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New Air Force Planes Go Directly to ‘Boneyard’

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HASC Members, Air Force Trying ‘End Run’ on Air Guard Budget Talks — Press Release

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Guard Association of the United States today released the following statement by retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the NGAUS president:

“Fueled by misinformation from some Air Force officers, it appears a handful of House Armed Services Committee members are willing to circumvent the legislative process to force a budget on the Air National Guard that the governors, the adjutants general and most in Congress oppose.

“This is the kind of mischief that can occur during conference, when a handful from the House and Senate can go behind closed doors and literally change legislation in the name of forging compromise between the two chambers.

“The House and Senate both rejected the Air Force’s fiscal 2013 budget request, which would take disproportionate cuts from the Air National Guard. Both chambers told Air Force officials to go back and work with the governors and the adjutants general on a new proposal that addressed state concerns.

“Unfortunately, Air Force officials have since ignored the governors and the adjutants general. Neither group has been able to provide meaningful input to a new budget plan. Nevertheless, Air Force officers have told members of Congress that they have a compromise plan in hand.

“For the record, the nation’s governors and adjutants general favor a freeze on Air Guard manpower and force structure and the establishment of a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. Neither organization has agreed to any Air Force proposal. Both remain concerned that the cuts to the Air Guard would adversely affect domestic response.

“In addition, to our knowledge, the chief of the National Guard Bureau has not endorsed any compromise plan for the Air National Guard in the fiscal 2013 Air Force budget.

“Commissions are certainly not the ideal way to craft budget decisions. They are a last resort. But at this point, a commission independent from the Air Force is our only remaining hope for a transparent process that includes real input from the governors and Guard leaders.”

About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by petitioning Congress for more resources. Today, 134 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.

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‘Unneeded’ National Guard Aircraft Starring in Hurricane Sandy Response — Press Release

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Two different aircraft the Pentagon says the nation no longer needs, but National Guard leaders and elected officials are fighting to keep in the Guard fleet, are playing a prominent role in the response to Hurricane Sandy.

One Florida Army Guard C-23 Sherpa delivered 6,500 pounds of Meals Ready to Eat from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Farmingdale, N.Y., over the weekend. And Monday, it transported disaster response experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to New Jersey.

Meanwhile, C-27J Spartan aircraft and crews from the Maryland, Mississippi and Ohio Air National Guard have been transporting personnel and equipment to New York.

The C-23 and C-27J are small fixed-wing cargo planes capable of landing on runways that may prohibit other military aircraft. The C-23 has been in the Guard for more than 20 years; the C-27J for two years. Both also have seen duty overseas, where they have been praised for their flexibility, reliability and cost-efficiency.

Yet both are on the Pentagon chopping block.

The Army is scheduled this month to take both of the Florida Army Guard’s C-23s and two aircraft from the Texas Army Guard. And the Air Force planned to divest the C-27J in its fiscal 2013 budget request.

Congress thought it put those plans on hold in the continuing resolution that currently funds the federal government through the end of March, but the Army is moving forward with its plans.

“This is a case where the Pentagon simply doesn’t like small cargo aircraft, even if they demonstrate their value to the nation every time out,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of the National Guard Association of the United States.

“The Army and the Air Force say these planes are unneeded, but there are thousands of ground troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan who would disagree, and now, so would tens of thousands of people in New Jersey and New York,” he added. “But the Pentagon remains determined.”

The Army’s determination has caught the attention of the governors of Florida and Texas and some lawmakers.

Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, wrote President Barack Obama on Oct. 11 asking him to intervene.

In Congress, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is asking colleagues to sign a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh requesting his “commitment to ensure that the C-23 fleet remains operational until a viable alternative is identified.”

Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-chair of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, is asking that the letter be signed and delivered to McHugh this week.

The Florida Army Guard Sherpa supporting Sandy relief flew missions in Iraq in 2004, 2007 and 2010. It also saw action during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, taking Florida Fish and Wildlife experts over the beaches of Florida’s panhandle to spot encroaching oil slicks.

“We love supporting missions, especially when it is a humanitarian mission,” said Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Langlois, who is monitoring the Sherpa mission from its unit’s base in Brooksville, Fla., according to a Florida Guard release issued Monday.

About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by educating Congress on militia needs. Today, 134 years later, the militia is known as the National Guard, but NGAUS has the same mission.

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Raytheon AESA for F-15E Enters LRIP

While the United States continues development and testing of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) it must continue to utilize its older fighter and attack aircraft. The F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 all originally entered service in the late Seventies and Eighties but have continued to be upgraded with new electronics, systems and weapons. As part of this all 3 will eventually be fitted with new Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar systems to replace the mechanically scanned systems currently used. The AESA offer better reliability and ease of maintenance over the older systems.

Raytheon (RTN) is already producing a new radar for the F/A-18 used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and several allied nations. Over 300 have been delivered for retrofit on aircraft.

Raytheon is also providing the new radars for the F-15C and F-15E aircraft used by the Air Force and Air National Guard (ANG). The F-15C variants have begun receiving them and a contract was recently awarded for the Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of the one for the F-15E strike version. Initially 6 systems will be delivered as part of this contract.

Even with the threat of budget reductions in the near future these programs will continue. They will most likely see cuts in quantities and slower development but they are necessary to provide the capabilities needed by these aircraft.

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Rumors of Program Cuts Starting to Swirl Affecting Boeing

If the Pentagon is really going to cut tens of billions of spending a year from its budget then it will not be able to nibble around the edges. What it will need to do is cancel whole programs. These will include ones in development as well as those in production and may also include ones that have yet to start yet. Already rumors of what will be cut are starting to come out in advance of any announcements by the Department of Defense.

Earlier this month it had been mooted that the C-27 Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program would be eliminated. This is a light transport originally intended for the Army but now will be fielded to the U.S. Air Force Guard across the U.S. It was a program not really supported by the Air Force and now it is coming out that it might be on the block.

Another Air Force program that is now rumored to be on the chopping block is the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP). The C-130 made by Lockheed Martin (LMT) is a four engined transport used by the Air Force and Marine Corps. It has been in use since the 1950′s and the current C-130J is still being built today in Georgia.

The AMP adds a new glass cockpit along with the capability to meet the Global Air Traffic Control Management (GATM) requirements that all aircraft will be required to met by the end of this decade.

So far under the program Boeing (BA) has received a contract to modify 26 C-130 of which 6 have begun the AMP retrofit. The contract for the remaining 195 aircraft was supposed to be competed next year.

Ending the AMP would save about $2 billion over the next several years. Cutting it now makes sense as the follow-on contract has not been awarded.

The aircraft though will still ultimately need to be upgraded for GATM reasons but this could be done cheaper without the addition of the glass cockpit and other modifications.

It can be expected that further “rumors” of this sort will be floated as the next budget is developed that should include the first wave of cuts. As always in this situation Congress will have to weigh in with their blessing or changes to these types of decisions so politics will also play a role.

Photo from Nellis Air Force Base’s Flickr photostream.

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Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) Facing Uncertain Future

The C-27J Spartan is a twin engined light transport aircraft purchased for the U.S. Air Force from a team made up of L-3 Communications (LLL) and Alenia North America, part of the Italian defence and industrial group Finmeccanica. The C-27 is not only used by the U.S. but other countries across the world.

The C-27 was the result of a program originally called the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) which was conceived by the Army as part of their plans caused by the decision to cancel the RH-66 Comanche helicopter in 2004. The Comanche was going to be a new attack and reconnaissance helicopter utilizing many new technologies to maximize its stealth and performance. In development for almost twenty years it finally had begun serious testing when it was cancelled. The money freed up was used to by systems like the UH-60M, the AH-64D Block III, CH-47F and UH-72A helicopters.

The Army suffered from a lack of internal heavy lift for intra-theater missions unlike the Marine Corps who possessed their own C-130 transports. The JCA was meant to add this capability and relieve the pressure on the rotary wing fleet primarily being used to carry cargo in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fixed wing assets would be more efficient and economical.

In 2007 the Army and Air Force selected the C-27 from L-3 and Alenia over bids by Raytheon (RTN), who had teamed with EADS North America, offering a Spanish made C-295 and Lockheed Martin (LMT) who proposed a C-130 version. An initial contract worth about $2 billion for 78 aircraft was awarded to the winners.

The JCA was made a joint program and it was originally planned to issue it to Army and Air Force National Guard units to operate. In 2010 the Obama administration decided to transfer the program wholly to the Air Force to manage and operate. The number of aircraft was potentially reduced and only the Air Force Guard would receive it.

The first unit stood up in 2011 in Ohio where four aircraft will be based at Mansfield. In 2013 the Connecticut and the North Dakota Guard are supposed to received the aircraft.

There are now concerns that the C-27 program may be on the chopping block due to budgetary pressures. The Connecticut unit may be the first to feel this pain although the 2012 budget as submitted does contain the funding for the aircraft it may not make it into the final budget.

The C-27 is not a priority for the Air Force and new equipment for the Guard also sometimes takes hits. If the Air Force leadership is forced to sacrifice some of their funding it may be the C-27 is what is given up. It is also a small program and is primarily oriented towards non-combat missions at this time further making it easier to give up.

As the budget goes through these machinations over the next few years other programs similar to the C-27 may be on the chopping block. That does not mean they will be eliminated but they could see cuts, delays and changes to their size, missions and deployment plans. These programs will have to rely on the Congressmen and Senators who represent the states where they are made or based to protect them through trading of priorities and support.

The size of the cuts the Defense Department must make dictate that whole programs whether in development of production will have to be cut. The C-27 might just be one of them.

Photo from Blyzz’s Flickr photostream.

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United States Continues to Retrofit Aircraft with AESA Radars

The United States military continues to invest in retrofitting their existing fleet of combat aircraft with Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars in the place of their existing mechanically activated systems. So far Raytheon (RTN) has won contracts to refit F-15 fighters for the U.S. Air Force and F/A-18 aircraft for the Navy.

The most recent contract was issued by the Navy late last week. This has a value of over $50 million and brings the total number of systems bought to upgrade F/A-18 aircraft to 57. The F/A-18 also remains in production by Boeing (BA) and the current Block II are receiving the AESA radars as they are delivered. Raytheon is on contract for over 400 radars to support Boeing’s production.

AESA utilizes electronic beam scanning rather then moving the whole dish. This is not only more effective but also reduces maintenance with less mechanical parts and this advantage increases readiness.

Earlier in the month Raytheon also received a contract for a different AESA radar used to retrofit existing F-15 fighters in use by the Air Force. This follows on earlier contracts with the first F-15 being retrofitted in April.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) which will replace the F-16, F/A-18 and other aircraft in service with the U.S. and its Allies has such a radar as its base production configuration. There is discussion of extending the service life of the F-16 and potentially retrofitting a new radar to it. If the U.S. does decide to do this it would open up a large market to Raytheon or Northrop Grumman (NOC) as there are thousands of F-16 aircraft in service across the world. Not all of the users will be able to afford to buy F-35 to replace them.

The AESA radar represents a strait forward upgrade to existing aircraft and represents a potential market worth millions as different aircraft receive them.

Photo from sufw’s flickr photostream.

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U.S. National Guard Bureau Awards SAIC Construction Management Contract

The U.S. National Guard Bureau (NGB) coordinates and manages resources for the fifty states and territories National Guard forces. This includes the Army and Air Force Guard units. The states provide a great deal of funding for operations but the Federal Department of Defense helps buy equipment and training for the forces. The NGB helps manage this equipment as well as numerous facilities across the United States.

SAIC was awarded a contract to provide construction support for the NGB. The two year base contract could last five years and be worth up to $95 million. This contract is a renewal of an earlier one the company had.

SAIC’s Benham subsidiary primary job under the contract is to manage architectural design and engineering services for structures, roads and airfields. The structures involved include hangers, maintenance, munitions and supply shops as well as infrastructure on the bases such as fire and police stations, mess halls and medical buildings.

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