Starting off this Friday INSIDER with Inside the Air Force's top story:
The future replacement for the LGM-30 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile will be a flexible weapon system that utilizes the existing silo network and launch control facilities, according to the deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
Speaking at a Sept. 25 forum on Capitol Hill, Lt. Gen. James Kowalski said the way ahead for modernizing the ground-based component of the nuclear triad has not been fully determined, but the near-term plan is to replace the Minuteman III missile with a new weapon system that is adaptable to different basing options and concepts of operation.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense is currently assessing the results of a recently completed analysis of alternatives for a Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) -- as the Minuteman III follow-on is known -- that would keep the ground-based nuclear enterprise viable out to 2075. The Pentagon estimates the current Minuteman III weapon system, delivered in the 1970s, is only sustainable out to 2030 in its current form.
More news from the STRATCOM chief:
In a tight budget scenario, defense officials have to be careful to not "crowd out" funding for conventional systems with money set aside for nuclear capabilities, according to the deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
An ITAF front-pager on what the follow-on system for SBSS would look like:
Air Force Space Command has a vision for a three-satellite Space-Based Space Surveillance system follow-on constellation, but its plan has not yet made it through the budget process, according to the command's top officer.
Gen. John Hyten told reporters during a Sept. 17 media event that funding for the follow-on SBSS system has not yet been incorporated in the Defense Department's fiscal year 2016 program objective memorandum, and in a separate Sept. 18 email, a command spokesman said the service's time line for the program will be driven by the FY-16 budget.
"SBSS program competition will begin on a time line that is driven by the president's budget," the spokesman told Inside the Air Force. "We requested funding to begin in FY-16 and we will ensure our interested industry partners have as much insight as possible into our schedule and future program plans."
The JSTARS aircraft should be able to keep flying until a replacement comes around:
Northrop Grumman has completed a computing and hardware upgrade on the legacy E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System fleet that will help keep the current mission system viable until a replacement aircraft can be developed and fielded.
According to the company, the first Prime Mission Equipment-Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (PME-DMS) upgrade was delivered to the Air Force Sept. 12. Northrop spokesman Bryce McDevitt said the E-8C aircraft received new software and hardware that improves the JSTARS' onboard battle management and command-and-control capabilities. He said the upgrade includes: new radar airborne signal processors; new operator work station processors; larger displays; and a new Linux operating system for the operator work stations.
The computing and hardware upgrade, which completed developmental testing in fiscal year 2012, is among the final group of upgrades being delivered across the legacy fleet before they are marked for retirement in the mid- to late-2020s. Northrop was awarded a $43 million contract in October of 2013 to perform the upgrade.
An attempt by NSA to be more transparent:
Officials at the nation's premiere eavesdropping agency recently discovered a "technical" glitch affecting the data of dozens of individuals, as well as an employee believed to have willfully flouted intelligence-collection rules, its director said.
Adm. Michael Rogers used the Sept. 10 meeting of a little-known Pentagon advisory board at the posh Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA, to disclose the cases of wrongdoing in his agency. The Ft. Meade, MD-based organization was catapulted into the international spotlight following a massive data leak by former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor Edward Snowden last year.
News stories based on the leaked material have described secret, dragnet-style government surveillance of worldwide communications, including those of U.S. persons unconnected to terrorism. The reports have portrayed a menu of sophisticated collection systems at the agency requiring that analysts need only input telephone numbers or email addresses in order to pull comprehensive personal information about their targets.
Modernizing the radar on the F-15E fighter aircraft appears to be on track:
Boeing's work to upgrade the F-15E to a new and more capable radar system is approaching several milestones this fall with the delivery of the first jet in the third low-rate initial production lot and an increase in work flow, with both expected in October.
Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Inside the Air Force in a Sept. 19 email that the company has completed five development jets under the F-15E Radar Modernization Program (RMP) and is on contract to install 30 LRIP kits through the end of Lot 3. Currently, the company is upgrading three aircraft at a time but by October expects to have four aircraft "in flow" at a given time, he said.
The F-15E RMP will replace the Strike Eagle's APG-63 radar with a new APG-82 radar meant to bring greater capability and reliability and to make the system easier to sustain. Boeing is the prime contractor on this effort and Raytheon is building the new system. As part of the RMP, Boeing will make changes to the aircraft's environmental control system, adding a mechanism to cool the radar, and will install new antennas and a new Identification Friend or Foe system.
The Pentagon provided an early estimate of the cost of operations against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria:
The Defense Department is spending between $7 million and $10 million per day on operations in Iraq and Syria, though Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, stressed that those numbers were loose estimates.
"I don't have a great figure for you right now," he said during a Pentagon press conference. "The best estimate I can give you now is between $7 million and $10 million per day, but that varies. I want to remind you that this is an estimate right now. I wouldn't be surprised if the answer we come back with after we do the pencil work is different than that. I can't stress that enough."
Kirby said the Pentagon comptroller's office was "constantly assessing" costs and working on a more accurate update.
Tests of the JSF carrier variant in November may or may not take place in their full scope:
Planned F-35C Joint Strike Fighter trials aboard a Navy aircraft carrier are still on track for November, but the Joint Strike Fighter's program executive officer told reporters this week it is possible only one of the two aircraft may be fully capable of fulfilling the activities planned for the trials.
Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told reporters following a meeting of the Sept. 25 JSF Executive Steering Board in Oslo, Norway, that the joint program office has some work to do in preparing those C-model aircraft to conduct the full range of exercises slated for the November trials.
"The November trial will most likely happen, most likely with two airplanes," Bogdan said. "Whether both airplanes will be capable of doing all the work remains to be seen because we have a little more work to do there."
Some news from this week's Modern Day Marine expo:
The Marines are emphasizing the importance of seabasing to the future of the service with a reorganization that will elevate the seabasing integration division to a standalone unit within combat development and integration.
As of Oct. 1, this new, dedicated seabasing development division will report directly to Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, deputy commandant for combat development and integration. The division will be elevated at CD&I from an integration division within the capabilities directorate to a standalone division, Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Anton Semelroth wrote in a Sept. 19 email.
The mission of the division will remain the same, Maj. Gen. Andrew O'Donnell, assistant deputy commandant for combat development and integration, told reporters at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA, on Sept. 24. The reorganization will better enable the Marine Corps to develop and articulate the service's seabasing requirements to military leadership, Congress and industry, he said.
Stay tuned for more in Monday's Inside the Navy.
-- John Liang