GAO Draft Slams F-35 On ‘Unaffordable’ Costs: $8.8B Over Legacy Fighters

GAO Draft Slams F-35 On ‘Unaffordable’ Costs: $8.8B Over Legacy Fighters

WASHINGTON: The F-35′s long-term costs may “not be affordable” and appear to be substantially higher than those of the existing combat aircraft fleets that the Joint Strike Fighter will replace, the Government Acocuntability Office says in a draft report.

“The annual F-35 operating and support costs are estimated to be considerably higher than the combined annual costs of several legacy aircraft,” the draft says. This issue is likely to be a topic of debate at the JSF Executive Steering Board meetings to begin Thursday in Oslo, Norway. The nine countries that invested in the F-35′s development will hold bilateral meetings on Wednesday. Then they gather in the shadow of the Norwegian parliament as a group the next day.

The estimated gap between the F-35 sustainment costs and those of the F/A-18, F-15, F-16 and the Harrier fleets as measured in 2010 is impressive, about $8.8 billion, an increase of 79 percent. That estimate comes from the Pentagon’s authoritative Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, the GAO draft report says. The draft says that costs for the legacy fleet were about $11 billion a year in 2010. Based on CAPE’s estimate, the F-35′s annual costs will be $19.9 billion in 2012 dollars.

A source close to the program pointed to this comparison as one example of how GAO was “comparing apples and oranges.”

Part of the reasons behind those higher costs can be found in these numbers cited by GAO. First, mean flight hours between critical failures: “As of March 2014, this metric was averaging well below its requirements at maturity, meeting an average of 42 percent of those requirements across all three variants,” the GAO says. And mean time to repair the aircraft “is worsening,” though the report does not offer a specific figure.

The GAO report points out throughout the draft report that CAPE estimates are substantially higher than those of the Joint Program Office, which manages the program, for almost everything to do with sustainment. The official CAPE estimate is $23 billion higher than the JPO’s. But the report says that the CAPE estimate for parts costs would be $120 billion higher than the JPO’s if “they used actual replacement rates being observed at F-35 sites.”

Also, the GAO says that DoD “has not fully addressed” aircraft reliability and technical data rights, which may affect sustainment.

The good news for the program is that the Defense Department does appear to have done a “comprehensive” job of building its cost estimates, GAO says.

Spokesman Joe DellaVedova said the Joint Program Office would not comment “on an unfinished, draft report that has not been publicly released.”

However, he defended the program’s efforts, noting it has created “a government-funded reliability and maintainability program,” and did it “while the fleet is young with about 100 aircraft, so any improvements we make now will reap significant benefits over the next 50 years with thousands of F-35s in the fleet.”

So far, he says  they’ve come up with about “200 initiatives to improve the reliability and the maintainability of the airplane.”

In addition, DellaVedova said they are “reviewing how the F-35 uses support equipment and studying ways where existing items could be modified or a maintenance procedure could be changed that would enable the fleet to use that piece of equipment. We are investigating how we can flatten the supply chain to get parts to the field faster. We are also working with the services and partners to optimize flight hour programs to ensure pilot readiness and reduce sustainment costs.”

In conversations with several sources close to the F-35 program who have seen this draft, they mentioned that GAO’s methods mean their estimates are inherently out of date. Questions were also raised about the GAO’s methodologies for analyzing fuel costs. The program office and Lockheed Martin have long chafed at the analyses done by OSD and the GAO on long-term program costs, so much of this isn’t surprising. But the program has clearly turned a corner in the last two years and Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, head of the JPO, has recently and repeatedly urged reporters and others to “get over” the program’s early years, wracked as they were by mismanagement, huge cost increases and schedule delays.

The GAO does say that the military “has begun some cost savings efforts and established sustainment affordability targets for the F-35 program, but DoD did not use the military service budgets to establish these targets,” so they “do not provide a clear benchmark…” As one example of that disconnect, the auditors say that the program “arbitrarily lowered” the estimate for F-35 fuel costs by 10 percent.

It will be very interesting to see if the GAO sticks to these conclusions when the report gets approved for release.

The A-10 Thunderbolt, Saved By Congress, Joins Airstrikes Against ISIS In Syria

The A-10 Thunderbolt, Saved By Congress, Joins Airstrikes Against ISIS In Syria

 

A U.S. Air Force A-10C warplane carrying missiles, rockets and bombs takes off from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada during an exercise, March 5, 2010. IBTimes / Alberto Riva

As the U.S. begins bombing ISIS targets in Syria with a campaign of airstrikes that started Monday, a venerable airplane that was almost sent to the scrapyard joins the fight. The Pentagon will send a dozen A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft and up to 300 airmen to the Middle East in early October, to help in the conflict against the Islamic State group, the Indiana National Guard said.

The deployment of the 40-year-old aircraft comes just four months after it was controversially saved from defense cuts by Congress, whose rationale for saving it was simple: Cutting it would lead to the deaths of U.S. servicemen on the ground. Built originally by now-defunct Fairchild to destroy Soviet tanks in Europe, the A-10 survived the end of the Cold War thanks to its ability to fly low, carry lots of bombs and a large cannon, and help troops with close air support, which made it often invaluable in Afghanistan. But with defense cuts looming and the Afghan war winding down, the Thunderbolt seemed on the way out.

The aircraft, while favored by some Air Force top brass, was slated to be cut from the defense budget in early May, with potential savings of about $4 billion over a five-year period. The more than 300 A-10s in service would have been grounded.

In May, Air Force Col. Robert S. Spalding III contended that an aircraft such as the A-10 had no place in the future of the Air Force and that those fighting to save it were “missing the point.” IDIOT!!

“The U.S. Air Force is the best in the world at close air support in a permissive environment like Afghanistan, even without the A-10,” Spalding, now a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, had told the International Business Times. “In the future, elite U.S. forces can do without it as the military continues to chase terrorists across the Middle East and Africa, and the A-10 has even less purpose in any future high-end combat in more contested areas, like China, with rapidly improving air defenses.”

But the A-10 had powerful friends. A campaign spearheaded by Republican Sen. John McCain, sought to save it, claiming that the aircraft was the only U.S. jet to offer tactical and accurate support close to the ground. Other aircraft, they argued, flew too fast and too high and were not as accurate in taking out the enemy in close confines.

After a vote in the House, the program was kept operational until 2015 with the help of a $635 million budget increase taken from the war fund, which is more or less a contingency fund that enables Congress to continue to keep whatever operational defense items it’d rather not cut.

It now appears that the decision to keep the plane has been vindicated. The threat faced by U.S. forces conducting bombing raids over Syria is that the enemy, ISIS, is more flexible and spread out compared to a traditional army, something that the U.S. saw in Afghanistan as it fought al Qaeda and the Taliban. The low-flying A-10 offers more flexibility and far more accuracy than fighter jets or bombers. When offering combat air support (not to U.S. troops, which President Obama has ruled out sending to fight ISIS, but to moderate Syrian rebels) it flies close to the ground at a top speed of 439 mph (706 km/h) and can loiter for long periods over an area. Crucially, its use may also result in fewer civilian casualties than less accurate alternatives.

“We have the best training, equipment and aircraft in the world; we’ve been preparing and training for this deployment for the past few months; and I am fully confident in our ability to deploy one of the country’s most lethal fighting forces to support and defend US efforts abroad,” Col. Craig E. Ash, the commander of the 122nd Fighter Wing Maintenance Group that will send A-10s to the Middle East, said in the statement.

There is, however, a unique problem the A-10 may present to U.S. defense planners. Because it flies so low, the Thunderbolt is vulnerable to small arms fire and portable anti-aircraft missiles that cannot reach high altitudes. That could result in ISIS taking down an A-10, as it has done with Syrian regime planes, and killing or capturing the pilot.

“The last thing the U.S. military wants to do is mount a search and rescue operation in the middle of Syria with potential military hostages at stake,” said James Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank based in Washington.

It is generally thought that the aircraft the U.S. has in its arsenal would be operating at too high an altitude for any ISIS weapons to reach. The introduction of the A-10 may well provide ISIS the best opportunity to bring down a U.S. aircraft. They’ve downed SU-25 Frogfoots..Russia’s CAS bird

North Dakota (SSN 784), delivered ahead of schedule and under budget

First Block III Virginia-class Submarine Delivered

North Dakota (SSN 784), delivered ahead of schedule and under budget

 

PCU North Dakota (SSN 784) during bravo sea trials. The crew performed exceptionally well on both alpha and bravo sea trials. The submarine North Dakota is the 11th ship of the Virginia class. U.S. Navy photo

General Dynamics Electric Boat delivered North Dakota (SSN 784) the first of the Block III Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines to the U.S. Navy last month, and the boat is on track to be commissioned Oct. 25 in Groton. The North Dakota‘s original May commissioning date was postponed due to quality issues with third party vendor-assembled and delivered components. These issues were serious enough to require an unplanned dry-docking to correct. Additional design certification work was also needed on the submarine’s redesigned bow.

Despite this, North Dakota was delivered on time and more than $30 million below target cost, according to a General Dynamics Electric Boat news release. The submarine was delivered two days before contract requirement, and had completed Alpha, Bravo, and INSURV trials six days previous, according to a NAVSEA PEO Submarines release.

This redesign replaces a sonar sphere with a Large Aperture Bow (LAB) Array and earlier Virginia-class boats’ 12 individual vertical-launch missile tubes with two Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), which will each initially carry six missiles in multiple all-up round canisters.

North Dakota delivered ahead of schedule and under budget,” said Capt. David Goggins, Virginia Class program manager. “When one considers the scope of design changes, this represents a tremendous achievement.

“Now that certifications are complete, and we’re armed with lessons learned,we can move forward knowing that we are providing our fleet with the most capable, and battle-ready submarine possible,” said Goggins.

North Dakota during sea trials Aug. 18. The Block III boat has a new sonar array and bow payload modules derived from SSGN technologies. U.S. Navy photo

North Dakota is the 11th boat of the Virginia class, and is also the first of the eight-ship group of Block III Virginia-class submarines. The Block III boats reflect a Navy and industry commitment to reduce costs without decreasing capabilities through an initiative comprising a multi-year procurement strategy, improvements in construction practices and the Design For Affordability (DFA) program.

The DFA program focuses primarily on the redesign of the submarine’s bow, lowering program costs by $800 million, increasing capability and providing the capacity for additional growth at no additional cost. This redesign replaces a sonar sphere with a Large Aperture Bow (LAB) Array and earlier Virginia-class boats’ 12 individual vertical-launch missile tubes with two Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), which will each initially carry six missiles in multiple all-up round canisters.

The official crest of the Virginia-class attack submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) North Dakota (SSN 784). U.S. Navy photo illustration by Jim Sikora

The new LAB Array eliminates hundreds of hull penetrations and replaces tranducers with lower cost, life-of-the-ship hydrophones. By nearly doubling the payload space available from 1,200 cubic feet with the 12 vertical launch tubes to 2,300 cubic feet, the VPTs will enable Virginia-class ships to deploy a wider variety of payloads.

Seven additional Block III submarines are under construction, while the 10 ships of the recently awarded Block IV contract will continue the two-per-year construction pace through 2018.

“The full range of Block III improvements were successfully tested during North Dakota‘s sea trials,” said Kurt Hesch, vice president and Virginia program manager, noting that the submarine received the highest quality score to date from the Navy Board of Inspection and Survey.

“This is an important accomplishment that reflects the skill and commitment of everyone involved in the Virginia-class submarine program. Maintaining this level of performance helps the Navy attain its shipbuilding goals and ensures our continuing success as a business.”

Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding have delivered 11 Virginia-class submarines to the Navy: USS Virginia (SSN 774), USS Texas (SSN 775), USS Hawaii (SSN 776), USS North Carolina(SSN 777), USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), USS New Mexico (SSN 779), USS Missouri (SSN 780), USS California (SSN 781), USS Mississippi (SSN 782) USS Minnesota (SSN 783) and North Dakota. Seven additional Block III submarines are under construction, while the 10 ships of the recently awarded Block IV contract will continue the two-per-year construction pace through 2018.

Chinese fleet of warships docks at Iran’s Bandar Abbas

Chinese fleet of warships docks at Iran’s Bandar Abbas

A Chinese fleet of warships has docked into the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.

The fleet, comprising a warship and a destroyer, docked on Saturday for the first time ever.

The Chinese fleet docked into the Iranian territorial waters with the purpose of increasing interaction between the Islamic Republic and China. It was returning from a mission in the Gulf of Aden.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/09…-at-iran-port/

Ready, Teddy, go as Argyll joins forces with carrier Theodore Roosevelt

Ready, Teddy, go as Argyll joins forces with carrier Theodore Roosevelt
22 September 2014

Fresh from taking part in 200th birthday celebrations of the US National Anthem, HMS Argyll linked up with the US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 12, headed by the super-carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

The Devonport-based frigate was put through her paces by an air defence exercise as well as a stint guarding the carrier and carrying out in-company manoeuvres.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Steve Johncock, HMS Argyll

HMS Argyll leads one of the most awesome sights on the Seven Seas: a nuclear-powered US Navy super-carrier, here the USS Theodore Roosevelt, as the Plymouth frigate joins up with the Big Stick’s battlegroup off the Eastern Seaboard.

Fresh from taking part in 200th birthday celebrations of the US National Anthem in Baltimore, Argyll sailed down Chesapeake Bay to link up with the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 12, emerging from its home in Norfolk, Virginia.

The 100,000-tonne flat-top (currently 5,000 sailors, 40-plus jets) is working up in the Atlantic and invited the British warship (4,500 tonnes, 190 crew, one helicopter) to join in its exercises with destroyer USS Farragut, cruiser USS Normandy and tanker USNS Kanawha.

Argyll was put through her paces by an air defence exercise as well as a stint guarding the carrier and carrying out in-company manoeuvres.

Some of the Brits were give a chance to look around the leviathan, while US sailors headed in the opposite direction to experience life aboard a Royal Navy frigate.

“The scale of the Roosevelt compared to our ship is staggering,” said Lt Ben Eglinton, Argyll’s deputy marine engineer officer.

“I think it must be difficult even if you are a crew member to know where everything is.

“The jet repair facility was fantastic and certainly something we would like onboard if we had the space!”

The exercises concluded with HMS Argyll replenishing at sea to take on fuel from the Kanawha. The units then parted ways, with HMS Argyll returning to her duties in the Caribbean.

“It is always important to exercise with our partner nations to practice our skills and prove our ability to work with each other,” said Argyll’s Commanding Officer Cdr Paul Hammond.

“We have worked with several US ships over the last few days and I am extremely proud of my crew as they quickly adapted to operations with a large US aircraft carrier.”

Navy rugby celebrates a big year with a new home

Navy rugby celebrates a big year with a new home

Published on 23 September 2014 LEUT Des Paroz (author), ABIS Jake Badior (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Kuttabul

Mr Bill Slatyer, an ex member of the Royal Australian Navy Rugby Union squad looks over old images in the historic rugby room at HMAS Kuttabul. (photo: ABIS Jake Badior)
Mr Bill Slatyer, an ex member of the Royal Australian Navy Rugby Union squad looks over old images in the historic rugby room at HMAS Kuttabul.

With 2014 already proving to be a very big year for Royal Australian Navy Rugby Union (RANRU), a function was held at HMAS Kuttabul last week to send off the men’s team, who will participate in the Commonwealth Navies Rugby Cup in New Zealand.

The event also celebrated Navy Rugby’s many successes in the 2014 season, and marked the dedication of the ‘RAN Rugby Heritage Room’ withinKuttabul’s Blue Room.

Organiser for the event, Commander Adam Allica, was pleased with the event, and that RANRU has gained a permanent home to display its collection of memorabilia, collected over the 100 years of the organisation.

“The RAN Rugby Heritage Room has resulted from the ongoing efforts of many tireless supporters of Navy Rugby.

Able Seaman Josh Deckart browses through old photo albums in the historic rugby room at HMAS Kuttabul.

Able Seaman Josh Deckart browses through old photo albums in the historic rugby room at HMAS Kuttabul.

“The RANRU President, Commodore Elizabeth Rushbrook, formally recognised these efforts with the presentation of a plaque ofspecial thanks and acknowledgement to Mike Dowsett, Ron Giveen, Geoff Stokes, Mike Rayment and everyone who ever laced up boots for Ship and Service,” Commander Allica said.

Retired Warrant Officer Ron Giveen said he was also pleased the RANRU had a new home, and a place to house the collection of memorabilia.

“The collection consists primarily of photos, trophies, jerseys and ties of Navy Rugby, including from ship’s rugby through to players representing Navy at all levels.

“All exhibits have been photographed, and will shortly be available to everyone through the RANRU website,” Warrant Officer Giveen said.

With the evening also celebrating the departure of the team for the Commonwealth Navies Rugby Cup in New Zealand, RANRU’s Director of Rugby, Commander Pete Armitage, reflected on a year that kicked off with the Queanbeyan Rugby 7’s in February.

“Undoubtedly the Australian Services Rugby Championships in May was the pivotal event, with the men’s team not having beaten Army for a number of years.

“The finale lived up to expectations with the Navy men coming from behind to win a thriller after the siren, while the women, fielding a team of 15 for the first time also performed admirably, beating an Air Force outfit equipped with a number of representative players.

“The Commonwealth Navies Rugby Cup promises to be a watershed opportunity for RANRU to perform on an international stage,” Commander Armitage said.

The Royal Australian Navy Rugby Union team poses for a photograph at HMAS Kuttabul before leaving for the New Zealand and Commonwealth Navy Rugby Cup Tournament.

The Royal Australian Navy Rugby Union team poses for a photograph at HMAS Kuttabul before leaving for the New Zealand and Commonwealth Navy Rugby Cup Tournament.

The Royal Australian Navy team consists of a number of debutants, which, coupled with the Gold Coast International Women’s 7s tournament in October, augers well for the future of Navy Rugby.

RANRU welcomes support from across the Navy, and is keen to hear from women and men who are interested in playing.

More information can be found at the RAN Rugby website athttp://www.navyrugby.asn.au.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library athttp://images.navy.gov.au/S20142782.

USS Mitscher to Join US 5th Fleet AOR

USS Mitscher to Join US 5th Fleet AOR

Posted on Sep 23rd, 2014 with tags , , , , , , , , , .

USS Mitscher to Join US 5th Fleet AOR

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) departed Naval Station Norfolk for deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).

Led by Cmdr. Frank Brandon, commanding officer, Mitscher will conduct maritime security operations and ballistic missile defense as well as continue to strengthen coalition partnerships.

Before deploying, Mitscher participated in the Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) exercises with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. During the exercise, Mitscher earned her Independent Deployer Certification (IDCERT), which assesses a ship’s capabilities to function at tactical and operational levels.

After returning from her last deployment in Dec. 2011, Mitscher entered dry dock for regular maintenance and upgrades. Upon completion, the ship went on to pass its Aegis Light-Off Certification, Engineering Light-Off Assessment, Basic Phase and the Board of Inspection and Survey.

Commissioned on Dec. 10, 1994, Mitscher is the namesake of Adm. Marc A. Mitscher. He is known for his command during the Doolittle Raids against Tokyo in 1942, resulting in his quick advancement to overall tactical commander of Pacific operations against Japanese Adm. Isoruku Yamamoto during World War II. The destroyer is the second naval warship named in his honor, the first being Destroyer Leader-2.

Press Release, September 23, 2014; Image: US Navy