Archive for the ‘Flying’ category

United States Air Force 30 year Aircraft Investment Plan FY 11-40

March 6, 2010

The aviation plan provides the diverse mix of aircraft needed to carry out the six joint missions. The capabilities provided by aircraft identified in this plan translate into four principal investment objectives:
• Meet the demand for persistent, unmanned, multirole intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The number of platforms in this category—Global Hawk-class, Reaper, and Predator-class systems— will grow from approximately 300 in FY 2011 to more than 800 in FY 2020, including the Army’s Extended-Range/Multipurpose unmanned aerial system (UAS) and the Navy’s Broad-Area Maritime Surveillance UAS aircraft. This nearly 200 percent capacity increase will be effectively multiplied by capability improvements afforded by the acquisition of vastly improved sensors and the replacement of Air Force Predators with more capable Reapers. This plan calls for growth in Air Force unmanned Predator and Reaper platforms from a capacity of 50 orbits in FY 2011 to 65 by FY 2013. The Department will assess the need for more capacity in future plans.
• Provide sufficient enabler capability and capacity. Our airlift inventory is robust and stable. Both the Air Force and Navy are recapitalizing their intratheater lift inventories. The Air Force continues to modernize the strategic lift inventory, which is projected to remain viable through the years covered by this plan. The Air Force is beginning the recapitalization of the tanker fleet. The Air Force plans to develop and procure 109 new KC-X tankers by 2020. Simultaneously, it is sustaining its fleet of airborne early warning aircraft. The Air Force anticipates recapitalizing that fleet in the far term. The Navy is recapitalizing its fleet of airborne early warning aircraft with the E-2D aircraft carrying a new radar capable of operating in stressful anti-access environments. The Navy is also recapitalizing its aged fleet of maritime patrol aircraft with a modern commercial aircraft variant equipped with a sensor suite that provides persistent undersea and anti-surface warfare capabilities. Finally, the Navy will recapitalize its expeditionary electronic warfare capabilities, resulting in a total of 14 EA-18G squadrons.
• Acquire fifth-generation fighter/attack aircraft. The Department’s fifth-generation assets will grow from about 7 percent of the current force of manned fighter/attack aircraft to about 34 percent by FY 2020. The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will account for the bulk of DoD’s fifth-generation inventory. This aviation plan reflects the restructured JSF program and incorporates the Department’s latest estimates of schedule and cost performance. The Air Force continues to modernize its fleet of F-22 aircraft, and the Navy is completing production of the fourth-generation FA-18E/F aircraft. By FY 2040, almost all of today’s “legacy” force will have retired and the Department will have begun recapitalization of its fifth-generation force. These far-term recapitalization plans cannot be defined with any degree of precision today, making investment projections difficult beyond the well- understood procurement plans for the JSF. The Department is continuing to evaluate projected threats and the alternative means for defeating those threats. It is anticipated that a family of systems—mixes of manned and unmanned aircraft, with varying stealth characteristics, and advanced standoff weapons—will shape the future fighter/attack inventory. These tradeoffs are being examined now, and subsequent aviation plans will reflect the resulting acquisition decisions.
• Modernize long-range strike capabilities. The current fleet of Air Force bombers continues to be modernized, since much of today’s inventory will remain relevant through FY 2040. As with the fighter/attack force, the aviation plan foresees a family of systems providing the solution to the enduring need for timely long-range strike capabilities. A study is underway to identify the right mix of manned and unmanned technologies that will provide future long-range strike capabilities and to determine the right balance between range, payload, speed, stealth, and on- board sensors. A product of that study will be the identification of a replacement aircraft for the aging aircraft in the legacy bomber fleet and the timing and funding profile required to support this aircraft.
The FY 2011-2040 aviation plan is consistent with the tenets of the QDR and meets the national security requirements of the United States. The FYDP provides the funding needed to implement the aviation plan through FY 2015. For the years beyond the FYDP, the funding projections presented in the plan assume 3 percent real growth in annual investments, on average. While optimistic, funding increases of that size are consistent with the Secretary of Defense’s statements about the budgetary growth needed to ensure that U.S. forces remain capable of meeting national security requirements in the decades ahead. The aviation plan incorporates realistic projections of program costs within the FYDP period. The funding profiles for individual programs were derived from independent cost estimates, where possible, or from historical data.
This first aviation plan does not foresee major industrial-base issues. Although there are impacts to specific corporate interests in certain sectors, there are no immediate concerns about the robustness of the American aviation industrial base. The funding blueprint for aviation programs reflected in the plan suggests that the nation’s aviation industry will remain strong into the distant future.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft

March 5, 2010

The battlespace is crowded with aircraft. And it is getting busier. Every nation sees the advantage of remotely piloting a vehicle over contested territory and using the on board capabilities to accomplish the mission without putting a pilot in harms way. In some ways, it almost seems surgical and without fingerprints. Its almost as if the nation of interest doesn’t have any recourse and the issues of sovereignty and overflight can be dismissed with a simple denial. Is this the wave of the future?

I remember in 1991, when I was working in the Joint Staff, we were standing up a counternarcotics division. Several contractors approached me to explain the opportunities they had with a remotely piloted vehicle and suggested it could be a great tool to patrol the border. We were looking at dirigibles with F-16 radars at the time because of the dwell time but saw the advantage of the predator-like UAVs. Of course, as we investigated further, legal issues prevented the use of military equipment within the borders of the US. This was 10 years before the establishment of Homeland Security but, there was a need and desire for more responsive intelligence capabilities then and there is even more of a need and demand for them today.

The question is, who’s in charge? The US is investing billions of dollars in drones…they are the key to future intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. And, so are many other countries. With proliferation comes challenges. Sovereignty, airspace control and deconfliction, countering UAVs, exploitation of downlinks, rules of engagement, acquisition programs and dissemination of information to mention a few. Is there a single integrator? Should there be an integrator; a spokesperson for this explosion in capability?

At least 44 other nations are developing their own killer unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons in addition to the US’s large fleet of highly capable aircraft. Cool names like Sky Warrior and Vulture and Predator and Phantom Ray and Demon and Reaper and Hunter and Global Hawk and the Vulture, all will take to the sky and compete for airspace and satellite time.

After many years waging an economy of scale war in Afghanistan, DOD determined that increasing ISR assets was the first step in gaining knowledge of the enemy and a necessary step to take to win the war. With unacknowledged use in Pakistan and increased patrols in Afghanistan, the strategy is paying off in the kill and capture of many Taleban and Al Qaeda leaders.

Lessons learned from Iraq, the purchase of Beechcraft King Air 350ER manned aircraft and an dramatic increase in orbits from zero to 40 currently and up to 65 by 2015 will give the ISAF commander, and his subordinate commands, unprecedented eyes and ears in the battlespace. Boosting last year’s $3.5 billion budget by 50% for ISR clearly makes UAVs the battlefield and budget winner for the next couple years.

The future looks equally bright in terms of development. UAV technology will morph allowing embedding other capabilities including electronic warfare tools like radar jamming, autonomous aerial refueling, air-missile defense and surveillance. The flight envelopes will expand and opportunities to fly as high as 7.5 miles straight up and cruise at 600 mph will bring new dynamics to the UAV world. The possibilities are limitless when a UAV can potentially replace a satellite, staying aloft for as many as 5 years and persistently scan an area of 600 miles with a suite of day and night cameras.

The technology in drones has evolved quickly and the engineering accomplishments are astounding. Unit level UAVs that fly below a couple thousand feet to the highly accomplished technical marvels that fly a few miles above the earth’s surface all provide the combatant commander with capabilities only dreamed of just a few short years ago. But with this comes a much needed roles and missions discussion. Foreign governments are increasingly relying on the technology since unmanned drones represent less of a threat to airspace sovereignty than piloted aircraft. Budget crowd out, logistical and sustainment issues, rules of engagement and applications of international law will eventually find an entrée into this technological marvel.