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Bunch: USAF Can Build More B-21 Bombers Faster Without Renegotiating Contract by John Tirpak of Air Force Magazine

The Air Force can speed up production of the B-21 bomber and/or build more of the jets without having to renegotiate the original contract for the program with Northrop Grumman, Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Arnold Bunch said Nov. 21.

“We’ve got the contract structured in a manner that we can go higher” than the planned 100 aircraft, Bunch told defense reporters in Washington, D.C. “I’m not worried that we’ll have to go back and renegotiate that whole thing.” Bunch was one of the senior officials involved in structuring the highly classified B-21 contract when he was the top USAF uniformed acquisition chief in 2015.

He acknowledged that while the Air Force has “not come off” its oft-repeated requirement for “at least 100” B-21s, more are being contemplated.

“If you look at “the [Air] Force We Need’” analysis rolled out last year, “we know we need more long-range strike. And that’s the bomber force. So we know we’ve got to have that.”

The B-21 is still in development, and Bunch suggested that decisions about rate and final buy would come once the program enters the production phase.

Bunch declined to discuss the rate at which Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif., facility will be able to produce B-21s. “That’s something that we’ll look at later on. I believe we have the ability to ramp up, some, I just can’t tell you how much we can ramp up. And right now, the program’s staying on track.”

The B-21 contract was awarded in the fall of 2015. It calls for engineering and manufacturing development of the aircraft, plus the first five production lots, totaling 21 airplanes, at an overall cost of $21.4 billion. The production contract is governed by options that call for the jets to be produced at a unit cost not to exceed $550 million in base year 2010 dollars, which would be $647 million in today’s dollars.

At the time of the contract, the Air Force said it was eyeing a program of “80-100” new bombers. Two years later, the official wording changed to “at least 100 bombers,” and service leaders are now saying the figure could be around 156 airplanes. The “Air Force We Need” analysis calls for seven additional bomber squadrons, at an average size of eight aircraft per squadron. Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein in September asserted he is “in lockstep” with the conclusions of external think tanks that have suggested a larger bomber force is required, saying “I’m hoping we can … buy B-21s faster” and “accelerate in numbers.”

Original article can be found here.

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British general says Turkey remains vital to NATO mission by Mike Glenn of The Washington Times

The British chairman of NATO’s Military Committee insisted that Turkey remains a vital part of the alliance, even with its controversial decisions to arm itself with Russian missiles and to invade a section of Syria that had been under Kurdish control.

Turkey has been an important ally of the alliance since the mid-1950s. That situation has not changed,” Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach told a group of defense writers on Wednesday.

Turkey has “legitimate security concerns” that are acknowledged by NATO, Air Chief Marshal Peach said, adding that the geostrategic reasons for adding Turkey to NATO more than 50 years ago haven’t changed. NATO’s Military Committee is essentially the board of directors of the alliance.

“The size and strength of the Turkish armed forces is a matter of record. Turkey is therefore an important NATO ally and plays a full role in the NATO command structure,” he said.

Turkish military forces have played an important role in NATO’s operations in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the alliance’s support of the United Nations mission in Kosovo, Air Chief Marshal Peach said.

“The capabilities that Turkey brings to the (NATO) alliance is important,” he said. “Military-to-military relations with Turkey remain strong.”

Asked about reports Turkish forces may have committed what amount to war crimes in its incursion into northern Syria, Air Chief Marshal Peach observed that was not part of any NATO operation. There are measures in place to ensure NATO operations observe proper rules of engagement and the accepted rules of war, he added.

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Hypersonic Weapons, Battle Management Now Part of Arsenal Plane Discussions by Rachel Cohen of Air Force Magazine

The years-old idea of an “arsenal plane,” a flying munitions truck that could accompany fighter jets and unmanned aircraft into battle, is now adapting to include the Air Force’s new technology pursuits.

As the Air Force evolves its thinking on the prospect of an arsenal plane—whether that be an existing bomber like the B-52, a cargo plane like the C-130, or something else entirely—top service officials are acknowledging the need to consider hypersonic weapons and new ideas in battle management.

Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, suggested at a Nov. 12 Defense Writers Group breakfast that the service’s bombers are evolving to fit the concept of an arsenal plane.

“If you look at our force going forward, a lot of the programs that we have are turning the bomber force into something else,” Roper said. “A B-52 with a lot of hypersonic weapons on it is, I will call it a bomber, but it's certainly not dropping things down—quite the opposite, right? It's almost a missileer instead of a bomber.”

Roper said he and Air Force Global Strike Command boss Gen. Timothy Ray have been moving through many reviews as the service works to put hypersonic weapons on the B-52. Global Strike is also exploring the idea of expanding the B-1’s weapons capacity from 24 to 40 munitions, according to an Air Force release, though the B-1 and B-2 are slated to retire in the coming decades, leaving the B-52 and the future B-21 to make up USAF’s bomber fleet.

In September, Ray told reporters the B-1 could carry hypersonic weapons on its external hard points and at least four internally, as well as ferry the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, its extended-range variant, and the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile.

“We’ve got to move from being the roving linebacker of the Middle Euphrates River Valley and [Regional Command North in Afghanistan] to being the roving linebacker of the North Atlantic and the Pacific—LRASM, JASSM-ER, hypersonics—and so we’re taking a very close look at how we might make that adjustment here very soon,” Ray said of bombers.

Ray told Air Force Magazine in a Nov. 13 interview that arsenal plane experiments will take place over the next few years, and will begin to tap into the broader, networked Advanced Battle Management System idea the service is pursuing.

“Some are are pretty sensitive, some are in the formative stage,” Ray said. “We're going to tie as aggressively as we can to where the air battle management, all-domain [command and control] experimentation game plan is going on for the United States Air Force, because you have to connect everything that shoots to this sensing and this kill chain grid that's under development.”

Roper indicated that what constitutes an arsenal plane may come down to how an aircraft is used, not only whether it offers a new design. That means planes outside the Air Force could fit the bill, too.

“Can we think more broadly, about how an airplane carrying a lot of weapons can be looked at?” Roper said. “There are a lot of other systems that are currently in development, even some outside of the Air Force, that seem to make sense. ... We want to take a broad look at, how does the standoff bomber work in the contested environment in a way that's complementary with the stand-in B-21?”

Original article can be found here.

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NNSA rebalancing modernization, workforce efforts as result of continuing resolution by Sara Sirota of Inside Defense

The National Nuclear Security Administration has already begun rebalancing its internal projects in response to the ongoing continuing resolution that keeps federal funding at fiscal year 2019 levels, according to a senior Energy Department official. "We're looking at where we can move funding insofar as CRs will allow us to do so," Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, DOE's Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA administrator, said during a Defense Writers Group breakfast today. Read more

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