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  • US Army increases investment on counter-drone program

    August 2, 2018 | International, C4ISR

    US Army increases investment on counter-drone program

    By: Daniel Cebul WASHINGTON — Leonardo DRS has received an additional $13 million to continue engineering and testing a vehicle-mounted system that the U.S. Army hopes will protect soldiers from small drones, according to a July 31 Defense Department statement. Leonardo was awarded an initial $16 million contract by the Army in July 2017 to develop a counter-UAV capability dubbed the Mobile Low, Slow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Integrated Defense System, or MLIDS, with hopes of deploying “numerous production systems in early summer 2018." At the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in October, the company announced it had received a $42 million production contract for an undisclosed number of MLIDS to fit the Army's requirement to defeat small, inexpensive unmanned systems such as quadcopters and fixed-wing aircraft that operate as airborne improvised explosive devices. “Drones are becoming an increasingly dangerous threat against our forward-deployed soldiers, and we are proud to support this urgent requirement to protect them from potentially lethal small unmanned aerial vehicles,” Aaron Hankins, vice president and general manager for DRS Land Systems, said in October 2017. “We are working hard to deliver the best capability to our soldiers as quickly as possible." Full article:

  • A jet sale to Egypt is being blocked by a US regulation, and France is over it

    August 2, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    A jet sale to Egypt is being blocked by a US regulation, and France is over it

    By: Pierre Tran PARIS — France is seeking to reduce its reliance on U.S. approval for French arms exports as Washington withholds clearance for an American component on the French Scalp cruise missile, which blocks the sale of additional Rafale fighter jets to Egypt. “It is true that we depend on this (U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations) mechanism: We are at the mercy of the Americans when our equipment is concerned,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told the Committee for National Defense and Armed Forces of the lower-house National Assembly, according to recently released transcripts from July 4. France lacks the means to be totally independent of the U.S., she said, adding that French authorities are looking for ways to boost its autonomy. Parly was answering a question from parliamentarian Jean-Jacques Ferrara on the blocked sale of a further batch of Rafale aircraft to Egypt. “Are we looking to improve the situation?” Parly said. “The answer is yes. In the case raised by Mr. Ferrara, we cannot get the U.S. to lift its opposition to the sale of Scalp missiles." “What is the solution? That the manufacturer of these missiles, namely MBDA, make the investment in research and technology to be able to make a similar component, which would avoid ITAR," she added." “We are able to do it for this contract because the component can be built within a reasonable amount of time even if the client, naturally, sees it as too long.” MBDA declined to comment for this story. Full article:

  • US Air Force may replace 3 types of aircraft with a single platform

    August 2, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    US Air Force may replace 3 types of aircraft with a single platform

    By: Jeff Martin WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force is looking to replace three aircraft — the E-4B command post, the C-32A executive airlifter and the Navy's E-6B command post — under the purview of a single program known as NEAT. Air Force Materiel Command posted the request for information Tuesday for NEAT — otherwise known as National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC), Executive Airlift, Airborne Command Post (ABNCP), Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO). The RFI comes after an April Senate hearing where Gen. Robin Rand, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said it was time to get “very serious” about replacing the E-4B and E-6B. While the RFI provides little information into what is specifically sought, it does ask for companies' experience in commercial derivative military aircraft and joint work with other businesses. It also asks companies to propose a “recommended technical solution” for the NEAT program. Full article:

  • Failure of Two Ships to Participate in RIMPAC Highlight Amphibious Readiness Gap

    August 2, 2018 | International, Naval

    Failure of Two Ships to Participate in RIMPAC Highlight Amphibious Readiness Gap

    By: Sam LaGrone and Megan Eckstein THE PENTAGON — The two U.S. amphibious warships that were planned to be central to the Rim of the Pacific 2018 exercises were unable to fully participate in the event due to mechanical failures that highlight continued readiness problems with the Navy's amphibious fleet. The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) was set to lead the amphibious portion of the Rim of the Pacific 2018 exercise, but it spent the second half of the exercise tied to a pier in Pearl Harbor. USS Boxer (LHD-4) was set to be a key platform in Southern California RIMPAC SOCAL but was sidelined before the exercise. In December, half of the Navy's 31 amphibious ships were in maintenance as a result of short-term spending bills and irregular funding, Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy (OPNAV N3/N5), said at a House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing. Bonhomme Richard was set to be the command ship for the exercise's maritime component commander, Chilean Navy Commodore Pablo Niemann Figari. However, partway through the exercise the ship suffered a propulsion casualty and came back to port, USNI News understands. Niemann, his staff and the ship's company still participated in the exercise from the pier, USNI News understands. “USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) is currently in port Pearl Harbor and is participating in RIMPAC 2018,” reads a U.S. 3rd Fleet statement to USNI News this week. Officials would not elaborate on why the ship was not underway. Full article:

  • SPAWAR inks lucrative contract

    August 2, 2018 | International, Naval

    SPAWAR inks lucrative contract

    By: Carl Prine The Navy has pulled the trigger on the lucrative engineering services contract for afloat and ashore operations worldwide. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific awarded Science Applications International Corp. a $116 million prime contract to continue providing a wide range of management and technical support to the Navy's Tactical Networks In-Service Engineering Activity — what sailors call “TACNET ISEA" for short. The bulk of the work is expected to be performed in San Diego and Norfolk, with some additional help on Navy vessels and shore sites around the globe. The contract calls for a three-year base period of performance but includes a two-year option that, if exercised, will hike the value of the deal to about $196 million. In 2015, SAIC landed a similar three-year $80 million deal with SPAWAR. “We are proud to continue our support to SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific TACNET and are dedicated to ensuring the highest degree of fleet readiness. For more than 20 years, we have assisted the Navy with sustainment services for critical TACNET systems that serve as the backbone of U.S. naval vessels,” said Jim Scanlon, SAIC senior vice president and general manager of the Defense Systems Customer Group, in a press release. With more than $4.5 billion in annual revenues, Virginia-based SAIC is a global technical and engineering titan. Full article:  

  • Congress finalizes $717 billion defense budget authorization months ahead of schedule

    August 2, 2018 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR

    Congress finalizes $717 billion defense budget authorization months ahead of schedule

    By: Leo Shane III WASHINGTON — Senators gave final approval to the annual defense authorization bill on Wednesday, sending the $717 billion budget package to the White House to become law in the next few weeks. The move marks the 58th consecutive year Congress has approved the military spending policy measure and the earliest that lawmakers have finished the work in 41 years. Typically, lawmakers labor until late fall before reaching agreement on the legislation. It sets the military pay raise at 2.6 percent starting next January, adds 15,600 more troops to services' overall end strength, and boosts aircraft and ship purchases above what the White House had requested. It also gives lawmakers a solid legislative victory to tout before voters in the lead-up to the November mid-term elections, and some parliamentary breathing room they hope can lead to progress on appropriations bills in the next few weeks. WASHINGTON — Senators gave final approval to the annual defense authorization bill on Wednesday, sending the $717 billion budget package to the White House to become law in the next few weeks. The move marks the 58th consecutive year Congress has approved the military spending policy measure and the earliest that lawmakers have finished the work in 41 years. Typically, lawmakers labor until late fall before reaching agreement on the legislation. It sets the military pay raise at 2.6 percent starting next January, adds 15,600 more troops to services' overall end strength, and boosts aircraft and ship purchases above what the White House had requested. It also gives lawmakers a solid legislative victory to tout before voters in the lead-up to the November mid-term elections, and some parliamentary breathing room they hope can lead to progress on appropriations bills in the next few weeks. Congress is giving the officer promotion system a massive overhaul The changes will have a far-reaching impact on military culture and change the incentives for how individual officers manage their careers. By: Leo Shane III A day earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced that he had reached an agreement with Senate Democrats on bringing defense appropriations legislation to the Senate floor later this month, as part of a broader effort to wrap up fiscal 2019 military spending issues before the election. Full article:

  • Federal auditor general to dive into contentious fighter-jet 'capability gap'

    August 2, 2018 | Local, Aerospace

    Federal auditor general to dive into contentious fighter-jet 'capability gap'

    Study will also look at how Canada will meet its 'obligations as it transitions to a new fighter fleet' Lee Berthiaume Canada's auditor general has started to dig into one of the Trudeau government's most contentious claims, upon which rests the fate of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars: that the country is facing an urgent shortage of fighter jets. The claim was first made in November 2016 when the Liberals announced that Canada didn't have enough fighter jets to defend North America and simultaneously meet the country's NATO commitments, and that a stopgap was urgently needed until the entire CF-18 fleet could be replaced. The government originally planned to buy 18 interim Super Hornets from Boeing for $6.4 billion before the deal was scuttled late last year in favour of buying 25 used jets from Australia for $500 million. But critics, including opposition parties and former air force commanders, accuse the government of fabricating an urgent "capability gap" — as the shortfall is known — by changing the military's requirements to avoid having to buy the F-35 stealth fighter. Auditor general Michael Ferguson is now scrutinizing this "capability gap" as part of an overall fighter-jet review, according to an internal memo written by officials at the federal procurement department and obtained by The Canadian Press through access to information legislation. The memo to Public Services and Procurement Canada deputy minister Marie Lemay references a meeting with Ferguson's staff in December in which they laid out the objectives of their audit. Full article:

  • America could protect cyberspace like WMDs

    August 2, 2018 | International, C4ISR

    America could protect cyberspace like WMDs

    By: Justin Lynch The State Department is building a coalition of allies in cyberspace that it hopes can deter state-backed malicious activity, according to a top diplomat. Rob Strayer, the deputy assistant secretary for cyber and international communications at the State Department, told Fifth Domain that the agency is trying to build a voluntary framework of countries that the United States can work with on cyber issues. The plan is for the alliance to impose consequences after malicious events in cyberspace. Strayer said that although there are norms in cyberspace, they do not enforce themselves. With the coalition of like-minded states in cyberspace, the State Department can coordinate legal, diplomatic, and attribution with a range of countries. One model is the attribution of the WannaCry and NotPetya cyberattacks, which the U.S. blamed on foreign countries in concert with other nations. Strayer said the program's initial seeds were planted after a 2017 executive order from President Donald Trump on cybersecurity. He did not disclose which countries would be involved or when the digital alliance would be complete. Full article:

  • Trouble with transitions

    August 1, 2018 | Local, Aerospace

    Trouble with transitions

    Posted on August 1, 2018 by Chris Thatcher Forgive BGen Michel Lalumiere if he begins to sound like a broken record. But his answer to any question about Air Force development and new capabilities–a new information network, fifth-generation fighter jet data fusion, remotely-piloted aircraft surveillance systems, enhanced search and rescue sensors, or the future of anti-submarine warfare systems–always begins with one word: people. The Liberal government's defence policy of 2017 put some much-needed funding and a “lot of clarity” behind a lengthy list of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) major and minor capital projects, everything from space-based maritime domain awareness and satellite communications, to air-to-air refuelling tankers, multi-mission aircraft and modernized helicopters. But in an Air Force of just over 15,000 personnel, military and civilians, the transition from a legacy aircraft to a new one–or even the modernization of an existing platform with improved systems–can quickly strain the training and operational squadrons. Temporarily surging a capability as the RCAF did with unmanned aerial systems in Afghanistan is one thing; sustaining it for a longer period is another. And as much as Lalumiere, the director general of Air Force Development, might wish to hit a pause button to allow aircrews, maintainers and logistics specialists the time to bring a new platform into service, the reality is that RCAF Wings have never been busier. And ensuring a level of high readiness for operations trumps all. So, the first question when weighing the merits of any acquisition or upgrade project, which average around seven years to complete, is always the same: How will it impact people? Automation and artificial intelligence may one day lighten the workload, but for now every platform, even unmanned systems, remains people intensive. Any transition fraught with additional personnel requirements presents a problem. “It's always about people because we're definitely not that automated yet,” Lalumiere told RCAF Today in a recent wide-ranging interview. “We think about people first ... and we have to prepare well in advance for all of these transitions.” The RCAF views existing platforms and acquisition projects through a lens of AIR Power: Agility, integration, reach and power. That translates as an ability to perform a variety of missions with a single platform over great distance while integrating seamlessly with allies, other agencies and sister services. But it equally applies to maintenance, logistics, procurement, data architecture, information management, and other enabling systems–even government policy. An advanced fighter jet will not achieve its expected performance if what the military calls key “enablers” and supporting systems are not equally advanced. “What does it mean to build a fifth-generation air force? It quickly goes beyond the fighters,” acknowledged Lalumiere. “A lot of what the fighter needs to operate at that level actually comes from the rest of the Air Force. It's a very fundamental question from an organization perspective, because it means important investment: People and money. We think money is the hard part; it's actually people.” Daunting as that might seem, the Air Force has been here before, he noted. In previous eras of change, it has made decisions about the capabilities in which it would invest. “We have tough choices to make,” he said about the list of projects. “But we don't have all the capabilities today that we might have described a decade or 20 years ago because we [recognized] we would have to pick and choose.” Future Aircrew Training Near the top of the project list is Future Aircrew Training (FAcT), a program that has evolved in recent years to encompass not only pilot training but also air combat systems officers (ACSO) and airborne electronic sensor operators (AESOPs). Pilot training is currently delivered under two contracted programs, NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) and Contracted Flying Training and Support (CFTS), while ACSOs and AESOPs are developed at 402 Squadron at 17 Wing Winnipeg, Man. NFTC and CFTS are scheduled to phase out in 2023 and 2027, respectively. Incorporating ACSOs and AESOps under the same umbrella as pilot training is a way to better manage available training aircraft, instructors and course standards, and recognition that the current practice of integrating the three trades at the operational training unit is too late in the process and needs to begin much earlier, Lalumiere explained. The RCAF has sought information from industry at regular intervals since 2013 on how the program should be structured and delivered. In early May, the government hosted a multi-day session with companies to brief on the planned procurement approach, key milestones and core requirements, and hold one-on-one meetings. One of the objectives, said Lalumiere, is to capitalize on the experience companies have gained in recent years providing training services in Canada and globally. Many are now able to offer solutions that weren't possible when the RCAF first initiated discussions almost a decade ago about future aircrew training. Of note, CAE and KF Aerospace, the two prime contractors for NFTC and CFTS, in May announced a joint venture called SkyAlyne to develop and deliver military aircrew training in Canada. While the two companies continue to manage the existing programs, the joint venture will focus on building synergies between them. Among the FAcT requirements is an increase in the throughput of all three trades. But that will create a demand for more trainers. Aircrew training today is primarily provided by serving qualified flight instructors, but the door is open for a greater mix of military and contracted instruction, he said. The RCAF is also seeking input from industry on the location and quantity of training centres and possible consolidation. To aid industry with their eventual proposals, “we have a few studies ongoing that try to describe the airspace capacity over those training areas and what we can do within that,” added Lalumiere. But what concerns him most is the transition phase. “All of this will have to be seamless,” he said, noting that both the legacy and new programs might overlap at the same locations for a period, again creating a huge demand on people. Strategic Tanker Transport Capability The RCAF had also planned to hold off on a decision on the next air-to-air refuelling tanker until after the next fighter jet was announced. However, as most replacement contenders are capable of fuelling whichever aircraft is acquired and could interoperate easily with allies, the STTC project is now a higher priority. One of the reasons for that is the lack of agility with the five CC-150 Polaris aircraft. Just two are fitted for tanking and both are probe and drogue; two more provide passenger and cargo transport, and the fifth is fitted for strategic government transport. A recent report prepared for the RCAF on the health of the Polaris found the “fleet is doing well, but the [aircraft are] not interchangeable,” said Lalumiere. That lack of agility and interoperability with allies is driving requirements for both boom and probe and drogue refuelling systems, and for greater sensor and network interoperability. The RCAF plans to retire its four H-model CC-130 Hercules tankers, operated by 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron at 17 Wing Winnipeg, in 2020/2021. So, whether the CC-150 replacement requires five, six or more aircraft remains to be seen. To address Lalumiere's perpetual people challenge, the Air Force would like a jet with the endurance to reach any destination on one fuel stop, though he said a market analysis would inform what's possible. “If we do two [or] three fuel stops, and my crew day is actually over after one fuel stop, we need to put split crews at these stops,” he observed. “We need to be more effective.” Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft Arguably one of the more captivating projects on the Air Force Development list is CMMA. Originally billed as a replacement program for the CP-140M Aurora long range patrol aircraft, Air Force officials have now indicated the eventual solution could be a mix of aircraft. Recently retired RCAF commander LGen Mike Hood spoke often at public events and in interviews of transferring much of the world-leading ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) and anti-submarine warfare technology on the Aurora to a Bombardier-built platform. But at an industry outlook in April, officials suggested rather than a one-for-one platform replacement, CMMA could be a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft. “It's been pretty amazing what has been accomplished with the CP-140,” said Lalumiere. But “I think the [future] challenges will be of such a magnitude that we will have to come to them with a holistic set of capabilities.” Rather than a single project with a start and finish date, he said the more likely scenario is a rolling introduction of platforms and systems with open architecture to match the pace of technology. “We can phase in what we need when it's ready and we can continue phasing in as the next capabilities become ready.” Remotely-Piloted Aircraft System Once known as the Joint Unmanned Surveillance Target Acquisition System, or JUSTAS, the project to acquire a remotely piloted aircraft (RPAS) now has a more accessible name. But the requirements remain largely the same. Today, though, industry is better equipped to meet them. Lalumiere believes the market has evolved since the RCAF first stood up a project office in 2005 to look at a medium altitude, long endurance unmanned capability, to the point where challenges such as operating in unsegregated air space, that once seemed “like mountains,” have now been largely resolved. But the personnel requirements posed by unmanned systems loom large. Managing the data processing, exploitation and dissemination (PED) generated by the sensor suite in a long range and long endurance capability–which is the true force multiplier aspect, he noted–requires a sizeable force. “This will be the keystone project that will initiate the delivery of a sustainable PED capability by the RCAF,” he said. “[My staff] have not agreed on how many trades they've been describing to me, but I know we are already into double digits,” he added of the number of people required to stand up a squadron and sustain the capability, including the distribution of data, from a main operating base and forward locations in Canada and on international missions. One key question still to be answered is whether the RPAS solution is one platform capable of ISR and target acquisition and strike missions, or two with distinct domestic and expeditionary configurations and payloads. “The analysis work is looking at that,” he said. But whatever is acquired must be interoperable and able to share data with 5 Eyes (Canada, U.S., U.K, Australia and New Zealand), NATO and coalition allies, a process that likely has defence policy implications, he added. Griffon Limited Life Extension Replacement of the CH-146 Griffon may provide the next major helicopter procurement opportunity for industry–and with some intriguing possibilities. The RCAF, National Defence and Bell have been closely monitoring the structure of the 20-year-old utility helicopter and believe it can continue to perform “yeoman's work” in conflict zones from Afghanistan to Haiti, Iraq and Mali until the early 2030s with a limited life extension. The project would address several obsolescence issues with avionics and other onboard systems, meet new regulatory requirements, and improve connectivity. But the RCAF is also looking beyond 2030 to the eventual replacement. Like CMMA, the eventual solution might not be a single aircraft but rather a “tactical system,” observed Lalumiere, with the agility, integrated weapons and sensors, satellite connectivity, and endurance to fulfill a range of roles from escort and transport to close air support and perhaps attack. “Is it going to be only one aircraft or is it becoming a system? I'm going to be fascinated by the answer.” Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue With a new search and rescue airplane selected in the Airbus CC-295W, the RCAF has completed one of the lengthier procurement processes and is now into delivery of the first aircraft in 2019 and construction of a new search and rescue training centre at 19 Wing Comox. Though the CC-295W is expected to be a game-changing capability, its entry into service underscores Lalumiere's people management challenges. SAR is a 24/7, year-round, high-readiness service that can't be disrupted. Yet over the next few years, fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircrew training, new simulators, the Canadian Forces School of Search and Rescue, and training provided to CC-130H crews in Trenton will all be consolidated into a single, effective and holistic schoolhouse. “Part of the decision to acquire the CC-295W was also the retirement of the H model Hercs, including the tanker models,” he explained. “The plan is to transition [those aircrews] to FWSAR,” allowing the RCAF to maintain a high-readiness posture while simultaneously undergoing training on the new and upgraded aircraft. “These crews will help us achieve that success.” TIC3 Air Underpinning the success of many of these new and pending platforms is a little-known project called Tactical Integrated Command, Control, Communications – Air (TIC3-Air). Historically, the RCAF has purpose-built its data links for each expeditionary operation or domestic exercise, forming ad hoc networks to move, process and access the data generated by aircraft mission systems and payload sensors. TIC3 Air aims to build a more durable information highway, including establishing permanent Link-16 ground entry stations at locations across Canada. The project also involves modernized traffic management and air defence radios and cryptography. The challenge, said Lalumiere, is that no sooner has the project team defined a capability then the technology improves and “new needs start to surface.” TIC 3 Air will “clean up” and optimize the various systems, he said, but it, too, will draw significantly on RCAF professional personnel at its core for success. “We will ensure that this capability will be integrated in the larger enterprise ground IT infrastructure supporting the [Canadian Armed Forces]. This remains a key priority in the Information Management Group.”

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