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Naval Today said:
The U.S. Navy has christened its newest Expeditionary Fast Transport ship, USNS Yuma (EPF 8) during a ceremony held at Austal’s Mobile, Alabama shipyard on Saturday, August 20.

What made this christening ceremony special is the fact that it was held beneath the ship’s hull with guests seated between the two hulls of the catamaran.

USNS Yuma is the eighth of 10 Expeditionary Fast Transport vessels (EPF) that Austal USA is delivering under a contract with the U.S. Navy valued in excess of US$1.6 billion.

Yuma, designated EPF 8, honors the city of Yuma, Ariz., and its historically strong ties to the military.

Ship sponsor Janet Napolitano, former Governor of Arizona and current President of the University of California, joined guests from the US Navy, state and local government, Austal USA management and employees for the christening ceremony, held beneath the hull of the ship in the final assembly bay.

The 103 metre, shallow draft all-aluminium catamaran, is a multi-mission, non-combatant transport vessel. The ship is capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo lift providing combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility with inherent cargo handling capability and agility to achieve positional advantage over operational distances.

EPF is designed to transport 600 short tons of military cargo 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots in sea state 3. The ship is capable of operating in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank (M1A2).

EPF 8 is the fourth U.S. Navy ship to be named Yuma as a tribute to the residents of the Arizona city and their close ties with the military.

USNS Yuma will ultimately join her sister EPF’s that have been delivered over the last three years, including USNS Spearhead (T-EPF-1) which has logged over 100,000 nautical miles at sea and is currently on her fifth deployment since she was delivered in 2012.

Three more EPF’s and seven Independence variant Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) are currently under construction at Austal USA. Next month, the shipyard is scheduled to launch USNS Yuma, while the future USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) will undergo builder’s sea trials.
 
LOL who cares here GAO: Pentagon Can't Tell the Difference Between Wartime and Base Dollars
The Pentagon shifted $146.9 billion over six years from its wartime accounts to pay for routine operations, and its accounting systems don't know the difference between the two, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

In a study released Aug. 19, the GAO detailed a practice that some in the US Congress have said is inappropriate. Between 2009 and 2015, the Defense Department spent funds meant for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account to augment the base budget Operations and Maintenance (O&M) at the rate of 5.6 percent more per year than Congress allotted.

The Defense Department is not required to separately track O&M in its base and war budgets, which effectively lowers the wall around money intended to pay for the Iraq and Afghan wars. However, the GAO’s report called for the Pentagon to end that — a recommendation the Pentagon disputed, saying in an official response included in the report that separating the accounts would be “very difficult and labor intensive.”

The lines between OCO and base budget needs have long been blurry, particularly as Congress and successive presidential administrations have used OCO, which is exempt from statutory budget caps, as a means to pay for some of the military’s day-to-day needs and skirt those caps.

The report comes amid Congressional negotiations on a 2017 defense authorization bill where OCO is a controversial issue. The House-approved plan is to stick to budget levels agreed to in 2015 bipartisan budget deal but use $18 billion from OCO to pay for base budget items — expecting the incoming president to ask Congress for a supplemental defense spending package.

As lawmakers have argued for an end to the caps and increased military funding, they included language in the 2016 defense authorization bill requiring the GAO study. The Senate Appropriations Committee similarly expressed similar concerns on this issue in the 2015 Defense appropriations bill, according to a committee spokesman.

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a critic of the blurring of OCO and base funding, estimated that the Pentagon has been using $25 billion to $30 billion in OCO every year to supplement its base budget.

Harrison said he has shown this through indirect evidence, such as trends in the cost per troop in Afghanistan, “but without the kind of detailed reporting the GAO is calling for it is not possible to produce direct evidence,” he wrote in an email.

“This is one of the main ways they are able to do that without getting caught,” Harrison said. “Once Congress appropriates base and OCO funding, the money is mixed together in the same accounts and DoD does not track it separately. If they did, it would be readily apparent that they are using OCO funding (specifically, funding that was requested and appropriated for activities in Afghanistan) for base budget purposes.”

Former Defense Department Comptroller Bob Hale agreed that in most cases it would be beneficial to split out O&M by base and OCO, but the process of integrating the information into meaningful reports would “require manual efforts that are labor intensive,” as the armed services use different financial systems.

The process of splitting the costs in detail for the Pentagon’s budget justification to Congress, would “involve hundreds, probably thousands, of sub categories,” Hale, now a BoozAllen fellow, said in an email. It’s a hardship particularly as the Pentagon endures Congressionally mandated personnel cuts within their various headquarters.

“Bottom line: I don’t think DoD is trying to hide information. I do think they are trying to avoid a significant new workload,” Hale said.

Hale also noted that Congress's actions may also ultimately hinder greater transparency.

“I would note that Congress keeps putting some base funds into OCO; so even a detailed base/OCO split would not reveal all base funding,” Hale said. “But the amounts of base funding in OCO are relatively small. So the split would still be useful.”
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now I read Raytheon Awarded $92M Navy Contract for Future Carrier, Big Deck AESA Radars
Radar maker Raytheon has been awarded a $92 million contract to develop a new Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the U.S. Navy’s new Ford-class carrier fleet and big deck amphibious warships, company officials told USNI News on a Monday conference call.

Based on
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planned for the services Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) guided missile destroyers, the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) will be the volume air search radar for most of the Gerald R. Ford-class carrier (CVN-78) — starting with John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) and the planned LHA-8 amphibious warship.
“It’s using identical hardware, identical signal processing software, data processing software.
It’s as near identical as possible. The goal of the program to drive affordability and commonality,” Tad Dickenson told reporters.
“Therefore EASR gets significant affordability off of AMDR SPY-6’s larger [industrial] base.”

The initial engineering development model (EDM) contract will develop two variants of EASR – a rotating variant for the amphibs and a fixed face array for the CVNs, company officials said. The testing program is planned to run to 2020.

The service also plans to procure a separate X-band radar to compliment the EASR for both the future carriers and the amphibs.

Following the EMD phase, there are up to $723 million in contract options to support 16 ship sets of the radar – 6 fixed face for the Fords and 10 for amphibious ships. If all the options are exercised the program is set to run through 2026.

EASR will have an additional capability over the AMDR SPY-6 to function as an air traffic control radar. It will also have access to common software building blocks of AMDR. Raytheon officials would not say explicitly, but the implication is the inclusion of the radar on the amphibs and the CVNs would allow it a higher degree of compatibility with the Navy’s ongoing-networked warfare push – like the carrier strike group centric Naval Integrated FirControl-Counterer Air (NIFC-CA) construct.

The Ford class carriers, along with the Zumwalt-class of guided missile destroyer, were originally set to field the Raytheon-built Dual Band Radar. The DBR will be installed on the first-in-class Gerald R. Ford but the service scrubbed plans to install the DBR on the rest of the fleet after the Zumwalt class was truncated to three ships from a planned class of almost 30. The first EASR was slated to be first installed on the future USS Enterprise (CVN-80) but was pulled ahead after the delivery schedule for Kennedy was shifted to a two-phase delivery.

Last year then Program Executive Officer
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the service elected to make the switch for an estimated $180 million one-time saving.

“That gave me a little extra time. If I had to deliver CVN-79 in 2022 when it was originally designed, it wouldn’t have had the radar on it,” Moore said.
“The two-phased strategy gives me the lowest possible cost for the ship, and the radar is a big piece of that.”
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FORBIN

Lieutenant General
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US plans to deploy 16 F-35 fighter jets to Japan in 2017
The Japanese government informed the city of Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture on Monday that the United States plans to deploy 16 F-35 fighters at the US military base there from January to August next year, unveiled today the local newspaper Japan Times. It would mark the first time for that stealth aircraft to be stationed overseas.

The (F-35) deployment is simply upgrading the type of aircraft and is not linked to the U.S. military realignment” in Japan agreed by Tokyo and Washington in 2006, Shunsuke Takei, the country's parliamentary vice foreign minister, said during their meeting, which was open to the media.

The Iwakuni base is also expected to accommodate 59 carrier-borne fighter jets from the US Navy’s Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, around next year, in line with the realignment of US forces in Japan agreed by Tokyo and Washington in 2006. The move is viewed as further strengthening the base’s functions.
The U.S. plans to replace the F/A-18 fighters and the AV-8 Harrier jets at the Marine Corps’ Air Station Iwakuni with the F-35B, a variant of the F-35 fighters capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.

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Sunday at 5:07 PM
until now I thought a tanker aircraft couldn't be a surveillance aircraft but
Navy, Industry Looking for Design ‘Sweet Spot’ for MQ-25A Stingray
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here's the twist: CNO: New Stingray drone will be a tanker
Amid mounting criticism that the Navy’s new drone is suffering an identity crisis, the Navy’s top officer wants to make it clear: The MQ-25 Stingray is going to be tanker.

Critics argue that the next-generation unmanned aircraft was trying to do too much in aiming to be a tanker for the manned air wing and an roving sensor, but Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson emphasized in an interview that the yet-to-be-designed Stingray would be primarily for aerial refueling missions.

“The Navy is very clearly aligned on an unmanned aircraft that will provide, first and foremost, tanking to the air wing,” Richardson said in an Navy Times interview Monday. “We feel the need to extend the strike range of the air wing out and this will primarily be a mission tanker to extend that range out. Those are the features that will drive the design of the airframe.”

Richardson said that once the service gets the design for the aerial tanker straightened out, they can add intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance features.

“Now when you get to that point, and you find the optimal things for the tanking mission, for little to no additional cost you can put a sensing payload on it and get some ISR benefit as a secondary feature of the aircraft,” Richardson said. “That is what we are building.”

The Stingray is slated to be the Navy's carrier-based UAV, following in the flight path of the X-47B that proved a drone could take off and land on flattops and refuel with piloted tankers. The plan for the Stingray came under fire recently
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aviator were seen to mean the service was struggling with requirements.

During a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Naval Air Forces head Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker told the audience that designers were trying to find a balance between the design requirements for tanking — which requires a big fuel capacity to fly long distances — and the fuel efficient, big wingspan requirements for an ISR drone that can hover overhead for extended periods.

“If you’re going to be a tanker at range, you’re obviously going to have to be able to carry a fair amount of fuel internal to the platform. That drives the different design for those two,” Shoemaker said. "So the industry is working on an analysis of where that sweet spot is to do both of those missions.”

The Navy canceled a program to develop an unmanned ISR and strike platform in February in favor of an aerial tanker to increase the range of the aircraft carrier’s strike arm, as potential foes like China and Russia have been feverishly working to extend the range of their shore-based anti-ship missiles.

There should be no design trade-off that splits the difference between ISR and aerial tanking requirements, argues Jerry Hendrix, a retired naval flight officer and analyst with the Center for a New American Security.

“Shoemaker, to his credit, acknowledged that the design priorities of strike and ISR were discordant with each other,” Hendrix wrote in a column for National Defense Magazine. “It is clear that trying to get to a ‘sweet spot’ between these two is counterproductive and misses the point; the decision to cancel the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program and create the MQ-25 Stingray tanker was done specifically to speedily address the Navy’s strategic deficit in long range strike.”

In the interview, Richardson said the Navy is pushing to get the Stingray to the flattop fleet as fast as possible to start learning how to operate with unmanned aircraft. As the Navy adapts, Richardson said, the Stingray may evolve as well. But Richardson is also wary of creating a runaway program with ballooning requirements.

“As we get this on deck, we’re going to learn a tremendous amount on how to integrate an unmanned aircraft into an air wing: How to bring it on, take it off, maintain it at sea, and all those unique things that go along with that aircraft. All of that may allow us, as technology moves forward, to evolve.

“But for the first step it’s important that we confine our thinking so we can get something on the aircraft carrier quickly, as quickly as we can possibly move in fact, that will fulfill a legitimate need. We’ve got [F/A-18E/F] Super Hornets right now doing the tanking mission, I’d love to have those available for strike.”

In his remarks, Shoemaker stressed that tanking was the primary role of the aircraft, but that it was not going to be a stealth aircraft: something that was a key consideration of the UCLASS program. But preventing the taker from getting shot down is an important consideration to achieve the goal of extending the range of the air wing.

"I think in the latest round we have not stressed the survivability piece," Shoemaker had said. "If you look at where we are with industry partners, there are some shapes that have been designed already that help in that survivability piece. ... Even though we've not said that survivability is a big parameter this time around, I think there are ways to take advantage of some of the shapes already out there."
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FORBIN

Lieutenant General
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USAF Aims to Stand Up Dedicated F-16 CAS Squadron At Nellis AFB

Even though the USAF has
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, its only F-15C/D aggressor squadron,
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a new F-16 unit is slated to be activated at the base. This new unit will be made up of eight Block 40 F-16C/Ds, with the squadron envisioned to grow to 16 aircraft as the F-35 comes on line and replaces the Viper in front-line units.

The F-16s' mission will reportedly be tightly focused on close air support. Combat Aircraft writes:
“The CAS Integration Group’s mission will include high-end training as well as an increased emphasis on tactical level CAS, with experts to integrate fires in joint operations, advancing the joint CAS enterprise and preserving the USAF ‘CAS culture’. Gen ‘Hawk’ Carlisle, commander of ACC said: ‘The changes we’re making at Nellis are an important step in refining our CAS skills through future generations of Airmen so we can continue to provide ground forces with all the advantages air power brings to close combat.’”

...

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