12 juin 2019 | International, Aérospatial, Sécurité

The Pentagon is battling the clock to fix serious, unreported F-35 problems


WASHINGTON — Over the past several years, U.S. Defense Department leaders have gone from citing technical problems as their biggest concern for the F-35 program to bemoaning the expense of buying and sustaining the aircraft.

But the reality may be worse. According to documents exclusively obtained by Defense News, the F-35 continues to be marred by flaws and glitches that, if left unfixed, could create risks to pilot safety and call into question the fighter jet’s ability to accomplish key parts of its mission:

F-35B and F-35C pilots, compelled to observe limitations on airspeed to avoid damage to the F-35’s airframe or stealth coating. Cockpit pressure spikes that cause “excruciating” ear and sinus pain. Issues with the helmet-mounted display and night vision camera that contribute to the difficulty of landing the F-35C on an aircraft carrier.

These are some of the problems with the jet that the documents describe as category 1 deficiencies — the designation given to major flaws that impact safety or mission effectiveness.

Thirteen of the most serious flaws are described in detail, including the circumstances associated with each issue, how it impacts F-35 operations and the Defense Department’s plans to ameliorate it.

All but a couple of these problems have escaped intense scrutiny by Congress and the media. A few others have been briefly alluded to in reports by government watchdog groups.

But the majority of these problems have not been publicly disclosed, exposing a lack of transparency about the limitations of the Defense Department’s most expensive and high-profile weapons system.

These problems impact far more operators than the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy customer base. Eleven countries — Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and the United Kingdom — have all selected the aircraft as their future fighter of choice, and nine partner nations have contributed funds to the development of the F-35.

Taken together, these documents provide evidence that the F-35 program is still grappling with serious technical problems, even as it finds itself in a key transitional moment.

And the clock is ticking. By the end of 2019, Defense Department leaders are set to make a critical decision on whether to shut the door on the F-35’s development stage and move forward with full-rate production. During this period, the yearly production rate will skyrocket from the 91 jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin in 2018 to upward of 160 by 2023.

Generally speaking, the department’s policy calls for all deficiencies to be closed before full-rate production starts. This is meant to cut down on expensive retrofits needed to bring existing planes to standard.

The F-35 Joint Program Office appears to be making fast progress, but not all problems will be solved before the full-rate production decision, said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, the Defense Department’s F-35 program executive.

“None of them, right now, are against any of the design, any of the hardware or any of the manufacturing of the aircraft, which is what the full-rate production decision is for,” he told Defense News in an interview. “There are no discrepancies that put at risk a decision of the department to approve us to go into full-rate production.”

Nine out of 13 problems will likely either be corrected or downgraded to category 2 status before the Pentagon determines whether to start full-rate production, and two will be adjudicated in future software builds, Winter said.

However, the F-35 program office has no intention of correcting two of the problems addressed in the documents, with the department opting to accept additional risk.

Winter maintains that none of the issues represent any serious or catastrophic risk to pilots, the mission or the F-35 airframe. After being contacted by Defense News, the program office created two designations of category 1 problems to highlight the difference between issues that would qualify as an emergency and others that are more minor in nature.

“CAT 1-As are loss of life, potential loss of life, loss of material aircraft. Those have to be adjudicated, have to be corrected within hours, days. We have no CAT 1-A deficiencies,” Winter said.

Instead, the deficiencies on the books all fall under category 1B, which represents problems “that have a mission impact with a current workaround that’s acceptable to the war fighter with the knowledge that we will be able to correct that deficiency at some future time,” Winter added.

Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for the F-35 program, said currently fielded F-35s are meeting or exceeding performance specifications.

“These issues are important to address, and each is well understood, resolved or on a path to resolution," he said. "We’ve worked collaboratively with our customers, and we are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified.”

Full article: https://www.defensenews.com/air/2019/06/12/the-pentagon-is-battling-the-clock-to-fix-serious-unreported-f-35-problems/

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  • US and UK navies prepare to sign agreement to merge future tech work

    22 octobre 2020 | International, Naval

    US and UK navies prepare to sign agreement to merge future tech work

    David B. Larter and Andrew Chuter  WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy are preparing to more closely align their futures in a whole host of warfare areas, the U.S. chief of naval operations announced Tuesday. The U.S. Navy’s chief of naval operations and First Sea Lord Adm. Tony Radakin intend to “sign a future integrated warfighting statement of intent that sets a cooperative vision for interchangeablty,” CNO Adm. Mike Gilday announced at the virtual Atlantic Future Forum, being held on board the RN’s new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth. “We will synchronize pioneering capabilities, strengthen operating concepts and focus our collective efforts to deliver combined sea power together. By organizing our cooperation on carrier strike, underwater superiority, navy and marine integration and doubling down on future war fighting like unmanned and artificial intelligence, we will remain on the leading edge of great power competition.” It is unclear what the specifics of the statement of intent will be, but the U.S. and Royal navies have been focusing heavily in recent years on aligning its capabilities to be useful to each other in combined maritime operations. The message from both navies is that this will continue into the future. Throughout the Royal Navy’s effort to get the Queen Elizabeth ready for deployment, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have been working closely with the service, training British pilots on the F-35B and getting the ship certified to operate them. The Marine Corps' Fighter Attack Squadron 211 embarked on Queen Elizabeth earlier this month during the ship’s group exercise ahead of a deployment next year. The Marines will also mix in with Royal Air Force F-35Bs during the QE’s 2021 deployment. In remarks at the forum, Radkin echoed Gilday’s remarks, saying the two forces needed to continue to work to align efforts. “Throughout our careers we have had a drive for interoperability with allies,” Radkin said. "But increasingly it feels to us that bar has to be raised. … The obvious example is the U.S. Marine jets on board the QE carrier. That is an obvious example of interchangeability. “So, we are trying to drive a new standard. Partly to drive all of us to strengthen our interoperability but to go even higher and recognize that interchangeability is going to be an even stronger feature in the future.” Radkin said the services would focus on four areas to grow this “interchangeability”: undersea warfare; carrier operations; aligning the efforts of the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy to become a cohesive fighting unit; and on advanced warfighting programs such as artificial intelligence and cyber. The United Kingdom is in the middle of an integrated defense review, initiated after Boris Johnson was elected prime minster. It was interrupted during the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak but appears to be running again. The review could have sweeping impacts on the British defense budget, but it is unclear where the budget ax will fall. When the review was announced, however, the government promised a “radical reassessment” of Britain’s place in the world. https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2020/10/20/the-us-and-uk-navies-prepare-to-sign-agreement-to-merge-their-tech-futures/

  • DoD must modernize infrastructure to support cutting-edge technology research

    9 juillet 2020 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, C4ISR, Sécurité

    DoD must modernize infrastructure to support cutting-edge technology research

    By: JihFen Lei  If you’re reading this over the internet, you’re using technology developed by the Department of Defense science and technology enterprise. For decades, the DoD has cultivated a wide-ranging ecosystem of technical professionals, research infrastructure and partnerships that has made vast contributions to U.S. national security and economic strength. From microchips to the GPS satellites that enabled a revolution in precision warfare, the department’s S&T enterprise has been central to creating the security and prosperity our nation enjoys today. Although technology dominance has long been central to the American way of war, U.S. military superiority is increasingly under threat. American adversaries are making rapid technological advancements and incorporating them into newly modernized forces. In response, the department has been working to aggressively position its S&T enterprise to meet the security needs of the 21st century. Long-term success will require concentration in three fundamental areas: First, we must invest for the future while focusing on the present. This requires investing in foundational research that will create the next generation of military superiority. Second, we must cultivate a workforce of scientists and engineers ready to solve the DoD’s hardest problems. Finally, we must create and maintain world-class defense laboratories and research facilities, enabling us to work with academic and industrial partners to quickly transition technology into capabilities. Each of these elements are critical to nurturing an innovation ecosystem optimized for the department’s needs. The road to the next great scientific or technological advance starts with basic science and research. Basic research is central to the DoD’s long-term competitive strategy to create and maintain military superiority for the nation. The DoD has a long history of conducting and sponsoring basic research, focusing on understanding how and why things work at a fundamental scientific level. Although basic research is often performed without obvious or immediate benefit and requires long timelines to realize its impact, the importance of continued investment cannot be overlooked. Without the department’s basic research investments — made years ago — in the new areas of autonomy, quantum science, artificial intelligence and machine learning, or biotechnology, the DoD would not possess the innovative and advanced capabilities it does today. Basic research enables the U.S. to create strategic surprise for its adversaries and insulates the nation from technological shocks driven by the advancements of others. Stable and healthy investment in basic research is not only good to have, it is a vital component of the nation’s strategy to maintain a competitive advantage. The DoD must use all of the tools at its disposal to develop a skilled, diverse workforce of technical professionals who are knowledgeable about the DoD’s missions and capable of advising DoD leaders on technology decisions. This includes the scientists and engineers who will conduct research in DoD laboratories and engineering centers, our industry partners, and the academic research community with whom the department closely collaborates. There is nothing more critical to the American military’s ability to innovate than its people. For these reasons, the department relies on authorities provided by Congress to conduct flexible, direct hiring of technical professionals to work in DoD research institutions. The department looks for the best technical professionals to join its ranks as researchers, engineers and trusted advisers to the DOD’s senior leaders. When the department attempts to incorporate new knowledge from academia or new technologies from industry, the DoD’s S&T workforce must be capable of making smart buying decisions based on sound technical judgment and an understanding of the DoD’s unique mission needs. At a time when other nations are prioritizing the recruitment of technology professionals to bolster their military strength, the department must view its S&T workforce as a strategic resource that is fundamental to long-term technological superiority. Many capabilities found at DoD labs are unique national treasures and cannot be found elsewhere. On average, these laboratories, which span 63 locations across 22 states and the District of Columbia, are over 45 years old. As part of its strategy to recruit and retain a world-class S&T workforce, the department must modernize its technical infrastructure, laboratories and engineering centers. The DoD should invest wisely to modernize these outdated facilities and their equipment to support the modern, cutting-edge research that our national defense demands. As the nation once again prepares to engage in long-term strategic competition, the DoD’s S&T enterprise is the key to success. Sufficiently resourcing long-term research and technology development activities will ensure America avoids technology surprise while creating a disproportionate advantage for the war fighter. The department must make the investments necessary to educate, attract and retain the world’s best talent. As the DoD’s National Defense Strategy makes clear, advanced technologies will be central to America’s ability to fight and win future wars. https://www.defensenews.com/opinion/commentary/2020/07/08/dod-must-modernize-infrastructure-to-support-cutting-edge-technology-research/

  • Despite pressure from lawmakers and pandemic, French defense budget to remain unchanged

    6 octobre 2020 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, Sécurité

    Despite pressure from lawmakers and pandemic, French defense budget to remain unchanged

    Christina Mackenzie  PARIS — Despite calls from French lawmakers for the nation’s defense industry to receive extra financial support from the government to counter the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 defense budget will remain unchanged. Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said last week that the 2021 defense budget — planned before the pandemic as part of the 2019-2025 military program law — represents “the third year in a row that we have followed the military program law to the letter: This is an unprecedented effort, with an additional €1.7 billion [U.S. $2 billion] or so every year.” She added that the armed forces since 2019 have had €18 billion more to spend than in 2017, noting that between 2019 and 2023, the military investment budget will total €110 billion, which is more than the €100 billion national recovery plan announced by the French government last month to support a suffering economy. But Françoise Dumas, president of the National Assembly’s National Defense and Armed Forces Committee, had called for “defense to be at the heart of the future recovery plan." And Cédric Perrin, vice president of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces, argued “there is no specific component of this €100 billion plan for the defense industry sector.” The €49.7 billion French defense budget for 2021 includes payment appropriations of €39.2 billion, which is an increase from the previous year, as planned in the 2019-2025 military program law. Of this, a record €22.3 billion is earmarked for modernizing equipment and buildings; €12.3 billion will go toward wages; and €4.6 billion is appropriated for operating costs. The government’s department focused on veterans’ affairs is to receive €2 billion of the total defense budget, and the remaining €8.5 billion will go toward pensions. What about the recovery plan? In early June, the government revealed a series of recovery plans aimed at specific industries particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Though the defense sector was not the sole target of the €15 billion aeronautics recovery plan, it nevertheless benefits from the funds, given France’s aeronautic giants — Airbus and Dassault Aviation — are active in both the civilian and military sectors, as are their two major suppliers, Safran and Thales. There are about 1,300 companies ranging from startups to major firms in the French aeronautics sector, and they employ approximately 300,000 people. The recovery plan is not aimed at the four major companies, but rather in helping their supply chain involved in specific projects, such as modernizing production tools, research and development efforts, and digital transformation. As a condition for receiving the government funds, the four large companies promised to “consider favorably” offers made by suppliers in France and within the European Union based on global cost, while also taking into account litigation risks, the reliability of after-sales services, the conformity of products and services, their societal and environmental responsibility, and their innovation. The Armed Forces Ministry is participating in the recovery plan by spending €832 million on five measures to ensure “an immediate workload for the whole sector.” The first measure was to anticipate an order for three A330 Phénix multirole tankers, a move enabling the Air and Space Force’s two A340 aircraft to retire from service this year instead of in 2028, and its three A310 aircraft to retire in 2021 instead of 2023. The second measure is an order for a light surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft; the third is an early order for eight H225M Caracal helicopters for the Air and Space Force; and the fourth is for a naval airborne drone system (known by its French acronym SDAM) and an onboard mini-drone (SMDM). The fifth measure is for 12 helicopters (two EC-145s and 10 EC-160s) for the Gendarmerie and the civil security force. The ministry’s contributions also include €300 million in subsidies for suppliers and subcontractors, as well as €1.5 billion spent over the next three years to support R&D and innovation. What are the defense funds going toward? Under the defense budget, the Army will procure: 12,000 HK416F assault rifles (and order another 12,000). Five Caiman helicopters (and order 21 light joint helicopters). 20 Jaguar armored vehicles; 157 Griffon armored vehicles; 80 renovated VBL light armored vehicles (and order another 120); and 1,000 VLTP light tactical multipurpose vehicles. 850 portable radios (and order 2,900); and 925 vehicle radios (and order 7,300). 200 MMP medium-range missiles and 75 firing posts. 10 SDT tactical drones. The Navy is procuring: A FREMM multimission frigate (and ordering an intervention and defense FDI frigate); and an upgraded light stealth frigate. A Caiman helicopter (and ordering eight HIL light joint helicopters). Three upgraded ATL2 patrol aircraft. Aster 30 missiles; F21 Artemis torpedoes; and four Exocet MM40 Block 3C anti-ship missiles (and ordering 45 Exocet kits). The Air & Space Force is acquiring: An Atlas A400M transport aircraft; three A330 Phénix multirole tankers; two upgraded C-130H transport aircraft; and 14 upgraded Mirage M2000D fighter aircraft. 14 Talios laser designation pods. 90 upgraded Scalp missiles. Six SCCOA 4 radars. Specifically for the space segment, a Musis/CSO satellite; 15 Syracuse IV ground stations; and one Ceres satellite system. The service is also ordering one HIL light joint helicopter; 367 MICA NG air-to-air missiles; 150 Mica NG training missiles; and 13 Syracuse IV ground stations. Two major programs for the service will also be launched in 2021: the Mentor training aircraft and the future combat air system demonstrator. https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2020/10/05/despite-pressure-from-lawmakers-and-pandemic-french-defense-budget-to-remain-unchanged/

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