Sitting in the cockpit of her A-10 Warthog somewhere over Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base on Jan. 10, Maj. Olivia Elliott flipped a switch. In an instant her blunt, twin-engine warplane with the 30-millimeter cannon in the nose was transformed. No longer just the Air Force’s most heavily-armed attack jet, now the A-10 was also a flying wireless router, providing Internet connectivity to anyone in range — and with the right password.
The final test of the Network-Tactical, or Net-T, upgrade to the Northrop Grumman LITENING and Lockheed Martin Sniper targeting pods, carried by A-10s and other warplanes, is the latest in a long chain of communications breakthroughs by the U.S. military and the defense industry. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: US foreign military sales are growing so fast the Pentagon can’t keep its PowerPoint slides updated — and they may well grow still more if a Defense Department policy easing exports of unmanned aircraft to 66 countries gets interagency and Congressional approval.
When Defense Security Cooperation Agency staff put together a briefing for DSCA deputy director Richard Genaille to give today at the National Press Club, new Foreign Military Sales (FMS) for fiscal year 2012 were at $64 billion. “It’s now $65 billion and will probably go up more in this fiscal year,” Genaille told the audience this morning at the ComDef 2012 conference. All told, Genaille said, “the FMS portfolio is valued at $385 billion dollars,” and supports “at least 3.5 million jobs, [at] a conservative estimate.” Keep reading →
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 →
While the active-duty Air Force and the National Guard are at odds over budget cuts in Washington, the relationship seems smoother at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base, where an Air National Guard officer assigned the an active-duty 33rd Fighter Wing became the first Guard pilot to fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the controversial product of the Pentagon’s biggest procurement program. 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 →
WASHINGTON: The US plays a “dominant role” in keeping the peace in the Pacific, and that’s a good thing, said Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen — but the US still needs to cooperate with China, not confront or contain it. That’s the word to the wise from one of America’s closest military partners in the Pacific.
“The US, as a ‘resident power,’ should continue to play its dominant role in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific… within the regional security architecture,” Ng said carefully, using a diplomatic term of art — “resident power” — that emphasizes America’s long-standing presence in East Asia. A Scottish-trained surgeon turned politician who took over the Defense Ministry last year, Ng spoke at an event sponsored by the Center for a New American Security, this morning before heading to the Pentagon to meet with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this afternoon. Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: “These findings should outrage every American.”
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is a tough former prosecutor but he rarely offers such sweeping condemnations as he did today when releasing the findings of a congressional sting operation designed to test whether China had changed its ways and had started combating counterfeit defense parts. Keep reading →
If you take the Administration’s word for it, the most recent defense budget represents a sober-minded and far-thinking strategic shift from the Middle East to Asia, creating a smaller, high-tech force oriented increasingly towards inter-state conflict and deterrence. Many are even comparing the Pentagon’s current vision with that of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who sought to transform the five-sided building away from Kosovo-style interventions and create an agile and sophisticated military oriented toward the Pacific. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: American allies in the the Middle East won’t be rushing to flood their arsenals with U.S. military hardware as a result of Iran’s recent aggressiveness in the region, according to defense experts.
Tehran set off a seemingly dangerous game of one-upmanship with Washington and its allies this week when it threatened to take control of the Straits of Hormuz. The key waterway bordering Iranian coastline is a vital transit point for commercial and military vessels looking to enter the Persian Gulf. Iran did back off its claims to the straits this week but warned the Pentagon not to send Navy carriers back to the Persian Gulf. Iran’s assertions over the highly contested waterway coincided with two major arms deals between the U.S, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Keep reading →
Winslow Wheeler, one of the Washington’s most respected defense budget experts, has penned a detailed analysis of how much the Pentagon pays for maintenance and operations to keep its planes in the air. Below, we offer a very condensed version of his report. The Editor.
Early in a weapon program’s history, there is virtually always a promise that it will be cheaper to operate than the aircraft it is to replace. That rarely turns out to be the case. This is not
new; just as the Air Force promised the F-22 would be cheaper (by 35 percent) to operate than the F-15, it also promised back in the 1970s that the F-15 would be cheaper to operate than the F-4 it replaced. The higher O&S costs are rarely divulged — or are even the subject of inquiry. When questions are asked, actual costs are masked by several layers of fog. What is available on scarce occasion is incomplete, and some of it is misleading. Keep reading →