Category Archives: Military

Only Nixon Could Go To China

Posted By lex, on February 29th, 2012

Leon Panetta is a Democrat who served in the White House budget office. In Congress he chaired the House Budget Committee. And he led the intelligence and military operations that led to DevGru popping Osama bin Laden.

In short, he is the perfect man for these lean times:

“No budget can be balanced on the back of defense spending alone,” said Mr. Panetta, “For that matter, no budget can be balanced on the back of discretionary spending alone.”

Discretionary spending refers to that portion of federal expenditure that is set each year by Congress, as opposed to the automatic mandatory spending every year on entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicare.

“Real deficit reduction only happens when everything is on the table – discretionary [spending], mandatory spending, and revenues,” Mr. Panetta said.

The planned spending reductions in the administration’s new defense budget would result in a “smaller, leaner” force, he said.

“But at the same time it should be agile, it should be flexible, it should be ready, and it should be technologically advanced,” he added.

Nonetheless, Mr. Panetta acknowledged, “I can’t reduce the [defense] budget by half-a-trillion dollars and, frankly, not increase risks” to national security.

Preach it, brother.

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Not Gonna Happen

Posted By lex, on January 9th, 2012

The London-based Financial Times takes stock of President Obama’s defense pivot, and makes some recommendations to its European readership:

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Cloaking Device

Posted By lex, on January 5th, 2012

DARPA gets that teensiest bit closer to making one **:

Pentagon-supported physicists on Wednesday said they had devised a “time cloak” that briefly makes an event undetectable.

The laboratory device manipulates the flow of light in such a way that for the merest fraction of a second an event cannot be seen, according to a paper published in the science journal Nature.

It adds to experimental work in creating next-generation camouflage — a so-called invisibility cloak in which specific colours cannot be perceived by the human eye.

“Our results represent a significant step towards obtaining a complete spatio-temporal cloaking device,” says the study, headed by Moti Fridman of Cornell University in New York…

After proving that the “cloak” is possible, the next step for the researchers is to expand the time gap by orders of magnitude, firstly to microseconds and then to milliseconds, said Boyd and Shi.

The time cloak has a potential use in boosting security in fibre-optic communications because it breaks up optical signals, lets them travel at different speeds and then reassembles them, which makes data hard to intercept.

Last year, scientists reported a step forward in so-called metamaterials which act as a cloaking of space, as opposed to time.

Metamaterials are novel compounds whose surface that interacts with light at specific frequencies thanks to a tiny, nano-level structure. As a result, light flows around the object — rather like water that bends around a rock in a stream — as opposed to being absorbed by it.

Tinkering with time and space.

Geez.

** 03-21-21  Original link gone; substitute found – Ed.

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Firm Fixed Price

Posted By lex, on December 13th, 2011

Congress attempts to clap a stopper over the ballooning acquisition costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter:

Future Pentagon purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin will have to be based on fixed-price contracts under a defense authorization measure approved on Monday by a joint congressional panel.

The provision, part of the National Defense Authorization Act, would require fixed-price contracts beginning with the sixth low-rate production batch of fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp .

The Pentagon is currently trying to finalize a contract for 30 fighters – its fifth lot of aircraft being produced even as final testing of the radar-evading jet fighter continues.

The Pentagon entered into an initial contract with Lockheed on Friday for production of Lot 5 aircraft. The agreement established an initial price ceiling of $4 billion for the planes, but a final contract will not be concluded until sometime in 2012.

Lawmakers inserted the fixed-price language into the bill after learning about Lot 5 contract, angered that the decision had been taken even as the Senate was debating whether or not to require the deal to be a fixed-cost contract.

The advantage to the taxpayer of a firm fixed price contract vehicle is that all of the risk is shouldered by the vendor. It’s generally suitable for commercial off-the-shelf equipment with casual value added, but for bleeding edge technologies, that risk can become unbearable. Should the vendor find a way to reduce per unit cost of manufacture, whether through efficiencies in time or by cycles of learning, the “extra” cash goes straight to the corporate vault and thence to stockholders.

On the other hand, a “cost plus fixed fee” contract places the risk on the government, as the vendor may – within the constraints of the total contract value – charge for whatever additional labor, manufacturing and non-recurring engineering work is required, while being guaranteed a profit.

If the F-35 is as mature as its proponents profess, this could be a good deal for Lockheed Martin. If it’s not, well: It’ll be a dog’s breakfast.

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In Retrospect

By lex, on December 5th, 2011

VADM Venlet weighs in on the potentially fatal decision to execute concurrent “build and test” on the F-35 program:

“The analyzed hot spots that have arisen in the last 12 months or so in the program have surprised us at the amount of change and at the cost,” Vice Adm. David Venlet said in an interview at his office near the Pentagon. “Most of them are little ones, but when you bundle them all up and package them and look at where they are in the airplane and how hard they are to get at after you buy the jet, the cost burden of that is what sucks the wind out of your lungs. I believe it’s wise to sort of temper production for a while here until we get some of these heavy years of learning under our belt and get that managed right. And then when we’ve got most of that known and we’ve got the management of the change activity better in hand, then we will be in a better position to ramp up production.”

Venlet also took aim at a fundamental assumption of the JSF business model: concurrency. The JSF program was originally structured with a high rate of concurrency — building production model aircraft while finishing ground and flight testing — that assumed less change than is proving necessary.

“Fundamentally, that was a miscalculation,” Venlet said.

Sure looks that way.

But we had computers, and modeling/simulation, and that. And we were ever so much smarter. Everything was going to be different, this time.

It always is.

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Questioning the Timing

Posted by lex, on October 28th, 2011

Not usually my cuppa, but the pol/mil headlines the last few days have been weighted heavily on the topic of North Korea.

See yahoo.com – US, S. Korea Warn Against North Korean Aggression

And the Korea Times – Allies Toughen Stance Against NK

At issue appears to be the long cycle of off and on negotiations about the North Korean nuclear weapons program:

The WSJ – U.S. Expresses Skepticism About North Korea Talks

With that as a background, SecDef is preparing to give a rare classified speech to the House of Representatives:

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Step Two

Posted by lex, on October 28th, 2011

This should not come as much of a surprise:

Gay and lesbian service members and veterans plan to file suit Thursday challenging the constitutionality of the federal ban on gay marriage and federal policy that define a spouse as a person of the opposite sex.

The suit comes five weeks after the Pentagon ended its ban on gays in the military…

The suit also challenges provisions of federal code regarding spouses that lawyers said bar gay couples from accessing benefits provided by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those benefits include military identification cards, access to bases, recreational programs, spousal support groups and burial rights at national cemeteries.

Long time readers of these pages will remember that this was a long ago predicted consequence of ending DADT. Once you’ve accepted that there is a “right to serve”, you have to extend other rights as well; housing, medical benefits, hospital visitations, etc. Military law is federal law, and it can and will be cited in non-military federal suits as precedence.

It remains my considered opinion that the campaign to end DADT had little to do with military service, and everything to do with nationalizing the LBGT agenda. That’s step three.

Which, farewell federalism, but well played.

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Conditional service

Posted by lex, on September 21st, 2006

It’s hard to believe we’re going through this again.

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Not to Worry

Posted By lex, on October 19th, 2011

That computer virus that got itself into the Predator ground control station?

Just dumb luck, according to the USAF:

A computer virus that affected the US military’s drone fleet last month was not “specifically” aimed at the unmanned aircraft’s network, the head of US Strategic Command said Tuesday.

“It was a virus that we believe at this point entered from the wild, if you will, not specifically targeted at the RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) activities but entered through some other process,” General Robert Kehler told reporters.

“We’re not quite sure how that happened yet,” he said.

Discovered in mid-September at Creech Air Force base in Nevada, the virus infected computers in the ground control system for the drones, which is separate from the drones’ flight control system…

One possible route for the virus could have come through hard drives in the ground control system, as the removable drives are used to transfer data and moved from “machine to machine,” Kehler said.

“So that opens the possibility to get something introduced in the system,” he said.

A sophisticated attack which targeted the GCS would presumably be harder to discover. Learning that this was a self-inflicted wound via shared media, even if not specifically targeted, is not exactly cause for celebration.

03-14-21 – Lex had an earlier post detailing the virus – Ed.

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Flying Shotgun

Posted By lex, on October 19th, 2011

Pretty nifty new tool in the ruck:

The tube-launched Switchblade drone, made by Monrovia, California-based Aerovironment Inc., was secretly sent to Afghanistan for the first time last year. “Under a dozen” were fired, said Army Deputy Product Director William Nichols.

“It’s been used in Afghanistan by military personnel” and “shown to be effective,” Nichols said. The drone’s GPS guidance is made by Rockwell Collins Inc. and the warhead by Alliant Techsystems Inc.

Nichols declined to describe the Switchblade’s targets. He said the drone is “designed for open threats, something that’s on top of a building but you can’t hit it” with regular artillery or mortars for fear of collateral damage. The drone is less than 24 inches long and weighs about six pounds.

“It’s a ‘flying shotgun,’” Nichols said, not a “hit-to- kill” weapon that explodes on impact.

“The operator has control of how far away from the target it goes off — preselected distances,” he said in an interview Oct. 12 at the Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

An Army fact sheet said the drone could be used against snipers, insurgents placing roadside bombs and those hiding on ridge lines, under rock overhangs and or in shallow caves.

If every platoon had a couple of those, you’d see a whole lot fewer snipers, insurgents placing roadside bombs and hiding on ridge lines.

One way or the other.

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