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Lieutenant General
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US Air Force confirms plan to retire MQ-1 Predator drone

For the past 21 years, the Air Force has flown the MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft in combat, and for the last 10, the MQ-9 Reaper. Combined with a skilled aircrew, these aircraft provide consistent support in daily engagements making an impact downrange.

While the MQ-1 has provided many years of service, the Air Force plans to retire the MQ-1 early next year to keep up with the continuously evolving battlespace environment.

The MQ-9 is better equipped than the MQ-1 due to its increased speed, high-definition sensors and the ability to carry more munitions. These combat attributes allow the MQ-9 to complete a wider array of mission sets, which can help the Air Force stay prepared in the fight.

“When you ask about readiness, you have to ask ready for what?” said Air Force Col. Joseph, the 432nd Operations Group commander. “If we talk about the things we could be ready for and what we should be asking our attack squadrons to do, then transitioning to an all MQ-9 force is imperative for readiness.”

The fresh MQ-9 design picked up where the MQ-1 left off, boasting a nearly 4,000-pound payload and the ability to carry missiles and bombs.

These upgraded capabilities directly impact combat readiness and transitioning to just the MQ-9 will also help the aircrews stay primed and ready to go.

“Having a single aircraft buys more flexibility, simplifies training and logistics and gives our people more [career progression] opportunities,” Joseph said. “I can’t move my people in between squadrons without paying the penalty of having to train them on another aircraft”

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Jeff Head

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Naval Today said:
The U.S. Navy carried out the first ever structural test firing of the Surface to Surface Missile Module (SSMM) from littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Detroit (LCS 7), Naval Sea Systems Command announced on Tuesday.

The test took place on February 28 off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, and marked the first launch of a missile from the SSMM from an LCS as well as the first vertical missile launched from an LCS, as part of the developmental test program for the Surface Warfare (SUW) Mission Package (MP).

SSMM utilizes the Army Longbow Hellfire Missile in a vertical launch capability to counter small boat threats.

Lockheed Martin-produced AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles are the next capability for the surface warfare mission package for the LCS. SSMM achieved initial operational capability (IOC) in November 2014 with delivery of the Gun Mission Module (two 30mm guns) and the Maritime Security Module (11m Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat for Visit Boarding Search and Seizure).

“The testing aboard USS Detroit was an important milestone in advancing LCS capability, not only for the LCS community but for the entire fleet. As small boat threats proliferate, the SSMM will give our ships added lethality,” said Cmdr. Michael Desmond, Detroit’s commanding officer.

A structural test fire is required every time when new or different ordnance systems are first installed on board Navy warships. Specifically, STF verifies that the ship’s structure and equipment as well as the interfaces between ordnance and the ship are capable of withstanding the vibration, shock, noise, gases and other blast derivatives from ordnance firing.

The U.S. Navy said the surface warfare mission package would begin developmental testing aboard USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) later this year and will culminate in operational testing and IOC in 2018.

Well, I am glad to see the Hellfir VLS finally getting aboard the LCS...but more important to me, is also adding the long rnge the HArpoons to these vessels so they can also stand up to peer or near peer vessels they also might meet.

These vessels are too large and expensive to devote so much of their effort to countering swarming speed boats.

If that type of problem arises with say Iran...then park a couple of carriers close enough to use the airwing to take out every offensive vessel the belligerent has.

Anyhow, I also like seeing this:

(That's an Independence class LCS transiting the South China Sea)

...and also hearing that Raytheon is going to build the Naval Strike Missile here in the US...that's very good news too.

With the exsting Harpoons and three new options for the US Navy in the NSM, the LRASM, and the Tactical Tomahawk, the US Navy will have a very effective counter surface capability again,

Jeff Head

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Naval Today said:
Raytheon has received an initial contract to produce Naval Strike Missile (NSM) launchers at its production facility in the United States.

Norwegian Kongsberg Defence Systems and the American Raytheon earlier announced their plans to bring the naval missile production from Norway over to Raytheon’s Louisville, Kentucky facility where the company also plans to perform final assembly, integration and test of the NSM.

“Building NSM launchers at our Louisville facility is an excellent extension of our long-standing relationship with Kongsberg,” said Dr. Taylor W. Lawrence, Raytheon Missile Systems president. “This contract will enable us to add jobs while providing our Norwegian teammates with world-class launchers.”

The U.S. Navy
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with the over-the-horizon missile to increase the ships’ strike capability.

“This contract is an important next step in our long-term partnership with Raytheon, and the historic first production contract for NSM in the US,” said Harald Ånnestad, Kongsberg Defence Systems president.

The two companies are also teamed on the development of the Joint Strike Missile and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems also known as NASAMS.


Tyrant King
B-21 Raider covertly completes preliminary design review
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March 8, 2017 (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ann Stefanek/US Air Force Pentagon)
WASHINGTON — The US Air Force’s new B-21 bomber stealthily hit a milestone recently, wrapping up its preliminary design review.

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on nuclear deterrence, Gen. Stephen Wilson, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff, told lawmakers that he receives regular updates on the uber-classified program and is happy with its progression.

“They just finished a preliminary design review recently,” he said. “It's making great progress, and we’re pleased with the way it’s headed."

The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to develop and produce the B-21 Raider in October 2015. The company beat out a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team, a decision that was sustained even after the losing competitors filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office.

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Since then, however, news about the B-21 has been thin on the ground as the Air Force tries to protect any information about the bomber’s design and development from leaking out into the press — or to potential adversaries’ hands.

The service has not disclosed the total value of the contract awarded to Northrop, but it estimates the aircraft will cost about $550 million per copy. Last year, Randall Walden, who heads the office charged with acquiring the Raider, said the company is on track to beat that number.

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The first aircraft are projected to go into service in the mid 2020s.

In February, Defense News reported that the Raider will likely receive its stealth coating at the same “Air Force Plant 42” facility in Palmdale, California, that is used for the B-2’s final checkout and stealth coating repairs. Northrop received a $35.8 million contract modification in January for construction of a new 45,900 square foot coatings facility at that location.

Walden in June also mentioned that Northrop was hiring personnel at its Melbourne, Florida, location to work on the bomber.

Aaron Mehta contributed to this report.
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Tyrant King
US Navy to work with Air Force on E-6B replacement
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March 8, 2017
WASHINGTON — The head of U.S. Strategic Command has asked the Navy to lay the groundwork for a future airborne command and control aircraft, one that could include a joint development with the Air Force.

Gen. John Hyten, who took over STRATCOM in November, told members of Congress on Wednesday that the Navy has begun planning its eventual replacement for the E-6B fleet, which provides airborne command, control and communications between the National Command Authority and U.S. strategic and non-strategic forces, even though those planes are expected to fly out to 2038.

Though Hyten said planning is still in the very early analysis stage, he told reporters after his hearing that the reality of defense acquisitions means work must begin now.

“We’re only 20 years from 2038, so if you’re going to build large aircraft with huge command and control [requirements], you have to start thinking about those things right now,” Hyten said. “That’s what the Navy is starting to do, I’ve requested they start looking at defining what comes next.”

Both Hyten and Adm. Bill Moran, vice chief of naval operations, said there may be a benefit to teaming with the Air Force and developing a single platform to handle various command and control missions, with Moran telling Congress: “We’re looking at a way to get at a joint program, or at least a common airframe, to satisfy both missions.”

The Navy’s fleet of 16 E-6B aircraft are based on a Boeing 707 commercial body, the same body used by the Air Force for the vast majority of its command and control assets, including the E8-C Joint Surveillance Targeting Attack Radar System, the E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system, the RC-135V/W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft, and the OC-135B Open Skies aircraft.

The Air Force has warned that those platforms simply have too much wear and tear on the airframes and that upkeep has become prohibitively expensive due to parts no longer being manufactured for the 707. According to a
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, the E-6B aircraft have an average age of 21 years.

Moran told Congress that although the Navy can get the E-6B fleets out to 2038, that is pushing the limits of the airframes.

“The 707s are really old airplanes, and they’re going to be really, really old when we get to the end of their service life based on the service life extension we’re looking at,” he noted to reporters, before adding that it only makes sense to look at whether the Navy and Air Force can develop something together to shave down costs.

However, that doesn’t mean there will be just one platform for all the surveillance missions. As Moran pointed out, the plane itself is just a “truck” that carries around the important equipment inside. At the same time, Moran acknowledged there might be benefits that can be shared from the recapitalization efforts currently underway for JSTARS.

“We’re always looking for places where we cannot be duplicative ... [that] allows us to do it at the lowest possible cost because they’ve already developed, or we’ve already developed” technologies, he said. “Part of that is our responsibility to make sure we’re doing this at the best cost of the American taxpayer, and part of that involves sharing technology and sharing ideas.”

The aging E-6B fleet is just part of an aging nuclear command and control infrastructure that Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called “robust, resilient — and ancient.”

Selva later said that while the command and control structure works for today, he was concerned about 10 years from now, and called it “my No. 1 priority” among the overall nuclear modernization push now underway at the Pentagon.

A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office put the cost of refurbishing the nuclear command and control infrastructure at $58 billion over the next decade.
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Tyrant King
Marines deploy to Syria with artillery
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March 8, 2017 (Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Jon Sosner/Marine Corps)
A "couple hundred" Marines have arrived in Syria, and now Islamic State fighters will taste real fear.

A contingent from the 11 th Marine Expeditionary Unit has deployed within artillery range from the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa, a military official told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday.

A senior U.S. official says the detachment includes a couple hundred Marines

The Marines are pre-positioning howitzers toprovide artillery support to friendly ground forces, who are in the process of isolating Raqqa ahead of a planned offensive to retake the city, the official said.

U.S. military officials have not yet been determined which faction of local forces on the ground will launch the offensive.

Whether or not Raqqa is taken by Kurdish or Syrian Arab forces could determine whether U.S. troops are needed afterward in the city.

A small number of U.S. troops is currently in the Syrian town of Manbij to keep the peace between the Kurdish and Turkish forces. Turkey invaded Syria in large part to prevent the Kurds from linking up their two autonomous enclaves inside Syria.

The deployment of Marines is temporary, so they will leave Syria as soon as their support is no longer needed, the official said. News of the Marines arriving in Syria was first reported Wednesday by the
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This marks the second time in as many years that Marines have provided artillery support for allied forces fighting ISIS. In March 2016, about 180 Marines from the 26 thMarine Expeditionary Unit spent about 60 days at the Kara Soar Counter Fire Complex in Makhmour, Iraq, near Mosul.

Known as Task Force Spartan, the Marines used four 155 mm M777A2 howitzers to fire more than 2,000 rounds in support of Kurdish and Iraqi troops. The firebase was 15 miles from ISIS forces, which often fired rockets at the Marines, Col. Robert Fulford, commander of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said last year.

On March 19, 2016, one ISIS rocket attack killed
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and wounded eight other Marines.

Task Force Spartan returned to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on June 3. They were replaced by about 200 soldiers with soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

The Associated Press and Military Times reporter Shawn Snow contributed to this story.
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Shrinking munitions stockpile a concern for Army
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March 8, 2017
WASHINGTON -- The Army’s deputy chief of staff for logistics said he is concerned about the service’s shrinking munitions stockpile.

Years of budget cuts have led to a growing shortage of munition production to restore what the Army has expended in various contingencies and Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee said repeatedly at a House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing Wednesday that more munitions are needed.

“Today I think we have adequate munitions for our normal requirements,” he said. “But if we had to surge, if we had contingency operations and if there continues to be emerging threats we see around the world, I am very concerned with our current stockage of munitions.”

Munitions in question include Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles for both Patriot and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, Hellfire missiles, precision guidance kits, and Excalibur munitions fired from Howitzers.

If given the opportunity, Piggee said, he would put building up the Army’s “munitions warehouse” as one of his top priorities.

In the Army’s unfunded requirements lists for fiscal year 2017 and 2018 -- sent to Congress in December -- the service asks to procure more Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles along with improving short-range air defense capabilities.

And in 2018, the Army would like to spend $1.5 billion to procure enough fires capacity in five years for US Central Command, US European Command and Korea and would extend the life of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) while accelerating its long-range missile replacement. This would address shortfalls in the quantity of missile and artillery available.

Funds would also extend the Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) range and upgrade its seeker among other investments in ammunition and missiles.

Also in 2018, the Army would spend another $1 billion to upgrade SHORAD and Patriot missiles and radars.

A March 3 letter from the HASC to the House Budget Committee regarding its views on the 2018 budget shows it shares the concerns of the Army and the other services when it comes to depleting munitions stockpiles.

The letter states, “The military services have significant unfunded requirements for replacement ammunition and munitions.”

The committee acknowledges how the services got into this position: “Five years of sequestration and continuing resolutions, the military services have been severely limited in what they can reasonably afford regarding munitions modernization and in building capacity in current munitions inventories.”

If Congress doesn’t address the unfunded requirements laid out by the Army and the other services, the military would not be able to replenish war reserve stocks nor would it be able to increase production capacity for munitions. And in some cases, the lead time for munitions production can be as long as 18 months, the letter notes.

Piggee also said he would like to prioritize ensuring Army prepositioned stocks -- which are set up around the world for early entry forces that are tailored to meet combatant commanders’ needs in specific regions -- are “maintained at a high-degree of readiness.”

The Army is trying to build out a second APS set in Europe and wants to ensure it consists of the most modernized equipment available, Piggee said.

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The HASC letter also notes this need. “Funding in FY18 would allow the Army to accelerate the prepositioning of modernized equipment to Europe, grow a new armored brigade combat team and build a new combat aviation brigade in Europe.”

Not funding such efforts would “greatly impact the credibility of the U.S. deterrence posture in Europe against further Russian aggression along NATO’s eastern flank.”
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