The Navy's new EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft during sea trials.

CAPITOL HILL: Pentagon leaders are pushing hard to keep up the momentum of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Many in the Navy, though, still look longingly back at the Boeing-built F-18 Hornet, whose St. Louis production line faces closure in 2017. There are two independent trends that together could save the St. Louis line and the Navy’s favorite plane. The first… Keep reading →


THE PENTAGON: The Marines say the V-22 tilt rotor aircraft has deployed and flown “with properly trained and equipped combat ready Marines and mission capable aircraft” over the last six years. That statement stands in stark contrast to the findings of a classified Pentagon Inspector General’s report released late Friday afternoon. In an unclassified summary, the… Keep reading →

With all the services reining in spending to cope with the current budget crisis, the second and third-order effects of cutbacks will ripple through the force for years. While the Army “has it worst” by the Pentagon comptroller’s own assessment, the most complicated impacts are on the Navy, whose carefully planned maintenance schedule is falling apart. The fleet has already had to halve its aircraft carrier presence in the Persian Gulf, but delayed and cancelled overhauls will ultimately mean fewer ships in service in the years to come.

Ships require a lot of maintenance to work to stay ready for action, and none more than nuclear aircraft carriers. In addition to the regular pierside pitstops every type of vessel has to make, Nimitz-class carriers need their reactors refueled and thoroughly overhauled halfway through their 50-year service life. This massive “Refueling and Complex Overhaul” (RCOH) can only be performed at one shipyard in the nation, Huntington Ingalls Newport News yard in Virginia, so the next carrier has to come in as soon as the previous one is done. But last month the Navy delayed the USS Abraham Lincoln‘s overhaul indefinitely for lack of funds. That will in turn delay the next carrier on the schedule, the George Washington, and so on down the line. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: As the government hurtles towards the latest fiscal cliff, March 1st, the Marine Corps‘ deputy commandant for resources outlined a host of painful potential consequences, from reduced rifle training to cancelled deployments to grounded fighter squadrons. Lt. Gen. John Wissler appealed to Congress for so-called reprogramming authority that would at least let the Marines move around the money they do have to mitigate the worst effects.

[Click here to read about the readiness problems for the Army, Air Force, and Navy]

“Our money’s just in the wrong places in some instances,” Wissler told reporters after his speech this morning to the Navy League. But they can’t move it without explicit permission from Congress, he explained: “What we would need is to move things between appropriations, and they would need to help us there.” Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: The cliff is closer than you think. Pop quiz: When does congressional gridlock start to undermine military readiness? March 2nd, when the automatic cuts known as sequestration will begin to go into effect? March 27, when the Continuing Resolution now funding the government on a stop-gap basis will expire?

Give up? It’s February 15, when the Navy will start to cancel $604 million of major maintenance on 23 warships. (This date applies to the major maintenance work across the services, but it’s tougher on the Navy for reasons explained below.) Keep reading →

CRYSTAL CITY: Navy readiness is already under strain, America’s top admirals say. And looming budget cuts will only make things worse. And they are very worried — “terrified” about some effects — about just how bad this may get.

The automatic budget cuts known as sequestration are set to slice 8.8 percent out of Navy operations and maintenance funding — and about the same from almost every other federal government program — starting in March. [Click here for a Congressional perspective on how hard it is to get a sequester deal]. If Republicans and Democrats can’t come to terms on how to avert the cuts, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has told the Navy to delay or cancel the regular “availabilities” in which ships are tied up in port for major maintenance. Keep reading →

[updated 9:45 am Wednesday with DOT&E data] CRYSTAL CITY: Navy crews don’t have enough sailors, training, or spare parts to keep up with operational demands, the Commander of Naval Surface Forces said bluntly this afternoon. The service needs to make better use of smaller budgets by standardizing equipment and adopting new training simulations, Vice Adm. Tom Copeman said, but even that’s not enough: Ultimately, he said, the Navy must get smaller to stay ready.

That approach doesn’t play well on Capitol Hill, which is so focused on the keeping up the size of the fleet that last year it refused to let the Navy retire three aging Ticonderoga-class cruisers which admirals said cost more they were worth to keep maintained. 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 →