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Lockheed in Young’s Crosshairs over Prez Helo

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

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Here’s a tip for the defense industry: If the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer calls you in for a Saturday meeting, it’s probably not to kick back and watch college hoops on one of the myriad high-def screens around the E-Ring.
This from the Wall Street Journal:

A multibillion-dollar Lockheed Martin Corp. contract to build a new fleet of Marine One helicopters for use by the president is in trouble, despite the company’s efforts to keep the prestigious program on track.

According to people familiar with the situation, John Young, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, called for an unusual Saturday meeting with senior Lockheed officials to discuss the company’s attempts at building 28 highly modified helicopters for White House use.

The contract, which started out at an estimated cost of $6.1 billion, has been plagued by early delays and engineering challenges, which would result in the program’s running billions of dollars over budget if the Navy continues on its present course.

(more…)

Boeing Back in CSAR-X Ring to Take Another Swing

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

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As previously reported here, last February the GAO recommended that the Air Force reopen discussions and request revised proposals. This action followed protests by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense company, and United Technologies’ Sikorsky unit. The rival companies said the Air Force didn’t uniformly apply the criteria used to evaluate the three bids. Boeing’s order for 141 HH-47 helicopters, a variant of its twin-rotor Chinook family, was picked to replace Sikorsky’s Pave Hawk aircraft. The award was put on hold during the GAO review, commonly known as “Amendment Five.”

Today Yesterday Boeing announced that they had submitted a revised proposal in response to Amendment Five. “Our focus has remained on providing the Air Force a low-risk, date-certain, best value offering that meets or exceeds all customer performance requirements,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. “With its superior range, payload and speed, we are confident the HH-47 will provide the customer with an aircraft that can best perform the mission of reliably bringing downed flight crews safely home.”

No word yet from the competition. Rest assured they won’t roll over without a fight. We’ll keep you posted.

Previous coverage of CSAR-X:
Senators Drop CSAR-X Letter Bomb on Gates
Boeing Fires Back on CSAR-X
Rescue Chopper Rumble
CSAR-X Protest Upheld
Chinooks To the Rescue

– Ward

An Explosion of Cost in SARs

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

In case you all didn’t catch this, the Pentagon released its latest Selected Acquisition Report data on pricey defense programs that are likely to bust costs.
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You’ll find some likely suspects on the list, including the much-maligned Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, Excalibur shell, the EA-18G Growler and the ever-struggling WIN-T.

Take a look:

ARH (Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter) The SAR was submitted to report a unit cost increase of approximately 20% higher than the current baseline estimate, which resulted in a significant Nunn-McCurdy breach. Program costs increased $1,009.1 million (+18.7%) from $5,390.2 million to $6,399.3 million, due primarily to an increase in airframe manufacturing labor and material costs (+$345.5 million), higher System Development and Demonstration (SDD) costs (+$290.9 million), and implementation of an upgrade to the main rotor system (+205.5 million).

Excalibur The SAR was submitted to rebaseline the report from a Development to a Production estimate following approval of Low Rate Initial Production (Milestone C) for the Increment Ia-2 in July 2007. Program costs increased $161.6 million (+7.0%) from $2,302.8 million to $2,464.4 million, due primarily to additional funding to support a higher Army Cost Position for the revised Acquisition Program Baseline approved at Milestone C.

WIN-T (Warfighter Information Network-Tactical) Increment 1 This is the initial SAR for WIN-T Increment 1 program. Following a Nunn-McCurdy breach certification in June 2007 that restructured the original WIN-T program, the WIN-T Increment 1 program (formerly Joint Network Node (JNN)) was initiated in October 2007.

Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 This is the initial SAR for the WIN-T Increment 2 program. Following a Nunn-McCurdy breach certification in June 2007 that restructured the original WIN-T program, the WIN-T Increment 2 program (Initial Networking on the Move) was initiated in October 2007.

EA-18G The SAR was submitted to rebaseline the report from a Development to a Production estimate following approval of Low Rate Initial Production (Milestone C) in July 2007. Program costs increased $321.5 million (+3.8%) from $8,368.0 million to $8,689.5 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of five aircraft from 80 to 85 aircraft.

RMS (Remote Minehunting System) The SAR was submitted to report schedule delays of more than six months. That is, Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) slipped 15 months from June 2007 to September 2008, because the only Navy platform capable of performing RMS OPEVAL (DDG-96) is unavailable due to the ships deployment schedule. There were no cost changes reported.

C-5 RERP (Reliability Enhancement and Reengining Program) The SAR was submitted to report a unit cost increase of more than 25% to the current baseline estimate and more than 50% to the original baseline, which resulted in a critical Nunn-McCurdy breach. Program costs increased $6,168.3 million (+54.4%) from $11,337.9 million to $17,506.2 million, due primarily to a revised program estimate based on an analysis of prime contractor production proposal data, System Development and Demonstration (SDD) actuals, and commercial pricing data.

EELV (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) This will be the final SAR submission for the EELV program, because the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics placed the program into sustainment and removed it from the active Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) list. There were no cost changes reported.

MPS (Mission Planning System) The SAR was submitted to report schedule delays of more than six months. Specifically, the start of System Development and Demonstration (SDD) (Milestone B) for Increment IV slipped 10 months from February 2006 to December 2007. Program costs decreased $7.0 million (-0.4%) from $1,589.5 million to $1,582.5 million, due primarily to a revised estimate to complete development.

(Gouge: NC)

Christian

Navy Sinks Another LCS

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

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Breaking News from the front page of Military​.com:

A senior Navy official said Thursday one of General Dynamics Corp. next-generation combat ships has been canceled after efforts to control costs failed.

After more than a month of extensive talks, neither the Navy nor Falls Church, Va.-based General Dynamics could agree on a restructured contract that contained cost overruns in a way that was acceptable to both parties.

“They were above the numbers we were willing to accept,” Navy Adm. Charles Goddard, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

This is the second ship that the Navy has canceled on the so-called Littoral Combat Ship program. In April, the Navy terminated Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp.‘s second ship after costs on the first ship soared to at least $350 million from an initial price of $270 million.

The Navy declined to specify how much costs on the General Dynamics ship has exceeded initial estimates, but said the cost difference is comparable to Lockheed’s.

Christian

Pentagon Robot Challenge Goes Corporate

Friday, October 26th, 2007

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — When the Pentagon’s research arm first called for innovators to design and race a self-driving car to make warfare safer, a ragtag bunch of garage tinkerers, computer geeks and even high school students answered.

No one won the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s inaugural contest in 2004. An encore the following year produced five robots that crossed the finish line, and a team from Stanford University drove away with the $2 million prize.

If yesteryear’s contests evoked the Wild West, with teams working in the open desert on a shoestring budget, this year’s is modern: The field is more savvy, the terrain is urban and corporate sponsors and public relations machines have entered the fray.

“They’ve become like NASCAR teams with multiple sponsors and stickers on everything,” said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution senior fellow who has followed the DARPA competitions. “It shows that it’s becoming big business.”

Read the entire article here.

The Complex World of FMS

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

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This morning DoD attempted some damage control on the Saudi arms deal by releasing an Armed Forces Press Service article that suggests the most recent agreement is nothing more than regional business as usual.

Here’s an excerpt from the article: “Saudi Arabia, the biggest buyer in this recent arms package, has been a close ally of the United States for decades, a senior defense official said on background. (Ward note: I love it when officials speak “on background” when talking to government scribes.) ‘They have been in important partner in the war on terror. They have been especially effective in going after al Qaeda,’ he said.

“That’s not to say, he emphasized, that the Saudis or anyone else in the region is ‘doing all the things we would like them to do’ and can’t contribute more toward regional stability.

“‘But they are doing some things that are very important to us,’ he said. ‘And I think that, plus the long-term relationship and the key role Saudi Arabia plays in all these other issues … are a manifestation of why the kind of long-term relationship represented by the arms deal is important.’”

Of course, the justification of “regional stability” is the ethical high ground of foreign military sales. On a more utilitarian level are the elements of commerce … commerce that affects the leviathan that is the American defense industry.

Across the Potomac from the official halls of power is Rosslyn, a grouping of high-rises perched above the Capitol like hawks in a tree bordering a farmer’s field. On these high-rises are names like “Boeing” and “Northrup Grumman.” And inside the buildings are the offices of those whose employment hinges on whether or not they are able to seal the deal for their employer. Often the deal involves FMS.

The efforts of the defense industry are muted if not stymied by the “do-gooders” at the Department of Defense who care about things like “technology transfer” to nations less friendly than, say, Saudi Arabia. Nations like … Japan.

That’s right. We recently told Japan that we won’t sell them F-22s … at least not right now. Why? Because, as Aviation Week reported recently, “Japanese leaks several months ago of secret data about the Aegis naval anti-aircraft and anti-missile system. A Japanese naval officer married to a Chinese woman was found in March with a computer disk containing the data about Aegis, another extremely sensitive system.”

And is Lockheed-Martin, the company that manufactures the F-22, happy about the decision? No. Why? Because they are trying like hell to get the unit cost of the Raptor down below $200-plus million and to do that they need to make a lot more of them.

So what is Japan’s response to this dissing: They are going to produce their own “stealth technology demonstrator.” (Now we’ve gone and done it. Remember what they did when we refused to sell them tube radios and Ford Torinos?)

Then there’s the Joint Strike Fighter, an airplane with it’s future firmly staked in FMS. Eight foreign countries have placed orders for the next-gen aircraft, which makes it a tough proposition for Congress to mess with when the budget comes around (although they have messed with it in the past).

And while everything seems koom-buy-yaa between the partner nations at places like the Paris Air Show, there exists a tension below the surface: Foreign buyers ask themselves, “How does my JSF differ from the American JSF?” It is well known that FMS versions of the F-4, F-14 (Iran), F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 were never as advanced as their U.S. counterparts.

But foreign nations have never been as involved in the development of an aircraft as they are with JSF — a fact that at once relieves and heightens the tension between parties. Foreign countries fear that their visibility into the program is at some level an illusion. They know there’s no way the Pentagon is going to allow American companies to give away the farm.

Meanwhile the Black Market poises itself for action … but we’ll save that for another post.

(Photo: JSF assembly line in Fort Worth.)

– Ward

Pork Goes the Engine … JSF Style (Updated)

Monday, July 30th, 2007

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I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but my greatest fears about how the defense industry operates are being realized these days by developments surrounding the Joint Strike Fighter’s power plant(s).

When you have an airplane that is already wrestling with a flyaway unit cost that is well above program estimates ($80 million versus $65 million), more than a year behind the developmental test schedule for the Navy variant, and increasingly overweight the notion of an “alternative engine” just reeks of — dare I say it — pork.

Aviation Week reports the following: “The House Appropriations defense subcommittee added $480 million to the Joint Strike Fighter research and development account to fund continued work on the alternate engine for the F-35. The Pentagon argued against funding the alternate engine for fear it would reduce the focus and resources necessary for the program of record. Lawmakers also add $200 million to the development account to address ‘unfunded information assurance requirements’ driven by Defense Dept. policy updates, the committee’s report says.”

Hmmmm … so Pentagon doesn’t want the alternative engine but lawmakers are shoving down their throats anyway. How can that be? Don’t congressmen get all teary-eyed when they talk about how they support the troops?

Well, let’s take a look at how this particular game is played — which happens to be a nice window into how the defense game is too often played overall.

Representative Jean Schmidt, the hawkish Republican from the Ohio district that hosts a General Electric engine manufacturing plant has once again re-inserted the alternative engine funding line into the defense budget. At the same time, Rolls-Royce, the alternative engine co-manufacturer, is calling in a couple of markers on the Hill. First, Rolls-Royce is a British company run by British people who have influence over Parliament whose members want some love because of their support for the Iraq War. Second, Rolls-Royce jumped the gun and built a huge JSF engine manufacturing facility at their plant outside of Indianapolis and the company’s lobby arm is executing a full court press to ensure that the American taxpayer pays for it (instead of Rolls-Royce shareholders).

And while — as a former Tomcat guy — I’m not overwhelmed by engines made by Pratt and Whitney, I have to believe that company is capable of making an engine that’ll work over the JSF’s service life.

The scariest part is all of this is being conducted in plain sight. Will GE and R-R get their way in an environment that is funding a war that costs $12 billion a month? Stay tuned …

(Photo: F-136 being tested in STOVL mode at the GE facility in Ohio.)

(Gouge: NC)

(Updated July 31 at 0016Z.) CBS News is adding Ted Kennedy to the pork list with a report that suggests he is trying to bring JSF jobs to the GE plant in Lynn, Mass. And check out our favorite editor Christian in this news clip.

– Ward

Why F-14s Must be Crushed

Monday, July 16th, 2007

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For months, Defense Tech has been keeping a close eye on developments over the issue of F-14 Tomcat spare parts. Theres fear that Iran could get its hands on enough aftermarket material to keep its aging Tomcats alive for years posing a threat to U.S. naval interests in the Persian Gulf.

One of the countrys best-sourced aviation industry analysts a man with whom Ive worked at previous publications has put together an informative narrative on the nefarious world of backroom deals and bureaucratic incompetence that permeates the jet parts aftermarket.

Iran’s aerospace industry and intelligence services then embarked on what has become a nearly three-decade shell game of trying to find ways to covertly or illegally procure parts for the F-14. Not surprisingly, incidents of spares “disappearing” from storehouses at Subic Base in the Philippines and other Navy installations worldwide became regular occurrences.

Numerous middlemen operating from shadowy front companies ordered parts for the Iranian Tomcats.Some of these fronts have ended up in the U.S. courts over the years, but the Iranians have had far more successes than failures in getting their hands on what they need. During Iran’s air show last year–27 years after the embargo was first imposed–several Iranian aerospace enterprises openly displayed overhauled components for the F-14 that they manage to keep acquiring parts for up to this day.

Rueben Johnson pulls no punches in his article, published in this weeks Weekly Standard, making the Defense Logistics Agency look particularly bad. He demonstrates that the Iranian parts rope-a-dope has had the unintended effect of hamstringing legitimate foreign weapons and parts makers wanting to do business with the United States.

In one publicized incident, the paperwork from an Iranian agent for illegally purchased F-14 parts passed under the DLA’s nose, but the parts were then seized by Customs agents before they could be shipped to Iran. The spares were sent back to DLA, which, instead of putting them under guard, promptly sold them to another middleman working on behalf of the Iranians. The fact that these spare parts were now identified as being on Iran’s wish list should have warranted some extra scrutiny when a second buyer came looking for them. What’s more, the Customs Service evidence tags from the first seizure were still attached to these items–they were literally red-flagged–which makes the act of selling them to a second Iranian agent inexcusable.

This all stands in stark contrast to the bureaucratic zeal with which the U.S. government controls military technology flowing into the United States. Try importing foreign military spare parts and other materiel from foreign nations into the United States, and U.S. government oversight suddenly becomes ruthlessly efficient.

U.S. companies that operate as Foreign Materiel Acquisition (FMA) agents currently purchase millions of dollars’ worth of foreign military hardware and spare parts each year. Some items are used for training U.S. forces, while others are used to equip the newly established and coalition-trained security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In every one of these sales, there are reams of paperwork–including end-user certificates, copies of the company’s U.S. government-issued license that permits it to trade in armaments–all of which must be properly authenticated, notarized, and signed by government officials on both sides.

So the answer is to simply destroy all the F-14s in the bone yard, essentially eliminating the spare parts issue for good? Way to sweep the issue right off the table, USG…

– Christian

Are You Up to the CNR Challenge?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

For those of you who might not have what it takes to make it on American Idol, the Navy has stepped in to help make your dreams come true.
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The Chief of Naval Research has $1 million in cold hard cash to dole out to companies who have new and actionable ideas in certain areas of naval technology that can help boost the effectiveness of the force.

Companies with ideas the Navy can use will be offered the opportunity to meet face-to-face with Navy officials during a technology conference in Washington, D.C., that kicks off July 30.

The Navy is interested in the following technology areas:

Power and Energy

Operational Environments

Maritime Domain Awareness

Asymmetric and Irregular Warfare

Information, Analysis, and Communication

Power Projection

Assure Access and Hold at Risk

Distributed Operations

Naval Warfighter Performance and Protection

Survivability and SelfDefense

Platform Mobility

Fleet/Force Sustainment

Affordability, Maintainability, and Reliability

Last year, the Navy garnered over 50 CNR Challenge submissions, awarding research money to five of them.

A representative project is the Pegasus self-charging unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) for persistent littoral antisubmarine warfare from Nekton Research LLC. The Pegasus concept is an autonomous self-recharging underwater vehicle with capabilities for persistent wide-area surveillance that can operate against currents and in very shallow and riverine environments. It recharges itself by
extracting energy from microbially active sediments on the sea bottom. This enables it to act as a recharging station for other unmanned underwater vehicles or to rise again into the water column to conduct surveillance

Presented by the National Defense Industrial Association with technical support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the 2007 Naval Science and Technology Partnership Conference will provide key insights into the Navy and Marine Corps drive to enable revolutionary Naval operational concepts that meet the challenges of the 21st Century through strategic investment in science and technology. Special emphasis will be placed on power and energy for the fleet and force. Attendees from industry, academia, and government will be informed of the direction, emphasis, and scope of the Department of the Navys investment in science and technology and how to conduct business activities with the Naval Research Enterprise.

So, shipmates, do you have what it takes to meet the CNR Challenge?

Christian

“Mini Osprey” Flies at Paris Air Show

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

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The V-22 may not have made it to the Paris Air Show this year, but it’s little cousin did, performing an impressive demo for the crowd each day. The Bell Augusta 609 (pictured) is designed to be the business variant of the tiltrotor line. Think of it as half Citation, half Jet Ranger. It’s a great idea that could change everything in commuter travel if it proves itself.

But like its big brother the Osprey, the BA-609 has taken longer than expected to get to market. In fact, a search of the web produced this sanguine industry release from the Paris Air Show … 1997 version:

Paris Air Show-Le Bourget, France, June 15, 1997 — The Bell Boeing joint venture today announced sales of its new Bell Boeing 609 civil tiltrotor aircraft, slated for delivery beginning in 2001. Twenty-one buyers have placed deposits to date for 29 of the worlds first civil tiltrotor aircraft, matching the ventures expectations for the nine-passenger tiltrotor. The announcement was made today at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France.

Okay, so the 609 is no longer a Bell-Boeing product. And okay, so 2001 came and went without any 609s being delivered … as did the next six years after that. That doesn’t mean it’s ceased to be a cool idea.

Here’s a video showing the 609 in action around Bell’s factory (with music by Crystal Method for you House/Trance/Acid fans):

– Ward