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 →
The start of a new year and of a new administration is a good time to think about the future. A key challenge facing the new Obama administration and the Congress is to ensure that US military capabilities continue to innovate and evolve in challenging times.
Paul Bracken has underscored that we are in a Second Nuclear Age, and in this age deterrence is different, but remains as significant as the first. Bracken is concerned that we are ignoring the rebirth of nuclear weapons within the global dynamic at our peril. 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 →
FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: You can tell the U.S. defense budget is shrinking when one of the more interesting stories during an international air show centers on a plane, the F-16, first delivered in 1979.
But BAE Systems’ press conference focused on just that, providing upgrades to the worldwide fleet of some 2,500 airplanes in what the company’s lead man on the upgrades, Floyd McConnell, called a market of “several billion.” Keep reading →
Everyone knows military technology projects take forever and cost billions to produce, right? Just look at the Air Force’s latest fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor. The Raptor’s initial requirement was written in 1981, with the objective of developing an air superiority fighter to counter the Soviet air threat. It was declared operational in December of 2005, 14 years after the USSR collapsed. Better late than never, eh? After spending $65 billion (that’s billion-with-a-b), the Raptor fleet was capped at 187 aircraft, just 28 percent of the 650 originally envisioned.
This isn’t a unique situation. The V-22 Osprey has an almost identical story (requirement published in 1981, first delivery in 2005), except instead of $65 billion the military is projected to spend a mere $55B to acquire as many as 458 Ospreys. 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: Anyone who’s attended a hearing on the F-35 since Bob Gates first put the plane in his sights, with costs spinning upwards and schedule bulging outwards, knows that the Pentagon senior leadership is pushing hard to contain costs of the largest conventional acquisition program in U.S. history. Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: For months now, Pentagon and service officials have said it will need all the help it can get from its international partners, as the department begins its swing from Southwest Asia to the Western Pacific. But that help won’t include outfitting the South Korean air force with a key, U.S.-built radar system.
Pacific Command chief Adm. Robert Willard stopped short of agreeing to equip South Korea’s fleet of F-16 fighters with the next-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, which allows U.S. warplanes to track multiple targets during flight. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is expected to receive the new Northrop Grumman-built radar. Aside from tracking multiple targets, the AESA can also be used for electronic warfare and intelligence and surveillance operations. And therein lies the problem. Handing over that kind of capability to a foreign military, even an ally like South Korea, is something that PACOM, the Air Force or the Defense Department is not ready to do. Keep reading →
PENTAGON: One of the longest-running debates between the Air Force and the Army centers on close air support. Historically, the Air Force hates supplying CAS and doesn’t like buying or maintaining the planes that do it. But the white scarf boys wouldn’t let the Army do the job either, since it involved fixed-wing aircraft and shooting and that’s what the Air Force does.
So when the Air Force announced it was scrapping a large chunk of the current A-10 Warthog fleet and the pilots who go with it — five squadrons worth — the Pentagon’s back channels quickly filled with disgusted comments about how “there goes the Air Force again.” Every time they need to cut money from the budget the first thing they do is cut the A-10s, which have provided superb close air support ever since they started flying in the mid-70s, critics said. Two things make the A-10 especially fine at CAS: its amazing 30mmm cannon which can destroy a tank with ease; and the titanium bucket within which the pilot sits. The armored aircraft provides pilots with great protection, allowing them to be almost cavalier as they operate in dangerously kinetic environments. 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 →