Guest intruder Posted April 21, 2009 Report Share Posted April 21, 2009 Gates Plans ISR Boost for Fiscal 2010 By Amy Butler Maxwell AFB, Ala www.aviationweek.com One year after establishing an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) task force, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is continuing his push by outlining up to six new platforms that will be funded in his Fiscal 2010 budget proposal. Details on the platforms are scant, and most of them are and will remain classified, his aides said. However, during a brief press conference en route to Ft. Rucker, Ala., Gates says he plans to add funding for new full-motion video sensors; these are in high demand by commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, he is pushing in Fiscal 2010 for new technologies to distribute and disseminate intelligence around the battlefield. A year after complaining that getting the Air Force to pay for and provide more intelligence support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was “like pulling teeth,” Gates returned last week to speak to Air War College students here and handed out some measured praise. “I would be remiss if I did not give credit where credit is due for what has been accomplished over the past year,” he said. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in UAV orbits in-theater—from 23 combat air patrols 12 months ago to 34 today.” Among them are new General Atomics Predator and Reaper systems, and the company is hard at work at developing a new, stealthy variant. He also noted the fielding of more sensor-laden C-12s—some through the Army’s Task Force Odin focused on Iraq—and now through Task Force Liberty, primarily led by the Air Force, to send systems to Afghanistan. “We’ve seen how a modest expenditure to mate advanced sensors to turboprop aircraft can made a huge difference to the men and women at the front,” Gates says. The U.S. Air Force received its first MC-12W under the Project Liberty program earlier this month, though without its mission systems. It is headed to L-3 Integrated Systems to receive its sensor payload. The delivery of the first MC-12W misses the Air Force’s goal of deploying the first Project Liberty aircraft to the field this month. “There is no way of knowing what that day would be,” said an Air Force official. In parallel with work on the system, the service is training pilots and crews for the deployment. Aircraft 1 through 7 will be built on used King Air 350 aircraft. The eighth airframe will also be used but will mark a shift to the King Air 350 ER configuration. These aircraft are designed to provide 6 hr. of flying time, 5 of which are dedicated to intelligence collection. The first seven aircraft will carry the Wescam MX-15i to capture full-motion video in the visible and infrared spectrums and a laser pointer. The remaining platforms will carry the MX-15D, which will include a laser designator suitable for directing a laser-guided munition to its target. The system will also carry a basic signals intelligence capability. The total cost to build 37 MC-12W aircraft for the Air Force is estimated at $950 million. All of the aircraft were scheduled to be delivered to the service by January 2010, though this plan has probably slipped as well. While the Pentagon is aggressively fielding more ISR, efforts to develop a Next-Generation Bomber and Combat Search and Rescue-X (CSAR-X) helicopter have stalled. These and a host of other issues will be given a “more rigorous analytical framework before moving forward,” Gates said during the speech at Maxwell. Gates expects to sign the terms of reference for the Quadrennial Defense Review—which will set the way forward for a sweeping study of military needs—soon, according to a senior defense official. “This will be the first QDR to fully incorporate the numerous lessons learned on the battlefield over the past few years,” he said. Michelle Flournoy, the deputy under- secretary of defense for policy, and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff USMC Gen. James Cartwright will jointly oversee the QDR. Gates says he expects the study to call for more “hybrid” tactics that pull from conventional warfare lessons as well as new concepts developed during encounters with insurgents. This approach will also shape requirements for future weapon systems, and some key decisions are expected to be ready enough to “inform” building the Fiscal 2011 budget, a process that begins this fall, a senior defense official says. This focus on hybrid tactics and weapon systems is partly what drove the decision to end production of the twin-engine stealthy F-22, made by Lockheed Martin, at 187 aircraft. “The F-22 is, in effect, a niche, silver-bullet solution required for a limited number of scenarios—to overcome advanced enemy fighters and air defense systems,” Gates said. After days of silence on the issue, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz voiced their support for the F-22 decision in an op-ed in the Washington Post. Schwartz had previously endorsed a plan to buy about 60 more aircraft, costing $13 billion. “Buying more F-22s means doing less of something else,” they wrote. Also, last week Schwartz publicly reiterated that “243 is the military requirement as articulated by the U.S. Air Force” during a luncheon hosted by the National Aeronautic Assn. This indicates the F-22 decision assumes additional risk for executing war plans. However, it isn’t clear the rank and file of the U.S. Air Force is entirely agreeable. Some officers exchanged skeptical looks during Gates’s presentation addressing the F-22 decision. But he didn’t receive a single question on the F-22 during a 20-min. question-and-answer session following his speech. He did, however, get a question about his decision to accelerate fielding of the Joint Strike Fighter and sideline acompetition to build a new bomber. One officer advocated developing a longer-range, persistent strike capability sooner. In his response, Gates questioned three tenets of the Air Force’s approach on the Next-Generation Bomber: Should it be purchased, should it carry nuclear weapons and should it be manned? “Maybe a manned bomber isn’t an answer,” Gates says. The U.S. nuclear triad relies on bombers and silo-based and submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Gates says he decided to keep 76 B-52s in service. “The last thing the secretary wants to do is to buy another $2-billion bomber,” said one senior defense official, referencing the stealthy Northrop Grumman B-2. Lockheed Martin/Boeing, and Northrop are separately developing teams for new bomber concepts. The Pentagon bought 21 B-2s, and 19 are now operational. The high cost was largely driven by a decision to procure fewer than the 165 bombers originally planned. But the requirements for stealth and nuclear delivery are expensive. The outcome of the ongoing negotiations with Russia to renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), which sets limits on the numbers of nuclear missiles each nation may deploy, will determine whether more nuclear-capable aircraft are needed. Start expires at the end of the year. If a new bomber is needed for nuclear delivery, that mission will drive an overarching set of specifications, as nuclear-capable aircraft require more control and communication systems redundancy, as well as hardening from electromagnetic pulses. During an interview with Aviation Week in December, Gates said he wanted to avoid having less than 1,500 strategic nuclear missiles on alert. “I think that there is a real possibility of going down below the 1,700 to 2,200 deployed warheads now,” he says. “I’d begin to get pretty nervous if we begin to talk about below 1,500 just in view of the array of countries developing these systems and modernization programs in both Russia and China.” Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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