A year has passed since Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act-the legislation mandating sequestration. Funding cuts that once seemed politically remote now loom large for leaders increasingly anxious about the impact $1.2 trillion in automatic budget reductions will have upon their respective districts and states. An estimated two million jobs at risk is a possibility no lawmaker can ignore.
Sequestration threatens the country’s ability to allow those in uniform to do their jobs. To understand what it means in real terms, look at the Air Force. Over the past decade, the service has been hit with numerous cuts and now the 2013 budget risks pushing airmen over the brink. There comes a point when people simply cannot do more with less. Unless Congress passes a sustainable and viable alternative to the Budget Control Act, challenges arising in the Air Force will be mirrored throughout the Army, Navy and Marine Corps — curtailing the number of key policy options upon which our nation’s leaders depend. Keep reading →
FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: This is it. We are wrapping up our coverage of the 2012 show. The grey and wet skies that blanketed the show for most of the week stand as a metaphor for the defense business.
One industry observer, with more than 20 years of air shows under his belt, told me this morning that this Farnborough was the worst for news he’d ever seen. The companies didn’t put out many press releases compared to years past. Most of the press had vanished by today, with only we trade reporters clinging hard to the hope there might be a morsel of something to tease out. Keep reading →
FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: The sun shone — sometimes. Well, once in a while. But regardless of the weather here crowds turned out to watch the planes, especially the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Its sleek composite frame complemented the subtle bend of the wings as the plane took off and banked.
The 787′s pilot was praised by the announcer (yes, they have an announcer at the air show who tells people what plane is flying, offers technical explanation of the maneuvers and discusses the pilots’ qualifications and special skills) for staying within 100 feet of his programmed flight path even as he banked sharply and wandered through the clouds. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Both chambers of Congress have resoundingly rejected the administration’s proposed cuts to the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve – but the language that the House passed is so sweeping that it may inadvertently block the modernization of the very Guard and Reserve forces it was written to protect, according to Hill sources and the powerful National Guard Association of the US. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: The military Reserves and National Guard have spent a decade operating with unprecedented intensity alongside the regular active-duty force in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, as budget cuts loom, their leaders are fighting hard to keep the funding needed to keep their edge in both training and equipment. Going back to the sleepy days of “weekend warriors” rehearsing with hand-me-down hardware is not an option, they argued: The nation needs them ready, and a new generation of Guard and Reserve troops accustomed to real-world operations won’t accept anything less. Keep reading →
HARTFORD, CT: Aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney proudly predicts it will double its revenues this decade from $12 billion in 2010 to $24 billion in 2020 — but the company admits it will have to get through some lean years first. On both the commercial and military sides, key Pratt & Whitney programs are going away, and new engines using new technology for new aircraft are coming online, but there’s a gap before they pick up, a gap that slow economic growth and downsizing defense budgets threaten to lengthen. The single most critical factor: whether the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter materializes more or less on time. Keep reading →
PRATT & WHITNEY ENGINE PLANT, MIDDLETOWN, CONN.:
[updated 9:05 am Wednesday with comment from Pratt & Whitney President David Hess]
This factory builds jet engines for high-performance fighters — an engine a week for the F-35 alone — but the armed forces might want to take a look at an innovation on Pratt & Whitney’s commercial side. The new technology, called a “geared turbofan,” was motivated by rising fuel costs and the airlines’ demand for more fuel-efficient engines, itself no small matter for the military. As a byproduct, however, the new engines are also more resistant to a hazard that’s a much bigger deal at rugged forward airbases than tidy civilian airports: Call it the wrath of FOD, foreign object damage, the term of art for the ugly, often explosive things that happen when a jet engine accidentally sucks in anything from loose gravel to Canadian geese. Keep reading →
So how many aircraft does it take to move the world’s largest military force? Not as many as many as you would think, the Pentagon says.
In what has at times seemed like a long-running bad joke, filled with terms like ‘floors’, ‘ceilings’ and ‘sweet spots’, the Pentagon has finally capped its strategic airlift requirement at 300 aircraft. Keep reading →