually got started.

Ignorance really is bliss. They spent $3 billion on TSAT before it was cancelled. Pull your head out.

Such is the bureaucratic maze between the industry, the Pentagon, and the rest of DC. A final contractor wasn’t even chosen for TSAT before it was canceled.

We are still in the phase before the collapse where the planners still think that if they just tweak the knobs enough the planed economy can be revived. But it’s an illusion, overruns and blowouts will get worse and worse.

The longer we wait to transition the defense industries to a capitalist system the more damage will be done to them. We could have done it in the past when we had much more money and run the two systems in parallel during the transition — like the Chinese can afford to do today. But those days are over. Today we are facing the same options as the old soviet union. And the temptation is always to hang on as the problem get worse and the switch more and more painful.

The end result will be a series of painful and destructive contractions.

That’s the way it was with advanced tactical fighter (ATF). It was a huge program before it was even a program. Heck, Grumman built the X-29 to win ATF, although I’m not sure who actually funded the airplane, the USAF or Grumman. It’s hanging in Wright Patterson’s museum now, so maybe it was the USAF. Pretty ironic the way they did Grumman later in the competiiton with all that, “there won’t be a canard equipped airplane in my Air Force” crap. F’ing brilliant, kill the best dogfighter before you even make the down select and then pick the worst of the 2 remaining because it’s the better dogfighter (even though it sucks at everything a stealth plane is supposed to be good at). Then later in JSF the same company that sold them the F-22 on its dogfighting capabilities tells them they don’t need a dogfighter for JSF because stealth airplanes need to be using hit and run tactics. You don’t say! Meanwhile the YF-23 sits collecting dust in a hangar in Hawthorn somewhere. Damn if your tax dollars don’t buy one hell of a lot of stupidity.

I don’t believe the X-29 was for the ATF program. The aircraft itself was hardly combat capable and more an experimental FSW demonstrator. In my opinion the disadvantages of a FSW configuration outweigh the benefits. Maybe if we were looking for another pure dogfighter like the original LWF requirement, but these days you need true multi-role capability.

The YF-22 was selected over the YF-23 as you know but both were incredible designs. Yet as much as I would love to see the F-23 flying, there really isn’t room for both the F-22 and the F-23 when their roles are identical.

The F-35 is supposed to have a level of agility comparable to that of a Block 50/52 F-16. This is good enough for what the F-35 was supposed to be although I am worried about the sheer weight of the aircraft. One think to consider when looking at the design of the F-35 is all of the advancements that have occurred in terms of missiles and sensors since the YF-22 was chosen. Ideally our F-35s would have been supported by more F-22s as well.

“They spent $3 billion on TSAT before it was cancelled.”

Yes, and THE PROGRAM NEVER STARTED. If you can’t tell the difference between a feasibility study and an active program, then I don’t know what to say.

“Heck, Grumman built the X-29 to win ATF…”

:facepalm: Okay, now this is just getting embarrassing.

Dude, just shut up. Just *shut* *up*. I used to think you were a fresh-out who was getting all excited because you could post “anonymously” on milblogs, but now I’m starting to wonder whether you know anything more than you’ve read at Strategy Page and Danger Room…

3 billion for a feasibility study — what did it find, that there was enough money left in the budget after the feasibility study to do anything ?

It doesn’t really matter if you believe the X-29 was for ATF or not. The F-22 neither was nor is an incredible design. It was somewhat fortunate for that program they had problems with resonnance in their intakes that no one at Lockheed could cure. It forced them to hire the designers of the YF-23 to fix the problem and while they were in Marietta they told the F-22 program managment how to improve the F-22, which is why the F-22 got more YF-23ish after the competition had been declared in their favor. You can still hear some of that resonnance in the intake, which is actually kind of cool when they fire them up in the morning at Eglin AFB as the mist is rising. It has a bit of that Loon quality, which I suppose is appropriate for a program that had no shortage of lunacy.

Apparently it was all spent on donuts and coffee.

I know from people who had some involvement on the program that both the YF-22 and YF-23 were both very impressive and neither had a truly decisive advantage over the other. As for Northrop and others helping to improve the F-22, I think that sort of cooperation is a good thing. I would hope Lockheed would have helped with the F-23 if the positions were reversed.

If we consider the developments in missile technology and sensors since 1991 the F-23 may have been the better choice. Yet the lack of TVC argument critics use against the F-35 would still apply, and the F-22 barely survived as it did. The chances of the F-23 making it were even slimmer as supposedly McDonnell Douglas wasn’t yet up to speed when it came to avionics integration and all of that.

This could have been predicted when the USAF was appointed the Executive Agent for Space. Long a lover of big, expensive programs, it is now the proverbial “self-licking ice cream cone.“The Space Fence is a prime example. The Navy had a $400 Million contract signed, with the new X band Navy Fence to be delivered in 2012. Then in 2004 the program was handed over to the USAF. USAF over doubled the operational budget of the current Fence, and then cancelled the follow on Fence.

3x30M “studies” and 2x 105M “definition requirements” studies just let, and they think they may have the requirements better defined and may have the first elements of the $3.5 BILLION program by the turn of the decade. So, anybody think the (almost) $4Billion X-band program will perform that much better than the $400Million program? (Physics being physics)
So far, all that has happened is that several defense contractors have been able to repackage and resell the same studies of a decade ago to the USAF, and line the pockets of those involved. Sad, sad, sad.

I didn’t say Northrop or McDonald Douglass (who built the YF-23) helped anyone. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it would be ludicrous to even think that would happen. As for the YF-22 and YF-23 being roughly the same, that’s a USAF disinformation campaign to make them look less like idiots. After all, that’s what our system of classified information is really there for.

If it was your ass in a stealth airplane, what would you rather have, thrust vectoring or a way to shut off your IR signature to heat seeking missiles? I’d take the latter. MD designed the avionics system for the F-18 which was revolutionary for its time. I saw Gene Adams give a presentation on that system and his vision for the future of avionics back in 1997, I believe it was. I’m sure they wouldn’t have had a hard time putting a decent system in the F-23. At least, they wouldn’t have had any harder time than they thought you’d be willing to pay for.

Eglin, Tyndall, what ever that base is that has F-22s.

What the feasibility study found is that the Marines think the last technological achievement of note was the M-14 assault rifle, and everything since then has just been a lot of bells and whistles that don’t work.

Now i was at the space command 2 weeks ago,and boy a a showy building the have. All shiney , aluminum i belive. Like a mirror. Now i love my Airmen but,you should be the innovaters.Hands on and never let go. That’s just me.


NOTE: Comments are limited to 2500 characters and spaces.

By commenting on this topic you agree to the terms and conditions of our User Agreement

AdChoices | Like us on , follow us on and join us on Google+
© 2015 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.