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CAPITOL HILL: This morning’s Senate subcommittee mark-up of the annual defense spending bill meant good news and extra money for a host of interests, from upstart rocket-maker SpaceX to the giant Boeing company. On the bitterly contentious issue of the Army National Guard’s endangered Apache helicopter fleet, however, the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee put down a… Keep reading →

Most Apache units, both active-duty and Guard, have spent the last decade operating in two-gunship teams like this one, not the larger formations required for conventional wars.

WASHINGTON: In the emotionally charged debate over the Army National Guard, the “don’t cut our Guard!” side has been much louder than the pro-cuts camp. That’s why it’s interesting to read this pretty low-key letter from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defending the cuts. The simple fact it’s Hagel’s signature on the letter speaks to the… Keep reading →

Reaping the Benefits of a Global Defense Industry

The U.S. defense industry, being reshaped by declining post-war budgets, globalization, and the increased pace of technological change, must work with the Pentagon and take proactive steps to maintain our historic preeminence on the battlefield. Our industry does not easily embrace change. In fact, history demonstrates that shifts in the defense industry have largely been… Keep reading →

Joint MultiRole Bell Valor

WASHINGTON: What is Future Vertical Lift? There is no one answer, but rather a range of possibilities. At one extreme is a single mega-program, building four variants for the four services to replace a host of existing helicopters, a vision in some ways even more ambitious than the long-troubled tri-service Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). At the… Keep reading →

A BAE Systems prototype of the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) ambulance variant.

General Dynamics said today it will not bid for the Army’s largest combat vehicle program, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle. Nor will GD take the government to court to try to change the terms of the competition, despite having denounced them as intolerably tilted towards competitor BAE Systems and protested, unsuccessfully, to the Army. With bids… Keep reading →

An unmanned TerraMax mine-clearing vehicle, followed by equally unmanned TerraMax cargo trucks.

The future of military robotics may not look much like a robot. It may just be a truck that drives itself. That’s the simple, pragmatic approach pursued by Oshkosh — a company better known for trucks than Terminators — with its TerraMax Unmanned Ground Vehicle. But after eight years of experiments for three different military… Keep reading →

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) after Thursday evening's press conference on the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015.

THE CAPITOL: “We do emphasize readiness,” Sen. Carl Levin told me. “I for one would rather have a smaller force that is ready than a bigger force that is less ready.” With those words — his parting shot as I hounded him through the Capitol’s marble halls after his official press conference yesterday on the… Keep reading →

The Navy's "Laser Weapon System" (LaWS) prototype aboard ship.

CAPITOL HILL: Lasers that can shoot down incoming missiles have been a work in progress since Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” days. Now, the Army and Navy not only have working demonstration models but ambitions to field real-world weapons circa 2021. This time, insisted Pentagon science advisor Howard Meyer this morning, it’s really going to happen.… Keep reading →

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This morning, a House Armed Services subcommittee passed its markup of its part of the annual defense bill that would — among many other things — freeze some funding for the Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle Program. AMPV is the service’s biggest weapons program left standing after sequestration’s budget cuts, and contractor General Dynamics had protested the competition… Keep reading →

Army MLRS rocket artillery firing in Korea exercise

[UPDATED with Army & Senate responses] WASHINGTON: After convening in Washington for briefings on the Army budget and how to implement it, the state-level commanders of the National Guard have instead launched a new offensive against the Army plan to cut their forces, flooding Capitol Hill with letters and PowerPoint slides (embedded below). Their immediate goal:… Keep reading →

A National Guard AH-64 Apache lands on a Navy ship -- a rare skill in the Army. But the Pentagon's budget plans would move all Guard Apaches to active-duty units.

WASHINGTON: National Guard attack helicopter units just can’t be as battle-ready as full-time regular Army ones, Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox has been telling the Hill. That’s why the Guard should give all its AH-64 Apache gunships to the active-duty force to replace older aircraft lost to budget cuts. “Combat elements must be in… Keep reading →

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