By George Landrith • RealClear Defense
It is time to upgrade our military’s heavy-lift helicopter capabilities. The current workhorse, the CH-47 Chinook, has served our country since 1962. Despite its age, the Chinook is still the most capable heavy lift helicopter on the planet — flying at almost 200 miles per hour which is roughly the speed that the Army wants its next-generation Scout aircraft to fly. Our allies use the Chinook as well — precisely because of its utility and capability.
Over the years, the Chinook has been upgraded and new technology built in. As a result, our allies use the Chinook because it is a highly capable platform, and it is the world class heavy lift helicopter. However, the military’s needs have grown, and additional capabilities are needed. The question is how to most effectively and efficiently meet those needs.
Given the Chinook’s inherent strengths and capabilities, the wisest approach is to update and upgrade the Chinook so that it can increase payload, range, and other vital capabilities. With the right upgrades to the drivetrain, rotors, and other systems, this capable and proven aircraft will continue to be the world class heavy lift helicopter platform for decades to come. Following this approach means our heavy lift needs are amply met and at a much lower cost — which means we also have available resources for other crucial national security needs. That’s a win-win.
However, recently, Army Secretary Mark Esper made remarks that suggested he wasn’t interested in upgrades, but would instead start over from scratch. Sometimes starting over from scratch makes sense. But often it doesn’t. This is one of those times where starting from scratch will waste taxpayer dollars and leave our military in a lurch while a brand new helicopter is developed and produced at a much higher initial cost and increased sustainment costs.
If the Pentagon starts over from scratch, the new helicopter fleet will not be available to our warfighters for another 30 to 40 years or longer. In contrast, an updated and upgraded Chinook is already in the works and can be rolled out relatively rapidly and at a much lower cost. This approach would give our military the world-class heavy lift helicopter it needs going well into the future, and it would save money so that other critical military needs are not neglected.
The Chinook can carry dozens of fully equipped infantry or special operators. It can transport 10 tons of supplies and equipment. It can even carry the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (which replaces the older up-armored Humvee and provides a more capable and survivable vehicle) or a 155m howitzer in a sling below the aircraft. Cost effective upgrades and updates can increase payload, range, and other important capabilities. All of these upgrades can be done at a fraction of the cost of simply starting over.
Special operators who fly the most dangerous and demanding missions in the Army swear by the Chinook and trust their lives in it. Even Espers, while signaling he wants to move on, admits that the Chinook “is a very good aircraft” and that it should continue to be used by our special operations forces. He even admits that perhaps the future is simply “a version of the [Chinook]. I don’t know.” Clearly, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the Chinook as a platform. It is battle tested and battle proven.
The wise choice would be to update and upgrade the Chinook — that would give our warfighters the capability they need and do so in the most efficient way possible. That means other mission-critical tools required by our warfighters can also be afforded.
The truth is that the Chinook can continue to serve American warfighters with the right updates and upgrades. And these updates are already in the works. It would be foolish to shut that down and waste money by starting over. This doesn’t require much imagination. With a new drivetrain, upgraded and redesigned rotors, and other new or upgraded systems, the lift capability, range and speed, can all be increased — even beyond its current world-class capability. This makes sense for the warfighter and the taxpayer. Esper would be wise to pursue the truth that even he admitted — our future heavy-lift helicopters “may be a version of [the Chinook.]”
In a world where the government needs to do more with less, upgrading the Chinook makes a lot of sense. This will give our warfighters the greater range, speed, and payload capacity that will be needed in the future. And while achieving all of these milestones, it will keep both production costs and sustainment costs lower. Ditching the Chinook and starting from scratch makes no sense at all — either for the warfighter or the taxpayer.
By Phil Kiver • Washington Times
As a former member of the military who served in multi-branch operations, I understand the need for diversity when equipping our service members. Our Air Force should not be one dimensional. The current fight over procurement of the Air Force fighter; the F-15X, is an easy decision, because having diversity in the air fleet provides flexibility that current conditions require. As I well understand, different missions require different strengths, capabilities and tools.
Some lawmakers are pushing the F-35 fighter jet over the F-15X because of the fear of budgetary constraints in the future. Defense News reported on February 27, 2019, “Lockheed Martin and U.S. Air Force officials may be downplaying the prospect of an upcoming budget battle surrounding the F-15X and the F-35 fighter jets, but F-35 supporters in Congress and around the Capital Beltway are mounting an offensive against Boeing’s new F-15 variant.”
The report indicates that “all signs point to the Air Force unveiling its plan to buy a new version of the F-15 in its fiscal 2020 budget proposal, tentatively scheduled for release in mid-March. Though numbers have fluctuated, a Feb. 19 report from Bloomberg says the service plans to purchase eight F-15X planes in FY20, with an expected total buy of about 80 jets.” Right now the plan is for the Air Force to purchase both the F-35 and the F-15X. The F-15X is an upgrade to existing F-15s in service.
The U.S. Air Force just changed the game when it comes to global air mobility by signing off on first delivery for Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker. The first KC-46 Pegasus Tankers will begin arriving at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas in the coming weeks, where Airmen will begin training for their future mission.
The success and safety of our military forces responding to constantly evolving threats and crises around the world relies on our Air Force’s global reach, giving us the ability to hit targets and deliver troops and supplies anywhere in the world. Our global reach and that of our allies would not be possible without America’s superior air refueling capability — a capability that is limited and jeopardized by our current fleet of Eisenhower-era tankers.
The aerial refueling tankers our Air Force operates now are mostly KC-135s that date back a half-century. The fleet’s last real update was the KC-10 procurement over thirty years ago. These aircraft face serious limitations in responding to modern threats. Continue reading
By Natalie Johnson • Washington Free Beacon
The United States Air Force is accelerating investment in space as Chinese advancements threaten to penetrate American systems in the previously uncontested domain, top service officials said during a congressional hearing Tuesday.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Air Force secretary Heather Wilson and chief of staff General David Goldfein both identified China’s space innovation and “rapid growth” in military capabilities among their top concerns facing the service in the coming years.
“Some of the work they’re doing in space, it’s very aggressive,” Goldfein said. “We built our space architecture in an era when space was a rather benign domain, so … we’re very focused on taking some bold moves in this budget to increase our ability to defend what we have in space.”
By The Hill•
This month on the brink of another deadline, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2018, including hundreds of billions in critical funding for the U.S. military. As with any 2,322 page bill, some of the most interesting consequences are the ones you haven’t read about yet.
Included in the spending bill was $600 million for two additional Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellites badly needed by the U.S. Air Force. The WGS system is the backbone of our military’s global satellite communications, currently providing the vast majority of the global high-data-rate communications capability for marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, the White House Communication Agency, the U.S. State Department, and some of our key international partners. As you might imagine, secure and dependable satellite communications are vital for the global security missions we demand of our military every day.
WGS satellites provide excellent value for the taxpayer. Boeing and the Air Force have been able to increase capability on each successive WGS, while at the same time reducing the per-satellite cost. WGS satellites also have unique military features that allow it to operate in contested, warfighting environments. Continue reading
One of the primary reasons the original 13 colonies formed a constitutional federal government was to provide for the common defense. Even more than 200 years ago, the Founders understood that the world was a dangerous place. Today, it is even more so. We have more adversaries with more powerful weapons, and they are much closer to us than in the 18th century. Oceans once separating us by months, now only separate us by minutes.
Powerful nation states, like Russia and China, now threaten America. But what might be an even larger concern are rogue states with unhinged and unbalanced leaders like North Korea and Iran. While the spreading danger of radical Islamist jihadism is ongoing, since Sept. 11, 2001, we’ve focused primarily on the terrorism threat, and done little to be better prepared for the more traditional nation state threats.
America needs a military force which can deter any who may endanger Americans. And when an enemy will not be deterred, we must have a military which will quickly defeat them. Some believe diplomacy should play a greater role, but I would argue military preparedness also augments our diplomatic efforts, making conflict less likely. Continue reading
To project power and protect America the U.S. military requires a robust American sealift capability. Transporting materials and weaponry over across the high seas is a key component of America’s ability to protect its interests around the globe yet it is often overlooked, misunderstood and underappreciated.
History teaches this lesson unmistakably. In 1812, when the greatest army the world had seen up to that time launched an invasion of Russian. Napoleon had an army of almost 700,000 men. At first his troops routed the opposition wherever they engaged but, as he led his forces deeper and deeper into Russia, supplies ran short and his men began to starve.
As winter came, his men began to freeze, not from fear but from hypothermia. Napoleon was forced to beat a hasty retreat back to France, leaving 380,000 dead, 100,000 captured, and many so sick that they could no longer fight. His once great army had only 27,000 soldiers capable of fighting. Continue reading
About 40 years ago, Ronald Reagan and U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop shared breakfast at U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt’s ranch. Virtually no one knew that this meeting took place or understood how important it would be to America’s security. As friends shared breakfast, Wallop explained the need for a robust missile defense — including developing a space-based defensive system. Once elected to office, President Reagan made it a national goal to develop effective high-tech defenses against missile attacks. That policy objective was an important factor in the U.S. winning the Cold War. Simply stated, even before missile defense was able to shoot down a missile, it was helping America defeat the Soviets.
During most of the last decade, missile defense was de-emphasized. It was a self-evidently foolish policy decision even though some offered misguided defenses of it. But now, given recent news from North Korea, few could argue that the Obama Administration’s disdain for missile defense has served America’s interests. Kim Jong Un has pushed North Korea’s nuclear program to develop nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach our West Coast. Pyongyang intends to threaten not just the West Coast, but all of America. Iran is headed in the same dangerous direction as North Korea. Continue reading
As nuclear threats grow, the U.S. needs more advanced protection.
Liberal opposition to missile defense has persisted since the 1980s, but the politics may be changing with technological progress and the rising threat from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons. Congress has an opportunity this summer to notch a rare bipartisan deal that enhances U.S. security.
Kim has already overseen more nuclear and missile tests than his father and grandfather combined, and the Defense Intelligence Agency warns that “if left on its current trajectory” Pyongyang will develop a capacity to hit Japan, Alaska, Hawaii or even the U.S. West Coast. The Trump Administration is pleading with China to stop the North, but Chinese leaders never seem to act and they’re even trying to block regional missile defenses in South Korea.
Meanwhile, the U.S. last month successfully tracked and shot down a mock intercontinental ballistic missile, akin to a bullet hitting a bullet. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD)—first fielded in 2004 but untested since 2014—has a success rate of nine in 17 intercept trials. But even the failures show the GMD is increasingly effective. Continue reading
After a decade and a half of actively fighting terrorism around the globe while simultaneously imposing tighter and tighter budget squeezes, our military faces clear and unmistakable shortages in critical systems like ready-to-deploy fighter jets. These gaps grow larger and larger with each passing year and in the near future become alarming. As our fleets age, more and more, air craft carrier groups and squadrons are running short of planes. Media reports of cannibalized aircraft in museums to keep military aircraft in the air are not comforting. We cannot continually choke our military and hope to defend ourselves against ever increasing threats.
The Trump Administration has correctly identified the need to rebuild and strengthen our defenses. And they have shown an interest in getting the job done “on time and under budget.” That too is an important focus. The good news is it that we can rebuild our military and give our war fighters the best tools and systems on the planet and “come in on time and under budget.”
Here is one way we can do both — reinforce our military and be mindful of the taxpayer’s wallet. While we need a next generation stealth fighter with capabilities like the F-35, an effective air defense needs a wide variety of tools with varying capabilities and not all of them must cost nearly $132 billion each. We may see all fighter jets as being just like the other ones — super fast, super maneuverable jets that shoot and bomb things. But the truth is there are different missions and different missions and roles for different planes and they are not all the same. Continue reading
By Peter Roff • Townhall
The Trump administration budget document recently released projects an increase in security and defense spending of more than $50 billion. It’s a needed shot in the arm, provided it’s spent wisely and on things actually necessary.
It’s important the defense community realize the days of blank checks are over. There’s no problem in government that can be solved just by throwing more money at it. This includes the vital functions performed by the Pentagon, the service branches, and the Department of Homeland Security. They too need to understand they have to find ways to do more with less just like every other part of the federal government even if the Congress and the president are willing, at the start, to give them more.
The higher number in Trump’s initial budgeting is due not just to the threat posed by ISIS but by the increasing belligerence of rogue states like North Korea (which is consistently testing missiles they argue will go farther and farther once in the air) and Iran. Continue reading
by Morgan Chalfant • Daily Caller
The U.S. Army’s ground combat systems risk being surpassed by those being developed by foreign countries such as Russia and China, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
The Army is currently using main battle tanks, tracked infantry fighting vehicles, tracked self-propelled artillery, and multiple launch rocket systems developed during the Soviet era. Billion-dollar plans to modernize the force’s ground combat systems have been cancelled over the last decade.
Meanwhile, potential adversaries have prioritized funding new weapons systems and technologies for their forces, raising concerns among American experts about the shrinking capability gap between the United States and other nations. Continue reading
By George Landrith • American Military News
North Korea has test fired five new missiles and claims to have successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen bomb. Iran too is racing towards nuclear weapons and advanced missile technology. Around the globe, risks are increasing. As a result, deterrence is more important than ever.
There was a time when deterrence simply meant having retaliatory nuclear weapons. But the risks are far more complex than a generation ago. Maintaining a strong and credible nuclear deterrent is absolutely necessary. But by itself, it is not enough. Today, the risks are too varied to have a single solution. The US must have a robust, multifaceted, broad-based deterrent to stop the world’s evil doers. A modern military deterrent includes: (i) a strong up-to-date nuclear threat; (ii) a robust multi-layered missile defense; and (iii) a powerful conventional military force that can meet any threat and defeat any foe.
The need for a nuclear deterrent is clear. If any nation is tempted to use nuclear weapons, they must know that the retaliatory nuclear strike that would follow, would be devastating. With our nuclear weapons aging and more than a generation old, however, we must make needed upgrades to our nuclear triad. Continue reading
by George Landrith • Daily Caller
National security conservatives and military experts have long warned about steep cuts to the defense budget in recent years. These warnings have been largely waived off even as even as the world continued to grow more dangerous and unstable – from Eastern Europe to the Middle East to the Korean Peninsula and South China Sea.
Today, the consequences of shortchanging defense have now become all too real, as our military has been forced into making dangerous trade-offs between size and technological superiority, training and maintenance, compensation and modernization, and much more. For example, the active U.S. Army is shrinking towards becoming its smallest since before World War II. The average age of an Air Force aircraft is 26 years, the oldest ever (aerial refueling tankers are past the half-century mark). And inadequate funding for Navy maintenance, training, and modernization has reduced readiness fleet-wide and contributed to a growing shortfall of strike fighters – in particular the F/A-18 Super Hornets that are the mainstay of carrier aviation wings. Continue reading
by Gillian Rich • Investor’s Business Daily
A matchup between Lockheed Martin’s (NYSE:LMT) F-35 vs. the older A-10 Warthog isn’t so “silly” after all. The Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation said late Thursday that it would run tests to evaluate how the F-35 stacks up in close-air support vs. the A-10, according to Defense News. The tests will use the latest upgrade of the 3F software for the F-35 and take place in 2018.
Lockheed shares fell 0.9% to 203.61 in late-afternoon trade in the stock market today.
The announcement comes after Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the press Monday that he wasn’t aware of any tests between the two planes and said a matchup “would be a silly exercise.” Continue reading