Senate side of the capitol

WASHINGTON: The hearing season is roaring ahead at full tilt, with senior officials at five defense hearings on Wednesday. Here’s our preview of some of the likely topics and issues. The most interesting to Breaking Defense readers probably will be the unique pairing of the four Army and Air Force leaders before the full Senate… Keep reading →

This is one of those videos we’ll put up occasionally just for the record. It’s the only way most folks are going to know that Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh visited the F-35 plant in Fort Worth and voiced strong support for the plane.

Welsh’s remarks come as Lockheed declared yesterday afternoon during its earnings call that the F-35 was making “great progress.” Keep reading →

Its supporters have argued for much of the last year that the F-35 was further along and in better shape than its critics were willing to give the program credit for. The plane, they argued, was close to combat-ready and once the first weapons tests occurred, people would see the truth of it.

Well, the Marine version of the plane, the F-35B, performed the first airborne weapon separation yesterday. And the JSF program moved heaven and earth to get the video and story cleared for public release as soon as humanly possible. As you can see from the video, the plane drops an inert JDAMS, one of the staples of the precision guided munitions used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Keep reading →

F-35 completes first airborne weapons separation an F-35b BF-3 released inert 1,000 lb. GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) yesterday @colinclarkaol

WASHINGTON: Great Britain’s new defense minister delivered a surprising rebuff to his fellow European defense leaders: Stop complaining about being abandoned as the US shifts its focus to the Asia-Pacific region and prepare to “do much more of the heavy lifting” on security in your own backyard. 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 →

PENTAGON: The Navy’s F/A-XX initiative has been depicted as an ultra-advanced “sixth generation” aircraft that the Navy would prefer to buy instead of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. But Breaking Defense interviews with Navy and industry sources strongly suggest that the service has little appetite for another expensive development program and that the most likely candidate for the F/A-XX is, in fact, an upgraded F-35.

“We’re not chasing the next shiny object,” a Navy official told Breaking Defense. “We’re looking to what is the art of the possible with regard to affordable warfighting capability.” Keep reading →

FIGHTER DEMONSTRATION CENTER, ARLINGTON, VA: Lockheed Martin executives gathered to tout their F-35 Joint Strike Fighter dismissed a widely reported Pentagon estimate that the aircraft would ultimately cost $1.1 trillion to develop, build, and operate over 55 years. In fact, they argued, the F-35 will cost less to operate than the airplanes it will replace — a highly controversial claim.

“Lockheed Martin believes this aircraft is going to be about the same or even less to operate over the life of the program,” said Robert Rubino, a former Navy pilot who now heads the Navy portion of the Lockheed F-35 program. In the DoD estimate, he said, “they were using legacy data, legacy models” that don’t account for how the F-35 was designed with ease of maintenance and affordability in mind: “They don’t give credit for any of those enhancements.” Keep reading →

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA: The Pentagon should brace for another $250 billion or more in cuts even if sequestration does not occur and must revolutionize how and what it buys, warned Hoss Cartwright, former vice-chairman of the Joint Staff, in a speech that savaged sacred cows from the Joint Strike Fighter to cybersecurity to the AirSea Battle concept.

“We just took a $480-some billion reduction” in the current budget proposal, Cartwright said at the annual Joint Warfighting Conference hosted by the US Naval Institute and the industry group AFCEA. (Click here for video). “While we squeal a lot about that reduction, we were heading that way anyway,” he said. Whether sequestration occurs or not, the pattern of past post-war drawdowns strongly suggest we’re heading further down the budget cutting road. “$480 billion is about a 10 percent reduction,” he said. “Historically we’ve run about 20% reductions after these conflicts. We’re about halfway there.” Keep reading →

Paris: Aerospace reporters began grumbling about the paucity of U.S. defense news at this year’s Paris Air Show by the end of the second day.

While defense companies don’t go to air shows to make news, they are important venues for them to gain bragging rights and to set the tone of the debate about the competitions in which they are engaged. Keep reading →