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AFGSC Chief Says It’s Too Early to Decide Bomber Force Size, by John Tirpak of Air Force Magazine

The head of Air Force Global Strike Command believes the bomber force needs to grow, but he thinks it’s too early in the development cycle of the B-21 Raider to decide by how much because the jet’s final cost is not yet known.

Gen. Timothy Ray, speaking with reporters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, said AFGSC’s “Bomber Vector” was developed before the new National Defense Strategy was written, and he’s not ready yet to say the roadmap should be implemented.

“My job … is to keep as many options on the table as long as I possibly can,” Ray said. It won’t be known until about 2024 what the production cost of the new B-21 bomber will be, he said, because that’s the transition point between development, construction of the initial test aircraft, and the production version. Deciding on a final production number before that point would be “gambling,” Ray said, because it’s impossible to know what the world situation or the “fiscal realities will look like” before then.

Ray acknowledged that facilitizing for a rapid production of the new bomber would probably cost less than buying more slowly. 

“[If] you think … about rate per year to get to your fleet size earlier and the savings that gives you, to build out the fleet faster is cheaper,” he admitted. “But like anything, you pay more up-front” to get high-capacity production. Though the Air Force has never said how quickly it plans to build B-21s, a number of officials have suggested it will be slow. The Bomber Vector said the B-2 and B-1 would start phasing out circa 2031, because the bulk of the B-21 fleet would be delivered by then. A fleet of 100 bombers delivered over seven years translates to production of fewer than 14 per year, since at least some early test versions are expected to be converted for operational use.   

He also suggested the Air Force has “learned from” the B-2 and F-22 programs, where it paid industry to gear up for mass production and ended up buying far fewer than expected, raising unit costs.

The bomber roadmap was “the product of an evolutionary process,” and the shifting of “two commands with two bombers” to “one command with four bombers, and the NDS,” Ray noted. Still to be mixed into the bomber equation is the service’s “The Air Force We Need” analysis released last fall; a study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and “certainly Mitre (Corp.) was asked to give an input,” Ray said, adding that he’d seen bomber fleet analysis from AFA’s Mitchell Institute as well. “When I look at those particular dimensions, every indication is that the bomber force needs to grow,” he asserted.

The US no longer enjoys the “sanctuary” of being behind two oceans, “so our ability to project power, I think, grows more important,” Ray said. “Every indication is that the Air Force will be at the forefront of any conflict of any dimension.” He also said he feels the bomber force specifically is “under-invested” in hypersonics, counterspace, and counter-maritime capabilities. He needs to “close some of these gaps that I see that are growing” and do so “smarter, better, faster, cheaper.”

The Air Force has only said it needs “at least” 100 B-21s, Ray said, but “I shouldn’t come to Congress or the Secretary or the American people and say the answer to this is to simply print me 250 B-21s,” Ray asserted. “We need a minimum of 100, but the decision to make that move is in the outyears.”

“We can’t spend our way out of this,” Ray said broadly of all the strategic modernization programs, including bombers, that are underway. “We’re going to have to be really smart about how we do business.”

The B-21 is “a very strong acquisition program,” he emphasized, reporting that flight testing will get underway in 2021 and USAF also will have a certain number of jets as a test fleet in that same time period.

Although, “We’re not going to know the real price tag until the [20]24-25 timeframe, I’m confident those numbers are going to be very favorable, because cost is a KPP [key performance parameter], and I think the CDR [Critical Design Review] was very favorable for the B-21,” Ray said.

Technology lessons have also been learned from the B-2 and F-35, Ray said. “Now we’re talking about managing the algorithms for conditions-based maintenance in the B-21 before we even build it,” he noted. “We’re talking about digital modeling and 3-D printing to validate maintenance practices.” Doing that “in 2019 for an airplane that’s six or seven years away, I think that’s indicative of the thinking that’s going on.”

In the meantime, the service also is working to upgrade its existing bombers, having awarded Boeing a contract last week for up to $14 billion to keep the legacy bombers viable and relevant.

There’s “a lot going on” with adding targeting pods, the integrated battle station on the B-1, the CONECT digital backbone for the B-1 and B-52; radar modernization, re-engining the B-52, and generally “what it’s going to take to keep those old airplanes going,” he asserted. The fleet modernization is a sprawling effort, but Ray reported “a great relationship at the general officer level” between the acquisition directorate, Air Combat Command, AFGSC, and “the sustainment community about how you shift from where you are to the future.” He added there are “probably smarter behaviors when you talk about flying a 1960s airplane to the 2050s.”

The work will also cover digitizing parts so that replacements can be printed. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said last week that printing parts is a huge cost-saver because it eliminates the need to “essentially … do the development” of a component all over again, when the service is only looking to produce a small handful of items, for which industry must present a big bill.

Original article can be found here.

Other articles:

Military.com: Overtasking of B-1 Lancer Fleet Led to Faster Deterioration, General Says

Defense One: New Nuclear Missiles’ Cost Estimate Changes Again

National Defense Magazine: JUST IN: Air Force Still Inspecting B-1 Bombers Amid Safety Concerns

SIGNAL Magazine: Smart Strategic Deterrence Leverages Digital Engineering

Jane’s Defense: US Air Force finding minor issues following B-1B grounding

Defense Daily: AF Global Strike Command Leader Expects Cost of New ICBM to Increase in Short Term

Task & Purpose: The Air Force's B-1B Lancer fleet is stretched thin and falling apart, general says

 

 

At a special briefing for Defense Writers Group journalists co-hosted by the U.S. State Department and the GW Project for Media and National Security, the State Department's director of policy planning, and her counterparts from NATO, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia discussed issues facing the alliance as it turns 70 this year. In an April 1, 2019 session moderated by GW's David Ensor they took questions mostly on Russia's aggressive moves of recent years, including the annexation of Ukrainian Crimea, the use of proxy fighters in Eastern Ukraine, violations of Baltic state airspace and threats to use tactical nuclear weapons in case of war. State Department Policy Planning Director, Dr Kiron Skinner made clear that while NATO must be unified and forceful in response to Russia, the conversations among policy planners in the run up to the NATO ministerial April 3-4 in Washington are global in nature.

"Thirty or so years ago on any given day we had to worry about, in terms of kinetic activity, two countries -- the U.S. and the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons," she said. "Now we have to worry about the gray zone and hybrid conflict, and that brings us to about 50 countries that can attempt to level American power, Western power, NATO power through cyber, through information warfare, financial warfare, and other hybrid means. Well below the level of armed conflict but nonetheless very important. So on the one side we do need greater readiness for conventional conflict or military conflict within NATO, but we have a whole spectrum to worry about at a level that perhaps we didn’t in the past. "
An article the next day by Patrick Tucker of Defense One focussed on the issue of 5G and the Chinese communications manufacturer Huawei, whose equipment the Trump Administration regards as untrustworthy.

Installing Chinese 5G Gear is Dangerous — and Probably Inevitable: NATO Center Report, by Patrick Tucker of Defense One

 U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern about Huawei and its opaque relationship to the Chinese military since at least 2012.

The CCDCOE paper notes that Huawei’s lead in developing products built to the new high-speed, low-latency standard puts it in position to furnish core infrastructure components to many countries and telecoms that are urgently looking to upgrade mobile networks. “There are as of yet no equivalent alternatives to Huawei 5G technology,” it says. (The NATO Center of Excellence lies outside of the NATO command structure. While it is accredited by NATO, it doesn’t speak on NATO’s behalf.)

This could have a major effect on data security for governments and militaries. “Huawei would provide critical components in systems of strategic importance for society, including security services and the military, both due to the latter’s partial reliance on these systems and a mandate to protect them during crisis,” it says.

Pompeo’s rhetoric aside, the United States itself is inching closer to accepting the inevitability of Chinese companies making parts for America’s future mobile networks.

“We are going to have to figure out a way in a 5G world that we’re able to manage the risks in a diverse network that includes technology that we can’t trust,” Sue Gordon, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, said at a recent conference.

So how do you manage the risks?

UK defense officials say they have careful and nuanced attitude. “We’re taking — rather than sort of a blanket approach to it — we’re taking a very sophisticated approach to it which entails understanding of the threats and the risks, understanding what the networks would entail,” Britain’s Vice Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gordon Messenger, told reporters in March.

The UK has kept a close eye on Huawei since 2010, when Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, or NCSC, created an office specifically to scrutinize the company’s products with the care and prudence one might employ in handling a dangerous, powerful, radioactive substance. Center officials publish regularly on the various security issues they find. Just last week, they released a report revealing “serious and systematic defects in Huawei’s software engineering and cyber security competence.”

The CCDCOE paper surmises that this kind of careful and consistent government attention, rather than a blanket ban, is the only way to address the risks posed by Huawei. “The head of NCSC recently recognized that this detailed, formal oversight, building on a decade of formally agreed mitigation strategy and detailed provision of information, means that the UK regime is arguably the toughest and most rigorous oversight regime in the world for Huawei, and that it is proving its worth,” it says.

The paper also recommends that governments carefully track the use of Chinese products by federal agencies and sensitive industries, and to keep Huawei products away from anything that might have national security implications, such as critical infrastructure.

The use of Chinese 5G gear will be discussed at  NATO’s policy planning conference this week. “It is as important for NATO as it is for us. How the European countries address Chinese involvement across all of their sectors is central to American security,” Kiron Skinner, who runs policy planning at the State Department, told reporters yesterday. “There will be more discussion with the NATOpartners about that issue as well.”

Benedetta Berti, a NATO foreign policy expert, told reporters, “I think this is something we are starting to discuss as an alliance. I think that is per se significant… As an alliance, when we talk about the future of our security, we will have to factor in the role of emerging powers including China.”

While there is considerable agreement about the growing influence Chinese telecom and the risks that influence poses, there is less consensus about what to do about it.

“That we are having this discussion points to our success, actually,” said Maciej Pisarski, who leads policy planning at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Original article can be found here.

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