Thursday, February 23, 2017

YF-16 #1 Official First Flight...Time to give Lockheed Martin credit.

I am a constant critic of Lockheed Martin.  The business plan behind the F-35 has nothing to do with efficiency and everything to do with it being a jobs program.  The plane is late, I don't believe it will deliver and I believe that we're seeing criminal activity or stuff that SHOULD BE considered criminal activity when it comes to advocacy for the program.

But I have to give Lockheed Martin credit for one thing.

They're one of the FEW defense manufacturers that's working hard to preserve our military history.  Additionally they're sharing that history with the public.  Love or hate them this is some awesome stuff that they didn't have to do. I'm personally in awe and thank them for it.

Drink in the above vid and head over to their site to watch vids of planes that interest you.  I know there are about 8 vids that I have marked to watch and I'm sure you'll see something you like.  I don't say this often but....WELL DONE Lockheed Martin!

Did China just float a Marine Regiment?

via China Defense Blog
Last week, 10 landing ships - including two type 071 Yuzhao class Amphibious Transport Dock LPD and their LCACs - from the 2nd and the 16th Landing Ship Squadrons were out and about in the South China Sea.  A simple math would suggest that a Marine regiment could sardined into those tiny boats.  
Many more pics here. 

This is beyond interesting.  We put a carrier battle group in the region as a wave the flag exercise and what do the Chinese do?

They sailed 10 Amphibious Assault Ships.

I think China Defense Blog is spot on too.  That's enough naval shipping to put a Chinese Regiment AND their equipment on a beach.

That my friends is a wartime deployment.  We sail carrier battle groups all the time.  We sail MEUs regularly. Sailing a small armada in the South China Sea is an unmistakeable message to the entire region.

I wonder if PACOM was paying attention.

Shared NATO Tanker Force. Improve NATO or save AirBus?

Thanks to Waylander for the link!

via UK Defence Journal
NATO has taken another important step forward to improve its ability to refuel aircraft in mid-air, with three countries looking to join a European programme to acquire new refuelling aircraft.
Defence Ministers from Belgium, Germany, and Norway signed a Declaration of Intent to join a European multinational fleet of Airbus tankers, created by the Netherlands and Luxembourg. T
he two countries launched this initiative in July 2016 and a first order was made for two Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft, which are due to be delivered in 2020.
The new agreement allows other Allies to join the programme with the provision to enlarge the fleet to up to eight aircraft.
On the surface this looks like a straightforward plan doesn't it?  Trump complained about NATO and now the Europeans are taking solid steps to improve it right?  I mean we've seen how shared gear works on an individual Marine level so nothing could go wrong (sarcasm)!

But back on task.  Why do I have suspicions about the real motives behind this move?  Check this out.  via 4 Traders.
 Airbus (>> Airbus Group) called on Wednesday for new talks with European governments to ease "heavy penalties" for delays to its A400M military aircraft, after taking a fresh 1.2 billion euro ($1.3 billion) charge for Europe's largest defense project.
Airbus (>> Airbus Group) called on Wednesday for new talks with European governments to ease "heavy penalties" for delays to its A400M military aircraft, after taking a fresh 1.2 billion euro ($1.3 billion) charge for Europe's largest defense project.
The appeal comes seven years after Airbus won what at the time was regarded as a definitive 3.5 billion euro bailout for the delayed project, plagued from the start by political wrangling over the choice of new European engines.
Airbus said recent problems with engine gearboxes and delays in supplying defensive aids had led to severe penalties, bureaucratic arguments and cash being held back by governments.
"We cannot go on like that. This is unacceptable and puts a huge burden on Airbus and we need to do something about it," Chief Executive Tom Enders said.
The A400M was ordered in 2003 by seven NATO nations -- Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Britain and Turkey -- to grant Europe an independent military transport capability.
An unusual fixed-price contract worth 20 billion euros reflected efforts by Airbus at the time to win a major military contract to add to its growing jetliner business.
But it foundered over problems with the West's largest turboprop engines, which were to be supplied by a European consortium instead of Airbus's preference for a Canadian supplier, as well as tight deadlines for military hardware.
Speaking after reporting lower 2016 profits, Enders argued Airbus was still paying for the "original sin" of striking an unrealistic deal 14 years ago, despite having reset the program with the 2010 bailout deal.
The pan-European agency representing the buyers was not available for comment.
But Germany, the largest A400M buyer which has been most critical of the project, expressed little immediate appetite to help Airbus cope with the latest issues.
"It is important that the manufacturer resolves the current problems in the program," a defense ministry spokesman said.
Sounds like AirBus is in a hurt locker. When you have the Chief Executive of the company saying they can't go on like this then you know things are bad.

Do you remember all the talk about the USAF buying the A400?  Those rumors were based on the behind the scenes chaos in AirBus over the trajectory of that program.  They desperately needed a US govt order to save their bottom line.

So I ask again.  Is this tanker buy from a group of European countries designed to improve NATO or an attempt to hand AirBus a lifeline?

Open Comment Post. Feb 23, 2017

Norway dropping Tanks????

via Sputnik
The ongoing overhaul of Norway's defense capabilities still has many question marks hanging over it. For instance, the Norwegian Armed Forces may relinquish its use of heavy tanks and instead rely on missiles to be fired at enemy lines from afar. In any case, Russia is still considered the most likely adversary.
While billion-investments in combat aircraft, patrol aircraft and submarines have already been earmarked in Norway's recent long-term defense plan, the shape of the Norwegian Army and the Home Guard has yet to be fully mapped out. The prospects of merging the Nordic country's land forces will be assessed by an expert committee that is also expected to put forward its military budget proposals.
The committee, which is headed by Brigadier Aril Brandvik, has already identified four key problems with the current land force and is likely to present a wholly new concept of land defense. Only one of the three options currently on the table retains the existing defense structure with tanks and armored vehicles. The other two possibilities instead rely on lighter and mobile materiel, as well as closer interaction with other branches of troops, Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen reported.

This is .... frustrating.  While our US Army and Marine Corps have all but acknowledged that we will lose air superiority in a future war, the Norwegians are still clinging to those Lockheed Martin briefing slides on the F-35 and believe that it will sing, dance and kill enemy forces.

Sad.  Real sad.

The Iranians are smoking crack...

Vid via Defense Tech...

Someone in Iran is smoking crack.

If they actually believe they could go toe to toe with the US and not get curb stomped all the way to hell.  I don't know why but this vid irks me.  It shouldn't but it does.

AAV-SU @ AAV Test Branch, Camp Pendleton...pic by Monique Randolph.


So the AAV Test Branch is already putting a few of these rigs to the test.  I'll never see it but I would love to know if it actually delivers performance improvements that seem likely with all the upgrades being done.

CoffeeJoeJava's point about the ACV not being a good enough improvement over the baseline vehicle (now the AAV-SU) that it's not worth changing has a bitter truth to it.  Do we buy a new rig just for the sake of the new car smell?

Would it make sense, if the AAV-SU delivers, to simply improve it across the fleet and keep motoring with it?  Dollars are finite.  Capability more important than flash.  Finally tracks.  Tracks make sense for Marine Corps operating environments.

I just don't know but its worth thinking about.

Patria AMV continues testing above the Arctic Circle...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Blast from the past....Marines 66 (The Marine Corps in Vietnam)

EA-6 Prowler photo spread! Aviation Photography Digest has a must see!

Aviation Photography Digest has a fabulous photo spread on this soon to be retired warhorse.  I've always thought that the EA-6's "stretched" body would have made a fabulous follow on to the A-6.  Make the backseats into fuel tanks and we'd have the long range striker/carrier capable arsenal plane that everyone is clamoring for.  It would be high subsonic, could probably carry 20 AIM-120D's and could go a long way.

It's not to be.  Regardless the EA-6 has served the nation well.  We don't know it yet but it will be missed.

General Dynamics LAV/Stryker illustrated growth path

Thanks to Skylancer for the pic!!!

Pretty darn awesome.  What I never realized is how low the horsepower is for the Stryker Double V-Hull.  I understand that it's what the US Army asked for but in comparison the LAV700 must be a speed demon.

I can see future upgrades involving MTU's compact engines becoming more and more attractive as these vehicles gain more and more weight.

Said it before and I'll say it again.  It's nice to see that General Dynamics has gotten its mojo back.  They're working on new concepts and incorporating new but TESTED tech into their vehicles.  With them being the probable builder of the Israeli Eitan APC in the US, I fully expect them to be in the pole position for the Army Stryker replacement program that is coming sooner rather than later.

F-35C problems mount. Now it needs new outer wings....

Thanks to FNU for the link!!!

via Next Big Future.
The outer wings of 32 carrier-based F-35C-models need to be replaced to carry the Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder, the aircraft’s primary dogfighting weapon.
The U.S. Navy variant experienced an undisclosed amount of oscillation or turbulence during flight trials with the AIM-9X in December 2015, and Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan says aircraft already delivered need to be retrofitted with strengthened wings.
The outer, folding portion of the wing has inadequate structural strength to support the loads induced by pylons with AIM-9X missiles during maneuvers.
Engineers have already produced an enhanced outer wing design, which is now undergoing flight testing. The issue has impacted the timeline for fielding AIM-9X, which is being rolled out for the Navy in Block 3F
Because of a seven-year schedule delay, the fifth-generation F-35 fighter will carry air superiority missiles that are one generation behind missiles on F-18s, which are already carrying the newest AIM-9X Block II and AIM-120D.
The missile must be delivered in time to support initial operational test and evaluation and complete the 17-year F-35 system development and demonstration phase by May 2018. The Navy, in particular, must be cleared to fly and shoot the AIM-9X to declare combat-ready status with its first squadron of F-35C Block 3F aircraft in 2018.
The F-35 team is adding a moving target capability, as reported by Aviation Week on Feb. 15. There are currently no plans to install weapons capable of hitting moving and maneuvering targets, such as an insurgent driving away in a pickup truck. The F-35’s laser designator cannot lead the target, its basic inventory of late-1990s guided bombs will fall short if that target moves briskly.
The military is integrating Raytheon’s GBU-49 Lot 5 Enhanced Paveway II, which automatically corrects for target speed and direction as well as wind conditions. The Marines have expressed a preference for the Raytheon GBU-53B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II, but that is not slated for full integration and flight clearance until Block 4.2, around fiscal 2022 or later.
The hits keep coming for the F-35.

This is particularly devastating news for the F-35C.  Mattis has ordered a review of the F-35 in comparison to the F-18 Super Hornet for Navy use and this will add extra fuel to the fire to make more buys of the latter.

But let's say that I'm all wrong.

The F-35C still has issues as does the entire program.  We won't even go over the fact that the electronics are so old that the F-35 can't hit moving targets with it, unlike its 4th gen counterparts that use latest generation Sniper pods.

It's facing the problem of weight.  Remember the weight reduction effort that was undertaken early in the program?  I don't have the figures in front of me but this plane has been suffering tremendous bloat with all the issues that have popped up.  Performance has to be suffering across the board.  Any thought that the F-35 would be able to match the performance of an F-16 when it comes to speed, agility and even range have to be called into question.

This program has already failed.  Even Bogdan knows it...even if he can't say so publicly.