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RIDLEY PARK, Pa. — The V-22 Osprey is getting an extra 20-knots of speed and more than 1,00-pounds of lift power without any hardware changes, Boeing officials revealed this week.

Instead, engineers simply updated the tiltrotor’s software, boosting the Osprey’s max cruising speed to 260 knots, according to Bull Sunick, Boeing’s V-22 business development manager. A similar software upgrade will soon tweak propeller angles to give it an additional 1,000-pounds of power when in a hover.

The V-22 is “the iPod, if you will, of rotorcraft in that we were able to improve our [airspeed] to 260 knots through a flight control software upgrade,” Sunick told DT after a tour of Boeing’s V-22 assembly line here (hence the Instagram photo I took). “You go home, you synch your iPod and you get the new software on there — we kinda do the same with the airplane, it’s all ones and zeros…it was through a software drop. A new version came out, kinda like your new iPod software and boom, no new engines no new drivetrain.”

This was just after he’d finished reminding me of how an Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 had  performed one of the tiltrotor’s very first combat search and rescue missions nearly one year before USMC MV-22s rescued the pilot of that F-15E Strike Eagle that crashed in Libya last March.

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Just a quick F-35 update. The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday voted to flatline F-35 Joint Strike Fighter production levels at 35 jets per year for the next two years. The original plan called for Lockheed Martin to ramp up to 42 jets per year by 2013. The Bethesda, Md., based-defense giant is in the midst of a $5 billion contract to build 32 jets this year.

Earlier this week the Senate appropriations defense subcommittee proposed the production limits along with a $695 million cut to the program’s budget in its markup of the fiscal year 2012 defense appropriations bill which spends a grand total of $513 billion on defense.

Subcommittee chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hi — btw, read his bio, especially the World War II part, it’s insane.) said on Tuesday that the production slowdown is meant to give Lockheed a chance to weed out any potential problems before they make their way into too many production jets — a situation he fears will lead to costly retrofts down the road.

“For each aircraft we build this early in the test program, we will have to pay many millions in the future to fix the problems that are identified in testing,” said Inouye, who also chairs the entire appropriations committee.

Moving over to ground vehicles, the appropriations committee also nixed the Army and Marine Corps $54 billion Joint Light Tactical Vehicle effort citing cost growth and constantly changing requirements.

The bill was sent to the full Senate yesterday, we’ll see what happens next.


Check out these YouTube videos uploaded by ISAF showing U.S. Army soldiers, Marines, and unidentified troops in Desert Combat Uniforms armed with Kalashnikovs (Salamander says they’re Macedonian) fighting off Taliban insurgents during Tuesday’s attack on the U.S. embassy compound in Kabul.

While the insurgents failed to do serious harm to the embassy and its staff (though there were numerous Afghan casualties) they did seem to gain a PR victory due to the amount of media attention the incident received.

ISAF went on a PR offensive of its own, though, including a great twitter fight between ISAF and the Taliban during the kinetic assault. These videos are another part of that offensive. Just like insurgents love to broadcast their battlefield exploits, NATO is now showing off it’s fighting prowess in a timely manner. Enjoy.

Two more videos below the jump.

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Well, the Senate is looking to axe the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Army and Marine Corps effort to field a survivable yet maneuverable truck that bridges the gap between the relatively unwieldy MRAP and the thin-skinned yet versatile Humvee.

Sister site DoDBuzz reports that the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee cut the JLTV during its mark of the FY-12 defense appropriations bill,“citing shifting requirements and rising costs.”

Buzz points out that the Army and Marines already have numerous ground vehicle buys in the works such as the Army’s M-2 Bradley-like Ground Combat Vehicle, the Marines’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle and the Army’s Humvee recapitalization plan which may overlap with the JLTV’s requirements for a survivable yet maneuverable light truck (in fact, JLTV is already playing a role in this effort).

We’ll see what happens during tomorrow’s vote on the bill by the full Senate Appropriations Committee. Remember, Congress is looking to cut billions from defense coffers. A truck that seems like it shares characteristics with the Humvee recap program or the M-ATV (smaller, lighter version of an MRAP) may be seen as redundant and wasteful by lawmakers.

Here’s what subcommittee chair Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) had to say about the cut:

“The bill terminates the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program due to excessive cost growth and constantly changing requirements.  The committee believes that alternatives exist today to meet the Army and Marine Corps’ requirements to recapitalize and competitively upgrade the Humvee fleet, and supports funding for those programs.

While the Navy is replacing its aging EA-6B Prowlers electronic warfare (EW) jets with brand new EA-18G Growlers the Marine Corps is hoping to outfit its F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B Harriers with new electronic jammers.

The Intrepid Tiger II is the Corps’ homegrown jammer meant to disrupt IED radio detonators and intercept enemy communications. Best of all, it can be controlled by pilots or ground troops. Next month, the Marines will test out the system on a Harrier and hope to have it in Afghanistan by November, according to Marine Corps Times.

No, the Intrepid Tiget II probably won’t make Harriers and Hornets compete with Growlers and Prowlers in terms of high-end EW ability. However, the pod might be a great solution to a relatively low-end threat that’s constantly evolving. And who knows, it may spur further innovation that could be applied in high-end EW.

The Marines hope to someday put the jammer — which is about the size of an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) — on UH-1 and AH-1 helos and are even testing a smaller version of the device on the RQ-7 Shadow UAV. Intrepid Tiger II is based on the Corps’ Intrepid Tiger I “communications pod” that was fielded around 2007 after less than a year of testing. (Note, that pod, officially called the AN⁄ALQ-228 (V) 1, might already give Harriers and Hornets some EW ability.)

The coolest thing about the Intrepid Tiger II is that it may represent a shift toward quickly developed technologies that can be easily upgraded and don’t require decades of development and billions of dollars to field.

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