Defense Watch

The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

Movement Possible. A House leadership aide confirmed the House is likely to appoint conferees this week for the defense authorization bill. Conferees from the House and Senate are expected to meet shortly after to sign off on the defense authorization bill. Most of the bill has been sewn up--the question remains, however, whether the issue of including hate crimes language that the president has vowed to veto will continue to weigh down movement of the bill, according to a congressional aide.

Homeland Insecurity. Two Republican candidates for president targeted the Department of Homeland Security for reductions when asked during this week's CNN/YouTube debate what three federal programs they would reduce to bring down the size of the federal budget. Both Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said they would make changes to DHS. "We need to revamp Homeland Security," Huckabee said. "It's a mess, and we have a real problem with the way that it's currently structured."

Still Alive. The president traded barbs with Democratic leaders last week about who is blocking funding for the troops. But industry sources and congressional aides indicate that members of Congress are working to provide some funding for the war that could be added to another bill that would pass before the end of the calendar year.

Going Local. Dismayed by a trend of business leaving his southeastern Pennsylvania district, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) has rounded up large and small companies for an economic summit that will teach smaller companies how to get in on Defense Department and other federal contracts. The economic summit also aims to put those smaller firms in touch with large prime contractors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Sestak told reporters. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee will make presentations at the event.

Lott Spot. Several members of the Senate defense committees are among the senators ready to vie for leadership roles within the Republican conference left open by the resignation of Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), according to congressional aides. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) plans to run to replace Lott as the minority whip. Then it's a three-way race to replace Kyl as the conference chair among Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee; Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.); and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). If Hutchison wins, fellow Texan Sen. John Cornyn, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, will seek to move into her place as the policy committee chair. If that happens, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), also a SASC member, would try to fill the vice conference chair slot.

Covert Swap. Air Force Lt. Gen. Donnie Wurster assumed command of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) on Nov. 27 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., taking over for Lt. Gen. Mike Wooley, who has led the command since July 2004. Wurster has been AFSOC's vice commander since February 2006; he is the first vice commander to move directly into the command's top position. Wooley is retiring, effective Jan. 1, 2008, after a 35-year Air Force career.

Feel The Burn. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne witnessed last week the first ground test of an afterburning jet engine using a synthetic fuel mix that holds the promise of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources. The service ran General Electric's F101 two-stage, high-performance supersonic engine, which powers the B-1B bomber aircraft, using a 50-50 mix of natural gas-derived Fischer-Tropsch fuel and traditional JP-8 jet fuel Nov. 27 during a qualification test at the Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold AFB, Tenn. "This test," says Wynne, "is the first reach into the supersonic [realm]. Once we do the qualification on the ground, then we'll mount that engine back into an airplane and we'll fly the B-1B on a supersonic flight." The Air Force has already certified Pratt & Whitney's TF33 engines that are used on B-52 bombers to burn the fuel in flight and is in the process of qualifying the company's F117 powerplants that are carried by C-17 transport aircraft and Boeing 757 commercial airliners.

Raptor On Ice. The Air Force says it sent an F-22 Raptor test aircraft at Eielson AFB, Alaska, to evaluate the fighter's unique anti-skid braking system on ice and assess cold-weather operations and maintenance procedures. "We were testing the Raptor's behavior while maneuvering and stopping on slippery surfaces," says Maj. Jack Fischer, deployment commander of the Air Force's 411th Flight Test Squadron. "Whether during a snow storm or ice fog, we have to be able to land on poor surfaces. Stopping on problem surfaces is a challenge for every Air Force jet." The Air Force has been operating several F-22s from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, since August and wanted to do the tests before the first snowfall hit Elmendorf.

RAMPing Up. Boeing has inducted the third Air Force C-130 Hercules transport aircraft into the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) at its upgrade facility in San Antonio, Texas. The aircraft is a C-130H3 model from the West Virginia Air National Guard's 130th Airlift Wing. Like the two aircraft before it, and all 222 included under the AMP, it will receive an all-new digital cockpit, including digital avionics and night-vision-goggle capability. "We are very excited about starting the modifications on the third aircraft," says Mike Harris, Boeing vice president and C-130 AMP manager. "We have learned a lot from working on the first two AMP aircraft, and we are ready to apply those experiences as we start work on H3." The first two C-130 AMP aircraft, an H2 model and an H2.5 variant, are undergoing ground testing and flight activities at Edwards AFB, Calif.

Rotating. Air Force Maj. Gen. Gilmary Hostage has been tapped to be vice commander of Pacific Air Forces, moving there from his current post as director of requirements and integration (J-8) for U.S. Joint Forces Command. Nominated to replace him as the J-8 is Maj. Gen. David Edgington, who has been serving as director of the Air Component Coordination Element (ACCE) of the Multi-National Force-Iraq in Baghdad, Iraq. Filling the ACCE slot would be Maj. Gen. David Clary, who is currently vice commander of Air Combat Command (ACC). Maj. Gen. Roy Worden is eyed for the number two spot at ACC. He currently directs ACC's Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis, AFB. Nev.

Speedy Exit. Boeing says it and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) have successfully demonstrated in a ground test the ability to release munitions safely from a weapons bay at high supersonic speeds using an approach called active flow control. The test took place at Holloman AFB, N.M. During the rocket sled test, a Mk 82 Joint Direct Attack Munition test vehicle was successfully deployed at a speed of about Mach 2 from a weapons bay approximating in size a bay of the B-1 bomber aircraft, according to Boeing. The active-flow-control configuration used in the test was a tandem array of microjets upstream of the weapons bay that enabled the munition to exit the bay. "Active flow control technology will enable safe separation of weapons from weapons bays of future high speed aircraft," says Jim Grove, AFRL's program manager for the effort, which is called the High Frequency Excitation Active Flow Control for Supersonic Weapon Release (HIFEX) program. HIFEX began in 2001 under Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency sponsorship. Additional tests are planned in 2008.

Biometrics Organization. The Pentagon hopes to establish a DoD Biometrics Center of Excellence within the Army to better coordinate the various biometric development efforts and databases throughout the Defense Department, a Pentagon official tells Defense Daily recently. The new center would create a "critical mass for biometrics" within DoD to achieve commonality where it's needed and prevent duplication, Thomas Dee, the director of defense biometrics within the Pentagon's Defense Research and Engineering Office, says. He says the new center will not be a biometrics defense agency, as some in the Army are calling it. It will report within the Army command structure, not to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, he says.

Secure Sound. General Dynamics C4 Systems says its Sect�ra vIPer Phone is certified by the National Security Agency (NSA) to protect classified communications via voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) networks at the Top Secret level and below. "Information security is a critical component of the military and government's transition to VoIP communications," John Cole, vice president and general manager of Information Assurance for General Dynamics C4 Systems, says in a Nov. 29 statement. "For VoIP networks, the vIPer phone will protect the information that is used to protect the nation.'' Compliant with the U.S. government sponsored Secure Communications Interoperability Protocol (SCIP), the vIPer Phone is also interoperable with existing SCIP secure communication devices, including Secure Terminal Equipment (STE), Sect�ra phones and terminals. The Sect�ra vIPer Phone must be used in conjunction with the appropriate VoIP network gateway to achieve interoperability with existing SCIP devices.

All That Energy. Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organization (DSTO) and Flinders University say they've created a new research center to study explosives and other energetic materials. The new Centre of Expertise in Energetic Materials, will study the chemistry of energetic materials to support the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with new and improved explosives, pyrotechnics and propellants and methods for their handling and storage, DSTO said Nov. 28. "DSTO already does a great deal of research into explosives, but this collaboration with Flinders University will provide DSTO and the ADF with additional capabilities," DSTO's Deputy Chief Defence Scientist, Information and Weapons Systems Warren Harch says. "This research is not just about explosives, but all energetic materials including pyrotechnics such as those used in flares, and propellants used to fire weapons from small arms to artillery." DSTO will sponsor the centre with about $177,000 over three years and will also fund the university to undertake additional, focused research tasks.

Investment Needed. The Army's major lobbying group, the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), is calling for a fully-manned and resourced service, in approving its 2008 resolutions. That translates into an active force of at least 700,000, an Army National Guard of at least 358,000 and an Army Reserve of at least 206,000, the resolutions' preamble states. AUSA sees the Army as "an investment-starved institution that is forced to trade long term modernization for near term requirements" and wants to increase the Army's share of the Defense Department's budget from 24 percent to 28 percent. It calls for a more consistent funding stream. "Unpredictable funding degrades readiness, creates inefficiencies and places enormous stress on an Army at war." The resolutions also "support the Army's covenant with the Army Family," call for closing the gap between military and civilian pay, revising and enhancing the reserve component compensation package, and prevent the "erosion of benefits," especially in health care. "The care of injured and disabled soldiers must be enhanced and the administrative process and procedure link between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs must become seamless," the resolutions state.

Air Power. Tomorrow and Wednesday, the 5th annual Nordic Defense and Technology Industry Summit, small nation's air forces, meets in Oslo, Norway. For many northern European countries, air force investment essentially means buying complete systems from another country. National defense industries will rarely be able to supply complete systems, meaning the degree of participation by these nations' defence industries will depend on subcontracting agreements, industrial cooperation or offset agreements. Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands are all looking at billion-class investments when their fleets of F-16 aircraft will be coming up for replacement. Investments in new fighter aircraft will tie up huge portions of the total defense investments in their defense budgets for many years. Little will be left over for other defense investments. Survival of the national defense industries may well depend on achieving substantial participation in the fighter aircraft projects; if not, it will be difficult to sustain a national defence industry at its present levels. At the same time, air defence projects represent vast opportunities for technological development and international collaboration.

Tear Down. New Zealand will help fund a Japan-led project to dismantle decommissioned nuclear submarines in the Russian Far East, Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Goff announces this month. "New Zealand values this opportunity to support Japan in ensuring that the deteriorating submarines no longer pose a danger to international security and to the environment," Goff says. "Dozens of these submarines remain in existence today, and about half of these still have nuclear fuel on board. Due to poor maintenance and inadequate protection, the large quantities of highly radioactive materials within each submarine offer a target for theft or sabotage." New Zealand's funding of about $522,000 will be used towards the handling and processing of radioactive wastes that result from the de-fueling and dismantlement of a nuclear submarine, in Vladivostok on Russia's Pacific coast under Japan's 'Star of Hope' program. New Zealand's contribution is part of the G8 Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction launched in 2002.

Testing Never Ends. North Pole and NORAD officials conducted a full-blown test flight with Santa and all nine reindeer on Nov. 23, at 5:30 p.m. at the Pueblo, Colo., officials say. "The test flight definitely assures us our precision tracking of St. Nick is right on target for his yuletide trip around the world on Dec. 24," Maj. Stacia Reddish, NORAD Tracks Santa Project Officer, says. The NORAD Santa sleigh test flight began with lift off at the North Pole; NORAD radar detected Santa mere seconds after his lift off. After that, radars then indicated Santa zipped over the Northwest Territories to the Yukon. About 200 miles from the Yukon-Alaskan border, two CF-18s from Canada's Air Force intercepted and escorted Santa to Alaska where they handed him off to two American F-15s, officials say. The F-15s then flew with Santa for 200 miles, at which time Santa increased his speed to Christmas-Eve-Velocity en route to the Pueblo Riverwalk where he was met by hundreds of children. From lift off until Santa's return to the North Pole, NORAD tested the satellite systems used to track the infrared signature of Rudolph's bright nose. The famous fourth method of Santa Tracking--SantaCams--was not used in the Santa test flight as they are used by NORAD exclusively on Christmas Eve. Check it out:

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