What will we cut in the DOD when the debt level crushes us? #military

With the debt ceiling up in the air—and thus presenting a lot of unknowns–maybe we can save real money by getting rid of unnecessary elements in the DOD.

For instance, just think of the savings if we didn’t have to fund that additional land army and redundant naval air force known as the USMC to such alarming levels.

Regardless, I figure that this problem is going to solve itself  when the crushing debt becomes self-aware sometime this year.

Marines declare initial operating capability with the Zulu Cobra attack helicopter #military

Here is the full press release from NAVAIR.

Marines declare AH-1Z Cobra operational

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The Marine Corps’ newest attack helicopter, the AH-1Z Cobra, achieved Initial Operating Capability ahead of schedule in February.

“Getting the AH-1Z to IOC has been a huge achievement for the entire team,” said Col. Harry Hewson, program manager for U.S. Marine Corps Light and Attack Helicopters. “Now we get to put the Zulu in the hands of the Marines and prove that it is indeed the most capable marinized attack helicopter in the world.”

As part of the H-1 Upgrades Program, the AH-1Z replaces the currently fielded AH-1W. The AH-1Z will serve a primary role in assault support, offensive air support and air reconnaissance. Cobras will play a supporting role in anti-air warfare, electronic warfare, and control of aircraft and missiles.

The new Cobras feature 10,000 flight-hour airframes, a new four-bladed rotor system with semi-automatic blade fold of the new composite rotor blades, new performance matched transmissions, a new four-bladed tail rotor and drive system, upgraded landing gear, and pylon structural modifications. The Cobra also incorporates modernized, fully integrated cockpits/avionics that will reduce operator work load while improving situational awareness and safety.

The AH-1Z is equipped with two General Electric T700-GE-401 series engines and greatly increased lift capability and stores capacity, giving it a significantly greater ordnance payload for future growth potential. The primary weapon system is the Hellfire missile. It is fully shipboard compatible, and capable of operating from prepared or unprepared landing sites, day or night.

The Marine Corps will remanufacture 131 AH-1W helicopters into AH-1Z aircraft and build 58 new AH-1Zs. The projected inventory for the AH-1Z is 189 helicopters. Full operational capability, defined as when all AH-1Z maintenance and repair support, test equipment, and spares are in place to support active component force primary aircraft authorization, is expected to be achieved in 2020.

AH-1Z Cobras were first delivered in 2007 by prime contractor Bell Helicopter Textron Incorporated. The Department of Defense authorized the Cobra for full-rate production in November 2010. The first deployment of the AH-1Z is scheduled for later this year with a Marine Expeditionary Unit. This will be the first opportunity for the AH-1Z and UH-1Y to deploy together. The UH-1Y is already on its third rotation to Operation Enduring Freedom.

“The expeditionary agility that the Yankee/Zulu package brings to the Marine Air/Ground Task Force is exactly what the Marine Corps needs as we continue to fight two wars and conduct numerous other engagements in every clime and place,” Hewson said. “I am proud to be a part of the team that is making that happen.”

Boeing’s evolved Super Hornet, the F-35 as an “F-35 killer”, and it sux to be USMC General Amos #military

The January 17 print edition of Aviation week has an article featuring Boeing’s plan for an evolved Super Hornet. In it is a photo of an F-18E Super Hornet setup as a show-room floor engineering study to showcase a variety of future equipment.

It shows an odd looking IRST that hangs off the gun door (the avionics boxes for it being located somewhere else), a big center-line low observable weapons bay that could carry one 2000 or 1000 pound class JDAM, or two 500 pound class JDAMs or four AMRAAMs or four Small Diameter Bombs (SDB).

It also has the shoulder conformal fuel tanks which together are good for an extra 3000 pounds of gas.

The article goes on to show an advanced cockpit (not part of the mockup) that can only be what you would see if there was a Boeing F-32 Joint Strike Fighter.

Also mentioned are uprated engines. We have seen this offered for the Super Hornet before; either you get a little more thrust or you can get more reliability, but not both. Part of the motivation for the uprated motors was that the wheezing performance of an already under-powered design was an attempt to make Pudgy competitive for India. Stock motors may put out 22k of thrust on a test stand but not when installed on the aircraft.

The article makes claims of lots of range. I won’t say what the numbers are because they don’t sound all that believable. Boeing mentions improved range and even more with external tanks but doesn’t mention that unless they want to redesign the wing, those external stores along with their pylons will be pointing outward 4 degrees; a result of design inbreeding without thinking things through otherwise known as history. Early in the Super program, the design crew had to come up with a way to keep dropped stores from bashing into each other and the aircraft after trouble was discovered in the wind tunnel. The kludge of a fix–outward pointing pylons and stores–means that every time an admiral gets up in front of congress and reports that the Super Hornet has 40 percent more range than the classic; he doesn’t have a clue of what he is talking about.

So for Boeings range claims; they require a flying version of the mockup. They state (like F-16 tests have shown) that the conformal fuel tanks don’t hurt performance much. With that, I think the conformals are a good thing. They will give more range than stock Super Hornets.

The article teases us with part if its title “JSF Killer?”. To that I would say; “no”. So far the only thing that has killed the F-35 program is the F-35 program. There wouldn’t be 24 Super Hornets in Australian service if in 2006, the F-35 program didn’t spook the then Defence Minister, Mr. Nelson. The Navy would not be buying more Super Hornets if the F-35 program was composed of sound engineering practice. Instead, what the American public and Joint Strike Fighter Partner nations get are fairy tales of F-35 greatness; no superlative spared.

The evolved Super Hornet would be a great power-hitter for the U.S.; 12 years ago during Operation: ALLIED FORCE. This evolved design would be great if all your enemy had were legacy SAM systems and some half-broken down MiG-29s.

Today? Well this Boeing mockup can be looked at not only as a combined package but as a buffet. If you only added the conformal tanks to a Block II Super Hornet, the United States Marines would have just the kind of aircraft needed to support their ground troops. The Super Hornet will always be cheaper than an F-35 (until real evidence appears). It will always be more proven than an F-35 (until real evidence appears). It will always be more practical than an F-35 (until real evidence appears).

Neither the Super Hornet (in any form) or the F-35 can stand up to advanced air defense systems growing in the Pacific Rim, so any claim that the F-35 will help deal with this problem is a pure nonsense. The F-35–if it ever matures–like the Super Hornet, will always be a second-tier strike aircraft which will need the likes of the F-22 to make the airspace safe vs. hard threats.

It sucks to be Marine General Amos forced to sell the Just So Failed idea to anyone gullible enough to listen. If the USMC is seriously interested in sustaining their fighter flying club, they better come up with a plan-B.

Top Marine doesn’t like the Corps. #military

My god. I love the Corps. But really, if this is the kind of leadership we are going to put in charge of one of our most deadly and useful forces, we are going to have to smarten this guy up or unfortunately, find someone else for the job. Good grief. I feel sorry for people that think this way.

“We’ve not done a good job of recruiting diversity in the Marine Corps, and I’m going to change that,” Amos said. “And by the way, I’m going to change it by not lowering standards. I’m going to change it by not having quotas. … I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but I’ve got smart Marines who are going to help me figure it out.”

What ever happened to just finding the recruit/officer candidate that meets stadards as-is? The Corps doesn’t care what your origin is. And; not everyone can qualify to be a Marine. That’s a hard fact. I hope somebody in this guys peer group takes him to the side in private tells him his priorities need some adjustment. Do it for us; for America.

As for Afghanistan; it would be great to use the few Marines we have for jobs only they can do. We don’t need them doing jobs in Operation: USELESS DIRT that can be done by the Army.

Rent-seeking official-F-35B cuts unlikely #military

This would be funny if it wasn’t sad. People in the Pentagon (since the White House has already hinted it is OK) are looking at dumping the F-35B. I wouldn’t use the word of a rent-seeking organiser to draw upon for comfort.

The F-35 squadrons proposed for Marine Corps Air Station Yuma should not be affected by a potential cut to the defense budget, says a local economic leader, who stressed that funding for the jets has already been allocated.

Numerous national news agencies reported Monday that leaders of a federal deficit reduction panel are proposing as much as $100 billion worth of defense cuts for the 2015 budget. Included in potential cuts is the cancellation of a version of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jet, according to Bloomberg.com.

“I don’t think it’s going to impact the record of decision at all,” said Julie Engel, president and CEO of Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp. Engel added that construction bids for the squadrons’ hangar have already gone out and funding has been allocated to the Marine Corps.

The U.S. Navy carrier air wing roadmap is still in trouble #military

So what will Gates do for Tuesday’s F-35 tree-of-woe announcement? I would be surprised if he admitted a mistake but I guess it is possible.

Later in the month there will be another DOD get-together to see where they want to take the program. I do think that Gates will have run out of patience with all of this.

I don’t think you will see anyone in that clan suggest producing more F-22s. That would make too much sense for this crowd. You cannot reverse decisions made by royalty.

While the United States Air Force (USAF) may be in trouble, certainly the U.S. Navy and the United States Marine Corps are in for some come-to-Jesus decisions with this aircraft.

The Marines have a few options. There is still a lot of airframe life in some of the Harriers if they are willing to cherry pick airframes; certainly enough to get them out to the 2020s. Until then, they should go ahead and get gap-filler Super Hornet Block II two-seat F-model aircraft to fill out some of their need. This would be easy to do and give them some good power quickly.

The Navy is looking at a reality of having two fast jet squadrons of aircraft for each aircraft carrier. Even if the F-35C comes through, they are looking at a 3 fast jet squadron carrier wing, 1 with F-35C, 1 with Super E and 1 with Super F.

Also there are early lot Supers that cannot be converted to Block II. So a continuing production of Super Hornet Block II has to take that into account and the fact that those early Supers will be getting old, along with the problem of classic Hornets going away.

That is the reality for the carrier air wing. This is the box Navy planners have put themselves in.

If Gates and Carter are smart, they will kill the F-35 program. If they are half-smart, they will kill the F-35B which is taking up too much time, money and effort for no useful gain.

What you see in a Hornet photo- #military

This is a typical photo of a Hornet config (classic or Super) in the new era where almost every air-to-ground weapon is a precision guided munition. As a legacy of the Hornet family design, the most practical place to have the electro/optical-laser pod is on the left waist. So, in order for the pod to have a good field of view; you go with an asymmetric config with no left drop tank.

Also note; the USMC are doing good work without using a STOVL aircraft.

DoD in Action – Photo of the Day: Two U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 312 fly in formation after taking on fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron over Afghanistan. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin, U.S. Air Force/Released)

How to keep the USMC from making a terrible mistake–The F-18F #military

More from that Navy guy re: the intervention that is needed to get the USMC back on track with tac air.

ARGUMENTS FOR THE F/A-18F

The F/A-18F would revolutionize the way Marines provide close-air support. Using an active electronically scanned array radar, an advanced targeting pod, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) and an expanded communications suite, the dual-seat F/A-18F has the potential to be the most capable airborne forward air controller, or FAC(A), platform in the world. No matter how “sensor-fused,” single-seat aircraft are not optimum FAC(A) platforms.

Since the retirement of the A-4 and A-6, the Marine Corps has not possessed a tactical tanker. Marine Air Group (MAG) assets rely on the slower KC-130 for aerial refueling. An F/A-18F equipped with an aerial refueling store is capable of delivering more than 20,000 pounds of fuel to other jet aircraft at tactical airspeeds and altitudes. Having an organic tactical tanker would be a force multiplier for the MAG commander and would provide an internal capability to increase the range of the F-35B in a high-threat scenario.

The Navy operates the F/A-18F exclusively within its carrier air wings. Continuing to employ an aircraft capable of operating in a carrier air wing would provide the Marine Corps with basing flexibility and a stake in the future of naval aviation. Flying a common tactical-air platform ensures uncomplicated interoperability should the need arise.

Keeping a two-seat tac-air platform in the Marine Corps also retains a high-value asset that once lost will be expensive and time-consuming to replace: the weapon systems officer (WSO). As it makes its way toward an all-STOVL force, the Marine Corps is phasing out WSOs who fly in the F/A-18D and EA-6B. However, a WSO operating the advanced crew station in the back seat of an F/A-18F while wearing a JHMCS would provide a capability for close-air support that is unequaled in any current single-seat platform.

Finally, procuring the F/A-18F at the end of its production run allows the Marine Corps to get the most refined version of the aircraft with the least amount of risk at one-third the price of the F-35B. This is how the Corps has historically procured aircraft, and with good reason. As a smaller service with a smaller budget, it is necessary to leverage cost advantages when so blatantly presented with the option. Looking beyond per-unit cost to the total ownership cost of the aircraft over its projected service life, the latest study by Naval Air Systems Command suggests that the F-35B/C will cost up to 40 percent more to operate than the aircraft they replace.

USMC may fly USAF conventional runway F-35 due to delays with F-35 STOVL #military

Because of delays with the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant combined with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) do-or-die want for initial operating capability with the F-35 in 2012, one idea floated is to get Marines going with the U.S. Air Force conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35A.

After all, most times USMC F-18s are used as land based attack aircraft.

We’ll see how fast (any) IOC happens once they start working with mission-systems aircraft.