US Military News, Reports, Data, etc.


Mar 20, 2018
good news now:
Lockheed completes sixth successful LRASM test firing
20 March, 2018
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now noticed what NavalToday had to say:
Long Range Anti-Ship Missile completes sixth flight test
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and now Live LRASM Test from F/A-18 Super Hornet Expected This Year
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The
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is gearing up to live-test Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), with a range test expected this year, a company executive told Military.com on Tuesday.

"Right now, we're doing captive-carry testing, and we'll have the first live shot off the F-18 later this year," said Alan Jackson, Lockheed's vice president of strike systems.

The AGM-158C LRASM will then become operational in September 2019, he said. Jackson spoke with Military.com during the annual Sea-Air-Space exposition here.

An
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successfully conducted a "jettison release" test at
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, Maryland, last year. The move paved the way for the ongoing captive-carry tests at Navy Air Weapons Station
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, California,
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.

The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile is expected to be fielded first on the
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bomber. In December,
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LRASM at Point Mugu Sea Range, California. It was
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in August.

"This is the anti-surface warfare the
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was looking for," Jackson said. "Flight testing is going well. We're six for six [successful tests] on the B-1 program."

Two more flights are expected this summer before the missile is operationally fielded on the non-nuclear bomber in September, Jackson said.

The
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and Navy are working together to streamline the testing process as it applies to each of their aircraft, he said.

"We have a greater-than-200 nautical mile standoff range," Jackson said. "So either one of those platforms is out of harm's way when it releases the weapon."

LRASM can also be deck-launched from a vertical launch system on a Navy destroyer, he said.

In comparison to the Tomahawk cruise missile, LRASM has a better survivability rate because it has low-observable technologies making it harder to detect. "Tomahawk is a fine weapon, but it's an older design," Jackson said.

LRASM was an easy fit for the B-1 because it can already launch the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, known as JASSM-ER.

The missile has all the capabilities that JASSM-ER has: the same lethal 1,000-pound warhead, pinpoint accuracy with an infrared sensor, and both
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and anti-jam navigation. But the LRASM can detect, identify and attack moving, maritime targets.

"LRASM also has a datalink on board that gives it more flexibility," Jackson said, allowing it to communicate with its launch platform.

"We're in Block 1 production for LRASM now," he said, adding there’s an Air Force contract requirement of 23 missiles thus far. "We certainly can build at a rate faster than 23, and I see those rates increasing as we go into lot 2, 3 and 4."
 

TerraN_EmpirE

Tyrant King
Major players pitch solutions for Navy’s next training helicopter
By: Jen Judson   4 hours ago
retire the TH-67s and replace them with Lakotas was met with much debate as to whether it made sense to teach helicopter pilots basic skills in a more complex digital glass cockpit helicopter with twin engines.

And the decision was even met with a lawsuit. Leonardo — then known as AgustaWestland — sued the Army over its decision not to compete for a new trainer but to instead sole-source a helicopter already fielded by the service. Leonardo initially won the lawsuit but the decision was overturned in the appellate court.

The Army is still filling out its Lakota training fleet, but, Roth said, “from a qualitative perspective, we’ve got some very positive feedback that talks to capability of the aviators when they complete the training and having them more prepared for the advanced aircraft once they arrive at their advanced training stations.”

The fact that both the Lakota and the H135 have advanced digital glass cockpits, four-axis autopilot and twin-engine capability with Full Authority Digital Engine (FADEC) controls “all prepared them for the type of vehicle that they are going to get in when they get into their advanced training,” Roth said.

The Army has taken tasks normally taught in the more expensive advanced aircraft and brought those down to basic training, he added.

“There has been a lot of advantages realized from that decision that we think the Navy will be able to take advantage of as well,” Roth said.

The H135s, if purchased by the Navy, would be built at its Columbus, Mississippi, production line where commercial EC135s and Lakotas are built.

The helicopter pitched to the Navy is also used by approximately a dozen countries with nearly 130 aircraft serving as a primary trainer worldwide, Roth said.

Bell 407 GXi

Bell would be the incumbent in a competition for a new Navy trainer, being the current manufacturer of the TH-57.

The company plans to offer up its 407 GXi, according to Steve Mathias, Bell’s vice president for Global Military Business Development.

Bell has already built and sold 1,500 407s worldwide which have flown over 4.75 million hours, he said, so the helicopter is “very reliable, sustainable, maintainable glass cockpit, just a great overall aircraft,” Mathias said.

And from a programmatic perspective, he said, choosing Bell’s trainer offers “a lot less risk because it’s very similar to the TH-57 that the Navy currently has, so a transition from a Bell product to a Bell product would be a lower risk, I would think, to the customer.”

Bell also provides many of the helicopters the Navy and Marine Corps fly today such as the UH-1Y Venom, the AH-1Z Viper and the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor and therefore has a high level of experience working with the services on a day-to-day basis “so we very closely understand what the Navy requirements are,” Mathias argued.

The company is hoping the Navy chooses to go with a single-engine aircraft because it would “be less costly to operate” and less complex to train, according to Mathias. He added that he believes the choice would offer the best value to the service.

Leonardo TH-119

Italian company Leonardo is making a play for the trainer with plans to submit its TH-119, which puts them, like Bell, into the single-engine camp, according to Andrew Gappy, who is in charge of the company’s government sales and programs.

The helicopter is a variant of the AW119Kx, a single-engine, full-spectrum training aircraft and can be used for training from the basics like learning how to hover above the ground all the way to advanced tactics.

And while Leonardo is a foreign company, all of the 119s worldwide are manufactured in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The helicopter is known for its significant power, which means the aircraft’s training mission sets can grow and change over time without affecting its performance, Gappy said.

It’s important for the Navy to buy a new trainer now because, Gappy said, he trained on the TH-57 “a long time ago.” The aircraft averages roughly 70,000 flight hours a year and will become more and more costly to operate as it continues to age.

“When I went through, the TH-57 had a lot in common with combat aircraft, how the aircraft flew and instrumentation training was really relevant,” he said.

“It’s so disparate now with glass cockpits and all of them are multi-bladed rotor systems that fly differently than the twin rotor system, so it’s really resetting the baseline,” which allows the service to incorporate more advanced training into the basic courses that has migrated away from that training due to the loss in power margin, Gappy said.
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Yesterday at 8:21 AM
oops
The Navy, once again, soft-pedals its own 355 ship-count assessment
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so
Wittman to US Navy: ‘You have to say 355 is the number’
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The chairman of the House Seapower subcommittee said Wednesday the Navy needs to do a better job of explaining to the public the need for a 355-ship fleet.

The comments highlight the push and pull between seapower advocates on Capitol Hill and senior naval officials, who
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this week at the Sea-Air-Space Expo outside Washington, D.C., they did not want the Navy held to the
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.

Rep. Rob Wittman, chair of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, took aim at the muddiness around the messaging.

“I think if you get ambivalent about the number, it becomes difficult to communicate,” to the public, Wittman, R-Va., told reporters at the expo. “You have to say 355 is the number.”

He argued that 355 was pretty much the mean between a collection of the Navy’s fleet-size studies — and that articulating it makes a difference in both his push for a $26 billion shipbuilding account and for
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.
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.

“This wasn’t just a number just a number that was pulled out of the air, this was an objectively reached number, and we think that ought to be the central part of the discussion,” Wittman said.

The Navy performed a 2016 Force Structure assessment that explains the requirement for a 355-ship fleet, but a subsequent Center for Strategic and International Studies report has raised doubts about whether the Navy can afford it, given that it struggles to control costs for its current 277-ship fleet.

Wittman did acknowledge the fears of naval officials, that the emphasis on a 355 ship fleet would eclipse the need for other systems, like unmanned platforms for instance.

“I would argue the Navy needs to be talking about the number, and what’s the composition of the number,” Wittman said. “What types of ships do you build? What’s the next generation of ships? What are the capabilities on board those ships? How do you mate those with unmanned systems?”

On Thursday, Wittman’s subpanel is set to host Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition, James Geurts, and other Navy officials at a hearing titled “355 Ship Navy: Delivering the Right Capabilities.” Wittman said he would press officials on the matter.

“I think the Navy needs to be unambivalent about that number,” Wittman said.

Congress made achieving a 355-ship Navy a matter of national policy as part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Wittman, and his counterpart on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., have also called for the country to build 355 ships as soon as practicable.

Outside of fleet size, Wittman said his top priority for his subpanel’s portion of the upcoming 2019 defense policy bill would be setting the right mix of capabilities in the wake of DoD’s recent budget bonanza.

“As much as it sounds great to have all these additional resources, the demand in the short-term really exceeds the resources, so it’s really about trading priorities and say, what things can we wait a little bit longer to do,” Wittman said.
 
since I now read it, I post this Interview: The Navy’s top submarine builder talks Virginia-class challenges, successes
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Whether it’s 355 ships or 342, the Navy is getting bigger. And as it looks to expand its fleet, the service is looking to its Virginia-class program as a model for success.

The program has driven down costs and construction times for years while expanding its production, but now it faces a mountain of challenges as the Navy gets ready to build the follow-on ballistic missile submarine force, the Columbia-class.

The program has seen some recent set-backs as it forges ahead, with supplier issues causing delays in production. Now, as the Navy debates what the future of its submarine force will be in a larger Navy, the program is eyeing the possibility of expanding again to three Virginia-class submarines per year on years that Navy doesn’t buy Columbia-class subs.

Defense News got a chance to sit down with the man at the head of all those efforts, Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, program executive officer for submarines, to talk successes, challenges and what’s ahead.

Thanks for sitting down with us for an update on the Virginia class. First off, tell us a bit about your program and how it’s performing?

First of all, the most important thing is that we have 15 Virginia-class submarines commissioned in the fleet and they’re out there performing exceptionally well. We get continuous feedback from both the type commanders, Commander Submarine Force Atlantic and Commander Submarine Force Pacific, who are responsible for training and providing ready forces to the combatant commanders for deployment. So, they’re the ones that work most closely with the boats during the non-deployment time and the workup time and then they go off and deploy and work for European Command or Pacific Command. Adm. Harry Harris in PACOM says he needs more submarines. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti in EUCOM saying he needs more submarines. I on occasion am lucky enough to see some of the mission debriefs from the boats coming back from deployment and the things they’re doing her eye-watering.

So, we need these submarines. It’s our job to make sure that we are delivering quality submarines to the fleet in as efficient and timely a manner as we can.

The Navy holds this up as its example program of things that are going well. There have been some hiccups lately. Overall, how are you doing getting boats out on time?

We, the program office, own the ship and its schedule because there is testing postdelivery that has to be done before the ship can be certified as a war fighting element. That’s things like acoustic trials, weapon systems, accuracy tests. Things that are Navy testing and not shipbuilder testing. So that all happens and then the ship goes back into the post-shakedown availability. So the testing is the shakedown part and then you go into the post-shakedown availability. Then at the end of PSA, it gets turned over to the type commander and they workup the crew and certify it for deployment.

So, one of our goals has been to shorten not only the delivery portion — the five to six years where we are now — but also the shakedown portion and the PSA. We’ve been very successful in both of those.

We have a chart that shows from USS Virginia 774 all the way to USS Colorado 788 what that trend has been, and we’ve achieved significant reductions in all three of those areas. The construction, the shakedown and the PSA and some of the details.

What we have done is the initial contract span for the first ships was 84 months and we have successively reduced that in a significant amount down ... the block three submarines are all 66 months. Then when you add on the other parts, the shakedown and the PSA, there’s been additional reduction. Not only are we going from 84 [months] down to 66 in contracted spans, but at the same time, we had about 20 to 25 percent design change in the platform and we went from one submarine a year to two submarines per year.

A design change, a doubling of the production rate and reduction of almost a year in the amount of time you give yourself to build a ship. I will tell you that the entire team has done a phenomenal job in pulling this off.

A few of the boats have run behind at least your intended schedule, including the most recent one, Colorado. What has been driving that?

We are delivering block three submarines plus-or-minus five percent of the contracted span. Five percent to 66 months is a little bit over three months.

Each of the block three submarines to date has been within that band. SSN 784 (North Dakota) was just weeks early. SSN 785 (John Warner) was almost 3 months early. That was a ship where everything went very well. SSN 786 (Illinois) was just a little bit early. SSN 787 (Washington) was the first one where we missed the delivery date and we missed that by about three months, about 5 percent.

Got close to back on track with Colorado. That was three weeks late, which is … well, three weeks is three weeks. Then SSN 789 (Indiana) is our current boat right now, and she’s going to deliver about three months late.

Would we want all of our boats to deliver within the contracted delivery span? Of course we would. But you have to realize that as you take more and more time out of the time allotted to build the subs, you have less time to recover from the inevitable things that don’t work right the first time. Our job is to continue working with the shipbuilders to understand why things don’t work right the first time and drive that out of the process. But the reality is, with the millions and millions of parts that go into the ship and the millions and millions of actions required to fabricate, assemble and test all those parts, there are going to be things that don’t work right the first time.

We’ve been very successful at continuing to drive down the impact of that and as we now are in a 66-month span. I term it a success.

Will you be back on track after Indiana?

[For] SSN 790 (South Dakota), we’re working very hard to make sure that she delivers on time. Right now, she is scheduled to deliver a little bit early to contract delivery date, which will be in August of this year. Then 791 is the last boat of Block III. She’s scheduled to deliver next February and we’re working very closely with the shipbuilders to ensure that we get her out on time as well.

As I said…we have a fairly good track record of these boats plus-or-minus five percent. Some have been early.

What’s the big push for Block IV?

Taking another four months off the schedule for the first three boats and then the remaining seven are at 60 months. So, you’re taking almost 10 percent out of the delivery span from 66 down to 60 months. That’s a challenge.

The task to the shipbuilders is to find structural things to change to allow a more efficient assembly and completion of the ship. You can’t just work harder. You can’t just throw more people at the problem. You have to make either design changes or process and installation changes with the shipbuilders to allow that kind of improvement.

One of the examples that Newport News has really been championing is the integrated digital shipbuilding. That is a significant effort to again, move away from the paper drawings that you used to see the machinists carrying down to the jobsite, whether it’s in the shop or in the assembly hall or the boat floating pier-side, and moving from that to a Toughbook or a notepad where it’s all contained there. You don’t have to flip through reams of pages. You don’t have to read the revisions and make sure they’re properly applied, because it’s all there in the product model itself.

Is there a concern for cyber security?

Absolutely. That’s a big part of the system. What is the connectivity? How does it get loaded onto the laptop? What’s the condition while you’re walking around in the yard? That is absolutely a part of it. But the benefits that this promises are significant and you can do things like augmented reality.

They’re already doing this, so as opposed to reading dimensions off of a drawing and then measuring them out and saying, “Okay, this hanger attachment point has to go right here,” you can take that notepad or Toughbook and hold it up and it’s got target points that align what the camera is seeing to the installation site and it’ll show you exactly where that hangar is supposed to go.

So that’s kind of an example of a structural change that allows you to take man-hours out of the design, planning and execution process.

...
... goes on below due to size limit
 
the rest of the article from the post right above:
One of the questions, one of the anxieties, I hear from the shipyard guys is worker churn. The idea is that perhaps Millenials aren’t staying as long at one job anymore and they are losing a big investment in training. How are you working through that?

I try not to use stereotypes as much as I can. In my experience, I think that a company that respects its employers and provides them the training necessary to do their job and provides a good workforce will retain enough of their employees to be successful.

I don’t think we’re looking at a sea change in workforce habits in terms of hopping job to job. There’s certainly some of that without a doubt. But we’re looking at a huge ramp-up in employment at our principal shipbuilders, Electric Boat and Newport News. Because now we’re at continuous two per year Virginia construction and we’re adding the Columbia ballistic missile submarine, which each submarine is about two and a half times the effort required for building of Virginia.

There are ongoing discussions about adding a third Virginia in the years where we’re not building a Columbia. So, we we’ve gone from nothing basically in the late 1990s to one per year Virginia in the early 2000s, to two per year in 2011. Now you’re either going to go to three or four and a half per year.

So we’re talking thousands and thousands of additional workers. Electric Boat has been very proactive in working with the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island and using several community colleges as training starting points. They’ve set up a training program such that the students coming out community college are eligible for hiring at Electric Boat. Day one on the job, they are significantly more ready and productive than a standard guy walking in off the street and applying. That’s been hugely successful. So, am I concerned that everyone they’re hiring will get bored in three or four years and go do something else? No.

Some of them you will, but I think the numbers will be small enough within the normal attrition patterns. Because these are good jobs. They’re good-paying jobs and you only have to look at the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan and the statements by all of leadership to understand that these jobs are not going away anytime soon. So the future I think is good for the person who’s interested in starting a career at one of our shipbuilders.

Can I get a quick status update on where you are with the Virginia Payload Module for Block V?

Virginia payload module is going well. The design progress is on track to have a high level of completion at construction start. We’ve defined for Columbia ... 83 percent at contraction start is what we want.

Virginia originally was 42 percent when we started construction. So we’re well beyond anything that we’ve ever accomplished before in terms of design completed construction start.

For the Virginia payload module, we’re tracking to about 75 to 80 percent completed construction start, which is good. The prototyping of the first four payload tubes is in progress. So, as you know, the Virginia payload module is an insert which will go in at construction that adds four 87-inch tubes to allow additional strike capacity from the Virginia. It takes Virginia from 12 Tomahawks to 40 Tomahawks by those additional four tubes. So those four tubes are already under construction at the vendors and will be ready for assembly into the first Virginia payload module ship. So, we’re on track.

Thank you for taking the time out, Admiral.
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Oct 31, 2017
I guess it's important E-2D Test Program Completes First In-flight Fuel Transfer
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now
Northrop to begin cutting in aerial refueling capability in E-2D Advanced Hawkeye production this year
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This year,
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will begin manufacturing the first
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early warning aircraft built from the ground up with an aerial refueling capability, program officials said Tuesday.


Northrop will start cutting in modifications to the production line starting with the 46th of 75 planned aircraft slated to be procured by the Navy, said Jane Bishop, the company’s vice president for airborne early warning battle management command and control.

“We’re about to lay the keel for that aircraft,” Bishop told reporters during a briefing at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space conference. “We’ll be delivering that aircraft in the fourth quarter of 2020.”

The Navy has had a longstanding requirement to make the E-2D capable of being refueled by Air Force and Navy tankers, but at the time the aircraft began production the service could not afford it, said Capt. Keith Hash, the Navy’s E-2/C-2 program manager.

“Sometimes there’s a desire to put everything in at once, and that would be wise, but unfortunately we live in a budget constrained environment and affordability has to come into play,” he said. “So this was deferred for a few years, and as we continue to build the requirements the budget will be made available to make this happen.”

The new capability could be transformational, allowing the E-2D to spend five hours on station — twice its current threshold — and increasing the aircraft’s total mission time from four to seven hours.

That pretty much doubles the time the Hawkeye can stay in the air conducting surveillance and doing the battle management command and control mission.

The upgrade will also come at a slightly higher cost. Northrop is designing and testing the modifications under a contract valued at about $250 million, Hash said. Each production aircraft should cost about $2 million more than the planes currently rolling off Northrop’s production line in St. Augustine, Fla.

Northrop and the Navy are currently negotiating a contract for retrofitting the first 45 E-2Ds, but Hash estimates that the effort should cost about $6 million per plane.

The company has already delivered three developmental test planes in 2017 with the retrofits, and two more aircraft will begin the modification process this year, Bishop said. The most important of those upgrades involves installing a refueling probe in the wing center section where the fuel tank is located, as well as some changes to flight controls.

The refuelable version of the Advanced Hawkeye flew for the first time in December 2016. Since then, it has received gas from a KC-130, KC-135, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and — most recently, this January — a KC-10.

It’s likely that the E-2D will also be qualified to be able to be refueled by the Air Force’s future tanker, the KC-46, and the Navy’s future tanker drone, the MQ-25, Hash said.
 

TerraN_EmpirE

Tyrant King
These two Army BCTs will be the first to put robotic vehicles in their formations
By: Todd South   23 hours ago
Army’s 101st Airborne Division and 10th Mountain Division will be the first to bring a robotic combat vehicle into their formations later this year.

Bryan McVeigh, project manager for the Army’s Force Protection Robotics Portfolio, laid out the testing and acquisition for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport at the National Defense Industry Association’s Ground Robotics Capabilities Conference Tuesday.

By this summer, the 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, New York, and the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, will get to test the vehicle and provide feedback on what is likely to be the first major autonomous robotic vehicle in Army formations.

The SMET will be an autonomous ground vehicle capable of carrying up to 1,000 pounds of gear over 60 miles in 72 hours.



Based on McVeigh’s presentation, the Army could eventually acquire as many as 5,723 of the vehicles. And they must come in under $100,000 each.

A recent competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, that lasted nearly a month put submissions through a torture test that included running through swamps, dense forests, inclines and declines in rough terrain, McVeigh said.

In a separate media round table in March, Col. Travis Thompson, who oversees the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command capabilities for soldiers, said that the competition to provide the supply-hauling vehicle began with 10 companies.

The list is now down to four.

Military Times’ sister publication, Defense News, reported in December that the companies are Applied Research Associates and Polaris Defense, as well as General Dynamics Land Systems, HDT Expeditionary Systems and Howe & Howe.
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some time ago
Nov 7, 2015
I think I posted about LX(R) in the past, anyway
Navy: LX(R) Will Be Cheaper, More Capable Thanks To Using San Antonio LPD Design As Starting Point

source:
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now
Navy Designates Upcoming LX(R) Amphibs as San Antonio-Class LPD Flight II
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The Navy’s dock landing ship replacement program officially has a name: San Antonio-class LPD Flight II.

In a nod to the
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, which replaces the Whidbey Island-class LSD, Navy acquisition chief James Geurts this week signed a memo announcing the LPD Flight II designation.

“The term LX(R) is going to start to go away,” LPD and LX(R) program manager Capt. Brian Metcalf said today at a program briefing at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space 2018 symposium.
“As of yesterday, Secretary Geurts signed a memo that said the LX(R), the requirement for an LX(R), an LSD replacement ship, will be met by LPD Flight II. The first LPD Flight II will be LPD-30,” a hull that lawmakers chose to fund in their Fiscal Year 2018 budget ahead of the Navy’s original plans.

Ultimately, this will create a class of 26 San Antonio hulls – 13 Flight I and 13 Flight II.

Additionally, the Navy is already discussing the possibility of buying the Flight II ships, starting with LPD-31, in a block buy contract.
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– including starting construction before the design was completed, manufacturing quality issues, damage to the shipyard from Hurricane Katrina and instability in the design and the program quantity – the Flight I ships were bought one at a time.

The Navy had planned to stop at LPD-27, but then lawmakers added an LPD-28. And then, once it was determined that the LX(R) design would be based on the LPD design, an LPD-29 was added to help bridge the gap in production between the end of the San Antonio program and the beginning of LX(R).
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in Mississippi, lawmakers were considering adding LPD-30 as another bridge ship, but the Navy has instead decided that that hull will be the first of the Flight II ships.

Going forward, Metcalf said “the ideal build rate, according to the shipyard, is one-year centers. Right now the Navy’s program of record does not budget those ships on one-year centers. We have a gap in ‘19 and a gap in ‘21. We are looking to try to answer questions about whether it’s value-added to maybe fill in one or both of those gaps. or if we could execute some kind of block purchase of the follow ships” that would otherwise provide some stability at the shipyard and with Ingalls’ supply base.

He noted that the 2021 ship would be harder to add in – the Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine will formally start construction in 2021, creating a sizeable bill in the Navy’s shipbuilding account that year, but Metcalf said fielding the ships as quickly as possible is a great priority for the Marine Corps and that conversations would still need to take place about how to achieve the best procurement profile.

Metcalf told USNI News after his presentation that, though there are some differences between the Flight I ships, LPDs 28 and 29 as “transition ships” and the Flight II design, the commonality and subsequent savings in training and logistics were a main selling point for the LPD Flight II concept.

“In my recent trip to San Diego, we could look up and down the waterfront and see five LPDs. Those guys help each other – if somebody has a problem, they’ve got resources down the pipe,” he said.
“So having 26 ships divided around the world allows commonality of parts, commonality of training, sailors that can cross-deck and earn their qualifications. It gives us great flexibility and it saves us from creating a whole other pipeline of accession and training. So it’s been one of the selling points of going to Flight II.”

Asked how much the design changes between Flight I and II would affect the ability to cross-deck sailors, Metcalf said “it’s not going to change the way most of the watches are stood. A couple different capabilities – an EASR (Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar) tech isn’t going to be the same as a 48 (AN/SPS-48G radar) tech, but at the ship operation level, up on the bridge, down in the plant – the engine room is all the same.”
 
Mar 30, 2018
Jan 28, 2018
updating 'retirement of the Warthog' LOL! with U.S. Air Force To Kick Off Competition For New A-10 Wings

Mar 27, 2018
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now Portion of A-10 fleet to move into backup status in lead up to FY25
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The Air Force expects it will have to
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in the years running up to fiscal year 2025, as
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, but the service believes it will not effect operations, a three-star general said Thursday.

“We are not confident that we’re flying
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through 2025 with our plan,” said Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, during a House Armed Services Committee panel.

“So as we are looking at a CAF [combat air force] roadmap and with our modernization program, our intent is not to have groundings that impact the fleet.”

In its recently-passed FY18 spending bill,
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that would allow the Air Force to start a new production line to put fresh wings on the venerable A-10 Warthog close air support plane. Although 173 A-10s have gotten new Boeing-produced wings, including one aircraft that has since crashed, 109 Warthogs are in danger of moving to the boneyard unless replacements are installed.

Harris told lawmakers that some aircraft that are close to being grounded will cycle into the Air Force’s backup aircraft inventory.

The FY18 budget would pay for the first four pairs of wings, while the
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would pay for an additional eight to 12 sets. But beyond that, there are still big questions as to how many A-10s will ultimately get wings and how many A-10s could be grounded in the years before FY2025.

During the hearing, Harris said he couldn’t immediately provide answers to those questions, put forward by Rep. Martha McSally, (R-Ariz.), a former A-10 pilot.

“Is there some other reason why you’re not asking for max capacity? Is it because we can’t have that many in the fleet that are out for that period of time, just operational requirements?” asked McSally, who said that to her knowledge, the Air Force is capable of putting new wings on 32 A-10s per year.

Harris responded that the service opted to keep production of wings at a lower level until the Defense Department completes a number of studies of its combat aircraft inventory, to include the much-hyped
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that will measure both planes’ close air support bona fides.

“We’re not going to make a further commitment until we know where we’re going with both the A-10 and the F-35,” he said.

Another point of contention between McSally and Harris was the number of A-10s slated to move through the rewinging process. The Air Force has only committed to retaining six of the nine currently existing Warthog squadrons to 2030.

“With them being south of the DMZ, and deployed to Afghanistan and just coming back from schwacking ISIS and working with our NATO allies and all that we have on our plate, three active duty and then six guard and reserve squadrons for a total of nine—that’s already stretching it,” McSally said.

“How would we provide that capability to the combatant commanders if we went down to six? I just don’t see it.”

The rewing effort might allow the service to increase the number of A-10s per squadron from 18 back up to 24 aircraft for the three active duty squadrons, and up to 19 aircraft for the Air National Guard and reserves, Harris said. But he wouldn’t commit to retaining any more than six squadrons until 2030.

Retaining six A-10 squadrons until “2032 is in the testimony” submitted by Harris to lawmakers on Thursday, McSally noted, “But okay.”

Harris argued that the A-10 currently only conducts 20 percent of all Air Force close air support missions, and some of them could be performed by one of the two light attack aircraft that the service is considering buying.

“It continues to be a great airplanes and we’ll fly it while it fits into our program,” Harris said of the A-10, “but it doesn’t support the National Defense Strategy of preparing for a fight with Russia and China.”

Rep. Mike Turner, the Ohio Republican that chairs HASC’s tactical air and land power subcommittee, noted that the committee will include a provision in the upcoming FY19 defense authorization bill revolving around the Air Force’s decision to recompete the A-10 wing replacement contract.

“While the production line was shut down while Congress was deciding whether or not the A-10 was going to be preserved, someone made a decision that cost the American taxpayer an enormous amount of resources, and we’re going to be requiring an assessment of what that was, he said.

“When we deal with these issues in the future hopefully someone at DoD will understand that — until Congress takes action we ought not take action that affects the American taxpayer — until the debate has been completed.”

However, the situation is a little more complicated than that. Boeing continues to work on wings, and the Air Force expects the final of 173 wing sets to be installed this summer, according to Harris’ testimony.

However, the company has had difficulties with its supply base, and Air Combat Command head Gen. Mike Holmes said earlier this year that the price of the A-10 wings had become cost prohibitive for the contractor to continue making.
 
Navy Will Extend All DDGs to a 45-Year Service Life; ‘No Destroyer Left Behind’ Officials Say
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talks LA-class subs, too:
The Navy will keep every one of its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in service for 45 years, extending the life of the entire class. The move allows the Navy to reach a 355-ship fleet by 2036 or 2037, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems said on Thursday.

The Navy currently has DDGs in multiple configurations – Flight I, Flight II and Flight IIA. Keeping each hull in the fleet for a 45-year service life equates to an extension of five to 10 years each, depending on the flight design.

Vice Adm. Bill Merz told lawmakers today every destroyer was already included in an Aegis modernization plan that would upgrade them each to Aegis Baseline 9 or 10 or Aegis BMD 5.4. The class-wide service life extension, as currently planned, does not include any combat system upgrades beyond what is already planned – though Merz said the Navy will be monitoring the threat set closely and retains the option to upgrade the combat systems later on.

“All of [those software variants] provide a ballistic missile defense capability, which is fundamentally the requirement we have to have,” he said in a
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.
“So whether that carries these through the life of the ship with the extension, we have time to work through that on what it will take, and the threat will get a big vote in how we do that.”

Merz told USNI News after the hearing that “this is an HM&E (hull, mechanical and electrical) extension, but every destroyer is already in the modernization pipeline, so every destroyer will be modernized. … The modernization they receive that’s already programmed may carry them through. Obviously, the threat’s going to get a vote on that, but one of the beauties is, instead of doing an individual ship-by-ship extension and extending the entire class, now we have the visibility to actually plan for that. We can pace it, plan it, fund it efficiently instead of one-and-done, one-and-done, one-and-done. We can be a lot more deliberate about how we handle this class. We’re big fans of this class of ship.”

Merz made clear, though, that this life extension would not absolve the Navy, Congress and industry of their task of finding an affordable way to ramp up shipbuilding. He told USNI News that this life extension gets the Navy to 355 ships in 2036 or 2037, but it’s the wrong mix of ships – the 355-ship goal is based on a particular blend of destroyers, attack submarines, aircraft carriers, amphibious ships and more, and the attack submarine fleet, in particular, will be well below the requirement in the 2030s. He said the Navy is “very focused on getting the right mix of ships in the end.”

Additionally, he said, if destroyer acquisition doesn’t pick up the pace – lawmakers are trying to get the Navy to move from two a year now to three a year – “you cannot use [the life extension] as a surrogate for building the new ones, or when those things tap out then we go off a cliff, and we’ll never get there.”

He added that the Navy, with this life extension plan, would hit 355 ships and hover there for a couple years but then would dip back down before eventually getting to a stable fleet size of greater than 355.

But, Merz made clear after the hearing, “that’s just with the DDGs. We have a lot of other levers that we continue (to study). Our commitment to the shipbuilding plan is aggressive growth profiles working with Congress, service life extensions – the DDGs were part of that – and then industry response. We still have a lot of ground to plow here to continue to accelerate this, and we’re excited about this.”

Merz praised the engineers at Naval Sea Systems Command for their great effort to ensure the class-wide extension could be done safely and cost-efficiently. He said the Navy was eyeing this effort when the budget and the 30-year shipbuilding plan was released in February, but the engineering wasn’t 100-percent complete and leadership decided it was better to surprise Congress and the public with good news later on versus have to backtrack on when they could actually reach a 355-ship fleet.

NAVSEA Commander
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that his command had spent the past six months studying life extensions of several ship classes, with the DDGs garnering the most interest within the Navy and on Capitol Hill.

“Both the secretary of the Navy and the [chief of naval operations] are very interested in a program that would extend the service life of the DDGs in particular. It has great interest from the Hill as well. I think we’ve come through the technical hurdles and it’s just at this point, like everything else, it’s balancing everything else we want to get done in the budget,” Moore told USNI News at the time.
“It’s got to be part of our overall strategy to get to 355. It’s the only way you can get there – instead of getting there in 30 years, it’s the only way you can get there in say maybe 10 to 15 years. So I think that’s something we really want to go look at.”

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while the technical work was still ongoing that extending the planned service life of the DDGs could help the Navy reach a 355-ship fleet 10 to 15 years faster than through new shipbuilding alone – and in fact, the DDG life extension plan
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to about 2036, a speed-up of at least 15 years.

Asked about the cost of this class-wide life extension plan, Merz told USNI News that “there’s no specific modernization or maintenance period that goes with that, so I don’t want to say they’re free, because you still have to man them and operate them, but unlike an individual ship where you’ve got to put it in the yard and you’ve got to do all these upgrades, we’re doing this based on the performance of the class. So all of them are just, from an engineering analysis, extended based on their past performance. If we have to modernize beyond that then we’ll have to learn how to pay for that.”

Additionally, with regards to the combat systems, the cost of the DDG modernization plan is already incorporated into Navy plans, but “if we want to do more than that, that will be an opportunity cost decision as we go forward – but the ships will be there to be able to do that. So now we have the option to have that discussion.”

In contrast to how the Navy is handling the class-wide extension of the Arleigh Burke destroyers, NAVSEA and Naval Reactors have made a very deliberate effort to pinpoint five Los Angeles-class attack submarines that could be extended past their intended service lives. Moore said during the hearing today that it is hard to keep submarines in service longer than their intended 35-year life due to the forces on the boat while submerging and the stringent requirements for the hull to remain certified to submerge.

However, he said, “in this particular case we had five additional cores available, and it presented us with an opportunity to get some SSNs accelerated back into the fleet. So between Naval Reactors and NAVSEA we went and looked, found some hulls that we could sharpen our pencils on and we were confident technically they could get to the service life that they’ve been asked to get to.”

Navy acquisition chief James Geurts said during the hearing that the Navy would begin work on the first submarine this year to prove the concept, and that the hull-by-hull SSN life extensions, along with the DDG class-wide life extension, shows “we are committed to 355 at least” for the future Navy fleet.
 

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