Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 outlook: SEALs to unveil decision on women's roles

2015 outlook: SEALs to unveil decision on women's roles: Special warfare is the only Navy branch closed to women, but 2015 is the year in which officials hammer out whether they'll integrate female sailors into the elite SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Crewman communities.

U.S. Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare each completed integration studies in mid-2014, then met with the Defense Department in the fall to compare notes.

The Defense Department is on track to announce whether officials will open the SEAL and SWCC ranks to women — and if so, to what degree — in Jan. 2016, DoD spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen confirmed to Navy Times.

"Each service and SOCOM has identified decision points by which they will make final recommendations to the secretary of defense to open positions or to request an exception to policy to keep positions or occupations closed," Christensen said. "Exceptions to policy must be personally approved first by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then by the secretary of defense."

If DoD decides to open NSW to women, the Navy's plan is to notify Congress by July 1. Congress would then have 30 working days to respond with any concerns.

Rethinking The Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis and commentary

Rethinking The Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis and commentary: The United States Air Force needs to replace the Minuteman III ICBM fleet at the three nuclear missile bases in Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota. Critics decry the cost of a proposed replacement, thought to be in the range of several hundred billion dollars. Their main argument against replacing ICBMs is not the cost of replacing the Minuteman III. The critics say we just don’t need them. They are, they say, a “Cold War relic.”

The fact that nuclear peer Russia and near-peer China are modernizing their ICBM forces is often lost on those critics. While the reasons why are debatable, Russia’s recent aggression on a variety of fronts has left many Russia apologists dumbfounded. Russia isn’t just modernizing its ICBMs. At a frequency unprecedented since the Cold War, Russian nuclear-capable bombers are penetrating the American Air Defense Identification Zone’s (ADIZ) in both the continental United States and around Guam. Russia, unlike the US, is investing heavily to modernize their nuclear triad — delivery vehicles and weapons. The Russians seem intent on relying on their nuclear force to counter American conventional military superiority.

Boeing, USAF fly KC-46 prototype

Boeing, USAF fly KC-46 prototype: Boeing and the U.S. Air Force have for the first time flown a prototype aircraft in the KC-46 Pegasus development program.

The aircraft flown in the engineering, manufacturing and development phase of the program was a modified 767-2C freighter, upon which the aerial refueler will be based.

"Getting in the air is a critical step in the development of this important capability for the warfighter," said Brig. Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, the program executive officer for tankers at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. "The team at Boeing has done a remarkable job creating an entirely new aircraft that will soon become the backbone of our ability to project power anywhere in the world."

The modified 767-2C will be outfitted with a refueling boom and other military specific equipment and systems following certification.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Newest U.S. Stealth Fighter ‘10 Years Behind’ Older Jets - The Daily Beast

Newest U.S. Stealth Fighter ‘10 Years Behind’ Older Jets - The Daily Beast

America’s $400 billion, top-of-the-line aircraft can’t see the battlefield all that well. Which means it’s actually worse than its predecessors at fighting today’s wars.
When the Pentagon’s nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter finally enters service next year after nearly two decades in development, it won’t be able to support troops on the ground the way older planes can today. Its sensors won’t be able to see the battlefield as well; and what video the F-35 does capture, it won’t be able to transmit to infantrymen in real time.

Versions of the new single-engine stealth fighter are set to replace almost every type of fighter in the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps inventory—including aircraft specifically designed to support ground troops like the A-10 Warthog. That will leave troops in a lurch when the F-35 eventually becomes the only game in town.

“The F-35 will, in my opinion, be 10 years behind legacy fighters when it achieves [initial operational capability],” said one Air Force official affiliated with the F-35 program. “When the F-35 achieves [initial operational capability], it will not have the weapons or sensor capability, with respect to the CAS [close air support] mission set, that legacy multi-role fighters had by the mid-2000s.”

The problem stems from the fact that the technology found on one of the stealth fighter’s primary air-to-ground sensors—its nose-mounted Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS)—is more than a decade old and hopelessly obsolete. The EOTS, which is similar in concept to a large high-resolution infrared and television camera, is used to visually identify and monitor ground targets. The system can also mark targets for laser-guided bombs.

“EOTS is a big step backwards. The technology is 10-plus years old, hasn’t been able to take advantage of all the pod upgrades in the meantime, and there were some performance tradeoffs to accommodate space and stealth,” said another Air Force official familiar with the F-35 program. “I think it’s one area where the guys are going to be disappointed in the avionics.”

Ironically, older jets currently in service with the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps can carry the latest generation of sensor pods, which are far more advanced than the EOTS sensor carried by the F-35. The latest generation pods—the Lockheed Martin Sniper ATP-SE and Northrop Grumman LITENING-SE—display far clearer high-definition video imagery in both in the infrared and optical spectrum—and from greater distances. Further, both pods have the ability to beam those full-motion video feeds to ground troops, which provides those forces with vital intelligence information.

V-22 to get a tanker option

V-22 to get a tanker option: The V-22 Osprey is getting topped-off with a new capability. An aerial refuelling system is being developed for the tilt-rotor aircraft, turning the cargo and personnel carrier into a tanker that can provide fuel to other aircraft, mid-flight.

"The aerial refueling capability is going to be the next thing," for the Osprey, Maj. Douglas Thumm, the plans officer for the V-22 at Headquarters Marine Corps, said.

The Osprey's tanker system is in the early stages of development and won't be ready until 2017, he said.

When operational, the V-22 could refuel the Corps' fleet of aircraft, including the new F-35B Lightning II. It could also rendezvous with ground vehicles, land, and fill them up, Thumm said. Many of the Corps' ground vehicles can run on aviation fuel, he said.

This new capability will extend the range of combat aircraft without having to turn to other services or allies for aerial refueling, according to the Corps' 10-year aviation plan released this fall.

This will make the air combat element more independent and flexible since it won't have to rely on other services' tankers, and because the Osprey doesn't require a well-developed airstrip like fixed-wing aircraft, Thumm said.

Disaggregated MEUs likely to become more common

Disaggregated MEUs likely to become more common: Operating in multiple theaters and under separate chains of command likely will become a more common experience for troops deployed with Marine expeditionary units.

It's known as being disaggregated and split. The latter means ships within an amphibious ready group are more than 200 miles apart, the range of a helicopter. The former refers to those same ships operating in differing combatant commands.

Splitting an ARG is fairly routine, said Marine Col. L.M. Landon, branch head of plans, policies and operations. But disaggregating an MEU was much less common not long ago, he said.

"Historically, they generally stay together," Landon said. "Usually, you would have all three ships within a couple of hundred miles."

But that has changed over the years. The recently returned 22nd MEU, for example, undertook simultaneous operations in the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East and Africa during its deployment.

"I don't know how much more complicated you can get," said Navy Capt. Neil Karnes, ARG commander, during a briefing before policy experts at a Virginia-based think tank earlier this month.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Systems wins deal for new armored vehicles

Systems wins deal for new armored vehicles: The U.S. Army has selected BAE Systems for its program to produce a replacement vehicle for Vietnam War-era M113 armored personnel carriers.

Under an award worth as much as $1.2 billion, BAE Systems is to engineer, manufacture and develop 29 low-rate production Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles.

The contract features a 52-month base term worth $383 million and an option to begin the vehicles' low-rate initial production phase for another 289 vehicles.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Speedy, Agile UAVs Envisioned for Troops in Urban Missions

Speedy, Agile UAVs Envisioned for Troops in Urban Missions: Military teams patrolling dangerous urban environments overseas and rescue teams responding to disasters such as earthquakes or floods currently rely on remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles to provide a bird's-eye view of the situation and spot threats that can't be seen from the ground. But to know what's going on inside an unstable building or a threatening indoor space often requires physical entry, which can put troops or civilian response teams in danger.

To address these challenges, DARPA issued a Broad Agency Announcement solicitation for the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program. FLA focuses on creating a new class of algorithms to enable small, unmanned aerial vehicles to quickly navigate a labyrinth of rooms, stairways and corridors or other obstacle-filled environments without a remote pilot.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

QinetiQ North America refurbishing, modernizing Talon robots used by the military

QinetiQ North America refurbishing, modernizing Talon robots used by the military: Robots used by U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are being refurbished and modernized by QinetiQ North America under U.S. Army and Navy contracts.

The lightweight, tracked Talon robots by QinetiQ were used extensively in the wars in ordnance disposal operations.

"QinetiQ North America is very proud of the role our robots play in providing lifesaving standoff for our warfighters when in harm's way," said Derek Daly, vice president of Land Systems at QNA. "We are also grateful for the confidence shown by the U.S. Military in the robust and reliable capabilities provided through our family of robots."

NASSCO Awarded $498 Million for Second Afloat Forward Staging Base - USNI News

NASSCO Awarded $498 Million for Second Afloat Forward Staging Base - USNI News: General Dynamics NASSCO has been awarded a $498 million contract to build the fourth Mobile Landing Platform that will be the second configured as a so-called Afloat Forward Staging Base for mine countermeasure (MCM) helicopters and special operations forces (SOF) and U.S. Marines, the company announced on Monday.

The ship — based on the hull of an Alaska-class crude oil tanker — will be built at NASSCO’s San Diego, Calif. shipyard and will be completed by 2018, according to a Friday Department of Defense contract announcement.

“Under this option, NASSCO will provide the detail design and construction efforts to build the second AFSB of the Mobile Landing Platform-class ships,” read a statement from NASSCO.

The contract modification that funds the construction follows the first AFSB — USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP-3/AFSB-1) — which was launched at the San Diego yard in November.

The 764-foot ship will field large helicopter deck capable of fielding MH-53E Sea Dragon MCM helos and provide accommodations for up to 250.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Boeing, U.S. Navy in talks about stretching EA-18G jet production | Reuters

Boeing, U.S. Navy in talks about stretching EA-18G jet production | Reuters: The U.S. Navy on Friday saidit was in talks with Boeing Co about slowing productionof its EA-18G electronic attack jets to keep the St. Louisfacility running through the end of 2017, after Congressapproved funding for 15 more planes.

The Navy is seeking to modify Boeing's existing contract forEA-18G jets, or Growlers, and F/A-18 Super Hornets to add theextra jets funded by Congress in the fiscal 2015 U.S. budget,said Rob Koon, spokesman for the Navy's Naval Air SystemsCommand.

President Obama on Tuesday signed the fiscal 2015 spendingbill into law. It includes $1.46 billion for 15 more Growlers,and up to $100 million to cover the cost of slowing the currentproduction rate from three to two aircraft a month.

By building two jets a month instead of three, Boeing willbe able to stretch jet orders through the end of 2017,preserving the tooling and jobs associated with the line for aslong as possible.

Wars’ Cost to U.S. Since the Sept. 11 Attacks: $1.6 Trillion - Bloomberg

Wars’ Cost to U.S. Since the Sept. 11 Attacks: $1.6 Trillion - Bloomberg: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and counterterrorism operations have cost the U.S. a combined $1.6 trillion since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a new Congressional Research Service analysis.

Through fiscal 2014, which ended in September, Congress approved $815 billion for warfare in Iraq, $686 billion for Afghanistan and other operations against terrorism, $81 billion for other war-designated spending and $27 billion for Operation Noble Eagle air patrols over the U.S., according to the report posted on the agency’s internal website. The total includes $297 billion spent on weapon procurement and war repairs.

The assessment is the agency’s first full update of war costs since March 2011. About 92 percent of the funds went to the Pentagon, followed by the State Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It includes war operations, training and equipping Iraqi and Afghan forces, diplomatic operations and medical care for wounded Americans over the past 13 years, the agency said in the report dated Dec. 8. It also includes most reconstructions costs.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Air Force to increase op tempo in Europe in 2015

Air Force to increase op tempo in Europe in 2015: The U.S. will continue a high op tempo in Europe — predominantly Eastern Europe — until Russia de-escalates its threats in Ukraine.

Events in 2014 — including the invasion and annexation of Crimea and the presumed shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine — kickstarted dozens of NATO and U.S. land, air and sea exercises in Russia's nearest neighbors.

Many of the exercises were part of the Defense Department's Operation Atlantic Resolve to demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO allies and European partners.

Atlantic Resolve and other exercises will increase more than 60 percent in 2015, with U.S. Air Forces in Europe members involved in 115 exercises in Eastern Europe, Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, USAFE vice commander said.

"We've put about $1.1 million against those engagements," Jones said in a Dec. 11 interview with Air Force Times.

The increase in exercises indicates "we're going to have an increase in the numbers of everything," Jones said. More assets, including airmen and aircraft, will continue to rotate from the U.S.

A New, "Super" F-35 to Rule the U.S. Military? | The National Int

A New, "Super" F-35 to Rule the U.S. Military? | The National Int: Advanced derivatives of the tri-service Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could replace the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, Boeing F-15C Eagle and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, multiple sources told the National Interest. However, they added that the idea of replacing the high flying and fast Raptor with the slower and less agile F-35 was not well received by many within the Air Force.

“No doubt that the F-35 will be doing air dominance missions in the future,” one industry official said. “Especially with more internal air-to-air, and maybe a new engine.”

Both the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and the U.S. Navy (USN) have begun preliminary work on analysis of alternatives (AOA) for the sixth-generations of those aircraft. The Air Force effort, called the F-X, is aimed at recapitalizing its fleet of air superiority fighters while the Navy’s F/A-XX program is expected to produce a replacement for the Super Hornet. The Navy will start its formal AOA in 2015 while the Air Force’s analysis will start a little later—in about a year and a half from now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Special Operations Command Bypasses Acquisition Red Tape

Special Operations Command Bypasses Acquisition Red Tape

In December 2013, four special operators were injured after the CV-22 Osprey
tiltrotor aircraft they were riding in were hit by small arms fire as they
evacuated U.S. citizens from South Sudan.

Soon after, Special Operations
Command’s acquisition arm, working alongside the Army and the Navy, began an
effort to field lightweight armored panel kits to give its fleet of Ospreys
greater ballistic protection. In less than six months, SOCOM had acquired enough
kits for the entire fleet.

That is just one example of SOCOM reacting
quickly to meet critical warfighter needs, Jim Smith, deputy director of the
Special Operations Research, Development and Acquisition Center, told National

While many experts criticize the length of time traditional
Defense Department acquisition programs take from start to finish, SOCOM has
gained a reputation for speedy procurement.
That continued ability to field
equipment in weeks or months instead of years will be critical as U.S. military
strategy shifts from Afghanistan and focuses on smaller, global missions led by
special operations forces, Smith said.

“I believe the urgency [for rapid
acquisition] is going to certainly endure and may even increase,” he said. “The
relevance of SOF to the current national security strategy, the role they play
in support of the geographic combatant commands all over the globe and the
expectations for SOF to accomplish a very broad set of missions to include
no-fail missions, that’s going to continue … but in a more dispersed, remote,
austere environment.”

Smith is one of the top leaders at SORDAC, which is
made up of 270 civilian workers and 90 officers. When an urgent need is
identified — that is, if something is deemed necessary to the success of a
mission or loss of life could occur without it — the acquisition process is
streamlined to meet the requirement within 180 days, he noted.

speed is made possible through a series of special acquisition authorities,
including parts of Title 10 in the United States Code and appropriation funding
from Congress called Major Force Program-11.

Air Force Space Programs on Hold as New Architecture Studied

Air Force Space Programs on Hold as New Architecture Studied: It’s called “the vicious circle of space acquisition.”

Large satellite systems take a long time to develop.

As the years stretch on, the temptation to change requirements and add new capabilities is too hard to resist. For once the spacecraft is launched, it’s impossible to swap out the hardware.
Schedules slip. Production lines go cold, increasing the contractors’ costs.

By the time the satellite is sent to orbit, the technology aboard is already generations behind what is available in the commercial marketplace.

This was all described in a 2012 paper co-authored by Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, then Air Force Space and Missile Center commander.

“Since the mid-1990s, we have seen some of the longest delivery times for major space systems since the beginning of the space age,” she wrote in “Space: Disruptive Challenges, New Opportunities, and New Strategies” published in Strategic Studies Quarterly.

However, deliveries of new space systems of late have all but come to a halt. The communication satellites being launched now are based on designs dating back to the early 2000s. The last major contract award was in 2008 for the third-generation GPS satellites.

That was also the year the Defense Department canceled the Transformational Satellite Communication System, or T-Sat, a six-year effort to create a next-generation spacecraft that came to naught.

Six years later, there are no new Air Force satellites on the horizon.

The Air Force is in the throes of conducting several studies that service officials say may lead to a radically new space architecture. Meanwhile, as the paper noted, getting space system acquisition right is more important than ever.



Boeing is planning for first flight of its 767-2C – upon which the U.S. Air Force’s new KC-46 tanker will be based – by year’s end, six months late.

The delay is due to a poor design by Boeing for the wiring bundles needed for the aircraft. The original design lacked required safe separation for some of the wiring as required by the Air Force; Boeing discovered the problem and reported it to the government.

The first flight test window for the 767-2C – which includes wiring, plumbing, doors and floors – is set for Dec. 27 with a backup one day later, USAF Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, program executive officer for tankers, said in an interview with Aviation Week.

This first flight for engineering and manufacturing development (EMD)-1 aircraft is critical toward the next first flight milestone. EMD-2, the first fully configured KC-46 aerial refueler, is slated to take to the skies in April.

Any delay to this first KC-46A flight past April jeopardizes the schedule for a milestone production decision expected by Pentagon acquisition czar Frank Kendall in September, Richardson says.

Army developing robotic insects? | Article | The United States Army

Army developing robotic insects? | Article | The United States Army

A mechanical fly buzzing into an enemy operations center for surveillance may still be the stuff of science fiction, but perhaps not for long.

Dr. Ron Polcawich and his team at the Army Research Laboratory, known as ARL, in Adelphi, Maryland, have been pushing innovation in the area of tiny actuators and developed a pair of tiny robotic wings measuring only 3 to 5 centimeters in length.

The wings are made of lead zirconium titanate, referred to as PZT, a material that creates electric charge under an applied pressure or can create strain (i.e. motion) under an applied voltage or electric field. The wings bend and flap when voltage is applied to the PZT material.

"We demonstrated that we can actually create lift," Polcawich said. "So we know this structure has the potential to fly."

Polcawich heads up the piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems, or PiezoMEMS team, at ARL. They have designed ultrasonic motors that measure only 2 to 3 millimeters in diameter.

They have also designed sets of tiny robotic legs for a millipede-like robot that simulate crawling when voltage is applied to the PZT material.

While the legs and wings are currently functional, Polcawich says it may take another 10 to 15 years of research and development to actually produce fully-functional robotic insects.

For instance, algorithms are needed to simulate how a flying insect stabilizes itself, he said. In a gust of wind a fly "doesn't instantaneously stabilize itself," Polcawich said. "It will tumble, tumble, and then stabilize itself."

Creating this type of artificial intelligence or "cognitive ability" will take time, he explained. A number of different systems must be integrated in order to develop a realistic tiny robot that functions like an insect.

Harvard University's Ron Wood is actually further along in developing a robotic fly, Polcawich said. But Harvard's "RoboFly" is almost three times larger than the one ARL is working to develop. And the smaller a mechanical device, the more intricate are the aerodynamic problems.

Nevertheless, Polcawich says more collaboration with Wood and other academic and industrial researchers might speed up the research.

Such collaboration is the goal of a pilot program launched this year by ARL called "Open Campus." The program aims to cut red tape and open unclassified areas of ARL to more academic and industry partners.

"The Open Campus effort will hopefully streamline the creative process," Polcawich said. He hopes it brings additional cooperative agreements with universities and private companies.

While micro robotics research is interesting, Polcawich said it does not enjoy the highest level of funding. In fact, he said it has the lowest level of funding among projects currently being researched by his team. Many of the team's other projects rank higher in priority.

One of those projects involves precision microelectromechanical systems gyroscopes that are currently undergoing test and evaluation. The gyroscopes might eventually be used to aid in the navigation of missiles, munitions, or even dismounted Soldiers if GPS goes down for any reason, Polcawich said.

His team has undertaken a number of research projects dealing with position, navigation and timing, known as PNT. In some of the projects, inertial measurement units, or IMUs, report a device's velocity and orientation using a combination of gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers.

"We're looking at possibly putting IMUs on boots,"Polcawich said, for individual Soldier navigation.

"Our focus in the IMU world is really kind of figuring out how to make things small, lightweight, low-power-consuming; ultimately for Soldier navigation and small-scale robotics."

His PiezoMEMS team of 10 researchers are also currently focusing on developing components for:

-- tactical radios
-- radars
-- IED-defeat systems
-- PNT

Earlier this year, President Obama recognized Polcawich for his last five years of research and development. The Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering was awarded to him.

Polcawich said he just enjoys being able to "push the state of the art" in micro fabrication.

Israel, US in abortive missile defence test

Israel, US in abortive missile defence test: Israel and the United States on Tuesday tested the Jewish state's Arrow 3 ballistic missile interception system, the defence ministry said, with local media reporting the trial was cut short.

"A target missile was successfully launched and tracked by the Arrow Weapon System, as part of the planned joint testing programme," the ministry said in a statement, providing no further details.

A defence ministry official was quoted by the Jerusalem Post website as saying the test was "neither a success nor a failure".

"The first part of the launch involved tracking the target missile, which was fired over the Mediterranean Sea towards Israel" in a simulated attack on Israeli airspace, Yair Ramati told the Post.

But it was decided mid-test not to fire the Arrow 3 interceptor missile, he said, citing unsuitable test conditions.

"This is not the first time that not all conditions are met for a trial," Ramati said.

JASSM-ER cruise missile enters full-rate production

JASSM-ER cruise missile enters full-rate production: The U.S. Air Force has given the go-ahead for full-rate production of Lockheed Martin's extended range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.

JASSM-ER is an air-to-surface missile that successfully completed U.S. Air Force Initial Operational Test and Evaluation flight testing last year, achieving a 96 percent success rate -- 20 successes in 21 flights.

The cruise missile is armed with a dual-mode penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead, an infrared seeker and Global Positioning System receiver, and has more than 2.5 times the range of the baseline JASSM, which is more than 230 miles.

New, lighter mortar system for U.S. Army

New, lighter mortar system for U.S. Army

A new lightweight 81mm mortar system from the U.S. Army's Picatinny Arsenal is being fielded by U.S. troops.

The Arsenal reports the new M252A1 81mm system is 12 pounds -- or 14 percent -- lighter than its predecessor, the legacy M252 mortar system."The new lightweight system reduces the load for dismounted battalion mortar platoons, while retaining the same durability, rates of fire, and range of the legacy system," said Lt. Col. Will McDonough, product manager Guided Precision Munitions and Mortar Systems, with the arsenal's Program Executive Office for Ammunition.Ted Greiner, assistant product manager for 60 and 81mm mortar systems at Picatinny Arsenal, said weight reduction was achieved through the use of new materials.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Analysis: Congress Reworks 10 Percent of DoD Procurement Budget | Defense News | defensenews.com

Analysis: Congress Reworks 10 Percent of DoD Procurement Budget | Defense News | defensenews.com: Congressional committees tweaked nearly 10 percent of the money that the Pentagon requested for its fiscal year 2015 appropriations accounts before the “cromnibus” spending bill was passed on Dec. 11 — resulting in $4.4 billion in additional procurement and research and development projects — an analysis of the budget shows.
Of the 812 budget lines for procurement appropriations — as tallied by VisualDoD — lawmakers added $6.9 billion to 60 programs while taking money away from 229 other programs, for a total cut of $2.9 billion.
Overall, that works out to a net $4 billion increase in funding over what the White House and Pentagon had originally asked for earlier in the year.
That money went into buying things both that the services didn’t ask for — but still clearly wanted — as well as things that they most definitely did not want, like $120 million more for Abrams tanks that the Army has said it has no use for, and $850 million to overhaul the aircraft carrier George Washington that the administration had planned to defer until the 2016 budget.

USAF approves JASSM-ER FRP - IHS Jane's 360

USAF approves JASSM-ER FRP - IHS Jane's 360: The US Air Force (USAF) has approved full-rate production (FRP) for the Lockheed Martin AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile - Extended Range (JASSM-ER), the company announced on 15 December.

The USAF received the autonomous, stealthy cruise missile into its arsenal early this year following Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) flight testing in 2013. The low-rate initial production (LRIP) lots 11 and 12 of the JASSM contract awarded in December 2013 included 100 ER missiles; LRIP 13 and 14 are still being negotiated but are expected to include more than 100 ER missiles, company spokeswoman Melissa Hilliard told IHS Jane's . Lockheed Martin's production line can accommodate up to 360 missiles per year and is expected to begin doing so in 2017, she said.

JASSM-ER has more than two-and-a-half times the range of the baseline AGM-158A JASSM, meaning it can be launched from outside of defended airspace and the coverage of long-range surface-to-air missiles, and is intended for use against high-value, well-fortified, fixed and re-locatable targets. The baseline JASSM has a range in excess of 200 n miles, is powered by a Teledyne turbojet engine, and carries a WDU-42B (J-1000) 1,000-lb-class blast fragmentation/penetrating warhead. The JASSM-ER is powered by the Williams International F107-WR-105 turbofan engine, but is otherwise identical. It has a range of about 500 n miles.

Air Force: Boeing cost overrun on KC-46 tanker project jumps to $1.5 billion - Air Force - Stripes

Air Force: Boeing cost overrun on KC-46 tanker project jumps to $1.5 billion - Air Force - Stripes: Boeing engineers and mechanics are scrambling to meet an already stretched out schedule and get the 767-based platform for the Air Force’s new KC-46 refueling tanker into the air by year end, with an internal flight target of Dec. 27.

That’s six months later than projected at the beginning of this year.

And the cost of the effort is mounting steeply for Boeing, which is responsible for cost overruns in this initial development phase above a contract ceiling of $4.9 billion.

The government’s latest projection for the cost of tanker development has ballooned to $1.5 billion above that contract ceiling, Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, who heads the Air Force tanker program, said Monday.

The Air Force’s previous estimate had been for a $1 billion overrun.

Richardson said in an interview that the new estimate is based on Boeing’s performance on the work completed thus far, and factors in manufacturing delays because of wiring issues this year as well as potential risks ahead, including possible surprises once flight tests begin.

DOD wants bullet that can change direction after being fired - U.S.

DOD wants bullet that can change direction after being fired - U.S.: New .50-caliber bullets that can change direction after they have been fired could soon make U.S. military snipers more deadly.

The EXACTO program — or Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance — is being developed by California’s Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC at the behest of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to a DARPA video posted on YouTube.

“The objective of the EXACTO program is to revolutionize rifle accuracy and range by developing the first ever guided small-caliber bullet,” DARPA officials said in a July statement accompanying the video. “The EXACTO .50-caliber round and optical sighting technology expects to greatly extend the day and nighttime range over current state-of-the-art sniper systems.”

The specially designed ammunition can change direction in midair.

How that is done remains a tightly held secret. The Defense Department and its related agencies declined to comment.

Missile Defense Director "Very Confident" Re. Protecting US

SEAPOWER Magazine Online

The director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said Dec. 15 that he was “very confident” that the current system is fully capable of defending the nation against any possible ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran, but is following a detailed plan to make the system more capable and reliable by 2020.

Navy VADM James Syring confirmed that the national missile defense system was designed to protect against the relatively small potential threats from those regional adversaries and was not intended to counter Russia’s extensive intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force.

And, Syring said, the plan he is following “hasn’t been affected at all” by the current hostile relations with Moscow and Russia’s aggressive efforts to expand and modernize its long-range missile capabilities.

“Our policy hasn’t deviated at all. … Our focus remains the regional threats,” he said, which also would appear to cover China, which has fielded a limited, but possibly very capable intercontinental missile force.

In a panel discussion following Syring’s presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Keith Payne, a former senior defense official considered a hard-line advocate for missile defense, suggested it was time to debate that focus on the smaller threats in light of the “post, post-Cold War” tensions with Russia and China’s growing defense capabilities.

But James Miller, also a former high-level defense official, and Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution national security scholar, argued that it would be financially, and perhaps technologically, impossible to develop a national missile defense system able to protect against Russia or China.

Syring noted the June 22 successful test intercept of a surrogate ICBM by the ground-based mid-course defense (GMD) system, but admitted it was “long overdue” after two back-to-back test failures of the national system forced a nearly three-year break in testing.

He laid out a plan for incremental improvements in the GMD system that would be proven by yearly tests. He said the missile defense program has been “stressed through sequestration” and warned that if the full funding reductions are continued, “you could see us backing off.”

The MDA’s plan included fielding the full 44 ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska by 2017, installing the new kill vehicle, which was proven in the last test, on all 33 current interceptors, developing an even better kill vehicle by 2020 and fielding a long range discriminating radar, which would help identify the incoming warhead among the clutter of missile debris and decoys.

Navy: Fleet Put LCS Follow-on Focus on Surface and Sub Threats, Not Air - USNI News

Navy: Fleet Put LCS Follow-on Focus on Surface and Sub Threats, Not Air - USNI News: Navy operators said the service’s next small surface combatant (SSC) top priorities should be fighting other surface ships at longer ranges and hunting and killing submarines — not fighting fighters, striking land targets at long range or conducting ballistic missile defense (BMD), service leaders outlined last week when they briefed the follow-on to the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to reporters.

In response to fleet input, and approved by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the up gunned variants of the existing Flight 0 Lockheed Martin Freedom and Austal USA Independence designs beef up anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surface warfare (SuW) weapons and sensors but still largely ignore air threats.

Amputee soldier earns Airborne wings; Ranger school next

Amputee soldier earns Airborne wings; Ranger school next: For the 23-year-old kid from Sitka, Alaska, that sentiment translates into the specific notion that he should be jumping out of Army planes and attending Ranger school — despite having already lost a leg in Afghanistan.

The marksmanship unit soldier became the first Army lower-leg amputee to earn his Airborne wings on Nov. 14 and in January he will start down a rugged path to possibly become the first lower-leg amputee to graduate from Ranger school.

(At least one Marine amputee, Sgt. Christopher Chandler, completed the Army's Basic Airborne Course, in 2003. Chandler lost his left foot and lower calf in 2001 in Afghanistan.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Soldier uniforms may one day detect, neutralize biological threats | Article | The United States Army

Soldier uniforms may one day detect, neutralize biological threats | Article | The United States Army

Scientists at the Army Research Laboratory have developed and are producing in small batches synthetic peptides they believe will serve as great replacements for animal-grown antibodies currently used to detect biological hazards.

Today, natural antibodies are used as part of handheld ticket assays that can be used to detect the presence of biological hazards such as botulism, anthrax or ricin, for instance.

But those antibodies are expensive to produce, take a long time to produce, and are also fragile -- they are susceptible to temperature fluctuations and have a short shelf life. These shortfalls make them difficult to deploy into the field where they could be used by Soldiers to protect the force.

"One of the main problems with those assays is when they use the antibodies, if the antibodies get too warm, they will denature," said James J. Sumner, Ph.D, the chief of the Biotechnology Branch and a supervisory chemist in the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate at Army Research Laboratory here. "They will essentially cook, and then they won't function anymore. What you want to do is make something that is easily producible and that is really rugged so that when you store it you don't have to have it refrigerated."

The synthetic peptides under development at the Army Research Laboratory can perform the same biohazard detection functions as the antibodies, but they are much more robust.

Temperature studies, for instance, have demonstrated the materials can be held at up to 90 degrees Celsius -- or about 194 degrees Fahrenheit, for as much as an hour "and we hardly lose any activity," said Dimitra Stratis-Cullum, Ph.D., the biomaterials team leader with the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate at the Army Research Laboratory. "We've also done 70 degrees Celsius for a week."

Stratis-Cullum said the materials also hold up better when exposed to the environment, unlike the natural antibodies.

"We can take advantage of non-natural peptides and engineer them so they don't degrade in the environment," she said. "So things won't chew them up, like enzymes that are always present won't degrade them -- they are very stable."

Another benefit of the synthetic peptides is that unlike antibodies, they are easy to manufacture. Whereas antibodies must be grown in animals or engineered microorganisms, synthetic peptide sequences can be built on-demand, in a lab. So if customers need a specific set of detection tools, the appropriate type of synthetic peptides can be ordered to meet that demand and can be quickly procured.

With antibodies, "months and months of lead time (are needed) in order to be able to do that," Stratis-Cullum said. "And you can't build up a stockpile and store them because they only last about six months with special packaging. So there is a huge storage and logistics and manufacturing issue as well, even for the limited use."

With the synthetic peptides that Sumner, Stratis-Cullum and their team have developed, those testing agents can be produced quickly and inexpensively.

"We are doing the manufacturing so you can produce them on-demand and quickly," Stratis-Cullum said. "Anybody who has a peptide synthesizer can make one. That's a lot of companies. In the field of biotech they are common. You can go to a company and order a sequence. There are robots that make them."

"Once you have that sequence, you can go online and send them the sequence, and they will send you a vial to make 100 assays for maybe $100," Sumner said.

Right now, the development of synthetic peptides at the Army Research Laboratory is best targeted at hand-held testing kits that can detect nearly any kind of biohazard one's immune system might react to. But Stratis-Cullum said that's just the "lowest-hanging fruit." The future holds more promise for the work she and her team are doing at the Army Research Laboratory.

"The vision for this is now to bring it to integrated Soldier uniforms that sense and respond and self-neutralize," she said. "The newer versions of this could bind and inhibit it to make it inactive as well. So you could've been exposed, but the suit would help decontaminate and protect the Soldier."

This summer, the team at the Army Research Laboratory will demonstrate their work to researchers from the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and Army Medical Command, Sumner said. "We'll show that these function even though they are exposed to high temperature for a long period of time. And they still work as well as the traditional antibodies do."

If they are successful in that demonstration, the team at the Army Research Laboratory will transition their work to Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, who will carry it on in a way that will more directly benefit Soldiers.

"We would like to be able to provide them the techniques and the protocols and how we develop these things and help them along the way as they start developing the same type of recognition elements that they see as the highest priority," Sumner said.

Friday, December 12, 2014

US Readying Military, Economic Options to Russian Missile Treaty Violation | Defense News | defensenews.com

US Readying Military, Economic Options to Russian Missile Treaty Violation | Defense News | defensenews.com: Pentagon and State Department officials are reviewing what military and economic options they can employ if Russia continues development of a cruise missile it has tested in violation of a cornerstone nuclear weapons treaty between Washington and Moscow, senior US officials say.
“Russia’s lack of meaningful engagement on this issue — if it persists — will ultimately require the United States to take actions to protect its interests and security along with those of its allies and partners,” Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy told the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces on Wednesday.
In July, the United States went public with its concerns that Russia violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile.
The document — signed in 1987 — bans American and Russian ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of flying between 300 miles and 3,400 miles.
But American officials said the Russians tested a new medium-range, ground-launched cruise missile as early as 2008, and Russian officials have been unresponsive to attempts at dialogue by US officials, most resently at a series of talks in September.

Split Decision on New US Navy Ship | Defense News | defensenews.com

Split Decision on New US Navy Ship | Defense News | defensenews.com: The decision is in, and it’s split right down the middle.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has accepted the Navy’s recommendation that the design of the small surface combatant (SSC), a more powerful ship to follow the littoral combat ship, will be based on the existing LCS.
The decision, laid out in a memo Hagel sent Wednesday to the chief of naval operations (CNO), rules out several choices that included new designs or a version of the Huntington Ingalls patrol frigate.
But Hagel — contrary to widespread expectations — did not decide whether the SSC would be based on the Lockheed Martin Freedom class, or Austal USA’s Independence-class ship.
Nor, apparently, did the Navy favor either design in its recommendations.
Rather, the Navy’s plan is to keep buying modified versions of both LCS variants.

No edge for F-35 on most missions: report

No edge for F-35 on most missions: report: The F-35 has no clear edge over three other fighter jets Canada is considering to replace its aging fleet, a declassified government-commissioned report says.

The analysis found the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Boeing Super Hornet to be capable of accomplishing most mission tasks envisioned by Canadian military leaders.

The only exception would be going to war with another state, but the reports' authors concluded that was an "exceptionally unlikely" scenario.

"It is very unlikely Canada will be the target of overt, hostile state-directed military aggression," said the report released Wednesday.

To date, Canadian fighter jets have been mostly tasked with securing Canadian and US airspace from intrusions as part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

Over the next three decades, they will also likely participate in allied bombing missions or enforce no-fly zones over foreign soil such as in Libya and Iraq, intercept hijacked aircrafts and provide security for humanitarian assistance drops, the report said.

Domestic patrols involve a "relatively low level of threat and are less onerous for fighter aircrafts," it said, adding all four jets under consideration would do a fine job.

In a war, however, one of the aircrafts under consideration would fare much better, notably against futuristic anti-air defenses.

The report does not identify which plane is best or worst for Canada's defense needs.

F-35 proponents have said the stealth fighter jet is the only one capable of countering threats by advanced militaries.

US, China Conduct Anti-Piracy Exercise

US, China Conduct Anti-Piracy Exercise

The U.S. Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) and ships from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (Navy) PLA(N) commenced a bilateral counter-piracy exercise, U.S.-China Counter-Piracy Exercise 15, in the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa, Dec 11.

Aiming to promote partnership, strength and presence, the exercise includes combined visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) operations, communication exchanges, and various other aspects of naval operations.

This exercise represents a long-standing united front toward counter-piracy operations shared by these two world powers.

"The exercise allows us to address our common regional and global interest," said Capt. Doug Stuffle, commander, U.S. Navy Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1. "It helps both nations pursue a healthy, stable, reliable and continuous bilateral relationship."

Approximately 700 personnel from the U.S. and China navies will participate in the exercise, and it gives Sterett Sailors the opportunity to engage in a shared mission with other surface platforms.

"Piracy is a long-standing problem, worldwide," said Cmdr. Theodore Nunamaker, Sterett commanding officer. "It has long been recognized as a problem that requires an international-cooperative solution. Certainly the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR [area of responsibility] is one of the focused points for that effort. Modern-day piracy has a far-reaching economic impact. Although much of the world's population will never encounter piracy, it has an impact on everyone, by increasing the cost of goods that are being shipped from place to place."

Stuffle expressed that Sterett's crew, like all deployed U.S. naval forces, have trained to meet a variety of mission sets that are important to the nation's interest and stand ready to execute anti-piracy measures when directed.

Both Stuffle and Nunamaker agree the ultimate goal of this exercise is to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and its Chinese counter-parts. The U.S. and Chinese navies conducted similar training, Aug. 20-25, 2013.

"These bi-lateral exercises help us establish clear paths for communication; they encourage transparency of trust, help us mitigate risk and allow us to demonstrate cooperative efforts in the international community to help us work together to deal with transnational threats. In the end, we look to create a peaceful, stable and secure maritime domain," said Stuffle.

Sterett is deployed as part of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and is supporting Operation Inherent Resolve conducting maritime security operations, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Start-up may revolutionize fit of body armor, other gear

Start-up may revolutionize fit of body armor, other gear: With female soldiers moving toward more involved combat roles, the Army had to re-think body armor, particularly how to tailor it to the female form.

But that has become the tip of the iceberg: a new deal with a contractor could have a much wider range of applications through a profile of thousands of soldiers' body types allowing for all kinds of better-fitting gear.

Manhattan start-up Body Labs officially started its $825,000 two-year contract with the Army in September, and along with that will come data and modeling that could better outfit soldiers in the future. On Monday they unveiled a vision for the future, which includes a more scientific, analytic and efficient approach to sizing, starting with body armor.

"Our vision of the future is a soldier walks into basic training, the Army scans you with a body scanner, and you walk out with boots and helmet that fit you really well. Not custom made because that's too expensive, but that fit really well," said CEO and founder William O'Farrell. "I think they understand the broader need."

The contract includes access to scanning capabilities, data and analytic tools that could turn the Small-Medium-Large-XL continuum on its head. Brian Corner, a PhD and research anthropologist for the Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center, said in an email to Army Times that a lot of applications and analysis would become possible for the first time.

Army building an airport just for drones -- Defense Systems

Army building an airport just for drones -- Defense Systems: The Army’s ever-growing use of unmanned aerial systems has gotten to the point where two of the most commonly used UAS are getting their own airport.

The service’s Corps of Engineers at Fort Worth, Texas, has awarded a $33 million contract to SGS to build a 150-acre unmanned aircraft launch and recovery complex at Fort Bliss for Gray Eagle and Shadow UAS.

The complex will include a 50,000-square-foot unmanned aircraft maintenance hangar and more than a mile of runways, aprons, and taxiways, according to an announcement from the company. The runways will include a 5,000-foot runway for the Gray Eagle and a 1,000-foot runway for the smaller Shadow. In addition to maintenance shops, administrative space and storage space in the hangar, the facilities also will have a 5-ton bridge crane, oil/water separator, aircraft container and forklift storage, taxiway, access apron, oil and hazardous waste storage buildings, vehicle storage facilities, organizational vehicle parking, and overhead protection/canopy.

The airport will be fenced and secured, and the Army said all operations will take place in restricted airspace.

Civilian-crewed vessels see larger role in amphibious ops

Civilian-crewed vessels see larger role in amphibious ops

With the gator Navy busy and undersized, officials hope the duct tape that covers the remaining gaps are the ships of Military Sealift Command.

Top officials are confident that mobile landing platforms, pre-positioning ships, joint high-speed vessels and even tankers can ease the mission load. Adm. Bill Gortney, who ended his run as head of Fleet Forces Command on Nov. 24, is among the supporters.

"Can we use a lower-cost capability to do some of those low-end missions? Absolutely," said Gortney. "If we can provide the same capability for lower cost, and that frees up more money for readiness of the rest of the force or to recapitalize more of the high-end assets, that's what we need to do."

The auxiliary ships of MSC are becoming more central to fleet operations as demonstrated in the recent Bold Alligator exercise, which included the joint high-speed vessel Choctaw County. JHSVs and other MSC vessels can augment amphibious operations -- once a fleet mainstay -- but have their own complexities, including putting their civilian crews in the middle of dangerous operations.

The fleet remains well short of the Marine Corps' stated goal of 38 amphibious ships; it had 31 as of December, according to the Naval Vessel Register.

Closely tied in is the issue of cost. Building new a JHSV costs about $180 million, about one-third the cost of a littoral combat ship. It has a crew of fewer than 30 civilians with an annual operating cost of $26 million, according to MSC data. In comparison, the LCS has a core crew of 50 sailors and mission-module crews of 15 to 20 sailors, and costs $79 million to operate annually, according to the Government Accountability Office. A frigate has 170 sailors and costs $54 million in annual operations costs, while a destroyer has approximately 250 sailors at an annual cost of $88 million.

On the other hand, MSC ships have drawbacks. They are not manned to fix battle damage and are crewed by Navy civilians, raising questions about how much they can participate in an offensive action like an amphibious assault under the laws of war. But from a practical standpoint, recent exercises have put MSC ships to the test in uncontested sea space, and found them up to the task.

Laser sniffs out toxic gases from afar

Laser sniffs out toxic gases from afar: Scientists have developed a way to sniff out tiny amounts of toxic gases -- a whiff of nerve gas, for example, or a hint of a chemical spill -- from up to one kilometer away.

The new technology can discriminate one type of gas from another with greater specificity than most remote sensors -- even in complex mixtures of similar chemicals -- and under normal atmospheric pressure, something that wasn't thought possible before.

The researchers say the technique could be used to test for radioactive byproducts from nuclear accidents or arms control treaty violations, for example, or for remote monitoring of smokestacks or factories for signs of air pollution or chemical weapons.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

US Navy approves Super Hornet IRST for low-rate initial production - IHS Jane's 360

US Navy approves Super Hornet IRST for low-rate initial production - IHS Jane's 360: The US Navy (USN) has awarded Milestone C acquisition approval for an infrared search-and-track (IRST) system for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet combat aircraft, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) announced on 2 December.

Having completed its first flight aboard a Super Hornet in February, the podded AN/ASG-34 IRST will now begin low-rate initial production (LRIP) for six units needed to take the programme forward to initial operating capability (IOC).

According to NAVAIR, with the awarding of Milestone C, "performance and aeromechanical flight testing will continue to determine the IRST capability's limits within aircraft constraints and to ensure operational stability and safety".

Developed by Lockheed Martin, with Boeing and General Electric, the AN/ASG-34 is a passive system geared at giving the Super Hornet the capability to locate and engage airborne and ground targets when use of the Raytheon AN/APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar would give away the aircraft's position.

Unlike most other IRST systems that are fully integrated with their host aircraft, the AN/ASG-34 is designed to be carried in a modified centreline drop tank. Boeing officials have previously told IHS Jane's that locating the IRST underneath the aircraft should have no adverse effect on its ability to identify and track aircraft that might be flying higher than the Super Hornet, and that at 10 miles (16 km) from the target aircraft it will provide unlimited visibility up to 60,000 ft (as high as any target would fly).

Further, officials claim that having a podded system has the advantage of not requiring invasive integration work with the host aircraft, and the pod is able to hold 330 US gallons (1,249 litres) of fuel so little in terms of range is lost.

EXCLUSIVE: X-47B May Begin Automated Aerial Refueling Demonstrations Next Year - Blog

EXCLUSIVE: X-47B May Begin Automated Aerial Refueling Demonstrations Next Year - Blog: The Navy’s carrier-based unmanned aircraft demonstrator is undergoing preparations for automated aerial refueling testing next year, including a possible flight demonstration using the aircraft itself, said officials from the service and X-47B manufacturer Northrop Grumman.

Thusfar, the Navy had used a surrogate aircraft for AAR testing.

The service in June 2014 awarded a contract modification to Northrop Grumman for aerial refueling research, development, test and evaluation efforts at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, Capt. Beau Duarte, the Navy’s X-47B program manager, wrote in an emailed statement.

“Those efforts include additional [aircraft carrier] detachments and AAR software coding through the remainder of this calendar year. If resources allow, the Navy may demonstrate autonomous engagement flight testing in fiscal year 2015,” he said.

Bell Boeing V-22 Tests Forward-fired Rockets | Defense News | defensenews.com

Bell Boeing V-22 Tests Forward-fired Rockets | Defense News | defensenews.com: V-22 Osprey manufacturer Bell Boeing V-22 successfully tested its forward-firing capability last month at the US Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona, it was announced Monday.
Company officials said the test showed the V-22 can be armed with a variety of forward-facing munitions and can hit targets with a high degree of reliability. That will reduce the Osprey’s reliance on forward arming and refueling points, which are sometimes necessary to supply short-range attack rotorcraft in support of V-22 operations.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Navy wins award for F-35 canopy making process

Navy wins award for F-35 canopy making process: An automated thermoforming process for making canopies for F-35 fighters has earned a Department of Defense honor for the Office of Naval Research.

The entire process to produce a canopy for the F-35 will take just two or three days.

Currently, technicians load an acrylic shell into a forming tool and load the assembly into an oven heated to 200 degrees. The canopy is formed during a span of as much as six days, and workers have to regularly enter the oven to makes to manually adjust positioning clamps to control the forming process.

ONR said the process from its Manufacturing Technology, or ManTech, was recently recognized with the Department of Defense's Joint Defense Manufacturing Technology Achievement Award, presented at a Defense Manufacturing Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

The process will be used to make more than 2,000 canopies for F-35 Lightning II fighters and will result in an overall savings of nearly $125 million by using a control system with cameras to see inside the thermoforming oven for canopies to calculate the rate at which the canopy's shape is forming. Clamps then automatically adjust to ensure the shape remains uniform throughout the process to meet F-35 requirements.

Gen. Hyten: Future of AF is air, space, cyberspace integration

Gen. Hyten: Future of AF is air, space, cyberspace integration

The commander of Air Force Space Command talked about the fundamental relationship between space operations and everyday life - not only for the military, but for the American people - during a breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club, Dec. 5.

Gen. John E. Hyten, the AFSPC commander, explained the complexities of global space operations, and how they're a seamless and invisible part of day-to-day living.

"When you look at what we do in space, it's truly the most joint element of our military," Hyten said. "Everything we do is critical to the operations of (all services) - it's critical to our economy and to the world - it's basically embedded in everything we do."

He talked about the history behind aerospace, the integration of air and space and the fact that space is no longer a benign environment, but is becoming a domain.

"We don't ever want to go to war in space, but we need to be prepared to fight a war in that environment," he said. "You figure out how to operate through that threat environment. One of the oldest precepts in war is the best way to avoid war is to be prepared for war."

His future plans for AFSPC include integrating space and cyber, the ability to command and control space assets, and increasing space situational awareness - all to prepare for that environment.

"As we look forward in the future we have to figure out how to deal with this kind of environment," Hyten said. "We have to build resilient architectures. We have to figure out how we're going to work with the other elements of our nation's power to fight through any kind of threat that we have to - and we will."

The current space programs are on track and working well, Hyten said. His focus is becoming more efficient in procurement, and working with partner agencies to make the ground capability and architecture match the current space capabilities.

"We're going to look at a whole bunch of different ways to do business in the future," he said. "We're going to figure out how to be effective deliverers of capabilities and effects, and build the right tools as we walk into that. The key to our future is going to be updating the ground architecture to look at delivering integrated effects to warfighters around the world."

The commercial sector in space operations is something Hyten said he is excited about, and sees as an opportunity to increase the Air Force's capabilities to support the warfighter and the American people. It is one piece of his plan to modernize operations and be more prepared for any future contested environment. Another important piece of this plan is changing the perception many people, including Airmen, have about space and cyber.

"The future of the United States Air Force is the integration of air, space and cyberspace," Hyten said, "to deliver singular effects on the battlefield in the most effective, efficient way possible and to allow the warfighters of today and the future to have unbeatable advantage on the battlefield."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hyten: Clear Message on RD-180 Replacement as SpaceX Certification Looms | Defense News | defensenews.com

Hyten: Clear Message on RD-180 Replacement as SpaceX Certification Looms | Defense News | defensenews.com: The US Air Force’s point man on space acknowledged Friday what he called “clear” direction from Congress to move away from the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine, but warned there are many details to be worked out before a replacement is selected.
“The language is clear,” Gen. John Hyten, head of Air Force Space Command, told an audience at an Air Force Association event. “The intent of the congress is to get off the RD-180 by FY19.”
Hyten was referring to language in the compromise National Defense Authorization Act that prohibits the use of the RD-180 for military space launch starting in fiscal 2019. The language is very close to what Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., had requested in the Senate Armed Services Committee markup of the NDAA, a position the Air Force had opposed as too limiting.
The RD-180, a key component in the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch vehicle, has become a source of controversy since Russia’s invasion of Crimea. ULA has a monopoly on military space launch through the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.

Congressional Block on Tanker Retirements Could Delay KC-46 | Defense News | defensenews.com

Congressional Block on Tanker Retirements Could Delay KC-46 | Defense News | defensenews.com: The KC-46A Pegasus tanker is one of the three major recapitalization priorities for the Air Force. But with Congress moving to block retirement of older tankers, the Pegasus could find itself short on maintainers as it attempts to come online.
The core of the issue begins with the battle between the Air Force and Congress over the A-10 close-air support plane, and the future of its maintainers. The service is arguing that the Warthog needs to be retired quickly in order to move those maintainers over to the F-35 and have them ready to go for the joint strike fighter’s operational date of August 2016.
Those against retiring the A-10 argue this is just a political stunt by the Air Force to try to galvanize support to retire the Warthog and highlight alternatives such as using contractors or reserve units. But it’s not just a matter of bodies, the service says, highlighting the lead time needed to train a maintainer in handling the complicated stealth fighter and the experience levels required.
Each side claims its own facts, but the basic logic of the service boils down to this: If Plane X cannot be retired, then its replacement, Plane Y, cannot get the maintainers it needs to become operational. If that logic is right, then the maintainers problem won’t be limited to the A-10 and F-35.

The Pentagon’s 2016 Budget Will Focus on the Pacific - Defense One

The Pentagon’s 2016 Budget Will Focus on the Pacific - Defense One

In the 2016 budget plan, the Defense Department will “refine and to focus in on that strategic guidance” and “align more tightly” with the Pacific-focused plan laid out in the Defense Strategic Guidance announced by President Barack Obama in January 2012, Jamie Morin, the director of the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, said this week at an investors’ conference in New York.

“You should expect the department to continue to press for base realignment and closure authority,” Morin said a few days later on Friday during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“You should expect the department to continue to press for aligning our force structure properly to the strategy,” he said. “You should expect the department to continue to press for smart compensation reform and smart reforms to get cost out of our management overhead and other sources of overhead cost.”

Sen. McCain Sets Sights on 'Disgraceful' Cost-Plus Contracts | Defense News | defensenews.com

Sen. McCain Sets Sights on 'Disgraceful' Cost-Plus Contracts | Defense News | defensenews.com

Incoming Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain wants to prohibit
the Pentagon from award cost-plus contracts, arguing such deals encourage

The Arizona Republican believes US weapon programs like the USS Gerald Ford
were set up with contract structures that bred massive cost overruns. And he’s
hellbent on making sure it doesn’t happen again.

“I go back to Arizona and I say, ‘By the way, we built an aircraft carrier
called the Gerald R. Ford,” McCain said Thursday. “It had a $2.4 billion cost
overrun — and there are still more cost overruns. That is hard-for-me-to-justify
defense spending. It’s disgraceful.”

McCain’s cost-plus feelings are nothing new. But come January, he’ll chair
the Defense Department oversight committee — meaning he will write a Pentagon
policy bill that could contain language on the controversial contracts.

“I’m continuing to try to ban them. All,” McCain told CongressWatch. “There’s
no reason why all shouldn’t be.

“If you don’t ban them, here’s what happens: They come in with a lowball
contract, so they can get the contract, and then that’s why the costs mount,”
McCain said. “If you had a roof that leaked would you ask a guy to come and fix
it with a cost-plus contract?!”

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Luke Somers, American Hostage, Is Killed During Rescue Attempt in Yemen - NYTimes.com

Luke Somers, American Hostage, Is Killed During Rescue Attempt in Yemen - NYTimes.com: United States commandos stormed a village in southern Yemen early Saturday in an effort to free an American photojournalist held hostage by Al Qaeda, but the raid ended badly with the kidnappers killing the American and a South African teacher held with him, United States officials said.

President Obama, in a statement, said the hostages had been “murdered” by militants belonging to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula during the rescue operation, which he had approved just Friday.

A senior United States official said that the American, Luke Somers, 33, was badly wounded when commandos reached him. By the time Mr. Somers was flown to a United States naval ship in the region, he had died from his injuries, the official said Saturday.

In Ashton Carter, Nominee for Defense Secretary, a Change in Direction - NYTimes.com

In Ashton Carter, Nominee for Defense Secretary, a Change in Direction - NYTimes.com: Ashton B. Carter, the physicist nominated by President Obama on Friday to lead the Pentagon, is in the mold of past cabinet secretaries who have tangled with the White House and may advocate a stronger use of American power overseas.

Assertive and intellectual, Mr. Carter, 60, is in many ways the flip side of Chuck Hagel, the current defense secretary, who was seen as passive and who submitted his resignation under pressure last week. Mr. Carter is more like Robert M. Gates, Mr. Obama’s first defense secretary, who stood up to the White House. The two men are in close touch, and both have a jaundiced view of Washington.

While Mr. Carter very much wanted the top Pentagon job — he was passed over for it two years ago — he once compared working in Washington to “being a Christian in the Coliseum. You never know when they are going to release the lions and have you torn apart for the amusement of onlookers.”

Friday, December 5, 2014

NGC delivers first operational MQ-8C Fire Scout to the US Navy

NGC delivers first operational MQ-8C Fire Scout to the US Navy: Northrop Grumman has delivered the first operational MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter to the U.S. Navy. The system will be used by ship-based commanders to improve the Navy's intelligence-gathering capabilities.

The MQ-8C is an upgraded version of the existing MQ-8B Fire Scout using a larger airframe. It can fly nearly twice as long and carry three times more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads.

"The test program will run through the summer as we expect these aircraft to be ready for operations by year's end," said George Vardoulakis, vice president for medium range tactical systems with Northrop Grumman.

The MQ-8C's first ship-board flight tests aboard the USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) will be conducted this winter. The Navy will then assess the system for operational use.

Northrop Grumman is under contract to build 19 MQ-8C Fire Scouts, including two test aircraft. The Navy plans to purchase 70 aircraft total.

Precision guided projectile hits the mark in recent testing

Precision guided projectile hits the mark in recent testing: Raytheon successfully test fired four Precision Extended Range Munition (PERM) guided projectiles. Three of the GPS-guided rounds flew to the required range and hit within the required distance of their targets. One round was fired to the minimum range requirement and impacted just a few meters from an off-axis target.

The tests validated the functionality and performance of the Raytheon design. Fired from the U.S. Marine Corps M327 120 mm Rifled Towed Mortar, the four rounds met all test objectives.

"These firings, combined with earlier environmental lab and integration tests, demonstrate PERM's maturity," said Dr. Tom Bussing, vice president of Raytheon's Advanced Missile Systems. "The testing also shows the high level of integration between the munition's guidance, navigation and control functions."

PERM is designed to provide U.S. Marines with a lethal, extended range, high probability one-shot capability. The munition is a key capability of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fire Support System. EFSS is a close support, all weather, quick response indirect fire system.

Marines Shift F-35 Deployment Plans | Ares

Marines Shift F-35 Deployment Plans | Ares: The US Marine Corps is changing the way it plans to use its Lockheed Martin F-35B short take-off, vertical landing fighters, we report here (subscription required). Briefly, the new concept of operations envisages the use of mobile forward arming and refueling points (M-Farps) to support groups of F-35Bs, which would return to U.S. Navy amphbious warfare ships, allied carriers (special mention to the British Queen Elizabeth class) or even regional land bases for routine maintenance.

The new Conops addresses problems with earlier plans, which envisaged conducting sustained combat operations from both LHA/LHD-class ships and forward operating bases (FOBs) on land. Any naval force operating within 150 nm of a hostile coast would be within range of an increasing number of lethal and elusive ground-mobile guided missile systems, and would be hard put to avoid tracking by small unmanned air vehicles. That would make it very vulnerable, absent support from a carrier with its long-range airborne early warning coverage - and one of the major arguments for the F-35B is that it provides air power independent of the big carrier. The new Conops allows the ships to stand off outside coastal missile range because they support operations rather than launching airstrikes.

Meanwhile, large FOBs on land were considered by some (including deputy defense secretary Bob Work, in his days as deputy Navy secretary) as being vulnerable to guided missiles and rockets. The idea of the new Conops is to blunt this threat by making M-Farps much smaller and more nimble than FOBs (because most aircraft maintenance happens elsewhere). They will relocate every 24-48 hours, which is estimated to be inside an enemy's targeting cycle.

U.S. lawmakers want aircraft in Europe until Russia backs down

U.S. lawmakers want aircraft in Europe until Russia backs down: Lawmakers want the Defense Department to not only halt retiring F-15 aircraft in Europe, but also halt removing all dual-capable aircraft from the European area of operation until the Defense Secretary confirms "armed forces of the Russian Federation are no longer occupying Ukrainian territory."

The provision is included in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to pass the House this week.

Russia must also comply with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty — which the White House and NATO in July claimed Russia has violated since 2008 — and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

But the aircraft could be removed from European Command if replaced by F-35 aircraft. However, the newest stealth fighters will not be operational until August 2016 at the earliest.

The language is intended to reassure NATO and partner nations the U.S. is steadfast to deter Russian aggression in the region. After Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine in late February, the U.S. began a series of exercises — under Operation Atlantic Resolve — with Eastern European NATO members to reassure them that the alliance would defend them. The commander of U.S. Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Frederick "Ben" Hodges, recently said that the U.S. may add at least 100 more armored vehicles, including tanks, to Europe by the end of 2015.

Pentagon Worries That Russia Can Now Outshoot U.S. Stealth Jets - The Daily Beast

Pentagon Worries That Russia Can Now Outshoot U.S. Stealth Jets - The Daily Beast

High flying and fast, the F-22 Raptor stealth jet is by far the most lethal fighter America has ever built. But the Raptor—and indeed all U.S. fighters—have a potential Achilles’ heel, according to a half-dozen current and former Air Force officials. The F-22’s long-range air-to-air missiles might not be able to hit an enemy aircraft, thanks to new enemy radar-jamming techniques.

The issue has come to the fore as tensions continue to rise with Russia and a potential conflict between the great powers is once again a possibility—even if a remote one.

“We—the U.S. [Department of Defense]—haven’t been pursuing appropriate methods to counter EA [electronic attack] for years,” a senior Air Force official with extensive experience on the F-22 told The Daily Beast. “So, while we are stealthy, we will have a hard time working our way through the EA to target [an enemy aircraft such as a Russian-built Sukhoi] Su-35s and our missiles will have a hard time killing them.”

The problem is that many potential adversaries, such as the Chinese and the Russians, have developed advanced digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jammers. These jammers, which effectively memorize an incoming radar signal and repeat it back to the sender, seriously hamper the performance of friendly radars.

Worse, these new jammers essentially blind the small radars found onboard air-to-air missiles like the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM, which is the primary long-range weapon for all U.S. and most allied fighter planes.

That means it could take several missile shots to kill an enemy fighter, even for an advanced stealth aircraft like the Raptor. “While exact Pk [probability of kill] numbers are classified, let’s just say that I won’t be killing these guys one for one,” the senior Air Force official said. It’s the “same issue” for earlier American fighters like the F-15, F-16, or F/A-18.

Navy receives first MQ-8C Fire Scout | C4ISR & Networks | c4isrnet.com

Navy receives first MQ-8C Fire Scout | C4ISR & Networks | c4isrnet.com: The Navy has received its first operational MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter.

The MQ-8C is an upgraded MQ-8B Fire Scout with a larger airframe. "It can fly nearly twice as long and carry three times more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads," said a Northrop Grumman announcement.

The Navy will use the UAV just delivered to conduct the first ship-board flight tests aboard the destroyer USS Jason Dunham will be conducted this winter, followed by an assessment of how to use the MQ-8C for operational purposes.

"The test program will run through the summer as we expect these aircraft to be ready for operations by year's end," said George Vardoulakis, Northrop Grumman's vice president for medium-range tactical systems.

Talk Stealthy to Me

Talk Stealthy to Me

As the Air Force Times recently reported, the F-22 and F-35A conducted their first integrated training mission earlier this month. Several observers declared this mission, which included offensive counter air, defensive counter air and interdiction operations, to be a success. But if the planes are to actually operate as a cohesive strike package in the complex A2/AD environments of the future, the services will first need to address a glaring gap in interoperability: data links.

Currently, the F-22 and F-35 are equipped with two different low probability-of-intercept/low probability-of-detection (LPI/LPD) systems for exchanging data while in stealth mode: the F-22 uses the older and more limited Intra Flight Data Link (IFDL); the F-35 operates with the newer Multifunction Advanced Data Link. Quite astoundingly, these two LPI/LPD systems cannot communicate with each other, meaning that if the F-35 and F-22 need to share information with each other, they must do so using the non-stealthy Link 16 system used by 4th-generation legacy aircraft. (And even then, the F-22 is limited to receiving data; it cannot transmit it.)

This is particularly problematic because, given the expense of operating both the F-22 and the F-35 in comparison to legacy aircraft, they are — at least in the near-term — likely to be deployed together only when stealth is required. Furthermore, the lack of compatible data links means that the information gathered by the planes’ highly capable sensors and avionics — often described as one of their greatest comparative advantages — cannot be fully leveraged within a 5th-gen strike package, in turn diminishing the potential of integrated targeting capabilities.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The new cold war: Putin's forces target U.S. Navy and allies

The new cold war: Putin's forces target U.S. Navy and allies: Russia's military has taken on an aggressive swagger. Highly provocative run-ins are now common with neighbors and NATO nations alike. In the Black Sea, NATO ships like the U.S. destroyer Donald Cook have been buzzed by Russian fighters. Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers have reportedly been tracked near Canada conducting missile strike drills within range of targets in the United States, and Russian airplanes have been tracked as close as 50 miles from the California coast – the closest they've come since the end of the Cold War.

New counterintelligence agency gets first director | Federal Times | federaltimes.com

New counterintelligence agency gets first director | Federal Times | federaltimes.com: The newest agency in the intelligence community is picking up steam.

On Dec. 1, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center got its first director — William Evanina, the current director of the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive. He will head both organizations simultaneously.

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center was officially established on Nov. 21, 2014, by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, to help integrate the functions of several organizations under the Director of National Intelligence.

The agency is responsible for crafting foreign threat assessments, an annual strategy for counterintelligence operations and a list of investigation and operations priorities for the government. The NCSC also produces in-depth espionage damage assessments and creates counterintelligence training standards.

U.S. Defense Executives Warn Against Shutting Out Foreign Competitors - Blog

U.S. Defense Executives Warn Against Shutting Out Foreign Competitors - Blog

The Pentagon for decades has been a reliable buyer of
"Made in America" weapons technology. While that should please U.S. companies,
defense CEOs are warning that protectionist policies over time will backfire by
thwarting innovation and by making U.S. companies less competitive in the
cutthroat international arms market.
The U.S. defense industry is in a
fight for its future, and the government is not helping, says former Deputy
Defense Secretary William J. Lynn, currently the CEO of the aerospace and
defense firm Finmeccanica North America.
American industry is shrinking
and many of the technologies the Pentagon wants are not domestically available,
he says. Nonetheless, the Defense Department consistently shows bias against
foreign products, which in turn hinders U.S. companies' access to overseas
markets, Lynn adds.
"You need something of a realignment," he says in an
interview. Today's military-industrial complex consists of a small group of
conglomerates that are coping with declining Pentagon sales, investing less
money in new technology and increasingly depend on the global market for
innovation. A more open market would benefit the Pentagon by spurring
competition and also would help U.S. companies to more easily tap into global
sources of supply, he says.
"We need to have global sourcing. Our export
regulations make that somewhat difficult. And our patterns of behavior make that
even more difficult," Lynn says. "The market has shrunk enough that if you want
to maintain competition you have to look globally. The Defense Department needs
to adapt."
Both the military and the defense industry would benefit from
globalization, Lynn argues in a recent Foreign Affairs article, titled, "The End
of the Military-Industrial Complex." The U.S. military fights alongside allies
in war zones, but the Defense Department "still often ignores technologies and
products made overseas, sometimes at significant cost to the American taxpayer,"
Lynn says. In the 1990s, for instance, the Pentagon sought to develop a new
artillery system, called the Crusader, rather than adapt an existing German
design that met most U.S. requirements. The Defense Department ended up
canceling the program in 2002 when the cost spiraled, "wasting $2 billion and
leaving the U.S. Army to rely on upgrades to a much older artillery model." The
United States, Lynn says, "no longer has to be the source of all advances in
military technology, and in fact, bringing foreign companies into the fold will
help distribute the burden of development costs, as it did with the

Orion, Dragons and Dream Chasers: What’s behind modern spaceship design?

Orion, Dragons and Dream Chasers: What’s behind modern spaceship design?: As NASA prepares for the debut test flight of the first spaceship in more than 40 years to carry astronauts beyond Earth, a fleet of privately owned vehicles is in development to take over transportation services to and from orbits closer to home.

Whether heading to the International Space Station, which flies about 260 miles above the planet, or other destinations, the journeys begin with rocket rides that have enough muscle to counteract Earth’s gravity and get their cargo traveling at speeds of at least 17,500 mph to achieve orbit.

For Ash Carter, Bipartisan Support and GOP Warnings of a Bumpy Tenure | Defense News | defensenews.com

For Ash Carter, Bipartisan Support and GOP Warnings of a Bumpy Tenure | Defense News | defensenews.com: Bipartisan support emerged Tuesday for the White House to nominate Ash Carter as defense secretary, but Republican members said he could face a rough road.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers told reporters, amid reports Carter soon will be officially nominated, that the former deputy defense secretary and Pentagon buying chief is eminently qualified for the post.
“He is very, very qualified,” said retiring Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
A list of defense-minded GOP lawmakers echoed Levin’s assessment, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who will be a member of the Republican majority on SASC that would run Carter’s confirmation process.
“I have a lot of respect for Ash Carter,” Ayotte said. “I think he has a strong resume and position. You know, whoever the president nominates is going to face a number of tough questions in the armed services committee.”
Levin believes Carter “would do very, very well in a confirmation hearing.”

Likely Pentagon nominee earned stripes quiet way

Likely Pentagon nominee earned stripes quiet way

No household name, Ashton Carter has earned his stripes in the national security trenches the quiet way. For decades he has toiled as a defense thinker and strategist, nuclear expert, three-time Pentagon executive, budget guru and academician.

He never served in the military or in Congress, unlike many defense secretaries, including the man he would replace if President Barack Obama nominates him as Chuck Hagel's successor. But he spent a lot of time with troops during his 2011-2013 stint as deputy defense secretary and has built relationships with an entire generation of military leaders during his years in the Pentagon.

Administration officials said Tuesday that Carter, 60, is expected to be Obama's nominee, putting him in line to take over a far-flung, hard-to-manage department that has had an uneasy relationship with the White House.

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest stopped short of confirming that the president had made a decision, yet praised Carter effusively for serving "very, very ably" at the Pentagon previously and noted he had been easily confirmed by the Senate before.

"This is an indication that he fulfills some of the criteria that we've discussed in the past," Earnest said. "He is somebody who definitely deserves and has demonstrated strong bipartisan support for his previous service in government."

Administration officials said Obama could announce his nominee as early as this week. The officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the president's decision-making process publicly.

Carter would likely face a welcoming Senate confirmation hearing, unlike Hagel. As the nominee in February 2013 Hagel was hammered with sometimes sharp questioning that seemed to throw him off balance and raise doubts about his competence. Carter, however, would be tackling a pile of security problems at least as high as those Hagel took on, beginning with the further development of a strategy to degrade and eventually defeat the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said he would support Carter's nomination. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, another Armed Services Committee member, used a speech before Concerned Veterans of America to criticize the Obama administration in general for seeking a fourth defense secretary in six years.

Republican Budget Cuts Threaten NASA's Space Exploration Plans

Republican Budget Cuts Threaten NASA's Space Exploration Plans: NASA's space program is facing budget cuts from a Republican-controlled Congress from January, which will likely have in its sights a controversial plan to redirect an asteroid around the Moon as a stepping stone to a future Mars mission.

"Those who say we've got to go back to the Moon instead of an asteroid, well, show me the money," Bill Nelson, the Democrat who currently chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology subcommittee, told USA Today.

"It may well be that in the next decade we go back to the moon as preparation for going to Mars. But right now, with the money that is being allocated, you've got to do what you can do within the resources that you have."

NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission "plans to launch an ARM robotic spacecraft to rendezvous with, capture and redirect an asteroid mass near the end of this decade," says the agency.

The plan involves astronauts in NASA's Orion spacecraft then exploring the asteroid, with a view to using it as a pit stop on a prospective Mars mission in the 2030s.

USA Today reports that Republican Ted Cruz is likely to replace Nelson as Committee head, and is an outspoken critic of Obama administration projects, of which the ARM is one. Other Republican representatives have called the project "a costly distraction."