COAST GUARD MAY TAKE C-27Js OFF THE USAF’s HANDS, USAF INFLATED OPERATIONAL FINANCIAL PREDICTIONS
This is a positive development in the C-27J saga. The Coast Guard has to constantly fight for every scrap it can get and the C-27J would be a good platform for them if they can be had for next to nothing. This may allow the over taxed USCG to lower or slow procurement of C-130J and/or HC-114 aircraft which will allow them to funnel those funds to other urgent programs. I am still surprised the SOCOM has not piped up and asked for the C-27Js. They were hot to get them a few years ago and it would seem like an ideal platform for their flexible and demanding mission profiles. Even a gunship version modeled on the USMC’s “Harvest Hawk” may help alleviate pressure on their tired fleet of Hercules gunships, an option that has already been studied to a great degree.
In other C-27J news the USAF is being attacked head-on by Congress who recently bought the USAF the planes that they said they needed, while the Army begged for them instead. Now that the USAF is trying to boot a brand new aircraft from it’s aging inventory it would seem that their figures on lifetime operational costs seem a little out of sorts, at least the Air National Guard thinks so. It is clear that the USAF hates this program and wants it dead at tall costs, no matter how ridiculous the reasoning. Why not retire a few more C-130 and keep the brand new C-27J? Sure it can hold less but no matter what the USAF says they can go places a C-130 cannot, many missions do not require a C-130 at all, and they are brand new aircraft!
STATE DEPARTMENT GETS UNWANTED H-46s FROM NAVAIR
As mainline US forces leave Afghanistan helicopter support is being migrated more and more to other US Government agencies and contractors. The CH-46 and CH-47 are in particularly high demand because of their lifting abilities, ample cabin, and performance in hot and high environments. Now that the Marines are shedding their battle weary and ancient “Phrogs” as fast as possible for the MV-22 lots of airframes, even the cream of the Marine’s crop, are hitting the bone-yard. This is where the US State Department stepped in and began a massive series of procedures to overhaul the ex-Leatherneck Phrogs for use as support aircraft in Afghanistan. Most people do not know that the US State Department has an air force of it’s own, although one not geared directly to combat. The Department Of State Air Wing (DOSAW) fly’s many types of aircraft, the majority of them of the older variety that tend to blend in well in the third world environments they often operate in. Thus the DOSAW has become gurus at keeping these old aircraft flying in tip-top condition and the bailed CH-46s will most likely be no different. Over time they usually upgrade these aircraft with new avionics and powerplants, even the CH-46 is going to possibly get a glass cockpit. Although it is great news that the US Government is not throwing away airframes that still work it does beg the question: If overhauled and upgraded H-46s are good enough for DOSAW why are they not good enough for the Marines? Is a $60M per aircraft all Osprey medium lift aircraft fleet really necessary?
THE BIG E IS ABOUT TO MEET HER END
The United State’s oldest carrier and it’s first nuclear one has set sail on her final deployment. This bittersweet news is a triumph on one level and sad on another. The USS Enterprise began life as much as an experiment as it did an operational carrier. I don’t think anyone in the late 1950′s, as she was being constructed, would have thought this ship would have lasted half a century, but over that time period the USS Enterprise has made history time and time again. With her unique island configuration and her six (YES SIX!) nuclear reactors the Enterprise was one of a kind and many of the things learned in her design and early operations, both good and bad, were implemented into the design of the Nimitz class nuclear carriers. At the time of her birth many in the Navy though all large ships would eventually run on nuclear power instead of range limiting diesel, a prediction that never came to fruition although her first cruise would see her and her nuclear powered escorts the USS Bainbridge and USS Long Beach hit the seas under the name “Task Force 1,” the words first, and only all nuclear carrier task force.
A major part of the USS Enterprise lore is her name. Modern humanity has grown up around the fabled name via the Star Trek series of movies and TV shows that have had world-wide popularity for almost 50 years. The name Enterprise, one that has been used for American fighting ships for centuries, combined with the fiction of Star Trek gave the ship a certain mystique not found with other carriers. Now with the USS Enterprise’s 50 year experiment coming to an end it would only seem fitting that she would be replaced by another USS Enterprise, just as in the Star Trek universe. Sadly this is not happening. The USS Ford, which will represent a whole new carrier class, will be launched in 2015, leaving the US Navy controversially short a carrier for few years. The next ship of the class will be named the John F. Kennedy, then CVN-80, a yet to be named carrier, may be named the USS Enterprise as there is a large momentum within the Pentagon, DC, and across the country to do so. Ship naming has become an incredibly petty topic in DC so hopefully wisdom will prevail and America will get another Enterprise to be proud of within about a decade or so.
MORE ON LIBYAN WEAPONS LOOTING FALLOUT MESS
We need to be very aware that a byproduct of taking out dictators is that their weapons stockpiles basically get transferred from a rational, or at least semi-rational actor state to the black market and/or extremist groups who could not buy them in a conventional way. This is a big deal because the use of these weapons, especially advanced shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, ballistic missiles, and WMD related material can start a war themselves. Syria is of particular interest as they have much more advanced weapons capabilities than Libya and they have large amounts of chemical weapons stored all over the country. You can read my piece on this here and take a look at the Aviation Week piece for more information on this growing threat below: http://aviationintel.com/2012/03/01/syrian-helicopter-gunships-are-being-used-against-syrian-population-what-about-the-wmds/
SICKENING: BAE’s NETWORK HACKED BY CHINESE, F-35 BLUEPRINTS STOLEN
This is getting totally out of hand. The Chinese must think we are the biggest bunch of fools to put so much into a weapon system just to have it stolen via the net. We are basically subsidizing China’s weapons development on a grand scale and I have not heard any key plans to repulse such attacks in the future. What seems clear is that utilizing the convenances of the internet when developing such a massive boondoggle like the F-35 make the whole program vulnerable. Why can’t they just go back to hard copies and secure NON-NETWORKED computers when it comes to these programs. So what if it will add 5% to the cost or whatever, that is the least of our worries if our latest technology is being compromised as it is being designed. There are so many contractors and “cooks in the kitchen” when it comes to the F-35 program, by Lockheed’s design of course as it had to buy off international partners through offsets and production deals and congressman through contracting in their state in order to make the project fly, that without going to a drastically different way of communicating program information I just don’t see how we can lock sensitive data down, especially after China has broken through security safeguards time and time again. I find it funny that the damning “quick look” report on the progress of the F-35 had everything from fuel dump problems to worthless tailhooks listed but it did not mention that the whole program is being continually compromised by Chinese cyber espionage. Simply put there is a lot more risk in design theft than in a bad helmet mounted sighting system, or peeling skin coatings!
Hey I have an idea! Since we already given China our super sensitive fighter designs that cost billions and billions of dollars to create why don’t we just build them in China? We do it with everything else and if our contractors are this vulnerable to cyber theft why don’t we just build it there for half the cost and not have to pay for large contractor salaries, retirements, health plans etc? Then China will not have to hack into our networks anymore and thus we won’t have to spend money protecting the program at all. The Chinese may gain a giant leap in aeronautical capability by doing so, although they will be hard pressed to use it against us because they are making billions building our fighter jets! This may be sarcastic but at this point is it really??
CHINA’S DEFENSE SPENDING JUMPS
AOL defense has a good article on this that I agree with posted below. Yes the 11% hike in China’s defense spending is due to America’s monumental pivot towards the Pacific Theater, but it’s also due to the changing nature of a rapidly modernizing Chinese fighting force where quality is becoming balanced against quantity and serious emphasis is being put on leveraging information and intelligence for using their emerging capabilities most wisely. Further area denial systems like the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, when paired with state of the art over the horizon targeting capabilities is a high-end program that will need vast funds to mature, yet once effective it will be a game changer that would seem like a bargain in retrospect. You can read my previous piece on the DF-21D here: http://aviationintel.com/2012/01/26/chinas-anti-ship-ballistic-missile-the-lost-rq-170-sentinel/