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.
By Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
Two U.S. Ground-based Interceptor missiles destroyed a target in space during a successful test of the Pentagon’s strategic missile defense system on Monday.
The interceptor missiles were fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. In the first salvo-launch against a target intercontinental missile launched 4,000 miles away at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, according to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
The first GBI destroyed the target missile’s reentry vehicle and the second interceptor zeroed in on debris and blew up the largest piece in a precision kill, the MDA announced.
MDA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves called the first multiple-interceptor test a critical milestone for advancing the missile defense system.
“The system worked exactly as it was designed to do, and the results of this test provide evidence of the practicable use of the salvo doctrine within missile defense,” Greaves said.
By Patrick Tucker • Defense One
LAS VEGAS — The Russian military is inside hundreds of thousands of routers owned by Americans and others around the world, a top U.S. cybersecurity official said on Friday. The presence of Russian malware on the routers, first revealed in May, could enable the Kremlin to steal individuals’ data or enlist their devices in a massive attack intended to disrupt global economic activity or target institutions.
On May 27, Justice Department officials asked Americans to reboot their routers to stop the attack. Afterwards, the world largely forgot about it. That’s a mistake, said Rob Joyce, senior advisor to the director of the National Security Agency and the former White House cybersecurity coordinator.
“The Russian malware is still there,” said Joyce.
On May 8, cybersecurity company Talos observed a spike in mostly Ukrainian victims of a new malware attack. Dubbed VPN Filter, the malware used code similar to the BlackEnergy tool that Russian forces have used (in modified form) to attack Ukrainian infrastructure. The U.S. intelligence community believes the culprits are the hackers known as APT 28 or Fancy Bear, Russian military operatives who were behind information attacks against Continue reading
We shouldn't repeat past mistakes
The Trump Administration has set a new course for American leadership in space, prioritizing space exploration and innovation — a welcome and necessary change to U.S. policy. Reconstituting the National Space Council was an important first step. The President’s plan to develop a military space presence also deserves praise and thoughtful consideration. Unfortunately, some of the specific proposals put forward so far miss the mark and risk undermining the ambitious goals the President has set.
The Administration’s proposal to move space authorities from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation to a new “Space Administration” within the Department of Commerce, for example, is a monumentally terrible idea. The proposed move creates a massive new bureaucracy at a federal department with a terrible track record on cost overruns and management of programs, and little experience executing the task being contemplated.
For years, the Department of Commerce has mismanaged its limited space programs including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Office of Space Commerce’s commercial remote sensing regulations. Of course, the Department of Commerce has other, more well-known boondoggles to consider including the Census, Economic Development Administration and International Trade Administration. Continue reading
The U.S. Air Force is closing in on awarding a contract for its new two-seat jet trainer. The average age of the existing trainer fleet is more than 50 years old. So this upgrade is none too soon. The new trainer, dubbed the T-X, must meet a long list of requirements to help prepare American pilots for a wide variety of complex missions over the next 50 years — including preparing our pilots to fly cutting edge jet fighters like the F-18 Super Hornet, F-22 Raptor, and F-35 Lightning II.
Two of the three major competitors are foreign firms — from Italy and South Korea. They have partnered with two different American companies to bump up their ties to America.
The one American firm, Boeing, is America’s most well-known aerospace company, and has designed and built from the ground up a new jet to specifically meet all of the Air Force’s training requirements and insure that costs — especially operational costs over the life of the jet — are low. Continue reading
Americans understand the importance of arming our military with the best equipment and information. Whether it is a fighter jet, armored vehicle or an information platform, Americans want the brave men and women who defend our nation and our freedom to have every possible advantage in any conflict they may face.
Information technology is finally getting the attention it deserves. The Defense Department is working on an important effort to update and modernize its cloud information capabilities. The program, Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, is designed, for example, to make sure that when our special forces raid a compound, they can receive and transmit updated information in real time. They could get almost immediate translations of documents that are found in the compound which could warn them of immediate dangers and save lives because of the speed with which they would receive vital information and analysis.
JEDI holds tremendous potential to give our war fighters real time access to not only data but high tech analytics. Just as we want our soldiers to have the best equipment, we also want them Continue reading
By Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that Chinese nationals fired lasers near a military base in east Africa against U.S. military aircraft in the region, injuring several pilots.
Pentagon Press Secretary Dana White said the U.S. government made diplomatic protests to the Chinese government over several recent incidents of laser firings near China’s first overseas military base at Djibouti.
“These are very serious incidents. There have been two minor injuries. This activity poses a threat to our airmen,” White told reporters.
“We have formally demarched the Chinese government, and we’ve requested that the Chinese investigate these incidents,” she added.
The number of incidents is “more than Continue reading
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
The defense industry and foreign competitors
For a man of many tag lines, it’s one of his most popular.
“Buy American” is right up there with “Make America Great Again” when President Trump takes to the podium or opens up his Twitter app. Mr. Trump is most at home making a strong case for American workers, and the businesses that employ them.
“I’m here to deliver a simple message: there has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States,” Mr. Trump told the “global elite?” crowd in Davos just weeks ago.
But for those who watch the defense industry closely, the refrain raises a curious question: Will Mr. Trump’s “Buy American” campaign apply to the U.S. Air Force?
This year the Air Force will select a new jet to replace their aging 1960s-era T-38 trainer fleet with 350 new aircraft and the accompanying ground-training systems. With an expected Continue reading
By Natalie Johnson • Washington Free Beacon
The U.S. military has begun redirecting personnel and equipment from Iraq and Syria back to Afghanistan, where the Pentagon hopes to revamp its fight against the Taliban, the top commander of the American-led air campaign in the country said Wednesday.
Air Force Maj. Gen. James Hecker said the drawdown of major operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has enabled U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, to again prioritize the 16-year war in Afghanistan. CENTCOM is the military command responsible for operations in the Middle East and parts of South Asia.
“Afghanistan has become CENTCOM’s main effort thanks to the recent successes in Iraq and Syria,” Hecker told Pentagon reporters from Kabul. “This has allowed CENTCOM to shift more assets our way, which will significantly improve our ability to assist the Afghans.”
The Pentagon’s refocus officially began on Feb. 1. Hecker said CENTCOM began deploying additional aircraft to the NATO-led Resolute Support coalition 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 Morgan Chalfant • Washington Free Beacon
The Marine Corps plans to use a troop level increase approved by Congress this week to strengthen its cyber and information operations capabilities.
The Senate on Thursday approved in a 92-7 vote a sweeping defense policy bill that increases the end strength of the active U.S. armed forces, delivering the bill to President Obama’s desk for him to sign.
The Marine Corps will receive 3,000 additional active-duty troops from the current baseline of 182,000 Marines with the passage of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine commandant, said Wednesday that the service will use the troop increase to add roles to cyber, information operations, intelligence analysis, and electronic warfare capabilities. Continue reading
by George Landrith • American Military News
The U.S. military’s control of the battlefield airspace has become so routine it is now taken for granted. Consider that the last time any American soldier or Marine came under attack from an enemy aircraft was during the Korean War, which ended almost 63 years ago. But U.S. domination of the skies – and protection of U.S. troops on the ground – can no longer be assured. In recent years, countries like Russia and China have upgraded their capabilities while our Air Force has been stiffed for funds needed to recapitalize its aging air fleet.
The advanced ages of America’s fighter, bomber, and refueling tanker fleets have received the most political and media attention and are being addressed, albeit belatedly, by major (and very expensive) modernization programs. Less visible are the air systems that present U.S. commanders with a full battlefield picture, provide the ability to identify and track enemy movements, and thwart enemy attacks on our troops in advance through electronic means. Continue reading
by Peter Huessy
The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget makes a defense spending request that exceeds the Budget Control Act (BCA) spending cap for FY16 by $35 billion with a “base” defense spending request of $534 billion, while also asking Congress for an additional $51 billion for what is known as Overseas Contingency Operations(OCO) that are, under law, not subject to the spending caps.
Of the amount requested by the President, for what is known as the “base” defense budget, $209.8 billion is for operations and maintenance (O&M), $107.7 billion is for procurement, and $69.8 billion for research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E).The remaining costs (largely personnel) are exempt from any cuts.
For the OCO accounts, $40.2 billion is for O&M, and $7.3 billion is requested for procurement with half of that for the US Army. Continue reading