The Air Force and contractor teams overseeing development of a new tailkit for the B61 nuclear bomb expect to close out issues stemming from a late 2013 review by June, around the same time they will begin a pair of important test sequences on the munition.
Perhaps most notably, those include in-flight separation tests starting with the F-16 fighter and then progressing to the larger F-15 and B-2 platforms.
The development of the B61 tailkit assembly, overseen on the industry side by Boeing, is being done in parallel with the National Nuclear Security Administration's work to extend the life of the nuclear warhead that the B61 bomb will carry. That warhead, known as the B61-12, will consolidate and modernize various legacy munitions into a single bomb armed with nuclear capabilities.
The Air Force and Boeing are close to finalizing all outstanding design questions stemming from a preliminary design review of the tailkit held in November, according to John Mistretta, the senior materiel leader of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center armament directorate's strategic systems division. Mistretta, writing from Eglin Air Force Base, FL, on April 21, said "action items" identified at the time should be closed out by June. Going forward, the program has a critical design review scheduled in late 2015 and an intermediate design review before that, in January.
Inside the Navy's top story this week is on a new version of the Griffin missile:
Raytheon is developing a longer-range, fire-and-forget version of its Griffin tactical missile, with an eye toward eventually deploying the weapon as part of the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship surface warfare mission package, Inside the Navy has learned.
The Sea Griffin is an advanced version of Raytheon's Griffin B Block II missile that reached initial operational capability early this year and is now deployed on four of the Navy's Cyclone-class patrol ships (PC) in the Persian Gulf, Steve Dickman, Raytheon's director for Griffin programs, told ITN in an interview on April 14. The company is using internal funds to develop the new weapon, he said.
The Sea Griffin will be equipped with an extended-range rocket launcher that will approximately triple the missile's range from about 5 km to more than 15 km, Raytheon spokeswoman Tara Wood told ITN in an April 16 email. The extended-range motor adds 22 pounds to the current Griffin model, she wrote, bringing the Sea Griffin's weight to approximately 55 pounds.
The new weapon will be outfitted with a dual-mode seeker and digital data link that will supplement the semi-active laser seeker and lend the weapon its fire-and-forget capability, Dickman said. These new features will enhance the missile's targeting capabilities and ease of operation for the crew, he said.
Another ITN front-pager detailing how many MRAPs the Marine Corps plans on keeping post-Afghanistan:
The Marine Corps will retain 2,510 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles -- more than twice the number of trucks it had planned to keep last year -- due to be removed from Afghanistan, a top service official said.
Assistant Commandant Gen. John Paxton told Inside the Navy on April 17 that the number of MRAPs the service retains may change as it is constantly reassessing requirements in light of the drawdown in Afghanistan.
Paxton said the new MRAP number will be reflected in both the wartime budget and base budget. "We will need some of both kinds of money," he added.
Lt. Gen. William Faulkner, deputy commandant for installations and logistics, told ITN on April 15 that over the next three to four months the service will decide how many of the 2,510 vehicles to reset.Faulkner said Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos directed his office to look at the future security environment and retain the number of vehicles that will give Marines "operational flexibility."
The Marine Corps will have transitioned to its next-generation intranet by the end of 2015:
The Marine Corps expects to fully transition from its legacy intranet to a new, next-generation network by the end of 2015, the Marine Corps chief information officer told Inside the Navy earlier this month.
"I would say if everything goes well and the money is there, probably the end of 2015" is when the Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN) will be fully implemented, Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally told ITN in an interview on April 8.
Transitioning to MCEN essentially involves collapsing the Marine Corps' five existing networks into one major network, Nally said. This will reduce costs and increase security, he added.
"There are [fewer] points of presence" in MCEN compared to the legacy network, Nally said. "Meaning traffic coming in and out is more centralized in centralized locations . . . So instead of defending four or five posts we are only going to have to defend one."
International sales should help offset Navy cuts to the P-8A Poseidon aircraft line:
Although the P-8A Poseidon Maritime Surveillance aircraft program faces an eight aircraft cut in the Navy's fiscal year 2015 budget request, the associated Boeing 737 commercial line and potential international sales should help mitigate the impact of these cuts, according to Boeing.
"Having a commercial production line as part of the program helps mitigate that somewhat," Rick Heerdt, Boeing vice president and P-8 program manager said at the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space symposium in National Harbor, MD this month. "It's obviously not the same situation that you would have if you had a single built-for-purpose production line. We do think we're going to be able to mitigate the cost to some extent."
The Navy's FY-15 budget request would have the service procure only eight aircraft in FY-15, a cut of eight aircraft from its plans to procure 16 aircraft in FY-15 the service included in the FY-14 budget request. The FY-15 budget request decrease to P-8A procurement was "due to fiscal constraints," Navy spokesman Lt. Rob Myers told Inside the Navy in March.
During the Navy League symposium in early April, Heerdt said that Boeing is trying to assess the cost impact of the cut.
A common combat system appears to be in the cards for the LCS program:
The Navy is actively looking at a common combat system for the two variants of the Littoral Combat Ship, having briefed Navy leadership and conducted a business case for the concept already, according to LCS program officials.
"We have briefed Mr. Stackley," Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for the LCS program told reporters at the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space symposium in National Harbor, MD this month, referring to Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley.
The program completed a business case analysis for the common combat system, but is still looking for a way to fund this idea, according to Antonio and other LCS program officials.
"We've got to identify the funding," he said.
-- John Liang