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Archive for July, 2009

High Speed Gear in The ‘Stan (the list)

Friday, July 31st, 2009

AWG-logo.jpg

Our friend from Soldier Systems dropped me a line to give us a head’s up on his latest post on the Asymmetric Warfare Group’s equipping initiative to select troops in Afghanistan. He asked that we cross post it here for our readers to review.

Basically, the way I understand it, the AWG has been looking at off-the-shelf items primarily from the mountaineering and custom tactical community to lighten the load of the average Joe in combat environments like Afghanistan. Everything from boots to buckles, the AWG’s list is impressive.

My colleague Matt Cox at Army Times has written about some of this, but I’m not sure he had the space to include all of the items…but in this Internet age, we can.

There have been numerous questions floating about the equipment chosen for the Armys Asymmetric Warfare Group fielding of a battalions worth of lightweight COTS equipment to the 4th ID for their current deployment to Afghanistan. In an effort to dispel any rumors, we got a list of the equipment issued but have removed sensitive materials including any references to armor.

Smartwool
Mens Sport NTS Crew T-Shirt
Mens Sport NTS Bottom
Mens Microweight NTS Crew Long Sleeved T-Shirt
Mens Microweight NTS Long Underwear Drawers
Mens Microweight NTS Tee
Mens Microweight Boxer
Socks PhD Outdoor Light Crew
Socks PhD Outdoor Medium Crew

Arcteryx
Knee Caps (Green/Grey)

Merrell
Mens Chameleon EVO Mid Gore Tex
Womens Chameleon ARC Mid Gore Tex

Asolo
Mens Fugitive GTX
Womens Stynger GTX

Suunto
M-3 DL Handheld Compass
Wrist Watch GPS X10

Garmin
ETREX Vista HCX

Petzl
Headlamp TACTIKKA XP

Surefire
Weapon Light M600C (kit)

Magpul
Magazine (PMAG)

Aimpoint
Optic Micro T1 w/ Larue mount

Mountain Hardwear
Phantom 45 Sleeping bag

Nemo

GoGo Shelter, Olive Drab

Mystery Ranch
3 Day Assault Packs w/ Bolsters

Read the rest of the list HERE…

– Soldier Systems

US Air National Guard Struggles With Fighter Gap

Friday, July 31st, 2009

This article first appeared in AviationWeek​.com.

“All options are on the table” for U.S. Air Guard officials struggling to fill a gap in the number of fighters available for units in the near term to fly missions protecting the homeland, says Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard (ANG).

“I am basically platform agnostic,” Wyatt says. “I don’t care.“

This could include stealth aircraft — more F-22s or earlier fielding of F-35s — or the purchase of older, fourth-generation aircraft such as F-16s or F-15s. Technologies needed for the mission include an active, electronically scanned array radar (which can be used to detect small and stealthy air threats including cruise missiles), infrared search and track systems and beyond-line-of-sight communications, Wyatt told reporters during a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington this morning.

Congress appears amenable to the president’s request to close Lockheed Martin’s F-22 production line in fiscal 2010, capping the buy at 187 of the twin-engine fighter. Most observers expect the testing and delivery schedule for the single-engine F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to experience slips, possibly widening the gap for receipt of the new aircraft. F-35s aren’t due to the Guard until the middle of the next decade, he says.

Many of the 250 fighters being retired early in FY 10 are F-16s assigned to the Guard, and many of them are apportioned to the air sovereignty alert (ASA) mission. Some of those units will lack a flying mission until the F-35 is introduced into the fleet.

The U.S. Air Force has historically professed a preference to buy only fifth-generation fighters (F-22 or F-35), closing the door to additional procurements of the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Boeing F-15.

While Wyatt says he’s open to all options, he says “If you can get stealth [in the F-22 or F-35] at the same price, why not?” The general is not in favor of buying a particular aircraft and dedicating it to the ASA mission; he says the Guard should operate the same platforms as active duty units in order to handle the same missions as their active duty counterparts. Still, however, he says the Air Force is not “there yet” in terms of considering a buy of fourth-generation fighters to fill the gap.

Wyatt says he was incorrectly characterized as an advocate of additional F-22s after sending a June 19 letter in response to an inquiry on the issue from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). F-22s are assembled in Marietta, Ga.

“While a variety of solutions abound, I believe the nature of the current and future asymmetric threat to our nation, particularly from seaborne cruise missiles, requires a fighter platform with the requisite speed and detection to address them,” Wyatt wrote in his letter. “The F-22’s unique capability in this arena enables it to handle a full spectrum of threats that the ANG’s current legacy systems are not capable of addressing.”

Read the rest of this story, jump into the controversy over Col. Reese’s memo to declare victory and bail, see the new armed Lakotas and check out the Jordanian Falcons from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

VH-71…You Decide

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

– Christian

VH-71 Conundrum

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

I’m not sure how I feel about this story, but I think it’s worth discussing here.

So the White House launched a program to replace its ageing fleet of VH-3D Marine One helicopters with a Lockheed/Augusta version several years ago. All the whistles and bells were included on the newer version, including all that expensive nuclear hardening technology.

But soon requirements increased and costs ballooned out of control until finally DefSec Gates had enough. With a boss who let him have what he wanted, Gates decided to cancel the new helicopter after five had been pretty much built and four more were near completion.

According to HAC-D chairman John Murtha, the Secret Service was to blame for the requirements creep and cost increases. They loaded on all kinds of things the VH-71 had to be able to do and tied program engineers in knots. His logic is, fine, let’s have a new program, but let’s keep the ones we have so we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

But the White House is threatening to veto the defense bill over a House initiative to keep the nine in the pipeline going. According to my friend Jen DiMascio at Politico…

If the final bill were to include funds that continue the existing VH-71 program or would prejudge the plan to re-compete the presidential helicopter program, the presidents senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill, the White House said in a Statement of Administration Policy.

But looking ahead to a House debate Thursday over the defense spending bill, supporters of the VH-71 are parsing the presidents veto threat, hoping to find wiggle room to keep the program aloft with $400 million the cost to get five partially completed birds in the air, supporters say.

We have five that are close to 70 percent complete and four more that are less developed. You have at least nine of these that should be completed, said Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), who paints his position in economic terms.

More than $3.2 billion has already been spent on the VH-71. If it were eliminated, up to $4 billion would be completely wasted, Hinchey said. In contrast, he said, starting a new program could cost $14 billion to $22 billion. The whole thing is just so illogical.

Now, that makes sense to me. We’ve already paid for some pretty high speed executive helos, so why not use them, right? But I see Gates’ point too. If you’re going to recompete the program, doesn’t it naturally prejudice the competition if you already have fielded planes from one of the manufacturers. And what does it do for the logistics and maintenance pipeline to have more than one helo servicing the Marine One mission? It becomes a pretty expensive pain in the butt.

So I’m open to consider either option and would like to hear where you all come down on this. Clearly it’s time to replace the Marine One fleet and I’m sick of hearing “service life extension program” whispering through the halls. Those ALWAYS come out more expensive than they’re billed and we need to roger up and build a new plane for a critical mission.

– Christian

Thurs — Fire for Effect

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Awesome: Angelina Jolie and Brad Cooper jolt morale at WRAMC (but mostly Angelina Jolie)
Mike Yon gets dirty with 2Rifles, British Light Infantry (absolute must read)
How we’ll win in Afghanistan
“Six launch failures is not career enhancing.…“
Stick a fork in the ASDS, it’s done


One of the towering (and oddly chilling) scenes in movie history: Col Kilgore’s Ride of the Valkeries

Aurora Studies Future Fuel-Saving Options

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

Aurora Flight Sciences is developing technology demonstration plans for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) with the target of identifying ways to reduce air mobility fleet fuel usage 90 percent by 2030–2035.

The study is being conducted under the Revolutionary Configurations for Energy Efficiency (RCEE) program, which is being funded with Recovery Act stimulus money. In June, Boeing and Lockheed Martin were awarded RCEE contracts to study aft-body drag reduction.

Aurora says its study begins with an analysis of airlift and tanker aircraft “to determine the best fleet composition, aircraft performance attributes and technology requirements to meet the aggressive goals.“

Technologies will be evaluated in aerodynamics, structures, propulsion, subsystems and operations. Downselected technologies will be modeled with increasing fidelity, with the goal of drawing up plans to guide AFRL research.

Aurora says it is evaluating multiple aircraft configurations and propulsion-airframe integration alternatives, including distributed multi-engine propulsion systems. The company is part of an MIT-led team studying similar configurations for NASA, for 2030–2035-timeframe commercial transports.

Be sure to check out the newest Russian attack sub, a test of the Israeli Barak and some hot vids from US attack helos in Afghanistan from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

A SUPER FAST, (SUPER LOUD) MINISUB

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

superfast-sub.jpg

The Day (New London, CT) on Monday had an intriguing article about DARPA’s Underwater Express. This program aims to prove engineering approaches for a manned minisub able to carry high value cargoes submerged at 100 knots — a “super-fast submerged transport,” or SST. Underwater Express was announced with a request for proposals in 2005. The RFP specified supercavitation, a form of enhanced submerged propulsion exploiting a self-made vacuum cavity or gas envelope between hull and ocean to reduce flow resistance by “60 — 70%.” Supercavitation, such as used in the Soviet-Russian Shkval rocket torpedo, is extremely noisy. Even allowing for a breakthrough in how the gas cavity is created and maintained, the classic power-versus-speed formula makes it highly likely that only a rocket engine could achieve the required 100-knot speed for the SST. Yet the RFP mentioned nothing about silencing the technology demonstrator minisub.

After a competition, General Dynamics Electric Boat was awarded a contract which by completion is expected to total $38 million. The deliverable will be a quarter-scale unmanned version of its winning design, to be demonstrated in the waters off New England in spring 2010. The demo is to include runs at up to 100 knots for 10 minutes, with maneuvers to show that the SST is safe at such speeds. GDEB says they’ve solved the challenges of maintaining a stable gas envelope while accurately controlling the test vessel’s depth, course, angle of attack, and speed. Details are top secret.

I’d been wondering what good there might be to a manned minisub that, unlike a rocket torpedo, has to be reusable and survivable — but which would, whenever moving fast, make a huge passive sonar signature, broadcasting its presence to any enemies for miles around. Besides, what missions would it be used for that couldn’t be done by a HALO insertion and Osprey extraction, or for that matter by a slow moving battery-powered mini like some Improved ASDS? When The Day’s article came out, I decided to ask a source. The rest of this is my interpretation of the answers I got, sprinkled with public info and my own conjectures and commentary.

(more…)

Helmet Pads In the News

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Russian-SVR.jpg

The GAO just issued a brief report looking at the services’ efforts to mitigate blunt impact trauma by replacing the old suspension system in combat helmets with one that uses padding attached directly to the interior of the helmet.

The report was issued to members of the congressional armed services and appropriations committees to bring their staffs up to speed on how these padding systems came about. It doesn’t look at the testing of the systems or anything like that and, to be perfectly honest, it’s pretty “no duh” except for a couple things.

First, the report indicates the Army and Marine Corps have been pushing industry to develop more advanced pads that can absorb nearly a quarter more impact than the ones in current helmets. So far industry hasn’t been able to meet the requirement.

Also, the services are examining technologies used by NATO countries, including entire padded liners, methods used by high impact sports and even advanced concepts like aqueous liners (a CamelBak on your head?)…I’m partial to the Russian Special Forces helmet myself and I wonder if some of our blacker SOF units are using a similar version (I remember seeing pictures of SF operators wearing modified flight helmets during the overland push into northern Iraq in 2003)…

Take a look at the entire report for some good background on how these padding systems came about and make sure to read page five, which discusses new techs being looked at.
GAO Helmet Pad Report

– Christian

UFO IN OUR BAFFLES, COMRADE CAPTAIN!

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

underwater-UFO.jpg

RussiaToday​.com reported last week that the Russian Navy has released records of its warships and subs that — officially speaking — had close encounters with UFOs. It seems that alien visitors from advanced civilizations really like the water! Not surprisingly, one hotbed of this activity was near the Bermuda Triangle. Retired submariner RADM Yury Beketov described unexplainable instrument malfunctions and interference on a sub he commanded, and underwater objects detected that moved at speeds of 230 knots. The declassified records, which go back to the days of the USSR, also detail an incident during a nuclear sub’s “combat mission” in the Pacific Ocean. It was chased by six unknown underwater objects (UUOs, instead of UFOs?) which it could not elude. The captain ordered his submarine to surface. The objects continued to follow, then were seen to take off into the air and departed the scene.

I’m a fan of the idea of alien civilizations and flying saucers; scientific arguments make it seem likely that intelligent life evolved elsewhere in the universe — even the Vatican says it could all be part of God’s Plan. But in any specific such situation, it pays to begin as a skeptic.

One explanation for the Bermuda Triangle’s infamous effects is recurring gas seeps, perhaps solidified methane deposits rising suddenly up from the ocean floor as gas, breaking into highly energetic clouds of bubbles, and reducing ocean buoyancy near the surface or creating freak local weather disruptions. This could account for the mysterious losses of surface ships and aircraft over the years, and it would also account for what RADM Beketov describes. Any undersea ecounter at 230 knots is by definition a very fleeting, high-bearing-rate contact. Faced with a rising methane or natural gas bubble cloud, a sub’s passive and active sonars could very well seem to go haywire, yet would actually be giving real data on the behavior of the rapidly rising cloud. There wouldn’t be much time to interpret what was happening before the bubbles reached the surface and dissipated.

(more…)

Army Modernization Debate Begins

Monday, July 27th, 2009

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I attended the same interview at the Pentagon with Colin and Greg Grant where MGen. Terry met with a select group of reporters. It’s too bad he didn’t say much, but I’ll go ahead and give Colin some props for spinning out a story on it and getting the debate started.

The incoming commander of the famous 10th Mountain Division, Maj. Gen. James Terry, sat down with defense reporters today to talk about the future of Army modernization. Terry, a very personable commander with a refreshingly candid approach, wouldnt offer specific answers about what the Armys Brigade Combat Team Modernization would look like. After all, its one of the biggest acquisition decisions the service will make for years and its not unreasonable for him to go slow. But there is a larger issue that a major general dares not address in public are the Pentagon and Army moving in the right direction when it comes to redesigning the force? The answer we got from a respected analyst is a resounding No!

Terry knows a great deal about the past and future of Army modernization from his job as director of TRADOCs Future Force Integration Directorate, known fondly as FFID. But he is also an officer in the chain of command and the Army is in the midst of deciding just what the successor to FCS will be, so he couldnt say much.

Terry did say that the Army is probably going to do more of taking Operational Needs Statements from commanders in the field and turning them into programs of record, those wonderful budgeting tools that allow the service to build a program into its regular annual funding plan. At the end of the session, I asked him if the Army was moving from a force bent on fundamental change which the service declared was the case with the development of FCS to a more incremental approach. Terry said he thought the service was probably headed to something much closer to a step by step approach.

Eager to get some perspective on whether the service is generally headed in the right direction since the demise of the Manned ground Vehicle program, I called one of the best outside analysts who follows the Army, Dan Goure of the Lexington Institute. Goure was adamant. The Army has, under enormous pressure from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, begun to turn into an institution planning for the last war one of the greatest sins of which a military can be accused.

The Armys current course almost guarantees surprise, technical and operational surprise in our next conflict because the service is rebuilding to cope with the wars it has most recently fought Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates has declared repeatedly that he is acting to rebalance the US military in light of the lessons he has learned since coming to the Pentagon.

Why would you think you are going to get yourself in the same situation in five years” Goure asked. On top of that, Army officials have said repeatedly they are planning for uncertainty and for the long war. The Army uses the term uncertainty thats not a plan for the future, he said. Instead that leads the service, Goure opined, to operating without a greater vision, a greater purpose than the immediate fight. And that takes us back to his initial premise, that the current course of the Army will place the country in peril because it will be vulnerable to an enemy able to target our technology that has been developed with the current fight in mind. You dont have a core purpose for the Army, whether it might be developing the capability to read and react to an enemy attack, mobilize quickly and stop the enemy in its tracks almost anywhere in the world, pacify the Indians or stop the Soviets at the Fulda Gap.

Read the rest of this story and join the discussion over at DoD Buzz.

– Colin Clark