14 juin 2018 | International, Terrestre

Gen. Milley is right: The US Army is on the mend

Last month, in an appearance before the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley provided a notably upbeat assessment of the state of his service.

“The Army is on the mend. I can report out to you today, after two and a half years as the chief of staff of the Army, we are in significantly better shape than we were just a short time ago. And that is through the generosity of this Congress and the American people,” he said.

Clearly, some of the credit for the Army's improved state of affairs is a result of the recently passed two-year budget, which provided a much-needed increase in resources. The Army has been able to grow its end strength, purchase needed munitions and spare parts, increase training activities, and recapitalize older and damaged equipment. More resources have also enabled the Army force to expand its presence in Europe, increase, albeit modestly, procurement of upgraded Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Strykers, and acquire the new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.

But much of the credit goes to the Army chief of staff himself. About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog for the National Interest titled “Perhaps the Most Remarkable CSA in More than Half a Century.” It was Gen. Milley who made modernization the measure of success for his tenure as the Army chief of staff. This change in strategic direction came just in time, ahead of the reappearance of great power competition as the greatest threat to this nation's security.

Gen. Milley is not alone in his quest. In fact, it is a troika consisting of Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarty and the chief that is fashioning a new Army in record time and doing so while simultaneously transforming the Army's acquisition system. This is the proverbial case of changing the car's tires while speeding down the road.

The early signs are that the Army modernization is on the mend and the acquisition system is being changed. An important example of these improvements is the Army's Rapid Capabilities Office. Established by the secretary and the chief in August 2016, the RCO is tasked to expedite critical capabilities to the field to meet combatant commanders' needs using alternative contracting mechanisms to deliver technologies in real time to the war fighter.

One of the RCO's initial projects was to bring the Army back into the game with respect to electronic warfare. In 12 months, the RCO developed an initial integrated mounted and dismounted EW sensor capability that has been deployed with U.S. forces in Europe. A second phase of the project is underway that will add aerial sensors, additional ground-unit sets and improve functionality.

Another program that is proceeding rapidly is a vehicle-mounted, jam-resistant positioning, navigation and timing capability for GPS-challenged environments. Prospective solutions are currently undergoing testing.

The chief has directed the RCO to address several new areas. The RCO is working on a long-range cannon concept that may be able to double the range of 155mm howitzers, as well as optical augmentation technology to detect an adversary's anti-tank guided missile day/night sights and loitering munitions that can strike air-defense and artillery emplacements.

The Army has been moving rapidly to address many of its critical capability gaps. To meet the challenge posed by hostile aircraft and drones, the Army intends to deploy the first battery of the Maneuver Short Range Air Defense launcher on a Stryker armored vehicle by 2020, five years ahead of schedule. Additional sensors and weapons, including a tactical laser, could be integrated into the new turret by the early 2020s.

Tank-automotive and Armaments Command did a rapid assessment of active protection systems. The current plan is to equip at least four brigades of Abrams tanks with the Israeli Trophy system while testing continues on a number of solutions for other armored fighting vehicles.

The Army also has used other rapid procurement organizations within the Pentagon. One of these is the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, created in 2016 to push rapid innovation based on leveraging commercial companies. Recently, DIUx led a prototype contract involving upgrades for Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The first production items from it will soon be delivered to the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

There are other examples of advances in cyberwarfare, soldier systems, networking and long-range precision fires. The central point is that Gen. Milley's vision of the Army's future is turning out to be right.


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  • Here are the biggest weaknesses in America’s defense sector

    2 juillet 2019 | International, Sécurité, Autre défense

    Here are the biggest weaknesses in America’s defense sector

    By: Aaron Mehta WASHINGTON — Production of a component vital to protecting American troops from chemical attacks that can't keep up with need. Key suppliers of aircraft parts that could go bankrupt at any time. A key producer of missile components that closed for two years before the Pentagon found out. These are just some of the key findings of an annual report from the Pentagon judging the greatest risks to the defense industrial sector, underlining that while the overall defense industry continues to bring in massive profits, not all is well among the suppliers of key components that, while small pieces of larger systems, could impact America's ability to wage war. The annual “Industrial Capabilities” report, quietly released May 13 by the Defense Department's Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, found that despite total dollars spent by the department on weapons and ammunition increasing year over year since 2016, the number of vendors supplying them has decreased. In addition, while the report found generally positive trends for the U.S. defense sector, it did warn that in certain areas, foreign weapon sales are decreasing. For instance, the U.S. saw its market share of global naval weapon exports go from 63 percent in 2007 to just 17 percent in 2017. And from 2008-2017, two reliable buyers of U.S. defense goods — Pakistan and South Korea — saw their U.S. procurement percentages drop. Pakistan went from 31 percent to 12 percent, while South Korea went from 78 percent to 53 percent. This is the first Industrial Capabilities report to be published since the October release of a White House-mandated study on the defense-industrial base. That study concluded, in part, that the government needs to increase use of its Defense Production Act Title III authorities, which allows the government to expend funds to support key production lines that might now otherwise survive. The latest report says that through March 2019, seven presidential determinations were issued to address “key industrial base shortfalls in lithium sea-water batteries, alane fuel cell technology, sonobuoys production, and critical chemicals production for missiles and munitions.” However, details of those agreements, such as how much funding might go toward fixing the issues, were pushed into a nonpublic appendix. Here are the biggest concerns, broken down by sector: Aircraft: The report cites long product and system development timelines, high costs for development and qualification, and limits on production as broad issues in the aircraft sector. Those issues are inherent in major defense programs, but the report also calls out the aging workforce and consolidation among the industrial base, which “has expanded into the sub-tiers of the supply chain, creating additional risks for single or sole source vendors.” As an example, the report notes there are only four suppliers with the ability to manufacture “large, complex, single-pour aluminum and magnesium sand castings” needed to make key parts of military aircraft. These four suppliers face “perpetual financial risk and experience bankruptcy threats” due to the insecure nature of Pentagon funding. “The single qualified source for the upper, intermediate, and sump housing for a heavy-lift platform for the Marines has experienced quality issues and recently went through bankruptcy proceedings,” the report adds. “Without a qualified or alternate qualified source for these castings, the program will face delays, impeding the U.S. ability to field heavy-lift support to Marine Corps expeditionary forces.” Finding qualified software engineers is another issue identified, with the report warning it is “increasingly difficult to hire skilled, cleared, and capable software engineers. As aircraft continue to increase in software complexity, it will become even more important for the sector to hire skilled software engineers.” Ground systems: The report says the Pentagon's plan of incremental updates to existing systems rather than wholesale new designs has created “a generation of engineers and scientists that lack experience in conceiving, designing, and constructing new, technologically advanced combat vehicles.” But the same issues of consolidation and lack of budget stability that showed up in the aircraft sector impact the ground vehicle sector. “Legislation and DoD industrial policy requires DoD to manufacture all large-caliber gun barrels, howitzer barrels, and mortar tubes at one organic DoD arsenal,” the report cites as an example. “There is only one production line at the arsenal for all of these items, and policy modifications to meet demand and surge from overseas have led to a lack of capacity to meet current production requirements.” Shipbuilding sector: When it comes to maritime vessels, the “most significant risks found were a dependence on single and sole source suppliers, capacity shortfalls, a lack of competition, a lack of workforce skills, and unstable demand,” the report found. The lack of competition goes from the highest levels, where four companies control the seven shipyards building military vessels, to the lowest components, such as “high-voltage cable, propulsor raw material, valves, and fittings.” Workforce concerns also dominate the shipbuilding sector. The report cites statistics from the Department of Labor predicting that between 2018 and 2026, there will be a 6–17 percent decrease in U.S. jobs in occupations critical to Navy shipbuilding projects, “such as metal layout (ship-fitting), welding, and casting.” If that is not addressed, a lack of skilled workers “will significantly impact the shipbuilding industry's ability to meet the Navy's long-term demand.” Munitions sector: A major concern in last year's annual report was the future of the U.S. munitions sector, and many of those issues remain in the 2019 version. The report identified “multiple risks and issues, including material obsolescence and lack of redundant capability, lack of visibility into sub-tier suppliers causing delays in the notification of issues, loss of design and production skill, production gaps and lack of surge capacity planning, and aging infrastructure to manufacture and test the products.” As an example, the report points to a voltage control switch, used in ignition devices and flight termination systems for Department of Defense missiles. Several years ago, the foundry that made a key component for the switch was purchased by another foundry, which then decided to close the factory. The Pentagon was not informed until two years after the foundry was closed, at which point “it became evident that the end-of-life buy, which was designed to last from three to five years, would only last six months.” In another case, two key chemicals in solid-fuel rocket motors became obsolete, requiring the DoD to scramble for potential replacements. Chemical, biological and radiological sector: The chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense sector provides protection for war fighters through items like respirators, masks and vaccines. But the report found serious issues regarding the industrial base's ability to provide that capabilities, indicating that Title III authorities might be needed in the near future to maintain production. As an example, the report points to production of ASZM‑TEDA1 impregnated carbon, a defense-unique material with only a single qualified source that, as a result, “precludes assurances for best quality and price.” The carbon is used in 72 chemical, biological and nuclear filtration systems, and the report notes that current sourcing arrangements “cannot keep pace with demand.” The DoD is already using Title III to modernize the production line and try to establish a second source for the material. Soldier systems: The collapse of the American textile market over the last three decades has left the department depending on single sources or foreign suppliers for soldier systems. Additionally, battery production is identified as a potential future issue. “Lack of stable production orders has resulted in lost capability and capacity, increased surge lead times, workforce erosion, and inhibited investments by remaining suppliers. Surge-capacity-limiting constraints occur at several points along the value chain, from raw material to final battery assembly,” the report says. Space systems: Aside from major issues around future threats to space assets from near-peer competitors, the report identifies major industrial base concerns for space as including “aerospace structures and fibers, radiation-hardened microelectronics, radiation test and qualification facilities, and satellite components and assemblies.” Other areas include solar panel development — “There is not enough space business for companies to justify R&D to improve cells without [government] help,” the report says — the erosion of the traveling-wave tube industry, and a lack of suppliers for key parts needed to produce precision gyroscopes needed for spacefaring systems. Electronics: The Pentagon has been sounding the alarm about China's growing power in the printed circuit board market, and this report continues that trend. The United States now accounts for only 5 percent of global production, representing a 70 percent decrease from $10 billion in 2000 to $3 billion in 2015, per the report. Meanwhile, almost half of global production comes from China. https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2019/06/27/here-are-the-biggest-weaknesses-in-americas-defense-sector/

  • L3 again goes to sea with another unmanned deal

    25 septembre 2018 | International, Naval

    L3 again goes to sea with another unmanned deal

    By Ross Wilkers L3 Technologies has made yet another acquisition to further build its unmanned maritime business, this time in a deal for surface vessel and related control systems provider ASV Global. Terms of the transaction were undisclosed. The deal also brings additional anti-submarine warfare and future surface combatant unmanned off-board sensor offerings, L3 said Monday. Unmanned sea vehicles and associated systems have been a focal point in New York City-based L3's overall push to become what CEO Chris Kubasik has called a “nontraditional sixth prime.” That translates to being a more focused, high-end builder and integrator of technologies and other platforms called out in the 2017 National Security Strategy. L3 went on an unmanned maritime buying spree last year that saw it make deals for undersea drone maker OceanServer, battery and energy technology company Open Water Power and autonomy and sensor system provider Adaptive Methods. Headquartered in Louisiana and the U.K., ASV Global builds unmanned surface vessels sized between 10 and 42 feet that have software, control systems and other autonomy architectures. The company now operates as L3 ASV. Sea is not the only domain where L3 has a buyer with respect to unmanned platforms. In June, the company quietly paid $15 million to buy hybrid quadrotor unmanned aircraft maker Latitude Engineering. L3 has also been busy this year in acquiring companies in information security and space as part of its ongoing sixth prime transformation effort. https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2018/09/24/l3-unmanned-asv-acquisition.aspx

  • “Innovations for FCAS”: Airbus concludes cooperative pilot phase with startup companies in Germany

    17 décembre 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    “Innovations for FCAS”: Airbus concludes cooperative pilot phase with startup companies in Germany

    Munich, 09 December 2020 – Airbus has concluded a pilot phase of the “Innovations for FCAS” (I4 FCAS) initiative which aims at involving German non-traditional defence players -covering startups, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and research institutes- in the development of Future Combat Air System (FCAS). This initiative which was launched in April 2020 was funded by the German Ministry of Defence. “The initiative shows that FCAS does not compare with previous larger defence projects. By implementing young and innovative players, some of whom have never been in touch with the defence sector, we ensure to leverage all competencies available for a game-changing high-tech programme such as FCAS”, said Dirk Hoke, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Defence and Space. “It will also foster technological spill-overs between the military and civil worlds. It is our ambition to continue the initiative in 2021 and beyond, and make it a cornerstone of our FCAS innovation strategy.” During the pilot phase, 18 innovative players worked on 14 projects in different areas, covering the whole range of FCAS elements: combat cloud, connectivity, new generation fighter, remote carriers, system of systems, sensors. Among these 14 projects, Airbus engineers have worked closely with SMEs and startups to achieve concrete results such as: · A first flight-test approved launcher of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from of a transport aircraft. This project is the result of a cooperation between Airbus as A400M integrator, Geradts GmbH for the launcher and SFL GmbH from Stuttgart for UAV integration and supported by DLR simulations. An agile design and development approach allowed for rapid prototyping and flight readiness in only 6 months. · A secure combat cloud demonstrator: a first time transfer of secured operating systems into a cloud environment. Kernkonzept GmbH from Dresden together with Airbus CyberSecurity have shown how IT security can be used for highest security requirements on a governmental cloud system. · A demonstrator of applied artificial intelligence on radio frequency analysis. Hellsicht GmbH from Munich trained their algorithms on Airbus-provided datasets, allowing for a unique capability of real time fingerprinting of certain emitters, such as radars. As Europe's largest defence programme in the coming decades, FCAS aims at pushing the innovation and technological boundaries. Its development will bring disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, manned-unmanned teaming, combat cloud or cybersecurity to the forefront. https://www.airbus.com/newsroom/press-releases/en/2020/12/innovations-for-fcas-airbus-concludes-cooperative-pilot-phase-with-startup-companies-in-germany.html

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