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Archive for March, 2008

Osprey Finally Gets Multi-Year Plan

Monday, March 31st, 2008

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We just got word through the grapevine that a V-22 multi-year plan has been reached between Bell-Boeing and the government. The plan guarantees a buy of 167 Ospreys for $10.4 billion. That’s about $62 million per aircraft, which is above the unit flyaway target of $58 million, but considerably down from the $72 million or so price of recent years.

This multi-year plan has been in works for years. Sticky points were the wording of the commitment letter and the details surrounding “reopeners” — the caveats that would allow the government to renegotiate the terms in the future.

Meanwhile, word from the front is the V-22 has morphed into the VIP transport of choice due to its speed and smooth ride. (Even John McCain was ferried around in one during his recent visit.)

(Gouge — SC)

– Ward

The Sunday Paper (Late Edition)

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Enjoy what’s left of your weekend by riding along on the shuttle during launch:

(Gouge CM)

– Ward

An Insider’s View of CSAR-X

Friday, March 28th, 2008

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I got an interesting email yesterday from a combat veteran CSAR pilot. He makes some good points on the whole debate over the current CSAR-X requirements and protest, and I’d like to share them with DT readers with his permission:

(From retired Lt. Col. Charles D. Brown, former CSAR HH-53 pilot and veteran of the Vietnam evacuation and Mayaguez rescue)

The major issue in the contract comes from in the change from ‘mission’ ready to ‘flight’ ready. As a retired Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) pilot I can tell you that the seemingly insignificant difference between ‘flight ready’ and ‘mission ready’ is anything but insignificant. So, a bit of explanation. Boeing’s Chinook can be ‘flight’ ready in the 3 hours it takes to put the helicopter back together after being off loaded from a C-17. But, ‘flight ready’ simply means that it can be flown on a formal maintenance check flight to verify that all the flight controls work exactly as necessary. To get the heavy-lift, Chinook into a C-17, you have to disconnect flight controls and remove major flight components. When you put it back together, you have to have a specially qualified flight crew take the aircraft up on a functional check flight before the aircraft can be used for a mission.

This maintenance check flight is supposed to happen in daylight and in good visual flight weather. Off load the Chinook at night or in bad weather, or have something go amiss during reassembly, and you might wait a day or two to have a ‘mission ready’ aircraft.

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Iraq MOD Gets its Trucks

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

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It ain’t sexy, but this is how you build an army.

Here’s a list of the latest trucks the Iraqi army bought as part of its foreign military sales activities (from Multi-National Security Transition Command):

This Foreign Military Sales delivery included logistical support equipment such as 4 BREM tracked recovery vehicles, 47 x 2,000 liter water trailers, 66 x 5-ton cargo trucks, and 175 x 1-ton cargo trailers. This equipment is valued in excess of $11.4 million.
The delivery of the 19 x Shop Equipment Contact Maintenance Humvees, procured through the Iraqi Security Forces Fund, are valued in excess of $3.2 million. These vehicles will increase the capacity of the Iraqi army to repair vehicles and equipment.
This equipment and materiel will be issued to Iraqi Army units throughout the country as new units are generated and to replace any losses that have occurred in their efforts to secure the country.

What’s the weakest link in the Iraqi army? Combat support and logistics. These trucks will go a long way to relieving some of that pressure on coalition forces.

– Christian

Corporate Blogs

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

So where do you come down on corporate presence in the blogosphere? Let us know:

– Christian

Boeing Dives into the Blogosphere

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

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Now Boeing’s gone all “new media” on us, putting together a web log that focuses on its Tanker Deal protest.

Good on ‘em for recognizing that blogs like DT and Ares and The Dewline are a force to be reckoned with in shaping the debate and often cross-reference within the blog world. But I’ve always found it kind of pathetic when “big business” tries to blog.

I mean, isn’t the appeal of Defense Tech and our other blog friends the fact that we’re not tied to any corporate interests in the defense world? That’s what blogs are for; and the idea that Boeing — or NorGrum/EADS, for that matter — can pump out investigative insights on the subject instead of market-tested bullet points is preposterous. There won’t be any candor. There won’t be any objectivity.

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Cyber Defense — and Attack

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

With U.S. civil and military officials increasingly concerned about cyber attacks against American networks, the U.S. Air Force is planning to establish what will probably be the largest and most comprehensive military organization to defend against cyber attack. And, unlike the apparent efforts of the other U.S. military services in this field, the Air Force will conduct offensive cyber warfare.
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The massive Air Force effort will pull together existing cyber-related units and establish new ones, all under the Air Force Cyber Command — AFCYBER in milspeak — and its operating arm, the 24th Air Force. According to Major General William T. Lord, the provisional commander of AFCYBER, the command and 24th Air Force will achieve “initial operational capability” on 1 October 2008. However, many components of the command are already operational.

Two new wings are being established to work with two existing wings. The total strength of the new commands have not been established, but they will be “large,” with active, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard personnel assigned. The AFCYBER/24th Air Force headquarters are at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, on an interim basis; the permanent base for those headquarters will be decided shortly.

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More CSAR-X Delays

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

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Our friends at Aviation Week sent this story over to us for posting. My former colleague Mike Fabey has been covering this issue backwards and forwards. With all the tanker dancing going on, it’s instructive to remember Boeing’s dealing with another major headache, this time in the rotor world.

Under a Defense Department Inspector General (IG) investigation and more intense source selection scrutiny, the Air Force’s $15 billion combat, search and rescue replacement helicopter (CSAR-X) program is further delaying its planned contract award.

The IG announced its investigation about a month ago into the way the Air Force changed a key performance parameter (KPP) change for deployability (Aerospace DAILY, Feb. 25).

Late last month the Air Force notified bidders Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky that the sixth amendment to the request for proposals (RFP) — in essence, a new RFP — will be released some time in the spring, with an award to follow in October. The service explained the delay by saying it needed more time to evalute the very detailed proposals. A Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) meeting on the program is likely to take place a month or so before the downselect.

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Navy Officials: JSF Costs Under Control

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

U.S. Navy officials insist the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter won’t bust its budget, despite persistent rumors that the $300 billion acquisition program is on the cusp of a major cost overrun.

Capt. Wade Knudson, the Lightning II’s development manager, said the plane’s development costs are in line with earlier projections. Even if the first planes off the new production line cost more than expected, the long-term price tag isn’t likely to move much, he told reporters last week. That’s because the U.S. Air Force is on the books to buy 1,763 of the single engine fighters, anchoring a production line that is also due to crank out hundreds more aircraft for the Navy, Marine Corps and eight partner nations.

That isn’t just program optimism, but should be reflected in the Pentagon’s upcoming next round of official cost estimates, said Vice Adm. David Venlet, head of Naval Air Systems Command, in an interview. He rejected Capitol Hill talk that the program is on the cusp of a so-called Nunn-McCurdy breach, a cost overrun that would trigger a lengthy review and program restructuring. “I don’t expect them to probably have numbers in it that would cause a Nunn-McCurdy. I believe what they’re saying,” Venlet said.

The verdict will come out in coming weeks, when the Pentagon releases its next “selected acquisition report” data on weapons costs. Already, however, audit agencies are raising red flags.

“We believe that JSF costs will likely be much higher than reported. The estimates do not include all costs,” the Government Accountability Office said this month in a new report that called current projections “optimistic” and “not well supported”. GAO said the required total investment now approaches $1 trillion, including maintenance costs, and it urged the Pentagon to take a realistic look at just how big the coming bills will be, given the Lightning II’s “unprecedented” demands on the federal budget.

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NorGrum/EADS Fights Back

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

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The Northrop Grumman/EADS tanker team has posted a new Web site to fight back against Boeing protests. The “America’s New Tanker” site has a near daily scrape of pro-NorGrum coverage that tries to paint a picture of a done deal (which is may very well be).

Here’s the latest:

Reuters this morning, citing Air Force documents, is refuting one of Boeing’s major false statements about Northrop Grummans win of an Air Force contract to construct Americas next generation of aerial refueling tankers.

According to Reuters, Air Force documents and interviews with Northrop Grumman officials make clear that the Northrop Grumman KC-45A can refuel the V-22 Osprey operated by the Marine Corps. In its challenge to the Government Accountability Office, Boeing claims, among other things that one of the shortcomings of Northrop Grumman’s win is that it cannot refuel the V-22.

Reuters writes that Air Force documents show that Air Force officials chose Northrop Grumman in part because “Northrop Grumman’s aircraft was better suited for refueling tilt-rotor aircraft” like the V-22.

And Reuters also quotes Northrop Grumman director of business development Marc Lindsley as saying Boeing’s claim is false, and that the V-22 can be refueled by the KC-45A.

Additionally, Northrop Grumman has already built, flown and tested its refueling tanker, while Boeing has only conceptual plans; it has yet to construct even one such aircraft. Reuters reports that the Air Force assigned a higher risk to the Boeing proposal because it is so far behind Northrop Grumman in aircraft development.

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