22 juin 2018 | International, C4ISR

The US made the wrong bet on radiofrequency, and now it could pay the price


WASHINGTON – The Pentagon's belief in its technology drove the Department of Defense to trust it would have control over the electromagnetic spectrum for years to come, but that decision has left America vulnerable to new leaps in technology from China and Russia, according to a top military official.

Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has now concluded that the Pentagon needs to ensure it is keeping up with those near-peer nations, let along reestablishing dominance of electronic warfare and networking.

“I think we assumed wrongly that encryption and our domination over the precision timing signals would allow us to evade the enemy in the electromagnetic spectrum. I think that was a bad assumption,” Selva said Thursday at the annual Center for a New American Security conference.

“It's not that we disarmed, it's that we took a path that they have now figured out,” Selva said. China and Russia instead focused on deploying “digitally managed radio frequency manipulation, which changed the game in electronic warfare.”

He added that a DoD study looking at the next decade concluded “We have some work to do.”

Specifically, the United States needs to discover what Selva dubbed “alternative pathways” for communications and command and control systems.

“It doesn't have to be a [radiofrequency] game. It's an RF game because we choose to make it so. And we're going to have to do some targeted investments in expanding the capacity of the networks that we use for command and control and battle management,” he said. “If we fail to do that, we're going to kick ourselves into the force-counterforce game inside the electromagnetic spectrum for the balance of the next couple of decades.

“We have to adapt to that, and adapt quickly. The work has been done to characterize the problem, and the problem is, we're locked in this point-counterpoint fight with two potential competitors who have taken alternative paths. So we have to unlock a different way to do that work.”


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  • For US Air Force pilots, the toughest training flights are going virtual

    26 août 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    For US Air Force pilots, the toughest training flights are going virtual

    By: Valerie Insinna NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — A new simulator campus at Nellis Air Force Base could be key for the U.S. Air Force as it grapples with the question of how it can train pilots against complex threats like Russia and China at a budget-friendly cost. On Aug. 17, the Air Force opened the doors of the Virtual Test and Training Center, or VTTC, a new, $38 million building where pilots will practice advanced tactics in a simulated environment that replicates war against a near-peer nation. “When you think about great power competition and where we might have to fight — shipping out to fight a China or Russia, particularly — there is no live training venue for the joint force, certainly for the Air Force, that's big enough, that has the threat density that can replicate what China or Russia can do,” said Maj. Gen. Chuck Corcoran, who leads the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis. While live exercises will remain an important component of pilot training, the VTTC will give the Air Force a way to simulate a vast battlespace populated by high-end threats. Users will be able to network with other pilots on the system — who fly F-16s, F-22s, F-35s and F-15Es, with perhaps more to come — and fly complex missions against virtual enemies that are impossible to emulate in live training exercises like Red Flag. The VTTC building, which Defense News toured during an Aug. 21 visit to the base, is currently empty. But it won't stay that way for long, said Lt. Col. Chris Duncan, an F-35 operational test pilot and commander of Detachment 1, 29th Training Systems Squadron. F-15E Strike Eagle simulators are slated to be delivered to the center in October and will go online in April 2021. The joint simulation environment — a government-owned virtual training environment currently under development at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, and when finished will emulate high-end threats — is set to be fielded at the VTTC in October 2021. “Typically aircraft simulators have taught pilots how to fly them and basic employment,” Duncan said. “We're not worried about those things. We're assuming they already know that.” Instead, the training will focus on more robust mission sets, including advanced training for Air Force Weapons School students, operational testing of new platforms and large-scale war games, he said. The Air Force is deliberating how best it can expand the VTTC's capabilities over time on a limited budget. Among the factors under consideration is whether to buy additional simulators, such as ones for the new F-15EX. It may roll out the Nellis Mission Operations Network, on which the VTTC will run, to other bases such as Whitman Air Force Base in Missouri — the home to the service's only stealth bomber. There is also discussion about how to integrate the simulators on the network with live aircraft flying on the Nevada Test and Training Range, which would allow the VTTC to project synthetic threats to jets practicing midair tactics. Historically, the Air Force has been hard-pressed to fund advanced simulation efforts. The ultimate success of the VTTC may ultimately come down to whether there is enough money to continue funding simulators for additional aircraft and to keep upgrading hardware and software. Duncan said the Air Force is already keeping that point in mind. Instead of simulators that provide a completely accurate cockpit experience, the service is looking to save money by prioritizing simulators that can provide the experience of advanced missions, even if the simulator imagery or cockpit experience isn't completely realistic. But he underscored the cost-effectiveness of virtual training when compared to its live counterpart. “The payoff, the bang for the buck,” Duncan said, “it far surpasses what we can do in live flying.” https://www.defensenews.com/air/2020/08/25/for-air-force-pilots-the-toughest-training-flights-are-going-virtual/

  • Huge Deficit = Defense Budget Cuts? Maybe Not

    19 mai 2020 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, C4ISR, Sécurité

    Huge Deficit = Defense Budget Cuts? Maybe Not

    The congressional calendar and strategic inertia may come together to keep the defense budget relatively high. The calendar helps because the fiscal 2021 defense budget will likely be passed while Congress is in a free-spending mood. By MARK CANCIAN The current Washington consensus sees deep defense budget cuts in the face of soaring deficits driven by the emergency legislation to stabilize the American economy as it reels from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It may be wrong. The congressional calendar and strategic inertia may come together to keep the defense budget relatively high. The calendar helps because the fiscal 2021 defense budget will likely be passed while Congress is in a free-spending mood. The next administration — Republican or Democratic — will develop budgets beyond that, but the constraints of long-standing strategy will prevent major changes to force structure and acquisition that would drive deep budget cuts. The Challenge The conventional narrative holds that the defense budget will be squeezed as the debt level rises, and the public focuses inward on rebuilding the country's health and economic position. These are reasonable concerns. The deficit in fiscal 2020, initially projected to be about one trillion dollars ― itself getting into record territory without emergency spending― is now projected to be $3.7 trillion, and Congress is not finished spending. Debt held by the public will rise to 101 percent of GDP, a level not seen since World War II. Even if the world is willing to take US debt, rising interest payments will squeeze the rest of the budget. Simultaneously, the electorate is likely to focus inward. The pandemic is already the leading popular concern, not surprisingly. The economic devastation caused by restrictions on normal commercial activities has produced the greatest downturn since the Great Depression. It would be reasonable to put these factors together and project a substantially reduced defense budget. However, the congressional calendar and the inertia of a long-held strategy will likely mitigate any downturn. The Calendar The calendar will help because Congress is likely to pass the 2021 appropriation this fall, when the government will still be operating under emergency conditions. Congress has already passed four bills for pandemic response and economic stimulus and is developing another in the multi-trillion range. There are a few voices for fiscal constraint, but they are overwhelmed by a sentiment to “do more.” Indeed, some lawmakers and commentators are proposing increases to the defense budget to stimulate the economy, enhance deterrence of China, or protect the defense industrial base. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has indicated his reluctance to do more than protect the industrial base, but a future stimulus bill could include such enhancements as part of a bipartisan deal. Finally, last year's bipartisan budget agreement set levels for defense and domestic spending in fiscal 2021. Undoing that agreement would be a major lift, requiring a bipartisan consensus that does not seem to be occurring. Even if the Democratic left wanted to make such cuts, defense hawks in the House and Senate could block them. Thus, in the near-term proposals for enhancements seem to be offsetting thoughts about cuts. As both the House and Senate consider their authorization acts, they seem to be aiming at roughly the level of the president's proposal and the bipartisan budget agreement. Strategic Inertia The United States has had some variation of the same national security strategy since the end of the Second World War (or perhaps more accurately, since the Korean War and publication of NSC 68, which enshrined a long term competition with the Soviet Union). That strategy involves global engagement, forward-deployed forces, alliances to offset global competitors, and commitment to maintaining an international system of free trade, human rights and secure borders. Scholars can argue about the details and how well the United States has implemented such a strategy, but the major elements have been constant. President Trump has chafed at many of these elements but has generally gone along, however reluctantly. One would expect such reluctant continuity in a second Trump administration, should that occur One would also expect strategic continuity in a Biden administration. Biden was, after all, vice president during the Obama administration, which, after the shocks of 2014, laid out a strategy of confronting five threats: Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and terrorism. One would expect Biden to implement something like that strategy if he were in office. That does not mean that a Biden administration would do everything a Trump administration would do. The left-wing of the Democratic party would push some level of cuts, perhaps 5 percent, and take aim particularly at nuclear modernization, foreign arms sales, and Middle East conflicts. But this longstanding strategy of global engagement will put a floor on defense cuts. Remaining engaged with NATO, supporting our Asian allies like Japan and South Korea, and maintaining some presence in the Middle East, even if scaled back, takes a lot of forces. These need to be at a relatively high level of readiness to deploy globally and be credible. The all-volunteer force needs to maintain compensation and benefits at a sufficient level to compete for labor in a market economy. Competing with China and Russia requires investment in a wide variety of high technology―and costly―new systems, as well as the R&D foundation to support these innovations. Other strategies are certainly possible. Members of the Democratic left and Republican right, as well as some elements of the academic and think tank community, have proposed strategies of “restraint”, whereby the United States would significantly scale back overseas engagements. Such strategic change would produce a substantial cut in the defense budget. However, neither major candidate has supported such a change, and the national security policy community (aka “the blob”) is adamantly opposed. Despite this relatively optimistic assessment, the future is still cloudy. The president's budget proposal forecasts a level budget in constant dollars. That meant that the defense buildup was over, even if Republicans continued in office. Such budgets do not come close to the 3 to 5 percent real growth that defense officials had talked about to implement the National Defense strategy and would entail choices between readiness, force structure and modernization. A Democratic administration, with a notional 5 percent cut in the defense budget, would not constitute the deep cut that a Sanders or Warren administration might have entailed, but the $35 billion that a 5 percent cut would entail is still a lot of money. Forces would get smaller, likely wiping out all the recent force expansion, and new programs would be delayed. Bottom line: Defense may not be heading into a budget hurricane, but it is not heading into sunlight either. It faces the friction that occurs when expensive plans collide with constrained resources. Mark Cancian, a member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors, was a Marine colonel and senior official at the Office of Management and Budget before he joined CSIS. https://breakingdefense.com/2020/05/huge-deficit-defense-budget-cuts-maybe-not/

  • To get more female pilots, the Air Force is changing the way it designs weapons

    20 août 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    To get more female pilots, the Air Force is changing the way it designs weapons

    Valerie Insinna WASHINGTON — In 2022, the U.S. Air Force will take delivery of the F-15EX, a new and improved version of the nearly 40-year-old F-15E Strike Eagle. But for all of the modern advances of the new jet, only 9 percent of women in the Air Force currently meet the body-size standards for piloting the legacy F-15 and possibly also the new EX variant, potentially blocking highly qualified pilots from flying a platform that will be in operation for decades to come. Like the vast majority of the Air Force's aircraft and aircrew equipment, the F-15 was designed to meet the anthropometric specifications of a male pilot in 1967. But in an Aug. 4 memo, the Air Force mandated that future weapons programs use current body size data that reflects the central 95 percent of the U.S. recruitment population — a move meant to make pilot and aircrew jobs more accessible to women and people of color. Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper, who signed off on the changes, said there is a strategic imperative for opening the door to a more diverse pool of pilots and aircrew. During a war with a near-peer, technologically advanced nation like China, the U.S. military will have to contend with a well-trained, highly educated force that might outnumber its own, he said. By fielding weapon systems that can only be used by a smaller portion of the U.S. population, the Air Force could be shutting out some of its most promising potential pilots or aircrew. “The human factor is a delineator and it likely will be against an adversary like China, where I believe we will have a greater propensity to trust the operator in the seat, to delegate more, to empower more and take greater risk in that delegation,” Roper told Defense News in an exclusive Aug. 6 interview. “All well and good when you're a country that's going to face a country with a population that's four times your own by the end of this decade,” he said. “But if we begin with a recruitment population that we've artificially halved because of how we design our cockpits and workstations, we've just doubled our work, and now we make every operator in the seat have to be eight times better than the counterpart they will face in a nation like China.” The new guidance directs the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center to conduct a study that will solidify a more inclusive anthropometric standard that would include 95 percent of the U.S. population eligible for recruitment in the U.S. Air Force. But until that wraps up, all new-start Air Force programs must be designed with cockpits, aircrew operating stations and aircrew equipment that accommodates eight anthropometric data sets. These eight cases use measurement data from the Centers for Disease Control and represent a range of body types including individuals who are short in stature, have short limbs or have a long torso. AFLCMC's Airman's Accommodations Laboratory will also run a three-year study that will develop separate anthropometric standards for career enlisted aviators, who perform specialized jobs onboard military aircraft including flight engineers, flight attendants and loadmasters. Currently, career enlisted aviators also must meet the 1967 anthropometric standards. ‘A hidden barrier' The legacy design parameters — which stem from a 1967 survey of male pilots and measure everything from a pilot's standing height, eye height while sitting, and reach — have effectively barred 44 percent of women from being able to fly aircraft unless they receive a waiver, with women of color disproportionately affected, the Air Force stated. Even after a waiver is granted, the pilot will remain disqualified from certain platforms regardless of his or her aptitude. Then, when future requirements are defined for new platforms or equipment, the systems are usually designed to meet the existing pool of pilots, creating a self-perpetuating problem. “It is a hidden barrier with multiple layers,” said Lt. Col. Jessica Ruttenber, an Air Force mobility planner and a leader of the Women's Initiative Team that advocated for the change in anthropometric standards. “People are trying to do the right thing, but the barriers are baked into legacy policy. And without even knowing it, they're kind of cut and pasting the same standard.” Ruttenber said the new guidance addresses the root of the problem by establishing new design specifications — ensuring platforms are engineered to accommodate a wide range of body sizes from the start of the development process, rather than papering over the problem with waivers after the fact. “[For] the next inter-theater airlift that is going to replace the C-130 or C-17, we can't get the anthropometric data wrong or women are still going to be eliminated 30 years from now. The C-130 and C-17 still eliminate one out of three women from flying it,” she said. For more than a year, the Women's Initiative Group worked with Chief Master Sgt. Chris Dawson, the career field manager for the Air National Guard's career enlisted aviators, on trying to garner funding for an anthropometric study for CEAs. “There were so many communities we had to coordinate with that we realized really quickly that this has to come from the top down or we're not going to be as successful,” Ruttenber said. After meeting with Roper, the Women's Initiative group was granted $4 million for the study. Ruttenber, a KC-135 pilot, remembers being pulled out of her first pilot training class in 2005 because her physical examination indicated that she didn't meet the standing height requirement of 5-foot-4 by a fraction of an inch. She then sought a waiver that would allow her to fly. “The process was different back then. I had to drive from base to base and get measured in each cockpit in an attempt to get an exception to policy. I went to Charleston and I got measured in a C-17, and then I went to Little Rock and got measured in a C-130,” she said. “I got measured in the KC-135 and so on and so on and so on.” Since then, the Air Force has made the process to obtain a waiver less arduous, and it recently removed the initial height requirement — although some platforms still require pilots to meet the 5-foot-4 standard. Newer aircraft such as the F-35 joint strike fighter and the T-7 trainer currently under development will also accommodate a wider height and weight range. However, Ruttenber pointed out that the specifications for legacy aircraft will remain a hurdle for the progression of female pilots. “Even if the F-35 is 97 percent accommodating for women, I still can't get there because the T-38,” which is used for fighter pilot training, “has a 41 percent accommodation envelope for women,” she said. Roper said he is working with defense contractors to see whether there can be modifications made to legacy platforms — or upgraded versions like the F-15EX — that will accommodate operators with a wider range of body sizes. But whether those changes are ultimately made will depend on if they are technically feasible and funding is available for design changes. At the time of the Aug. 6 interview, Roper had already spoken to some defense industry executives — including those from Lockheed Martin — about the new guidance and planned similar phone calls with Boeing and Northrop Grumman officials over the coming days. The reaction from industry so far has been “very positive” but “very surprised” that such bias still exists, he said. However, Roper acknowledged that more work has yet to be done. “Changing the policy is one thing. Changing the platforms is another. And that's going to require cost to do. My next job, aside from designing future systems differently — which we'll do — is to find options to bring systems into greater compliance with the new policy and then to advocate tooth and nail for the funding needed to do it,” he said. “The litmus test for the Air Force long term has got to be balancing accommodation with the technology for future platforms.” https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2020/08/19/to-get-more-female-pilots-the-air-force-is-changing-the-way-it-designs-weapons/

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