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Archive for October, 2008

A (potentially) Disgraced Angel (Updated)

Friday, October 31st, 2008

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The Blue Angels will fly the balance of their 2008 season with five jets instead of six because of pending administrative action against one of the team’s pilots. Marine Corps Capt. Tyson Dunkelberger, the Blue Angel’s spokesman, allowed that the pilot had been removed from flying duties for an “inappropriate relationship” with a female member of the demonstration team. Dunkelberger would not, however, identify the rank or squadron billet of either party involved, citing legal reasons.

The five-plane demonstration will employ a diamond formation without the “slot” position, but Dunkelberger was quick to point out that the loss of Blue Angel No. 4 in the show did not necessarily mean that the pilot has flown in that position during this season is involved in the inappropriate relationship. The mystery will be short-lived, however, as the Blue’s are scheduled to perform a practice show today in San Antonio minus the flyer in question and his absence will be obvious to anyone in attendance holding a show program.

The Blue Angels have dealt with other personnel issues in recent years. In 2000 Blue Angel No. 2, a Marine Corps officer, was removed from the team for having another “inappropriate relationship” with the team’s female public affairs officer. And last year, Lcdr. Kevin Davis, Blue Angel No. 6, flew his F/A-18 into the ground and was killed during a show near Beaufort, South Carolina. In each of these cases a pilot who had been on the team the year prior was pulled out of a fleet squadron and returned to the Blue Angels so that the team could fly the balance of the season with a full six-jet complement. Dunkelberger stated that there weren’t enough shows left to justify that sort of effort in the current case. After the San Antonio shows this weekend, the Blue Angels will perform at the Kennedy Space Center and then close their season with two shows at their home base in Pensacola, Florida.

Updated Nov. 1: This from a discussion thread at the Blue Angel’s hometown paper, The Pensacola News Journal:

“calfan wrote: It was two officers…#4 Maj. Clint Harris and Lt. Gretchen Doan. They are both officers…they both know better. Clint flew back Sunday in his jet, minus the #4. Didn’t fly in the airshow or practice. He’s married with kids. She’s not. Bottom line is these are two adults who made a huge mistake/decision, broke a major rule, ruined their careers, humiliated their families, got kicked off the team…they will have this hanging over their heads and following them around forever. Boss did the right thing…”

The allegations in this post are unconfirmed but the tenor of it makes me think this person knows what he or she is talking about, including the use of the term “Boss” to refer to the Blue Angel’s commanding officer. And if the IDs are correct, then in fact (and in spite of Capt. Dunkelberger’s insistence to the contrary) it was the slot pilot who’s been removed, which makes things much easier in terms of working the five-plane show in that all the remaining pilots are flying in the same positions they’ve flown all year.

And making Maj. Harris fly back from his final show without the number on his jet his something right out of King Arthur’s Court or a Hollywood scriptwriter’s fantasy. (Remember the opening of the TV series “Branded” back in the day?) Who said the spirit of Naval Aviation is dead?

– Ward

DoD Gear Chief Speaks Out

Friday, October 31st, 2008

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The Air Force generally does a rotten job of managing and budgeting for space programs. That was the strongest message sent today by John Young, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, as he discussed the 2010 budget and acquisition in general during a wide-ranging discussion with reporters yesterday.

Although Young said he didnt want to single out the service, thats just what he did repeatedly during the almost two-hour session.

Based on the 2010 POM they are not performing well, Young said, who separately described the interference and gaming of the services during the budget as a cancer. It began with a discussion of the Transformational Satellite program, T-Sat. Young said there are camps in the Pentagon that have consistently wanted to club the T-Sat for more reason than its a very expensive program. The camps identity became clear a few second later when Young noted that the Air Force underfunded T-Sat in the 2009 budget.

Then Young listed a litany of space programs the Air Force had either mismanaged or underfunded. Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) is still emerging from a Nunn-McCurdy breach and apparently has not solved a software problem that has bedeviled it for more than a year. Ground terminals needed for the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) werent built in time to receive data from the satellites. And the Air Force goofed and didnt budget to ensure the Wideband Gapfiller System would continue to provide data to 27 weapon systems. Its beyond me, Young said in exasperation with the MUOS oversight, adding that the Pentagon had found money to keep the data flowing.

I asked Young if he would move the executive agent for space, currently vested in Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, to a joint or OSD perch. The executive agent oversees all military space programs. Young made clear he did not think the Air Force was the right place: I would never put it there. He indicated that Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England is being given analytic data to move the executive agent to a joint perch. One likely candidate for the job: Josh Hartman, currently director for space and intelligence capabilities in Youngs office.

In other acquisition news:

MRAP Light: Young said the Pentagon is moving ahead on just how to meet the need for well protected vehicles that can handle the rugged terrain of Afghanistan, saying the upcoming supplemental may have room for additional vehicles for Afghanistan. Young was very careful to avoid saying there is an actual program here yet, but they are clearly headed that way. One of the possibilities being discussed is grabbing the nascent Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program and getting it to Afghanistan as quickly as possible. Young was very cautious not to say that JLTV was the solution, but he did say it was being discussed as a possible part of the solution.

In a conference call with reporters this morning, the BAE Systems JLTV program lead told me that most of the subsystems on the JLTV prototype are at TRL 7 (Technology Readiness Level), the first level at which a system could be considered ready to undergo operational test and evaluation. When I told Young this, he laughed and said he bet that BAE Systems would sell their system for $1.98 a copy. Then he added, with a very big smile, that he appreciated BAEs input.

Read the rest of this exclusive story and other breaking acquisition news at DoD Buzz.

– Colin Clark

ARH Death Hits Bell Hard

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

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Our boy Bob Cox at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram alerted DT to his story on the downstream effects of the ARH kill.

Bell Helicopter cuts 500 jobs, mostly in Fort Worth

Faced with the loss of a big defense contract and an impatient corporate parent with a sagging stock price, Bell Helicopter announced Wednesday that it was cutting 500 jobs, mostly from its Fort Worth operations.

The job cuts, which began Tuesday, follow in the wake of the Pentagons Oct. 16 decision to cancel the Armys $5 billion-plus contract with Bell to develop the ARH-70A Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter.

All but about 30 of the layoffs will come from personnel at Bells Fort Worth-area facilities, with the rest from the ranks of its Amarillo work force.

Bell spokesman Joseph LaMarca Jr. said senior Bell executives had been evaluating the companys personnel requirements since the ARH cancellation and concluded that more cuts were needed beyond the 280 people directly assigned to the program.

“It allows us to shape our organization in such a way as to make it a more competitive, very streamlined, lean organization,” LaMarca said.

The layoffs and terminations were being made at all levels, including 40 out of about 200 upper-management positions, which LaMarca described as vice presidents and directors.

Significant numbers of engineers, marketing and other white-collar personnel were included in the cuts, but LaMarca said only about 20 manufacturing workers.

Several dozen managers were notified Tuesday that they were being dismissed, and the rest of those laid off were told Wednesday.

The laid-off Bell employees will receive 60 days of pay and benefits in accordance with federal law, severance pay and outplacement services.

(more…)

The Enemy Among Us

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

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In the past few months, organization after organization and expert after expert have come out and warned of the imminent threat posed by cyber attacks. There can be little doubt left about the increasing threat of cyber attacks on businesses, government and critical infrastructure. At this point cyber attacks pose an unprecedented threat to the computer systems and networks that have become so integral to virtually every aspect of our live. The top two questions that are on many peoples’ minds are — where are these attacks coming from and how are these attacks done? Well, to answer these two questions we must first examine one of the most common types of attack and the components that make up the cyber weapon that is used in the attack.

Zombies

A Zombie refers to any computer that has been compromised and has malicious code installed that puts it under the control of hackers without the knowledge of the computer owner. Zombies are widely used as the weapon of choice when launching DoS attacks.

INTEL: Research has indicated that an improperly protected computer connected to the internet is compromised and turned into a zombie in about one minute.

BotNets

Criminal elements and rogue nation states have created more active zombie networks in the last month than ever before. At any given moment there are approximately 1,000 active botnets. In total, experts estimate that there are nearly 300,000 botnets in place today. The largest botnet is thought to control between 150 and 180 million computers and is operated by the Russian Business Network (RBN). Detecting and disrupting botnets is a particularly difficult challenge. An already bad situation is getting worse!

A study using Scenario-Based Intelligence Analysis (SBIA), a strategic threat modeling methodology by Technolytics, determined that we can expect to see hackers attempting to inject malware into cell phones to turn them into remote-controlled bots as well. These Cellbots can then be used much in the same way as computers. This includes their use in launching distributed denial-of-service attacks that can cripple cell phone networks in addition to computer networks and systems that they target.

INTEL: Tools are already available for crafting exploits for the multiple smart phones.

(more…)

Army Awards JLTV Contracts

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

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The Army announced yesterday that it had awarded contracts worth $166 million to three industry teams to develop the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, also variously known as the Humvee replacement, although this vehicle will be much more than the ubiquitous Humvee. The winners are Lockheed Martin; General Tactical Vehicles (a joint venture between General Dynamics Land Systems and AM General, manufacturer of the Humvee); and BAE Systems.

The contracts are for the technology development phase of the protracted DOD production process, expected to take 27 months, when each team will produce at least seven prototypes. The idea is to build a family of JLTVs sharing common parts but available in different configurations such as a six seat infantry carrier, a four seat recon, command and control, heavy weapons carrier and ambulance. Once the prototypes are tested, the Army will hold yet another competition to down select one or more winners for the System Development and Demonstration phase. Full scale production is expected in 2013.

The Army and Marines have not finalized the total number of JLTVs they ultimately want to buy, but an Army press release said the request for proposals included a projected production quantity of 60,000 over eight years. The ultimate production number will almost certainly be much higher. Former Army Vice Chief Gen. Richard Cody, in an appearance before a House appropriations subcommittee last year, said the Army intends for the JLTV to replace 130,000 of the services Humvees. Australia decided this week to join the JLTV program and might buy up to 4,200 vehicles.

The joint Army-Marine Corps JLTV will strike a balance between performance, payload and protection, said Col. John Myers, Project Manager with the Armys Joint Combat Support Services, in the Army press release. Unlike the Humvee, which was originally designed as a rear area and garrison vehicle and was converted into a passable fighting vehicle by slapping armor and weapons onto it, the JLTV will be designed from the ground up as a fighting vehicle incorporating lessons learned from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(more…)

So Where’s all that DoD Money Gonna Go?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Butter Not Guns for the Next Four Years?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

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The Wall Street Journal had an interesting OpEd yesterday sort of dove tailing with Colin’s story from Friday that broke the news of Democratic party Brahman Barney Frank’s call for a 25 percent cut in defense spending.

Now, Frank is not a DoD budget decisionmaker, but his views tend to jibe closely with the liberal leadership of the House and even some in the Senate.

The Journal analyzed what Obama and his supporters have said about what they’d do with defense budgets, so it’s worth a close read for a worst case scenario.

We’ve been fighting two wars, straining people and equipment. Weapons have generally become more complex and expensive. President Clinton’s “procurement holiday” punted the modernization problems to the present. And even after the Bush buildup, defense spending amounts to just 4% of gross domestic product. By contrast, at the nadir of Cold War defense spending under Jimmy Carter, the figure was 4.7%.

All this should argue for at least a modest recapitalization effort by an Obama administration, assuming it really believes a strong military is “necessary to sustain peace.” A study by the Heritage Foundation makes the case that defense spending should rise to close to $800 billion over the next four years in order to stick to the 4% GDP benchmark. That’s unrealistic in light of the financial crisis. But holding the line at current levels is doable — and necessary.

But what if a President Obama doesn’t actually believe in the importance of a strong military to keep the peace? Or has an attenuated idea of what qualifies as a “strong” military? Or considers military strength a luxury at a moment of financial crisis? Or thinks now is the moment to smash the Pentagon piggy bank to fund a second Great Society?

Does anyone really know where Mr. Obama’s instincts lie? During the third debate, he cited former Marine Gen. James Jones as a member of his wise man’s circle — which was reassuring but odd, given that the general made a point of appearing at a McCain campaign event simply to distance himself from the Democratic candidate.

The Obama campaign has also produced a lengthy defense blueprint on its Web site. It reads more like a social manifesto, promising to “improve transition services,” “make mental health a priority,” and end “don’t-ask, don’t-tell.” All very well, except the document is notably vague on naming the kinds of weapons systems Mr. Obama would actually support.

And so the question remains: If elected, which Obama do we get? The nuanced centrist or the man from Ben and Jerry’s?

From the writing I’m seeing on the wall, we can basically forget end-strength increases. There’s no political capital in increasing the size of the military, but there’s plenty of bacon in hardware.

(more…)

The Blood Stopper System

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Some of you wondered what this Integrated Tourniquet System Blackhawk designed was all about. So in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve posted their video demo on how it works.

Now, some of you wondered about the construction of the ITS into the garments. Basically, the Nylon strap that makes up the bulk of the tourniquet is pretected behind a light, soft mesh retention pouch that keeps the strap from rubbing up against the wearer’s skin. This also helps keep toes and fingers from catching on the ITS straps as the operator dons the garments.

Also, keep an eye on the HPFU entry. I need to remformat some of the promotional pics that I have from my trip to Blackhawk and I’ll post them once they’re done.

– Christian

Raytheon to Launch UAV from Submarine

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

This article first appeared at AviationWeek​.com.

Raytheon plans to launch a small unmanned air vehicle from a submerged U.S. Navy submarine early next year to demonstrate its concept for extending the boat’s sensor range in littoral operations.

Last month the company demonstrated its UAV launch concept under Phase 1 of the Submarine Over the Horizon Organic Capabilities (Sothoc) program funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Submarine Force.

The concept uses a submarine launch vehicle (SLV) containing the electrically powered UAV and stored on board as an all-up round. Ejected from the submerged submarine’s trash disposal unit, the SLV is weighted to descend to a safe distance from the boat, then shed the weight and inflate a float collar.

The collar is pulsed to control the rate of ascent. As it approaches the surface, the SLV deploys a water drogue to provide stabilization and a vane to align it into the wind. The tube then pivots to a 35-degree angle and ejects the UAV.

“The SLV is a method of getting a UAS to the surface dry, then transitioning it to the air,” says Jeffrey Zerbe, Raytheon’s Sothoc program director.

The deployment concept was demonstrated in September at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center’s shallow water test range at Narragansett Bay, R.I., where two SLVs were deployed over the side of a surface ship.

“The vehicles descended to 80 feet reverted to positive buoyancy, floated to the surface, stabilized in variable sea states, aligned into the wind, and then launched an inert representative UAS at precise orientation and velocity,” according to Raytheon.

In early November, Zerbe says, the company plans to conduct a second “over-the-side” demonstration from a ship off Point Mugu, Calif. This time the SLV will deploy an actual UAV, which will then conduct a full maritime interdiction mission profile.

This will be followed early next year by a launch from a submerged submarine, probably a Los Angeles-class boat off Hawaii, under Phase 2 of the program, says Zerbe. Raytheon has already demonstrated integration of its multi-vehicle control software into the submarine’s BYG-1 combat system, he says.

Read the rest of this story, see how LMCo is pushing an LCS for allies, read why our brothers Down Under want lighter tactical vehicles and discuss whether AFRICOM is a good idea from our friends at Aviation Week exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

UPDATED: SEALs Wearing New High-Speed Fighting Threads

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

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With extended deployments to tough combat zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, the Marine Corps — and more recently the Army — (and the Navy and Air Force, though those are not as “combat” driven as the others) have revamped their uniforms used in everyday operations.

The rugged terrain, urban operations, weather extremes and austere conditions of current combat zones have prompted uniform designers to take a much closer look at other industries to find user-friendly options, materials and design innovations for their forces. Love it or hate it, the camouflage of the Army’s ACU might be off track, but it would be hard to argue that the uniform isn’t packed with useful features that help a Soldier get at stuff he needs to do his job. Sure, there have been some durability issues with the stitching, but when’s the last time the Army went as far as to put gusseted crotches in their BDUs?

Well, there’s also another market for this technology that’s bubbling up from the same folks who helped put more modern gear in the hands of specialized forces like SEALs, SF troops, Delta guys and Recon Marines — among others. As the regular forces adopt shoulder pockets and chest rigs, for example, the spec ops community is pushing the envelope even further with new designs that will gradually trickle down to the regular Joes as the technology becomes more available.

One of the products I was introduced to at Blackhawk last week was their High Performance Fighting Uniform, or HPFU. They’re pretty proud of this new product and it basically takes all the best whistles and bells, pockets and pouches, low-drag designs and modern materials available in the industry and packs them into a pretty innovative set of duds. Gusseted crotch, dual cargo pockets, articulated knees, a high-backed waist, padding pockets — and that’s just the pants. The HPFU also has a just-as-feature-packed jacket, and comes with a combat shirt that combines an FR-material in the chest and functional sleeves like the jacket. And there’s even a nifty vest that can go over the combat shirt so it looks like you’ve got a full-on cammie jacket on when you go to the chow hall after a patrol — it’s Blackhawk’s way of keeping gunny, first sergeant or master chief off your back.

But the high tech is more than skin deep.

Embedded within the uniform is Blackhawk’s proprietary “Integrated Tourniquet System” — a series of blood stanching bands that can lock off arterial bleeding in the arms, legs and ankles. It’s a bit creepy, to be sure, but Blackhawk’s clearly trying to put hardware into their software to save lives.


Pictures of the Blackhawk HPFU
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Company officials say the SEALs, with whom Blackhawk shares a close relationship, are wearing about 1,100 of the over $500 ensembles in combat right now. It’s unclear what their feedback has been, but I’ll throw in my $.02.

First, I pressed Blackhawk designers about the incorporation of fire resistant materials — or lack thereof — into the HPFU. Though their promotional materials state the uniform is made from “no-drip, no-melt” fibers –the arms and legs of the uniform are 70% cotton, 30% Nylon which they claim are woven in such a way as to make them flame resistant — company officials were at pains to say whether their pricey HPFU was made with flame resistance in mind. Ironically, they touted the torso of the combat shirt’s FR qualities, but that’s going to be under body armor which incorporates its own flame and flash resistance.

(more…)