The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

Presidential Ride. The defense appropriations bill the SAC approved Sept. 15 calls for cutting $119.3 million from the Pentagon’s $180 million request for research and development of a future V-XX presidential helicopter and spending $70 million of those funds on both research on and procurement of legacy VH-3 and VH-60 fleet upgrades. “The committee was informed by the Navy of changes within the presidential helicopter portfolio that necessitate additional sustainment activities for the legacy fleet, and that developmental activities for the V–XX program will not proceed at the rate originally anticipated by the fiscal year 2012 budget request,” the SAC says in its report on the bill. The report notes that $49.3 million of the cut to V-XX simply would be “due to being early to need.”

F-35 Focus. The SAC report elaborates on the panel’s proposed $695 million cut to the Pentagon’s request for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a move that would maintain aircraft production quantities at FY ’11 levels instead of starting a planned increase. The reduction would cut two conventional-take-off-and-landing F-35s and advance-procurement funding for seven of them, as well as one carrier-variant aircraft and advance-procurement for six of them. The panel is concerned about the “severe concurrency of development testing and production,” noting the F-22 program had similar concurrency and the Air Force had to pay to upgrade early production lots of the aircraft to jibe with changes spurred by testing.

Rejected. The SAC rejects the argument from the Pentagon and contractor Lockheed Martin that increased production rates are needed to keep the per-unit costs down. The report says “the advertised per unit cost does not include additional costs to the program associated with performance, concurrency, and common configuration modifications.” It adds: “Similar performance, concurrency, and common configuration issues cost an additional $56,000,000 per aircraft on the F–22 program, none of which were ever accounted for in the per unit cost. If the Joint Strike Fighter continues on the same path and its costs are not brought under control, the committee believes that the program’s future could be in jeopardy.” Thus, the panel recommend holding near-term production quantities at FY ’11 levels “to allow time to complete full hardware qualification” of the F-35 aircraft.

NASA Numbers. NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket has $1.8 billion worth of funding and the crew capsule has $1.2 billion in the FY ’12 commerce, justice, science appropriations bill the SAC approved Sept. 15. Those figures differ slightly from funding in the House Appropriations Committee’s bill, which includes just under $2 billion for the rocket and $1.1 billion for the capsule. NASA unveiled its design plans for the new rocket Sept.14, calling for one with a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel system, with RS-25D/E engines providing the core propulsion and the J2X engine used in the upper stage.

Engine Exhale. David Hess, president of Pratt & Whitney, tells Defense Daily he is hopeful the debate over reviving the General Electric-Rolls-Royce F-35 second engine is dead, considering House and Senate appropriators don’t want to resurrect funding in FY ’12. But the says his firm–which makes the primary F-35 engine, which has had cost overruns–expects the second-engine team to keep pushing. “We’re never going to exhale,” Hess says Sept. 14. “We’re doing to continue to cut the cost of the (primary) engine, we’re going to continue to improve the performance and make sure that our quality and delivery is pristine and we’re going to perform so that there’s never a reason or an interest in the second engine.” He says he is not concerned that Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Cater said on Sept. 13 that Pentagon officials will meet with the second-engine team about its proposal to self-fund its engine.

Reprogrammed. The Pentagon wants to shift around $2.2 billion within its coffers, according to a $2.2 billion reprogramming request Comptroller Robert Hale signed Sept. 6. The proposal seeks to reallocate funding for an array of programs, including $492 million for 177 Stryker vehicles, $72 million for four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, $146 million for 15 Kiowa Warrior upgrade kits, and $108 million for 907 Hellfire missiles. The omnibus reprogramming request, the second such proposal lawmakers received, was sent to the four congressional defense panels two weeks ago. It seeks to reprogram funds for FY ‘11, which ends Sept. 30. Much of the funding would be taken from operations and maintenance accounts.

Top Gates Aide To Lockheed Martin. Robert Rangel, a top adviser to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, has taken a job at Lockheed Martin, the company says. Rangel has joined the company’s Washington operations as vice president, programs and policy, reporting directly to Greg Dahlberg, senior vice president, Washington Operations. He will assist in coordinating "overall corporate strategy for major programs and policies," the company says in an internal statement. In addition, Lockheed Martin has hired Michael Oates as vice president for Army systems and special operations forces, also working in the Washington office and reporting to Dahlberg. Ryan McCarthy, another former top aide to Gates, is coming aboard as vice president, global security policy, working directly for Dahlberg.

Behavior Detection. A nearly six-week old pilot program at Boston Logan International Airport employing an advanced version of behavior detection techniques is going well, a Transportation Security Administration official tells a House panel on Friday. Rather than just sit back and observe travelers moving through an airport, the enhanced behavior detection program involves TSA Behavior Detection Officers asking people questions and then observing their reactions, behaviors and any inconsistencies in their story, George Naccara, federal security director at Logan, tells the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management, during a field hearing at the airport. The proof-of-concept program has been “very well embraced” by the Massachusetts Port (MassPort) officials, State Police and the air carriers and after speaking to tens of thousands of passengers, “generally the reaction has been extremely positive,” he says. As the pilot effort progresses TSA will be “refining our process so we then will treat people differently,” he says.

…Information Sharing Model. Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.), ranking member on the subcommittee, says that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks security and law enforcement officials at the airport began daily security briefings involving all the relevant stakeholders, making it the only airport in the country that does this. The 8:30 a.m. briefing, which is done every day of the week, brings together federal, state and local agencies, including TSA, the airlines and MassPort staff. “This type of intelligence sharing should be routine” but as a recent report card by the former 9/11 Commissioners points out, “it’s one of the areas where our homeland security continues to lack efforts,” Keating says. TSA’s Naccara says the daily briefing allows federal, state and local security officials to better deploy random security measures throughout the airport, to quickly and efficiently work together after an incident, and to better deploy security technology such as camera systems.

Stern On USS Gerald R. Ford. Huntington Ingalls Industries says last week that it had completed the stern on the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier with the placing of an 825-ton superlift. Superlifts are pre-outfitted and are built as components of modular construction, a process where smaller sections of the ship are welded together to form large structural units. The final superlift of the ship’s aft end includes the steering gear rooms, electrical power distribution room, store rooms and tanks. The Gerald R. Ford is being built at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding facility in Virginia.

Interest Groups See Easy Cuts For Pentagon. Two advocacy organizations have teamed up to find some cuts the Pentagon could start with under the austerity climate in Washington. The US Public Interest Research Group and National Taxpayers Association says the joint congressional committee looking for $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction could slash $430 billion in Pentagon spending by eliminating low-priority or unnecessary military programs. Among the recommendations is eliminating the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Medium Extended Air Defense (MEADS) system, and reducing purchases of the V-22 Osprey.

Reuse Saves Money. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) says that it has saved $15 million through a program designed to reuse NATO Seasparrow Missile systems and components from decommissioned ships. The program has been run by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division, which has been able to generate $2 million in savings annually since 2004. "Instead of purchasing a new part and waiting two weeks for it to arrive, a ship can have a no-cost replacement part that provides the same functionality in about 48 hours," Fleet Support Team Lead Firozul Chowdhury says.

Cold War Days. For one day, people could see with their own eyes the once secret Cold War HEXAGON (KH-9) spy satellite. The National Reconnaissance Office and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Saturday hosted a one-day-only viewing of the newly declassified HEXAGON in the parking lot of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. This is the first time the public could see the 60 foot long, 10 foot diameter satellite, HEXAGONs were the largest spy satellites the U.S. ever put in space and its four cameras took photos of the Soviet Union and other targets around the world from 1971 through the early 1980s. The display is part of NROs 50th anniversary celebrations. Director Bruce Carlson says some of the satellite’s covering has been removed so the inner workings can be seen, and the four film capsules show different stages of activity.

…”I Don’t Know.” What will happen to NRO with the current defense budget discussions, Carlson says. However, he does have three priorities: protect his people; protect baseline programs; and third, protect science and technology. If necessary, cuts would first come from operations, or maintenance. NROs work has become increasingly complex and diverse, with space becoming more and more “congested, contested and competitive,” he said.

…A”Big Role” in Libya. Carlson says NRO is instrumental in supporting Libyan operations. That’s because its sensors had unencumbered access, were flexible, and operations ran 24/7.

Not A Military Competition. The fact that China sells arms in Africa is not a problem as U.S. AFRICOM Commander Gen. Carter Ham sees it. “I don’t’ see that as a military competition between us and China,” he says at a Defense Writers Group breakfast last week. African nations are deciding where to find the best materiel and equipment that they need. And it isn’t always a head to head battle, he says. For example, China sold some riverine craft to the Congo. “It’s a capability they need but not one we possess,” he says.

Another MRH-90  Review. This week, Australia begins a second diagnostic review of the MRH-90 Multi-Role Helicopter Program, Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare says. This follows a review conducted in April that recommended that Defence work with the contractor, Australian Aerospace, to implement a remediation plan to address project delays due to a series of key issues including engine failure, transmission oil cooler fan failures and the poor availability of spares. At that time, Clare says a second review would examine the effectiveness of the action taken and whether further action is necessary. To date, Defence has accepted 13 MRH-90 helicopters that are currently being used for testing and initial crew training. 

Golden Years. The U.S. and Australia celebrated a 60 year old alliance last week, and the Secretaries of Defense and State met with their Australian counterparts in  San Francisco where it all began. When the U.S. was attacked on 9/11, Australia invoked the alliance treaty to come to the defense of the United States, and has fought alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the largest non-NATO ally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says. “In Libya, Australia now provides 10 percent of the international humanitarian budget. So from cyberspace to food security, Australia makes vital contributions to global security, stability, and well-being. And we greatly appreciate their efforts.”

…Separate Cyberspace Statement. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says cyberspace is a new area of attention. A joint statement was issued on cyberspace. In the event of a cyber attack, “that threatens the territorial integrity, political independence or security of either of our nations, Australia and the United States would consult together and determine appropriate options to address the threat,” Rudd said, quoting the statement.