The INSIDER - October 9, 2012
Inside the Army kicks things off today:
Army Eyes Airdropping 'Up-gunned' Combat Vehicles For Early Entry Ops
Army officials are considering airdrops of Strykers or similar combat vehicles in austere locations as part of an initiative to boost the service's edge in expeditionary operations, according to a Training and Doctrine Command official.
The idea has yet to make it past the concept stage, Brig. Gen. William Hix, director of the concepts development directorate at TRADOC's Army Capabilities Integration Center, acknowledged in an interview. "We are doing concept development work in conjunction with 18th Airborne Corps [at Ft. Bragg, NC] to look at how we improve the punch of their forces if they have to do forcible entry operations," Hix told Inside the Army.
Options include "airlanding" -- by way of a landing zone on the ground -- or airdropping "some sort of up-gunned ground platform," Hix said. The deliberations entail discussions with the Air Force about the number of air crews qualified for airdrops, he said. A TRADOC spokesman did not provide information by press time about how many air crews now are qualified for that job, or how many would be needed be to make the Army's concept work.
Draft Army Concept Backs BCT, Reconnaissance Unit Reorganizations
A draft Army concept produced by Training and Doctrine Command chief Gen. Robert Cone backs a number of key reorganization initiatives, increasing the odds of these changes actually taking place even as senior service leaders have yet to publicly endorse them.
The draft document supports a central idea that has been percolating at TRADOC for several years: Providing greater combat power to all three brigade combat team variants. Specifically, proponents want to see three maneuver battalions in the infantry and armored BCTs, which today have two. In addition, these plans foresee placing more engineering capabilities inside brigades.
And from last week:
Army Focus On Early Entry Forces Could Reignite Debate With Marines
A passage in the emerging Army capstone concept calling for new units to carry out early entry operations could reignite a debate over which service should have the lead -- perceived or real -- on being first in the fight, according to documents and officials.
Airborne Reconnaissance Low, that is:
TRADOC Drafting Plan To Guide Future Of Small Army Spy Plane Fleet
Army Training and Doctrine Command officials are drafting a capabilities development document to be delivered in fiscal year 2014 that will guide the future of the Army's Airborne Reconnaissance Low fleet of aircraft, according to a previously undisclosed report to Congress.
News of the program's planned modernization comes at a time when the Army is examining its fixed-wing ISR aircraft inventory -- consisting of a diverse pool of small fleets -- to decide what stays and what goes in the post-Afghanistan era.
Congress mandated a report on the Airborne Reconnaissance Low in the FY-12 National Defense Authorization Act. The congressional defense committees directed the Army to detail the current state of the ARL fleet, "including its reliability and maintainability." The report was to include "a review of the options currently under consideration for major ARL modernization programs," the NDAA states.
In the July document, signed by Army Secretary John McHugh, the service said it planned to keep the ARL fleet -- consisting of eight DeHavilland Canada Dash 7 (DHC-7) aircraft -- in its inventory as part of the Army of 2020. In addition, efforts continue to "research viable, cost-effective options to modernize the successful ARL program," the report states.
Army Report To Congress On ARL Aircraft Modernization
The July 20, 2012, Army report to Congress outlines "the current state of and options for modernization of the Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) fleet."
Turning to Inside the Navy's top story this week:
Source: Navy May Be Seeking Alternative To H-1 Top Owl HMD System
The Navy has posted a request for information reaching out to industry for help in identifying an operationally ready, helmet-mounted display system to be used on UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters. The move could indicate that program officials are looking for a less-expensive alternative to the system now used on the aircraft, according to a source familiar with the program.
A Sept. 28 request for information on Federal Business Opportunities states that the government plans to perform market research in support of an HMD system for the UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft -- which already have the Thales Optimized Top Owl HMD system -- and the purpose of the notice is "to identify candidate systems that meet the government's requirements."
The notice adds that the government seeks a non-developmental HMD system that can be fully integrated into the UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft. "The goal is to deliver HMD capability to fleet-deployed H-1 helicopters in 24 months," it states. "The HMD system should be capable of displaying flight-critical situational awareness symbology in addition to weapons control symbology and should be capable of off-axis tracking."
Our latest on JSF:
PEO: Initial Warfighting Configuration Of F-35B Not Ready Until 2015-16
The configuration of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter the Marine Corps plans to fly into combat will not be ready until the 2015 to 2016 time frame, according to the JSF program office.
Unlike the Air Force and Navy, the Marine Corps will declare its short-takeoff, vertical-landing variant of the F-35 operational once it has been upgraded to the Block IIB configuration rather than wait for Block III. The service had originally hoped to accomplish that by this December, but ended up delaying the fielding date by two to three years -- and it could be longer based on the expected Block IIB fielding date.
The Block IIB "initial warfighting" configuration will be available in the 2015 to 2016 time frame -- three to four years beyond when the Marines hoped to field the F-35B, according to Joe DellaVedova, JSF program office spokesman. When asked, the Marine Corps did not confirm or deny that the Block IIB configuration's time line meant the Marines would not be able to declare initial operational capability for the F-35B until 2015 at the earliest. Instead, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Richard Ulsh highlighted recent progress in testing, and said many things would factor into the Marines' decision to declare IOC.
MRAPs, still making news:
MRAPs Continue To Generate Controversy Amid Pentagon Celebration
As Vice President Joe Biden and a host of Defense Department acquisition officials gathered at the Pentagon last week to celebrate the official end of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle production, questions continued to swirl around whether the $45 billion spent on the vehicles was truly worth it.
Carter: As One MRAP Era Comes To A Close, Another Dawns
Defense Department officials gathered at the Pentagon last week to mark the "end of an era" for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle and honor those who found a way to rapidly acquire it despite the DOD's often inefficient procurement system.
Sequestration from a different angle:
Weapons Accounts Could Be Hit Harder By Sequestration Than Originally Forecast
The Pentagon's procurement accounts, which at the end of August reflected higher-than-expected unobligated funding totals, could bear a significantly larger share of the Pentagon's $54.7 billion potential sequestration bill if a long-term deficit-reduction plan is not enacted by Jan. 2, according to government documents, Pentagon data and defense analysts.
As of Aug. 31, one month before the end of fiscal year 2012, the Pentagon was sitting on $131.8 billion in unobligated funds, nearly 60 percent more than the Obama administration's fiscal year-end estimate. That balance -- which the department may still reduce -- could increase the share of cuts assessed to the Pentagon's weapon system procurement accounts if sequestration is triggered in January.
Sequestration will lead to $54.7 billion in FY-13 defense-spending cuts, a sum set to be paid by taxing three accounts at 9 percent each: war spending, new FY-13 budget authority and unobligated funds appropriated for major weapons acquisitions in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
Related, from last week:
Pentagon Significantly Reduced FY-12 Unobligated Balances
The Defense Department obligated nearly $200 billion during July and August, significantly reducing its unobligated balances for fiscal year 2012, according to data provided this week by the Pentagon.
More news of note:
Army Formally Closes Down Joint Tactical Radio System Program
The Army announced last week that the Joint Tactical Radio System program had been officially closed and that the new Joint Tactical Networking Center was open for business.
Heidi Shyu, the Army's newly confirmed acquisition executive, will be the top procurement authority for the JTNC, which will be responsible for development and sustainment of JTRS waveforms and network management. The services, meanwhile, will manage their own respective radio hardware.
MCWL Pushing Four-Legged Unmanned System For FY-14 Experiment
QUANTICO, VA -- The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is developing a four-legged, unmanned ground system that could carry Marine equipment while navigating treacherous terrain, and the service hopes to demonstrate the system in an experiment in fiscal year 2014, according to an official.
The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) is a four-legged robot that can carry up to 400 pounds of gear while traveling 20 miles in 24 hours. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency first developed the system, and recently MCWL became a partner on the project, Capt. Warren Watts, MCWL project officer, told Inside the Navy on Sept. 27.
"The LS3 is like the son of Big Dog, an earlier DARPA project, which was actually smaller but a lot louder," he said. "This is actually bigger but a lot quieter. The engine is a lot heavier and that allows it to be quieter."
Navy To Field SeaFox Mine Neutralizers On EOD Divers' Small Boats
The Navy is purchasing 10 semi-autonomous SeaFox mine identification and neutralization systems as part of an urgent operational need from 5th Fleet, aiming to put the systems on small boats used by explosive ordnance disposal technicians by next year, the service said last week.
SeaFox is already used in mine countermeasures efforts in the Middle East by MCM ships and MH-53 helicopters. But after a Navy test in May validated the idea that SeaFox could be an asset to EOD divers as well, the service is rushing to procure more systems that include a fiber optics-guided vehicle equipped with sonar, a camera and a charge to detonate a confirmed mine.
The Navy signed a justification and approval (J&A) document for non-competitive contracts with manufacturer Atlas North America on Sept. 5, allowing for $9.8 million in contracts in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The service awarded the first contract for $6.2 million on Sept. 28, Navy spokeswoman Lt. j.g. Caroline Hutcheson said on Oct. 4.
-- Dan Dupont
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