Tag: Congress

China vows to modernize army and expand military might

(Zha Chunming/Xinhua via AP)

China’s authorities plan to actively modernize the army and boost the potential of forces, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the opening of the 19th Communist Party’s Congress on Wednesday.

“We will do our utmost to enhance defensive capacity and modernization of China’s Armed Forces,” the Chinese leader said.

The government will honor the army traditions and improve the methods of combat and professional training of soldiers and officers. “China’s reforms in national defense allowed achieving a historic breakthrough…The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is steadily moving towards ‘socialism with Chinese specifics,’” he stressed.

“The authorities will make all efforts to ensure that by 2035 China will have a modern army with defensive power,” he said. “Finally, by the middle of this century this country will have the most advanced forces in the world.”

Some 2,280 delegates are attending the forum, which will last until October 24. The Congress will consider the result of the party’s work over the past five years and discuss economic and political situation in China and other countries, and outline a strategic line of development in the republic for the coming years. After the forum, the party is expected to unveil the new members of its top bodies – the Politburo, its Standing Committee and the Central Committee.





Trump threatens Iran with sanctions so intercontinental missiles can never be made

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about Iran and the Iran nuclear deal in front of a portrait of President George Washington in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump made the announcement in a speech that detailed a more confrontational approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.

He said: ‘Today I am announcing our strategy along with several major steps we’re taking to confront the Iranian regime’s hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon.’ The president also spoke of his fear of intercontinental missiles, adding he wants to ensure these are never part of Iran’s nuclear program.

He never wants Iran to have nuclear weapons. While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, he gave the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to re-impose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.

That would increase tension with Iran as well as put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord such as Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union.






Navy Ships Kept at Sea Despite Training and Maintenance Needs, Admiral Says

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) being towed by tug to Yokosuka, following a collision with a cargo ship

WASHINGTON — After a string of deadly accidents in the western Pacific, a top admiral acknowledged on Thursday that the Navy had knowingly operated warships there despite a growing number of major training and maintenance shortfalls — all to meet increasing operational demands.

An unusual hearing of two House Armed Services subcommittees offered no new information about what caused four Navy mishaps in the western Pacific this year, including two fatal collisions between Navy destroyers and foreign cargo ships that left 17 sailors dead. Those accidents remain under investigation.

But the hearing painted a disturbing portrait of fatigued crews and commanders on a shrinking overseas fleet saddled with constant deployments — including confronting an expansionist Chinese military and keeping vigil on a nuclear saber-rattling North Korea — with little time left to train or to repair aging ships.

“The Navy is caught between unrelenting demands and a shortage of ships,” John H. Pendleton, a director of the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, told lawmakers. The office has chronicled the Navy’s woes in several recent reports.

“We have allowed standards to drop as the number of certifications has grown,” said Adm. William F. Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, referring to waivers of required tests certifying Navy crews and ships had met certain standards, such as seamanship.

As of June, 37 percent of the certifications for the crews of cruisers and destroyers based at the Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, had expired, Mr. Pendleton said. That was more than a fivefold increase in the percentage of expired certifications for the crews of those ships since a Government Accountability Office report in May 2015, he said.

Thursday’s hearing marked the first time that Navy officials publicly responded to Congress since the destroyer John S. McCain collided last month with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore, killing 10 sailors. In June, the destroyer Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off Japan. Seven sailors died in their flooded berthing compartments.

After the McCain crash, the Navy relieved the commander of the Seventh Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin; directed all 277 Navy ships worldwide to suspend operations for a day or two to examine basic seamanship and teamwork; and ordered a comprehensive review of fleet operations, training and manning to be completed within 60 days.

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, in Singapore waters August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Lawmakers, however, seemed unsatisfied that the Navy was taking enough immediate measures to prevent another accident, and demanded to know why the Navy did not pause its operations after the Fitzgerald crash.

“It should have,” Admiral Moran said.

Much of the hearing focused on the differences between Navy ships based in the United States and those overseas.

Since 2006, the Navy has doubled the number of ships based abroad. That allows the Navy to respond quickly in a crisis with a formidable number of combatant ships and aircraft.

In the past two decades, the number of Navy ships has decreased about 20 percent, though the time they are deployed has remained the same, according to a 2015 report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington research group funded by the Defense Department. The increased burden has fallen disproportionately on the Seventh Fleet.

That tempo, Admiral Moran acknowledged Thursday, has frayed readiness. Government and military investigators have drawn similar conclusions, warning that the mission pace was leaving crews unprepared. Mr. Pendleton noted that a 2015 study by the Government Accountability Office found that the high demands of Navy fleets based overseas, like the Seventh in Japan, affect maintenance and training.

Investigators found that ships spent so much time at sea that there was not enough time for routine preventive repairs. And they said that while crews based in the United States were almost always completely qualified before deploying, ships based overseas and juggling multiple missions relied on a “train on the margins” approach.

“Over all, the negative trend lines associated with the operational readiness of our forward deployed ships are deeply troubling,” said Representative Rob Wittman, Republican of Virginia, who heads the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. “These negative training trends clearly contributed to the lack of seamanship evident onboard the U.S.S. John McCain and the U.S.S. Fitzgerald.”

Rob Wittman (R-VA), Chair of HASC Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.

Navy officials seemed taken aback by some of these findings, even though alarms have been sounded for years. Admiral Moran, for instance, said he always presumed the Seventh Fleet was one of the Navy’s most proficient because of its vast operational experience. “It was a wrong assumption,” he said.

The admiral said the comprehensive review will address how much risk the Navy can accept to accomplish all its missions in the western Pacific. “We should not and cannot have collisions at sea,” Admiral Moran told lawmakers. “You have my promise we’ll get to the bottom of these mishaps.”

Navy Looks at Accelerating Super Hornet Transitions

Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is looking at ways to accelerate the phase-out of F/A-18C “Classic” Hornet strike fighters from its carrier air wings and replacing the last few squadrons with F/A-18E Super Hornets, a Navy spokeswoman said.

“As we balance operational requirements and our initiatives to build the most capable and ready forward-deployed force, we are identifying the most efficient and effective way to safely transition the last four Navy operational Hornet squadrons to Super Hornets,” Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, public affairs officer for commander, Naval Air Forces, said in an e-mail to Seapower.

“In order to provide our most capable warfighting force forward, the Navy began the first of the final transitions of our four operational F/A-18C Hornet squadrons to F/A-18E Super Hornet squadrons in July, with an expected completion in [fiscal] ’19. Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, was the first of the four squadrons to begin the transition last month.”

The other three F/A-18C squadrons, all based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., are VFA-34, VFA-37 and VFA-83.

“Accelerating the transition to Super Hornets will allow cost savings and reduce depot maintenance workload,” Groeneveld said. “As the Navy approaches the end of the extended service life for Hornets, the cost per flight hour continues to increase. Additionally, there are shortages in the Department of the Navy’s spare parts and supply system that have contributed to flight line readiness challenges, as well as our ability to extend the service lives of these airframes.”

She also said the transitions give the Navy the opportunity to select its best-condition Hornets for use by the Marine Corps and by Navy support and reserve units, such as Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, Fighter Composite Squadron 12, Reserve squadron VFA-204 and the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.

The Navy is confident it will be able to continue to support all operational requirements as it completes transition of the Hornet fleet to Super Hornets,” she said.

Congress has supported the Navy’s requirements for increased Super Hornet procurement to bridge the gap to the fleet introduction of the F-35C Lightning II strike fighter. The first fleet squadron to make the transition to the F-35C will be VFA-147 in 2018.


US Navy: More Virginia-class submarines can be built

United States Navy Virginia-class SSN

A new plan to build more attack submarines could be supported by the U.S. industrial base with careful planning and sufficient funding, a U.S. Navy report to Congress has concluded.

Titled “The Submarine Industrial Base and the Viability of Producing Additional Attack Submarines Beyond the Fiscal Year 2017 Shipbuilding Plan in the 2017-2030 Timeframe”, the report was delivered to Congress in early July.

The U.S. Navy did the study in order to evaluate whether the two major shipbuilders – Huntington Ingalls Industries and General Dynamics-Electric Boats – could continue building two Virginia-class even after the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program starts construction.

Current plans would see the shipbuilders drop their Virginia-class submarine from two to one boat a year once the Columbia program starts in the 2020s.

However, maintaining the two-a-year building pace would allow the navy to receive additional seven Virginia boats and increase the total number of boats built between 2017 and 1030 to 29 instead of 22.

While the navy assessed the industrial base was theoretically capable of maintaining this construction tempo, it did note that adequate and timely funding would be needed to allow the two major shipbuilders to prepare facilities, workforce and the supplier base for the increased workload.

The increased submarine production would allow the navy to achieve the number of 66 attack submarines in service – as outlined in the navy’s 2016 force structure assessment – in fiscal year 2048.


Senator McCain says he is not surprised by expulsion of US diplomats from Russia

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

US Republican Senator John McCain is not surprised by Moscow’s decision to send hundreds of US diplomats from Russia after the US Congress adopted a bill providing for further tightening of the regime of unilateral sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.

“Not surprising Putin throws out US diplomats, but he & his cronies will still pay price for attacking our democracy,” the senator wrote on Twitter.

McCain is one of those senators who are most critical of Russia. The lawmaker repeatedly called for new anti-Russian sanctions.

On July 28, the Russian Foreign Ministry proposed the US party to “equal the number of diplomatic and technical staff members working in the US Embassy in Moscow and in consulates general in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok to the exact number of Russian diplomats and technical staff members who are working in the US before September 1.” “This means that the total number of staff working in US diplomatic and consulate entities in Russia will be reduced to 455 people,” the ministry said in a statement. “In case the US authorities take new unilateral actions to reduce the number of our diplomats in the US, it will be responded in kind.”

In addition to that, Russia is suspending the use of the warehouses and the property in Serebryany Bor in Moscow by the US Embassy as of August 1.

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted in an interview with VGTRK host Vladimir Solovyov that a total of 755 US diplomats are to leave Russia.

US House of Representatives passes bill to toughen sanctions on Russia

AP Photo/Evan Vucci.

The House of Representatives of the US Congress on Tuesday passed a bill to toughen unilateral US sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.

A total of 419 lawmakers supported the bill, with only three votes against.

The bill brings to the legislative level the anti-Russian sanctions, imposed by executive orders of former US President Back Obama over the political crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s reunification with Crimea.

The amendment will also concern restrictions that Obama imposed in late 2016 against the Russian citizens, whom Washington suspected of cyberattacks on US political institutions.

The document will be passed to the Senate, where it enjoys widespread support from both Democrats and Republicans.
If approved by the parliament, the bill will be forwarded to US President Donald Trump. If the US president signs it into law, it would be possible to remove the sanctions only by adopting another legislation.

The US administration won’t have the right to lift sanctions independently.

The US leader has previously voiced his readiness to sign the document.

Source: TASS Russian News Agency.



Architects of ‘80s military buildup talk to senators about Navy expansion

The $13 billion aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)

The architects of the 1980s military buildup came before senators Tuesday to explain how they were able to rebuild and expand the Navy by 75 ships in just seven years under conditions not so different than they are today.

The Navy at the time faced shortfalls due to budget cuts, it was struggling with cost overruns, and shipbuilding programs were stagnating, testified former Navy Secretary John Lehman.

“As a result, we as a nation were losing our ability to deter disturbers of the peace,” he told the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee. “The same situation with very different actors is true today.”

But while members of the subcommittee are unanimous in their support for a similar buildup today from 276 ships to 355, there are differences.
Today’s Congress remains deadlocked over spending, and this huge military expansion lacks the push of a broadly popular president.

Ronald Reagan enjoyed a 58 percent approval rating six months into his presidency; President Donald Trump’s rating this week were under 40 percent.

William Schneider, who served as a former associate director in Reagan’s office of management and budget, said Reagan was able to build “very effective collaboration” in Congress to fund the very substantial increase in defense.

“His success in building a 600-ship Navy was a remarkable story of committed executive and legislative branch leaderships,” he said.
Lehman told the committee that the 1980s effort was successful because it had a cohesive strategy based on the nation’s vital defense interests that enjoyed widespread bipartisan support as well as support from the White House, budget office, the Pentagon and the Navy and Marine Corps.

In addition, there was a deep commitment to discipline in procurement, reigning in the kind of cost overruns that have plagued the building of the design and construction of the first Ford-class aircraft carrier. That means completing and freezing the design before going out to bid and ensuring there is accountability to keeping to the fixed price, he said.

With 22 Defense Department administrators able to sign on for increased spending, the only way to keep that discipline is to hold someone accountable, he said.

“There should be one person where the buck stops and that has got to be the service secretary,” he said.

Everett Pyatt, former Secretary of the Navy for Shipbuilding and Logistics, said another way to avoid runaway costs is to abolish incremental funding for ships. By approving the full amount for a complete ship up front, they were able to control the costs and not get into the kinds of problems today’s military is facing. He said he just learned of $700 million “buried in the post-delivery cost” for the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier.

“For a ship that’s already been delivered – I don’t understand that,” he said.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the subcommittee, praised the witnesses for “thinking outside the box” when they reactivated and modernized ships that had been decommissioned early rather than building all new.

He said the subcommittee along with their counterparts in the House have adopted the 355-ship Navy Ships Act into the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

But Democratic senators on the subcommittee warned that the Navy buildup won’t be possible without commitment by Congress to repeal the Budget Control Act, which caps defense spending with the threat of automatic across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.

“One thing is clear,” said ranking member Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. “If we do not deal with the [Budget Control Act], we will end up cutting the size of the Navy.”

Source: Stars and Stripes.

First meeting for Trump and Putin: what will the power dynamics reveal?

The Guardian, By Julian Borger, World Affairs Editor, 3 July 2017

Hamburg will this week play host to one of the strangest encounters in modern history, when Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin meet on the margins of the G20 summit.

It will be their first meeting as presidents but less clear – and reflecting the unusual circumstances surrounding the event and their relationship – is whether it will be their first meeting at all. Over the past few years, Trump has variously claimed to have either met Putin and “got along great”, or to have never met him.

The power dynamics between the two leaders will be analysed around the world: one of them is widely believed to have helped engineer the election of the other, who is reportedly under investigation at home for colluding in that venture. Trump’s words and body language will be subject to immense scrutiny for signs of Putin’s leverage.

The Russian leader is also expected to push for Moscow’s take on international relations – that of the interests of leading powers taking precedence over the existing order.

For a man given to outbursts of temper and personal attacks Trump has always treated Putin with delicacy, and his admiration for his Russian counterpart has never been in question.

Putin has been far more cautious. He has called Trump “colourful”, which the American took for a compliment although the Russian word used was double-edged, with positive and negative connotations.

“You can rest assured that the Kremlin has prepared well in advance for this meeting, both with a complete analysis and dossier of Mr Trump himself as well as the goals that the Kremlin’s wishes to advance,” said Heather Conley, director of the Europe programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

Putin goes into the meeting with other advantages. His control of foreign and national security policy is untrammelled, while Trump is hemmed in. Attempts to relax sanctions on Russia as a sweetener to rejuvenate the Washington-Moscow relationship have been blocked while Congress is in the process of not just intensifying the sanctions but wresting the power to lift them away from the White House.

National security council (NSC) staff have also pushed back on demands for “deliverables” to use as bargaining chips with which Trump might strike a face-to-face deal of the kind he prided himself on in his real estate and reality TV years.

Trump wants the meeting with Putin to be a formal affair, but his own advisers have resisted giving the Russian leader one of his principal goals – normalcy and acceptance following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine.

Amid all that uncertainty, Trump’s national security adviser, Herbert Raymond McMaster, told journalists last week that the meeting would be unstructured and free ranging. “There’s no specific agenda. It’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about,” McMaster said, adding that the talks would not “be different from our discussions with any other country, really”.

Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond McMaster

The Kremlin does have an agenda, however, and despite remarks from a spokesman that the Russians would “try to fit” a Trump meeting into Putin’s very tight schedule, it sees the meeting as critical for redrawing the bilateral relationship.

“I was very surprised by General McMaster’s comments, both by what appears to be a lack of US policy preparation for this critical meeting and his comment that the US-Russian relationship is not different from that with any other country,” Conley said.

Maxim Suchkov, a member of the Moscow-based Russian International Affairs Council, said foreign policy experts had been invited by the foreign ministry as early as March to “brainstorm” ideas about what Moscow should be offering and asking for.

Suchkov said that Russian diplomats were thinking about the relationship in “four big baskets”, including regional issues such as Ukraine and Syria, establishing military channels of communication, and economic relations. The biggest and vaguest of the four involved the contours of the international order, and in particular “what world would the US and Russia want to live in peacefully”.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, set out in a speech on Friday what such a new order would look like: in place of the west seeking to impose “pseudo-liberal values” across the globe there would be a balancing of the national interests of major powers, he said.

In an echo of one of Trump’s campaign points, Lavrov described Nato as “unable to provide a proper response to the growing main threat of modern times, which is terrorism”. Moscow’s persistent theme is that Nato should be left to sink into redundancy while the US and Russia cooperate on counter-terrorism.
“I proceed from the premise that Mr Putin and Mr Trump understand their national interests,” Lavrov told a Moscow audience. “They want to overcome the current abnormality and start negotiating specific issues that affect bilateral relations, including business interests and the resolution of international problems.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Henry Kissinger, who has been a guest of Trump’s at the White House, was in the room as Lavrov spoke, and the Russian foreign minister applauded him for having followed a balance-of-powers approach when he was making US foreign policy during the cold war.

Suchkov said Moscow’s immediate demand was the return of two Russian diplomatic compounds, in Maryland and New York, from where its officials were expelled by the Obama administration in December in retaliation over the Kremlin’s interference in the election campaign.

The White House led by Trump has explored handing back the sites, perhaps stripped of diplomatic immunity, but the issue is politically fraught in Washington at a time when the city is gripped by the Russia investigations.

Outside the Oval Office, however, there is entrenched opposition to any relaxation of sanctions that would imply acceptance of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in east Ukraine, a formerly covert operation which Lavrov officially acknowledged for the first time in his Moscow speech on Friday.

The US Senate has voted by 98 to 2 to strengthen sanctions on Russia. The House is expected to vote on the measures in the days following the Trump-Putin meeting. Any unilateral action by Trump in Hamburg to relax pressure on Moscow is liable to cause a backlash in Washington.

Whether or not the president and his associates are found to have directly colluded with Moscow, there is no question Trump has offered a softer, less judgmental, relationship with Russia. There is likewise little doubt Putin ordered his intelligence services to skew the election in Trump’s direction.

In Hamburg, meeting face-to-face with a US president hobbled by constraint, the Russian leader will be looking for what he can salvage from that investment.



The $13 Billion Aircraft Carrier That Has Trouble With Planes

The USS Gerald R. Ford. Photographer: Ridge Leoni/U.S. Navy via Getty Images.

Bloomberg Politics, by Anthony Capaccio, 15 June 2017

The newest and costliest U.S. aircraft carrier, praised by President Donald Trump and delivered to the Navy on May 31 with fanfare, has been dogged by trouble with fundamentals: launching jets from its deck and catching them when they land.

Now, it turns out that the system used to capture jets landing on the USS Gerald R. Ford ballooned in cost, tripling to $961 million from $301 million, according to Navy documents obtained by Bloomberg News.

While the Navy says the landing system has been fixed, the next-generation carrier built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. still hasn’t been cleared to launch F/A-18 jets carrying a full complement of fuel tanks under their wings, a handicap that could limit their effectiveness in combat.

The twin issues underscore the technical and cost challenges for the planned three-ship, $42 billion Ford class of carriers that is drawing increased congressional scrutiny. The Navy and Trump want to increase the carrier fleet from 11 authorized by law to 12.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has long criticized the Navy’s management of the Ford program and joined a congressional effort that capped funding for the first carrier at $12.9 billion and for a second ship under construction, the John F. Kennedy, at $11.4 billion. He grilled Navy officials on the carrier’s costs at a hearing of the committee on Thursday.

John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) Construction Progress September 2016 SeaWaves Magazine.

While it’s encouraging to see the Ford “finally delivered to the Navy,” the Arizona Republican said, the service’s funding request for it exceeds the congressional budget cap by $20 million. Now, McCain said, the Navy wants to award a construction contract for the third ship that’s $1.6 billion more than the previous one.

“This is unacceptable for a ship certified to be a repeat design that will deliver just three years later,” he said.

General Atomics

The surge in costs for the development phase of the advanced arresting gear — built by General Atomics to catch planes landing — was borne by the Navy under terms of that contract. In addition, the program acquisition costs of the three systems built so far more than doubled to $532 million each from $226 million, an increase which must be paid by closely held General Atomics.

General Atomics spokeswoman Meghan Ehlke referred all questions to the Navy “per our contract.” Captain Thurraya Kent, a Navy spokeswoman, said the contractor forfeited all bonus fees it could have made during the 2009-2016 development phase and the service is reviewing the company’s master schedule for the John F. Kennedy weekly. The Navy also has placed personnel at the company’s facility in Rancho Bernardo, California, to monitor progress.

Most of the cost increase was driven by an underfunded technology phase that didn’t allow enough time for the discovery and correction of problems and for the technology to mature before the start of the development phase, Kent said. It’s “a lesson the Navy will ensure is applied to all future programs,” Kent said.

The Navy reported the cost increase to Congress last month because it breached thresholds established under a 1982 law for major weapons systems. It’s separate from the 22 percent increase since 2010 for construction of the carrier, which resulted in Congress imposing the $12.9 billion cost cap.

Trump, who has repeatedly complained about the high cost of major weapons systems — and then taken credit for reining them in — did that in a Coast Guard commencement address on May 17. The Ford “had a little bit of an overrun problem before I got here, you know that. Still going to have an overrun problem; we came in when it was finished, but we’re going to save some good money.”

‘It’s No Good’

Trump said “when we build the new aircraft carriers, they’re going to be built under budget and ahead of schedule, just remember that.” Still, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report Tuesday that the John F. Kennedy’s cost estimate “is not reliable and does not address lessons learned” from the Ford’s performance.

Trump scoffed at the carrier’s troubled electromagnetic launch system in a Time magazine interview last month, saying it doesn’t work and “you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out.” Saying the Navy should stick with an old-fashioned steam-driven catapult, he added, “The digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”

Until the catapult problem, which was discovered in 2014, is resolved it limits how much combat fuel can be carried in planes being launched from the carrier’s deck.

That “would preclude normal employment” of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the radar-jamming Growler version because “the aircraft are limited in the types of missions that they can accomplish” without added under-wing fuel tanks, Army Lieutenant Colonel Roger Cabiness, spokesman for the Pentagon’s testing office, said in an email. He said the Navy asserts that testing on the ground has solved a software flaw that caused excessive vibrations of those fuel tanks.

F/A-18F Super Hornet with a full compliment of fuel tanks. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Christopher L. Jordan. (RELEASED)

Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley told the Senate committee Thursday that fixing the vibrations was simply part of a “systems tuning effort” for each plane that will launch from the carrier.

“The Navy estimates the software problem will be resolved and software updates incorporated” on the carrier for testing at sea during the vessel’s post-shakedown phase between May and November of 2018, Michael Land, spokesman for the Naval Air Systems Command, said in an email. He said actual launches of jets with wing tanks will follow in 2019.

The Navy still has time to fix the catapult issue. Though the Ford has been delivered, the ship is not scheduled to be declared ready for operations until 2020, with first actual deployment planned for about 2022, according to spokeswoman Kent.


NAVAIR Commander Proposes Cost Savings Strategies for F-35, V-22

Boeing V-22 Osprey.

SEAPOWER, By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor, 15 June 2017

ARLINGTON, Va. — The commander of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) said that the Navy could save millions of dollars by use of a seven-year multiyear procurement of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and “pulling forward” advance procurement of materials for the F-35 Lightning II strike fighter.

Regarding the idea of an economic order quantity (EOQ) for the F-35, Vice Adm. Paul A. Grosklags, testifying June 13 on the fiscal 2018 budget proposal before the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee, said, “What we’re specifically asking for is taking approximately 4 percent of the [fiscal] ’19 and 4 percent of the [fiscal] ’20 EOQ and pulling it forward and executing with the [fiscal] ’18 EOQ. It’s a total across all the services, about $660 million, that we would pull forward.”

U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II

Grosklags said the move would enable “Lockheed and the other vendors to buy those long-lead materials and get the economic order quantity cost savings. What outside agencies have told us is the savings associated with pulling that money forward would be about $800 million across the three services, with the reduction in aircraft unit cost. So, it’s not additional money.

“It’s money that would already be spent in [fiscal] ’19 or [fiscal] ’20 for those lots of airplanes,” he said. “It does not commit the services nor the Congress to actually buying a set number of aircraft in those years. So, it is not a multiyear procurement. We are committing to absolutely nothing, other than a cost savings.”
Grosklags also touted the savings that could accrue with a seven-year multiyear program to complete the procurement of the Osprey.

“Typically, we ask for five years for a multiyear,” he said. “Seven years would enable us to buy the remaining total of 67 Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force aircraft that are currently in the three services’ plans, notwithstanding increasing the Marine Corps requirement. Otherwise, if we just got the five-year multiyear, we would have about 20-plus aircraft hanging out two years.

“The savings get us to 10 percent per aircraft,” he said. “We’re looking at about $650-plus millions of savings across that seven-year multiyear. It is a bit unusual to ask for seven vice five, but we think it’s justifiable giving the savings and the fact that if we leave two years hanging out at the end, those aircraft will certainly cost us more than if we were able to include them in the multiyear.”