|Friday, May 20, 2022 • 65th Year • Volume 294 • No. 31|
The Boeing [BA] VC-25B program is encountering a two- to three-year delivery delay, a U.S. Air Force official said on May 19.
The program has aimed to replace two more than 30-year-old VC-25As by the end of 2024. The aircraft, modified 747-200s, are known as Air Force One when the president is aboard.
"We are anticipating at this point a delay to the previously approved [VC-25B] program schedule on the order of 24 to 36 months–two to three years, which is obviously quite a significant delay," Air Force Andrew Hunter said at a House Armed Services Committee seapower and projection forces panel hearing on May 19 in response to a question from Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), the chairman of the subcommittee.
"We're working through how to do that," Hunter said. "A lot of it was with a subcontractor that was not able to get the job done in terms of the interior of the aircraft and some of the modifications there, and that significantly pushed the schedule back."
Last year, Boeing pointed to supply problems in canceling the subcontract of Texas-based GDC Technics, which was to provide the interiors for the VC-25Bs, modified Boeing 747-8s.
"I think it's a mix of Boeing doing some additional work itself, but also bringing on other subcontractors to help with the effort," Hunter said when asked how Boeing would replace GDC Technics. Hunter told Courtney he would report back on the cost implications of the two- to three-year delay.
"We believe we can probably take care of it in terms of resources that we have within the program, although you may see some changes in the upcoming [fiscal] '24 budget request compared to what we had previously programmed for [sustainment of] the VC-25A."
In 2018, the Air Force awarded Boeing a $3.9 billion contract to modify the two 747-8 aircraft to become the next Air Force One by the end of 2024. The VC-25Bs are to include upgrades such as autonomous ground operations capabilities, specialized communications systems, more electrical power and a medical facility.
Boeing said last month that it took a $660 million hit to first quarter earnings due to higher supplier costs, higher costs to finalize technical requirements, and schedule delays in the VC-25B program (Defense Daily, Apr. 27).
During the tenure of former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing took on additional risk on the VC-25B, which former President Trump threatened to cancel after questioning the cost of the program. Boeing agreed to cut the price.
In last month's Boeing first quarter earnings call, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun didn’t directly address the unusual pressure Trump exerted on the program, saying “I’m just going to call a very unique moment, a very unique negotiation, a very unique set of risks that Boeing probably shouldn’t have taken. But we are where we are.”
The program for the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35 fighter could achieve significant sustainment cost savings in the coming years, per a section of the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) 2022 annual report released last week.
"The Department of Defense could reduce F-35 sustainment costs by hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars over several years by developing a strategic approach to ensure that the services can afford to operate and support the F-35," GAO said.
Thus far, "DoD does not have a pathway to close the substantial gap between estimated sustainment costs for the F-35 and service-established affordability constraints, nor is it required to periodically report to Congress on these," the report said. "Cost reductions become increasingly difficult as the program matures, and achieving cost reductions of this magnitude in sustainment costs presents a formidable challenge for the program."
Last July, GAO said that since 2012 estimated F-35 life cycle sustainment costs over 66 years have risen to $1.7 trillon, including an increase in operations and sustainment costs from $1.11 trillion to $1.27 trillion despite DoD cost reduction efforts for the 400 aircraft fielded and the overall planned buy of 2,500–the largest of which is the Air Force's planned buy of 1,763 F-35As.
The latter cost $7.8 million per aircraft per year to operate and maintain in 2020–$3.7 million more than the affordabilty target for the F-35A, according to the F-35 program. That represents $4.4 billion in extra costs projected out to 2036 when the Air Force will have bought 1,192 F-35As and is the largest cost overrun for the three variants of the plane. The Marine Corps' F-35B and the Navy's F-35C have smaller projected overruns, as the affordability targets in annual operating and suatinment costs are higher for those variants–$6.8 million per aircraft for the F-35B and $7.5 million per aircraft for the F-35C.
By 2036, projected operations and maintenance costs on the three F-35 variants will exceed affordability constraints by $6 billion, GAO said.
"As a result, the services collectively will be confronted with sustainment costs that they project will be unaffordable over the life cycle of the program," per the report.
The F-35 program said that it wants to use Air Force and Navy personnel more for fighter supply chain management to help reduce costs. DoD and the F-35 program told Congress last month that one option would be for the Air Force and Navy to spend about $500 million for the delivery of parts specifications from the subcontractors who build thousands of parts on the fighter, while another option, under DoD’s Pathfinder initiative, would be for the F-35 program to use the technical data specifications of parts on other platforms at low-cost or for free (Defense Daily, Apr. 29).
"There are differing perspectives on the best course of action to achieve the affordability constraints and the program does not have a strategic approach for ensuring the services can afford to operate and support the F-35," GAO said in last week's annual report. "GAO suggested that Congress consider (1) requiring DoD to report annually on progress achieving the services’ affordability constraints, and (2) making future F-35 aircraft procurement decisions contingent on DoD’s progress in achieving F-35 sustainment affordability constraints."
DoD told GAO in March that the Pentagon "is working to develop updated F-35 sustainment affordability constraints by the end of 2022 to reflect any changes in department priorities that result from the fiscal year 2023 budget process," per the report.
The House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday approved five bipartisan bills, including a measure to create a new industrial control systems training initiative and another restricting the Department of Homeland Security in providing research funds to any college or university that has a relationship with certain Chinese entities.
The Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Training Act (H.R. 7777), introduced by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to establish a training initiative to strengthen the capabilities of the cybersecurity workforce in securing industrial control systems.
The DHS Restrictions on Confucius Institutes and Chinese Entities of Concern Act (H.R. 7799), introduced by Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas), would prevent DHS from providing science, technology, research and development funds to any institution of higher learning that has a relationship with a Confucius Institute or other Chinese entities of concern.
“We know that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is utilizing Confucius Institutes to infiltrate American university campuses to engage in espionage, steal our intellectual property, intimidate Chinse dissidents, promote communist propaganda, and funnel information back to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA),” Pfluger said in a statement. “Under no circumstances should American taxpayer dollars be used to enrich the CCP or PLA.”
The Committee also passed a bill requiring Customs and Border Protection to issue containment devices and related training to its personnel to provide protection against exposure to fentanyl, other lethal drugs and chemical substances that are seized or encountered by law enforcers and first responders. The Prevent Exposure to Narcotics and Toxics (PREVENT) Act (H.R. 5274) was introduced by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio).
The National Computer Forensics Institute Reauthorization Act of 2022 (H.R. 7174), introduced by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), reauthorizes for 10 years the National Computer Forensics Institute, a federally funded center to train law enforcement officers and judicial officials on cyber electronic crimes and related threats. The center is based in Alabama and is operated in partnership between the Secret Service and the Alabama Office of Prosecution Services.
The panel also passed a bill introduced by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee chairman, aimed at preventing anyone from using the DHS seal to mislead others, or misappropriate in a way that indicates the department has approved such use. Thompson said DHS supports the bill and that it responds to recent arrests of two people that impersonated DHS officers.
All the bills were approved by voice vote.
The Department of Homeland Security is expanding an existing small business multi-award contract for program management and technical services, adding $450 million to the potential ceiling value and extending the length of the ordering period by three years.
The extension of the Program Management, Administrative, Operations (Clerical), and Technical Services program (PACTS II) strategically-source contract vehicle maintains a pool of service-disabled veteran-owned small business contractors to prevent a gap in services while DHS completes a new competition for the program.
The extension overs three one-year periods ending on Feb. 28, 2025. The new PACTS II ceiling value is $2 billion, about 30 percent higher than the previous $1.5 billion top.
There are 32 contract holders under PACTS II.
This year, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will finish an integrated master schedule for building a new plutonium pit manufacturing complex and this summer it will quantify delays to the W80-4 nuclear cruise missile warhead, the head of the agency told Senators Thursday.
“We are in the process of integrating those schedules so that we have a master schedule for the entire plutonium project including all the peripheral things like the security that goes with that and we are committed to provide you that this year,” Jill Hruby, administrator of the NNSA, said Thursday during the final scheduled hearing of her Capitol Hill marathon, during which she appeared at three hearings in as many days.
Hruby provided the update on the integrated master schedule, which Congress has been asking for this hearing season, in response to a question from Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Later in the two-hour hearing, during which the NNSA administrator testified alongside her boss, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Hruby acknowledged to Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) that the first production date for the W80-4 cruise missile warhead will likely slip from the agency’s fiscal year 2025 target date.
“There are a few components, a handful of components on the W80-4 which will have difficulty making that FPU [first production unit],” Hruby told Rounds. However, she said, the warhead should still be ready to be mated with the Long Range Standoff weapon cruise missile by 2030, when the Air Force wants the weapon system — a replacement for the AGM-86b carried by the B-52H — to be ready.
The NNSA acknowledged earlier this year that it was assessing the effects of COVID-19- and supply-chain-related delays to W80-4’s first production date after saying last year that such delays might be possible. First production units are proof-of-concept articles that are torn down and scrutinized by experts to verify that the design and manufacturing line are ready for mass production.
A Marine Corps official told a congressional panel Wednesday the Navy’s plans to reduce amphibious warships in the medium term from 24 ships will add risk to the service’s ability to respond to crises, particularly outside the Indo-Pacific region.
During a House Armed Services seapower subcommittee hearing on May 18, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) asked a top Marine Corps official what the risk is in the Navy’s plan to reduce the amphibious warship force to 24 ships by FY ‘24, well under the Marine Corps’ requirement of 31 ships.
“The Marine Corps’ concern is that as the coming years when we go down to 24, it is my assessment that at 24, we will likely be able to provide adequate capability in the Indo-Pacific and we will be forced to take risk in EUCOM, AFRICOM and CENTCOM, there's no two ways around it,” Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Combat Development and Integration, said.
Heckl said he used the word ‘likely’ for the Indo-Pacific capabilities because “based on readiness rates of ships, I'm always cautious, I will approach from the worst case scenario vice the best case.”
Several Marine Corps officials, including Heckl during the hearing, have said the service’s “absolute requirement” for amphibious ships is 31 vessels: 10 LHA/LPD larger deck amphibious assault ships and 21 San Antonio-class LPD-type amphibious transport docks.
However, according to the Navy’s FY 2023 budget request and long-term shipbuilding plan, the department will stop building San Antonio-class Flight II LPD ships after LPD-32 and the Navy plans to retire 10 older Whidbey Island/Harpers Ferry (LSD-41/49) classes between three and 14 years earlier than planned. The LPD Flight II was planned to replace the LSDs.
The Navy also pushed back procurement of the first of up to 35 new class Light Amphibious Warships (LAW) to FY ‘25.
If approved by Congress, according to the Navy’s latest long term shipbuilding plan, these decisions will result in the amphibious warship force falling to 24 vessels by FY ‘24 and not returning to 31 ships or more until 2030-31, depending on which of three alternatives in the shipbuilding plan is used.
Heckl elaborated since the Marine Corps is tasked with being the country's crisis response force the risk in reducing amphibious ships means “that we will not be able to have adequate forces forward to respond in a timely manner.”
“The implication of crisis response is timely response. So, again, I'll come back to the whole thing, the discussion about time can often represent risk that can't be overcome. So that's, I think, the biggest issue, ma’am, is just not being forward and being able to provide timely and capable response,” he added.
When asked by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), ranking member of the subcommittee, about the consequences of going down to 24 amphibious ships, Heckl said he believes the Marine Corps will likely be able to provide the “appropriate support” to the Indo-Pacific theater.
However, “I think we will have to take risk in other areas like CENTCOM, AFRICOM, EUCOM. I don't think there's any way to avoid it.”
“The fact sir, that ships are being decommissioned faster than they are being procured and delivered and employed – a simple fact is that under this plan, we will go to a number of 24 amphibs in the next three to five years. What that translates to for us is risk, which is always – to any military person – one of the prime concerns.”
Heckl underscored the Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) embarked aboard Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs) made of the amphibious warships “are very highly in demand.”
He said in the last decade the ARG-MEUs have evacuated embassies in Libya and Yemen, reinforced the embassy in Iraq, rescued a downed Air Force pilot in Libya, put artillery ashore to target ISIS in Iraq, and was the first unit on the ground in Afghanistan to assist with evacuations.
“So these things are, at the end of the day, one of the most in demand assets by combatant commanders, so it's going to represent risks, sir, if we go below 31.”
When asked by Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Ala.) about the chance of delaying the early retirements of the LSDs for amphibious force numbers, Heckl said from his perspective that would help retain capability.
“Obviously, I would support anything that's going to give our Marines and our fleet commanders more amphibious assets. But obviously…within the top line, a problem where we have priorities. But absolutely, sir, from my perspective, it would give the fleet commanders more capability.”
Heckl also noted to Luria that he is not requesting to decommission the LSDs
“I certainly am not, ma’am, and the LPD was going to be truncated at [LPD-31], actually. We got advanced procurement on [LPD-32] and as you know, the commandant put LPD-33 as the top of our unfunded priority list for the United States Marine Corps.”
Luria said the committee has heard that message “loud and clear. And we may go above and beyond that.”
The Marine Corps’ FY 23 unfunded requirements list named $250 million in advanced procurement funds for LPD-33 as its top item (Defense Daily, April 1).
DUGWAY, Utah — The Army is exploring the potential for further Future Vertical Lift (FVL) information sharing agreements with international partners, with several countries expressing interest in growing cooperation on aviation modernization efforts following participation at the service’s recent EDGE 22 experiment.
After inviting seven countries to participate in the FVL-led EDGE22 event at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, Brig. Gen. Rob Barrie, the Army’s program executive officer for aviation, confirmed there is interest in additional agreements similar to the recent deal with the U.K., while noting there were no new deals with partners to announce yet.
“There is [interest]. Of course, there’s a process by which that occurs and within [the Army assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology’s office] they’re working that coordination. And as we go forward we’re always open to that, but we’ll do it in accordance with our process,” Barrie told reporters during an EDGE22 media visit last week here in Dugway. “We’ll have some more info for you, perhaps in the near term. But we will share it with everyone when it becomes readily shareable.”
In February, the Army signed an FVL Cooperative Program Feasibility Assessment project arrangement with the British Army, agreeing to share information to advance future rotorcraft development and assess collaboration opportunities related to programs such as the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) (Defense Daily, Feb. 14).
The Army’s FVL Cross Functional Team (CFT) clarified at the time that the new agreement does not have terms related to the U.K.’s potential procurement of platforms in development, but rather sets the path for interoperability and development cooperation as Britain assesses its future helicopter path.
Along with bringing in seven international partners, to include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and the U.K, EDGE22 focused on advancing the potential of the aerial tier network and emerging technologies for the future battlefield with new achievements for speed, range and networking capacity, such as launching the largest “wolf pack” swarm of new Air-Launched Effects (ALE) drones to date (Defense Daily, May 16).
Germany, Italy and Netherlands participated in the experiment, bringing soldiers and new command and control capabilities and tactical communication kits, while the remaining countries were observers.
“Part of this is forming our teams, understanding our gaps and identifying those gaps with data collection. So when it came to our coalition partners, we did see the Dutch bring a mission command capability and then fight that with maneuver elements from Italy and Germany. And, again, as we went through our 19 days of learning, what we saw there was what we need to work on in the future,” Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, director of the FVL CFT, told reporters.
Military officials from Italy, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands spoke to reporters at EDGE22, expressing the importance of the U.S. Army bringing in coalition partners early into the FVL development process to ensure interoperability and collaboration on future concepts.
“I think many of us are being brought in at a point where it’s really, really significant that the allies have an input. It’s a generationally-significant change in how we warfight in this particular domain and the timing is great from a national point of view in terms of when we’re looking at recapitalizing our fleet,” Brig. Gen. Chris McKenna, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s director general of Air and Space Force development, told reporters. “Doing something like this at the earlier possible stages guarantees the alignment in lethality and overmatch in the future. So it’s massive, from my point of view.”
McKenna declined to speak directly on the potential for an FVL agreement similar to the U.K.’s deal, while citing EDGE22 as an opportunity to build on “interchangeability” for modernization priorities and the ability to seamlessly plug into partners’ networks to exchange information rapidly.
“It’s our first foray into this for observing but I think we see a scale-up coming. This is fantastic,” McKenna told reporters. “We’re not going to make policy in public but I think this is the experience that allows you to go back to your country and have a very mature discussion about the merits of that.”
Air Commodore Robert Adang, commander of the Netherlands Defense Helicopter Command, said his country is interested in exploring FVL-related partnerships, and cited EDGE22 as demonstrating an “evolution in the way military operations are conducted.”
"We come from a time when capabilities were more or less standalone and employed in their own specific domain, and here we see a network of very complex systems that work with each other,” Adang said. “This is exactly what we need and I think the Netherlands is not the only country that’s interested in it.”
The Netherlands brought their Joint Air Ground Gateway capability to EDGE22, that Adang called a “tactical operations center in a box,” and which allowed for the successful passing of calls for fires and MEDEVAC during the experiment’s tactical scenario.
“When you talk to the international partners, that’s been a real game changer. For instance, an Italian message that’s been rooted through the Dutch box and distributed to all the partners on three different networks, that’s really, really a game changer,” Adang said. “This is a software-based solution which makes it much more flexible and much more adaptive. And tying all these networks together has been developed in real time during this exercise, which I think proves real innovation power that you achieve when you bring people from different countries together when you look at these types of solutions.”
Brig. Gen. Thomas Czirwitzky, director of external relations, armaments projects for the German Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre, said EDGE22 highlighted the importance of bringing in coalition partners to ensure senor, shooters and effectors can be networked together on the future battlefield.
“You have to have that integration and an international network so that the effector from Germany can work with the sensor from the Americans. So the international network has to work no matter which effector, which sensor, which decider is in the background,” Czirwitzky said.“ With the experience of this experiment, we have to discuss [potential agreements with the U.S. Army] on a national political basis and then we can come back to the U.S. to see in which way we come together in a more official way.”
Maj. Gen. Andrea Di Stasio, commander of Italian Army Aviation, also said his country is interested in the Army’s developments with its FVL program, while Col. Maxime Do Traan, military attaché to the French Embassy, said France plans to send command and controls to the next EDGE experiment.
“It’s crucial for us to see how we could be interoperable at each step of our modernization and the modernization of the U.S. Army. So it’s important to see how they manage their interoperability with partners and allies,” Do Tran said. “We don’t fight alone, you know. It’s always within the coalition.”
A Ticonderoga-class cruiser is almost finished with hundreds of millions of dollars of modernization work, but the Navy is still seeking to decommission it next year.
During a House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee on Wednesday, Ranking Member Rob Wittman (R-Va.) asked Navy officials how far along the USS Vicksburg (CG-69) and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD-46) are in their modernization maintenance availabilities. Navy officials were testifying on the Navy’s fiscal year 2023 budget request.
Jay Stefany, principal civilian deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, confirmed both ships are in their cruiser and LSD mod programs, respectively, an availability that aims to extend their service lives.
“The cruiser Vicksburg, I think, is in that 85 percent range. Tortuga, the LSD, might be a little less but it's mostly complete, to your point,” Stefany said.
Wittman also asked how much money had already been spent on the work as well.
“How much has been spent on those availabilities–the cruiser and the LSD are a little different, but in the $200-$300 million range–” but closer to $300 million.
CG-69 and LSD-46 are two of the 24 ships the Navy is requesting to retire in FY ‘23 in an effort to redirect funds to other efforts. If approved, the Vicksburg would retire four years earlier than the planned 35-year service life and Tortuga would retire seven years earlier than its 40-year expected service life (Defense Daily April 25).
The Navy said it expects to save $3.6 billion over the next five years by retiring the 24 ships in FY ‘23 (Defense Daily, March 28).
Both ships are undergoing their modernization programs at the BAE Systems ship repair facility in Norfolk, Va. Wittman’s district covers some of the area around the Norfolk shipyards and naval facilities.
Relatedly, on May 18 the Navy awarded BAE another $8 million modification to incorporate a request for a contract change for a 217-day extension to accomplish “growth work" on Vicksburg modernization.
The work is expected to be finished by March 2023. The contract announcement said if this mod is awarded the total contract value will increase up to $214.6 million.
Separately, during a House Appropriations Committee defense subcommittee (HAC-D) hearing also held on Wednesday, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) also expressed her strong disapproval of the Navy’s plan to decommission 24 ships while building eight new ones, naming the Vicksburg as a prime example of mismanaging funds.
“Some of these ships, especially Littoral Combat Ships, are among the newest in the fleet. The Navy claims they don't have enough sufficient funding to maintain and operate these ships, but that's not the case. Instead, they've mismanaged billions of dollars in maintenance funding. One glaring example of this is the USS Vicksburg, a cruiser up for decommissioning this year,” she said.
“Since 2020, the Navy has awarded nearly $500 million in contracts to upgrade the cruiser. At a time when the ship is still in its maintenance period, the Navy is proposing to scrap it. If the Navy experts expect Congress to support its vision for this fleet, it must do a much better job of managing the inventory it has. We will not stand idly by as valuable taxpayer funds are wasted,” Granger continued.
During the HAC-D hearing, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday repeated his defense that the LCSs are less lethal and capable for the current threat. The Navy budget plans to decommission nine Freedom-variant LCSs, most of which were set to include the now-canceled anti-submarine warfare (ASW) modules. The modules failed to perform adequately in testing and Gilday says he refused to add any more funds to the failed system. The Navy plans to instead use the upcoming Constellation-class frigates for the ASW mission.
“With respect to the decommissioning – we took a look at our top line and we took a look at a Navy that we can sustain, a Navy that we can afford. But to make it the most lethal, capable ready Navy that we can. In other words, we're trying to field the most lethal capable ready Navy we can based on the budget that we have, rather than a larger Navy that's less capable, less lethal and less ready.”
Gilday added that the Navy stratified its warfighting platforms and the LCSs and older cruises fell to the bottom.
He noted several of the older cruisers have leaks below the waterline as well as radars that cannot detect the newest Chinese threats.
“Regrettably, we made tough decisions in this budget proposal to decommission and propose to decommission ships that just wouldn't have added value to the fight. At the same time we're taking that money and investing it in our priorities, which are readiness, modernization, and then capacity at an affordable rate,” Gilday said.
The CNO has said the Navy’s FY’23 budget is, among other things, trying to maximize domestic production of longer range and high-speed weapons like the Lockheed Martin [LMT] Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile -Extended Range (JASSM-ER), and Raytheon Technologies [RTX] Maritime Strike Tomahawk missile.
“So we're trying to invest in readiness, first and foremost, and also modernizing a fleet–70 percent of which we're going to have in the early 2030s,” Gilday said.
The State Department has approved a potential $691 million deal with Egypt for TOW-2A anti-tank missiles and support.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress on Thursday of the new foreign military sale.
Under the deal, Egypt would receive 5,000 of the Raytheon Technologies [RTX]-built TOW-2A radio frequency-guided missiles.
“The proposed sale will enhance Egypt’s capability to strengthen its homeland defense by replenishing its stocks. The missiles will be used for counter-terrorism and border security against armored threats and fortified positions,” the DSCA wrote in a statement.
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