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Anti-Missile Effort Edges Forward

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010


This story first appeared in Aerospace Daily’s Defense Technology International and is written by Michael A. Taverna.

NATO members appear ready to approve deployment of a territorial ballistic missile defense (BMD) network in Europe, although the scope of the European contribution is uncertain.

At a missile defense conference here last week, experts from both sides of the Atlantic agreed that the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) adopted by the Obama administration facilitates a change in the NATO view. (3AF, the French aeronautics and astronautics society, organized the event.) The alliance has studied the feasibility of transforming its Active Layered Theater BMD (ALTBMD) into a system capable of defending European territory, but has so far not embraced the concept of territorial BMD.

The PAA strategy envisions deploying sea-based SM-3 Block 1A interceptors and AN/TYP-2 X-band radars capable of meeting short– and medium-range threats starting next year, and gradually adding land-based SM-3s and incremental upgrades to improve the system’s capability as the threat evolves (AW&ST Sept. 21, 2009, p. 22). The objective is for PAA to be able to counter intermediate-range missiles by 2018 and to afford some protection against ICBMs by the end of the decade. The approach is premised on the sharp growth in the quantity and quality of short– and medium-range missiles able to threaten Europe, and the likelihood that long-range missiles capable of reaching the U.S. will not emerge as a real threat until later.

The NATO territorial missile defense plan, known as ALTBMD Capability 2, would enable various short– and medium-range interceptors and sensors to be federated around an improved version of the alliance’s Air Command and Control System (ACCS). It could be fielded around 2017–18. “By shifting the focus from long-range to regional short– and medium-range threats, the new U.S. plan better matches the European view,” says Patrick Auroy, deputy head of the French armaments agency (DGA).

The consensus at the conference was that the alliance will take advantage of its next summit in Lisbon this fall to endorse BMD. “Parameters have changed since Strasbourg,” says Richard Froh, NATO’s deputy assistant secretary general for armaments, referring to the last NATO summit in France, when various factors, including the lack of a firm U.S. position, kept missile defense off the agenda. “With the threat increasingly visible, especially from Iran, it’s no longer a question of whether BMD is desirable, but how to make it work and affordable.”


Israel Adds Cyber-Attack to IDF

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

This article first appeared in Defense Technology International.

There is no equivocation in how the Israeli military views cyber-security. “Using computer networks for espionage is as important to warfare today as the advent of air support was to warfare in the 20th century,” says Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, chief of military intelligence.

Speaking recently at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) here, Yadlin says the ability to collect information and launch cyber-attacks gives small countries, terror groups and even individuals the power to inflict serious damage unlimited by range on a target — the kind of damage that was once the province of large countries.

Noting that the U.S. and Britain are setting up cyber-warfare commands, Yadlin says Israel has its own soldiers and officers working on an “Internet warfare” team dedicated to cyber-security. The issue is critical for many governments. In the U.S., Lockheed Martin recently opened the NexGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Center to address global cyber-security needs. The company has helped launch an industry association focusing on providing government, business and industry (including defense contractors) with integrated cyber-security solutions.

In confronting cyber-attacks, military intelligence has become a combat arm of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Computer networks are being exploited by hacking into databases or carrying out sabotage with malicious software (malware) that infiltrates and inflicts damage in adversary computers.

To counter cyber-attack, Yadlin says Israel’s armed forces have the means to provide adequate network security. “The cyber-warfare field fits well with Israel’s defense doctrine.”

The ubiquity of the Internet and its ease of use make it vulnerable to infiltration, exploitation and sabotage. IDF intelligence estimates that several countries in the Middle East use Russian hackers and scientists to operate on their behalf. Since the 2006 war against Hezbollah, when cyber-warfare was part of the conflict, Israel has attached growing importance to cyber-tactics.

Israel in fact is, along with the U.S., France and a couple of other nations, a leader in cyber-war planning. Cyber-warfare teams are integrated within Israel’s spy agencies, which have rich experience in traditional sabotage techniques.

Israel’s high-tech industry is at the forefront of computer and software development, particularly in the areas of security and communications. Companies such as Comverse and Nice Systems are world leaders in “legal eavesdropping” networks, while Checkpoint Software is an innovator in network security. Many international high-tech companies are locating research and development operations in Israel, where local hires are often veterans of the IDF’s elite computer units.

In fact, most of Israel’s technical know-how originates from the army, especially the computer and C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) division of the intelligence branch. Veterans of these specialized units have become the mainstay of top-secret work at tech companies.

While it is clear Israel has successfully used cyber-tactics against enemies, it is harder to know to what extent it has been hit by cyber-attacks. Israel says little about its cyber-operations, but occasional leaks point to a trend of active involvement by computer experts in covert and sometimes overt operations.

Read the rest of this story, debate the usefulness of Strykers in The Stan, check out whether Germany will send in more troops and learn about ARGUS from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

Asia-Pacific Recapitalizes its Fighter Fleets

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

This article first appeared in Aviation Week & Space Technology.

A swath of Asia-Pacific states is in the throes of revamping their fighter inventories. As a result, Western and Russian manufacturers are either wrestling to sustain market share or vying with rival fighter builders in traditional client markets.

The fighter activity is but one element of broader defense procurement occurring across the region as militarily significant states recapitalize their inventories. Despite the impact of the global economic downturn, many markets are showing resilience. What’s more, while growth rates have flattened in many cases, actual decline has been avoided. There is budget pressure, but this factor has been less than in other markets, industry officials suggest.

All of the region’s top five military spenders either are introducing new fighter types into inventory or are in the midst of competitive procurement. Japan, South Korea and India are at varying stages of purchasing additional combat aircraft. Australia is introducing the Boeing F/A-18E/F into service — and is committing to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — while China is developing upgrades of both indigenous and Russian fighters, and also working on a twin-engine follow-on.

The Flanker family remains a key regional benchmark for fighter capability as the “threat” system against which potential purchases are to be measured. If the region grows more important for Western manufacturers seeking to bolster order books thinned from falling domestic production numbers (JSF aside), it is also critical to Moscow.

The latest, and possibly final, iteration of the Flanker, the Su-35S, is in no small part aimed at trying to sustain Russia’s position as a combat aircraft provider in the region. Two of its traditional clients , China and India, are developing their own combat aircraft manufacturing capacity; India is also potentially expanding procurement from the West. The Su-35S will likely be pitched as a replacement for earlier Flanker models in the inventories of India, but whether it is proposed to China remains in doubt.

Read the rest of this story, ponder the similarity between the Army’s GCV and Goldman Sachs, check the progress of the JSF program and examine the crucial demand for rotorcraft from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

FRES Vehicle a Shambles

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Former British Secretary of State for Defense John Hutton says it is “hard to imagine a worse procurement shambles” than the British Army’s Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) armored vehicle program.

Hutton, appearing before the Iraq Inquiry Jan. 25, says the FRES program was a “pretty grim episode,” underscoring the need for a “shake-up” of how the Defense Ministry goes about procuring equipment.

Hutton was referring in particular to the FRES Utility vehicle procurement debacle. The ministry shelved the procurement at the end of 2008 and shifted focus to the so-called specialist vehicles (SV) element of the FRES program, for which it is now nearing a selection. It also has tried to incorporate failings of the utility vehicle project in managing the SV procurement.

The government-commissioned inquiry is being used to identify lessons from British involvement in the Iraq war and its aftermath.

Problems with FRES — meant to produce a family of armored fighting vehicles — included the inability to “settle on the specification,” along with a “lack of clarity” as to what was required, Hutton says.

The ministry is aiming to select a preferred bidder for the specialist vehicles element of the program in the next couple of months, known as “Recce Block 1.” BAE Systems and General Dynamics are competing for the program.

The ministry’s Investment Approval Board was expected to meet to consider the FRES SV recommendation this week, with its choice then being submitted for ministerial approval.

Around 600 vehicles will be purchased in the first phase of the SV program, worth a total of $3.2 billion.

Along with the SV procurement, the ministry also is nearing a decision on the choice of a manufacturer for its Warrior armored vehicle upgrade program. Taken together, the two programs will shape the future of Britain’s land systems sector.

– Aviation Week

Schwartz: Tanker Fixed Price May Change

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

This article first appeared in AviationWeek​.com.

The U.S. Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, says that changes to the much-awaited request for proposals (RFP) for the next-generation aerial refueler will “lessen the financial risk” for bidders.

Boeing and a Northrop Grumman/EADS North America are expected to bid for the work, which could total about $35 billion for the purchase of 179 KC-135 replacements. However, Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush has threatened not to offer his team’s Airbus A330-based option in part because the fixed-price development contract included in the draft RFP issued last fall exposed the company to too much risk. Northrop Grumman officials say that if the draft RFP stands, about 20 percent of the items needed would be developmental and thus more difficult to price.

Boeing officials have expressed dissatisfaction at the fixed-price approach as well, though the team has not publicly threatened to walk away from the competition. Boeing is expected to propose a tanker based on a 767 platform.

Read the rest of this story, wait around for the A400M, see how the JSF got bit hard and ponder where the German tigers might be from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

Boeing Looks to First Silent Eagle Flight

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

This article first appeared in Aviation Week & Space Technology.

With radar-cross-section (RCS) trials for Boeing’s Silent Eagle semi-stealthy F-15 prototype complete, company officials are now focusing on South Korea as a possible first customer.

The RCS testing took place during a two-week period last August and September, although Boeing has only just acknowledged it because of proprietary issues, says Mark Bass, vice president of F-15 programs.

The company is eyeing South Korea’s forthcoming F-X3 competition for 60 fighters as the first sales opportunity for the Silent Eagle. The South Korean parliament’s recent hesitancy about investing in all-stealth aircraft “validates our approach” with the aircraft, says Bass. The company is considering potential international co-development partners for a Silent Eagle conformal fuel tank, although no announcements have been made.

Boeing is developing the variant for international customers that already operate F-15s and are seeking additional aircraft. The system is a possible alternative for nations interested in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Silent Eagle is not as stealthy as the JSF, but it could provide flexibility for countries trying to stretch their defense dollars.

In the early days of an air campaign, the Silent Eagle can be outfitted with weapon bays suitable for carrying air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons that would be tucked inside conformal fuel tanks, thus reducing the aircraft’s front-quadrant RCS. The aircraft could then be reconfigured in hours to handle the F-15’s characteristic heavy load of weapons once early threats are removed and sustainment operations begin.

The RCS tests on F-15E1, an Air Force test asset leased to Boeing, took place at the company’s anechoic chamber in St. Louis. Various coatings were evaluated and a final candidate has been selected and applied to the appropriate portions of the airframe. Testing produced the desired results, he said. Bass declined to provide details on the coating or the precise RCS numbers.

Read the rest of this story, see some new Brit Chinooks, check out why Eurocopter is flying high and fly with the contractor drones over Haiti from with our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

UK Opposition Will Review RAF Base Closures

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

This article first appeared in Aviation Week & Space Technology.

A British Conservative government would revisit Royal Air Force transport and ­fighter aircraft basing plans — and intended closures — including a move to consolidate all U.K. fixed-wing airlift at one hub.

Gerald Howarth, the shadow defense minister, says reconsideration of the present government’s decision to ax Lyneham — one of the RAF’s two main transport bases — would “absolutely” be part of a strategic defense review, were the party to be returned to power. A national election in the U.K. has to be held no later than June.

“We would put the future basing of our fleets, not just the air transport fleet but the fast-jet fleet, as well into the mix for a strategic defense review, that seems to me to be the sensible thing to do.”

RAF Lyneham is currently slated to close in 2012, with the air force’s 24 C‑130Js and a small number of C‑130Ks being transferred to RAF Brize Norton. The government announced recently that the fighter base at RAF Cottesmore will also close.

Brize Norton eventually will be the long-term home to at least seven Boeing C-17s, 14 Airbus A330-based Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft, 24 Lockheed Martin C-130Js and, notionally, 25 Airbus Military A400Ms. The U.K., however, will almost certainly cut the number of A400Ms it buys (assuming the program survives) to a maximum of 19. 

Howarth spoke last week at a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament, held to consider the U.K.‘s tactical and strategic airlift capacity. The war in Afghanistan and the deployment to Iraq, which ended in 2009, have placed the air force’s transport fleet under pressure. This is compounded by delays to the A400M.

Howarth argues that “it seems to me essential — if we are to have a defense review that will assess the real and potential threats to the nation and if, having done so, we are to decide what military capabilities we require to meet those threats — that we must translate those decisions into the aircraft, ships, tanks … that are needed and the places where they will be based.”

Read the rest of this story, get an Osprey update, see Afghanistan’s new flock of Herons and read about the advanced SAMS ending up at the front from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

Fighter Competition Timelines in Doubt

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For all you international arms deal buffs, I thought I’d include this post from our friends at Aviation Week who provide Military​.com with a story per day to titillate DT readers. Robert Wall (who wrote this story) is an old friend of mine from the defense industry coverage beat and one of the best sourced reporters in the biz.]

This article first appeared in Aviation Week & Space Technology.

Swiss and Brazilian fighter competitions are edging closer to a decision, but industry officials fear both projects may unravel this year.

The Brazilian air force says it concluded its technical review, although that document has not yet been submitted to the defense ministry.

Timing on the Swiss program is also up in the air, although the aircraft evaluation is complete. A first draft of the nation’s strategic defense review is due in the spring; however, Defense Minister Ueli Maurer recommends that the program to partially replace 54 F-5s be postponed so that the money can be spent on more urgent defense needs. Maurer reiterated the call to hold off on the fighter plan in his year-end review.

The government so far has been reluctant to embrace Maurer’s view. Another unknown is whether a decision on the project comes in the spring, once the strategic review’s first draft is finished, or whether politicians will wait until the fall when the final document is ready, says a Swiss defense ministry official. A type selection will be announced only after a project go-ahead is given.

Operational effectiveness in air-to-air combat is the dominant criterion in Switzerland’s evaluation, but a number of other elements are playing roles. For example, industrial participation and military cooperation constitute 25% of the overall grade.

Noise footprint also will be a factor and could be critical due to Switzerland’s constrained airspace. The government scrutinized all three candidates — the Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale — during their trials. The results were mixed, but clearly all would be louder than the F-5.

The Typhoon — flying at an altitude of 305 meters (1,000 ft.) with afterburner — had the highest peak noise level (114 dB.), followed by the Rafale and Gripen; the F-5 benchmark is 106 dB., according to a Swiss government document. The order among the three candidates was the same when operating at maximum power, with Typhoon at 110 dB., Rafale at 108 dB. and Gripen at 105 dB. A 10-dB. difference represents a doubling of the noise footprint, the Swiss say.

However, peak noise is only one part of the evaluation process. The Swiss documents indicate that noise footprint varied considerably. In light configuration, with the aircraft accelerating from maximum speed to afterburner, the Rafale’s nose-on footprint was the largest. How the variance in performance between different mission profiles will be assessed is not clear.

Read the rest of this story, see what generals are psyched about in Afghanistan, hang with the ‘AirMule’ and check out the vid of the JSF in STOVL mode from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

Joint Strike Fighter On The Defensive

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

This article first appeared in Defense Technology International.

After a year of broken promises and blown deadlines, and failure to make progress in flight testing that not even the harshest critics predicted, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is on the defensive.

The obvious problem is that flight-testing continues at a snail’s pace. In January, program leaders were promising that 10 test aircraft would fly in 2009, and even in the spring they were forecasting that the first vertical landing would take place in late summer or early fall. By September, only one new jet was flying, but they still promised five more aircraft by year-end, and a vertical landing in October or November. By early December, one of those five aircraft had flown; BF-1, tasked with the vertical-landing tests, made it to the NAS Patuxent River, Md., flight-test center but had not flown again by mid-December.

The team blames manufacturing issues in general, and former program leadership in particular, saying too much emphasis was placed on visible milestones, so that aircraft rolled out were not ready to fly and aircraft that flew were not ready for sustained testing. In September, program leadership made a prediction, identified as 12–12-12: Within 12 months the team would have 12 aircraft in test and they would each be flying 12 sorties per month.

That prediction has been put in doubt by two developments: the small-to-zero likelihood that the end-of-2009 goals will be achieved; and a negative report by the reconvened Joint Estimating Team, which first reported on JSF in the fall of 2008. That report, predicting that testing would be completed two years late, was dismissed by JSF leaders as based on obsolete concepts of flight testing. The second report, indicating that the picture had not improved, persuaded new Pentagon procurement chief Ashton Carter to start looking at ways to reduce risk and mitigate delays.

Read the rest of this story, see how Afghanistan is cashing in on its defense, wager on the A400M and look back at the strength of defense-related stock with our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

Interstate Rivalry in Carrier Battle Revived

Monday, January 4th, 2010

This article first appeared in AviationWeek​.com.

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb (D), a former Navy secretary and Marine combat veteran, is raising new objections over the Navy’s proposal to home-port a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Mayport, Fla. Webb wrote Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn last month asking him to address such concerns before the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) completes its assessment of the Navy’s proposal.

According to his aides, “Webb also questioned the transparency of the lobbying efforts by retired Navy Adm. Robert Natter, a former commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, who has received more than a million dollars as a paid lobbyist for the state of Florida and the city of Jacksonville.”

Webb, a rising member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has long opposed the move because it would leak prestige and economic power from the commonwealth (Aerospace DAILY, Oct. 26). But Virginian arguments have highlighted financial costs of building up Mayport, previously only capable of hosting conventionally powered flattops, especially in light of budget constraints and competing priorities.

Read the rest of this story, see the last of the year for JSF, ponder USAF choices for nuke security helos and check out the Afghan ISR blimp from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian