The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

Return To Flight. The Air Force last week flew a JASSM cruise missile for the first time since a spate of anomalies occurred in four consecutive test flights in early April. The Oct. 31 test occurred at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., with a JASSM lot 4 missile. “The weapon was released from a B-1B, all flight surfaces deployed as expected, and the missile achieved stable flight,” the Air Force tells Defense Daily. “It flew a preprogrammed route through 10 waypoints resulting in precise target engagement with successful warhead detonation.” However, the service notes, final determination of the success of the mission is pending completion of the flight test data review. Lockheed Martin produces the stealthy JASSM.

Be Aware, Be Very Aware. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center is hosting briefings on Wednesday and Thursday for companies interested in bidding for work on the Self-Awareness Space Situational Awareness (SASSA) architecture. The meetings will take place at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, Calif. SASSA is envisioned as a modular and flexible, space-based payload architecture that supports the U.S. military’s ability to detect, characterize, attribute and geo-locate threats and attacks against friendly space assets. The architecture will include a centralized processing, data handling, data storage and power distribution capability, the Air Force says. It will also have a common interface unit so that different types of host satellites can accommodate various sensors including radar warning receivers, laser warning receivers, optical sensors and proximity sensors, the service says.

Deep Fried. Thursday is the due date for industry responses to the Air Force’s request for information on high-powered microwave (HPM) technologies that could be used to fry an adversary’s electronics without causing physical damage to buildings or harm to humans. The Air Force envisions an air-launched glide weapon with a HPM payload next decade, with development potentially beginning in FY ’09 under an Office of the Secretary of Defense-sponsored joint capabilities technology demonstration.

Welcome Back. The Air Force has reactivated the 525th Fighter Squadron (F.S.) after a 15-year hiatus. The newly assembled unit will operate F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets out of Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, and is expected to have its full complement of 20 aircraft in place by the end of next year. The 525th falls under Elmendorf’s 3rd Wing, along with the 90th F.S., the second F-22 unit being established at the northern base. The latter began receiving its Raptors in August and is expected to be at full strength, also 20 airframes, early next year.

Sling Along. Air Force F-15 and F-16 fighter jets from bases in Japan and South Korea are at Paya Lebar Air Base, Singapore, through mid-month participating in the first round of Commando Sling 2008, the series of annual combined air-combat training exercises with Republic of Singapore Air Force. Commando Sling 08-1 began Oct. 29 and runs through Nov. 16. The four-part series will run through mid 2008.

Tactical Realignment. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley has announced four proposed initiatives to realign the organization of C-130 tactical airlift units in Arkansas, Georgia, New York and Tennessee as directed by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process and create new arrangements that combine active-duty, Air National Guard (ANG) and Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) components. First under the changes, the Tennessee Air National Guard’s 118th Airlift Wing would serve as a formal training unit at Nashville International Airport, filling an unmet need in recent years to instruct airmen from allied nations on how to safely fly and employ the C-130, the Air Force says. For this role, the wing would receive WC-130H aircraft, well-suited for the training mission, while losing its current C-130H aircraft. Second, airmen from the New York ANG’s 107th Wing would also partner with the AFRC’s 914th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station to create a reserve/guard association, the first of its kind for combat-delivery C- 130s. Third, the 94th Airlift Wing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., would convert from a domestic C-130 formal training unit to a combat-coded unit, and become part of the Air Expeditionary Force rotation process. Fourth, the Tactical Airlift Center of Excellence at Little Rock AFB, Ark., would absorb the domestic training formerly done by the 94th Airlift Wing, and also expand its C-130J training responsibilities, including instructing international operators of the C-130J, the Air Force says.

Baseline Drive. Lockheed Martin says it has completed the baseline integrated system test for the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite, clearing the way for the spacecraft to enter environmental testing in preparation for launch in late 2008. The baseline testing took place from July 27 to Oct. 23 at Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems facilities in Sunnyvale, Calif., to establish a performance baseline for the integrated satellite prior to the environmental testing, which will include acoustic and thermal vacuum activities. Lockheed Martin’s industry team, which includes payload provider Northrop Grumman, is under contract to supply three AEHF satellites. Each AEHF satellite will provide greater total data-throughput capacity than the entire current Milstar communications constellation.

Seeing Red. Boeing has begun modifying the first of three Air Force C-40B transport aircraft tapped to get Northrop Grumman’s Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures system for active protection against infrared-guided anti-aircraft missiles. Work on the first aircraft is scheduled for completion in late February 2008, Boeing says. The second and third modified aircraft are slated for delivery in August and December of next year. The C-40B, used for shuttling VIPs, is a derivative of Boeing’s Next-Generation 737-700 business jet.

Added Thunder. The Air Force’s Thunderbird aerial demonstration squadron has taken delivery of the first of the 11 F-16 Block 52 aircraft that it will debut in its 2009 show season, the service says. The Thunderbirds currently fly modified F-16 Block 32 jets that will be phased out and returned to a combat configuration once the newer models are in place.

Combat ID. General Dynamics will analyze target-recognition and combat-identification technologies for the Air Force Research Laboratory under a $20 million Target Recognition and Advanced Identification Development and Evaluation contract. The company says its activities over the 64-month period of performance will help the Air Force to determine which concepts perform best in realistic missions.

Sink or Swim? Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), the chairman of the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee, last week was lukewarm about the Marine Corps latest pitch for making the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle better able to withstand attacks from improvised explosive devices. According to Taylor, the Marines have created what they say is a “relatively inexpensive” add-on protection kit that makes the EFV almost as well protected as a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, but he said he would be reluctant to fund any vehicle that is susceptible to land mines.

MRAP Chat. On Nov. 8, the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee will examine the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program. In the past, the subcommittee has sought to rapidly boost production–even if that means commandeering commercial automotive facilities. John Young, the Pentagon’s acting acquisition chief and director of the MRAP task force, will be on hand to discuss the issue along with Bill Greenwalt, the deputy under secretary of defense for industrial policy and Capt. Cloyes Hoover, the commanding officer of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center. SPAWAR is the Charleston, S.C., location where MRAPs are outfitted with communications and other electronic equipment before heading to Iraq. The subcommittee also will hear testimony from the leaders of companies manufacturing the vehicles.

Chop, Chop. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) is gently pressing the Air Force to speed consideration of the latest round of the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR-X) helicopter competition. Last month, Sestak wrote a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Michael Moseley saying that he supports allowing the competitors to share sensitive information as long as they all have the same level of information. “Additional and unwarranted delay in this program is unacceptable from both an acquisition and an operational perspective, and serves only to place more risk on our service members on future battlefieilds,” he wrote.

Preemptive Strike. Last week, 30 Democratic senators urged the president to scale back rhetoric regarding possible military action in Iran. A Nov. 1 letter spearheaded by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) also sought to hammer home the point that a recent nonbinding resolution on Iran and declaration of the nation’s revolutionary guard as a terrorist organization should not be used to justify war with Iran. “We wish to emphasize that offensive military action should not be taken against Iran without the express consent of Congress,” the letter said.

….Keeping Options Open. Asked if he would support legislation requiring the president to seek congressional approval for military force in Iran, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters during a press briefing last week that the nation should not tip its hand about what options the president might use. “One thing I think we ought not to do is announce in advance to the Iranians what our intentions may be. I mean, one of the tools any president has is to not be terribly specific about what we may have in mind in the future,” McConnell said.

Below The Sea. Submarines are an important part of the maritime strategy, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, commander Fleet Forces Command, tells attendees at the 25th Naval Submarine League expo in McLean, Va. “The capabilities that the sub community brings are right in line with those that evolve the character of the Navy and the character of this maritime strategy. Undersea domain awareness and undersea warfare are very important elements of it,” he adds. Greenert notes that submarines remain the best, and right now, the only anti-access platform. “If you go out and look at a major command operation and say what are the COCOMs shortfalls, what are the capabilities we are looking for in the future, it’s access…it’s capacity of our SOF, and capacity for strike and to have a mobile command and control platform. All of those are right there in the SSGN. We’ve got a great great contribution from the sub community.”

New Number Two? Current Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy Marshall Billingslea is rumored to be Navy Secretary Donald Winter’s choice to be the next Undersecretary of the Navy. The slot has been vacant since the departure of Dino Aviles in December 2006. In May, retired Marine Col. Frank Ryan surfaced as a candidate for the post, but he withdrew his name in September. If nominated for the position, Billingslea would require Senate confirmation.

Test Time. ATK is expected next month to conduct another test of BTERM, its effort to provide the Navy with an alternative munition to Raytheon’s ERGM, which is the Navy’s program of record for ERM. “While ATK has demonstrated success with guidance and navigation of the BTERM, their demonstration project has not successfully tested the performance of the rocket motor design,” a Navy source tells Defense Daily. “Their next test will be to demonstrate design changes that ATK believes solve the cause of the rocket motor failures. A series of rocket motor static firings were conducted where both motors burned to full design duration. Based on those satisfactory tests, ATK is now planning a full round test (less the warhead) at White Sands Missile Range in mid-December.” The Navy is hopeful ATK has overcome the rocket motor challenges and will be able to demonstrate a successful shot capable of surviving gun launch, acquiring GPS, and guiding to the designated aimpoint, the source says.

A New Path. The Navy had its first successful test launch of a test article from a Water Piercing Missile Launcher (WPML) at the Glendora Lake Facility near NSWC Crane on Sept. 25. Scientists from NSWC Dahlgren, NSWC Indian Head, NAVSEA and Virginia Tech also participated in the launch, the Navy reports. WPML is an underwater missile launcher that creates its own path to the water’s surface. Researchers anticipate this design will save the Navy money, reduce complexity for future submarines and could be used as a backfit on existing submarines. If WPML continues to work, the Navy won’t have to make missiles specifically designed for submarines, but use existing missiles designed for aircraft or helicopters, the service adds.

Pick Three. NAVAIR’s Avionics Component Improvement Program (AvCIP), managed by Air Combat Electronics (PMA 209), selected three new projects for funding in FY ’08. AvCIP funding covers non-recurring engineering for solutions to problem components, focusing on top readiness degraders, critical obsolescence/sustainability issues, and top cost drivers. The three projects are: NACES (Navy Aircrew Common Ejection Seat) FAST (Future Advances Sequencer Technology) Sequencer Test Set (submitted by Aircrew Systems (PMA 202)); APN-171 Radar Altimeter Single Card Assembly (submitted by Air Combat Electronics (PMA 209)); and E-2C APS-145 Radar RF Power Meter (submitted by the E-2/C-2 program office (PMA 231)), the Navy says.

…Savings. The first nine projects funded through AvCIP totaled approximately $5 million in R&D investments. They are projected by NAVAIR Engineering (AIR 4.2) models to provide a cost avoidance of more than $100 million over life cycles of the platforms affected. The next data call for new projects for FY ’09 funding is expected to come in January ’08. Submissions will be evaluated and selected for allocation of nearly $4 million, the Navy says.

On The Hunt. A new Marine program, Combat Hunter, has been designed to teach Marines how to better observe, communicate, and act in their effort to “find, fix, and finish” the enemy, the service says. Combat Hunter started as a Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory project initiated at the request of the Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force. The project seeks to improve the observation and hunting skills of the individual Marines operating in combat environments to enhance their lethality and survivability, and it directly supports the maturing concept of Distributed Operations. The project’s goal is to improve combat efficiency, while reducing combat casualties, through the application of skills used by hunters as they pursue their quarry, adds the Marine Corps.

Grand Opening. Marine Corps Systems Command last week officially opened its new Gruntworks Squad Integration Facility in Stafford, Va. The facility provides critical integration expertise to the continuing modernization of the Marine rifle squad, the Marine Corps says. Gruntworks will analyze the equipment Marine riflemen carry in terms of human factors, combat effectiveness, logistics and load with a view toward making changes that increase efficiency and survivability. At the Gruntworks facility the Marine Corps will evaluate the best industry, government, academia and foreign solutions offered through simulation and human systems integration and modeling. Determination will also be made if new technology can be integrated into the squad equipment to make it more effective and more reliable in future versions, adds the Marine Corps.

On Cost, On Schedule, On The Way. The four converted Ohio-class guided missile submarines (SSGN) achieved their IOC Nov. 1. The lead boat in the new class, the USS Ohio (SSGN-726), has been deployed, the Navy says. PEO Submarines Rear Adm. William Hilarides says the 2002 Milestone C cost estimate for RDT&E and procurement was $4.052 billion, and the current estimate is $4.095 billion. “Delivering four SSGNs within one percent of budget and on time within a month per ship gives us credibility with Congress and the American people,” Hilarides adds. “With both the SSGN Conversion Program and the Virginia-class Cost Reduction Program, I think that we have gone a long way in proving that we can meet our execution goals.”

Grrrrowler. Boeing last week broke ground on a new EA-18G Growler Support Center (GSC) at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. The facility will provide technical and logistics support for the Navy’s EA-18G. The center is scheduled to open in May 2008, shortly before the first EA-18G arrives at Whidbey Island, the aircraft’s homeport, the company says. The 4,400 square foot modular building will house approximately 24 representatives from the Navy and the Hornet/Growler industry team of Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Electric. The Boeing F/A-18E/F Integrated Readiness Support Teaming program will manage the supply chain management facility, accommodating bulk, palletized and bin part storage as well as shipping, receiving and packaging for F/A-18E/F and EA-18G spares.

Where’s Watson? Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) has develops a hand-held information tool, Synchronised Handheld Information & Local Observation Collator, or SHIRLOC, to help Australian Defence Force personnel operate more effectively by using local knowledge during deployments overseas. SHIRLOC is an information tool that runs on PDAs. Acting Chief Defence Scientist Nanda Nandagopal says SHIRLOC was developed for Australian troops in Timor-Leste to help them in compiling information on local criminal elements and illegal activities. “In complex warfighting and peacekeeping operations, where local knowledge is becoming increasingly important, SHIRLOC improves awareness of mission-relevant information to assist troops in carrying out their dangerous tasks,” he says in a statement. “SHIRLOC consists of a database with a large number of records that can be readily referenced during patrols, providing soldiers with an enormous amount of information not previously accessible.” Records stored in the SHIRLOC database for persons of interest include cross-reference links to associated people, locations, events, groups and even vehicles. Searches in the SHIRLOC database can be done using variables of names and alias, age and group.

Alert Status. The United Nations General Assembly is showing strong support for a New Zealand-led resolution that aims to reduce the high alert status of thousands of nuclear weapons, Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Goff announces Nov. 1. “The New Zealand-led initiative has been the highest profile new resolution on disarmament at the United Nations this year. It was carried by a vote of 124 to three, with 34 abstentions, at the General Assembly in New York,” he says. “A significant number of the world’s 27,000 remaining nuclear weapons are on high alert which means they could be launched within minutes,” Goff says. “We now need to make strong efforts to persuade them to act in compliance with the resolution, including during the current review cycle of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.”