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  • Study Projects UAV Spending to Double by Fiscal 2024

    ​An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft prepares to land at Creech AFB, Nev., after flying a training mission August 22, 2011. Air Force photo.

    Spending on unmanned aerial vehicles is expected to “nearly double over the next decade,” according to the executive summary of a new study by the Teal Group. The study, which asserts that “enemy air defense is basically non-existent except in the crudest sense, small arms fire,” projects “it is quite possible that [UAVs] will become ubiquitous over the next decade as a standard means of reconnaissance for infantry squads.” It goes on to say, “there is a growing assortment ... primarily [of] missiles or loitering munitions that are based on UAV technology” that also could become an option for military use. The group projects more than $3.5 billion in US procurement dollars will be spent on UAVs in Fiscal 2015, compared to $1.5 billion in Fiscal 2014. The study notes that commercialization of UAVs by “hobby firms” will likely drive down the cost to the federal government. The 2014 National Defense Appropriations Authorization bill, includes language referencing a “medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle with flexible multi-intelligence sensor and communications relay capabilities,” which is currently being flight tested by the Air Force for use by US Africa Command forces. Personnel both in Congress and in the Air Force remain tight-lipped about the aircraft’s development and functionality, but the NDAA “encourages” the Air Force Secretary “to adopt a plan for these assets that would preserve their ability to be deployed if AFRICOM or any other combatant command” identifies a need.

  • GSSAP Launch Scrubbed

    7/24/2014

    ​The launch of the first two new Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites was scrubbed Wednesday "due to an issue with the ground support equipment environmental control system that supports the launch vehicle," Air Force Space Command spokeswoman Capt. Caitlin Suttie told Air Force Magazine. The launch has been rescheduled for 6:59 p.m. Thursday at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., "pending resolution" of the issue, she added. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on July 22, AFSPC boss Gen. William Shelton compared the new space situational satellites to a neighborhood watch system, saying he hopes the satellites deter adversaries from placing "nefarious" objects into orbit. "The GSSAP satellites will provide US Strategic Command with space situational awareness data allowing for more accurate tracking and characterization of man-made orbiting objects," states an Air Force release. "The satellites will drift a safe distance away from the GEO belt while surveilling the area to further enable spaceflight safety."

  • Lockheed Martin Selected for USAF Hosted Payload Initiative

    7/24/2014

    The Air Force selected Lockheed Martin for its Hosted Payload Solutions initiative, making the company “eligible to competitively bid on future payload hosting opportunities covered under a $495 million indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract,” the company announced Wednesday. The initiative is intended to find ways to integrate mission-specific government payloads, such as sensor packages, onto commercial satellites. “HoPS is an innovative, cost-effective approach that will allow the Air Force to leverage commercial spacecraft to host some of its future space missions,” said Mark Valerio, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s military space line of business. “We plan to bring our experience in both payload integration and commercial satellites to bear on HoPS, supporting the Air Force’s goal of reaching the nexus of capability, affordability, and resilience for its future space architecture.” The company has previously integrated three government payloads onto commercial hosts and has “delivered 84 payloads on 16 different types of satellites” overall since 2000, states the release.

  • House Panel Hears Conflicting Views on Missile Defense

    A House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing July 23 heard sharply varying views on the status and need for the nation’s ballistic missile defense program, with the witnesses and the panel members tilted to the pro-defense side. Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) repeatedly stated the need for a more robust missile defense against the emerging threats from North Korean and Iran and the renewed tensions with Russia. He was supported by Robert Joseph, an undersecretary of defense for arms control for President George W. Bush, who criticized President Barack Obama’s funding cuts for missile defense program, noted Russia’s increased spending on ballistic missiles, and urged research into directed energy and space-based defenses. Former CIA director and arms control negotiator James Woolsey agreed, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin “a thug” and warning about the danger to the electrical grid from a low-order nuclear explosion. Phillip Coyle, a former Pentagon weapons test director now with an arms control organization, supported a missile defense system against limited attack, but said the nation could not build a defense against a full Russian missile assault. Ranking member Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), called for “a more balanced witness panel.”

  • JAGM Dual-Mode Sensor Strikes Target During Test

    7/24/2014

    Lockheed Martin announced a successful test firing of the dual-mode guidance system on its Joint Air-to-Ground missile, hitting a moving target. In a July 23 release, Lockheed said the JAGM flew 6.2 kilometers, about four miles, and initially acquired the target with its precision strike semi-active laser. The missile then engaged its millimeter wave radar to hit and destroy the moving target during the test at Eglin AFB, Fla. The flight test was part of Lockheed’s risk-reduction efforts during the engineering and manufacturing phase of the Army contract, the company said. “This second flight test success demonstrates that Lockheed Martin’s JAGM solution is a proven, low-risk capability,” said Frank St. John, vice president of the tactical missiles and combat maneuver systems at Lockheed’s Missile and Fire Control division.

  • Building a Regional Strategy for ISIL

    US allies in the Arabian Gulf are reappraising their views on militant groups aligned with al-Qaeda, some of whom were fighting the Assad Regime in Syria, senior Defense Department and State Department officials said Wednesday on Capitol Hill. The conversation with the US’ Gulf allies, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, has shifted over the last year and a half, said Brett McGurk, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran, at a meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Many of these states thought they could “take care” of and monitor many of the militants emerging from the war in Syria after Assad’s overthrow, but now Gulf states believe the militants must be dealt with immediately, McGurk said. “There is a new emphasis that now we have to tackle ISIL,” he added, especially from the Saudi perspective, as they have seen ISIL militants capture a small town on the Iraqi border with an open highway into Saudi Arabia. Elissa Slotkin, DOD’s acting undersecretary for policy, told Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) Pentagon officials are in “regular conversation” with Gulf countries on the ISIL threat, particularly those that host US troops and have close defense ties. No regional Gulf States are sponsoring ISIL, she added, but could not elaborate on “other groups” in an unclassified setting.

  • ISIL Militants Building Conventional Capabilities

    Despite signs the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) was forming an offensive, senior Iraqi officials did not act quickly or give regional forces (such as Kurdish militias) the clearance to move to counter militants prior to this past June, senior Defense and State Department officials said Wednesday. ISIL militants are now a “full-blown Army” seeking to establish a state throughout the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys of Iraq and Syria, Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Pressed by HFAC Chair Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) about why Iraqi airstrike requests were not acted on, McGurk said the US wanted “local actors” to take the fight forward, choosing instead to build up Iraqi air intelligence and strike capabilities. Iraqi strikes were effective against ISIL camps initially, but a formal request for US strikes did not come up until last May, he noted. McGurk added all weapons deliveries requested by the Iraqis were completed prior to the ISIL offensive. The situation, as it stands, is “complex and fluid,” said Elissa Slotkin, DOD’s acting undersecretary for policy. The US’ primary goals remain protection of its personnel and property, building the ISR picture over the country, and determining how to train and advise Iraqi forces, she added.

  • Missouri’s Air National Guard Steps Up

    7/24/2014

    ​SSgt. Scott Schroer (left), and TSgt. Ronda Bollinger, crew chiefs assigned to the 131st Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, Mo., marshal a B-2 Spirit assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing from Whiteman, June 23, 2014, at Nellis AFB, Nev. Air Force photo by A1C Thomas Spangler.

    ​The 131st Maintenance Group recently became the first all-Air National Guard B-2 maintenance team to support the stealth aircraft's operations outside of Whiteman AFB, Mo., announced base officials. In June, Air Guardsmen from the 131st flew to Nellis AFB, Nev., to maintain and "support B-2 operations as part of the final integration phase" of the US Air Force Weapons School program, according to a July 20 release. "In the past, it has always been about the Total Force concept and working with Team Whiteman whenever we deploy," Mary-Dale Amison, a 131st spokeswoman told Air Force Magazine. "But this proves yet again that the 131st Bomb Wing is always ready to support B-2 operations wherever we are sent." Typically, "about 20 percent of the [B-2 maintainer] lines are filled with Guardsmen," said Capt. Chad Larson, commander of the 131st Maintenance Squadron. "It was a first but there was never any doubt that we could."

  • Army General Warns Sequestration is Eroding Combat Readiness

    Gen. Dennis Via, commander of the Army Materiel Command, warned the cumulative impact of continued sequestration will erode readiness to the point that Army forces will be unable to respond to a future contingency. Speaking to reporters during a July 23 breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C., Via said the military is only in the second of 10 years of sequestration, but the cuts already are having an effect. “As we look around the world, we don’t know where the next contingency will be, but we know there will be another,” Via said. Sequestration is “a constant, chipping away at readiness” until units are not ready to deploy. Army readiness affects the other services, Via added, because the Army provides 40 percent of the sustainment in a combat theater, including communications, logistics, medical services, and contracting. “What I worry about is that sequestration impacts significantly on our ability to deter conflict” because adversaries will know US forces are not ready to respond. The funding cuts are particularly hard as the Army is trying to reset its equipment after 13 years of war. Via said the service will need overseas contingency funds for at least three more years.

  • Downsizing in Afghanistan and Back Home

    Gen. Dennis Via, commander of the Army Materiel Command, said July 23 his efforts to improve efficiency as he downsizes his vast industrial complex in pace with the Army’s deep force structure cuts are handicapped by the inability to close facilities. Congress has rejected repeated Pentagon requests for another base realignment and closure (BRAC) round, which the Air Force and Army have said is needed to shed excess infrastructure. Via said his command is working to consolidate, and in some cases mothball, production and refit facilities as the Army reduces equipment after 13 years of war. But that leaves unused facilities that are expensive to maintain, he said. Via also described AMC’s massive process to withdraw Army equipment from Afghanistan. He said the Army has decided to return $10 billion of the $15 billion in vehicles and other equipment in Afghanistan. The remainder will be given away, sold to allies, or broken up to sell as scrap because it is not needed, is worn out, or would be too expensive to ship home. “I am comfortable, as a taxpayer, with the system to determine what to bring back,” he said.