Posts filed under ‘Washington’
Next Generation Bomber.
Northrop Grumman has won the competition to build the next Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) for the U.S. Air Force, officials announced Tuesday (October 27) at the Pentagon.
The contract award — calls for Northrop Grumman to produce 21 aircraft costing up to $550 million apiece(in 2010 dollars) — which translates to $606 million in today’s dollars. The Air Force plans to buy 100 aircraft in all, but later aircraft are expected to cost less under a as full rate production gets underway. The Air Force picked Northrop Grumman’s offering over one by a team consisting of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
The LRS-B is designed to replace two of the Air Force’s aging bomber fleets — the Cold War era B-52 Stratofortresses, which are all over 50 years old and the supersonic B-1 Lancer bombers now over 30 years old. The B-2 Spirit stealthy bomber will still be flying into mid century.
According to the Air Force, the LRS-B provides the strategic agility to launch from the United States and strike any target, any time around the globe. The Air Force has said the aircraft could be optionally manned and the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh, called it a “dual capable bomber.”
The Air Force hopes to begin deploying the new bombers in the mid-2020s, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, said. Originally, the Air Force thought it would have deployable bombers by 2018 but then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates halted the program in 2009 because of skyrocketing costs driven by new and unproven technology, according to Defense One.
“A bid protest [by the losing team] seems inevitable,” says Defense News “given that LRS-B is the first major military aircraft acquisition program since the JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] award in 2001, and likely the last until the sixth-generation fighter [in the] next decade.” A lengthy protest period could delay the program’s start.
“As the company that developed and delivered the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, we look forward to providing the Air Force with a highly-capable and affordable next-generation Long-Range Strike Bomber,” said Wes Bush, chairman, chief executive officer and president, Northrop Grumman.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is playing it close to the vest when it comes to disclosing details — how big, how much payload will it carry, how fast does it fly, even little ones like what the new aircraft is going to be called — besides the B-3. Officials did not release any photos of what the new bomber looks like — or may look like.
Back in 2012, Smithsonian Air & Space magazine asked your 4GWAR editor to imagine what the new aircraft might look like for a stand-alone, special edition. You can see what we — along with some aviation experts and illustrator Paul DiMare — envisioned the bomber of the future might look like.
You can see that image by clicking here.
Who knows, maybe in a year or so we might be seeing the LRSB itself and have a chance to see what we got wrong — or right.
Two Big Conferences.
But this week, we want to call your attention to two important conferences running almost simultaneously in the Washington D.C. area.
UNMANNED SYSTEMS DEFENSE
The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) — the trade group of robotic and autonomous systems makers, researchers, developers and users — holds their annual meeting with the military, technology experts and the defense industry. Presentations and panel discussions will review the Pentagon’s programs for drones and robots that fly in the sky, roll or walk across the ground or swim in or under the sea. In fact, the gathering used to be called the program review but now it’s called Unmanned Systems Defense.
It runs for three days, starting Tuesday (October 27) at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Arlington (Pentagon City), Virginia. Each day is dedicated to a different battlespace: maritime, air and ground. Speakers will include program managers and officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — along with several congressmen and officials from Special Operations Command and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
For more information, click here.
The companies and organizations that supply goods, servcies and technology to peacekeepers, relief groups, advisers and other non-governmental organizations are also meeting in the Washington area this week. The International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) is holding its 10th summit at the National Press Club starting Wednesday (October 28).
ISOA says it represents companies and organizations “whose work lays the foundation for long term stability and growth in the world’s most unstable places. We serve the implementing community, providing member services focused on contracting, partnerships, regulatory and legal developments, research initiatives, policy movement, and whatever else our members deem important.”
We last wrote about ISOA in 2013, when some ISOA members expressed interest in possible using drones to obtain intelligence about possible danger in remote locations, finding refugees who have fled violence or food shortages and where the greatest need for food is in vast regions with few roads.
Among the speakers ISOA members will hear from at the two-day event: the former head of U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham (ret.); Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS and the Islamic State); the former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), rerired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Program Support), Gary Motsek.
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, VIRGINIA — We went south of Washington this week for a first-time visit to the Modern Day Marine (MDM) expo and confrence.
Unlike massive military and industry conferences like the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space in April and the Association of the U.S. Army gathering next month in Washington, Modern Day Marine is held outdoors (in large air conditioned tents) instead of in a huge convention center. Even the panel discussions conducted by Marine Corps brass are held in a very big tent with folding chairs on temporary flooring.
At the first panel discussion, several generals and a couple of colonels talked about the importance of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), pronounced MAGTAF. It’s the Corps’ basic expeditionary force that can put Marines ashore via landing craft, helicopters — or both — as part of a rapid response to a crisis. We’ll discuss this more over the weekend.
But we want to get to the four monster amphibious vehicles on display facing each other in one of the expo’s big tents.
For years the Marine Corps has been looking for a replacement for its aging Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV), a tracked landing craft that has been around since the 1970s. Five companies are competing for the contract to build the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) to replace the AAV.
The original planned replacement vehicle, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), was cancelled in 2011 by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates for being too expensive and behind schedule.
Now the Marines are looking for a big vehicle that can carry at least 10 Marines (beside an operating crew of three), get them to the beach from a ship as much as 12 nautical miles off shore, at a speed of at least 6 knots. The ACV will have to be as rugged and protective as a tank but be able to carry troops far inland quickly, if necessary.
Lockheed Martin unveiled its offering for the first time on Tuesday (September 22). Like all of the others on display, it is an 8×8 behemoth. The desert tan vehicle can carry as many as 13 Marines as well as a three-person crew.
BAE Systems, which makes the current AAV, is hoping to replace it with its entry displayed in forest camouflage colors.
Science Applications International Corporation, better known as SAIC, had its gray Terrex 2 vehicle on display. The Terrex can carry 11 passengers plus a crew of three.
Last but not least was a solid green 8X8 from General Dynamics.
Also in the hunt for the ACV program — but not at MDM — is a team consisting of of Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems and St Kinetics, a Singapore company.
The Marines are expected to select two vehicles from the five offerings in November. Each company will then provide 16 vehicles to be tested in all types of climes and conditions.
[More on Modern Day Marine this weekend. Stay tuned.]
Fighting Illegal Amazon Logging.
Government officials in Brazil say fighting illegal logging of the Amazon rainforest is like battling illegal narcotics operations elsewhere.
Maria Luisa de Sousa has been co-ordinating a month-long operation to halt illegal logging in northern and eastern Mato Grosso state by the government-funded institute responsible for environmental protection. She says the fight to save the Amazon is increasingly a fight against organized crime. “You can compare it to the struggle against drugs trafficking. The crime and the criminals keep on adapting,” she tells the BBC in a piece today (July 9) on the battle to save the rainforest.
De Sousa’s organization, Ibama, uses helicopters to spot timber poachers from the air. But in the future, unmanned aircraft are expected to join the fight to preserve the Amazon region — which represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and has been called the Lungs of the World. Last May in Atlanta, at the huge annual robotics conference of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), several unmanned aircraft manufacturers told 4GWAR that they expected the need to persistent aerial surveillance in the Amazon region and elsewhere in Brazil will heat up the Latin American market for drones — large and small. We’ll be writing more about this at 4GWAR in coming weeks.
Meanwhile, according to the BBC report byew monthly figures show that deforestation rates in some parts of Brazil have almost doubled compared to last year. Those statistics also show that increasing amounts of wood are illegally taken from protected indigenous reserves.
Back in 2010, Brazil announced a new strategic defense plan calling for increased military presence in the Amazon region to link national defense with national development by protecting and leveraging Brazil’s large water, agricultural and energy resources. That plan called for building up Air Force, Army and Navy capabilities including five new submarines and supplying its own satellite imagery — rather than but it from other countries.
Even though President Dilma Rousseff has cut government spending as the country staggers through a contracting economy, Brazil is still among the top 15 countries with the highest military spending in 2014, according to data gathered by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visited Washington in late June and met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. And that seemed to signal that after two years of acrimony, the two countries were moving to reset their relations, according to an article in the World Politics Review.
Bilateral relations cooled significantly after revelations in 2013 by rogue National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden of U.S. eavesdropping on Brazilian officials — including Rousseff. The Brazilian president cancelled her state visit scheduled for that October, after the scandal broke.
In the intervening years, Russia has sought closer ties with Brazil — particularly in defense technology sales. Brazil is set to buy Russian Pantsir air defense systems in early 2016.
Last Fall, Brazil announced it was buying its next generation fighter jets from Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab. Brazile will pay $5.4 billion (39.3 billion Swedish krona) for 36 new Saab Gripen NG jetfighter airplanes.
A Marine Corps bugler plays “Taps” beside the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
You’ve probably seen the famous photo of the Iwo Jima flag-raising. You may even have seen a photo of this statue, which stands across the river from Washington, D.C. But you may not have seen one that demonstrates just how monumental this sculpture is. After the bloody World War II battle, Admiral Chester Nimitz made the now-famous observation: “Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
The Independence Day festivities haven’t begun yet (although July 3 is the day this year we’ll celebrate the nation’s birthday because the 4th of July falls on a Saturday), but we wanted to present a FRIFO with a little history, a little color and, perhaps a little magic. We think this photo fits the bill. Please click on it with mouse or finger to enlarge the image for the full effect.
And have a safe and happy holiday while pausing to remember the 56 brave men who pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” and signed a document 239 years ago on a hot summer day in Philadelphia that changed the world. And please remember all the brave men and women who came after them to defend the ideas behind that document on battlefields and factory floors, in courtrooms and classrooms, at town halls and lunch counters.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA, AND MANY MORE.
A “Drone-Saturated World”.
Industry is looking to use unmanned aircraft for a variety of commercial purposes — from monitoring crops and livestock to inspecting oil rigs and pipelines — but a Washington think tank warns that the proliferation of drones poses a national security risk that government leaders must consider before the technology’s rapid development leaves them behind.
The Center for a New American Security this past week issued the first in a series of reports from its World of Proliferated Drones project, which recommends the U.S. government consider foreign policy and national security issues arising from “a drone saturated world” in the future.
The project, which plans a number of reports and war games “engaging international audiences” isn’t anti-drone. And it doesn’t raise the usual privacy or public safety arguments espoused by civil libertarians or pilots groups. Instead, it notes that thousands of drones are here now — mostly used by militaries around the world. But those numbers are going to skyrocket as the technology becomes available for more individuals, companies and industries.
“Over 90 countries and non-state actors operate drones today, including at least 30 that operate or are developing armed drones,” notes the 40-page report, A Technology Primer, adding” This global proliferation raises a number of challenging security issues.” For example: “Are states more willing to shoot down a spy drone since there is no one on board — and if they do, does that constitute an act of war?
Small “hobbyist” drones, which can be purchased by anyone and flown without a license or formal training pose a small risk because of their limited payload and range capabilities although the recent incident of a small drone crash-landing on the White House grounds shows they are ubiquitous and hard to detect near even the most heavily-guarded site.
Of more concern are midsize military and commercial drones, which can fly farther, stay aloft longer and carry larger payloads. They are too complicated to operate and too expensive to acquire by most individuals or small groups but the report notes 87 countries from — military powers like the United States and China to small countries like Cyprus and Trinidad and Tobago — are operating such systems — “and this number is likely to grow in the years to come.” And non-state entities like the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah have obtained midsize military-grade systems already.
Larger military drones that can carry bombs and missiles or highly sophisticated surveillance payloads are also proliferating but until they acquire stealth technology or electronic attack capabilities, the report says, they are vulnerable to advanced air defenses and manned fighter aircraft. So far, only U.S. drones have those capabilities but a number of countries including Russia, Israel, China, India, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Switzerland and Britain are working on their own stealth combat drones.
“Preventing the proliferation of armed drones is impossible — drones are hear to stay,” the CNAS report concludes. What that means for international security “is an open question,” it adds noting that the United States, which is the industry leader, “can help influence how drones are used and perceived by others.”
Two deceased U.S. Army veterans of World War I — one Jewish, the other black — neither of whom received the full credit they deserved for their wartime heroism, have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military decoration for valor.
In a White House ceremony Tuesday (May 2) President Barack Obama presented the medals to Sergeant William Shemin and Sergeant Henry Johnson. Shemin, who was Jewish, was awarded the second-highest heroism medal, the Distinguished Service Cross in 1919 — even though his superior recommended him for the higher award. Johnson, who was black, received no U.S. medals although France awarded him one its highest military honor, the Croix de Guerre with Palm. In both cases racial and religious prejudice were believed to be the cause of the injustice.
“They both left us decades ago, before we could give them the full recognition that they deserved. But it’s never too late to say thank you,” Obama told the medal ceremony audience. “I want to begin by welcoming and thanking everyone who made this day possible — family, friends, admirers. Some of you have worked for years to honor these heroes, to give them the honor they should have received a long time ago,” Obama said, adding: “We are grateful that you never gave up.”
Shemin received his Medal of Honor for braving intense German machine gun and rifle fire three times to rescue wounded soldiers on August 7, 1918 near Bazoches, France. After his officers and senior non-coms were killed or wounded, Shemin took command of his platoon “and displayed great initiative under fire, until he was wounded, August 9, 1918,” according to the military. Shemin was a member of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. Read the Medal of Honor citation here.
Johnson, then a private with Company C, of the 369th Infantry Regiment — an all-black National Guard unit known as the “Harlem Hellfighters” — was cited for his heroism on the night of May 15, 1918 on the Western Front in France. While on sentry duty with another soldier of the 369th, Johnson fended off a night raid by as many as a dozen German soldiers. Johnson and the other soldier fired on the Germans until they ran out of ammunition. They then used hand grenades and rifle butts to fight the Germans. When they other soldier was knocked unconscious, the Germans tried to carry him off as a prisoner, but Johnson battled back using his rifle as a club and then slashing at the Germans with his bolo knife. He may have killed four Germans single-handed in the dark while rescuing his comrade. Read the Medal of Honor of honor citation here.
Despite 21 wounds, Johnson did not receive the Purple Heart medal or any other citation from his country, even though ex-President Theodore Roosevelt described him as “one of the five bravest American soldiers in the war.” He received the Purple Heart posthumously in 1996 and the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002. Like Shemin, Johnson’s DSC was upgraded this year to the Medal of Honor.
Johnson’s regiment, the 369th, was one of the few black regiments sent to France, although they were transferred to fight with French troops, rather than American units who were hostile to the idea of blacks in combat.
As part of the French Army’s 161st Division, they took part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. On September 29, ater a brutal struggle during which heavy casualties were sustained, Sechault was taken and the 369th soldiers dug in to consolidate their advance position. That action is depicted in the photo above and earned the Croix de Guerre for the entire regiment. But the Meuse-Argonne claimed nearly one-third of the 369th as battle casualties.