The War Report Vol. 2, Sept. 2016
By James Drew, Aviation Week Defense Editor

Welcome to The War Report, your weekly roundup of what’s hot on the global military scene. In this Monday morning email, you can expect lists of issues I’m tracking, upcoming events and highlighted news stories. I’ll also throw in goodies, like a photo or slide presentation. I encourage y0u to stay engaged. I want to hear your thoughts, compliments, criticisms, corrections and news tips.

 

Heard it through the Wraith-vine:

  • The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, which gives new missions to existing weapon systems through modification, is winnowing down its list of projects for fiscal 2018. If you’re submitting ideas, SCO chief William Roper prefers simple, thought-out slideshow/PowerPoint presentations that clearly articulate your game-changing idea. SCO is not DARPA. It doesn’t want breakthrough science projects, it wants promising technologies that can be demonstrated in an operational environment at TRL-6. Roper says technology matured to that level has the greatest chance of being adopted by the services as a program of record.
  • Arsenal Plane: We still haven’t been told what aircraft the SCO/Air Force Arsenal Plane is based on, but for the record, I’m putting my money on the Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules. I was in Tucson, Arizona, last week, home of the boneyard, and stumbled across the C-130-launched Ryan AQM-34L “Firebee” surveillance drone at the local Pima Air & Space Museum. It reminded me that the C-130 is one of the most versatile cargo aircraft ever built and a populous inhabitant of the boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB. As more and more C-130Hs are replaced by the C-130J, why not up-punch them with Rolls-Royce T56 Series 3.5 engines, eight-blade propellers and palletized cruise missile launchers. You could even carry some “loyal wingman” drones under the wing, which could fly forward to pass back targeting data alongside the F-35s and F-22s. Remember, the C-130 deployed the Daisy Cutter in Vietnam as well as the Dynetics “Mother of All Bombs” (10-ton GBU-43B MOAB) more recently. We already launch intermediate-range ballistic missiles from Boeing C-17s for interceptor target practice, but there’s not enough of those strategic airlifters available for an Arsenal Plane fleet. There are just enough B-52H bombers left in the boneyard to keep the operational BUFF fleet viable through 2050, so you can’t spare any of those. C-130? Just a thought…

sssss

  • Arsenal Plane: We still haven’t been told what aircraft the SCO/Air Force Arsenal Plane is based on, but for the record, I’m putting my money on the Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules. I was in Tucson, Arizona, last week, home of the boneyard, and stumbled across the C-130-launched Ryan AQM-34L “Firebee” surveillance drone at the local Pima Air & Space Museum. It reminded me that the C-130 is one of the most versatile cargo aircraft ever built and a populous inhabitant of the boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB. As more and more C-130Hs are replaced by the C-130J, why not up-punch them with Rolls-Royce T56 Series 3.5 engines, eight-blade propellers and palletized cruise missile launchers. You could even carry some “loyal wingman” drones under the wing, which could fly forward to pass back targeting data alongside the F-35s and F-22s. Remember, the C-130 deployed the Daisy Cutter in Vietnam as well as the Dynetics “Mother of All Bombs” (10-ton GBU-43B MOAB) more recently. We already launch intermediate-range ballistic missiles from Boeing C-17s for interceptor target practice, but there’s not enough of those strategic airlifters available for an Arsenal Plane fleet. There are just enough B-52H bombers left in the boneyard to keep the operational BUFF fleet viable through 2050, so you can’t spare any of those. C-130? Just a thought…
  • North Korea’s fifth and largest underground nuclear test last week and its recent submarine launched ballistic missile test fundamentally changes the game when it comes to security on the Korean Peninsula. It also complicates America’s current missile defense architecture, while putting Andersen AFB in Guam and potentially America’s West Coast at risk. The test specifically examined a warhead structure meant to fit onto Hongsong ballistic missiles. How the U.S. responds will signal either weakness or strength to Pyongyang’s leadership. Any wrong move could also spark one of the deadliest shooting matches since World War II and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Don’t think this was a big deal? Just read the North Korean Central News Agency’s press releases…

 nuke.jpg

Coming Up:

  • Boeing Defense, Space & Security and T-X teammate Saab will unveil their clean-sheet aircraft offering for the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Pilot Training competition during a rollout ceremony in St. Louis, Missouri, on Sept. 13. Follow Aviation Week’s Pentagon Editor, Lara Seligman, will be covering the event from St. Louis, so follow @laraseligman on twitter to catch some of the first pictures of this new trainer jet.
  • CSIS’ Andrew Hunter and Kathleen Hicks will host Stephen Welby, assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, at the think tank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Welby will hopefully discuss the Pentagon’s current research and development portfolio as well as future pursuits, since Russia, China, Iran and North Korea continue to field new weapons designed specifically to offset America’s technological advantage. I’m thinking about maneuvering hypersonic re-entry vehicles for nuclear warheads, high-power microwave guns, different electronic attack methods, and air-breathing hypersonic missiles for destroying U.S. aircraft carriers and forward bases.

 

Top Picks:

 

Last Week, Today:
Recent Articles By James Drew

U.S. Air Force Seeks ‘Freight Train To Space’

The U.S. Air Force wants to dramatically shrink the development time of new space systems from approximately 10-15 years today to around 3-5 or 5-7 years in the future, and it will put new satellites on orbit quicker using a regularly timed “freight train to space” launch model.

The service also wants to capitalize on the burgeoning commercial space sector by certifying new, non-traditional launch service providers like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic to deploy military-grade Defense Department payloads, as it did with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

The reason? If America ever got into a shooting match with Russia or China, its monolithic surveillance, communications, missile warning and precision navigation and timing satellites could be destroyed or disrupted almost immediately by a new generation of counter-space weapons.

To better prepare for that scenario, Air Force Space Command commissioned a study known as the Space Enterprise Vision 2030 in August 2015 to figure out how to defend its current space assets and make new ones more responsive, operationally focused, disaggregated and survivable…

Pentagon Prepares Smart Bombs For Day Without GPS

A curious device designed to guide U.S. air-to-ground munitions when satellite navigation aides are being disrupted will soon enter flight testing on the Boeing GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb.

The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) has been working with the Air Force to use smartphone-class cameras in place of Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance on air-to-ground weapons to retain accuracy if the signal is disrupted or goes dead. The technology is being packaged as a small modification kit instead of an extensive retrofit. If successful, it will be created initially for the Small Diameter Bomb and then adapted for other devices such as Boeing’s family of Joint Direct Attack Munition precision navigation bomb kits.

During a media roundtable at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s office in Arlington, Virginia, on Sept. 8, SCO chief William Roper said the “Advanced Navigation” program is working its way toward a technology readiness level of six (TRL-6), meaning it has been demonstrated in an operationally relevant environment. He did not explain exactly how the device works, but it is likely a type of plug-in optical terrain guidance…

MQ-4C Triton Cleared For Low-Rate Production

The U.S. Navy can move ahead with low-rate production of the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton after the $14 billion maritime surveillance UAV program cleared an acquisition hurdle known as Milestone C.

The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, granted Milestone C approval following an Aug. 22 Defense Acquisition Board meeting. Naval Air Systems Command confirmed the decision on Sept. 8 but said it is still awaiting a signed acquisition decision memorandum before making a formal announcement.

The high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft is a maritime version of the Air Force’s RQ-4, optimized for long-range, 360-deg. surveillance of land and ocean regions. The Navy is procuring 66 production examples and will stand up the first Triton-equipped unmanned patrol squadron (VUP-19 “Big Red”) at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, in October ahead of operational deployment in 2018…

U.S. Navy Moves Forward With Maritime Strike Tomahawk

TUCSON, Arizona—U.S. warships and submarines could soon employ Raytheon’s long-range Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) Block IV against enemy surface vessels by incorporating a new seeker and processor.

U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) intends to do just that, and last week announced that it will sole-source the work to Raytheon Missile Systems, which has been building TLAMs since 1994.

In a redacted class justification and approval (J&A) document released Aug. 17, the Navy says it will contract Raytheon to incorporate a new, unspecified seeker and processor for inflight mid-course and terminal guidance under a $434 million program added to the service’s fiscal 2017 budget request.

Final King Stallion For EMD Program Takes Flight

Ten months after achieving first flight of the CH-53K King Stallion, Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky has delivered and flown all four aircraft required for developmental test.

The fourth Engineering and Manufacturing Development model, EMD-4, took flight on Aug. 31. Sikorsky says in a statement that its production team is now working to deliver the fifth and sixth System Demonstration Test Articles (SDTA-5 and -6) in 2019-20 to support operational flight evaluations. Meanwhile, the company has received funding for long-lead parts procurement of the first two production-representative Lot 1 aircraft.

EMD-4’s delivery marks another milestone of the long-running development program, which was launched in 2005 to develop a next-generation heavy-lift helicopter for the Marine Corps.  The expeditionary service will acquire 200 models to replace its war-weary fleet of CH-53E Super Stallions, with initial operational capability expected by December 2019…

Formal Polish Request For Patriot System Expected

Poland could soon formally request Raytheon’s Patriot air and missile defense system from the U.S., a move that would trigger new workshare agreements between the company and Polish industry.

Warsaw selected the surface-to-air system earlier this year over the European Aster 30-based offering by MBDA and Thales Group, after rejecting less mature alternatives, namely Lockheed Martin’s Medium Extended Air Defense System and Israel’s David’s Sling. Poland has been expecting to move forward with the estimated $5 billion purchase by year’s end, and a statement by Raytheon this week suggests the initial government-to-government request could come soon.

“Poland’s formal request is an important milestone toward becoming the 6th NATO Patriot country and the 14th Patriot partner nation,” Raytheon’s integrated defense systems president Wes Kremer said in an Sept. 6 statement. “Raytheon will continue supporting the U.S. and Polish governments through the Foreign Military Sales process. Poland’s Patriot solution provides a proven capability against the evolving threat of ballistic and cruise missiles and advanced aircraft and drones…”

GBM Interceptor Improvements Driven By ICBM Threat

The increased frequency of Iranian and North Korean space launch and ballistic missile tests is driving investment in Boeing’s growing network of silo-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg AFB, California for homeland defense.

The Missile Defense Agency-managed Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) complex is growing from about 36-38 solid-fuel interceptors this year to 44 by 2017, with each carrying one exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) designed to destroy ballistic missiles en route to the U.S. mainland.

The agency will identify a third potential interceptor site for the East Coast by year’s end, with the three remaining candidates being Fort Custer Training Center, Michigan; Fort Drum, New York; and Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center, Ohio…

Raytheon To Stop JSOW Production For U.S. Navy In Mid-2017

Raytheon will cease production of the U.S. Navy’s first networked-enabled air-to-ground weapon, the AGM-154C-1 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), in mid-2017 after seven years of assembly.

According to the company, JSOW production will continue for foreign military sales customers and could restart for the U.S. government if required in the future. But as it stands today, U.S. production will stop at 5,168 following delivery of the Navy’s 200-unit fiscal 2015 order.

“Only the U.S. Navy’s current JSOW C-1 production will complete mid-calendar year 2017 and will enter a sustainment phase through 2035,” the company confirmed on Aug. 7. “Raytheon will continue to support the Navy’s planned upgrades to JSOW that increase weapon’s performance to maintain relevance against emerging threats…”

F-35 Test Marks Final Unmanned QF-4 Target Drone Flight

Aug. 17 marked the closing of another chapter in the life of the venerable McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, with the QF-4 full-scale aerial target drone completing its final unmanned mission over White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The pilotless, twin-seat Phantom, operating from nearby Holloman AFB, was “shot down” by an F-35 Lightning II from Edwards AFB, California. But it apparently lived to tell the tale, touching down safe and unscathed after the mission, allowing it to be preserved for future use or display.

The F-35A, the service’s newest general-purpose warplane, fired two AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles at the QF-4, according to Lt. Col. Ronald King, commander of the 82nd Aerial Targets Sqdn. (ATS), Detachment 1…

Minuteman III Replacement Moves Forward With Pentagon’s Blessing

In a sign that the Pentagon and U.S. Air Force have come to an agreement on how to fund the latter’s new-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, the Defense Department’s acquisition executive has signed off on the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program’s entry into technology maturation.

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Hill AFB, Utah, announced the so-called Milestone A decision on Aug. 31, one month after launching a competition for a three-year preliminary design phase.

The decision had been delayed over cost, since Pentagon and Air Force estimators came up with different numbers on the price of developing and deploying 400 new silo-based nuclear missiles with enough spare rockets to support testing through 2075. The service has been asked to run the numbers again but says a revised estimate is still not available and could take “a few months” to complete…

Royal Australian Navy Brings 24th And Final MH-60R Home

Australia’s 24th and final Sikorsky MH-60R has been brought home by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), with the aircraft disembarking from Patuxent River, Maryland, on Aug. 30 aboard an Aussie-owned Boeing C-17.

Canberra chose the MH-60R to replace its aging S-70B-2 Seahawk fleet in June 2011, and the final aircraft was passed from Lockheed Martin to the U.S. Navy during a ceremony at the company’s completion facility in Owego, New York, on July 27.

The seafaring ship and submarine hunter will deploy aboard Australia’s Anzac-class frigates and air warfare destroyers. RAN was the first international operator of the “Romeo” helicopter, which has since been purchased by Denmark (nine aircraft) and Saudi Arabia (10)…

Raytheon Close To Securing Next Small Diameter Bomb II Order

TUCSON, ARIZONA— (The Company Has Since Received The $40+ Million Award) Raytheon Missile Systems is one flight test away from securing its second production lot for the GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II, which buys 250 units of the network-enabled, all-weather glide bomb.

The contract is worth about $45 million and was originally due in March, U.S. Air Force budget documents show. But flight test failures in September 2015 and January that have since been corrected and reflown set back the contract award.

SDB II Program Director James Sweetman said here Aug. 30 that another flight test is expected this week at Eglin AFB, Florida, and if successful a Lot 2 contract will follow…

USAF Airworthiness Appraisal Sought For FA-50

An attack version of the Lockheed Martin-Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer aircraft could be next in line to receive an airworthiness appraisal from the U.S. Air Force’s newly created Non-DOD Military Aircraft Office (NDMA) after the Textron AirLand Scorpion.

The company is combing over the fine details of a proposed cooperative research and development agreement that it hopes to establish with NDMA at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, that would result in an independent appraisal of the FA-50 type for marketing purposes.

On Aug. 2, Wichita, Kansas-based Textron became the first company to seek an independent evaluation from the Air Force Technical Airworthiness Authority via NDMA group for its Model 530 Scorpion. Now, Lockheed could follow with the FA-50 pending final contract review and agreement…

Boeing Phantom Eye Prototype To Retire To Flight Test Museum

Two years after its ninth and final flight, Boeing’s high-altitude, long-endurance Phantom Eye UAV subscale prototype is to become an exhibit at the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB in California.

The company-funded stratospheric demonstrator was designed to stay aloft for four days while carrying 450 lb. of payload, such as surveillance sensors or communications relay gear. But it has now been loaned to the museum after 34 total flight hours, having failed to secure investment.

Edwards AFB says that on Aug. 17, personnel from the Flight Test Museum, Boeing and NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center transported the Phantom Eye in parts and pieces from its resting place inside a former Space Shuttle hangar to the museum’s restoration site…

Keeping Pace With Iran & North Korea’s Missile Threat

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Ballistic missile and weapons advances in North Korea and Iran have the West increasingly concerned about developing and deploying robust defenses to counter the threats.

the threats.jpg
In response to a joint U.S.-South Korea military exercise, North Korea fired off a solid-fuel KN-11 from a submarine Aug. 24. It flew approximately 310 mi. (500 km) downrange into the Japanese air defense identification zone. It was the second time Pyongyang’s navy has demonstrated a submarine-launched ballistic missile capability since sea trials began in December 2014, adding a new nuclear launch tool to its growing arsenal that could alter the way the U.S. and its allies develop and posture their missile shields.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency chief, Vice Adm. James Syring, says North Korea’s introduction of new weapon systems and more frequent testing is changing the game for missile defense. Since its fourth underground nuclear weapons test in January, North Korea has also launched an Earth observation satellite, fired a new solid rocket motor and demonstrated its BM-25 Musudan—a road-mobile missile Pyongyang calls Hwasong-10…

U.S.-Japan Missile Intercept Test Set For October

The U.S. and Japan will conduct an intercept test in October that “will send a message around the world” about the capabilities of the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, according to the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

The two nations are cooperatively developing the long-range, high-speed Raytheon Standard Missile-3 Block IIA hit-to-kill missile interceptor, which increases the size of the second and third-stage boosters by 55% from 13.5 in. to 21 in.

After a series of successful flight tests that did not involve targets, the Standard Missile team is gearing up for the first SM-3 Block IIA intercept test, MDA chief Vice Adm. James Syring says. Speaking at the recent Space & Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, Syring described the planned SM-3 Block IIA intercept test as “a big deal,” since the missile will eventually roll out to Aegis-class ships and the Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland.

Afghan Cayuse Warrior Force Grows To 27 Helos

The final four of 27 MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter gunships ordered for the Afghan air force have been delivered, with a shipment of one upgraded and three new aircraft to Hamid Karzai Kabul International Airport in Kabul on Aug. 25.

The delivery, via a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III from Travis AFB, California, relates to an October 2015 order for 12 new MD-530Fs plus the retrofit of previously delivered aircraft with an “enhanced mission equipment package” featuring a seven-shot M260 rocket pod and DillonAero fixed-forward sight.

Ordered via the U.S. Army’s nonstandard rotary-wing program office and produced by MD Helicopters of Mesa, Arizona, the Cayuse Warriors will be flown by Afghan pilots in support of counterinsurgency missions against the Taliban and other local terrorist organizations…

ganizations.jpg

Boeing Wins F-15 Fatigue Testing Contract

The U.S. Air Force has awarded a contract to Boeing to continue F-15 full-scale structural fatigue testing through August 2021 as the only F-15E Strike Eagle to record an air-to-air kill flies past 12,000 hr.

On Aug. 18, Boeing received a new indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a ceiling value of $253 million for fatigue test services associated with full-scale test articles FTA7 (an F-15C) and FTE10 (F-15E) “to assess the ramifications of flying F-15 aircraft beyond the original design service life,” the contract notification says. The five-year contract includes one base-year period and four options, covering the repair of test articles, post-cycling structural inspections, and limited teardown and failure analysis, as well as “partial disassembly, inspection and fractographic analysis of selected parts experiencing cracking during the course of the testing…”

Advertisements