Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

U.S. Military’s ‘Shopping List Of Weapons To Fight ISIS’

BuzzFeed reports that “late last month, the U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees America’s elite commandos and their operations against ISIS in Syria, sent a lengthy shopping list to a small group of arms dealers. The tightly held list, obtained by BuzzFeed News, doesn’t include U.S. weapons and ammunition but rather Russian-designed arms, including hundreds of AK-47 rifles, heavy mortars, and anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades, enough to equip a battalion.”

“The U.S. military said the weapons are for the anti-ISIS effort, and the only place the U.S. is known to send arms to anti-ISIS forces is Syria. In Iraq the government in Baghdad government buys its own weapons. Still, the Pentagon would not say who exactly would get the weapons. Sources say the U.S. military currently provides arms to the “Syrian Democratic Forces” coalition made up of the Kurdish militia known as the YPG and other groups.”

U.S., Allies Conduct 14 Strikes Against Islamic State

Reuters reports that “the United States and its allies conducted 14 strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Wednesday, the Combined Joint Task Force leading the operations said in a statement.”

“In Iraq, 13 included three strikes focused near Ramadi that struck an IS tactical unit and destroyed a bunker, the coalition said in the statement released on Thursday.”

New US Military Spy Satellite Launched

Tech Times reports that “a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket blasted off Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 3:40 a.m. local time on Wednesday lighting up the pre-dawn sky. The towering rocket was carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) NROL-45 spy satellite.”

“The NRO is responsible for designing, building and operating the spy satellites of the United States. The federal agency was set up in 1961, four years after the Soviet Union started the space age with the launch of its Sputnik 1 satellite. The agency worked in secret for over more than decades until its existence was declassified in 1992.”

“The mission is ULA’s second in six days after the Feb. 5 launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying a GPS satellite for the U.S. Air Force.”

Topic A: Defense

Legacy of Service: the 747-8 Will Be Next Air Force One

1CB5VF_7478_Approach_Sunrise_01 COMPRESSED.jpgFrom Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama, Air Force One has transported U.S. presidents around the world – and Boeing’s been a partner along the way.  Last week, the U.S. Air Force issued a contract that will continue the tradition of Boeing building presidential aircraft.

The next presidential aircraft will be based on the747-8 aircraft and replace the current VC-25As in use. The VC-25A is based on the 747-200 platform and was fielded in the 1990s when the first President Bush was in the Oval Office.  Although the Air Force One call sign is not specific to a particular plane but to what aircraft the president is on, a majority of the president’s travel in on the iconic 747 platform.

When the presidential seal and “United States of America” are painted on the 747-8 and one of most recognizable symbols of the presidency takes flight, Boeing airplanes will continue more than half a century of presidential service.

Check out this photo gallery to view images of the iconic Air Force One spanning more than 50 years.

US Military Creates Pizza That Stays Edible for Three Years

Munchies (part of Vice) reports that “if you’re putting your life on the line to defend the most powerful military nation on Earth, then you should be entitled, whenever possible, to enjoy the same basic rights as those back home.”

“One of those inalienable rights is eating pizza, and now, for the first time, troops on the ground will be able to rip open a pouch and enjoy the hot slice of freedom known officially as MRE #37. MRE is US military jargon for “Meal, Ready-to-Eat,” the prepackaged field rations that fuel troops in America’s various combat theaters.”

Draft Bill Aims to Grow U.S. Military Cyber Warfare Capabilities

SC Magazine reports that “draft legislation proposed by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) seeks to improve the Pentagon’s ability to quickly develop and acquire process cyber warfare technologies.”

“The Electronic Warfare Enhancement Act (S. 2486), co-sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would streamline the defense procurement process for cyber warfare technologies by including electronic warfare technologies within the Secretary of Defense’s Rapid Acquisition Authority (RAA). The draft also proposes to create an exception to a requirement (Section 181, Title 10) that the defense secretary review acquisition programs.”

“The proposal comes as the U.S. struggles to play catch-up to Russia’s growing cyber capabilities. The U.S. military, for example, lags behind the electronic attack, jamming communications, radar and command-and-control nets used by Russia in the Ukraine and Syria to jam drones and block battlefield communications. According to National Defense, the US Army is working on stronger jamming systems, expected to be available in 2023.”

Pentagon to Increase U.S. Military Advisers in Afghanistan

The Washington Post reports that “the Pentagon will deploy dozens of additional U.S. military advisers to southern Afghanistan in coming weeks, a U.S. military official said, part of an effort to rebuild the Afghan army unit that has faced a bloody fight in Helmand province.”

“The advisers will be deployed to train the 215th Corps, the Afghan army unit based in Helmand, the official said. The poppy-rich province was once home to about 30,000 coalition troops and major operations run by U.S. Marines, but nearly all U.S. troops there withdrawn by the end of 2014. In recent months pitched battles have been fought there, some of which involve U.S. Special Operations troops working alongside Afghanistan commandos.”

Topic A: Defense

Saving Money Again and Again? Yes.

P8AT1MtRanierP64934-04_high-resThe U.S. Navy recently awarded a $2.5 billion contract to build 20 additional P-8A Poseidon aircraft.  By itself, the contract speaks to the capability of the Poseidon and the customer’s confidence in its performance.  It is also a testament to the cost benefits of the in-line production system which is driving down the unit cost for each P-8A.

Historically, commercial derivative aircraft like the P-8A were built as commercial airplanes.  After production they were cut up and reassembled to include the required military components, a time consuming and expensive process.

Enter a unique collaboration.  When Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Defense, Space and Security asked “Why not do this together?” a new concept was born.  Now these military aircraft begin their lives as commercial airplanes alongside their commercially-dedicated siblings.  They move down an export-controlled commercial production line, making changes along the way to meet military needs: a structure change here, military systems provisions there…all without sacrificing production time or efficiency.  

At the end of production, those commercial aircraft have been reborn as military aircraft that can perform anti-submarine or anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, transport, surveillance and reconnaissance…any number of missions.

So how is it possible that a process that creates a complex, highly versatile military aircraft can decrease unit cost over time?  When rolled seamlessly into the existing 737 production system, all P-8As benefit from the economies of scale, high-volume lean production process, and robust supply chain for the multitude of parts common to both platforms.  The result has been a 30 percent reduction in unit cost since the initial P-8A contract.  And the focus to move more production elements “to the left”, back into the commercial production line to maximize all those benefits, continues.  Just gets better and better.

U.S. Military Focuses on Africa, Shifting Terror Threat

Reuters reports that “African forces began a U.S.-led counter-terrorism training program in Senegal on Monday amid what a U.S. commander said were rising signs of collaboration between Islamist militant groups across north Africa and the Sahel.”

“The annual ‘Flintlock’ exercises started only weeks after an attack in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou left 30 people dead. The assault on a hotel used by foreigners raised concerns that militants were expanding from a stronghold in north Mali toward stable, Western allies like Senegal.”

“Al Qaeda (AQIM) fighters claimed responsibility for the attack, one of increasingly bold regional strikes in the Sahel, a poor, arid zone between the Sahara Desert and Sudanian Savanna that is home to a number of roving militant groups.”

Senators Call on Navy to Further Test Littoral Ships

Bloomberg reports that “two top senators on defense issues say U.S. Navy leaders should consider delaying deployment of the new Littoral Combat Ship and tone down their effusive rhetoric about the vessel until it successfully completes more testing.”

“With six ships of a planned 40 delivered but ‘practically no LCS mission capabilities proven’ for mine clearance, surface warfare and submarine-hunting, ‘we urge you to reevaluate the deployment strategy,’ John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Jack Reed, the panel’s top Democrat, wrote in a letter dated Feb. 5.”

“As part of the Obama administration’s promised ‘pivot to the Pacific,’ the Navy has sent one Littoral Combat Ship to Singapore with plans to have a total of two there by December and four by 2018. The vessel already in place, the USS Fort Worth, has been sidelined since a major crew-caused maintenance failure in January. The Navy also plans to use littoral ships, intended for operations in shallow coastal waters, in Pacific exercises and for a deployment to Bahrain in 2017.”

US Military War Games to Address Climate Change Threats

Climate Home reports that “US military planners have been ordered to war game climate change scenarios, focusing on “geopolitical and socioeconomic instability” linked to extreme weather.”

“A new directive says forces need to undertake joint training exercises with allies to ‘enhance capacity’ and ‘improve tactics’ for tackling impacts linked to global warming.”

“’Mission planning and execution must include identification and assessment of the effects of climate change on the DoD [department of defence] mission,’ it reads.”

Topic A: Defense

New Air Force Tanker Conducts First Air Refueling

A Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft successfully completed its first air-to-air refueling test flight, marking a significant development milestone for the program to replace most of the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet.

On January 24, the KC-46A, with a combined Air Force and Boeing crew, took off from Boeing Field outside Seattle. While flying at 20,000 feet, the crew extended the tanker boom smoothly into the receptacle above the nose of an F-16 fighter, offloading approximately 1,600 pounds of fuel.

The KC-46’s refueling flight kicks off what is called “Milestone C” testing – flights and tests that will ultimately lead to an Air Force decision to begin production. As part of upcoming flight tests, the new tanker also will refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet Navy fighter, a C-17 Globemaster III airlifter, an A-10 Warthog close air support aircraft, a Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier short take off and vertical landing jet, as well as receive fuel from a KC-10 tanker.

The KC-46A, derived from Boeing’s 767 commercial airplane, is a multi-role tanker that will refuel U.S., allied and coalition military aircraft. Passengers, cargo and patients also can be transported.Boeing is building four test aircraft – two 767-2Cs and two KC-46A tankers. The 767-2Cs enter flight test as commercial freighters prior to receiving aerial refueling systems, while the KC-46As are fully-equipped tankers. The different configurations are used to meet FAA and military certification requirements. The program’s first test aircraft, a 767-2C, has completed more than 260 flight hours since its inaugural flight in December 2014. The KC-46 tanker has completed more than 140 flight hours since its first flight September 25, 2015.

To learn more and watch a video of the aerial refueling, click here.

China Reacts to U.S. Warship in S. China Sea

The Asia Times reports that “China toned down vitriolic rhetoric in response to the recent passage of a US warship near a disputed island in the South China Sea.”

Chinese government-controlled media outlets, however, seized on the transit of the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur on Jan. 30 within 12 miles of Triton Island in the Paracels archipelago with stepped up threats to deploy missiles and warplanes on some of its 3,200 acres of newly-created islands.”

“Analysis of official Chinese statements after the unannounced warship transit shows Beijing backed off from more threatening rhetoric used after an earlier warship passage in October.”

North Korea Satellite Launch May Affect US Missile System Placement reports that “North Korea’s claim Sunday of launching a satellite atop what could be developed as a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S. will likely set off debate on more spending for missile defense in the $583 billion fiscal 2017 Pentagon budget proposal to be released Tuesday.”

“In a statement, Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the North Korean action showed that ‘seven years of underfunding for U.S. missile defense have given our adversaries uncontested opportunity to advance their capabilities. The President must show leadership in squarely facing the growing threats and in adequately funding our military to meet those threats.'”

“Last year, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency proposed $8.13 billion in fiscal 2016 to improve and expand U.S. anti-missile programs. The proposal was a 3-percent increase over the previous year.”

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