Thursday, January 31, 2013

Smartphone to hold integrated warrior gear

Smartphone to hold integrated warrior gear: Soldiers on the battlefront will soon be able to run complex computerized warrior systems as integrated units on hand-held devices, including smartphones and tablets.
Command-and-control systems for military personnel fighting on land have long bedeviled defense strategists, planners and manufacturers. Many of the pioneering systems were unwieldy, heavy to carry and prone to failure at critical times.
The United States' recent and ongoing engagement in several conflicts has led to demand, mirrored in other armed forces elsewhere, for military gadgetry that is easy to handle, light in weight and brings together systems directed at a soldier in battle from land, air and the sea and requiring rapid response. Within NATO forces, too, competing command and control systems continue to dominate inventories of soldiers -- something that defense leaders want to change.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

U.S. Plans Base for Surveillance Drones in Africa -

U.S. Plans Base for Surveillance Drones in Africa - For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens.

The move is an indication of the priority Africa has become in American antiterrorism efforts. The United States military has a limited presence in Africa, with only one permanent base, in the country of Djibouti, more than 3,000 miles from Mali, where French and Malian troops are now battling Qaeda-backed fighters who control the northern part of Mali.

A new drone base in northwest Africa would join a constellation of small airstrips in recent years on the continent, including in Ethiopia, for surveillance missions flown by drones or turboprop planes designed to look like civilian aircraft.

Missile defense EEKV shows value

Missile defense EEKV shows value: Raytheon's new enhanced Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle demonstrated its capability in a recent non-intercept homeland missile defense test.
In the test Saturday, the EKV maneuvered the Ground-based Midcourse Defense interceptor to the appropriate altitude and closing velocity to destroy the incoming ballistic missile.
"Rigorous non-intercept flight tests are important in proving the effectiveness and operational capability of ballistic missile defense weapons and their various components," said Wes Kremer, Raytheon Missile Systems' vice president of Air and Missile Defense Systems.

US Army Upgrades Manpack Radios For MUOS Network

US Army Upgrades Manpack Radios For MUOS Network: The U.S. Army ordered kits in December to upgrade 100 Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit (HMS) AN/PRC-155 two-channel Manpack radios to enable them to communicate with the military's Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite communications system.
This MUOS channel upgrade, comprising a field-replaceable power amplifier and supporting software, will allow secure voice and data communication with the MUOS system. The order is valued at $5 million; the kits will be delivered in the fall of 2013.
"By upgrading fielded PRC-155 radios, the Army will greatly enhance soldier effectiveness by providing a tenfold increase in SATCOM capacity for secure, over-the-horizon military communications," said Chris Marzilli, president of General Dynamics C4 Systems.

US military plans drone base near Mali: official

US military plans drone base near Mali: official: The US military plans to set up a base for drones in northwest Africa to bolster surveillance of Al-Qaeda's affiliate in the region as well as allied Islamist extremists, a US official told AFP on Monday.
The base for the robotic, unmanned aircraft would likely be located in Niger, on the eastern border of Mali, where French forces are currently waging a campaign against Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The base was first reported by the New York Times earlier Monday.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What's the threat? North Korean rhetoric, reality |

What's the threat? North Korean rhetoric, reality | This week, new U.N. sanctions punishing the North's successful December rocket launch have elicited a furious response from Pyongyang: strong hints that a third nuclear test is coming, along with bigger and better long-range missiles; "all-out action" against its "sworn enemy," the United States; and on Friday, a threat of "strong physical countermeasures" against South Korea if Seoul participates in the sanctions.

"Sanctions mean war," said a statement carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency.

In the face of international condemnation, North Korea can usually be counted on for such flights of rhetorical pique. In recent years it threatened to turn South Korea into a "sea of fire," and to wage a "sacred war" against its enemies.

If the past is any indication, its threats of war are overblown. But the chances it will conduct another nuclear test are high. And it is gaining ground in its missile program, experts say, though still a long way from seriously threatening the U.S. mainland.

Raytheon, US Navy demonstrate new dual targeting capability for JSOW C-1

Raytheon, US Navy demonstrate new dual targeting capability for JSOW C-1: The U.S. Navy successfully demonstrated the dual targeting capability of Raytheon's Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) C-1. Two recent tests during the program's integrated test phase prove the weapon can engage challenging stationary targets. Previous testing in the integrated test phase demonstrated JSOW C-1's capability against moving maritime targets.
The first stationary land target test was designed to assess JSOW's capability against operationally realistic infrared and radio frequency countermeasures. An F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft launched a JSOW C-1 from approximately 29,000 feet and 17.5 nautical miles from the target.
The weapon flew a preplanned route at 0.83 mach airspeed, employed 3-D waypoints, and successfully impacted a cement wall on a simulated bunker.
The second stationary land target test was designed to demonstrate JSOW's performance at night against an operationally representative bunker target. An F/A-18F Super Hornet launched the JSOW C-1 from approximately 25,000 feet.
The JSOW C-1 flew the preplanned route at 0.81 mach airspeed and successfully impacted the buried bunker.

Lockheed Martin JLTV Undergoes Successful Design Review

Lockheed Martin JLTV Undergoes Successful Design Review: Lockheed Martin's family of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles successfully completed a top-to-bottom government design review in late December, well ahead of the first Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) JLTVs that will begin rolling off the assembly line this spring.
The Design Understanding Review, which was held December 18 through 20, assessed all elements of Lockheed Martin's JLTV design and confirmed its overall maturity and requirements compliance.
"We are focused on ensuring that our servicemen and women get the very best equipment for the mission," said Scott Greene, vice president of Ground Vehicles for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "Our JLTV is affordable both to buy and to operate. It provides proven performance with room to upgrade capabilities as required and is ready for production."

Marines Get Improved Precision Extended Range Munitions

Marines Get Improved Precision Extended Range Munitions: The United States Marine Corps awarded Raytheon a contract for the design, development and demonstration of a new production representative 120mm long-range, guided-mortar munition. Once fielded, the Precision Extended Range Munition (PERM) will be used with the M327 rifled towed mortar, the primary weapon system of the Expeditionary Fire Support System.
The system provides all-weather, ground-based close support, and immediately responsive and accurate indirect fires in support of the Marine air-to-ground task force.
"Leveraging our extensive experience with precision munitions, Raytheon will provide the Marine Corps with precision, highly lethal indirect fire support for its combat operations while minimizing collateral damage," said Tom Bussing, vice president of Advanced Missile Systems for Raytheon Missile Systems.
"Our PERM solution is also expected to reduce logistical burdens since fewer rounds will be needed to accomplish the mission."

US support to French forces is free of charge: Pentagon

US support to French forces is free of charge: Pentagon: The United States will not demand payment from France for the use of US transport planes ferrying French forces and equipment to Mali, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
"We're not asking for compensation or reimbursement from the French," spokesman George Little told reporters.
"The focus right now is not on money but is on achieving our shared goal of holding militants in northern Mali."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

North Africa: Is this al-Qaida resurgent?

North Africa: Is this al-Qaida resurgent?: U.S. terrorism specialist Bruce Reidel, a former CIA officer, says the battles against jihadists in Mali and Algeria mark "the emergence of the third generation" of al-Qaida that "could prove to be the most deadly al-Qaida yet."
But other Western analysts suspect U.S. neoconservatives are hyping the jihadist threat in North Africa to prod the U.S. administration into a new war against terror in Africa even though that could backfire.
The North African crisis centers on an Islamist alliance that seized control of northern Mali in April after turning on its erstwhile Tuareg allies who sought an independent state.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Space Station to Get Balloon Room -

Space Station to Get Balloon Room - NASA is partnering with a commercial space company in a bid to replace the cumbersome "metal cans" that now serve as astronauts' homes in space with inflatable bounce-house-like habitats that can be deployed on the cheap.

A $17.8 million test project will send to the International Space Station an inflatable room that can be compressed into a 7-foot tube for delivery, officials said Wednesday in a news conference at North Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace.

If the module proves durable during two years at the space station, it could open the door to habitats on the moon and missions to Mars, NASA engineer Glen Miller said.

The agency chose Bigelow for the contract because it was the only company working on inflatable technology, said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

Founder and President Robert Bigelow, who made his fortune in the hotel industry before getting into the space business in 1999, framed the gambit as an out-of-this-world real estate venture. He hopes to sell his spare tire habitats to scientific companies and wealthy adventurers looking for space hotels.

NASA is expected to install the 13-foot, blimp-like module in a space station port by 2015. Bigelow plans to begin selling stand-alone space homes the next year.

The new technology provides three times as much room as the existing aluminum models, and is also easier and less costly to build, Miller said.

NASA, Europeans Uniting to Send Spaceship to Moon -

NASA, Europeans Uniting to Send Spaceship to Moon - NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency to get astronauts beyond Earth's orbit.

Europe will provide the propulsion and power compartment for NASA's new Orion crew capsule, officials said Wednesday. This so-called service module will be based on Europe's supply ship used for the International Space Station.

Orion's first trip is an unmanned mission in 2017. Any extra European parts will be incorporated in the first manned mission of Orion in 2021.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How bad are the bad guys in Mali? The answer, in four powerful paragraphs

How bad are the bad guys in Mali? The answer, in four powerful paragraphs: As the French military expands its campaign to halt the Islamist rebels who have already seized half of Mali, it’s worth asking: what makes these guys so bad that France intervened against them?
Mali’s Islamist rebels have earned a record for cruelty and barbarity since seizing the northern half of the country. That’s probably not the only reason France intervened (more on this in a later post), but it’s an important – and disturbing – part of the picture.
The Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan visited Mali recently, where he discovered just how brutal the Islamists’ rule had become. Here, from his December 11 story, is a glimpse into life under their rule:

Seoul, Washington to start talks on costs for U.S. troops in S. Korea | YONHAP NEWS

Seoul, Washington to start talks on costs for U.S. troops in S. Korea | YONHAP NEWS: South Korea and the United States will begin negotiations this year to renew a cost-sharing agreement for American troops stationed in the South, an official said Tuesday.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea under a mutual defense treaty aimed at deterring potential aggression from North Korea. The agreement, last revised in 2008, will expire by the end of this year.

"The defense cost-sharing agreement for U.S. Forces Korea will expire this year," foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said, adding the allies will engage in "intense negotiations" to renew the agreement.

Cho did not say exactly when the negotiations would start, but the ministry is preparing to start the talks once the new government of South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye is launched.

The planned talks for sharing costs for the American military presence in South Korea, as well as Seoul's pursuit of uranium enrichment and reprocessing for civilian purposes, are cited as key bilateral issues facing Seoul's new government.

Afghan elders to decide on immunity for US troops: Karzai

Afghan elders to decide on immunity for US troops: Karzai: Afghan elders will decide on the key issue of whether American soldiers remaining in the country after 2014 will be granted immunity from prosecution, President Hamid Karzai said on Monday.
US President Barack Obama warned last week that no American troops would remain behind in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014 unless they were granted immunity from prosecution in local courts.
"The US is standing firm by its demand for immunity for its soldiers," Karzai told a news conference on his return from Washington where he held talks with Obama on Friday.
"The Afghan government can't decide on this. This is up to the Afghan nation to decide. The Loya Jirga will decide," he said, referring to the national assembly of tribal elders.

US to support Afghan village operations: envoy

US to support Afghan village operations: envoy: The US military will keep providing logistical support in villages as it hands over the security lead to Afghan forces this spring, Afghanistan's envoy to Washington said Monday.
US President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced Friday that the United States would speed up the transfer of security responsibility, preparing for the withdrawal of US combat forces by the end of 2014.
In a joint news conference at the White House, Karzai said Afghan forces would be fully responsible for protection by spring and that "the American forces will be no longer be present in Afghan villages."

Friday, January 11, 2013

US military ordered to prepare for fiscal 'perfect storm'

US military ordered to prepare for fiscal 'perfect storm'

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday ordered the US military to "prepare for the worst" and take cost-saving measures as it faces the threat of potential deep budget cuts. The steps include scaling back maintenance, freezing civilian hiring and delaying some weapons contracts, Panetta told a news conference. The US military's vast budget is the by far the largest in the world, with proposed spending for fiscal year 2013 of roughly $614 billion, and will remain so -- despite what Panette dubbed a "perfect storm of budget uncertainty." "We have no idea what the hell is going to happen," he added. "All told, this uncertainty, if left unresolved by the Congress, will seriously harm our military readiness." The uncertainty stems from Congress's failure to adopt a defense budget for the current fiscal year 2013, its inability to resolve a stalemate that could trigger massive cuts and a looming crisis over the country's debt ceiling. If lawmakers fail to approve the Pentagon's proposed budget for 2013, the department will suffer an $11 billion cutback to funding for operations and maintenance, he said.

Cloud Of Iron: DARPA Hardens Cloud Computing Against Cyber Attack

Cloud Of Iron: DARPA Hardens Cloud Computing Against Cyber Attack

"The cloud" may seem amorphous, but in reality it consists of a host of modestly capable user terminals connected to a high-powered central server or server farm. The great advantage of the cloud is that individual users can borrow capacity -- storage, processing power, even entire applications -- from the central server when they need it. The great vulnerability is a successful attack on the central server can compromise everyone on the cloud.

When you put that many eggs in one basket, you'd better guard it well. That's the objective of a new program at DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: MRC, Mission-oriented Resilient Clouds.

MRC about building a system that can keep functioning while under an attack and continue to provide useful services even after some resources have been corrupted. The research stresses designing resilient, adaptive systems able to fend off attacks, MRC program manager Howard Shrobe told AOL Defense.

Centralization offers economic efficiency, but it also creates a single point of failure.

Army Nicknames AH-64E 'Guardian' -- Shoulda Been 'Monster'

Army Nicknames AH-64E 'Guardian' -- Shoulda Been 'Monster'

Last fall, the service redesignated the AH-64D Apache Longbow Block III, calling it instead the AH-64E Apache, aka AH-64 Echo, in recognition of its greatly increased capability compared to the AH-64D Block II. Now comes an Army news release revealing that the Apache Project Office has given the Echo model a nickname as well: "Guardian."

"Guardian," the release explains, was suggested by Gina Gill, a logistics management specialist at the Army Aviation and Missile Command Logistics Center at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., who won a "name the new Apache" contest. "Although the Apache is known as the deadliest helicopter, it is much more," Gill wrote. "The Apache functions as a safeguard for our soldiers on the ground. It seeks and eliminates threats that would otherwise be undetectable and/or indestructible, allowing our troops to complete their missions. The Apache is our soldiers' guardian in the sky."

'Zero Dark Thirty,' the CIA and 'enhanced interrogation techniques' - Open Channel

'Zero Dark Thirty,' the CIA and 'enhanced interrogation techniques' - Open Channel

Whatever its artistic merits, the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” is giving Americans a shocking first-hand look at the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA on suspected terrorists and rekindling that most polarizing of national security debates: Did waterboarding and other practices amount to torture and were they even effective?
The movie, which opens in wide release on Friday, is unlikely to resolve those issues, particularly given that critics – including acting CIA Director Michael Morell -- say it misrepresents the role the interrogations played in the eventual tracking and killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
But more than a decade after the harsh techniques were authorized, the movie does offer an opportunity to examine the methodical, legalistic, bureaucratic process that led to the use of waterboarding and other physically and mentally stressful interrogation techniques.

Their development illustrates what former CIA Director George Tenet wrote in his memoir, “At the Center of the Storm”: “Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, in situations like this, you don’t call in the tough guys; you call in the lawyers.”
Interviews over three years with former high-ranking U.S. officials, and a review of documents and memoirs of participants by NBC News, provide a detailed picture of the how the intelligence community and Justice Department crafted the “enhanced interrogation techniques” – known as EITs in CIA jargon -- that were used on some of America’s most wanted terrorists.
The approval process for the techniques – many of which are prohibited for use on battlefield adversaries by the Geneva Conventions – created not just a list of those that were permitted, but included detailed instructions covering everything from the dimensions of the waterboard to how long detainees were to be strapped down and their airflow restricted. Specific legal procedures also were prescribed before each technique could be administered.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Budget cut likely to hit most Pentagon civilian workers: analyst | Reuters

Budget cut likely to hit most Pentagon civilian workers: analyst | Reuters

Almost all of the Pentagon's nearly 800,000 civilian employees would likely have to be placed on unpaid leave for a month this year if automatic defense spending cuts go into effect in March as now planned, a top defense budget analyst said on Wednesday.
Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think-tank, predicted the across-the-board spending cuts, which were delayed until March 1 under a law passed on New Year's Day, were more likely than before.

"(The Department of Defense) dodged a bullet once on this. There's another round locked and loaded in the chamber. I'm not sure they can keep dodging those bullets every time ... Eventually one of them is going to hit," he told a briefing.

The Pentagon faces $500 billion in across-the-board cuts to projected spending over the next decade under a process known as sequestration. The cuts, part of an effort to address the huge U.S. budget deficits, were supposed to go into effect on January 2, but Congress passed a law delaying them until March 1.

Campbell assumes command of U.S. Army Europe in Wiesbaden ceremony | Article | The United States Army

Campbell assumes command of U.S. Army Europe in Wiesbaden ceremony | Article | The United States Army

WIESBADEN, Germany (Jan. 9, 2013) -- Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr. formally assumed command of U.S. Army Europe in a ceremony on Clay Kaserne here, Jan. 9.

Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command, or USAREUR, gave the keynote address at the ceremony. The admiral said Campbell and his wife Ann are perfect for USAREUR and their return to duty in Germany and the move of USAREUR's headquarters here symbolize the U.S. commitment to Europe and mark the beginning of a new era for USAREUR.

Stavridis quoted President Barack Obama, who called the NATO alliance "the cornerstone of American engagement with the world," and noted that USAREUR Soldiers are deployed side by side with European partner forces across Europe and in Afghanistan. He highlighted the worth of the combined training USAREUR conducts routinely with those forces at its training sites in Germany and elsewhere.

Stavridis concluded by speaking directly to the new USAREUR commander and listing three things he wants USAREUR to focus on during his command: continued assistance to Afghanistan after 2014; continued alliance with European partner forces; and new ways to apply innovative techniques such as cyber-operations, special operations, missile defense and other emerging technologies in the USAREUR mission.

In his remarks Campbell also spoke of partnerships and the future.

"Our European partners have stood side by side with us in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa and the Balkans," he said. "These partnerships, grounded in trust, remain the cornerstone for U.S. engagement with the world."

"This is why U.S. Army Europe remains more vital today than ever."

The challenge, he said, will be to maintain and build upon these gains in an era of dwindling resources. But he added that USAREUR's transformation is making it better able to meet those challenges.

"We are in the process of deactivating two long-storied brigades, and we are reducing our garrison footprint across Europe. This transition makes us leaner, better organized, and more agile. In the end we will be better prepared to face the challenges of the future," he said.

Campbell officially became the 38th commander of USAREUR upon his arrival in Germany Dec. 1, following an assignment as commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas.

Campbell has a long history with USAREUR. His previous positions in Europe include the 8th Infantry Division in Bad Kreuznach, Germany; the 4th Battalion, 69th Armor in Mainz, Germany; Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons, Belgium; and V Corps in Heidelberg, Germany.

Several dignitaries from across Europe attended the ceremony, including Volker Bouffier, minister president of Hesse; Robert Mandell, U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg; Dr. Helmut Mueller, lord mayor of Wiesbaden; Lothar Binding, member of the German federal parliament; Norbert Kartmann, president of the Hessen state parliament; Prof. Dr. Luise Holscher, undersecretary of the Hessen finance ministry; Ambassador Larry Butler, U.S. European Command civilian deputy to the commander and foreign policy advisor; Peter Von Unruh, director of the Hessen state parliament; Alois Karl, member of the Bundestag; and Kevin Milas, U.S. consul general, Frankfurt.

Several senior European military officers also attended the event, including the commander of the Albanian Armed Forces; the commander of the Bulgarian Land Forces; the Germany Army Inspekteur des Heeres; the commander of the Kosovo Security Forces; the commander of the Lithuanian Land Forces; the commander of the Polish Land Forces; and the commander of the Romanian Land Forces.

US plays tough with Karzai on Afghan troops

US plays tough with Karzai on Afghan troops

US officials plan a mix of hardball negotiating and flattery during a visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as President Barack Obama decides how deeply to cut forces in America's longest war. Karzai will be Obama's first foreign visitor of 2013 with a White House meeting on Friday and State Department dinner on Thursday. The Afghan leader met Wednesday with senators including Republican leader Mitch McConnell. The talks come as the freshly re-elected Obama charts out plans to pull most of the 68,000 US troops out of Afghanistan. The United States and its allies have already agreed to withdraw combat troops by the end of 2014 but questions remain on a US training and security role after that. Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told reporters Tuesday that Obama sought to prevent Al-Qaeda's return to Afghanistan but would not rule out any ideas including the so-called zero option -- leaving no US troops at all. Afghanistan watchers in Washington largely saw the hints as a strategy aimed at Karzai, who has had a tumultuous relationship with the Obama administration and is seen as wanting US troops to stay as long as possible.

Northrop Grumman Building Company-Owned UAVs For Navy

Northrop Grumman Building Company-Owned UAVs For Navy

Northrop Grumman is building a company-owned unmanned aircraft for use as a development and demonstration platform for at-sea surveillance under the U.S. Navy's MQ-4C Triton program. Triton provides a detailed picture of surface vessels to identify threats across vast areas of ocean and littoral areas. With its ability to fly missions up to 24 hours, Triton complements many manned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. Wing sections were joined to the aircraft's fuselage at the company's production facility in Palmdale, Calif. The aircraft will be outfitted with the same intelligence-gathering sensors and communications suite as the Navy's Triton program. "The aircraft will initially be used to further testing efforts for the Navy as we prepare Triton to be operational in late 2015," said Steve Enewold, Northrop Grumman's vice president and program manager for Triton.

Raytheon's Quick Kill System Defeats Lethal Armor-Piercing RPGs

Raytheon's Quick Kill System Defeats Lethal Armor-Piercing RPGs

As the U.S. Army prepares for formal testing to evaluate a system to protect combat vehicles from shoulder-fired and tube-launched Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), Raytheon Company's Quick Kill Active Protection System (APS) has again shown its maturity and accuracy in a series of tests. In a recent test, held in December 2012, the Quick Kill APS demonstrated its protective capability by successfully defeating an extended set of threats, including one of the most lethal RPG threats by destroying it in mid-flight. All testing is in preparation for formal government evaluations in early 2013 to demonstrate the system's unique RPG-defeat capabilities. "Raytheon's APS is based on the same radar technology deployed to perform sense and warn operations at active Forward Operating Bases. It has been extremely successful in providing timely warning against rocket and mortar attacks," said Jeff Miller, vice president of Combat and Sensing Systems for Raytheon's Network Centric Systems business.

U.S. Air Force F-15 Funding Flying High

U.S. Air Force F-15 Funding Flying High

The U.S. Air Force will have spent about $5.8 billion on F-15 programs between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2017, with F-15E Strike Eagles accounting for about $3.2 billion of that total, according to an Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN) analysis of data provided by Avascent050, an online market analysis toolkit for global defense programs.
Most of the work — about $3 billion — is for sustainment and modification of the Strike Eagles, the analysis shows. (See charts pp. 7-9.)
As the U.S. Air Force continues to work through cockpit breathing problems for its F-22 Raptor pilots, the service is pushing to more than double the life of its stalwart F-15 Eagles with a series of upgrades.

Why Air Force Needs Lots Of F-35s: Gen. Hostage On The 'Combat Cloud'

Why Air Force Needs Lots Of F-35s: Gen. Hostage On The 'Combat Cloud'

Technology is not enough. What's equally essential is ideas for how to use it. Wielding new weapons in the same old way is a recipe for defeat. As the US military today invests in innovative programs, none larger than the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, it must also invent innovative concepts of operation.

The Air Force's point man on global deployments is Gen. Michael Hostage, head of Langely, Va.-based Air Combat Command. Recently, two members of the AOL Defense Board of Contributors, Dr. Robbin Laird and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, sat down with Hostage to discuss not just the new weapons systems, but a new vision of how to use them, an emerging concept of operations that Gen. Hostage calls "the combat cloud."

Instead of focusing on individual planes, squadrons, or "strike packages" executing a particular mission, the new concept looks at all the deployed aircraft as a whole, linked together by secure wireless networks into the "combat cloud." This cloud would be enabled by "fifth generation" aircraft -- specifically F-22s and a substantial number of F-35s -- and their ability to connect electronically both to each other and to legacy aircraft. This critical connectivity would be built in to any systems added in the future, such as the proposed long-range intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and strike aircraft.

What follows is an edited excerpt from Laird and Deptula's conversation with Gen. Hostage.

Why Sequestration May Be The Least Worst Case

Why Sequestration May Be The Least Worst Case

"The debt ceiling is clearly the priority," said the city's leading independent budget analyst, Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in a briefing for reporters this morning. (Click here for CSBA's full report). Both Republicans and Democrats, Congress and the White House are aware of the stakes, he said, so "I'm optimistic they'll be able to increase the debt ceiling and avoid the worst consequences, a government default. I'm not confident [about] sequestration."

Given how far apart Republicans and Democrats are on how to avoid the sequester, Harrison said, both sides may well look at the automatic cuts and decide, "it's probably better than any deal we could negotiate with the other side."

Harrison spent much of his time running the numbers on terms of sequestration as revised by the last-minute deal passed New Year's Day. The new legislation reduces the blow to the Defense Department from the original $62.8 billion cut -- about 11.5 percent from every non-exempt account -- to a more modest $48.1 billion -- about 8.8 percent. Some of the difference is made up by increased tax revenue, some is simply pushed off to fiscal 2014, when the Defense budget will be about $4 billion lower than planned under the original sequester deal.

The revised estimate for the cost of sequestration is "plus or minus two billion dollars," Harrison caveated, given how hard the muddled law is to interpret and given that some details won't be known until the last minute, like how many billions of dollars appropriated by Congress have not been obligated on specific contracts by DoD. (Click here for the math in more detail).

But Congress can revise those details at will. Harrison's key point was more fundamental: With every day that passes, it gets harder for Congress to figure out a deal, so some sort of sequester is increasingly likely -- and while sequestration would be a stupidly self-inflicted wound, it's still better than a federal default. If sequestration is shooting ourselves in the foot, a default is shooting ourselves in the head.

Army Quests For Holy Grail: The Elusive Armed Aerial Scout

Army Quests For Holy Grail: The Elusive Armed Aerial Scout

It was the latest twist in a 21-year (and counting) saga to replace the Army's aging OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, a Vietnam-vintage design. The interminable effort to build a new reconnaissance helicopter has started to resemble the legendary quest for the Holy Grail.

"We went to the vice chief of staff the week before Christmas, and we got sent back with more homework to do," said Col. John Lynch, capability manager for reconnaissance and attack with the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). "We were expecting to get a decision from the vice but we did not," Lynch told a Boeing Co. media brunch on the eve of the Association of the annual Army Aviation Symposium, hosted by the Association of the US Army this Thursday and Friday.

The trick, Lynch said, is finding the right balance among the three main imperatives: schedule, capability and cost. "It's an affordability question for the Army," he said.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

U.S., Canada think ahead to NORAD Next

More than a half century since it was established to confront the Cold War threat, North American Aerospace Defense Command is at a new crossroads as officials in the United States and Canada determine the capabilities it will need to confront emerging challenges and threats in the decades ahead.

Members of the Permanent Joint Board of Defense, the highest-level defense and security forum between the two countries, discussed the so-called "NORAD Next" concept during their meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo., last month, Royal Canadian Air Force Lt. Gen. J.A.J. "Alain" Parent, NORAD's deputy commander, told American Forces Press Service.

The discussion was a first step toward a broad analysis to identify what threats and challenges the United States and Canada will face in the 2025-to-2030 timeframe -- and what steps need to be taken now to prepare for them, Parent said.

NORAD Next is largely a vision at this point, Parent emphasized, and any changes to the binational NORAD agreement would require both countries' approval. But vast changes in the security landscape have produced broad agreement that NORAD must continually evolve to meet challenges to North America, he said.

Throughout its history, adaptation has been one of NORAD's hallmarks, enabling it to remain relevant even as the geostrategic environment has changed, Parent noted.

The United States and Canada formed North American Air Defense Command in 1958, merging their air defense capabilities to provide a continental-scale ability to detect and intercept Soviet bombers, presumably carrying nuclear weapons, explained Lance Blyth, the NORAD command historian.

That same framework -- warning systems that ran across Canada and Alaska, fighter bases with interceptor aircraft and a command-and-control system that tied them together and with national command authorities -- adapted as intercontinental ballistic missiles became the more pressing threat, Blyth said.

This expanded mission led to NORAD's name change in 1981 to North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The command continued to provide aerospace warning and control for North America after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but also began to contribute its capabilities to counterdrug missions, predominantly focusing on airborne trafficking into the United States and Canada.

NORAD's sensors and interceptors supported this new law enforcement mission, providing intelligence to law enforcement agencies and serving as a catalyst for the close interagency collaboration that underpins NORAD's operations today, Blyth explained.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks shook NORAD to its very core, challenging the bedrock assumption on which it had been founded: that an attack on either of the two countries would emanate from outside their borders, he said.

Within hours of the attack, NORAD already had the go-ahead to stand up Operation Noble Eagle. Under this ongoing homeland defense mission, NORAD monitors and intercepts aircraft of interest within both U.S. and Canadian territory, and provides security support for major events ranging from G8 summits, political conventions to even the Super Bowl.

Operation Noble Eagle represented a sea change at NORAD, broadening its focus for the first time to address both internal as well as external threats against North America.

"We weren't postured to be looking inside the continent as we are today," Royal Canadian Air Force Brig. Gen. A.D. "Al" Meinzinger, deputy director of strategy in the NORAD and U.S. Northern Command policy and plans directorate, told American Forces Press Service. "But as a consequence of 9/11, we stood up a whole enterprise to be poised and positioned to deal with the internal threats," he added. "And we all understand that we need to be ready to respond on a moment's notice."

Another major step in that evolution took place in 2006, when U.S. and Canadian authorities expanded NORAD's mandate to address seaborne threats. This maritime-warning mission applies the command's capabilities to identify and track vessels of interest approaching either country's coast, and passing that intelligence to authorities that would intercept them.

More than a decade after 9/11, NORAD officials are widening their field of vision yet again as they discuss roles the command could play in addressing threats from a broad array of domains: air, space, sea, land and even cyberspace.

They also are working to identify what warning systems and processes will be required to address these threats, particularly as the life cycles of many of the current radars expire in the 2020-2025 timeframe.

"We need to think about what is beyond 2015, what the strategic environment will be, and what we need to be doing to move the command into that future," Meinzinger said.

NORAD Next, he said, will be the bumper sticker for that next big step in NORAD's evolution.

"NORAD Next will ensure that NORAD remains forever relevant and ever evolving," Parent said. "If we want to outpace the threats, we have to think in advance of them.

"The important thing," he continued, "is that we maintain relevancy and don't get surprises. The stakes are too big for our two counties to get surprised."

Hagel draws fire as Obama's Pentagon pick

Hagel draws fire as Obama's Pentagon pick

US President Barack Obama named Chuck Hagel on Monday to lead the Pentagon, setting up an ugly confirmation battle as Republican opponents said he was too hard on Israel and too soft on Iran. Obama's choice of John Brennan to replace scandal-tainted David Petraeus as CIA chief was seen as more straightforward despite the counterterrorism czar's defense of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and the US drone war. The second term revamp of the president's national security team was expected to eventually win approval but several leading Republicans signaled they would make it tough for Hagel even though he is one of their own. Obama paid particular tribute to retiring Pentagon chief Leon Panetta before giving ringing endorsements to the "outstanding" Hagel and Brennan and urging the Senate not to dally in confirming the important appointments.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Asia Times Online :: Central Asian News and current affairs, Russia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan

Asia Times Online :: Central Asian News and current affairs, Russia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan

Rate of US-Russian nuke disarmament slows

Rate of US-Russian nuke disarmament slows

Although the United States and Russia have massively reduced their collective number of nuclear weapons since the heyday of the Cold War, the rate of that reduction is slowing, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) warned on Monday.

Further, these two countries alone continue to account for more than 90% of the worlds total nuclear arsenal, 15 times the rest of the seven nuclear weapon states combined.

"The pace of reducing nuclear forces appears to be slowing compared with the past two decades," Hans M Kristensen, director of the FAS Nuclear Information Project, said on Monday.

Monday, January 7, 2013

U.S. Weighs Fewer Troops After 2014 in Afghanistan

U.S. Weighs Fewer Troops After 2014 in Afghanistan

The new options under consideration are smaller than the 6,000 to 20,000 troops Gen. John R. Allen, the American commander in Afghanistan, is said to have previously suggested.
These potential alternatives were produced by the Pentagon at the behest of the White House and reflect a familiar pattern within the Obama administration on the use of force. Sensitive to public opinion and budgetary pressures, the White House has generally favored lower troop levels during its previous deliberations on Afghanistan and Iraq.
The military, by contrast, has tended to favor somewhat higher numbers, because of the greater risks posed by a smaller force carrying out its mission in a rugged and hostile environment like Afghanistan. In this case, the Pentagon believes that the 9,000-troop option — the upper range of the new scale — is more realistic, officials said.
The new troop options were first reported Saturday by The Wall Street Journal, which said they would leave approximately 3,000, 6,000 or 9,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, when NATO nations are scheduled to hand over responsibility for security to the Afghans.

Laser Folds Tiny Origami for US Army

Laser Folds Tiny Origami for US Army

Lasers could help fire weapons or set off explosive warheads for the U.S. Army in the near future. That possibility comes from a lab demonstration of how a simple, handheld laser can fold tiny metallic structures in a style that mimics Japanese origami.

The demonstration suggests that similar systems could produce tiny grippers and switches that would act as mechanical components in small devices. The components could be used to detonate explosive or propellant material, attach identification transponder tags to clothing, or even enable a new generation of extremely tiny robots or electronic devices.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Army gets coveted geographical command, at last

Army gets geographical command, at last

The Army stepped to the fore last month, winning one of the armed forces’ most coveted commands after having seen Marine Corps generals selected in recent years to head operations in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Europe.
The Pentagon announced that Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, Army vice chief of staff and the last commander in Iraq, would take over U.S. Central Command — a pivotal post, given the unrest in Egypt and the possibility of war in Iran. After Senate confirmation, he will succeed Marine Gen. James N. Mattis.
The Air Force had been in the running for the four-star post because any decision to strike Iran’s nuclear sites would involve a large bombing campaign lasting days.
Previously, a Marine general was tapped to run NATO and another Marine selected to succeed that officer to lead the war in Afghanistan.
Lloyd Austin has strategic vision and significant operational savvy, which will be extremely helpful in dealing with Iran and the rise of radical Islam in the Middle East,” retired ArmyGen. Jack Keane said.
The inside politics of winning what is called a geographic combatant command is downplayed publicly by the Pentagon.
But for the military branches, such an assignment is an important prize. There is the prestige of commanding combat troops, ships and planes, with a direct chain of command to the defense secretary.

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With US set to leave Afghanistan, echoes of 1989

With US set to leave Afghanistan, echoes of 1989

The young president who ascended to office as a change agent decides to end the costly and unpopular war in Afghanistan. He seeks an exit with honor by pledging long-term financial support to allies in Kabul, while urging reconciliation with the insurgency. But some senior advisers lobby for a deliberately slow withdrawal, and propose leaving thousands of troops behind to train and support Afghan security forces.

This is a nearly exact description of the endgame conundrum facing President Barack Obama as he prepares for a critical visit by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, planned for early January.

But the account is actually drawn from declassified Soviet archives describing Mikhail S. Gorbachev's closed-door struggles with his Politburo and army chiefs to end the Kremlin's intervention in Afghanistan - one that began with a commando raid, coup and modest goals during Christmas week of 1979 but became, after a decade, what Gorbachev derided as "a bleeding wound."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Obama signs law against Iran's influence in Latin America

Obama signs law against Iran's influence in Latin America

President Barack Obama enacted a law Friday to counter Iran's alleged influence in Latin America, through a new diplomatic and political strategy to be designed by the State Department. The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, passed by lawmakers earlier this year, calls for the State Department to develop a strategy within 180 days to "address Iran's growing hostile presence and activity" in the region. Although the strategy is confidential and only accessible to lawmakers, it must contain a public summary. The text also calls on the Department of Homeland Security to bolster surveillance at US borders with Canada and Mexico to "prevent operatives from Iran, the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), its Quds Force, Hezbollah or any other terrorist organization from entering the Untied States." And within Latin American countries, the text provides for a multiagency action plan to provide security in those countries, along with a "counterterrorism and counter-radicalization plan" to isolate Iran and its allies.