Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
January 28, 2015

U.S. Defense Budget: Top Issues to Watch

Defense News offers “25 Issues To Watch In the Coming DoD Budget.”

The story notes that “on Feb. 2, the Pentagon will submit its fiscal 2016 budget request to Congress. Defense News reporters teamed up with budget analytics firm VisualDoD to highlight the most important issues to watch.” Issues include:

  • Cyber, IT spending
  • Tactical aviation changes
  • Missile defense
  • Navy shipbuilding and aircraft plans

Report: Obama to Request Military Budget Hike

Stars and Stripes reports that “President Barack Obama will ask Congress for a hefty, almost 8 percent boost for the Pentagon, including $5.3 billion to equip and train Iraqi soldiers and moderate Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants in the Middle East.”

“Obama will ask for $534 billion for the core budget of the Defense Department — a $38 billion increase — according to “pre-decisional” Pentagon documents obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday. That means there could be some slight changes when the budget actually comes out Monday.”

“The Pentagon witnessed major budget cuts with the imposition of so-called budget sequestration in 2013 and has been held at a freeze since then. Military brass say the bleaker budgets have forced cuts in flying hours, troop training and maintenance of military equipment. The agency was due for just a $3 billion increase under caps set in a 2011 budget pact.”

European Military Cuts Raise Concerns with Russian Threats

NPR reports that “as Russia’s military becomes more aggressive, European leaders fear they do not have the military power to deal with this new threat.”

The piece continues: “After the Cold War, Sweden and the rest of the continent believed they had entered an era of European peace and unity. Lately, Russia has proven them wrong — and not only by seizing part of Ukraine.”

Ready, Set, Seek: US Navy Approves F/A-18 Super Hornet Infrared Search and Track System

The F/A-18 Super Hornet infrared search and track (IRST) system, developed and integrated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, received approval from the U.S. Navy to enter low-rate initial production.

An F/A-18 Super Hornet prepares for landing during flight testing. Lockheed Martin photo

An F/A-18 Super Hornet prepares for landing during flight testing.
Lockheed Martin photo

The IRST system consists of Lockheed Martin’s IRST21™ sensor, the GE Aviation FPU-13 Fuel Tank Assembly and the Meggitt Defense Industry Environmental Control unit. The system demonstrated its production readiness through a series of extensive assessments and reviews, including flight tests.

The long –range sensor IRST21 sensor uses infrared search and track technology to detect, track and enable the Super Hornet to engage threats with air-to-air weapons.

“This ‘see first, strike first’ capability can be used in a variety of threat environments and is a game changer for our warfighters as we combat future adversaries,” said U.S. Navy F/A-18 program manager Capt. Frank Morley.

In addition to detecting airborne threats, IRST significantly enhances multiple target resolution compared to radar, providing greater discrimination of threat formations at longer ranges. Data from the IRST21 sensor is fused with other on-board F/A-18 sensor data to provide maximum situational awareness to the warfighter.

IRST is expected to deploy on the F/A-18 Super Hornet in 2017.

China Weapons That Could Affect U.S. Military Advancement

Business Insider reports that “China is in the midst of a major military buildup that includes fifth-generation planes, prototypes for hypersonic missiles, and ballistic missile submarines.”

“But the real threat to the US from China comes from its anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), Lyle J. Goldstein writes for the National Interest.”

Snow Slows House Border Security Bill

Defense News reports that “as a winter storm grips the east coast and snarls air travel, House leaders are delaying votes on a border security bill calling for increased aircraft patrols.”

“With more than a foot of snow expected in some parts of the northeast, House GOP leaders on Monday afternoon issued a revised schedule for the week. It does not mention H.R. 399, a border-security bill approved last week by the chamber’s Committee on Homeland Security.”

“A schedule released Monday morning, however, listed the measure as hitting the floor Wednesday.”

Dominican Republic, U.S. Military Increase Cooperation

Dominican Today reports that “Dominican Republic and the United States … agreed to expand military cooperation, with American personnel temporarily present for training, joint exercises, humanitarian aid and other operations including the war on transnational crimes.”

“Foreign minister Andrés Navarro and US ambassador James W. Brewster signed the agreement in a ceremony attended by Defense minister Lt. Gen. William Muñoz and US Southern Command chief, Gen. John Kelly.”

“Navarro said the agreement provides facilities on visits, training, exercises and other activities to US staff and contractors temporarily in the Dominican Republic, as well as the means to achieve common objectives and interests.”

Mighty B-52 Bomber Now with GPS-Guided Weapons in Bay

Across from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City sits a wealth of engineering expertise on the B-52 Stratofortress – the Air Force bomber that has been a symbol of American might for more than five decades. The close proximity to Tinker has helped Boeing’s engineers partner with the Air Force in the latest upgrade to the B-52 bomber.

Engineers have developed and built three prototypes for a new weapons launcher to be equipped in the weapons bay of the B-52, and close cooperation with the U.S. Air Force allowed all three prototypes to be delivered ahead-of-schedule.

In December, the U.S. Air Force and Boeing successfully installed the first prototype of the new launcher to transform the B-52 weapons bay enabling deployment of GPS-guided “smart” weapons for the first time. The new launcher also increases weapons capacity, providing crew members with greater flexibility to adapt to changing conditions on the ground.

Military crews will continue field testing the new launcher prototypes at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. until March, when flight tests commence.

Check out this video on the latest technology to upgrade the weapons bay and expand B-52 capabilities:

McCain: More Ground Troops to Fight ISIS reports that “Sen. John McCain, the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is calling for more U.S. ground troops in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.”

“McCain said more ground fighters are needed to defeat ISIS and that the U.S. should establish a no-fly zone.”

“‘A strategy must include taking an unambiguous stance against Assad’s rule, establishing a no-fly zone to protect civilians and provide cover to our allies on the ground, moving quickly to provide robust support to moderate units of the Free Syrian Army, and embedding additional United States special operations forces and advisers with our partners on the ground,’ he said in a statement.”

Army Seeks to Store Equipment in Eastern Europe

Stars and Stripes reports that “U.S. Army Europe will soon dispatch a survey team to eastern Europe to scout locations for tanks and other military hardware as part of a broader effort to bolster the U.S. military presence in a region rattled by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the Army’s top commander in Europe said Friday.”

“’We are doing surveys here in the next few weeks up in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria to see if there is a place where perhaps some of that equipment could be stored there,’ USAREUR chief Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said during an interview with Stars and Stripes. ‘Maybe it’s a company, maybe it’s a whole battalion, we don’t know yet until we do the survey.’”

“In 2015, the Army expects to rotate a full-sized, U.S.-based heavy brigade of some 3,000 troops and additional tanks and other armored vehicles through Europe in connection with the service’s Regionally Aligned Force initiative. Last year, the program kicked off on a smaller scale, bringing combat tanks back into Europe after a brief absence following the elimination of two Germany-based heavy brigades in 2013. Now, the regional concept is picking up steam, with plans for 220 armored vehicles in Europe.”

Reaction to SpaceX Agreement: ULA Chief Turns to Twitter

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 2.12.18 PMDefense News reports that “Last week, [United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO Tony Bruno] began using his personal Twitter account to reply to questions from journalists. While other industry leaders maintain Twitter accounts, they are generally used to push press releases or quick soundbites; it is pretty rare to see one that is willing to engage with reporters in an open forum — and with critics as well.

The piece provides “a collection of some of Bruno’s remarks from Friday and Saturday. First, [Defense News] asked Bruno to react to the news that competitor SpaceX was dropping a lawsuit against the US Air Force over a decision to award ULA a block-buy of launch contracts. The official line from ULA was to repeat the service’s statement, but Bruno went a little further.”

SHARCs on the Prowl in Pacific Ocean

It might look like you could ride the waves with Liquid Robotics’ SHARC, but don’t try to hang ten off this board – it moves at only three knots. Instead, the device, produced by Boeing partner Liquid Robotics at their Sunnyvale, Calif. facility, is an ocean-based unmanned vehicle used for observation, data collection and monitoring.

The SHARC connects intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities provided by Boeing assets ranging from satellites, manned aircraft, UAVs like the ScanEagle and sub-surface crafts, providing broad-area, continuous maritime surveillance.  In 2014, Boeing and Liquid Robotics signed a multi-year agreement to enhance the unmanned marine vessel’s capabilities. Ultimately, the collaboration will develop total integrated solutions for anti-submarine warfare and other maritime defense applications, offering the customer communications and sensing from seabed to space.

The SHARC is the militarized version of Liquid Robotics’ Wave Glider system that uses both wave power and solar energy to propel the craft through challenging ocean conditions. This makes it ideally suited to operate in high currents, hurricanes and other weather conditions in which using a manned vehicle would be unsafe or otherwise not possible.

This video shows how SHARCs maneuver through ocean waters to provide this “seabed to space” information connection.

U.S. General: Europe ‘at Front’ of U.S. Army Approach

Stars and Stripes reports that “if the Army’s new operating concept is about preparing to fight in an increasingly complex security environment, forces in Europe are in some ways on the leading edge, said the Army’s top general in charge of training.”

“’In many ways, what’s going on here in U.S. Army Europe is really leading the force, from an Army point of view,’ said Gen. David Perkins, commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, during a visit to Germany on Monday. ‘They are dealing in a very complex world.’”

“In October, the Army issued an operational concept dubbed ‘Win in a Complex World,’ which puts a premium on adapting to a range of unpredictable threats and working with allies to counter them.”

“’What we’re saying is, in the future, we see the rate of complexity increasing, which means the ability of our leaders to understand that complex world is going to be more about the leaders than any single piece of equipment,’ Perkins said in a telephone interview from Wiesbaden, where he was at USAREUR headquarters to talk with leaders about the service’s new operational focus.”

Musk Settles Dispute Against U.S. Air Force

Tech Times reports that “Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, has dropped the lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force. In a statement, SpaceX says that the latest settlement improves ‘competitive landscape’ for space launches.”

“In April 2014, SpaceX filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force alleging that the agency wrongly awarded a contract to the United Launch Alliance (ULA), which is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The said contract involved launching military satellites for the Air Force. The lawsuit also alleged that an Air Force official was bribed for awarding the contract to ULA.”

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