Tuesday, December 13, 2011

F-35 Sound, but Slow Down Production: Report

A "quick look" report on the U.S. Defense Department's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) delivered to the Pentagon's acting procurement chief a few weeks ago was leaked to the public Dec. 13 by the Project on Government Oversight and says aircraft production should be slowed down.
A REPORT LEAKED Dec. 13 says the F-35 program is sound but production should be slowed down. Above, an F-35A Joint Strike Fighter in flight earlier this year. (U.S. Air Force)
The report was delivered to the office of Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's acting procurement chief, and calls for the slowdown while 13 test issues are resolved. But the report also declares the F-35's design fundamentally sound.
"No fundamental design risks sufficient to preclude further production were indentified," the report reads.
When asked about the 13 problems highlighted in the report on Dec. 8, Pentagon press secretary George Little said "the secretary is aware of the report."
The Joint Strike Fighter program office (JPO) declined to comment on the report because it is an internal document. But an official with the program said the information within the report is accurate and that the F-35 JPO helped to create the document.
"There may be issues regarding the F-35 program," Little said. "Any large weapon program generally has issues from time to time. And we are aware of certain issues with the F-35 program. But we believe it's important to continue to invest in the program."
Most of the 13 problems highlighted in the report are well known and have been previously addressed by both Lockheed Martin and the JPO. The biggest issues include the helmet-mounted display - which Lockheed Martin F-35 program manager Tom Burbage has previous said is well on its was to being fixed - fuel dump system, integrated power package and arresting gear on the carrier version of the jet.
Corrections are already being developed for the carrier variant's tailhook.
"A joint JPO, Lockheed Martin, NAVAIR [Naval Air Systems Command] engineering team is developing necessary corrections," JPO spokesman Joe Dellavedova said. "Initial focus is on hook point modifications and tailhook hold down damper adjustments. The system will be retested when corrections are incorporated."
Three less-problematic issues are aerodynamic buffeting, airframe fatigue life and executing testing, according to the report. Five other issues noted were: lightning strike protection, software, weight management, thermal management and logistical system.
Taken together, the problems are substantial enough that the report argues production should be slowed down. From the operation assessment perspective, most of the deficiencies stem from the helmet's performance. There were also some classified concerns cited that were not in the report.

ThyssenKrupp Concentrates Shipbuilding on Military Sector

BONN, Germany - ThyssenKrupp AG will concentrate its Marine Systems on military surface ship and submarine building in the future, the company announced Dec. 12, adding that it will sell all its civil shipbuilding activities to British company Star Capital Partners.
The contract, signed with the London-based financial investor company on Dec. 11, includes the large yard builder Blohm + Voss Shipyards, Blohm + Voss Repair, Blohm + Voss Oil Tools and Blohm + Voss Industries, including its subsidiaries. According to ThyssenKrupp, the new investor wants to continue the business at all sites.
"The sale is an essential step to further focus the activities of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems," Hans Christoph Atzpodien, CEO of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AG, said in a news statement. "At the same time, with the new owner, an important course-setting to secure the work places and the future of the shipbuilding at the locations of Blohm + Voss has been taken for the employees."
The deal still has to be approved by oversight committees. ThyssenKrupp expects the deal to be completed at the end of the first quarter of 2012. The transaction reflects its strategic development concept unveiled May 13. It is supposed to improve the Essen-based company's competitive position and offer a sustainable future.
In August, there had been media speculation about a joint venture involving ThyssenKrupp Marine and French ship-building group DCNS. This was strongly denied by the German company at that time, which said that it saw little promise of close cooperation in the submarine or surface naval vessel sector.

Final F-22 Raptor Rolls Off Production Line

The last F-22 Raptor to be built for the U.S. Air Force, tail number 4195, rolled off Lockheed Martin's Marietta, Ga., production line on Dec. 13, bringing to a close the procurement of the stealthy, fifth-generation air superiority fighter jet.
The final Raptor will enter a series of company and government flight tests, said Jeff Babione, Lockheed's F-22 program manager. It also will receive its final coatings - an integral part of the twin-engine jet's stealth capability.
Tail 4195 will then be delivered in May to the 3rd Wing's 525th Fighter Squadron commanded by Lt. Col. Paul "Max" Moga at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. It will become that squadron's "flagship," replacing an earlier loss.
The new jet is the 187th production aircraft to roll off the line; eight developmental Raptors were also built, Babione said. Counting the eight test planes, 4195 is the 195th F-22 to be built, he said.
Once two production aircraft losses are factored in, the Air Force will have 185 operational jets.
"It's sad to see the end of the Raptor, but given the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the state of the economy, it stood little chance," said analyst Richard Aboulafia at the Teal Group, Fairfax, Va.
Babione, who has been with the Raptor program since 1988, said that manufacturing the aircraft has changed drastically since the first test aircraft, 4001, was produced. When that first plane was built, it had the feel of a custom-built, one-off prototype compared with the newest jet that just rolled off the production line, he said.
The workmanship, skills and procedures have come a long way, Babione said. There was a 78 percent learning curve improvement over the years, he said.
Today, "when you see the airplane on the line, it appears to be this very impressive, fine piece of workmanship," Babione said. "You just get this stark contrast from when we started to build them and now."
Lockheed and the Air Force are storing the production-line tooling and preserving the manufacturing know-how, Babione said. While the other F-22 manufacturing sites have been packed up and stored, the Marietta factory has yet to begin crating up the assembly line. That process will start next year, he said.
Aboulafia said there is still hope the Raptor line could be restarted.
"Given the potential of the aircraft, the line preservation efforts, and an uncertain strategic picture, it could one day follow the C-5 or B-1 and be reborn in a few years," he said.
For Lockheed, the shutdown of the production line is simply the beginning of a new chapter of sustaining and upgrading the Raptor.
"This is not the end, rather beginning of a new phase of this great program," Babione said.
A host of upgrades will be coming over the years. The Air Force is already working on adding new capabilities, and part of its Increment 3.1 and 3.2 upgrades will add synthetic aperture radar and the 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) capability to the jet. It also will receive the AIM-9X and AIM-120D air-to-air missiles and other capabilities.
Increment 3.1 is a hardware and software upgrade that is focused on air-to-ground missions. This upgrade includes adding the ability to carry eight SDBs, new air-to-ground radar modes, and electronic attack capability. Increment 3.1 is currently being fielded to the operational fleet and will continue to be fielded until all operational Block 30/35 F-22 aircraft are modified by the end of 2016, Air Combat Command spokesman Scott Knuteson wrote in an emailed statement.
"This increment is designed to defeat air or surface threats in any threat environment; operational test and evaluation is nearly complete," Knuteson wrote. "So far, precision geolocation accuracy exceeds the requirement by 15%, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) map accuracy exceeds specifications by 55%, and SDB enables a 200% increase in air-to-ground weapons reach."
Next comes Increment 3.2A, which is a software-only upgrade that includes Link 16 receive capability upgrades, combat identification, and electronic protection. "The plan at this point is to field it between 2014 and 2016 --some jets will transition straight from Increment 2.0 to 3.2A," Knuteson wrote.
Increment 3.2B will include upgraded weapons, such as the AIM-120D, AIM-9X, and enhanced precision targeting, Knuteson wrote. "This is expected to be fielded in 2017-2020."
Lockheed is working closely with the Air Force on upgrading the plane, Babione said.
Operational since 2005, the Raptor was originally envisioned as a counter to hordes of Soviet fighters during a hypothetical conflict over Europe. With this in mind, the jet was designed to be faster and more maneuverable than anything else in the sky.
With its two Pratt & Whiney F119 engines, which produce about 38,000 pounds of thrust each, the Raptor has the ability to cruise at speeds of about Mach 1.8 without afterburners. With its afterburners on, the jet can reach a maximum speed of about Mach 2.2 and fly at 60,000 feet, an altitude limited only by Air Force regulations.
The sheer kinematic performance of the F-22 is unlikely to be equaled any time soon; next-generation aircraft are more likely to focus on weapons.
"The focus in the future will be on improving our weapons and their ability to attack different kinds of targets at extended ranges and intercept even more energetic targets," Babione said.

Iranian Cyber Commandos downed the American stealth Drone

A secret U.S. surveillance drone that went missing last week in western Afghanistan appears to have crashed in Iran, in what may be the first case of such an aircraft ending up in the hands of an adversary.

Iran’s news agencies asserted that the nation’s defense forces brought down the drone, which the Iranian reports said was an RQ-170 stealth aircraft. It is designed to penetrate enemy air defenses that could see and possibly shoot down less-sophisticated Predator and Reaper drones.

A stealthy RQ-170 drone played a critical role in surveilling the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was hiding in the months before the raid in which he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in May.

U.S. officials acknowledged Sunday that a drone had been lost near the Iranian border.
 This is the second time in history a stealth tech/plane has been brought down (f-117 being the first). Possible first time ever one has been hacked into in the air, and the fact that it's still in pretty good shape makes it priceless as it now can be disected and reverse/engineered

The chinese and russians are probably dying to take a look at this intact american Toy...

Billions of dollars worth of state-of-the-art stealth/drone/aircraft technology is now under the microscope being examined/reverse engineered.

Iran Did Not Down Drone: U.S. House Intel Chair

Iran did not down the U.S. spy drone captured by Iranian armed forces earlier this month, U.S. House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers said Dec. 13.
"I am satisfied in this particular case that no outside force brought this drone down," said Rogers, R-Mich., speaking at a conference sponsored by the Foreign Policy Initiative. "I will say without hesitation that this came down due to a technical problem."
On Dec. 12, President Barack Obama made public the U.S. request for Iran to return the drone.
"We've asked for it back. We'll see how the Iranians respond," Obama said during a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
According to news reports, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, Iran's defense minister, said Dec. 13 that the aircraft is Iran's property.
While Rogers said he is confident Iran did not down the drone, the United States should still be worried about its potential to do so via cyber attack in the future.
"Anytime that folks with ill intentions toward the United States come into possession of our technology is a bad day for the United States," he said.
However, while Iran tries to reverse-engineer the technology, the United States will be busy engineering new designs, he said.

Former Slovenia PM Wins Libel Claim in Patria Case

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia - Former Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa said Dec. 13 he had won damages for libel from Finnish television YLE over a report it made in 2008 implicating him in a bribery case.
Ljubljana's district court ordered YLE and its journalist Magnus Berglund to pay Jansa 15,000 euros ($19,800) in compensation, according to the court's ruling, which Jansa published on his Facebook page.
A former Slovenian police commissioner, Bojan Potocnik, who claimed in an interview with Berglund that Jansa had received bribes from a defense firm, was made to pay him 6,500 euros in damages, it added.
Both YLE and Potocnik will also have to publicly withdraw their claims on Slovenian and Finnish national television, the court decided.
Jansa, who headed Slovenia's government between 2004 and 2008, sued Finnish broadcaster YLE and Berglund in 2008 for libel, demanding 1.5 million euros in compensation for an investigative report broadcast Sept. 1, 2008, weeks ahead of Slovenian parliamentary elections.
In it, Berglund alleged that several high-ranking Slovenian officials, including Jansa, had taken bribes in exchange for a 278 million euro contract to acquire armored vehicles from Finnish defense firm Patria.
The scandal played a major role ahead of the 2008 elections, which resulted in a victory for the center-left Social Democrats over Jansa's Slovenian Democratic Party.
On Dec. 13, the Ljubljana court ruled that the information contained in the YLE report was insufficient to corroborate the bribe allegations and sustained Jansa's libel claims.
Slovenian prosecutors launched a separate trial against Jansa and four others in September 2010 over the same bribery claims, with additional evidence.
Jansa, 52, has been charged with "complicity in the giving or accepting of bribery or bribery promises in exchange for a mediation" that led to a 2006 deal with Patria, Slovenia's biggest defense deal ever.
The opposition leader was favored to return to power in last month's parliamentary election but came second to the new Positive Slovenia party led by Ljubljana's popular millionaire mayor, Zoran Jankovic.

Allen: Pakistan talking again to NATO

KABUL, Afghanistan — Voicing cautious optimism, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan said Tuesday that he's seeing some signs of a possible lifting of Pakistan's communications blackout imposed on the U.S.-led coalition after NATO airstrikes killed two dozen Pakistani forces last month.
Marine Gen. John Allen revealed for the first time that he spoke on the phone Monday with Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani — their first conversation since the airstrikes — and that they both expressed a commitment to work through the incident and try to restore coordination between their forces along the border.
"I do have a sense of progress," Allen told reporters at a news briefing at his Camp Eggers headquarters in Kabul, describing the phone call as businesslike and cordial. "The conversation was clearly about attempting to resolve the issue ... around the border incident, in the sense that, lets restore border coordination so that we can move on."
He added that he believes Pakistan will soon send its liaison officers, who were pulled after the Nov. 26 incident, back to the border coordination centers and/or NATO headquarters in Kabul. Allen said the two did not discuss when Pakistan would reopen its border crossings to NATO convoys transporting supplies for troops in Afghanistan.
Allen's comments came as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to talk with his commanders, including plans for an update on U.S. relations with Pakistan.

Top Senators Express Dismay Over Latest F-35 Deal

The 2012 U.S. defense authorization bill includes tighter cost controls for the next F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) purchase, but the legislation comes too late to influence a contract the Defense Department awarded days earlier.
SENS. CARL LEVIN, left, and John McCain both were unhappy with the Pentagon’s latest F-35 purchase from Lockheed Martin. (File photo / Getty Images)
The Pentagon announced Dec. 9 thatit had awarded Lockheed Martin a $4 billion contract to build the fifth low-rate production lot of 30 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
That happened as lawmakers from the House and Senate were negotiating the final language for the 2012 defense authorization bill, including a Senate amendment that would have prohibited the use of a cost-plus contract for lot 5.
Those negotiations concluded Dec. 12 and the legislation could be voted on in the House as early as Dec. 14, according to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif.
The authorization bill no longer contains language on the Lot 5 buy, but it now calls for a "no cost-plus contract" on Lot 6, according to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"They've escaped what we think is a very necessary control on cost," Levin said at a Dec. 9 news conference with McKeon; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee; and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
Levin expressed his displeasure with the Pentagon for moving ahead with the buy while Congress was still in negotiations.
"Frankly … we took umbrage at the idea that the Air Force, the acquisition folks, would sign a contract for Lot 5 in the face of a Senate provision saying, 'We want no cost-plus contract on Lot 5,' " he said.
Because the Senate provision has not become law, the Pentagon could do it. "But frankly," Levin said, "I'll be calling in these acquisition folks, and I know Senator McCain will be right there at my side."
While the contract used for Lot 5 is not being called a cost-plus contract, it contains too many caveats and loopholes that allow cost increases to be picked up by the government, McCain said.
According to the Pentagon announcement, the contract is a "fixed-price-incentive [firm target]" contract, also known as a FPIF.
"All efforts will be contracted for on a FPIF basis, with the exception of work scope for the incorporation of certain specified concurrency changes that will be contracted for on a cost-sharing/no-fee basis," the DoD announcement reads.
Said McCain: "One would assume that a fixed-cost contract wouldn't allow any additional costs. That's not true anymore. It's become insane."
According to the lawmakers, the bill contains more than 600 different provisions.
The lawmakers presented a united front on the language concerning the treatment of terrorist suspects, urging President Obama not to veto the bill. Obama has threatened to veto the bill over changes on how to handle suspected terrorists.
Levin said the lawmakers added "significant provisions" to provide added reassurance that there would be no interference in civilian interrogations. Smith said Obama "ought to support it and ought to pass it."

Viper Strike Becomes MBDA Inc.'s 1st U.S. Buy

Company leaders were on site in Huntsville, Ala., on Dec. 12 as MBDA Inc., the wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of European missile giant MBDA, had its first business day as owner of the Viper Strike missile program.
Closing the deal to purchase the business from Northrop Grumman at midnight Dec. 9, the acquisition is a first for MBDA Inc., which has been operating in California for more than 20 years but has not had a major production center.
Production of the Viper Strike missile, a 44-pound guided weapon designed to be carried on a variety of platforms including UAVs, at its major manufacturing plant in Huntsville is not expected to be interrupted, the company said.
"This was the first acquisition, but it's not the first time that we had been looking at something," said MBDA Inc. CEO Jerry Agee.
The purchase is part of a strategy dating back two years, Agee said, as MBDA looks to grow its footprint in the U.S., despite the uncertainty surrounding the defense budget.
"When we have a very small market share now, any growth is significant for us," he said.
The first day of operations saw Agee and others touring the Viper Strike production plant.
"The employees here are very positive," Agee said. "I think they see the benefit of being inside a company that really focuses on missiles."
As MBDA Inc. looks to increase its U.S. business and production, Agee said overseas sales would not be a part of the equation.
"Right now, we're absolutely focused on the U.S. market," he said. "We've got a much bigger part of the company that's focused on the international market. We try to let them do their business, and we're focusing on where we've been tasked to grow, which is in the U.S. marketplace."

Japan Picks F-35 as Mainstay Fighter: Reports

TOKYO - Japan has chosen the U.S.-made F-35 stealth jet as its next-generation mainstay fighter in a multibillion-dollar deal, reports said Dec. 13.
The Defense Ministry picked the jet made by Lockheed Martin to replace its aging fleet of F-4 jets over two rivals, the Boeing-made F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.
Japan's biggest daily said the Defense Ministry had "agreed in principle" to select the F-35, with a formal announcement expected Dec. 16 at the Security Council of Japan, chaired by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Kyodo News cited unnamed government sources as saying the ministry had decided to buy 40 F-35 fighters, while the Nikkei business daily said only that the jet remained a "prime candidate."
Earlier reports said Japan could buy as many as 50 new jets, equipped with stealth technology, with a price tag of more than $6 billion.
A Defense Ministry spokesman on Dec. 13 declined to confirm the reports, saying: "We are still trying to do our best to make a final decision by the end of this year."
And Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura denied the reports that a final decision had been made, Dow Jones Newswires said.
The F-35, the most expensive weapons program in Pentagon history, has been plagued by cost overruns and technical delays.
The jet, co-developed with British defense giant BAE Systems, is the most expensive among the three candidates, with a price tag estimated at $113 million per aircraft.
Japan initially aimed to acquire the F-22 stealth fighter to renew its fleet, but U.S. law prohibits exports of the jet because the U.S. has said it would halt production of the model.

Australia Courts 3 Firms for Sub Fleet

SYDNEY - Australia said Dec. 13 it had invited three companies from France, Germany and Spain to submit designs for its new submarine fleet, a project expected to span the next 30 years.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith said Canberra had asked French naval defense firm DCNS, Spain's Navantia and HDW of Germany - a ThyssenKrupp subsidiary - to submit designs for the program, which will see 12 new submarines built.
"The Future Submarine Project is a major national undertaking and is of a scale, complexity and duration never before experienced within (the) Defence (Department)," Smith said, adding that Australia would need a "significant amount of help from overseas."
"The submarines will be constructed over the course of the next three decades."
Jason Clare, minister for defence materiel, said the Future Submarines Project would involve hundreds of companies, thousands of workers and many skills that "do not currently exist in sufficient numbers."
"Some of those skills are available overseas, others will have to be grown here. Now is the time to develop a plan to make sure we have the skills we need when we start designing and building the submarines," he said.
Australia unveiled plans in 2009 to spend more than $70 billion boosting its military capability over the next 20 years.

Kiowa Training Crashes Kill 4 U.S. Soldiers

LOS ANGELES - Two military helicopters crashed while on a training mission late Dec. 12 in Washington state, claiming the lives of four Army aviators, military officials said.
The cause of the crashes at a training area southwest of Joint Base Lewis-McChord is being investigated, said base spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield.
"We will conduct a thorough investigation," he said. "We will do everything in our power to support the families of the brave soldiers who died this evening."
Weather is not believed to have been a factor in the accident, as skies were clear when the two OH-58 Kiowa choppers went down.

China Eyes Navy Stop in Seychelles

BEIJING - China has said it may use the Seychelles as a naval supply stop while conducting anti-piracy missions, at the invitation of the Indian Ocean island state.
The announcement comes at a time of growing Indian concern about China's influence in the strategically important Indian Ocean, a vital shipping lane connecting Asia to Europe and the Middle East.
"According to escort needs and the needs of other long-distance missions, China will consider taking supplies or recuperating at appropriate ports in the Seychelles and other countries," the defense ministry said in a statement Dec. 12. The invitation was extended earlier this month during a visit to the Seychelles by Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie.
Beijing has funded or plans to invest in several major infrastructure projects in the Indian Ocean, including ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Reports in China's state-run media quoted military experts as saying the move did not equate to establishing an overseas military base.
China has been heavily involved in anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean.
Since 2008, China has sent 10 escort missions and more than 8,000 military personnel to the Gulf of Aden, escorting more than 4,300 vessels in the process, the official China Daily said.

U.S. Air Force Orders Single Predator C Avenger

The U.S. Air Force is buying a single General Atomics Predator C Avenger jet-powered unmanned combat aircraft, the service said in a document posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website on Dec. 9.
According to the heavily redacted document, Lt. Gen. Thomas Owen, commander of the service's Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, approved the procurement. The value of the sole-source contract was redacted.
The document states that the partially stealthy aircraft will be used in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Predator C is faster, has better sensor capacity and carries a greater payload than the existing MQ-9 Reaper unmanned combat aircraft. The Predator C also has an internal weapons bay and four external hard points, and it is capable of carrying 2,000-pound weapons. The aircraft is compatible with the Reaper's ground control station, the document said.
"This aircraft will act as the test vehicle to develop those next generation UAS [Unmanned Aircraft System] sensors, weapons, and Tactics, Techniques & Procedures (TTPs) ensuring a quick, smooth and efficient fielding of these advanced capabilities to the area of operations," the document said. "Currently, the combatant commanders, with the SECDEF's concurrence, have determined there are insufficient assets in-theater today to gather the necessary information and to fully engage the present threat."
Buying General Atomics' privately funded Predator C aircraft will help the Air Force prepare for current and next generation threats, the document said.
"This effort is an exceptional circumstance not only due to the need outlined by the SAF/AQ [Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition)] but because it fulfills a multi-agency role by providing a test platform for both Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) and customers under an ongoing, classified SECDEF directed program," the document stated.
The aircraft is being procured for classified "customer" who needs the jet urgently. The Predator C was apparently the only aircraft that could fill the Defense Department's needs on such short notice.
Flight International first reported the procurement on Dec. 12.