The Army and Marine Corps have begun testing competing industry designs for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, a new lightweight replacement for the venerable Humvee that will offer better protection against IEDs and better off-road mobility. The Army wants 60,000 of the vehicles, the Marines want 5,500. While program officials said the final number the military intends to buy is constantly changing, it will be the military’s largest tactical wheeled vehicle program. The program could well be worth $40 billion; big stakes for the competing industry teams. Full JLTV production is planned for 2015.
EADS has found a U.S. partner for the tanker competition, they’re just not saying who it is, according to the Financial Times. The European aerospace firm had been in talks with L-3 Communications, but once word leaked of the potential partnership, lawmakers on Capitol Hill twisted arms and the U.S. company backed out, said EADS chief Louis Gallois. The company won’t make the same mistake twice, he said.
In a new analysis, CBO looked at various ways to reduce the Navy’s projected strike fighter gap. The options included combinations of extending the life of the legacy Hornet fleet, buying more Super Hornets in addition to the planned JSF buy or buying more Super Hornets and reducing the JSF buy. According to CBO, the most cost effective way to keep the inventory above 1,000 aircraft between 2011 and 2025 is to extend the life of the legacy Hornet fleet, buy 126 more Super Hornets than currently planned and reduce the JSF buy by 93 aircraft.
The price tag of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the military’s largest weapons program, has jumped once again and is now projected to cost $382 billion, 65 percent higher than the original estimate in 2002, according to the Pentagon’s own cost independent cost analysis group. The per plane cost, including development and production, now sits at $112 million; nearly 85 percent higher than the original estimate of $62 million for an “inexpensive” replacement for the ageing F-16 fleet
CSBA’s Todd Harrison has a new paper out warning that DOD is fast approaching a difficult choice: either fund the people or the weapons they operate, it will soon reach the point where it can’t do both. He calls it DOD’s internal “guns versus butter” debate. The butter includes pay and benefit increases that have what economists call “stickiness”: they are almost impossible to rollback. The increase in pay and benefits that congress allots DOD each year will crowd out investment in research and new weapons.
The Obama administration has released its long awaited national security strategy, touting economic power as the foundation of national power and a greater focus on economic growth, reducing deficits and rebalancing the instruments of statecraft away from the current overreliance on the use of force. The new strategy advocates coalition building and acting with and through international organizations such as the U.N. and NATO to tackle security challenges. Heavy emphasis is placed on soft power tools such as diplomacy and global partnerships.
The Congressional Budget Office is out with a new estimate of the Navy’s latest 30-year shipbuilding plan, issued in February. While that new plan reduces the total number of ships purchased between 2011 and 2040, and thus shipbuilding costs, CBO says the annual price tag is still much higher than the total shipbuilding funds the Navy has received in recent years. Top of the ouch list: CBO estimates SSBN(X) will cost $8.2 billion a copy.
The Navy held a conference call with reporters today to shoot down any rumors that it’s going soft on the carrier version of the Joint Strike Fighter in favor of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The fact that the Navy continues to buy large numbers of Super Hornets does not mean it doesn’t plan to buy even more F-35s, a true “game changing” 5th generation stealth aircraft. The much discussed Navy strike fighter shortfall is based on projections that see carrier strike sorties in Central Command remaining at current levels out to 2017, Manazir said.
UPDATED: Gates Says His “Every Day” Devoted to Fixing Pentagon; Mullen Says Services Support Reforms
Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it clearly earlier this month at the Eisenhower Luncheon, “it’s a simple matter of math.” While it would be the prudent way to go to keep the force structure at current levels, being that we are a nation in a pair of wars, he said, there is the problem of budgetary realities. “It is highly unlikely that we will achieve the real growth rates necessary to sustain the current force structure.”
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments new report “
Eight years ago the Army launched its most ambitious modernization program ever, the Future Combat Systems, a collection of 18 vehicles, aerial drones, robots, missiles and sensors all tied together by a robust communications network. The multi-billion dollar program was beset by shifting requirements, cost overruns, delays and what Army leaders now admit was a shining example of technological overreach. Today, the HASC scrapped much of the remaining effort.
The House Armed Services Committee today added $362 million to the Obama administration’s 2011 defense authorization bill for missile defense, including $50 million for further tests of Boeing’s Airborne Laser, a program the Obama administration had sought to end. The HASC markup also boosted funding for Aegis SM-3 and THAAD missile production.
At last week’s Navy League expo, Lockheed Martin’s Paul Lemmo told DoD Buzz he thinks the decision on which of the two Littoral Combat Ship offerings will win the Navy’s down select this summer, his company’s steel mono-hull or General Dynamics’ all aluminum trimaran, is an easy one. Lockheed Martin’s steel mono-hull LCS can be built in most any shipyard and, more importantly, it can put in for repairs at many more dry-docks than can GD’s trimaran. But both ships look likely to cost a lot more than originally planned and that has Navy officials wincing. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that once the Navy selects a single design, ship costs will come down to about $550 million.
The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, shot down his own idea of a light attack aircraft for irregular wars today, saying existing aircraft can perform any and all close air support missions that a new, light strike fighter could. On top of that, he averred there is no need for a smaller cargo lifter either. “There is a not a need, in my view, for large numbers of light strike or light lift aircraft in our Air Force to do general purpose force missions,” Schwartz said.
One of the more intriguing technologies spotted at this week’s Navy League Sea-Air-Space Expo was General Atomics’ electromagnetic rail cannon. The company has been working for a number of years with the Office of Naval Research on a 200-nautical mile gun system. In a parallel effort, they’ve been developing a smaller, pulse-power technology demonstrator, called the “Blitzer,” for ship defense against anti-ship cruise missiles and small boat swarms.
The Marines displayed the latest prototype of their swimming armored personnel carrier, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), today. They unveiled not quite 24 hours after Defense Secretary Robert Gates publicly questioned the very need for the costly new vehicle. EFV skeptics, Gates among them, say the armored amphibian is a costly niche capability that has little value in the war’s America is likely to fight in the future. Recent tests showed the EFV was vulnerable to underbelly IED blasts that breached the vehicle’s hull.
One of the more promising bits of technology showcased at this year’s Navy League Sea-Air-Space Expo is the K-MAX rotary wing cargo drone. It uses the Kaman intermeshing rotor design and lacks a tail rotor and is capable of day and night operations. The unmanned helicopter that uses an can lift 4,300 lbs. up to 15,000 ft.; only a Chinook helicopter can lift heavier loads at higher altitudes, said Terry Fogarty, Kaman general manager. In tests at Yuma proving grounds it flew with a 1,500 pound load up to 17,000 ft.