03 March 2008

Military Affairs Short Takes

* Rape charges dropped against U.S. Marine in Japan: "A U.S. Marine who was accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in southern Japan has been released after prosecutors dropped the charges at the teenager's request[.]" The circumstances remain hazy and a court martial may still follow.

* A fifth San Antonio class ship, the USS New York (LPD 21) was christened this past weekend.

* The new Air Force air tanker contract for the KC-45A has been won by Northrop Grumman/EADS with a design based upon the Airbus A330. The tanker design is already in use in European air forces. The only other possible competitor, Boeing, had an inferior design and was subjected to competition because of bribery in connection with the first round of bidding. It is the first major aircraft contract won by a foreign firm in many decades. An appeal of the decision by Boeing will follow.

* BAE Systems/Navistar has produced a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle prototype. It is a successor to the Humvee, with some features of the MRAP (mine resistant ambush protected) vehicles produced on an interim basis for the Iraq War.

* A B-2 Bomber crash last month in Guam seems consistent with a maintenance issue identified in the 2009 budget request for the Air Force involving defective fan blades.

* A reader has noted that about two years ago:

The U.S. Navy, after nearly six years of warnings from Pentagon testers, still lacks a plan for defending aircraft carriers against a supersonic Russian-built missile . . . known in the West as the ``Sizzler,'' . . . ``This is a carrier-destroying weapon,'' said Orville Hanson, who evaluated weapons systems for 38 years with the Navy" . . . . China bought the missiles in 2002 along with eight diesel submarines designed to fire it, according to Office of Naval Intelligence spokesman Robert Althage. A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia also offered the missile to Iran, although there's no evidence a sale has gone through. . . .

The Navy's ship-borne Aegis system, deployed on cruisers and destroyers starting in the early 1980s, is designed to protect aircraft-carrier battle groups from missile attacks. But current and former officials say the Navy has no assurance Aegis, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., is capable of detecting, tracking and intercepting the Sizzler.

``This was an issue when I walked in the door in 2001,'' Thomas Christie, the Defense Department's top weapons-testing official from mid-2001 to early 2005, said in an interview. . . . The Navy considered developing a program to test against the Sizzler ``but has no plans in the immediate future to initiate such a developmental effort,'' Naval Air Systems Command spokesman Rob Koon said in an e-mail. . . . McQueary, head of the Pentagon's testing office, raised his concerns about the absence of Navy test plans for the missile in a Sept. 8, 2006, memo to Ken Krieg, undersecretary of defense for acquisition. He also voiced concerns to Deputy Secretary England.

In the memo, McQuery said that unless the Sizzler threat was addressed, his office wouldn't approve test plans necessary for production to begin on several other projects, including Northrop Grumman Corp.'s new $35.8 billion CVN-21 aircraft-carrier project; the $36.5 billion DDG-1000 destroyer project being developed by Northrop and General Dynamics Corp.; and two Raytheon Corp. projects, the $6 billion Standard Missile-6 and $1.1 billion Ship Self Defense System. . . .

[The] Sizzler, which is also called the SS-N-27B, starts out flying at subsonic speeds. Within 10 nautical miles of its target, a rocket-propelled warhead separates and accelerates to three times the speed of sound, flying no more than 10 meters (33 feet) above sea level.

On final approach, the missile ``has the potential to perform very high defensive maneuvers,'' including sharp-angled dodges, the Office of Naval Intelligence said in a manual on worldwide maritime threats. . . . Most anti-ship cruise missiles fly below the speed of sound and on a straight path, making them easier to track and target.

* A one year old news story notes that the Coast Guard, which was originally assigned five of the Navy's thirteen small (betwee 300 and 400 ton) Cyclone class coastal patrol boats as part of plan to retire the class from the Navy until the Navy realized that it needed them, was to keep three of them for the next four years (presumably leaving the Navy's special operations forces with the remaining ten).

* "The U.S. Air Force has only one active duty pilot with a thousand combat flying hours" . . . Lt. Col. Andy Uribe, an F-16 pilot with 3000 hours of experience including 272 combat missions. "Typically, air force and navy combat pilots spend about 200 hours in the air each year, but that nearly doubles if they are sent to a combat zone."

* The U.S. has working prototypes of remote controlled armored vehicles which are technologically far simpler than truly robotic autonomous vehicles.

* A chunk of the P-3 (Navy patrol aircraft) fleet joins many (perhaps all) of the Air Force's B-2s and F-15s grounded for maintenance issues.

No comments: