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From the monthly archives:

February 2011

If you can forgive the cheesy soundtrack, watch this additional footage of the history-making first flight of the Navy’s X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle demonstrator. Enjoy.

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Look at the this! The long troubled USS San Antonio may be at the cusp of something unprecedented in its history; working properly!

According to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper the ship has turned a corner and for the first time ever, maintenance crews are finding no major flaws with the vessel:

Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., who heads U.S. Fleet Forces, the command responsible for maintaining the Navy’s readiness, acknowledged in a recent interview that the Navy has made serious mistakes.

“Everybody flunked,” he said. “We were slow to put it all together and take the coherent set of actions that needed to be taken to get the ship squared away, so there’s been this long period of discovery.”

But Harvey also said the San Antonio has turned an important corner: For the first time, the Navy is no longer uncovering new, serious flaws, and the list of repairs is getting shorter.

Work is expected to wrap up by April, at which time the crew has been told to expect rigorous sea tests.

“We’ve reached bottom,” Harvey said. “We now know with a high degree of confidence what truly was the extent of the issues.

“I think we’ve got San Antonio figured out.”

Here’s hoping the admiral doesn’t eat those words. Remember, as the lead ship in her class, the San Antonio has had major problems throughout her five year service career.

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By Kevin Coleman — Defense Tech Cyberwarfare Correspondent

The use of social networking sites by groups opposing the rule of current government in Iran, Egypt and other countries have caught the attention of intelligence agencies around the world. The capabilities of social networking sites have three core attributes – a weapon, a threat and a target. Now let’s look at each of the three.

Weapon

Based on the successes social networking sites have had in bringing an organized movement to the forefront, groups around the world are well aware that this is a critical information dissemination capability. Social networking has emerged as the C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) for activists and protesters.

Threat

On the other side of the use of social networking sites, it is considered a significant threat. The openly available infrastructure has greatly increased the effectiveness of these groups. The value was clearly demonstrated on the world stage as the protesters got their message out and were able to pull together near real-time media campaigns that influenced viewers and gained them support.

Target

Social media sites that are used as C4ISR for these groups make them a primary target for their opposition. Attacking an opponent’s C4ISR is a common military practice that has been employed for decades. Thus, disrupting your adversaries’ ability to communicate with and coordinate their assets creates a strategic advantage and the upper hand in a modern conflict.

As social media continues to grow by leaps and bounds you can be sure its value to protesters, activists and even terrorists will grow as well. As the value grows, so will the plans to exploit the sites for intelligence and the attack strategies that will disrupt the ability for it to be used by these groups as their C4ISR.

 

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Check out China Defense Blog’s interesting analysis of the PLAN’s evacuation of thousands of Chinese nationals from Libya over the last week. They take a look at the argument that the deployment of a 054A class Frigate to assist in the evacuation was China’s way of saying don’t mess with our citizens because we can now project power around the globe and ask if it really was gunboat diplomacy, as some have suggested.

It’s definitely worth a read on a Sunday afternoon:

China’s ongoing evacuation of its citizens from a chaotic Libya is starting to draw close scrutiny from pundits, due to the PLAN’s use of a 054A class Frigate (Xuzhou, FFG-530) amongst other civilian means of evacuation. Unsurprisingly, we can leave it to some media outlets to exaggerate this action into nothing less than old school imperialist “gunboat diplomacy”.

It goes on to say:

Instead of “praising” China’s “new-found assertiveness”, perhaps the authors should have asked why was the PLAN able to sail into Libya with impunity? And why neither the rebels nor the Libyan government questioned whether China has ulterior motives other than ferrying its citizens away from the cross-fire? The correct answer is NOT China’s determined “show of force” or “power projection”, but its record of restrained and infrequent use of force, coupled with its consistent policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

It’s pretty interesting, what do you think?

Click here for the rest of the article.

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A new chapter in the history of U.S. Air Force fighters began yesterday when the service’s fist production model F-35 Joint Strike Fighter took to the skies at Lockheed’s Fort Worth, TX., facility for the very first time.

Yes, the program’s had its troubles and the Marines’ B-model is nowhere near ready for production but this marks the beginning of the program becoming an operational reality. This flight paves the way for Air Force instructor pilots to start flying the jets at Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida starting this May. This means, believe or not, we’re finally going to see operational F-35s. Still, it’s gonna be a while. The IOC date for the Air Force remains 2016.

From a Lockheed announcement of the flight:

The first production model of the Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] F-35 Lightning II made its inaugural flight today in preparation for delivery to the U.S. Air Force this spring. The jet will head to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to support developmental testing shortly after the Air Force takes delivery.

“The aircraft was rock-solid from takeoff to landing, and successfully completed all the tests we put it through during the flight,” said Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Bill Gigliotti. “The Air Force is getting a great jet that represents a huge leap in capability, and we’re looking forward to getting it into the hands of the service pilots in just a few more weeks.”

During the flight, the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A variant, known as AF-6, underwent basic flight maneuvering and engine tests. Test Pilot Gigliotti took off from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base at 3:05 p.m. CST and landed at 4:05 p.m. The jet will continue flight tests in Fort Worth for about a month before it is accepted by the Air Force.

 

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Well, it looks like the Ruskies are going to persevere with their plans to modernize their military. Remember, a little while ago there was some doubt as to whether Russia would really be able to pursue an aggressive modernization effort.

According to AFP, Russian defense officials just unveiled a ten year, $640 billion spending plan. Yup, in ten years, they’ll spend a little more than we do in one. So there’s no huge cause for concern about the Russian military rising up to take on the U.S. one-on-one.

The real issue here is whether this investment cash will fund advanced weapons that get sold to a number of other nations that aren’t so friendly to the U.S.  Still, only about $64 billion will be dedicated to developing new weapons in the period. So, don’t worry too much.

Apparently, the Russian military will be getting 600 new airplanes, 1000 new choppers (100 choppers this year, alone).

The Russian navy, in particular, is set to get a ton of new goodies including eight new nuclear ballistic missile boats:

The Navy should receive about 100 new vessels, including 35 corvettes, 15 frigates and 20 submarines. Of the submarines, eight should be of the nuclear Borei class, carrying Bulava multiwarhead naval intercontinental ballistic missiles that the ministry plans to commission later this year after additional tests.

The ministry will fund the development of a new liquid-fuel heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, to replace aging RS-18 Stilleto (SS-19 NATO codename) and RS-20 Satan (SS-18 NATO codename), Popovkin said. Such missiles can carry up to 10 warheads, he said, while solid fuel missiles, such as Topol, can carry maximum three warheads.

In addition to this, Russia’s going to put 10 S-500 surface-to-air missile systems in service by 2014 and will buy another 56 S-400 SAMs. Let’s hope these missile remain too expensive for most nations to buy them.

The Russians will also buy “small batches of drones, sniper guns and French-made Felin infantry combat suits.”

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While some may wonder why Boeing with its NewGen Tanker offering based off a smaller, older 767 design beat out EADS Airbus A330-based KC-45 to win the KC-X contract yesterday, it’s likely a matter of fuel efficiency and construction costs associated with housing the new jets.

From DoDBuzz:

The difference between the two bids may have come down the difference in fuel consumption, speculated Loren Thompson, defense consultant and analyst at the Lexington Institute. “The Airbus plane burns over one ton more of fuel per flight hour than the Boeing plane. Multiply that by 40 years and that’s a lot of money,” Thompson said. Boeing has argued for some time that its fuel consumption rate would save taxpayers “tens of billions” of dollars over the life of the program.

There’s also the question of military construction. Remember, both planes was also evaluated by how much cash the Air Force would have to spend to upgrade infrastructure at bases that currently house KC-135s to accommodate the larger Boeing and EADS jets. While the 767 is big, the A330 is a lot bigger. This might mean that modifications to things like ramps and hangars may cost more to accommodate the EADS jet. We won’t know for sure on this until the Pentagon tells us.

Another factor may be the number of tails the Air Force can deploy to crowded bases around the world. Naturally, you can fit more of the smaller 767s on a ramp than the A330. Again, we’ll see if this played a role in the decision to go with the Boeing plane.

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