There won't be any F-22 stealth fighters at the Paris Air Show this month. U.S. officials are still concerned about intelligence-gathering, passed off as French customs inspections. That happened before when the F-117 was displayed overseas. On one occasion, the aircraft was routed over several French military establishments for electronic intelligence gathering.
However, the Raptor is going to Hawaii. A dozen of the aircraft will form the first F-22 Raptor unit, led by and primarily staffed with Air National Guardsmen. The squadron, part of the Hickam-based 154th wing, will start training its aircrews in 2010 and begin receiving its stealth fighters –- and giving up its F-15s -- in 2011 as it becomes the seventh operational F-22 unit.
Now making the running for a Cleopatra prize -- awarded by Ares to programs that are terminally snake-bitten -- is the Lockheed Martin Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM). JASSM has been going in fits and starts for years, with runs of reasonable success punctuated by test failures, but the USAF is now getting irritated by the fact that the only thing that JASSM hits 100 per cent of the time is the ground. With reliability at only 58 per cent, even salvoing two missiles at the target only provides an 82 per cent chance of a hit. JASSM was developed as a low-cost missile, but that objective is rather more than offset if you have to fire two weapons all the time. Moreover, if you don't hit the target you are going to hit something else (probably an orphanage, with JASSM's luck.)
In Defense Acquisition 101 the first lesson might be that it's all a giant mess. But if you really want to know how the system works and doesn't work, Secrecy News has uncovered a brand new report on the whole system put out June 4 by the Congressional Research Service.
CRS sums up the problems.
The complexity of this system of systems combined with the magnitude of
personnel, activities and funding involved in its operation can result in problems,
including inefficient operations, fraud/waste/abuse, and inadequate implementation
or enforcement of the myriad laws and regulations that govern it.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to make blood from scratch, without donor blood.
Darpa is short on details and will be until it issues a solicitation for proposals sometime after this June 29 workshop. Here's the explanation:
The Defense Sciences Office (DSO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is hosting a Workshop to discuss innovative research that will enable development of an automated progenitor cell-based culture system to produce a donor-less supply of universal donor (Type 'O' negative) red blood cells (RBCs) for combat casualty care. It is envisioned that RBCs of normal structure and function will be produced and that the automated culture system would process cells from starter population to packaged RBC unit ready for transfusion. . . .
The goal of the workshop is to explore: 1) culture techniques that stimulate and support the efficient and large-scale production of mature red blood cells from human progenitor cells and 2) automated cell culture systems capable of large-scale implementation of progenitor cell expansion and RBC differentiation protocols.
Workshop participants are strongly encouraged to prepare posters describing previous or potential research in the area in order to facilitate discussions and formation of well-rounded teams. It is expected that the successful team will possess expertise in human progenitor cell biology and erythroid differentiation; RBC physiology, cellular support matrices/scaffolds; automated cell culture systems, and cell sorting, purification and packaging. In addition, teams should be led by a strong Systems Integrator and have experience with the FDA approval process for transfusable products.
A few weeks back I met with Afghan ambassador to the United States Said Tayeb Jawad to talk about international reconstruction efforts in his country and Afghanistan's tense relationship with its neighbor Pakistan. As an introduction to my coming blog series from Afghanistan, I am reposting a summary of the conversation originally published at my site War Is Boring. Here are some excerpts on ...
To fight terrorism is not just a military matter. You have to show the perception of security, [which] for everyday Afghans means a better life, [and this is] related to physical reconstruction and the ability of the Afghan government to deliver services. The role of [U.S. and NATO] Provincial Reconstruction Teams is crucial. They're the link between coalition forces and the everyday people. Now, I personally believe the PRTs should be involved more in capacity building with Afghan forces, the police and government. There has been a lot of focus on physical projects ... but by digging a well you're not going to change the economic conditions in a village. What Afghanistan is lacking is human capital. Building human capital will have a bigger effect than digging a well or building a soccer field.
Roads and power are our two biggest [physical reconstruction] priorities. Roads: there has been some progress. Power: not so much progress. Electricity is such a tangible thing.
Summer's here, the sun is shining and the poppies are in bloom. You know what that means? All the Taliban fighters who had been hibernating in Afghanistan's impenetrable mountains have emerged from their slumbers and are creeping down the mountains to visit violence on U.S. and NATO forces.
In the south, British troops swoop down in Chinook helicopters to engage the Taliban in fierce firefights while Dutch and Australian forces rebuild crumbling infrastructure in order to jumpstart the region's shattered economy and dry up the opium trade that channels cash and arms to extremist fighters. Across the country, U.S. and allied troops balance combat, reconstruction and the tough job of training up Afghan soldiers, cops and administrators -- all on unforgiving terrain and in a media environment that seems at times to favor bad news coming out of Iraq over any news from Afghanistan.
For the next three weeks I'll be reporting from Kabul and Kandahar, doing my part to ensure that our "other" war gets a little more attention. Ares and Danger Room are co-sponsoring my blog series focused on the vital Provincial Reconstruction Teams that are dodging bombs and bullets to lay the foundation for a self-sufficient Afghanistan. So check both sites regularly throughout the month of June. And wish me luck.
On May 21, Ares reported that Israel-based Bental Industries launched what it claimed to be the "smallest-size payload available today" for mini- and Micro-UAVs.
On June 6, the company announced that this new MicroBAT 275 electro-optical sensor payload has found a first customer in Europe, namely a "leading UAV manufacturer in Italy" (believed to be Galileo Avionica).
Michael Armon, Bental’s VP Marketing & Sales, says: “We are very pleased with this order, which is a result of our marketing efforts in Europe, and is an important step in Bental's business expansion in this important market."
Canada's National Post newspaper has a fascinating story today about how Russian spies are as active now in attempting to uncover U.S. secrets and technology as they ever were during the Cold War. Russian spies are second only to China in their activities, and both countries like to work their spies through Canada, which has access to U.S. technology. This heightened activity comes as the United States and other Western countries have shifted their attention away from counter-espionage and toward counter-terrorism since the end of the Cold War and the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The story is particularly interesting in light of the May 15 agreement allowing Canadians with dual citizenship greater access to U.S. defense goods. The deal gives Canadian citizens, including dual nationals, with Canadian security clearances access to defense technology controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations provided that Canada can ensure the security of U.S. technology.
An Alaska Native Corporation company with an undetermined address has won a potential five-year, $250 million award from the U.S. Special Operations Command for linguist and translation services worldwide.
Now, for all we know, Shee Atika Languages LLC is perfectly capable of providing U.S. special operators with the language-related support they need to defeat al Qaeda and other terrorists in far-flung places like Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and the Philippines. But mid-Maine's SunJournal.com, which reported at length about the award, couldn't get in contact with the company and couldn't even get a good fix on its address while one reader says they've left town.
The four remaining M-type multipurpose frigates operated by the combined navies of Belgium and the Netherlands will be upgraded with a new combat management system based on the Guardion system, the Dutch defense ministry confirms. Earlier versions of Guardion already equip the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN)'s LCF-type air defense and command frigates and the amphibious command ship HrMs Johan de Witt.
Guardion is based on software developed by the RNLN's in-house Center for the Automation of Mission-critical Systems (CAMS, also known as Force Vision). It uses hardware supplied by Thales (multifunction operator consoles) and commercial vendors (servers and processors).
(Photo: This is the RNLN-developed 1990s-generation combat management system
that equips the M frigates today, here on board HrMs Van Nes that will
be transferred to Portugal under a deal signed earlier this year.
(Credit: Joris Janssen Lok)
I'm a bit behind on this one, but I haven't seen anything in the blogosphere on USA Today's report that Army officials in Iraq have requested new armor be added on to the Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles, which have taken on rock star status in Washington.
The MRAPs V-shaped hulls protect soldiers from roadside bombs, but they can't defeat explosively formed projectiles. According to documents obtained by USA Today, U.S. officers in Iraq expect insurgents to start using a lot more EFPs when newly manufactured MRAPs start flowing into the war zone. It looks like the Army has already developed armor to defeat the EFPs, according to the newspaper report, which is excerpted below.
"Ricocheting hull fragments, equipment debris and the penetrating slugs themselves shred vulnerable vehicle occupants who are in their path," said the document, which asks for 3,400 sets of add-on armor.
The Army has tested armor that appears to protect MRAPs from the explosives, said Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, who confirmed the document's authenticity. Brogan leads Marine Corps Systems Command, the lead agency for the MRAP program.
"How rapidly we can engineer that onto these vehicles is yet to be seen because it is significantly heavy," he said.
EFPs are explosives capped by a metal disk. The blast turns the disk into a high-speed slug that can penetrate armor.
The Army's solution, Brogan said, involves armor that can fracture the slug.
Lt. Col. William Wiggins, an Army spokesman, declined to comment specifically on the armor but released a statement that said the Army is developing "effective countermeasures" against the bombs.
Turkey has launched attacks into northern Iraq to destroy the mountain bases of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a nationalist terrorist group that has killed 30,000 people in raids and bombings in Turkey in recent decades. The PKK fairly bristles with weapons, according to one April report:
The latest PKK [arms] store was discovered outside the southeastern city of Şiirt, in Eruh province [in Turkey]. During a routine patrol of the area [by Turkish security forces], 40 kilos of ammonium nitrate were found. In Hatay, meanwhile, 1.5 kilos of plastic explosive material was captured, along with 12 kilos of TNT. In Mardin, 300 grams of the explosive A4 and 800 grams of ammonium nitrate were captured. In Şırnak, four kilos of A4 explosive and five mortar rounds were seized.
So where does the PKK get its weapons? Check out my post at War Is Boring to find out.
The best weapon in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan isn't any armored truck, flying robot or radio jammer. It's the squishiest, most amazing technology of them all: the human brain. I return to blogger Jason Sigger's recent assertion:
The guys in the field always want more gear to execute the mission. In the words of Colonel John Boyd, the military needs to invest in people, ideas and equipment -- in that order. It's our tendency to flip that into reverse, not because it's correct but because it's easier. Maybe we ought to be smarter and develop better concepts before defaulting to overly expensive technological solutions.