Thursday, April 30, 2015

Analysis: U.S. Navy's budget plan "doesn't hold water"

Ryan Alexander, U.S. News and World Report
29 April 2015

Last week, the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces released a draft of its proposed program levels and policy language for fiscal year 2016. Of particular interest to fiscal conservatives should be language changes to the so-called “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund.” This new fund was established in last year’s Pentagon policy bill. It gets pretty deep in the weeds of procurement and appropriations law by establishing a transfer fund in the “Defense-wide” portion of the budget to purchase
the replacement for the Ohio class of ballistic missile submarines, also known as “SSBN(X.)”
As I wrote in this column last fall, this effectively means the purchase of new submarines is being taken out of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget and placed in the budget of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. And as far as I can tell, that’s unprecedented. A recent comment by Rear Admiral Joseph Tofalo, director of undersea warfare, suggests otherwise, but an informed parsing of what the admiral is saying will make the difference clear: 
"The Navy is going to need top line relief in order to accomplish the ship building program.  When '41 for freedom,' and then the Ohio-Class, were built, the Navy received about $5 to $7 billion per year in additional funding for ship building. When you compare those years to all other post-Korean war years, you see that top line relief is historically consistent with what has happened over time. The issue is the additional resources and that is the conversation that is going on," Tofalo said.
The admiral is correct in stating that additional money was placed in the shipbuilding accounts in the so-called “Reagan build-up” of the 1980s. Additional funding in the Navy's shipbuilding account is the proper way to fund new ships. That is where funding for new ships should reside in the federal budget. Placing the money there allows for an honest and healthy debate over the proper size of the account and what the Navy, and the nation, can afford.  
Placing it, instead, in the defense-wide budget masks the huge cost of these submarines. A recent infographic shows how. It also means the Navy's shipbuilding account will likely stay at the $14-$15 billion level even without paying for the new submarines. And all that means is the Pentagon topline is going to go up. Way up. The Congressional Budget Office estimate is that the overall costs of the Ohio class replacement is almost $92 billion.
The idea that ballistic missile submarines are a “national asset” deserving of this special status in the defense-wide budget doesn’t hold much water, pardon the pun. All the elements of war-making are national assets. Tanks, missiles, aircraft carriers, even artillery pieces. After all, it wasn’t the U.S. Army who was at war in Iraq and Afghanistan – it was the U.S. government under a Congressional declaration of war, signed by President George W. Bush. These are all national assets. And all the other military services manage to purchase their weapons out of their own budgets.
But the subcommittee rubbed a little more sea salt into that wound. Among the amendments to the original language from the fiscal year 2015 bill is this new language: “a class of twelve national sea-based deterrence vessels, and cross-program coordinated procurement efforts with other nuclear powered vessels.” With the 12 sea-based deterrence vessels obviously being the Ohio class subs, the only other nuclear powered vessels would be the Virginia class of fast attack submarines and Fordclass aircraft carriers. This means that funding for all common procurement items in nuclear powered vessels could be funded out of this defense-wide account.
Camel’s nose, meet the edge of the tent.
So the Navy, and only the Navy, gets relief from its budgetary “woes” by being allowed to transfer major procurement programs over to the defense-wide budget. Watch for the Air Force to look for similar relief for the procurement of the Long Range Strike Bomber or the modernization of intercontinental ballistic missiles. And, given the recent actions of the House Armed Services Committee, I don’t see any likely candidates to stop this train as it races down the track of further fiscal irresponsibility.

Russia says it has launched most stealthy submarine in the world

Zachary Keck/The National Interest
30 April 2015

Russia has launched what it claims to be the “quietest submarine in the world.”
This week, Admiralty Shipyards—a Russian defense company— held a ceremonial launching for its newest Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarines. Dubbed the Krasnodar, the vessel is the fourth of a planned six upgraded Kilo-class subs Russia is constructing under Project 636.3.According to the company’s website, the commander of Russia's Navy, Viktor Chirkov, attended the ceremony, which was held in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
Previously, Russian state media outlets have said that the Varshavyanka-class are the “quietest in the world, and so was dubbed ‘black hole’ by NATO.”
The submarines pack a powerful punch, and are intended primarily for anti-shipping and anti-submarine warfare. “Armed with 18 torpedoes and eight surface-to-air Club missiles, Project 636.3 submarines are mainly intended for anti-shipping and anti-submarine missions in relatively shallow waters. They have an extended combat range and can strike surface, underwater and land targets,” Russia Today previously reported. The torpedoes are launched out of six 533-mm bays, which automatically reload every 15 seconds.
Fifty-two sailors are needed to operate the subs, which displace 3,100 tons and can maintain continuous patrol for 45 days, according to Naval-Technology.
Construction of the lead vessel of the class, the Novorossiysk, began back in August 2010. It was launched in November 2013. In November 2011, Moscow began building the second Varshavyanka-class submarine, dubbed the Rostov-on-Don. That was launched in June of last year.
At the ceremony on Saturday, Admiral Chirkov said that these first two Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarines are currently undergoing deep water trials in the Arctic Sea, but that both would enter into permanent service for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet by the end of the year.
Eventually, all six of the Varshavyanka-class subs will enter service with the Black Sea Fleet. The Black Sea Fleet’s main force is stationed out of Sevastopol, Crimea. However, Russian media outlets have indicated that these six subs’ home base will be the port of Novorossiysk, Russia.

Vietnam buys submarine-launched land attack missiles to deter China

* Vietnam bought Russian-made land attack Klub missiles
* Analysts surprised by assertive weapon choice
* Vietnam's ties with China strained over South China Sea
* Weapons likely to target Chinese ports, airfields - experts

Greg Torode/Reuters
30 April 2015

HONG KONG - Vietnam is arming its expanding submarine fleet with land attack missiles that could be capable of reaching Chinese coastal cities, a choice of weapon likely to be seen as provocative by China in the ongoing South China Sea dispute.
The independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recently updated data on its website to show Vietnam's acquisition of the Russian-made land attack variant of the Klub missile for its state-of-the-art Kilo attack submarines.
SIPRI arms researcher Siemon Wezeman said the entry was based on an earlier but little-noticed filing Vietnam made last year to the United Nations' register of conventional arms.
Regional military attaches and analysts see the missiles as a further sign of Vietnam's determination to counter the rise of China's military and part of a broader trend of Asian countries re-arming amid rising territorial tensions.
The choice of weapon is a more assertive one than the anti-shipping missiles Vietnam was expected to obtain.
While those would potentially target Chinese ships and submarines in the South China Sea, the land attack weapons are capable of precision strikes at a range of 300 kilometres, making China's coastal cities potential targets in any conflict.
Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnam's military at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said the move was a "massive shift" beyond more routine anti-ship tactics.
"They've given themselves a much more powerful deterrent that complicates China's strategic calculations," he said, adding he was surprised by the move.
Vietnam is the first Southeast Asian nation to arm its submarine fleet with a land attack missile.
The Vietnamese defence and foreign ministries have yet to respond to questions submitted by Reuters. Vietnamese military officials have previously described Vietnam's arms build-up, including the submarine purchases, as defensive.
Moscow-based Almaz-Antey, parent company of the missiles' manufacturer Novator, declined to comment on any weapon sales to Vietnam.

Rather than risk an attack on cities such as Shanghai, it is more likely Vietnam would see closer ports and airfields, such as the naval base at Sanya on China's Hainan Island and facilities on land reclamations China is building in the South China Sea, as potential targets, Thayer said.
While communist parties rule both Vietnam and China, Hanoi has long been wary of China, especially over Beijing's claims to most of the potentially oil-rich South China Sea.
Beijing's placement of an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam last year sparked riots in Vietnam and infuriated Hanoi's leadership. Its coast guard ships and fishing boats were routinely chased away by larger Chinese ships during the stand-off.
The two navies routinely eye each other over disputed holdings in the sea's Spratly islands, which straddle some of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
Before obtaining the latest weapons, Hanoi's previous land attack capabilities were limited to a handful of ageing Scud missiles and more limited weapons fired by Russian-built Su-30 aircraft.
Vietnam's navy has taken possession of three Russian-built Kilos and a fourth is in transit under a $2.6 billion deal struck with Moscow in 2009, according to Vietnamese state press reports. A fifth is undergoing sea-trials off St Petersburg and a final sixth submarine is due for completion in 2016.
SIPRI has logged the sale of 50 anti-ship and land attack Klubs to Vietnam as part of the deal, with 28 having been delivered already over the last two years. The precise number of land attack missiles it has bought is not publicly available.
Moscow-based strategic analyst Vasily Kashin said the Kilos sold to Vietnam are more advanced than those used by China while Moscow has never sold the Klub land attack missile to Beijing, which has developed its own similar weapon, the YJ-18.
Zha Daojiong, an international relations professor at Beijing's Peking University, said the move was part of a "normal" regional rearmament trend and Hanoi would be aware of the costs of ever using them against China.
"It is a loaded pistol, but can (they) afford to fire it?," he said.
The Chinese defence ministry has yet to respond to faxed questions from Reuters.
Trevor Hollingsbee, a former naval intelligence analyst with Britain's defence ministry, said Vietnam was creating China's biggest strategic headache in the South China Sea.
"All indications are that they are surmounting the submarine learning curve quite rapidly...this is a very real problem for China," he said. (Additional reporting by Martin Petty in HANOI, Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Gleb Stolyarov in MOSCOW; Editing by Rachel Armstrong)

Submarine volcano likely just erupted off northwest coast of U.S.

A new seafloor observatory operated by the University of Washington is providing unprecedented detail about the possible eruption of a submarine volcano off the Northwest coast.

More than 80 scientists from around the world gathered in Seattle last week to discuss a thrilling development: For the first time, seafloor instruments were providing a real-time look at the most active, submarine volcano off the Northwest coast — and all signs indicated it might erupt soon.
But even the researchers most closely monitoring Axial Seamount were stunned by what happened next.
“All the alarm bells were going off,” said Oregon State University volcanologist Bill Chadwick, who along with a colleague predicted last year that the volcano would erupt in 2015. “It was very exciting.”
Scientists are still debating whether to describe what transpired as an eruption, which means molten rock flowed onto the seafloor. No instruments were destroyed and there was no obvious temperature spike, so the magma might have oozed into subterranean fissures, forming what’s called a dike.
Chadwick is among those who suspect lava did burst out, probably north of where the new instruments are clustered. “This was a major event,” he said. “A lot of magma moved, and that makes a lot of us think it had to erupt somewhere.”
The only way to find out for sure is to visit the site with a research vessel, which he and his colleagues will do this summer.
But despite the ambiguity, the ability to monitor the submarine upheaval as it unfolded marks a major milestone for the United States’ first underwater observatory. Operated by the University of Washington and completed last fall, the $200 million network includes 600 miles of coaxial cable on the seafloor that powers and delivers data from scores of seismometers, tilt meters, microbial samplers and other instruments.
UW oceanographer John Delaney first proposed the system nearly two decades ago, and is delighted to finally see the vision realized — and bearing scientific fruit.
“It’s like Christmas squared,” he said. “This proves beyond a doubt the value of the cable and the data that’s flowing ashore.”
Topping out at about 3,000 feet high, Axial is more like Hawaii’s shield volcanoes than the Cascades’ towering cones. It straddles the Juan De Fuca Ridge— a seam in the ocean bottom where magma wells up and fresh seafloor is born.
Most of the instruments are concentrated in the volcano’s central caldera, which is nearly 2 miles wide and 5 miles long. The caldera is also dotted with hydrothermal vents and fantastical chimneys called black smokers, which Kelley has studied for years, along with the communities of tube worms and heat-loving microbes that thrive in the inhospitable conditions.
But Axial isn’t easy to get to. It lies under nearly a mile of water and sits almost 300 miles offshore. In the past, Kelley and other scientists had to rely on costly and sporadic research cruises to gather data and deploy temporary instruments.
Though underwater volcanoes pose no hazard to humans, insights gleaned from them might also be applied to volcanoes on land someday, particularly when it comes to the tricky question of predicting eruptions and issuing warnings that can disrupt lives and economies.
Except for the possibility of wounded pride and failed hypotheses, testing prediction schemes on submarine volcanoes is relatively painless, Chadwick pointed out.
“On the seafloor it’s easier to make wild statements because there’s pretty much no consequence to people,” he said.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Irresponsible" not to renew Trident submarines, ex-defense chiefs warn UK

Staff, ITV News, Apr 29

It would be "irresponsible folly" for the next Government not to renew Trident, a group of former defence and security chiefs has warned.
Writing in The Times (£), the 20-strong group, including former GCHQ director Sir David Omand and former head of the Royal Navy Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, said that a decision against renewal would be "irrevocable".
“In an uncertain world where some powers are now displaying a worrying faith in nuclear weapons as an instrument of policy and influence, it would be irresponsible folly to abandon Britain's own independent deterrent.”– Excerpt from the letter signed by leading former security chiefs 
Submarines would have to stop patrolling the seas straight away, as credibility in the system would be lost, the group added.
The cost of replacing Trident, a system of submarine-based nuclear missiles, based on four boats is estimated at between £17.5 billion and £23.4 billion.
The SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru are in favour of scrapping Trident, in contrast to the Labour and Conservative position.

Admiralty Shipyards launches Russian Navy's new Varshavyanka-class submarine

Staff,, Apr 29

Admiralty Shipyards has held a ceremonial launch for a new Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarine in St Petersburg, Russia.
The Kilo-class submarine, Krasnodar, is the fourth in a series of six vessels being built for the Russian Navy as part of Project 636.
Novorossiysk, the lead submarine of the series, was delivered to the Russian Navy in August 2014, followed by delivery of Rostov-on-Don in December the same year.
The third vessel, Stary Oskol, has passed state trials, while the last two submarines named Veliky Novgorod and Kolpino are currently under construction.
The vessels under Project 636 have been modified to include upgraded combat characteristics, to enhance the Russian Navy in anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface-ship warfare, general reconnaissance and patrol missions.
Considered to be one of the quietest diesel submarines in the world, the upgraded Kilo-class submarines feature six watertight compartments that are separated by transverse bulkheads in a pressurised double-hull. The submarines are also armed with torpedoes, mines, Kalibr 3M54 cruise missiles, and 533mm torpedo tubes.
The 3,100t vessels can accommodate a crew of 52, and feature advanced stealth capabilities and target detection range, newest navigation system, modern automated information management system and high-speed torpedos and missiles.

Baltic states gird against Russia

Coastal states bolster their defenses as Moscow takes a more forward military stance.

Charles Duxbury, Christina Zander and Juhana Rossi, Wall Street Journal
29 April 2015

GOTLAND, Sweden – Shots and shouts rang out among the trees as National Guard troops practiced defending this Swedish island’s communications infrastructure against invading saboteurs on a recent weekday.
On a recent weekday, members of the volunteer force swept through a clearing to flush out enemy stragglers before a call of “no sightings” brought the drill to an end.
Until recently, the arrival of foreign troops to this Baltic Sea outpost was seen as so unlikely that this force of part-timers, who get about a week of training a year, was judged adequate insurance against it.
That is now changing.
After Russia grabbed a piece of the Black Sea coast from Ukraine and ramped up its marine and air force exercises on and over the Baltic, the other eight countries with a piece of that sea’s shoreline have realized that this backwater isn’t as placid as it was.
“People believed in security mechanisms like the U.N. and EU and so on, but it has been shown that those don’t work – one country has invaded another relatively close to us,” said Hans Hakansson, the National Guard chief on Gotland. “If it can happen in one place it can happen in another.”
Last month Sweden said it would send a permanent force of professional soldiers – initially a company of about 150 – to Gotland for the first time in a decade as it refocuses its military on national defense and away from international missions in places like Afghanistan and Mali.
The Swedish plan to deploy even such a modest defensive force on this island near the Baltic Sea’s center is an eye-catching example of a militarization that evokes memories of the Cold War, when the Baltic was part of the front line between the Soviet Union and the West.
While military spending is falling in the U.S., the U.K. and France, the reverse is true in this corner of northeastern Europe.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think tank, said this month that seven out of the nine states around the Baltic Sea are set to increase military spending this year and that the other two are considering it.
Sweden will refit warships previously set for retirement and increase its submarine fleet while Poland is budgeting for new naval vessels, helicopters and coastal defense systems.
The three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were long under Soviet control and joined NATO in 2004, are leading the push for stronger defenses against Russia and are eager to see the likes of Sweden get a tighter grip on its maritime assets.
The three small states fear becoming isolated from their NATO allies if Russia were to intervene within their borders to protect Russian minorities from discrimination – a move it has threatened to make.
Concerns about the strength of Western defenses rose in mid-October when Sweden confirmed a foreign submarine has sailed secretly into its territorial waters close to the capital, Stockholm.
Lawmakers suspected Moscow was behind the incursion, but the authorities there denied involvement.
A follow-up hunt was triggered a week later after mechanic Robin Klameth reported a 65-foot dark shape in waters near the boatyard where he works east of Stockholm.
“You could see it was a submarine,” he said in a recent interview. “When it moved forward, water was pushed up over its front and divided by a tower.”
Finland’s navy on Tuesday dropped small depth charges to warn off a suspected submarine detected near Helsinki.
Such incidents have sent a chill through a region already concerned about Russian aerial activity.
The number of interceptions of Russian aircraft in European airspace has been rising fast, according to NATO, and Sweden and Finland have complained of violations.
Analysts say Russia’s testing of its neighbors in this way is connected with the oil transports it sends over the Baltic Sea: More oil is shipped through the straits between Sweden
and Denmark than through the Suez Canal, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“They are training the defense of an important transport route,” said Stefan Ring, a military strategy expert at the Swedish Defense University.
As well as triggering a rush to spend more on defense, Moscow’s sabre-rattling over the Baltic has hastened the development of a patchwork of alliances among Russia’s neighbors.
Last month jets from NATO outsiders Finland and Sweden trained aerial interceptions with U.S. aircraft deployed temporarily to Estonia. The five Nordic states – Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland – plan more joint training and intelligence sharing.
Russia has expressed concern over such tie-ups. “Unlike in previous years, Northern European military cooperation is being directed against Russia,” the Russian foreign ministry said this month.
NATO itself has also increased its local presence, preparing a defense force of up to 30,000 troops with command-and-control centers in Poland and the three Baltic states.
On a recent weekday, NATO jets normally based in Italy were training at an air base in Estonia, 30 miles from the southern Baltic shore.
Two F-16s from the 510th U.S. Fighter Squadron flew in formation over a sparsely wooded plain, and puffs of white smoke showed where their bombs hit decoy targets as the planes banked and climbed.
While NATO says such training, taking place about 70 miles from the Russian border, is all about defense, Moscow has condemned it as aggressive and unnecessary.
Russia’s actions represent “the most serious challenge to European security,” the defense ministers of the five Nordic countries said in a joint statement this month.
The Russian side disputes that characterization. In a recent open letter published in a Swedish daily, Russia’s ambassador to Stockholm said his country was a “good and reliable neighbor for all time.”
On Gotland, 33-year-old nurse and part-time soldier Oscar Hedin rests between training exercises. He twisted his ankle and is getting it bound up by a colleague.
He said there is a new sense of relevance about this year’s training.
“It’s maybe not that I expect an invasion imminently but you never know,” he said. “With Moscow, you never really know.”

U.S. Navy guilty of strategic malpractice by relegating carrier-based drones to museums

Robert Martinage and Shawn Brimley, War on the Rocks, Apr 28

Aviation history was made last week: an unmanned aircraft – the X-47B – successfully completed an air-to-air refueling demonstration, taking 4,000 pounds of fuel from a KC-707 tanker aircraft. This historic achievement followed last year’s equally revolutionary series of carrier launch and recovery operations by the X-47B.
You would think that the Navy, cognizant of the need to take advantage of the promise of robotics would be aggressively pushing to do further testing, to make unmanned carrier-based surveillance and strike aircraft real, and thus extend the reach and power of the aircraft carrier – the crown jewel of America’s conventional power projection forces. Instead, the Navy wants to decommission the two X-47Bs (named Salty Dog 501 and Salty Dog 502) and put them in museums, even though they have 80% of their approved flight hours left. Such an action flies in the face of the imperative to counter the most strategically troubling elements of the emerging set of anti-access/area-denial threats that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and his team are aiming to offset.
The need to take advantage of unmanned and increasingly autonomous systems to preserve the aircraft carrier’s operational relevance in anticipated threat environments is obvious. America’s potential adversaries are rapidly investing in capabilities designed to limit the ability of U.S. military forces to gain access to, and operate within, vast areas of the air and maritime domains.
For instance, a recent report from the Office of Naval Intelligence, The PLA Navy: New Capabilities and Missions for the 21st Century (discussed in this War on the Rocks article) ably details China’s development and fielding of modern missile-armed strike aircraft and surface combatants, quieter submarines armed with advanced anti-ship cruise missiles and torpedoes, and land-based anti-ship ballistic missiles such as the DF-21D. And Moscow’s recent decision to supply Iran with the S-300 surface-to-air missile system is illustrative of the broader proliferation of increasingly capable integrated air defense systems that threaten to outmatch not only the F/A-18E/F but also the as-yet deployed F-35C.
Cognizant of these emerging threats, as far back as the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, Pentagon leaders directed the Navy to “develop an unmanned longer-range carrier-based aircraft capable of being air-refueled to provide greater standoff capability, to expand payload and launch options, and to increase naval reach and persistence.”
Last week’s demonstration of automated aerial refueling by an unmanned air system (UAS) was a critical component of proving that unmanned naval surveillance and strike operations are possible. While aviation buffs will emphasize its historical significance, astute strategists will zero in on the fact that the UAS in question – the Navy X-47B – is a prototype of a carrier-based, long-range surveillance-strike aircraft with the “broad-band/all-aspect” stealth design required for operating within air space defended by advanced integrated air defense systems. In combination, the X-47B’s successful carrier launch/recovery demonstration in 2013 and last week’s automated aerial refueling effectively prove that the system the Navy needs is technically feasible and within reach.
With aerial refueling, carrier-based UAS will be capable of conducting missions measured not in hours, but in days. For the first time in history, this would allow carrier-based aircraft to operate at intercontinental distances, enabling both rapid global responsiveness and the ability to stage persistent surveillance-strike operations from well outside most threats to the carrier.
While additional technology maturation and experimentation is surely needed before an advanced UAS can be fully integrated into carrier air wings, the Navy is at a strategic “tipping point” where a truly game-changing capability is within their grasp. The submarine-launched
ballistic missile – which turned the Air Force’s nuclear “dyad” into the iconic Air Force-Navy triad that deterred the Soviets during the Cold War – is an apt analogue. Absent the submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Navy would have effectively ceded the critical strategic deterrence mission to the Air Force. Today is no different. Absent stealthy, air-refuelable, surveillance-strike UAS aboard its carriers, the Navy will invariably cede power projection – and thus the conventional deterrence mission – to the Air Force, which is developing a new stealth bomber and moving more aggressively on the UAS front.
Inexplicably, however, the Navy plans to end the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) and permanently deactivate the two X-47B aircraft by sending them to museums – doing irreversible damage to them in the process – despite having utilized only a small fraction of their available flight hours. Owing to repeated Navy “de-scoping” of the UCAS-D program over the past several years, much work remains before the Navy is ready to acquire carrier-based UAS at acceptable technical risk. Given the roughly $1.5B invested in UCAS-D to date, and that more technology maturation and experimentation is clearly required, the obvious question is: Why stop now?
The answer from the Navy, and from the naval aviation enterprise in particular, has been that there are no cost effective solutions for continued UCLASS risk mitigation with UCAS-D, and that a penetrating, air-refuelable, surveillance-strike unmanned aircraft would be too expensive. Both arguments are fundamentally flawed.
First, there are, in fact, myriad executable options for continued work on UCAS-D that would not only mitigate technical risk for UCLASS, but also substantially enhance the Navy’s readiness to integrate an operational UAS into the carrier air wing. Key areas for future UCAS-D enabled risk reduction include carrier control-area operations, deck handling, aerial refueling, command and control, sensor and weapon integration, survivability, and fleet experimentation. The simple truth is that UCAS-D has only scratched the surface. While some have argued that continuing UCAS-D would create an un-level competitive playing field for UCLASS, it is hard to understand how requirements for “carrier suitability” set by the government in 2007 after a fair and open competition, and defined in detail in 2011, are now anti-competitive – especially when data collected during the program would be available to all contractors competing on UCLASS.
Under current Navy plans, moreover, the UCLASS program is merely a Technology Demonstration effort slated to begin in roughly FY17, with first flight of the “UCLASS-D” aircraft planned for no earlier than FY20. To state the obvious, it would be much less costly and risky to utilize a flight-proven system during the technology and risk reduction phase of the procurement process rather than develop an entirely new demonstration aircraft. This is true even if continued utilization of the X-47B air vehicles required sustained, low-level investment in hardware and software modifications necessary to address different aspects of yet-to-be-finalized UCLASS requirements. Conversely, the five-year gap in carrier-based UAS flight-testing, demonstration, and experimentation inherent in the Navy’s current approach would likely delay the fielding of an operational aircraft. In other words, the Navy’s current path to carrier-based UAS acquisition is guaranteed not only to cost more and take longer, but also to introduce an unnecessary level of risk in both cost and schedule.
Which brings us to the last argument that proponents of the current flawed approach are making inside the Pentagon: that a penetrating, air-refuelable, counter-anti-access/area denial UAS would be dramatically more expensive than the surveillance-focused “spotter” that the Navy currently prefers. For the latter, the Navy has specified a requirement of 14 hours of unrefueled endurance while carrying a sensor suite and at least 1,000 pounds of weapons internally in low-to-medium threat environments. Meeting that objective would require a large-wingspan aircraft with a roughly 45,000 to 65,000-pound gross takeoff weight. A carrier-based surveillance-strike aircraft with somewhat less unrefueled endurance (8-10 hours – still three to four times that of the F/A-18E/F), a higher cruise speed, significantly increased internal weapons payload (~4,000 pounds), and enhanced survivability (i.e., broadband, all-aspect radar cross section reduction) would likely be in the middle of that gross takeoff weight range. With unit cost correlating closely with gross takeoff weight, both aircraft would likely fall within a similar range for overall cost.
Ironically, affordability in the age of austerity is perhaps the strongest argument for acquiring a stealthy, air-refuelable, surveillance-strike UAS. Whereas the “spotter” UAS – designed expressly to support manned fighters – would represent a purely additive air wing cost, a surveillance-strike UAS could replace the F/A-18E/F in lieu of a manned “F/A-XX” in the late 2020s. The potential cost savings are staggering. Owing to the elimination of pilot training as a driver of carrier-based aircraft force size and flight hours, if the Navy acquired a UAS instead of another manned aircraft to replace the Super Hornet, it could procure roughly half the number of aircraft (or less) and fly them fewer hours per year. Based on in-depth analysis of historical carrier-based aircraft life-cycle cost data, a forthcoming report by the Center for a New American Security projects a 25-year savings mounting into the tens of billions. This is a strategic-level cost offset that would allow the Navy to invest in additional aircraft, ships, and submarines.
At a time when DoD needs to squeeze more capability out of reduced investment budgets to meet acute security challenges, a carrier-based UAS that transforms the carrier into a frontline global attack arm while dramatically reducing the overall cost of the air wing represents a historic opportunity. For the Navy to prematurely destroy the X-47B planes and forfeit the opportunity to reduce risk, experiment, and learn for the next five years constitutes strategic malpractice of the highest order.
At least Congress has taken notice, with Senator John McCain, Congressman Randy Forbes, and others urging the Navy to right its course and ensure America’s aircraft carriers and their air wings can deter and defeat future adversaries. We recommend Congress add funding to the FY2016 budget to keep the UCAS-D air vehicles flying while the Pentagon completes its reevaluation of final requirements for a future carrier-based UAS and it enters into development.
With Congressional leaders acting, it’s time for leaders in the Pentagon to do the same. Last year, the Office of
the Secretary of Defense forestalled the Navy’s release of a flawed UCLASS request for proposals and launched a review to study UCLASS requirements in the context of the joint family of airborne surveillance and strike platforms. With the fate of UCAS-D in the balance, it is again time for the Pentagon’s civilian leaders to weigh in to keep the promise of carrier-based UAS operations alive. Secretary Carter, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus need to act before a historic opportunity is squandered. Pentagon officials like to talk about innovation, experimentation, and halting the erosion of America’s military-technological edge. It’s time for their rhetoric to translate into action.
Robert Martinage is Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Shawn Brimley is Executive Vice President at the Center for a New American Security. Both former Pentagon officials, they testified before the House Armed Services Committee on this issue in June 2014.

Analysis:4 reasons why U.S. wants better relations with India

Evan A. Feigenbaum, Foreign Policy
28 April 2015

Obama’s visit to India is said to have shepherded in a new basis for regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. But Obama and Modi have to make their broadly shared interests in the region more real.

President Obama’s January visit to India was, by most measures, a symbolic success. The past decade has witnessed many resonant moments between Washington and New Delhi. But the spectacle of an American president, seated side-by-side with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day parade was a first – a symbol of Washington’s productive relations with Modi and, perhaps, a harbinger of new potential for U.S.-India relations.
Why the growing closeness over the past decade and a half?
For its part, the United States has developed a growing stake in India’s success. It has developed an interest, too, in a confident and reforming India – one that contributes to global growth, promotes market-based economic policies, helps maintain the global commons, and works to assure a mutually favorable balance of power in Asia, especially against the backdrop of a more powerful and assertive China.
In this sense, Modi’s spirited outreach to Japan, Singapore, and other U.S. partners in the Pacific has stirred American interest. So too has his rekindling of economic reform momentum over the last six months: his public support for a contentious land acquisition bill, impending tax reforms that will unify India’s patchwork tax structure into a common market, passage of coal and mining bills that will expand private sector participation through auctions, and an increase or removal of caps on foreign direct investment (FDI) in insurance, defense, railways, and other industries.
Modi, for his part, clearly seeks a United States that helps to facilitate his economic goals – faster growth, technology acquisition and co-production, and expanded FDI in infrastructure and manufacturing. Previous governments, including but not limited to Modi’s, have also sought
American support for India’s rise as a major power and recognition of its growing economic and strategic weight in Asia and around the world.
But Obama’s visit also included an interesting development: the two governments adopted a standalone joint statement on regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. And in the wake of the visit, this statement was trumpeted by many, especially on the U.S. side, as a new basis for cooperation.
In fact, the emphasis on the Pacific is not new. As early as November 2001, U.S.-India joint statements emphasized “common goals in Asia.” A landmark 2002 speech by then-Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill positioned Asian geopolitics squarely at the center of his argument for strengthened partnership. Blackwill put this point directly: “Peace within Asia – a peace that helps perpetuate Asian prosperity – remains an objective that a transformed U.S.-India relationship will help advance.”
But in the decade of the 2000s, the principal lever to enable this cooperation was high technology – something tangible, touchable, and concrete. The two sides could set clear benchmarks: technology would be transferred or not; civil nuclear trade would be permitted or not; adaptations to the U.S. Atomic Energy Act would be made or not; India would separate civilian and military nuclear facilities or not; and so on. And the manifestations of cooperation were many, including a defense technology security dialogue established in August 2003, missile defense cooperation, and Asia-focused military exercises.
By 2004, with the “Next Steps on Strategic Partnership” initiative, the core of the expanded U.S.-India strategic relationship had settled around three areas – civil nuclear activities, civilian space cooperation, and high technology trade – all of which focused on technology acquisition and collaboration. These came to dominate bilateral interaction for the rest of the Bush Administration.
Some of that momentum has continued into the current decade, especially in defense technology. The new U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, has long placed an emphasis on co-development and co-production with India. And the two capitals agreed in 2012 to a potentially robust Defense Technology and Trade Initiative through which the United States would transfer various weapons and technologies and move toward co-production.
But the joint vision statement on Asia issued during Obama’s visit marked a challenging change as well. It turned from a predominant emphasis on the tangible lever of high technology as the manifestation of cooperation to the less tangible, less touchable, less concrete lever of diplomatic coordination.
These tools were at the very core of the joint statement on Asia: the two sides pledged to “strengthen our regional dialogues, invest in making trilateral consultations with third countries in the region more robust, deepen regional integration, strengthen regional forums, explore additional multilateral opportunities for engagement, and pursue areas where we can build capacity.”
The good news is that an enhanced turn toward the Pacific represents a sensible evolution of the U.S.-India relationship. Rapid economic growth has helped India’s trajectory to diverge sharply from that of Pakistan and its other South Asian neighbors. Through participation in the BRICS, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade negotiations with Asian economies, and an array of existing free trade and economic partnerships in Asia, notably with Japan and ASEAN, India has burst out of the confining shackles of its South Asian strategic geography. It has become an Asian player, better integrated into the East Asian economic system than at any time since 1947, and has acquired some capacity to influence the broader Asian balance of power.
Bluntly put, while continental Asia – Afghanistan, for example – has long been an arena for U.S.-India disagreement and rancor, maritime Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific offer some natural affinities of interest.
The central challenge, then, is to make broadly shared interests in the region more real. And in that context, the new emphasis on diplomatic (and to a lesser extent, economic) levers will test the depth and quality of the two countries’ coordination.
Here are four reasons why:
First, economics.
For one thing, Washington and New Delhi will need to navigate their pursuit of separate trade arrangements – the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which does not include India, and the ASEAN-based RCEP, which does not include the United States but does include China.
More important, the two will need to take individual and joint steps to facilitate enhanced Indian economic integration into East Asia. This is no trivial matter: the backbone of East Asian economics remains integrated supply and production chains from which India is glaringly absent. With rising labor costs in China, the geography of Asian manufacturing is shifting, but mostly to Southeast Asia, not India. Simply stated, Modi’s “Make in India” campaign, which aims to capture a share of regional manufacturing, cannot align with strategic imperatives eastward without land, labor, and other facilitative reforms. And labor reforms, in particular, are bogged down at the federal level, with momentum likely to shift instead to states, such as Rajasthan, that are distantly connected to East Asia, at best.
Second, partnerships.
Washington and New Delhi will need to find ways to leverage India’s third party partnerships in the Pacific – for instance, with U.S. allies and security partners. There is much in the joint vision that does not, in fact, require bilateral steps.
Take defense technology. To date, the emphasis in the U.S.-India-Japan triangle has been on trilateral dialogue mechanisms. But India-Japan technology ties may, ultimately, be more consequential than dialogue for its own sake. Tokyo and New Delhi have mused about making defense technology a cornerstone of their cooperation. But that bar remains very high: India has expressed interest in Japanese diesel electric submarines; thus far, Tokyo has shown little interest in India’s $12 billion sub tender. And despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s broadly stated interest in expanding Japanese defense technology exports, many hurdles remain to make that real, not least high costs, problems of scale, and commercial competition from other vendors.
Ironically, India’s membership in the Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) may facilitate the very Indian integration into East Asia that Washington
professes to seek. That is ironic because the Obama Administration has, quite transparently, opposed its Asian partners joining the AIIB.
Third, contingency planning.
Can Washington and New Delhi make security coordination more relevant to real-world East Asian contingencies? India holds more military exercises with the United States than with any other country. But joint contingency planning remains an elusive goal. And despite $8 billion in U.S. defense sales, true interoperability remains more distant than ever.
The problem is not just that the two sides remain at loggerheads over foundational agreements, such as the long-debated Logistics Support Agreement, that have been hamstrung by Indian politics for over a decade. India briefly provided refueling support to the United States during the 1991 Persian Gulf War without such an agreement in place. A political uproar ensued; some of those same voices remain skeptical even today. Rather, an equally salient problem is that it is difficult to imagine a serious East Asian security contingency – Taiwan, Korea, the South or East China Seas – to which U.S.-India operational coordination would be relevant. India would almost certainly keep itself aloof. And the United States, for its part, would likely keep itself aloof from India-China border tensions, not wishing to be caught in the middle. That would, predictably, raise hackles in New Delhi about U.S. “reliability.”
One model on which to build would stress informal coordination, while building capacity with third parties. Consider the Tsunami Core Group, through which the United States, India, Japan and Australia provided rapid relief around the Indian Ocean for nine days in 2004 and 2005. Indian participation was effective precisely because it was ad hoc, but the four countries came away from the event with a body of shared experience. India can make unique contributions alongside the United States, especially in informal settings, when it brings specific operational capabilities to the table. That has also been the case in its patrols of the western approaches to the Strait of Malacca.
And that points to a fourth issue: the need to stress function over form.
It is fine for the United States and India to tout common membership in the East Asia Summit and other regional groupings. But such groups are themselves creatures of bureaucratic inertia – ritualistically meeting, issuing hollow statements, and then persisting. Habits of cooperation emerge from mutual interests, shared objectives, and joint efforts to confront real problems, not from abstract geometry.
Ultimately, the United States and India need to enhance functional coordination, including with third parties, on issues such as financial stability or clean energy technology in the East Asian context. There is simply no practical problem of significance in the Asia-Pacific that Washington and New Delhi can resolve working alone. Thus these can be better addressed if the two pool their capacities, on an issue-by-issue basis, with third, fourth, and more parties that bring real capability to the table.
This argues for trilaterals, quadrilaterals, or larger ad hoc groups, but mostly organized informally and around functional coordination on issues, rather than formal coordination in ritualized groupings. That calls for organizational creativity and experimentation.
Ultimately, then, the challenge facing U.S.-India cooperation in Asia turns more on Indian economic choices than on geostrategic developments in Asia. Will India enhance such functional capabilities, and how?
If reforms proceed and India grows again at seven to eight percent, then market forces should propel it inexorably toward the United States and Pacific Asia. If, however, India cannot assure a durable dynamism, then the joint U.S.-India enterprise in the Pacific will almost certainly flounder too.
Evan A. Feigenbaum is Vice Chairman of The Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago and Nonresident Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He served twice during the George W. Bush Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, including with responsibility for U.S.-India relations. 

French propose undersea pipeline to carry water from Northern California to drought-striken Southern California

USA Today
29 April 2015

SACRAMENTO—A French engineering and construction firm is proposing a flexible undersea pipeline to carry water from two Northern California rivers to cities farther down the coast.
Via Marina, a subsidiary of the giant multinational company Vinci, has provided a "prefeasibility" study to the California Department of Water Resources suggesting water could be drawn from the mouth of the Klamath and Eel rivers and carried south in a series of 12-foot diameter tubes anchored by ballast to the sea floor.
Via Marina chairman Felix Bogliolo said the project would largely eliminate environmental concerns because fresh water would be collected just prior to it flowing into the ocean.
"You can use this water and because by definition you are at the mouth of the river, all of the users upstream are not jeopardized," Bogliolo said.
Via Marina is currently in negotiations in Chile to build a similar submarine river to carry water from a wet area in the south of the country along the Pacific coast to a desert area in the north.
A 1975 study by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation considered a similar approach of harvesting water at the mouth of the Klamath and Eel and carrying it south in floating, rigid pipes. The construction cost was estimated at $20 billion in 1973, and the bureau recommended no further study of the concept be undertaken "until needs are more pressing."
Bogliolo estimated that technological improvements could allow the Via Marina California project to be built today for as little as $3.8 billion, providing fresh water to the south at a cost of about $653 per acre foot-- about a third of the cost of desalinated water, while using about a quarter of the energy.
Bogliolo contacted News10 after seeing the proposal announced last week by actor William Shatner to crowd fund a pipeline along Interstate 5 to carry water from Washington to California -- a plan that was immediately dismissed by water officials in both states.
But Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, believes the French proposal deserves at least some consideration.
"This is not the craziest idea I've heard, by any means," Lund said. "But every solution for California's water problems that sounds good usually has some sort of a hidden flaw to it."
Via Marina has provided the California Department of Water Resources with a copy of the study, but DWR spokesperson Nancy Vogel declined to address the proposal specifically.
"We've received hundreds of drought-busting ideas from the public and we're reviewing them," Vogel said.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Twins share memories as WWII vets aboard submarine

Bill Hamilton is a part of the greatest generation and a Texan through and through.

"We spent a number of our years growing up on a ranch in the panhandle of Texas," he said of his childhood.

At 17, he enlisted in the Navy during World War II.

"Thirty-two of us from the senior high school volunteered for the Navy at the same time and all went together in Boot Camp," he said.

But what makes Bill unique isn't that he's among the dwindling numbers of World War II heroes, it's who he served alongside.

"We wanted to be in the Navy. I don't know if it was the movies or whatever it was," explained Bill's twin brother, Bob Hamilton. "I always wanted to be in the Navy and I didn't want to carry a rifle around in the dirt."

Bob is younger by an hour and 27 minutes, and even though it was against the rules, they served side by side in a submarine.

"We just never did tell anybody we were twins," said Bob. "And nobody ever asked so it didn't make any difference."

"We knew if we got off that boat they would separate us," added Bill as the two sat together in Bob's Tomball home. "Brothers concert on a submarine, much less twin brothers."

The two are living history, riffing off each other as they talk about their life experiences.

"I want to be with my brother. He certainly needed me because I took care of him," Bob laughed.

Bill immediately chimed in, "Oh my!"

It is rare these days to find a veteran from that era and rarer still to meet his spitting image.

"It was a lot of experiences. A lot of it was frightening as the devil," said Bob. "I kid you not, but some of it was exciting, some of it was funny. We were part of the greatest generation because we had to be."

Discovery of WWII-era super sub inspires search by Japanese Broadcasting Corporation

Science Daily
28 April 2015

The dramatic discovery of a lost World War II-era Imperial Japanese Navy mega-submarine by a University of Hawai'i and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) team in December 2013 inspired a new search by NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, to find key missing pieces of the battleship.
The recent survey, the first to return to I-400 submarine since its discovery, successfully located, mapped, and captured on video for the first time not only the submarine's hangar and conning tower (navigation platform), but an unexpected and significant new discovery -- the submarine's bell. Torn from the submarine by the explosive forces that broke apart and sank I-400, the bell lies close to the conning tower on the seafloor.
The massive aircraft hangar, large enough to launch three float-plane bombers, was the defining feature of the I-400. After the end of the war, the I-400 was deliberately sunk at sea outside of Pearl Harbor to keep its technological innovations safe from the Soviet Union.
"We didn't have detailed enough bottom mapping data to help locate the hangar, conning tower, and other signature features missing from the wreck of the I-400," said Terry Kerby, operations director and chief submarine pilot of the Hawai'i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL). "With only one dive day to try to find anything, we knew there was a strong chance we might spend the dive looking at the barren sandy bottom."
Kerby continued: "We made a lucky guess where to start when we approached the main hull of the I-400 from the northwest. Our guess started to pay off when the giant hangar door came into view, followed by the conning tower and hangar. Many items were amazingly intact for something that had ripped out of the hull of a sinking 400-foot-long submarine."
Video of initial sighting:

Netherlands submarine spotted in Scapa Flow

Walrus-class sub considered one of most advanced in world.

Staff, The Orcadian, Apr 27

The sighting of a submarine in Scapa Flow has created a huge amount of interest this morning.
The vessel is believed to be a Walrus-class submarine, operated by the Royal Netherlands Navy.
According to experts these vessels are considered as one of the world’s most advanced non-nuclear attack submarines.
It is not clear why the submarine is in the area, but there has been a huge increase in Navy activity in northern waters during the recently held  Exercise Joint Warrior involving NATO forces.
When first approached this morning, all a Royal Navy statement would say on the matter was: “I’m afraid that it is MOD policy not to comment on submarine movements for security reasons.”
This picture of the submarine in the Flow was taken by Hazel Weaver, skipper of the local dive boat Valkyrie.

What is Trident? Assessing Britain's nuclear sub fleet

Staff, News Statesman, Apr 27

Britain's fleet of nuclear submarines is called Trident. There are four submarines (called Vanguard-class submarines), each with the capability of carrying 16 nuclear missiles. It's the missiles themselves that are actually called Trident (Trident II D-5 ballistic nuclear missiles). Each missile has the ability of delivering eight warheads. The missiles are capable of reaching targets 7,500 miles away.
Like a relay system, at any one time there is always one submarine constantly patrolling the seas, while one undergoes maintenance. The other two are used for training in carrying out manoeuvres.
Trident is based in the river Clyde in Scotland.
The current generation of Trident submarines are coming to the end of their working lives. Construction of the first submarine of a new fleet (known as the Successor) will need to begin in 2016 to be operational by 2028, with the current fleet being phased out by 2032. So the big vote in parliament on whether to renew Trident, or to disarm, will be next year.
Trident has always been politically contentious, with some arguing that it is a wasteful expense and a pointless throwback to the Cold War era. Lib Dems have traditionally opposed it (thought they've diluted their stance on it during this parliament), and some left-wing Labour MPs are also in opposition. The CND and other such groups oppose it both ideologically and because of the cost. Greenpeace puts the cost of replacement at £34bn, though the government estimate is £20bn.
The SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru are firmly in favour of scrapping Trident. The SNP has managed to nudge the issue up the political agenda, by insisting it would be a "red line" in negotiations with Labour to form a government.
However, unilateral disarmament is a bold stance and there is no appetite for it from a government that has been criticised for drastic defence spending cuts. Most Labour and Conservative MPs would vote in favour of renewing Trident, so it is unlikely the SNP will succeed in its aim.

Lt. Cmdr. Maura Thompson on what it's like being one of the few women aboard a U.S. submarine

Angela Thomas, 710 KEEL, Apr 27

What’s it like being one of only a handful of women on a submarine? I had the opportunity to ask U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Maura Thompson that question. She’s a supply officer on the USS Louisiana.
“We’re underwater three months at a time. We will have a few people come on and off, but for the most part, it’s just 160 of us. We become very much like a family. We get very close and very weird,” Lt. Comm. Thompson said. “It’s very challenging at times. We are often tired, the mission always comes first. There’s always something that breaks, something that goes wrong, and we always end up having to come together to overcome those things. So it’s challenging, but fun at the same time.”
LCDR Thompson told me while she was at the Naval Academy, she got the opportunity to take a 24-hour ride on a sub, the USS Ohio, and thought she’d never be on a submarine. That changed 10 years later when she was a lieutenant.
“A supply admiral actually called me and said, ‘We’re bringing women on submarines. Would you consider applying to be one of the first?’ I had never even really considered it. My husband was on a submarine, I didn’t know if it was the life for me.”
She decided to apply and was accepted. A year later, she showed up to the USS Louisiana, and she said it’s been fantastic. She said the person who’s made the biggest impact on her in submarines is her chief, the sub’s cook.
“When I first came onboard the submarine…I was the first woman to show up, and everyone was a little bit hesitant about offending me or telling me when I was doing something that was wrong. And there’s a lot of cultural things that I didn’t understand about being on a submarine. It was great to have a CSC who was not afraid to take me aside and say, ‘Hey, Ma’am, we don’t do that” or “Maybe you should think about doing this,’ and I appreciated so much having people who could be honest with me. And after a while, the crew warmed up to me and now, gender’s just not a thing.”
Thompson said her favorite part about being in the Navy is working with the finest sailors she’s ever encountered.
“I always say, hey USS Louisiana, finest in the fleet. I don’t know if it’s true, I haven’t been on every boat, but it feels like it to me. Sailors are fantastic. They’re so young, I work with so many sailors that are teenagers or in their early 20′s, and they constantly surprise me with how ingenious and smart they are,” she said. “They overcome sleep challenges and work challenges, and are able to accomplish enormous tasks together and help each other. They are constantly surprising me pleasantly.”
Thompson will be all over the place during the week, and she’s brought three USS Louisiana sailors with her to share their experiences. Navy Week runs from today through May 3.

U.S. weapons programs get big boost for contractors

Jeremy Herb, Politico, Apr 27

The defense authorization bill released Monday by the House Armed Services Committee is a clear win for defense contractors, with few program cuts and many big increases.
The mark from Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) includes $1 billion for six additional F-35B aircraft produced by Lockheed Martin. It has an extra $1.15 billion to procure 12 F/A-18F Boeing-made Super Hornets. And it includes $169 million more than the Pentagon requested for the Javelin missile system from Raytheon and Lockheed.
In all, the mark boosts procurement funding to $117 billion – $3 billion higher than the Pentagon’s fiscal 2016 budget request.
The danger is that the full funding authorized in the bill never materializes.
The increases for weapons programs are being made under the assumption that defense spending can remain $38 billion above the Budget Control Act spending cap. The House and Senate-passed budgets boosted defense spending by $38 billion under the Overseas Contingency Operations war budget, which does not count against the BCA cap, but President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats may block the defense funding adds without equal increases on the domestic side.
“All the authorizations in there are based on the assumption appropriators will use the additional $38 billion in OCO funding,” said Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “But there’s no guarantee appropriators will be able to pass a bill to do that.”
Thornberry has said that using the OCO budget to keep the higher funding levels is not ideal, but that it’s the best solution going forward. Thornberry’s committee included $38.3 billion from the operations and maintenance budget that is base funding in the OCO budget, but designated it separately from the $50.9 billion war budget that was proposed by the Pentagon.
“Unlike other OCO programs, these are specifically authorized just as they were in the base budget,” a HASC summary of the mark explained. “Examples of base requirements funded by OCO include airlift operations, combat support forces, combat communications, training support, combatant commanders core operations, Army prepositioned stocks and equipment maintenance.”
The chairman’s bill, which will be marked up in a marathon session on Wednesday, did include some weapons program cuts, including a $460 million reduction to the long-range strike bomber program and a $224 million cut to the KC-46A tanker program. But those trims were included after “close consultation” with the program offices, committee aides said, and are mostly due to schedule delays that made it unlikely the programs would spend the full amount in fiscal 2016.
The chairman’s mark also cut the overall operations and maintenance budget by $1.6 billion below the Pentagon’s fiscal 2016 request, according to an internal Democratic committee summary of the bill obtained by POLITICO.
The mark makes some other large cuts to provide offsets. With oil prices still low, the bill includes $1.6 billion in fuel savings, arguing the Pentagon is using outdated rates to calculate fuel costs. And the measure takes $1.4 billion in savings from the Pentagon’s Foreign Currency Fluctuation account, created to lessen the budget impact of changes in foreign currencies. The committee says the account has been “over-resourced for some time.”
In all, Thornberry’s measure authorizes $495.9 billion in base Pentagon funding, $19 billion in Energy funding and $7.6 billion mandatory spending. It also includes $89.2 billion in OCO funding for an overall topline of $611.9 billion.
That’s in line with the Obama administration’s budget request, but the Pentagon’s budget request added the $38 billion by busting through the BCA cap (There was also a $38 billion boost to domestic spending.).
Thornberry, who is leading his first NDAA markup as chairman this year, broke from retired Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) on one of the biggest fights for the committee this year: the A-10 Warthog.
The Air Force has pushed for retiring the A-10, arguing other planes can take over its close-air support mission. But unlike McKeon, Thornberry included $683 million to keep the plane flying this year, which includes $240 million for re-winging the plane.
Thornberry did not, however, include language explicitly blocking the A-10’s retirement – a ploy to give vulnerable Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) the opportunity to offer that language in an amendment during markup.
“With funding secured, the chairman would welcome efforts at markup to prohibit the retirement of the A-10 fleet,” the summary states, all but acknowledging the political effort afoot.
Thornberry’s mark beefs up restrictions on transferring detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, rolling back the certification rules loosened in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill also adds a restriction that could block transfers to countries where transferred Guantanamo detainees have confirmed to reengage in terror activities, a proposal that’s opposed by the White House and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Smith of Washington state, and is likely to be raised during Wednesday’s markup.
In addition, Thornberry threatens to fence off roughly $500 million for the office of the secretary of defense until the committee receives the documentation surrounding the Justice Department’s legal advice to the Pentagon on the swap of five Taliban commanders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has since been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Thornberry’s measure also pushes back against several Pentagon cost-cutting proposals that have been roundly rejected by Congress in recent years, including a new round of base closures and a reduction to the growth of the basic housing allowance for service members.
The bill includes a key change proposed by a congressionally mandated commission to reform the military’s pay and benefits system: Overhaul the military’s 20-year retirement system. Thornberry’s mark includes the creation of a 401(k)-style retirement system for new service members, along with a reduction of payouts for those who serve more than 20 years to 40 percent of basic pay from 50 percent, although some measures are taken to offset the reduction.
There are also several measures in the chairman’s mark that have been proposed by both Thornberry and Smith: an acquisition reform proposal and an authorization for $200 million in funding for lethal aid to Ukraine.
The bill also includes $600 million for the Syrian train-and-equip program and $715 million for the Iraq program – and urges that 25 percent of the assistance go to the Kurds and Sunnis.
On the research side, Thornberry’s mark includes $184 million for the development of a new liquid rocket engine to replace the Russian-made RD-180, $100 million more than the Pentagon requested.
Thornberry’s bill includes an extra $137 million for Guard helicopters, $110 million in Apache helicopter upgrades and $80 million in Stryker vehicle upgrades.
In shipbuilding, the mark includes an extra $120 million for DDG-51 destroyers, $279 million to accelerate the LX(R) amphibious ship program. And it shifts $1.4 billion for the Ohio-class submarine replacement program into the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, a funding stream that was created by Congress in last year’s bill.
Austin Wright contributed to this report.

Finnish military fires depth charges at suspected submarine

21 April 2015

HELSINKI (Reuters) - The Finnish military fired on Tuesday handheld underwater depth charges as a warning against a suspected submarine in waters near Helsinki, an incident that comes amid growing military tensions with neighboring Russia.
The navy said it noticed an underwater target on Monday and again on Tuesday morning and fired some warning charges - the size of grenades.
Finland, which shares an 833 mile (1,340 km) border with Russia, has been increasingly worried about its powerful neighbor after a year of Russian air force sorties and military border exercises.
Defense minister Carl Haglund did not say whether Russia was involved. He told Finnish media that the target could have been a submarine, and that it has likely left the area, adding that Finland has rarely used such warning charges.
"We strongly suspect that there has been underwater activity that does not belong there. Of course it is always serious if our territorial waters have been violated," Haglund told Finnish news agency STT.
"The bombs are not intended to damage the target, the purpose is to let the target know that it has been noticed," Commodore Olavi Jantunen told Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.
Reports of a submarine spotted off Stockholm last year led to Sweden's biggest mobilization since the Cold War.
Regional tensions were reflected earlier in April after an unprecedented hawkish joint statement by Nordic countries - Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland - that directly cited the Russian "challenge" as grounds to increase defense cooperation.
Moscow retorted immediately, saying moves by Finland and Sweden towards closer ties with NATO were of "special concern".

Monday, April 27, 2015

U.S. assumes arctic council leadership as tensions grow in far north

Reid Standish, Foreign Policy
24 April 2015

Last weekend, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin sparked a minor diplomatic crisis when he decided to visit the Norwegian island of Svalbard. Blacklisted from entering most of Europe due to sanctions related to Russian actions in Ukraine, Rogozin stopped on the Arctic island en route to a Russian scientific mission on the North Pole. He was
accompanied by Orthodox priests and a massive icon of Jesus Christ. He later took to Twitter and proclaimed, “the Arctic is a Russian Mecca.”
In the last year, Moscow has upped its military presence in the region, increasing sorties by fighter jets and opening new bases in the region, constructing 10 search-and-rescue stations, 16 deepwater ports, 13 airfields, and 10 air-defense radar stations across its Arctic coast. Russia has also reopened previously closed Soviet bases in the far-north, including one in the Murmansk region, just 31 miles away from the Finnish border, which will house over 3,000 ground troops, 39 surface ships, and 35 submarines.
In response, Nordic countries have moved to strengthen their own hand in the north. In an op-ed published April 9, the defense ministers of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, plus Iceland’s foreign minister, signed a joint declaration that “Russia’s conduct represents the biggest challenge to European security,” and that “as a consequence, the security situation around the Nordic countries has significantly worsened during the past year.” As a result, the five countries announced plans to expand defense ties with one another.
These tensions have several Nordic nations clamoring that the United States step up efforts to counter Russia in the Arctic. It was against this background that Secretary of State John Kerry made the long trip to the northernmost Canadian territory of Nunavut on Friday to assume the rotating leadership of the eight-country Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum composed of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.
Speaking from Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit, Kerry did not acknowledge Russia’s military moves in the region and focused instead on increased cooperation in the Arctic to fight climate change. “The decisions we make today, and in the next two years, and the actions we come together to take will determine the future of this region for generations to come,” he said, referring to efforts to control warming in a region whose temperatures are increasing at a pace twice as fast as the rest of the planet.
Indeed, climate change is part of the reason why the Arctic has become a renewed front for international competition. Climate is disrupting ecosystems there and also opening new ice-free channels for shipping, commercial fishing, and oil and gas exploration. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that 13 percent of the earth’s remaining oil, 30 percent of its natural gas, and 20 percent of its liquefied natural gas are stored within the Arctic seabed.
“Russia is being provocative in the region, but it’s not undermining U.S. strategic interests,” Alex Ward, Brent Scowcroft Center Assistant Director at the Atlantic Council, told Foreign Policy. “The Kremlin is thumping its chest with military displays, but it’s still cooperating on climate change.”
In 2013, the Obama administration upped the Arctic’s foreign policy significance in Washington after it unveiled a strategy document for the region centered on keeping sea lanes and environmental protection. Though the United States and the Soviet Union dueled in the Arctic during the Cold War, Washington appears to have no appetite for a militarized Arctic.
“The Nordic countries really want the United States to take up a larger leadership role in the Arctic to balance Russia’s posturing, but there’s no sign that Washington is willing to escalate the situation,” Ward said.
As Washington steps back in the Arctic, other countries are investing in their military capabilities there. In March, Ottawa finalized a $3.4 billion project for five Arctic offshore patrol ships and is moving forward on a slew of projects to improve Canadian military capabilities in the far-north. The same month, Norway announced a billion dollar upgrade to its northern defense capabilities.
With competition for resources and increased military capabilities in the region, the Arctic could become a future flashpoint. “Countries are still trying to figure out how to use this space to project power without sparking a conflict,” Ward said.
In fact, there is a metaphor for Arctic countries’ inability to fully cooperate quite literally floating around in the Ocean. In October 2014, a large, fuel-filled barge broke free from its tow boat and has since drifted through Canadian, American, and Russian waters. The U.S. Coast Guard dropped a GPS device on the barge to keep track of its movements. But the U.S. and Canadian coast guards aren’t talking to Russia, so the Canadian World Wildlife Fund is currently acting as a go-between.

U.S. Navy about to get a whole lot more ships; billions of dollars up for grabs

Rich Smith, The Motley Fool
26 April 2015

Depending on whom you ask (and how you count), the United States Navy boasts a war fleet of as many as 430 ships (in active service and the reserve fleet). Or perhaps only 273 (deployable "battle force ships"). Or maybe something in between.
Whichever number you prefer, one thing's certain: The Navy's about to get a lot more ships.
Specifically, 10 new Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and nine Virginia-class attack submarines. This is according to, one of the premier sites for all things Naval news.
As USNI reports, the U.S. Navy is putting the final touches on its fiscal-year 2018 long-range shipbuilding plan. In it are details for the purchase of the Navy's 19 newest warships, which, when combined with other acquisitions, will swell the Navy to 308 warships by about 2031.
Cost containment is key to reaching this goal. And in the interests of keeping costs as low as possible, the Navy is structuring its ship acquisitions in the form of "block buys" -- awarding the contractors who give it the best prices contracts for multiple warships.
Why? According to the Congressional Research Service, the average cost of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer historically has been about $1.8 billion. CRS pegs the cost of the latest batch of Burkes, however, at closer to $2 billion apiece, incorporating the higher cost of upgraded Air and Missile Defense S-Band Radar systems from Raytheon.
In offering multiple-ship contracts, the Navy hopes to incentivize its two primary shipbuilders, Huntington Ingalls (NYSE: HII  ) and General Dynamics (NYSE: GD  ) , to put their very best bids forward -- and then do the same with the Virginia subs contract as well. And once the companies know they've got multiple contracts in the bag, the winning defense contractors can better predict their costs years into the future, and not have to make last-minute changes to production capacity. (Change being the bane of cost control in the defense contracting sphere).
Who gets the contracts?
Whatever the precise bids, history suggests that both the destroyer and the submarine contracts will split down the middle between Huntington Ingalls and General Dynamics. And while this may smack of collusion within the "military-industrial complex," it's actually a good thing.
By giving roughly equal amounts of work to each contractor, the Navy is able to maintain a larger industrial base, capable of building more ships in future years. And by maintaining two viable shipbuilders to bid on its contracts, the Navy also avoids a situation in which one "sole source" shipbuilder can basically dictate prices to the Pentagon. With two rivals in the mix, each must constantly look over its shoulder to ensure it's not getting underpriced by its rival. (Case in point: The most recent destroyer contracts awarded to General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls saw bids within 1% of each other.) That's good news for taxpayers.
What it means to investors
This situation is also good news for investors in the defense industry. We can be reasonably certain, for example, that both these companies will win about half the work on offer. And absent worries about revenues, we can focus on buying whichever company earns the most profit on these revenues.
To wit: General Dynamics does about $7.3 billion in business at its Marine Systems division, which is its second smallest business unit. S&P Capital IQ puts General Dynamics' operating profit margin on ships at just 9.6%, making the division also General Dynamics' second least profitable per dollar of revenue -- a double whammy.
Huntington Ingalls, in contrast, specializes in ships, and reports annual revenue of $7 billion. Huntington Ingalls earns a 10.8% operating margin.
At 20 times earnings, a share of Huntington Ingalls costs a bit more than a share of General Dynamics (which sells for 18 times earnings). However, analysts who track the two companies expect Huntington Ingalls to grow its earnings at 15% annually over the next five years -- significantly faster than the 9% growth rate posited for General Dynamics.
Seems to me, if investors want to own one of these companies, the right call is to make a "block buy" of their own -- of Huntington Ingalls stock.
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India's first Scorpene-class submarine emerges from building hall to be outfitted

A Scorpene-class conventional submarine of the Royal Malaysian Navy. Photo: Mak Hon Keong.
PARIS, April 26 (UPI) -- The first DCNS Scorpene-class submarine being built for the Indian Navy has been rolled out of its main building hall for outfitting with its systems, DCNS said. The INS Kalvari was built in the Indian city of Mumbai by state-owned Mazagon Docks under a $3 billion contract between India and DCNS that included a technology transfer agreement.
A total of six Scorpene-class submarines are to be built in India for the country's P75 submarine program.
"DCNS won the order for six Scorpene submarines, based on technology transfer and local construction, from the Indian shipyard Mazagon Dock Limited in 2005," said Alain Pugnière, director of the India Scorpene program at DCNS. "The first submarine should be delivered in 2016; the others will follow at a rate of one every nine months."

The Scorpene is a diesel-electric attack submarine. Its length is between 202 feet and 246 feet depending on variant, while displacement is between 1,725 tons and 2,200 tons. Submerged speed is 20 knots, while surface speed is 12 knots.
Sea trials for INS Kalvari are scheduled for 2016.