US Military News, Reports, Data, etc.


Yesterday at 8:55 PM
after Dec 27, 2017comes Report to Congress on Columbia-class Submarine Program
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From the Report:
The Columbia (SSBN-826) class program, previously known as the Ohio replacement program
(ORP) or SSBN(X) program, is a program to design and build a new class of 12 ballistic missile
submarines (SSBNs) to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 Ohio-class SSBNs. The Navy has
identified the Columbia-class program as the Navy’s top priority program. The Navy wants to
procure the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021. The Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget requests
$842.9 million in advance procurement (AP) funding and $1,041.7 million in research and
development funding for the program.

The Navy as of January 2017 estimates the procurement cost of the lead ship in the class at
$8.2 billion in constant 2017 dollars, not including several billion dollars in additional cost for
plans for the class, and the average unit procurement cost of ships 2 through 12 in the program at
$6.5 billion each in constant FY2017 dollars. A March 2017 GAO report assessing selected major
Department of Defense (DOD) weapon acquisition programs stated that the estimated total
acquisition cost of the Columbia-class program is $100,221.9 million (about $100.2 billion) in
constant FY2017 dollars, including $12,648.1 million (about $12.6 billion) in research and
development costs and $87,426.5 million (about $87.4 billion) in procurement costs. Observers
are concerned about the impact the Columbia-class program will have on the Navy’s ability to
fund the procurement of other types of ships at desired rates in the 2020s and early 2030s.
Issues for Congress for the Columbia-class program for FY2018 include the following:
  • whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2018 funding requests for
    the program;
  • the impact of using a CR to fund Department of Defense (DOD) operations for
    the first few months of FY2018 on the execution of FY2018 funding for the
    Columbia-class program;
  • cost, schedule, and technical risk in the Columbia-class program; and
  • the prospective affordability of the Columbia-class program and its potential
    impact on funding available for other Navy programs.
while General Dynamics firm hires as it preps to build ballistic-missile subs
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General Dynamics’ Electric Boat says its workforce continues to grow as it prepares to build a new class of ballistic-missile submarines.

The Day of New London reports Jeffrey Geiger, president of the U.S. Navy contractor, said Monday Electric Boat has 16,200 employees, the highest headcount in nearly 25 years. He discussed the company’s future at a hotel in Groton.

The Groton-based company plans to hire 2,200 employees in 2018 in Connecticut and at its Rhode Island manufacturing facility.

It hired more than 3,000 people last year after receiving about 81,000 applications.

Electric Boat is doing the design and development work for 12 ballistic-missile submarines to replace the current fleet of 14. It’s building Virginia-class attack submarines.

More than $7 billion in federal funding was spent on submarine programs last year.
 
Nov 16, 2017
the first time I heard of him was ... Nov 3, 2017

Senate confirms Esper as Army secretary
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and here's Interview: Army secretary talks vision for modern war fighter
U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper took the job nearly a year into Donald Trump’s presidency after several failed attempts to move two other nominees through the congressional confirmation process. But Esper’s past experience as a soldier both in the active force and reserves; his experience on Capitol Hill doling out policy advice for the House Armed Services Committee; several tours in the Pentagon; and his time as a vice president at Raytheon sets him up to offer a multifaceted perspective to the job at a time when the Army is undergoing major transformation.

Defense News sat down with Esper on Jan. 2 for an exclusive interview to talk about how he is overseeing major muscle movements, including standing up of a new Futures Command to help the Army hone in on specific modernization priorities while maintaining readiness of the current force.

You’re coming from a career in the defense industry. How has that prepared you for the job?


It gave me good insights into how business thinks, the efficiencies they pursue and how they pursue them when they think about government contracts, or any contracts for that matter; what kind of drives them and what’s their motivator; how they think about efficiency. Then unique to this role, I’ve gotten a good perspective from an industry side as to what they see as the strengths of the Army acquisition, the weaknesses, areas to improve, etc. So I pull all of that together and I find myself at different times and different meetings drawing on all those different experiences.

What about the acquisition process do you think industry finds most frustrating, particularly for the Army?

I think one is speed. We have to move more quickly in all that we do. Related to that is the fact that we try hard, for good intent, to find the perfect a lot of times, and as I’ve been saying and I’ve said on Capitol Hill, we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the better. Our processes get in our way as well. Processes should enable what you are trying to accomplish to make sure that you are doing it deliberately, that you are considering all facets, but we have a system right now that prevents us from getting to the right outcome, and the right outcome is giving the soldier what he or she needs when they need it at the best value, the right price, for the taxpayer.

I understand you have been traveling. Discuss what you believe the Army needs to be successful in the operations.

What I wanted to do was make sure I get out early on the readiness front to see what we are doing at the National Training Center, which is the premiere training event for the Army focused on high-end conflict.

What we are doing now is expanding to make sure that we are able to address first and foremost the high-end fight. NTC is the place at which we train and evaluate units’ ability to do that. So I was at NTC the first couple of weeks.

A week after that I was down at [U.S. Army Forces Command] at Fort Bragg, [North Carolina], [to] see what their challenges are, and then I was able to make it to Afghanistan at the end of my first month and to see what the troops all the way from Kabul to Kandahar were doing and to see a range of artillery, aviation, infantry units, to get a good feel for where the Army stands on all those issues.

What are your takeaways from the NTC?

On the plus side, I was very pleased with how things were going. The scenarios that were presented by the NTC, the opposition force, were very demanding, very challenging, and they presented what units were likely to see in a high-intensity fight based on what we know the adversaries will use against us and what we think the adversaries will use against us.

I was very pleased to see that the commanders, the leaders, the soldiers were adapting to the environment so at various points in time they would have an electronically austere environment. In other words, the network would shut down, and they were quickly able to pick up and work off of maps, boards, and using different techniques to continue to fight the fight, so all that was good.

So where should the focus be?

Because we are making the shift to expand, [we need] to make sure we get back to core war fighting on high end. Our parts system hasn’t caught up with that, so that is a challenge that [Army Materiel Command], for example, is working on. Now that we are using our heavy vehicles at a much more demanding pace, they are breaking down more; and that is kind of a good indicator — right? — that we are using them enough, that we are having to maintain them. We are seeing we need to do better on the parts piece to make sure we have a more effective, quicker supply chain. We are seeing the soldiers need to think more about training … maintenance as training. So we are getting all of those old muscle movements back. And I think we still have a lot of work to do on personnel fills, making sure units are deploying with more than enough soldiers to make sure that they can fight the fight.

What are the modernization priorities that will require the biggest 180-degree turns to get right?

What is going to happen over the coming months is the [Futures Command] cross functional teams will be looking at the portfolio of Army programs. Let’s take Long-Range Precision Fires. In order for me to meet the war-fighting requirement for Long-Range Precision Fires, I need this program, this program, and this program, and they will put those programs under the CFT, and they may look at that portfolio and say: “Oh, wait, I am kind of missing something, so I am going to have to initiate a program that is not in the current portfolio.” And so what you will see is each of the CFTs doing that. It will be a combination of programs that we will keep, some we will have to kind of create and develop, and some we will have to look at and decide: Well, are they still important but don’t fall under a CFT bucket, and are there some that we simply need to divest because there is only so much budget resources?

Can you offer any examples?

Some are probably easier to get your mind around than others. At least for me personally ... the network is hard, it’s really hard, because it’s complex, because those types of capabilities, the technology, is really in the commercial sector more than the military sector, and it’s moving quickly. And yet you just can’t take it from the civilian world and put it in the military world because you have to make it secure, it has to be ruggedized, it has to be able to operate in certain environments. That is the challenge with the technology.

You have to get your requirements right and … there are different pieces of this, too, and programs that have grown up over the years. We are going to be presenting a strategy to the Hill here soon, but a key part going forward has to be to understand the architecture, to map it out, so we have the plan going forward. It’s like building a house: You have to have a blueprint … we need to lay out that architecture so we know what it looks like and how it fits. What do we need for each piece part? What you need at the company level and below is going to be different than what you need at the division level and above and making sure that we make smart choices about that. We are not going to be able to solve it all in one or two or three cycles, but we have to get on a path forward that makes sure that the tactical network is, again, reliable — it can talk, work, exchange data on the move, it’s resilient and we can continue to upgrade without replacing hardware all the time.

...
... goes on below due to size limit
 
continuation of the interview from the above post:
Congress has asked for more clarity on plans to replace WIN-T and get the tactical network right. Is that what you’re providing to the Hill this time?

It came from the [National Defense Authorization Act]. The Hill asked us to present a strategy. That is where it’s coming from.

I think this is a case where the Army did the right thing. We had 16 years, now entering our 17th year, of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was, from a networking side, marked by fixed sites from which forces would deploy. The network we had, which was WIN-T, at least for the latter part, worked. It kind of suited the needs of the Army and did what it needed to do. And then we had the Russian actions in eastern Ukraine, which presented some scenarios and some operations that would challenge that way of operating. … It’s to the chief’s credit, everybody said: “OK, stop. We need to do something different.”

The soldiers will pleasantly surprise you with their innovation. I saw, for example, at the NTC, a battalion-level [tactical operations center] with the Bradley [vehicles] backed up into it; instead of pulling all the computers out and putting them in the TOC, they left them in the vehicles and ran wires. So what you do is you just pull the plugs and close up the hatch and you go. And other folks were making similar adaptations — a lot of creativity, it was a plus. They were adapting to the scenario, but at the same time they shouldn’t have to adapt. We’ve got to give them the means; the equipment has to support how they need to function, and so we need to get there, and we can’t do it overnight.


Are you planning to revisit decisions made in recent years to fill capability gaps fast, rather than waiting for next-generation solutions?

My philosophical approach is let’s not make the perfect enemy of the better, and to put some more meat on those bones. Let’s not think as much about interim capabilities. If we made the requirements so high, if we raised the bar so high that we think we need to have an interim, maybe we need to lower those requirements, so it’s not perfect but it’s better than we have now. Then we build a system that we can scale, that we can modularize, that is open architecture, that we can build upon so the vehicle continues to grow as technology matures. So if you think at some point down the road you need a super-duper ray gun or whatever, then you’ve got to build space on the vehicle for that. That is my approach — I haven’t had the discussion with CFTs yet.


What are your goals and priorities this first year?

Not to sound predictable, but we do have to improve readiness and all the metrics associated with that. And then we have to stand up the Futures Command and keep the moment, keep that going. I’ve talked about reform. I am anxious to find time, money and manpower to free up to put in these other priorities. And I want to start pulling together a group of people, senior players here within my team, who can start thinking about how we work on a personnel management system that is focused on talent. Leader development is critical to make sure we grow the right leaders, that we can accommodate different career paths, so we can improve recruitment and retention.
source is DefenseNews
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am wondering if he said anything
 
noticed you jab Jan 11, 2018
and well that was glowing pilots were having having other issues.
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(just ignored LOL)

here's what AirForceMag had to say:
Investigation into Root Cause of A-10 Physiological Incident Ongoing

1/22/2018
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The Air Force did not publicly disclose that one-third of its A-10 fleet at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., was grounded for about a week in November while updating some lawmakers behind closed doors on the investigation into physiological events experienced by Warthog pilots at the base.

As this investigation continues, the Air Force has convened a team to investigate unexplained physiological events, including those that grounded the A-10. The team will be led by Brig. Gen. Bobbi Jo Doorenbos with the ultimate goal of preventing physiological events, and will focus on improving aircrew training to recognize these events, according to an Air Force release.

“Maximizing the performance of combat aircraft carries inherent risk, but it is our solemn duty as a service to provide the best equipment and training for our airmen to ensure their safety is never compromised,” said Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations, who established the team with the goal of addressing unexplained physiologic events and ensuring “prompt implementation of recommendations,” according to the release.

During the week of Nov. 27, two A-10 pilots at the Arizona base reported physiological incidents while flying. One aircraft was outfitted with the Onboard Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS), and the other A-10 was equipped a Liquid Oxygen System (LOX).

The Air Force is in the process of transitioning away from the LOX system, which uses cryogenically held liquid oxygen, to the modern OBOGS system, similar to those in use on other aircraft such as F-16s and F-35s. OBOGS uses filtered, conditioned engine bleed air to generate backup oxygen for the pilot.

“The Air Force takes these physiological incidents seriously and our focus is on the safety and well-being of our pilots,” Davis-Monthan officials said in a statement.

An investigation quickly found that the LOX aircraft’s incident was related to a malfunction with the cabin pressure and oxygen regulator, which was fixed immediately. While investigators looked at the A-10 equipped with the OBOGS system, “we decided not to fly the 28 OBOGS-equipped A-10s” for approximately a week, officials said. The Air Force has 53 A-10 aircraft equipped with OBOGS, all are based at either Davis-Monthan or Whiteman AFB, Mo.

The other 228 aircraft are equipped with LOX, according to the Air Force.

The 442nd Fighter Wing inspected its entire fleet, and did not find the same issues that Davis-Monthan reported. These inspection results were shared with Air Force Reserve Command, Air Combat Command, and the A-10 System Program Office, 442nd Fighter Wing spokeswoman Emily Alley told Air Force Magazine. Because of this inspection, the wing didn’t change its flight operations.

“After inspection of the OBOGS system, in accordance with technical data, no discrepancies were found that necessitated standing down the 442nd Fighter Wing fleet,” Alley said. “The A-10 combat aircraft of the 442 Fighter Wing are critical instruments of national power. The established processes that identified and inspected the aircraft, confirmed their combat capability and the safety of our pilots.”

As of Monday, Air Force investigators, along with NASA and US Navy officials, have not yet determined a root cause. However, the Air Force has found “how we could better maintain the system” by improving the way it cleans the water separator drain and associated piping to help prevent corrosion, D-M spokesman Capt. Joshua Benedetti said in a statement.

This information has been shared across the Air Force, though no other bases have changed their flying operations. As the grounding was taking place, LOX-equipped A-10s
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to Incirlik AB, Turkey, and continued their combat operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Davis-Monthan’s mission continued with the 57 other LOX-equipped A-10s flying during the stand down. For example, A-10s flew in the annual Cactus Flag exercise beginning Dec. 4 and a base
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emphasized the A-10 and its maintenance units ability to maintain readiness.

Air Force liaison officials began briefing members of Congress and staff on the grounding and the investigation on Dec. 5, with updates continuing through early January, a Congressional staff member told Air Force Magazine. The Air Force assured Capitol Hill “they are using every resource” available in this investigation.

The service has publicly announced groundings following physiological events previously, such as Vance AFB, Okla., grounding its T-6A Texans in November after four pilots reported physiological incidents and Luke AFB, Ariz., briefly grounding F-35s in June. However, Davis-Monthan officials didn’t publicly announce this grounding, which was first reported by
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, at the time because it was not a “wholesale grounding or stand down” of an entire base or type of aircraft for a day or longer, Benedetti said.

“In this case, the majority of A-10’s at D-M are equipped with LOX so we never had to stop flying or executing our mission while we inspected the OBOGS-equipped aircraft,” Benedetti said.

The grounding did impact more than half of the LOX-equipped fleet, however.

The grounding comes as the Pentagon is changing the way it publicly talks about its readiness shortfalls. In March 2017, the Pentagon’s public affairs office outlined guidance from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to the services to not “publicly highlight readiness problems.” The Pentagon wanted to move discussion of readiness shortfalls out of the public domain to private meetings with lawmakers, the memo states.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said during a press conference on Jan. 11 that the department is “very clear” with lawmakers, behind closed doors, about readiness and what the Pentagon needs going forward. However, the Pentagon does not “want to telegraph to the enemy” any readiness shortfalls.
 
Yesterday at 12:06 PM
...

here's what AirForceMag had to say:
Investigation into Root Cause of A-10 Physiological Incident Ongoing

1/22/2018
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now
Stayin' alive: Air Force to order more A-10 wings in FY19 budget request
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Rest easy, Warthog fans. In the fiscal year 2019 budget request, the Air Force will be asking for more wings needed to sustain the life of the beloved A-10 Warthog, but how many squadrons the service will retain long term is still up in the air, the head of Air Combat Command said Thursday.

The Air Force confirmed last year that it could have to retire as many as
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unless Congress funded new wings for about 109 aircraft. Although a 2018 spending bill has not been passed, the defense committees have been supportive of a
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to start a new A-10 wing line and purchase four wingsets.

The service will request even more money in the fiscal year 2019 budget to continue the rewinging effort, Air Combat Command head Gen. Mike Holmes said at the Brookings Institution.

“In the ’19 program that we’re working, we also buy more wings, and so we move forward to address the wings of the A-10,” he said. “As far as exactly how many of the 280 or so A-10s that we still have, will we maintain [them] forever? I’m not sure. That will depend on a Department of Defense decision and our work with Congress, but we plan to
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at least.”

The Vietnam-era Warthog is well loved by troops on the ground for its ability to fly close to the battlefield and deliver tank-piercing rounds from its Gatling gun. It’s had a more tumultuous relationship with Air Force leadership, who have in the past attempted to retire the aircraft to save money, in turn garnering the ire of A-10 proponents in Congress.

Air Force Chief Dave Goldfein and Secretary Heather Wilson have repeatedly expressed their intention to keep its Warthogs, with Wilson even calling herself a “fan” of the ground attack plane. But money continues to be an issue.

The service currently operates 281 A-10s, 172 of which are under contract to get new wings from Boeing. However, Holmes said that the service will have to compete future contracts, as wing production had become prohibitively expensive for the company.

“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he explained. “It was a contract that was no longer really cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure that we were going to go [do], so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”


Last September, Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, who leads Air Force Materiel Command, told Defense News that Boeing was having difficulties producing and delivering wing sets on time. The problem, Boeing said then, was a delay on a supplier-provided composite part.

But Pawlikowski warned that unless the issue was solved, the Air Force could be forced to ground A-10s as early as fiscal year 2018, with about at least 55 aircraft grounded by fiscal year 2025. To keep its Warthogs flying, the service was considering cannibalizing wings from A-10s in the boneyard located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

Even if money for new wings materializes, the Air Force has limited capacity and won’t be able to keep A-10s around forever, especially as it ramps up its F-35 buy rate and develops more F-35 squadrons, Holmes said.


The service in December selected Truax Field Air National Guard Base, Wisconsin and Dannelly Field, Alabama as preferred locations to base the F-35A. Once it begins moving old F-16s to A-10 bases, “you’ll know that we’re talking about retiring A-10s,” he said.

“We live in a world with limited budgets, so how many fighter squadrons can we afford to maintain? How many will I have the O&M to operate and how many does the nation need?” he said.

“It’s not a decision that we have to make right away, so we’ll continue to plan and work back and forth. And it will depend on what we have, what we need and what’s useful on the battlefield year to year.”
 

Jeff Head

General
Staff member
Super Moderator

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Naval Today said:
Ingalls Shipbuilding launched the US Coast Guard’s eighth national security cutter Midgett (WMSL 757) in Pascagoula, Mississippi, on November 23.

Midgett was translated via Ingalls’ rail car system to the floating dry dock last week, and the dock was moved away from the pier on Tuesday night. With the assistance of tugboats, Midgett launched off the dock early Wednesday morning.

The cutter will be christened during a ceremony on December 9.

“As the National Security Cutter program continues to mature, we are providing our Coast Guard customer the best ships in their fleet,” said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. “Our shipbuilders know and understand the importance of quality in building these highly capable cutters so the men and women of the Coast Guard can perform their important national security missions.”

The ship is named to honor John Allen Midgett, who was awarded the Silver Cup by the UK Board of Trade in 1918 for the renowned rescue of 42 British sailors aboard the British tanker Mirlo after it was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of North Carolina. He was also awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal by the US Coast Guard in 1924. Midgett was a senior enlisted member of the US Lifesaving Service when it merged with the US Lighthouse Service and US Revenue Cutter Service to become today’s US Coast Guard.

Legend-class NSCs are the flagships of the Coast Guard’s cutter fleet. Designed to replace the 378-foot (115 m) Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters that entered service in the 1960s, they are 418 feet (127 m) long with a 54-foot (16.4 m) beam and displace 4,500 tons with a full load. They have a top speed of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 miles, an endurance of 60 days and a crew of 110.

NSCs include an aft launch and recovery area for two rigid hull inflatable boats and a flight deck to accommodate a range of manned and unmanned rotary wing aircraft.

Seems like only yesterday we were talking about the 1st one launched.
 

Jeff Head

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Naval Today said:
The U.S. Coast Guard on August 4 announced the names of the first 11 offshore patrol cutters that are set to start deliveries in fiscal year 2021.

Built by Eastern Shipbuilding Group, the cutters will be named:

Argus,
Chase,
Ingham,
Pickering,
Rush,
Icarus,
Active,
Diligence,
Alert,
Vigilant and
Reliance.

The Coast Guard’s new vessels will bridge capabilities between the national security cutter, which patrols the open ocean, and the fast response cutter, which serves closer to shore. The offshore patrol cutter will replace the service’s 270-foot and 210-foot medium endurance cutters.

“The offshore patrol cutter will be the backbone of Coast Guard offshore presence and the manifestation of our at-sea authorities,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard. “It is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, for interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting our ports.”

According to the Coast Guard program, twenty five Offshore Patrol Cutters are planned to be built at a total cost of over 10 billion dollars.

The OPCs will be 360 feet long and 54 feet wide with a projected speed of 22 knots. The cutters will be capable of carrying an MH-60R or MH-65 helicopter and three OTH small boats.

Glad to see this. These 25 ships will replace the current old cutters that have been operating for up to 30 years. Along with the National Security Cutter Program, and the Fast Response Cutter Program, both of which ae already well under way, it will represent the entire modernization of the US Coast Guard.
 
now this is interesting:
US Navy’s top officer to new surface boss: Unite the clans
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reading again
“You’ve got two major tribes developing in surface warfare,” Clark said. “There’s parts of the community that want to get back to basics: getting ships safely to sea; material condition of the ships; the basic blocking and tackling. And another that wants to move in new directions: distributed lethality, new operational concepts, changing the mission sets – the visionary part of the community. And that part would likely put new capability and concepts as a higher priority over, say, readiness.”
... I sorta commented already Jan 17, 2017
Navy: Most Offensive, Defensive Upgrades Surface Force Will Be Fielded by 2023
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“If we have this missile out there and we can afford to do so, we will try to put it as many places as we can. Again, distributed lethality, the more shooters we have out there,” he said
he
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Rear Admiral Ronald A. Boxall
Director, Surface Warfare

hope you will have enough SPOTTERS, MID-COURSE CORRECTORS for your concept, then
 
Dec 3, 2017
it's been a long tanker series ... for me it's interesting to read the spin, wishful thinking, statements made to save the day LOL ...
Dec 8, 2017
Wednesday at 9:19 AM


ugly looking if you asked me LOL
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vid is inside
Delivery KC-46A Tanker Maiden Flight
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and
The Air Force’s KC-46 tanker is almost ready for prime time
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The head of Air Mobility Command said the KC-46 Pegasus is about 94 percent complete with tests needed for the aircraft’s military-specific certification.

Gen. Carlton Everhart visited Boeing in Washington state to get a hands-on look at the Air Force’s new refueling tanker.

“If everything stays on track and the weather holds, I think [Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration] can probably get everything done in the next 60 to 70 days, hopefully less,” Everhart told Air Force Times on Wednesday after flying on the KC-46 for the first time.

The four-star general, who has more than 4,500 flight hours, said he performed the takeoff and approached the landing under the guidance of test pilots.

“We get a lot of PowerPoint-deep presentations,” he said. “Every now and then, you’ve got to get out and smell the jet, look at the jet and understand what the test points are.”

In December, the FAA certified the 767-2C, which is the modified 767 commercial plane that forms the basis of the KC-46.

This Amended Type Certificate verifies that the fundamental design of the tanker is safe, and it’s one of two FAA certifications required for the tanker program. The Supplemental Type Certificate focuses on the military-specific equipment that’s installed on the 767-2C aircraft to make it a tanker.

Everhart estimates it will take about a month or so for Boeing to complete the testing required for the Supplemental Type Certificate. Then Boeing will turn the data over to the FAA, which should take about another month to give it the stamp of approval.

One purpose of Everhart’s visit focused on assessing the flying quality and performance of the tanker, which Everhart praised.

“I have flown airplanes that were older than I was when I came into military service,” said Everhart, whose flying experience includes the C-17 and C-130 transport planes.

The modernized airframe and responsiveness of the KC-46 impressed Everhart, who said it has game-changing technology, including more automation so pilots can focus on the mission. The tanker also has the potential to add new technology as it continues to develop, he said.

Everhart also wanted to check out the Remote Visual System, which allows the boom operator to sit near the front of the KC-46 and remotely operate the boom during mid-air refueling. The system was linked to one of the deficiencies discovered during testing.

This deficiency involved reports of the tanker’s boom scraping the receiving aircraft during mid-air refueling. The boom, which extends into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft, in some cases was making contact outside of the receptacle and scratching the other plane.

This could damage the receiving aircraft, especially if the KC-46 is refueling stealth jets like the F-22 and F-35 that are covered in a special coating.

During testing, some of the boom contacts made outside of the receptacle were not detected by the boom operators through the visual system, AMC spokesman Col. Chris Karns said.

Boeing’s software engineers are working to enhance the Remote Visual System so boom operators can prevent these contacts, Everhart said, adding that sometimes the camera view is washed out because of the sun.

“[The engineers] are changing the contrast of how the visuals work with the camera to facilitate a view of the boom and receptacle,” Everhart said.

Part of it could also be an issue of making sure boom operators are properly trained on the Remote Visual System.

“Because you’re not lying back there [where you can actually see the boom],” Everhart said. “You’re looking through a camera.”

Another of the deficiencies involved an “uncommanded boom extension,” where the boom has unexpectedly extended after refueling is stopped.

A software fix is expected to resolve this deficiency by the spring, Karns said.

The third open deficiency deals with ensuring that the high-frequency radio remains off during refueling, and options are being developed to address this, he said.

“A lot of energy is being put towards this program by Boeing and the Air Force to deliver the aircraft this year,” Karns said.

Boeing had originally planned on delivering the first KC-46 to the Air Force by the end of 2017, but now the plan is to deliver the first tanker by late spring.

The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the aircraft, and Boeing is contractually obligated to deliver the first 18 certified tankers by October.

McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas and Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma will be the first to receive the KC-46, which will replace the KC-135 Stratotankers.

The KC-135 fleet is on average 55 years old, Karns said, adding that maintaining America’s military advantage over adversaries requires modern tankers.

In November, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation rolled out an upgraded tanker designed to replace its legacy aircraft.

“The new Russian tanker will have increased fuel capacity,” Karns said. “Russia and China recognize the strategic benefits of extending their reach and are prioritizing fielding enhanced aerial tanker capability.”

After Everhart’s visit to Boeing, he said he believes they’re still on track to deliver the first tanker by this spring.

He’s asked Maj. Gen. John Wood, Air Mobility Command’s director of strategic plans, requirements and programs, to go back out to Boeing at some point.

“I need the more people I can to see the airplane,” Everhart said. “It will bring tremendous capability to our joint war fighter.”
 

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