Lockheed Martin is mounting a strong defense of the U-2 spy plane program after the Pentagon announced its intention to retire its entire fleet of legacy Dragon Lady intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft in favor of Northrop Grumman’s unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Lockheed, the ageing platform’s prime contractor, said it will wait until Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel submits the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2015 budget request to Congress before “addressing specifics,” but was quick to claim the U-2’s intelligence-gathering and performance superiority over the Global Hawk.
“The U-2 is the only weapon system flying today, manned or unmanned, capable of accomplishing the high-altitude ISR mission,” Lockheed spokeswoman Melissa Dalton said in a Feb. 27 statement given to Inside the Air Force, on behalf of the company’s U-2 program director Melani Austin.
The Air Force’s Wargaming Directorate is re-thinking the way it conducts its operations by employing new technologies to administer war games remotely to senior leaders across the United States and the globe, the service’s chief war gamer said.
Col. Howard Ward, commander of the directorate at the LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education, said his team is pursuing “distributed-type learning” as a way of providing its wargaming tools more effectively and at a lower cost.
The Air Force will use a new 30-year strategy to guide its future budget decisions, just as the sequestration-inspired Strategic Choices and Management Review influenced the service’s budget requests in fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
Speaking at a McAleese-Credit Suisse conference on Feb. 25, Air Force Under Secretary Eric Fanning built on last week’s comments by the service’s Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh about the creation of a 30-year strategy to guide the service’s resourcing priorities.
Davis: EELV, satellites, C-5M and C-130J remain in top 10
The Air Force’s top 10 priorities will consume 50 percent of its upcoming fiscal year 2015 budget request, which will include a “fairly healthy amount of money” for classified programs, the service’s top military acquisition official told a defense conference in Washington, DC, on Feb. 26.
Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Charles Davis told a forum at the Boomberg Government Defense Summit on Feb. 26 that only programs which provide capability in a contested, challenged environment are included in the service’s list of top 10 priorities, of which the top three are the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, KC-46 Pegasus tanker and Long-Range Strike Bomber.
The Air Force is calling on industry to back the Pentagon’s push for a slowing of military compensation growth and the establishment of a Base Realignment and Closure commission in 2017 as the department prepares to submit its already-controversial, five-year spending plan to Congress next week.
Speaking to industry representatives at a McAleese-Credit Suisse conference on Feb. 25, Air Force Under Secretary Eric Fanning said a 40 percent increase in military compensation since 2001 and excess infrastructure is eating up an increasing portion of the service’s budget, “crowding out readiness and modernization.”
Boeing is attempting to bring an Air Force solution to an Army problem by developing a ground-launched version of the Small Diameter Bomb it produces for the service’s F-15 fighter aircraft, and the company will self-fund a test flight of that system later this year.
By financing the demonstration, the company hopes the Army will see its Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GL-SDB) system as a viable replacement munition for the M270 Multiple-Launch Rocket System (MLRS), which currently employs a type of cluster munition being phased out by the Pentagon.
Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Super Hercules aircraft has a strong future both in military and civilian aviation after the company inked a $1 billion deal with Rolls-Royce for 600 more engines and announced the production of a civilian variant, known as the LM-100J.
As part of the agreement with Rolls-Royce, Lockheed has committed to continue purchasing the engine manufacturer’s AE 2100 turboprop powerplants until 2025, and also acquires enough engine units to satisfy C-130J production for the U.S. government and international customers until 2018.
The Air Force contends the two Block 40 RQ-4 Global Hawks being fielded by U.S. Central Command are achieving a “high system availability” despite tests in 2013 revealing major deficiencies in the unmanned aircraft’s sensor payload.
The two aircraft were fielded last September and are providing combatant commanders with high-resolution radar imaging and ground moving target indication through their on-board radar technology insertion program (RTIP) capability, developed by Global Hawk manufacturer Northrop Grumman.
In a Feb. 12 statement to Inside the Air Force, Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick said the service is spending $11.2 million in fiscal year 2014 for continued development and testing of the Block 40 system after an operational utility evaluation in March 2013 identified major sensor faults in the RTIP.
Kwast: Toys and tools different, doctrine enduring
After taking stock of “every nook and cranny” of the Air Force enterprise for the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, Maj. Gen. Steven Kwast is transitioning into his new assignment as the service’s chief of doctrine at the LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education with an emphasis on preparing for current and enduring threats.
The two-star general is still officially directing the Air Force’s portion of the Quadrennial Defense Review but found time to start his new role as commander of the LeMay Center while the Pentagon puts the finishing touches on the document ahead of its submission to Congress in March.
Speaking to Inside the Air Force on Feb. 19, Kwast displayed enthusiasm for his new role. As a component of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, the LeMay Center’s charter is to formulate, publish and teach Air Force doctrine and advocate its use through a series of high-level war games.
Budget constraints are preventing further Air Force investment into its Miniature Air-Launched Decoy-Jammer program in spite of efforts by Raytheon, the prime contractor, to trial a range of new capabilities and launch options.
And despite the system’s maturity and capability, the MALD-J and its decoy-only predecessor remain integrated only with the Air Force’s F-16 fighter and B-52 bomber fleets.
In a Feb. 11 interview with Inside the Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command’s MALD-J materiel leader, Marya Bard, said there is not enough funding nor interest from the various aircraft programs to proceed with new MALD-J projects — including those being developed internally by Raytheon and others.
One of the Air Force’s top acquisition officials delivered a grim appraisal of the service’s Network-Centric Solutions-2 contracting process at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association luncheon in Arlington, VA, on Feb. 11.
Described by the service as a contracting vehicle for the Defense Department’s acquisition of standardized and interoperable information technology (IT) products and services, the NETCENTS-2 program has been dogged by offeror protests and delays to its award schedule.
“It’s kind of like a horse built by a committee which becomes a giraffe,” Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Charles Davis told a room of IT specialists and industry representatives during a panel discussion, in response to a question from the audience.
The Air Force’s military deputy for acquisition has urged the information technology industry to be more “honest, direct and open” with the government in order to improve the way IT systems and services are rolled out.
Speaking on a panel at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association luncheon in Arlington, VA, on Feb. 11, Lt. Gen. Charles Davis said the Air Force and its sister services are critically short of skills relating to IT management, architecture and networks, and he encouraged the industry to play a greater role in the way the Defense Department handles its IT business.
“I think you need to be a lot more honest and direct and open with the government when we bring you in to help out with systems,” he told the room of IT specialists and industry representatives.
Raytheon and General Atomics are pressing ahead with their plans to integrate the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy-Jammer with an MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft despite a lack of investment from the Air Force.
Responding to questions from Inside the Air Force, Raytheon Air Warfare Systems Manager Joe Staton said the two companies are working together to find the appropriate government sponsor and funding they need to conduct a demonstration flight.
In a Feb. 12 email, Staton said the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) team is working with General Atomics to integrate both the MALD-J and legacy MALD systems with the RPA.
New software being developed by the Air Force and Lockheed Martin will automate the processing of data from the service’s disparate air and missile defense systems.
Known as the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Planner (IAMD), the software builds on the Defense Department’s net-centric data strategy which seeks to standardize IT systems and data formats.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) awarded Lockheed an $8 million contract in November 2013 to begin developing the software, and the final product is due for testing and installation in early 2015. Once complete, the software will be used by mission planners at the Air Force’s main operations hubs, the Air and Space Operations Centers (AOC).
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Raytheon are preparing to demonstrate a new capability that could allow joint terminal attack controllers to direct close-air-support munitions onto targets with great precision, situational awareness and within six minutes, according to the Raytheon program manager.
The system is being developed through DARPA’s Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) program, which awarded Raytheon a $25.5 million contract for Phase Three in December 2013.
The company announced the contract in a Feb. 4 press release and said PCAS software “could enable troops to receive close air support sooner by improving coordination among joint terminal attack controllers, airborne sensors and weapons.”
The Air Force is moving forward with its plan to migrate the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System onto a significantly smaller, more affordable business-jet class airframe by releasing the first of three requests for information to industry.
This tentative first step in the JSTARS recapitalization process comes even though any actual attempt to acquire a new airframe has been deemed unaffordable in recent years.
Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), which is overseeing the high-priority recapitalization effort, released the RFI on Jan. 23 in order to gather market information regarding the Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2) subsystem.
The first mothballed F-16 to be regenerated as part of the Air Force’s QF-16 target drone program passed its functional check flight on Jan. 19 — four years after its retirement at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group’s “boneyard” aircraft and missile storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, AZ.
The F-16C was retired in 2010, and it is the first of more than 200 F-16s which AMARG has designated for regeneration and conversion into manned/unmanned aerial target drones.
The group’s commander, Col. Robert Lepper, said AMARG currently has production contracts in place to regenerate the first 32 F-16s, which are destined for Boeing’s maintenance and overhaul facility in Florida where they will be converted into target drones.
Boeing’s development of extended-range Joint Direct Attack Munition wing kits for the Royal Australian Air Force has unlocked new areas of possibilities for Mark-80 series general-purpose bombs, including data links and Global Positioning System-independent navigation.
Legacy JDAM tail kits produced by Boeing currently give the 500-pound MK-82, 100-pound MK-83 and 2,000-pound MK-84 bombs and BLU-109 penetration bomb a glide range of 10-15 nautical miles depending on the release altitude.
But newly manufactured JDAM-ER kits are pushing this range out to 40 nautical miles, and Boeing’s JDAM program manager, John Flint, believes this extra flight time could benefit from pilot-to-munition data links and improved navigational capabilities for GPS-jammed or denied environments.
General Atomics awarded $117.3M for extended-range Reaper
Air Force efforts to complete follow-on testing and evaluation of the enhanced MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle system are being hampered by ongoing development challenges, the Defense Department’s top weapons tester has warned.
In his annual report, DOD Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) Michael Gilmore outlined significant fiscal year 2013 test and evaluation delays to the MQ-9 Increment One system, which includes the Block 5 UAS, Block 30 ground control station and its operational flight program. The setbacks were attributed to ongoing delays in software and technical order development.
Development challenges also delayed the testing and fielding of enhanced baseline program capabilities to operational MQ-9 units.