and now something even more vague:
The Navy will buy the first of its Future Surface Combatants in 2023 – a large warship that will be built to support the Arleigh Burke Flight III combat system and will pull elements from the Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) and Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) destroyer designs.
The combatant – not dubbed a cruiser, and potentially not dubbed a destroyer either – will be bigger and more expensive than the Arleigh Burke Flight III design and will have more room to grow into for decades to come, the director of surface warfare (OPNAV N96) told USNI News today.
With the ICD now signed and providing the service with an idea of how many of each platform would be needed in a future fleet and how each would contribute as a sensor, a shooter or a command and control asset, Surface Warfare Director Adm. Ron Boxall and his staff are now able to begin diving into the finer details of what each platform would look like.
The first to be tackled is the large combatant, Boxall told USNI News today. He noted the effort would be more like the move from the Ticonderoga-class cruiser to the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer – where the same combat capability was kept, but housed in a more suitable hull – rather than the move from the Spruance-class destroyer to the cruiser, which maintained the same hull design but added in new combat capability.
After the addition of the AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) to the DDGs’ Aegis Combat System to create the Flight III design, Boxall said the resulting warfighting capability is one the Navy can use for years to come.
“We have a new capability on that hull now, so everything’s going good – except for, as we look towards going further, we know we’ve maxed out that hull footprint,” Boxall said of the Arleigh Burke-class hull design, power-generation capability and more.
“So the key elements that we’re looking at in this work we’re doing on the requirements side is, keep the requirements about the same as DDG Flight III, but now look at what do we need a new hull to do.”
USNI News first reported last month that the large combatant would
The Navy will spend about the next six months having that conversation about what the new hull will need, though he suggested to USNI News that it would need sufficient space to carry helicopters and unmanned systems; it would need to support long-range missiles and weapons; it would have to include command and control systems able to support a staff onboard for air defense or offensive surface capability, much like the cruiser does today with the air defense commander role for a carrier strike group; it may incorporate DDG-1000’s signature controls and integrated power system; and it will certainly have to be flexible and modular enough to quickly undergo upgrades and modernizations in the future as new systems are developed that the Navy will want to incorporate into the next block buy of large combatants or back fit fielded ones.
Though there has been much speculation about whether the large combatant would use an existing design or a new design, Boxall said there really are no designs out there that meet the Navy’s needs without significant modifications.
Whereas the ongoing frigate design effort was able to mandate that bidders use mature parent designs, Boxall said “a lot of people in the world make frigates. Not many people make large surface combatants of the size and capability that we need. So we’ve got to kind of look to our portfolio of blueprints that we have as a starting point, and we’ll edit and modify the hull and design things as we go forward.”
“I think what you’re going to see won’t be a huge deviation from things we have already, but at the same point, we are going to be making changes to anything we have” already in the fleet, he added.
In a nod towards the idea the next large combatant will share the same combat system as DDG Flight III and will perform much the same role in the fleet, Boxall said the Navy is starting with the DDG-51 Flight III capability development document (CDD); will go through a Large Surface Combatant Requirements Evaluation Team effort with requirements, acquisition and engineering personnel from the Navy and industry; and after six months call the finished product a “modified Flight III CDD.” Once that modified CDD is complete, it will be clearer how much the future large surface combatant will resemble its predecessor and how much it will be a new class of ship – which will likely determine its name.
“It is the big question: what do you call the future large surface combatant? I don’t know. I don’t think you call it a cruiser. I don’t think you call it a destroyer. Maybe – I don’t know what it is,” Boxall said, noting that he has commanded both a cruiser and destroyer and that they get used in much the same fashion, save for the cruiser’s role as the air defense commander ship, which the future large surface combatant will have the capability of doing with its command and control suite.
Once the first large combatant is designed and purchased in the 2023 “block” – following the current block-buy of Flight III DDGs from Ingalls Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, which
Unlike before, when the surface community would undergo a massive planning effort – like the CG(X) cruiser replacement design that ultimately was too expensive and not accepted by the Navy – and then cease planning for many years before undertaking another massive effort, Boxall said he hoped the block upgrades would create a “heartbeat type of effort, where you always have something going on.”
I pray for the USAAs I've stated before, my OLD MAN, (who was a Vietnam Viet, and died of "Mulitiple Myeloma, likely due to agent orange exposure), wrote to Senator McCain several times with concerns for Veterans issues, most likely having to do with health care, and was very angry with Senator McCain's apparent lack of concern......
My Dad was a "good soldier", he got ALL of his promotions as soon as he was eligible, he was a Senior Airlift Coordinator for MACVSOG working out of the US Embassy in Saigon, he received an appointment as "Air Attache" to the Ambassador of Chili, he wasn't an emotional casualty, though he was very disgusted with and by his experience under "President Johnson", and McNamara..
Thanks to Senator McCain's last minute switch to the "other team", he was the deciding vote, we are going to be permanently saddled with the "disgusting Obamacare".. I voted for Senator McCain for President, he betrayed those whose conservative ideology is opposed to "socialized medicine"..
So while I have great respect for John McCain the fighter pilot/Naval Aviator, American POW, and sorrow for his Cancer death, and for his family, (yes, I know what that's like), in the end, his animosity toward the President, caused him to "stab in the back" those who had entrusted him to save this country from what amounts to a govt takeover of 1/6 of the US economy through the healthcare mess that carries Barack Obama's signature. Peoples healthcare premiums quadrupled under the garbage Obamacare, and I myself paid hundreds and hundreds of dollars in penalties, simply because I was unable to afford those outrageous premiums...
also our own Jeff Head lost his healthcare benefits at MD ANDERSON, and had to use up his own retirement savings to receive the most outstanding cancer treatment anywhere in the world! the US healthcare system was the best in the world, now, under Obamacare, IT IS NOT! for those of us who have to pay for our own healthcare, its an absolute disgrace...
In an extremely rare exchange with the news media, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford justified U.S. support for the bloody and controversial war in Yemen, denied that Afghan forces were failing despite 17 years of American backing and said there would be no more suspension of military exercises with South Korea during denuclearization talks with North Korea.
In an hour-long session with Pentagon reporters, the nation’s top defense leaders also discussed the remaining efforts to eliminate the last ISIS presence in Syria, the contentious relations with nominal NATO ally Turkey and rejected the proposal to turn the U.S. mission in Afghanistan over to a force of mercenaries.
Both men opened with praise for the late Sen. John S. McCain, R-Ariz., for his military service and strong advocacy for service men and women.
“Our nation has lost a great patriot and our military has lost one of its most ardent supporters,” Mattis said.
Many of the reporters’ questions dealt with the complex fighting in Yemen and the U.S. supply of weapons, intelligence and in-flight refueling for the forces led by Saudi Arabia, which have been accused by the U.N. of committing possible “war crimes” because of the high number of civilians killed.
Mattis said the Pentagon reviewed its support for the Saudi-led coalition’s air strikes against the Iranian-backed Houthi extremists in Yemen and “determined it was the right thing to do, to support them in defense of their own countries and also to restore the rightful government.
“Our conduct there is to try to keep the human cost of innocents being killed accidentally to the absolute minimum … and to get it to the UN-brokered (peace) table as quickly as possible,” he said.
Mattis said the administration is “constantly reviewing what support we are giving” and recently sent an Army three-star general — Lt. Gen. Michael X. Garrett — to demand a detailed Saudi investigation of an airstrike that reportedly killed 44 civilians, mostly women and children.
“At no time have we felt rebuffed when we raise concerns. … And we have not seen any callous disregard by the people we are working for. We stay out of the war ourselves and focus on defeating ISIS and the al-Qaida” in Yemen, Mattis said.
Asked if there were plans to resume military exercises with South Korea because there has been no progress on the negotiations to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons, Mattis said, “we took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good-faith measure coming out of the Singapore summit” between President Donald J. Trump and North Korea dictator Kim Jong-Un. “We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises.”
Mattis could not say if the two major joint exercises that were canceled this spring would be held next year, but said smaller training drills are being conducted now.
“We’re making no changes in the exercise programs at this time,” he said.
Another line of questions dealt with the nearly 17-year-old war in Afghanistan and the evidence that despite U.S. training and advising — and sometimes direct combat support — the Taliban continues to control much of the nation and recently conducted an extensive attack on the city of Ghazni.
Mattis and Dunford both insisted that the Afghan forces were able to defend the country and there were signs that the Taliban is ready to enter peace talks.
Asked if there would have to be a permanent U.S. military force in Afghanistan, Dunford said America has “permanent interests” in the region but he would not predict a permanent military presence, noting the reduction from 100,000 U.S. troops two years ago to 14,000 now.
When asked about the proposal by former Blackwater owner Eric Prince to let private security forces take over the Afghanistan mission, Mattis said: “When Americans put their nation’s credibility on the line, privatizing probably is not a good idea.”
With a Raptor’s body and the JSF’s brain, the new jet would aim to answer the next decade’s Russian and Chinese threats.
Lockheed Martin is quietly pitching the U.S. Air Force a new variant of the F-22 Raptor, equipped with the F-35’s more modern mission avionics and some structural changes, Defense One has learned.
It is one of several options being shopped to the U.S. military and allies as Lockheed explores how it might upgrade its combat jets to counter Russian and Chinese threats anticipated by military officials in the coming decade, according to people with direct knowledge of the plan.
“You’re building a hybrid aircraft,” David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who is now dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “It’s not an F-22. It’s not an F-35. It’s a combination thereof. That can be done much, much more rapidly than introducing a new design.”
The new variant — similar to one
“There’s a lot of potential in this idea,” Deptula said. “I’m not sugesting that we jump right into it and embrace it, but from the Japanese perspective when they are looking at and willing to invest in this kind of an alternative as opposed to trying to build an indigenous aircraft that’s not going to get close to what an F-22 can already deliver. It’s a smart move on their behalf.”
A Lockheed spokeswoman declined to comment about the project.
The proposal has echoes of the late-1990s evolution of the F/A-18 Hornet into the Super Hornet. Pitched as a low-risk project, the F/A-18E/F turned out to require a redesign of almost every exterior part. The new wing proved initially troublesome, but the design
Lockheed’s proposal comes as the Air Force is
The pitch is certain to reignite a longstanding debate: is it better to buy upgraded versions of fourth-generation aircraft such as the F-15 and F-16, or their newer brethren equipped with pricey, hard-to-maintain but effective designs, coatings and electronics?
In July, Defense One reported that Boeing has been
People who argue against buying non-stealth aircraft point to this line in NDS: “The Joint Force must be able to strike diverse targets inside adversary air and missile defense networks to destroy mobile power-projection platforms.”
Said the person familiar with Lockheed’s new plane: “You cannot operate a fourth-generation airplane inside those threat scenarios. The move clearly needs to be to fifth-generation airplanes to have any operational capability that’s needed to execute those scenarios.”
Deptula argues that buying upgraded F-22s allows the U.S. military to take an incremental step before buying a radically redesigned sixth-generation fighter jet with technologies that have not yet been proven.
“If you take a look just the general areas of aerodynamics, propulsion, low observability, we have not gotten to the point where we can achieve any order of magnitude increases in any one of those areas beyond where we are [with the] F-22 outer moldline,” Deptula said.
The Air Force has
Lockheed is also exploring other offering for the U.S. military and its allies, including putting new technology — such as directed energy and electronic attack — on the F-16, F-22 and F-35. Structural changes to F-35 are also being explored.
The offerings are being compiled as part of an internal Lockheed review that looks at ways to better equip its existing warplane and the technologies that will be part of the future combat planes.
The project is being led by Rob Weiss — leader of Lockheed’s storied Skunk Works Advanced Development Programs for the past five years — who is retiring in the coming months.
“If the U.S.[military] wants to move to a next-generation, air dominance airplane there are lots of options,” the person familiar with the company’s plans said.
Lockheed has been looking at ways to modify the F-35. The source said a plan was recently pitched to senior U.S. Navy officials at the company’s Skunk Work headquarters in Palmdale, California. Options include
Lockheed is also pushing the military to buy more F-35s as a way to make sure it has more stealth aircraft in the next decade. Under current plans, the Air Force in 2030 would have about 1,000 fifth-generation F-22s and F-35s and 1,000 F-15s and F-16s.
“If you have to fight one of these scenarios [described in the National Defense Strategy], it’s a high-risk situation that would result in a lot of attrition of those fourth-generation airplanes,” the source said. “It’s questionable whether the U.S. could carry out its objectives in those scenarios. I think the U.S. would prevail, but not without risk.”
If the F-35 production rate was increased to 80 or 100 jets per year, about 80 percent of those 2,000 fighter jets would be fifth-generation planes, the source said.
“That scenario is substantially different,” the person said. “Now you’ve got very high probability of executing your objectives and a much lower attrition scenario where you can basically keep the fourth-generation airplanes out of harm’s way.”
Then there’s the cost argument. Each of the Air Force’s F-35As in the Pentagon’s latest order is
Deptula said the falling price of the F-35 eliminates one argument for buying new versions of the F-15 or F-16.
“As Air Force planner, you’re interested in being able to meet not just the existing, but potential anticipated threats of the future,” Deptula said. “While some might postulate that there may fiscal or monetary advantages, frankly I don’t even see that argument holding much water.
“The kind of individual unit costs that we’re talking about for rebuilding and producing new, old airplanes virtually match the price curve of new F-35s,” he said. “I’m having a hard time understanding what the value proposition is if I’m an Air Force planner trying to recapitalize a geriatric Air Force.”