P-8

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May’s been a good month for Navy drones and Northrop Grumman. First Northrop’s X-47B, forerunner for a future generation of unmanned reconnaissance and strike planes, made its first launch and first touch-and-go landing on an aircraft carrier. Today, Northrop’s land-based MQ-4C Triton drone made its first flight, out of the company’s facility in Palmdale, California:… Keep reading →

PENTAGON: The Navy would get the largest budget share among the three military services in the 2014 budget submitted Wednesday, but would still see a drop in total funding from what Congress provided for this year in the final version of the continuing resolution.

The $155.8 billion requested for the Navy Department in the president’s proposed defense budget of $526.6 billion is level with the president’s 2013 request but is $11.4 billion above the request for the Air Force and $26.1 billion larger than that for the Army. Keep reading →

S. Amer Latif is a visiting fellow with the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The views in this piece are his own and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government. Keep reading →

The Navy’s jet-powered P-8 Poseidon patrol plane boasts plenty of advances over the P-3 Orion turboprops it will replace, but for the sensor operators the favorite feature will be very basic: They won’t throw up as much.

The P-3’s notoriously rough ride at low altitudes and the gunpowder-like stench from the launch tube shooting sonar buoys out the back meant that, “typically, every mission or two you’d have somebody get sick [and] start throwing up into their air sickness bag,” said Navy Captain Aaron Rondeau, a P-3 veteran who now runs the P-8 program. “We haven’t seen that much with the P-8.” Keep reading →

LAS VEGAS: As US defense spending ramps down, both the military and the aerospace industry want to sell more drones to friends and allies overseas. Right now, however, export controls and arms control treaties make that awfully hard.

“The foreign sales aspect of these RPAs [remotely piloted aircraft] is potentially huge,” Maj. Gen. James Poss, who heads policy making on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for the Air Force staff, said Wednesday at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference (click here for full coverage). A less restrictive export policy for unmanned aircraft is “in the national interest of the United States,” Poss continued. “It’s something we’re aggressively working with both the OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] policy folks and the State Department.” Keep reading →

CAPITOL HILL: Congress and the Obama administration should thank their lucky stars that hardly anyone watched this morning’s House Armed Services Committee hearing about sequestration.

Everyone in the political arena will try to paint this one as the other’s fault. The GOP will blame the Democrats. The White House will blame the GOP. The GOP will blame the White House and the Democrats. And our country will remain mired in the same quagmire: our elected representatives lack the courage to fix our nation’s books. Keep reading →

DepSecDef Carter @ #HASC says sequester wld mean cuts 4 F-35s, 1 P-8, 12 Strykers, 300 medium, heavy tactical vehicles CVN-78, LCS delays ColinClarkAol


UPDATED WITH PENTAGON RESPONSE Capitol Hill: Faced with a torrent of counterfeit parts that pose a serious risk to the lives of American servicemen and to the performance of sophisticated weapons, Sen. Carl Levin pledged today to push for new laws and policies to help curb the problem.

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, held what could almost be called a marathon hearing (it started at 9:30 and ended after 3 with a few breaks) on the topic which included results of a sting operation run by the Government Accountability Office to demonstrate just how easy it was to buy counterfeit parts from Chinese firms. Keep reading →

Washington: Iran has ambitious plans for its future naval fleet, which could pose serious trouble for the United States and its region allies if Tehran can pull it off.

Last week, a senior Iranian naval officer announced his country was moving forward with plans to build a new aircraft carrier, along with a number of other advanced warships,

The Iranian navy has approved initial designs for the new carrier and will begin initial research and testing for the vessel soon, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

The announcement comes almost two months after China’s surprising announcement that it had begun sea trials for its new aircraft carrier.

While it’s unknown whether Iran has the means or the know-how to see the carrier development through, it is latest move by the country to put some very dangerous teeth into its naval forces, according to a recently released report by the Washington-based defense think tank the Institute for the Study of War.

The Iranian navy already has carried out missions as far as the Red Sea and the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea with its fleet small, fast-attack vessels and Soviet-era subs.

But if Tehran can pull this massive naval expansion plan together, it will be able to push its forces to “the Caspian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the area from Bandar Abbas, near the Straits of Hormuz, near Pakistan,” according to the report.

That expansion, and its its impacts, will be felt first and foremost by the Navy’s Fifth Fleet — the biggest U.S. naval force in Central Command.

Aside from some flare ups near the Straits of Hormuz and elsewhere, Fifth Fleet commanders have kept the Iranian navy in check for the most part, due to its relatively small size.

But Iran’s maritime plans — which include new warships, ballistic anti-ship missiles and possibly a new aircraft carrier — could force the Navy to pour more money and manpower into operations to contain that bolstered force.

Fifth Fleet already has its hands full with counterpiracy and counterterrorism operations. Adding a expanded Iranian navy into that mix may prove to be a difficult juggling act for the Navy, especially in light of the extreme fiscal pressure the service and DoD is facing back in Washington.

This naval expansion could also affect American interests in Iraq. With combat operations now winding down, Iran has sought to expand its influence in the country that it fought a long, bloody war with in the 1980s.

Iran is already providing weapons and support to Islamic militants looking to destabilize the Iraqi government as a way to gain a foothold in the country.

A strong naval presence — a traditional sign of a country’s power and influence — could be another way Tehran shows Iraqi leaders that an alliance with Iran, and not the United States, is the way to go.

While this naval expansion may make Iran a much bigger headache for the Pentagon, American allies in the region, namely Saudi Arabia, could provide a much-needed counterbalance.

Riyadh has kicked off a multibillion effort, known as the Saudi Naval Expansion Program II (SNEP II), to bolster its maritime forces along the country’s eastern waters. The program, estimated to be worth between $10 and $20 billion, will likely feature the newest ships, helicopters and aircraft in the U.S. Navy’s fleet.

DoD and their counterparts in Saudi Arabia are discussing potential sales of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, the MH-60R Knighthawk helicopter, the P-8 Poseidon intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft and MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned drone as part of SNEP II.

Aside from having the very best hardware the U.S. Navy has to offer, the SNEP II sales will ensure American and Saudi forces will be able to coordinate its forces, should a situation flare up with Iran or any other regional power.

Again, all this may be for naught, if this plan proves too ambitious for Tehran to see through.

But if the country’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon are any indication of how this plan plays out, its safe to say that Washington and others in the region will be keeping a close eye on Iran’s shipyards over the next few years.

The first production version of Boeing’s first P-8A Poseidon took off and completed its first successful flight.

The plane flew June 21 from Renton Field, where it is assembled, to Boeing Field in Seattle, where mission systems will be installed. It is the first of six low-rate initial production aircraft for the Navy, part of a $1.6 billion contract awarded in January. Keep reading →