Tag: Defense Procurement

Carrier of the Future, My Ass

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the US Navy’s $13. Billion carrier of the future, does not have functioning bomb lifts, another “ground breaking” technology that they still have not gotten to work:

The $13 billion Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the U.S. Navy’s costliest warship, was delivered last year without elevators needed to lift bombs from below deck magazines for loading on fighter jets.

Previously undisclosed problems with the 11 elevators for the ship built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. add to long-standing reliability and technical problems with two other core systems — the electromagnetic system to launch planes and the arresting gear to catch them when they land.

The Advanced Weapons Elevators, which are moved by magnets rather than cables, were supposed to be installed by the vessel’s original delivery date in May 2017. Instead, final installation was delayed by problems including four instances of unsafe “uncommanded movements” since 2015, according to the Navy.

While progress was being made on the carrier’s other flawed systems, the elevator is “our Achilles heel,” Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told reporters in August without providing details.

The elevator system is “just another example of the Navy pushing technology risk into design and construction — without fully demonstrating it,” said Shelby Oakley, a director with the U.S. Government Accountability Office who monitors Navy shipbuilding.

Gee, you think?

Every attempt at making a technological leap on the Ford class carrier has been problematic, whether it’s the catapults, arrestor gear, and now, the munitions lifts.

We’ve seen similar things with the LCS and the Zumwalt class destroyer, and it’s all driven by an almost pathological need to minimize crewing.

It’s a complete cluster-f%$#.

The Mistake Jet Abides

It looks like there will be another delay for the f-35:

The troubled $1.5 trillion F-35 program is not ready to begin the critical combat-testing phase, the Pentagon’s testing director said in a previously undisclosed August memo obtained by the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). That decision marks another setback in the development of the Pentagon’s largest acquisition program.

The memo, issued on August 24, 2018, says the program has not met the necessary entry criteria to begin the crucial combat-testing phase called Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E). It comes on the heels of the revelation, reported first by POGO, that program officials have been trying to make it appear as though the program has completed the development phase, by altering paperwork to reclassify potentially life-threatening design flaws to give the appearance of progress rather than actually fixing them.

This has gotten to be a remarkably routine thing:  The aircraft experiences problems, so the program managers move the goal posts.

It’s no way to develop a successful weapon system.

I’m Think that Politics is Trumping Normal Defense Procurement

The IAF is is negotiating contract with Boeing for their KC-46 tanker in a non-competitive process, despite the fact that the Airbus alternative looks to be about 20% less, and a domestic conversion of surplus 767 would be about 50% less.

Assuming that Binyamin Netanyahu hasn’t found a way to profit personally from the deal, (he’s currently the target of multiple corruption investigations) it is pretty clear that politics, and not military exigencies is driving this deal:

The Israel Air Force and the Ministry of Defense are planning to procure 4-6 new planes for airborne refueling from US company Boeing without asking Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) or Airbus for a price bid or asking them to take part in a tender. These are the only three companies in the world that manufacture an air refueling aircraft or convert passenger and cargo planes to a refueling configuration.

The air force’s refueling missions are currently based on outdated Boeing passenger 707s manufactured over 50 years ago and converted to refueling configuration. These planes, called Ram by the air force, receive regular maintenance from IAI.

The IDF has been preparing for years for a huge deal to procure new planes for airborne refueling missions, but the process has been repeatedly postponed, primarily due to more urgent procurement programs. The Ministry of Defense is now saying that there is no avoiding a procurement deal because of the very advanced age of the existing refueling aircraft and the possible expansion in the volume of the air force’s refueling missions, with an emphasis on remote theaters, such as Iran.

Israel is casting eyes at Boeings new KC-46 airborne refueling aircraft, which are in use by the US air force. Sources in the sector say that these planes cost $250-300 million. An Airbus 330 converted for aerial refueling missions costs $200-250 million, while an IAI refueling aircraft based on the Boeing 767 and converted from passenger or cargo configurations costs $100-130 million, half the price of the new plane to be sold to Israel by Boeing.


Defense sources have found it difficult in recent days to conceal their alarm about the emerging deal between the Ministry of Defense and Boeing without a tender proceeding or transparency and without consideration of the long-term effect on IAI. Conversion of planes is done at IAI’s Bedek Aviation Group’s facilities and hundreds of its employees are involved. Defense sources warned that giving preference for a new and very expensive like that of Boeing over an “as good as new” and cheaper aircraft from IAI would deal the Israeli company a severe blow. “It is not just the money and the livelihood of many hundreds of employees,” a local industry source said. “Procurement of planes from IAI by the Israeli air force has great global marketing significance, because the IDF is regarded as an advanced, very professional, and esteemed army. If it procures a system, it validates it and gives it something like a quality standard, followed by additional deals that are usually larger.”

This really is profoundly odd.

Exclusive: Unmasking The F-15X, Boeing’s F-15C/D Eagle Replacement Fighter – The Drive

Envelope expansion tests of Saudi F-15S

That’s a lot of ordinance

It appears that Boeing and the USAF are working on a proposal to procure new F-15 Eagles.

Unlike Boeing’s earlier “Silent Eagle” proposal, which had significant stealthy features, this variant is geared toward carrying as much as possible:

Last week, the aerospace-defense community was overwhelmingly intrigued by a report from Defenseone.com that said Boeing was pitching a new variant of its 45-year-old F-15 Eagle line of fighters to the United States Air Force. Still, next to nothing is known about this initiative, including where it came from and what it entails exactly. Although it has been framed as a Boeing solicitation to the USAF, the opposite is actually true—the USAF began the discussion over a year and a half ago. Since then, ongoing talks have been kept incredibly hush-hush, along with the details of the aircraft involved—until now.


The F-15X came out of a quiet USAF inquiry to Boeing and Lockheed Martin about fielding an aircraft that could seamlessly plug into their existing air combat infrastructure as part of better-defined high-low capability mix strategy—one intended to specifically help counter the service’s shrinking force structure.


The result of those discussions is the F-15X. Our sources describe the aircraft as a single seat variant of the latest F-15 advanced Strike Eagle derivative—the F-15QA destined for Qatar—but it will also integrate many of the features and upgrades that the USAF intends (or intended as it may be) to include on its nearly four-decade-old F-15C/D fleet. And no, the aircraft is not a repackaging of the semi-stealthy F-15 Silent Eagle concept that Boeing floated nearly a decade ago. The F-15X features no low-observable enhancements of any kind.


With the help of the company’s new AMBER missile carrying racks, the F-15X will be able to carry a whopping 22 air-to-air missiles during a single sortie. Alternatively, it could fly with eight air-to-air missiles and 28 Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs), or up to seven 2,000lb bombs and eight air-to-air missiles. We are talking crazy weapons hauling capabilities here. Keep in mind that the F-15C/D Eagle can carry eight air-to-air missiles currently, and the penultimate Eagle variant that is currently being built, the F-15SA, can carry a dozen.

What the F-15X doesn’t include is a high price. The War Zone has learned that Boeing intends to deliver the F-15X at a flyaway cost well below that of an F-35A—which runs about $95M per copy. And this is not just some attempt to grab business and then deliver an aircraft that costs way more than promised. Our sources tell us that Boeing is willing to put their money where their mouth is via offering the F-15X under a fixed priced contract. In other words, whatever the jets actually end up costing, the Pentagon will pay a fixed price—Boeing would have to eat any overages.


The F-15X could also act as a weapons truck for stealthy fighters operating forward of their position into more highly contested airspace. This will become an especially critical capacity as ultra-long-range weaponry becomes too large for stealth fighters’ weapons bays or to be carried in relevant numbers by smaller fighters.

It appears that the USAF has come to realize that the stealthy airframes that it has been acquiring are profoundly limited in the types ans quantities of munitions that they carry, and that the F-15 can carry a lot of stuff.

Also, it appears that the unit cost of the new F-15s would be competitive with planned upgrades of the C/D model aircraft, and that the per hour operational cost of new Eagles would be lower than F-22s, F-35s, and existing F-15s, so they might help with the budget as well.

It sounds like it might be a good idea, but I am dubious that the Air Force will implement it, because they are looking to cannibalize much of their existing force to pay for the F-35.

The Term is, “Pear Shaped”

Transfers to Turkey of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 would be barred temporarily under a compromise defense policy measure agreed to on Monday, according to House and Senate aides.

Turkish receipt of the fighter jets would be held back until the Pentagon submitted an assessment within 90 days of the measure’s enactment on U.S.-Turkish relations, the impact of Turkey’s planned acquisition of Russia’s advanced S-400 missile defense system and the ramifications for the U.S. industrial base if Turkey is dropped from the international F-35 program.


Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had warned Congress against cutting off transfers of the F-35. In a letter to lawmakers this month, Mattis said he agreed “with congressional concerns about the authoritarian drift in Turkey and its impact on human rights and rule of law.” But he said an F-35 cutoff would risk triggering an international “supply chain disruption” that would drive up costs and delay deliveries of the fighter.

Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey plans to buy about 100 F-35s, joining the U.K. and Australia as the top international customers. At least 10 Turkish companies are building parts and components, such as the cockpit displays, for other partners, according to Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed.

The compromise measure crafted by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees also would let the president waive a requirement to impose sanctions on countries and entities doing business with Russia for as long as 180 days if the party involved is taking steps to distance itself from a commercial relationship with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors, according to committee aides and a Democratic summary of the bill.

There is a lot of talk about how this is because of Erdogan is an authoritarian who is destroying the democratic structures in Turkey, and because security issues over the the S-400 purchase.

I call bullsh%$ on this.

It’s really about how the buying a Russian SAM system, means that western defense contractors, (Particularly US ones) are not getting a cut of the business.

More Defense Contractor Butthurt

I think that there are any number of good reasons, most of them having to do with Erdoğan increasingly erratic and autocratic rule, not to have Turkey deeply involved in the F-35 program.

That being said, the current defense contractor driven hysteria over Turkey buying the S-400 SAM system from Russia is not one of those reasons:

The most sophisticated fighter jet in the world, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will play a smaller role in the future of European security than originally conceived. On Monday, the Senate amended its version of the 2019 defense authorization act to block the sale of the fifth-generation fighter jet to Turkey. The reason: the NATO ally’s purchase of the Russian S-400, a radar and missile battery with a lethal range of 250 km. In routine operation, the sensor- and transmitter-packed jet exchanges electronic data with friendly anti-air systems and sensors, and if Turkey were to do this, data collected by the Russian-built weapon might find its way back to Moscow.

The House version of the bill also expresses concerns about the S-400 and Turkey and requires a report 60 days after the bill’s enactment to assess Turkey’s purchase of the system and possible consequences to U.S. aircraft.

Turkey inked the S-400 deal last year, over strenuous objections from the U.S. and other NATO-member governments concerned about an ally using Russian air defense systems. “A NATO-interoperable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in the region,” Pentagon spokesperson Johnny Michael told CNBC last fall.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called Monday’s decision “lamentable.” It’s also very inconvenient for Turkey’s political elite, coming just days before Turkish elections.

The U.S. military has gotten up close and personal with the S-400 over Syria, where the Russian military has deployed to aid the Assad regime. Its deadly presence reshaped how the U.S.-led coalition flies air ops, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigan told reporters in September. “‘We are consistently monitoring them to see if something changes their intent because we have to manage that and respond quickly…We look at it every day. It’s an everyday discussion to make sure our force can manage that risk.”

The S-400 is arguably the best SAM system currently deployed, and as noted above, it scares the crap out of the US military.

Its detection range, which almost certainly exceeds 500 km, means that installations in Kaliningrad will be getting all the data that the Russians could ever want on the F-35.

It would cover all of Poland and the Baltics, going as far west as Berlin and Copenhagen, and that doesn’t include coverage from installations in Belarus.

This is about defense contractors not getting their vigorish from a NATO ally, nothing more.

Your Military Industrial Complex in a Nutshell

As a part of supporting the Afghan military, the Pentagon is upgrading Kabul’s helicopters.

There are a few small problems though: In addition to the Afgan military not being able to maintain its new Black Hawk helicopters, the Russian Helos that it is replacing outperform the Black Hawk by almost every metric:

A report from a top U.S. military watchdog has finally acknowledged that the UH-60A+ Black Hawks that the United States is supplying to the Afghan Air Force are less capable and harder to maintain than the Russian-made Mi-17 Hip helicopters they have now. The review raises concerns that this could limit Afghanistan’s ability to conduct operations across the country unless steps are taking to mitigate the loss of capability, something we at The War Zone have long warned could easily be the case.


“The transition [from Mi-17s to UH-60s] presents several challenges that have yet to be fully addressed,” the report says in a section dedicated to the issue. “Black Hawks do not have the lift capacity of Mi-17s.”

“They are unable to accommodate some of the larger cargo items the Mi-17s can carry, and in general, it takes almost two Black Hawks to carry the load of a single Mi-17,” the review continues. “Furthermore, unlike Mi-17s, Black Hawks cannot fly at high elevations and, as such, cannot operate in remote regions of Afghanistan where Mi-17s operate.”


“The Mi-17 is ‘much more conducive to the education level available in the general Afghan population than the UH-60As’ when it comes to maintenance,” the 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan (AETF-A), the U.S. Air Force’s top command for operations in Afghanistan, which also oversees advising the Afghan Air Force, said, according to the Pentagon Inspector General’s review. “The expectation is that the AAF will be almost entirely reliant on contractors for Black Hawk maintenance in the near- to mid-term.”

That reliance on contractors is a feature not a bug:  This is more of the deferred compensation for general officers program that appears to be the raison d’être of the Pentagon these days.

Whoever made this decision will secure a well remunerated post military retirement sinecure with Sikorsky, one of its suppliers, or the contractors that the Afghans (actually us) are paying very well for support services.

Speaking of Bureaucrats Lying to Legislators,

The ational Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has been lying to legislators to encourage them to dump billions into new warheads:

There are many reasons to keep certain parts of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex a secret. But fraud, waste, and abuse run rampant when the mystique and awe of nuclear bombs gets in the way of effective oversight. And it is the taxpayer who ends up suffering.

The secrets to creating a nuclear explosion and the materials to do so are kept by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy, and it has a $1.2 trillion plan to build new nuclear warheads and facilities over the next 30 years.

But new documents obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) discussing the life expectancy of nuclear weapons components show that the uranium cores may have a longer life span than originally thought. This may undermine some justifications for an expansive—and expensive—nuclear modernization plan.

Although much of the documents are redacted, likely to keep safe the most sensitive details of the U.S. nuclear enterprise, the remaining details seem to suggest that initial life-span estimates were too conservative. These initial estimates were partially used as justification for plans to build an expensive new facility and revising plans based on these findings could result in billions of savings for taxpayers.

But there’s no getting around the fact that twice now the NNSA has either obscured facts that would suggest a more limited capacity is all that’s required or has pursued an expensive plan without knowing all the facts beforehand.

In light of NNSA’s rhetoric about the aging nuclear arsenal and the desperate need for more money to modernize, POGO endeavored to determine exactly what upgrades were truly needed to support a credible nuclear deterrent. In 2013, we released a report that called for a study into the lifetime of uranium secondaries in order to determine what capacity would be required of a proposed new facility. A study would make clear how many of these secondaries would need to be manufactured in the new building. POGO’s report on the proposed Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) highlighted how the public was being kept in the dark about this number, an important justification for continued and increased funding. At the time, a number of Energy Department sources told POGO several hundred warheads had already gone through the life extension process and would not need remanufactured secondaries.

Once again I will quote Ike, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Faster, Better, Cheaper

An uptick in exports has led Saab to increase spending on its Gripen E program:

Strengthening interest in the Gripen E has prompted Saab to accelerate its investment in the programme, with the step to include the introduction of enhancements intended to heighten the product’s attractiveness to prospective buyers.

“Due to the strong interest in Gripen E/F, Saab has now accelerated the pace of investment to develop the system for future exports,” the company disclosed in a quarterly results announcement on 26 April.

Chief executive Håkan Buskhe describes the measure as relating to “industrialisation, and also some key development on features for the export market”. While he declines to identify specific updates, he notes: “There are things that will enhance the product that we have seen during the development time for the Gripen E.” This process began for launch customer the Swedish air force in 2013.

Buskhe says Saab received fresh interest in the new-generation fighter from several undisclosed nations during the first three months of this year. The company cites a long list of prospective customers for the type, including Austria, Bulgaria, India and Slovakia.

Saab will deliver its first production examples of the Gripen E to Sweden and export buyer Brazil next year and the nations will receive a combined total of 96 examples up to 2026. Buskhe says the level of interest being shown in the product is consistent with previous forecasts of a total production run of at least 400 units.

The Gripenis less than half the size, and less than half the direct operating costs, of its competitors, while being (at least) nearly as capable in terms of everything but payload and range.

It’s been on budget, and on schedule, and (unlike the F-35) nations have the information to incorporate their own weapons into the aircraft.

It’s not surprising that it’s doing well:  It’s in a very similar position to that of the Mirage III in the 1960s.

I Guess that they Don’t Need to Put a Contractor in Every Congressional District Now

Early in the process, the goal was to spread work around to as many Congressional districts as possible, but now that the proram is too big to fail, they are looking for people who can actually do the work competently for a reasonable price:

The Pentagon is embarking on a comprehensive effort to examine the entire F-35 supply chain from top to bottom for opportunities to compete components and repair work, a top Defense Department official says.

The move is aimed at incentivizing suppliers to reduce cost and increase efficiencies, as the F-35 enterprise faces severe parts shortages and a skyrocketing sustainment bill (AW&ST April 9-22, p. 40).

The department’s efforts to inject competition into the supply chain comes as the F-35 program faces challenges on the production line. The rate of mistakes by suppliers or skilled workers during the manufacturing process is too high, according to F-35 Program Executive Officer Mat Winter.


As the government and Lockheed work to get support costs under control, competition and alternative parts sourcing could be key, Robert McMahon, assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, said during Aviation Week’s MRO Americas conference in Orlando, Florida, April 11. The F-35 operations and sustainment bill has been pegged at more than $1 trillion over the life of the program.

The current structure was driven by politics, not competence or efficiency, and it is a remarkably wasteful way to create jobs.

To quote Ike, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

F-35 Sustainment Challenges Mount As Global Fleet Grows | Defense content from Aviation Week

What a surprise.

Lockheed-Martin promised that the F-35 would have support costs near that of the far smaller F-16, because of it’s advanced logistics software.

Right now, it looks like it will cost more to operate than the twin engine F-15:


This specific problem was resolved quickly, but that is not often the case. Across the F-35 enterprise, operators are struggling with severe maintenance challenges of which the most critical are a spare parts shortage, insufficient repair capacity and excessive glitches in the ALIS logistics system that tracks the health of the fleet. Meanwhile at the production level, suppliers and skilled workers are making mistakes that slow down the manufacturing process before a complete aircraft even comes off the line.

The sustainment challenges are emerging at a pivotal time for the program, with F-35 pilot training ramping up, international deliveries accelerating, and the Navy on track to achieve initial operational capability of its F-35Cs in 2019. As the global F-35 fleet is poised to triple by 2021, government and industry officials are facing mounting pressure to solve these challenges—and fast.

Reports emerged recently that the U.S. Air Force—the F-35’s single largest customer—would be forced to cut as many as 590 F-35s from the overall buy, or one-third of the force, if sustainment costs do not come down. The government-industry team must find a way to reduce operations and sustainment (O&S) costs or F-35 customers will have to make “tough decisions,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said ominously during a recent event in Washington.

The Air Force is working with the JPO to reduce overall O&S costs by 38% over the next 10 years, or about $3.8 billion a year, Wilson says. And in the field, the Air Force aims to get the cost to sustain the F-35 down to that of sustaining a legacy F-16, according to Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.


The main F-35A training hubs, Luke and Eglin AFB, Florida, arguably are facing the most immediate challenge as the Air Force grapples with a critical pilot shortfall.


But it is not just the training bases that are impacted by the spare parts problem. Overall from January through Aug. 7, 2017, F-35s were unable to fly because they were awaiting parts on average about 22% of the time—more than double the Pentagon’s goal of 10%, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).


ALIS, the maintenance hub of the F-35 enterprise, was designed to ease the burden on maintainers by increasing automation. But today the system, which is based on a 1995 architecture, actually is adding to their workload.

ALIS has an excessive rate of “false positives,” where the system mistakenly tells the maintainers a certain part is broken. Even more troubling, each service continues to rely heavily on contractor-provided information technology experts, rather than service personnel, to manipulate ALIS’s intricate software and complex databases, according to the subcommittee chairman, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio).

In the field, maintainers must rely on inefficient workarounds and manual tracking processes when ALIS is not performing as it should, officials say. In some of the Air Force’s maintenance units, for example, airmen are assigned to tackle ALIS glitches as their primary job, says Harris, which was certainly not in the original plan.

(emphasis mine)

Lockheed-Martin developed a tightly integrated system as a way of maximizing their ability to lock in customers to their support services,

So you have a gargantuan mass of interdependent code, and fixing problems is like untying the Gordian knot.

The F-35 is never going to be as cheap to operate as an F-16, the JSF’s MTOW is 65% more than the that of the F-16, but right now, it’s simply too expensive to operate in significant numbers.


Belgium is planning to acquire a replacement for its F-16 fleet, and the leader in this contest is the F-35 mistake jet.

It now turns out that the government concealed options from the lawmakers to get the procurement approved:

Belgium’s future fighter program has been thrown into turmoil after it emerged that cheaper options to extend the life of the country’s F-16 Fighting Falcons had been deliberately hidden from ministers.

The scandal, which has already resulted in the suspension of several military officers and civil servants, came to light after the leaking of a Lockheed Martin assessment dated April 2016 to several Belgian news outlets on March 20. The documents suggested the country’s F-16s could be upgraded and given another six years of operational life, making a new fighter purchase less urgent than government officials had previously contended.

Defense Minister Steven Vandeput told the country’s Parliament that he had not been made aware of the report about the potential life extension option.

“If this report actually exists, if its content is accurate, and if the defense [ministry] has decided not to share it, there is a problem,” Vandeput told a Belgian radio station.

Yes, it is a problem.

Welcome to the military-industrial complex, Belgium.

A Cool Idea That Isn’t Going Anywhere

Saab is once again is considering marinizing the Gripen fighter for carrier use.

Technically, the airframe is already well suited to carrier use, but who is going to buy it?

The only countries that operate, or will operate, carriers with arrester gear are the US, France, China, Russia, Brazil, and India.

That’s a small market, since only Brazil and India won’t buy their own aircraft, and that is a very small production:

Based on the in-development Gripen E, the model would be capable of operating from aircraft carriers configured either for short-take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) or catapult-assisted take-off but with arrested recovery (CATOBAR) operations.

“We have a fully certified design that has been signed off by Saab management for the maritime version of Gripen,” says Tony Ogilvy, head of marketing for the Gripen M. “It’s in our portfolio, but it is only a design. We have not taken it to the next critical step, which will require a customer.”

Ogilvy’s background is carrier aviation. During a three-decade career in the UK Royal Navy he flew Blackburn Buccaneers for 12 years and British Aerospace Sea Harriers for six, including from several of the service’s carriers. He contends that Saab’s model-based systems engineering approach offers a “very high level of fidelity” that should, if a Gripen M customer is obtained, result in a concept demonstrator that works well first time.


Given that Sweden has no plans for aircraft carriers, the two potential markets for the Gripen M are Brazil and India.

The Brazilian air force has ordered 28 single-seat Gripen Es and eight two-seat F-model examples, being developed with Embraer. Its new fighters will be delivered between 2019 and 2024, including eight single-seaters and seven twin-seaters built in Brazil.

The nation’s navy is also interested in replacing its retired aircraft carrier, the Sao Paolo, although this requirement has yet to be fully defined. Should Brazil’s plans for such a new vessel gain traction, it could provide an opportunity for the Gripen M.

In India, Saab, Boeing and Dassault have responded to a request for information for 57 carrier-based fighters. India has one STOBAR-configured ship, equipped with RAC MiG-29Ks, and has plans for an additional example. Longer term, it has plans for a more potent CATOBAR carrier, potentially using General Atomics’ electromagnetic aircraft launch system, as opposed to conventional steam catapults.

There is a whole flock of ducks that need get in a row before Saab can even think about putting in a serious bid.

Not gonna happen.

Cool idea though.

It’s All about the Defense Contractors, Isn’t It?

Iraq is looking at purchasing the S-400 surface to air missile system from Russia, and the US is threatening sanctions:

Having suffered two decades of US-led bombing campaigns, terrorist insurgency and sectarian violence, Iraq is now trying to protect its airspace. But the US threatens to slap it with sanctions if it buys Russian missile systems.

Baghdad has recently expressed interest in purchasing Russia’s advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile defense systems. However, if Iraq goes forward with the plan, it faces a dilemma: the US could potentially retaliate with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA).

We want to purchase any weapons that will strengthen the security of Iraq and the country’s armed forces. At the same time, we respect regional and international commitments,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari told RIA Novosti on Wednesday. “There are a number of obstacles on the path [of buying] S-400 systems. The Iraqi side is still negotiating, and when the final decision is made, it will be considered,” Jaafari added.

According to State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, Iraq has already been warned that purchasing S-400 systems could violate CAATSA, which imposes sanctions on countries which purchase weapons from Moscow.

As confirmed by this official State Department Briefing, it appears that the US foreign policy apparatus has been become little more than a lever to sell US weapons systems.

Today in Faith Based Missile Defense

Another ABM system fail, this one a $30 million test of “Aegis Ashore” in Hawaii:

$30 million missile touted as a possible second layer of defense for Hawaii from North Korean threats reportedly failed in its first-ever flight from Kauai’s Aegis Ashore facility today when it did not intercept a target representing an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

U.S. Pacific Command put out a statement saying only: “The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy sailors manning the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex conducted a live-fire missile flight test using a Standard-Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai.”

The Pentagon is not publicly revealing the failure because of possible ramifications with North Korea tensions as well as concern for the upcoming South Korean Olympic games, CNN reported. According to the news channel, the target missile was launched by an aircraft.

Raytheon’s new SM-3 Block IIA missile, co-developed with Japan, is seen as a possible second layer of protection for Hawaii from North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles in addition to ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California — the only other line of defense.

The SM-3 IIA missile now has a record of one intercept in three tries off Kauai.

Rule one of ABM systems is, this sh%$ is hard.

Rule two of ABM systems is, this sh%$ is WAY more expensive than what they are shooting at you.

It’s a sucker’s game, but given defense contractors need a new boat.

Longer Range, More Payload, Superior Performance, Lower Cost, What’s Not to Love?

The Israeli Air Force is inclined to order an advanced variant of the F-15 instead more F-35s.

Even if there are things that the F-35 can do that the F-15 can’t, you want to minimize spending on silver bullets:

The Israel Air Force is to decide in a few months between purchasing a third squadron of F-35 fighter jets or the F-15I, which, while less advanced, has other advantages.

The acquisition requires the approval of the General Staff and a ministerial committee, but the recommendation of the air force generally carries the day.

IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, who reportedly is leaning toward the F-15, is to submit a recommendation in May.

Israel and the United States agreed last year on the purchase of 50 F-35 fighters, two squadrons, from Lockheed Martin, with delivery completed by 2024.


Senior IAF officers, including the force’s previous commander, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, have lavished praise on its capabilities. One of its most important operational capabilities is stealth, the ability to not show up on enemy radar.

But in order employ its stealth capabilities, the F-35 must fly with its bombs inside the plane’s belly, which limits its carrying capacity. If the bombs are carried on the outside of the plane, its stealth capabilities are impaired.

The F-15, though older, has two advantages over the F-35: a longer flight range and the ability to carry larger bombs. Another factor in its favor is that it’s built on a different platform, which means the air force would have a mix of planes rather than relying on a single model.

The F-15I is also cheaper to operate than the F-35. But the plane is currently being upgraded by the manufacturer, Boeing, and its purchase price is expected to rise in any future deal. Thus it could end up costing the same as the F-35 does next time around.

I gotta figure that there are elements in the IAF who are seriously worried that some crucial features of the F-35 will go completely titsup when the sh%$ hits the fan.

My money would among the items worrying IAF planners is its the JSF’s ill-starred Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS).

More Mistake Jet Follies

It’s supposed to dominate the skies, it’s supposed to provide close air support to the troops on the ground, and it’s supposed to have unparalleled reliability and availability.

Not so much:

Efforts to improve the reliability of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 are “stagnant,” undercut by problems such as aircraft sitting idle over the last year awaiting spare parts from the contractor, according to the Pentagon’s testing office.

The availability of the fighter jet for missions when needed — a key metric — remains “around 50 percent, a condition that has existed with no significant improvement since October 2014, despite the increasing number of aircraft,” Robert Behler, the Defense Department’s new director of operational testing, said in an annual report delivered Tuesday to senior Pentagon leaders and congressional committees.

The F-35 section, obtained by Bloomberg News, outlined the status of the costliest U.S. weapons system as it’s scheduled to end its 16-year-old development phase this year. Starting in September, the program is supposed to proceed to intense combat testing that’s likely to take a year, an exercise that’s at least 12 months late already. Combat testing is necessary before the plane is approved for full-rate production — the most profitable phase for Lockheed.

Pentagon officials including Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and chief weapons buyer Ellen Lord have highlighted the need to reduce the F-35’s $406.5 billion projected acquisition cost and its estimated $1.2 trillion price tag for long-term operations and support through 2070. Still, the Defense Department is moving to accelerate contracting and production for the fighter despite the persistence of technical and reliability issues disclosed in the current phase of development testing.

16 years in development, and it still does not work.

This has all gotten so dysfunctional that I’m waiting for a horse to be appointed to the Senate.

Missile Deal is Signed

Turkey has officially signed a deal with Russia to buy S-400 Triumf surface to air missiles:

Turkey has finalized a deal with Russia to purchase the S-400 Triumph (SA-21 Growler) missile defense system, in a move that is likely to irritate NATO allies. The deal was signed by Ankara on Friday, Dec. 29. ………

NATO in general, and the US military in particular are freaking out over this, because, as I have noted before, the Pentagon sees NATO as a sales vehicle for American weapons.

The Russian system is more capable, and cheaper, and given its origin, it is probably easier to maintain, but none of this matters to NATO leadership, because it doesn’t support the western arms manufacturers.

So basically, you have the military industrial complex on one side, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the other.

I’m just hoping that there is a way that they can both lose.

And the Mistake Jet Cluster F%$# Continues

The F-35 was intended to be a major technical leap, not just in performance (it isn’t), and not just in stealth (it isn’t), but also in terms of its availability and maintenance overhead.

It turns put that it has failed the last bit as well:

The Pentagon is accelerating production of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jet even though the planes already delivered are facing “significantly longer repair times” than planned because maintenance facilities are six years behind schedule, according to a draft audit.

The time to repair a part has averaged 172 days — “twice the program’s objective” — the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s watchdog agency, found. The shortages are “degrading readiness” because the fighter jets “were unable to fly about 22 percent of the time” from January through August for lack of needed parts.

The Pentagon has said soaring costs to develop and produce the F-35, the costliest U.S. weapons system, have been brought under control, with the price tag now projected at $406.5 billion. But the GAO report raises new doubts about the official estimate that maintaining and operating them will cost an additional $1.12 trillion over their 60-year lifetime.

Already, the agency said in the draft obtained by Bloomberg News, the Defense Department “must stretch its resources to meet the needs of continued system development and production while at the same time sustain the more than 250 aircraft it has already fielded.”

In addition to this, it has been revealed that the first 108 F-35s produced will never be combat capable, so something around $40 billion has been flushed down the toilet:

The new F-35 program executive officer, U.S. Navy vice admiral Mat Winter, said his office is exploring the option of leaving 108 aircraft in their current state because the funds to upgrade them to the fully combat-capable configuration would threaten the Air Force’s plans to ramp up production in the coming years.

These are most likely the same 108 aircraft the Air Force reportedly needed to upgrade earlier in 2017. Without being retrofitted, these aircraft would become “concurrency orphans” — airplanes left behind in the acquisition cycle after the services purchased them in haste before finishing the development process.

Left unsaid so far is what will become of the 81 F-35s purchased by the Marine Corps and Navy during that same period. If they are left in their current state, nearly 200 F-35s might permanently remain unready for combat because the Pentagon would rather buy new aircraft than upgrade the ones the American people have already paid for.

 What makes this particularly galling is the aircraft that would be left behind by such a scheme were the most expensive F-35s purchased so far. When the tab for all the aircraft purchased in an immature state is added up, the total comes to nearly $40 billion.

If you run the numbers, that is about $370 million for each of these hangar queens.

Imagine what could have done with that money.

Israel Has 2Nd Thoughts about V-22 Acquisition

V-22s Range Advantage has a Cost

Israel seemed poised to purchase the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey, and now they have put this on hold.

I am not particularly surprised.

The V-22 is a maintenance hog, and cost a fair amount to operate.

While the Osprey is about 100 kts faster, has a longer range, it can only carry about 1/3 of the payload, even though it has 2/3 of the installed power.

Additionally, unlike a conventional helicopter, the V-22 does not have a meaningful auto-rotation capability, and its performance with external loads is pathetic.

Israel simply does not have the need for the additional capabilities offered by the tilt-rotor:

The Israeli air force has frozen its evaluation of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, with a senior defence source indicating that the tiltrotor is unable to perform some missions currently conducted using its Sikorsky CH-53 transport helicopters.

In January 2014, the US Department of Defense notified Congress about its intention to sell six V-22s to Israel. This followed an evaluation conducted by air force personnel, which led to the service seeking a rapid acquisition to support special operations. The proposed purchase met with opposition from elsewhere within Israel’s defence ministry, however.

Other potential candidates to replace the Israeli air force’s aged CH-53s by around 2025 include Sikorsky’s new CH-53K and the Boeing CH-47 Chinook.

Simply put, the IDF does not have the requirements, such as amphibious landings from extreme distance, that have driven the V-22, and as such, it does not make sense.