On November 5 in the keynote address before the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Global Security Forum US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon needs to make significant changes «across every aspect» of the defense enterprise. He identified six focus areas that will guide a major Department of Defense (DoD) reform effort… The troop organization, military training and equipment purchases, will be re-evaluated in the Quadrennial Defense Review, which is due to Congress early next year. «The goal is to ensure they better reflect our goals in the shifting strategic environment, the evolving capacity of our allies and partners, real-world threats and the new military capabilities that reside in our force and in the hands of our potential adversaries», Hagel said during a speech at the CSIS think tank. «We must make sure that contingency scenarios drive force structure decisions, and not the other way around».
DoD must prepare for a future in which non-deployed troops are not trained to the levels they are now. «We may have to accept the reality that not every unit will be at maximum readiness, and some kind of a tiered readiness system is perhaps inevitable», he said.
The six focus areas to guide budget and strategic planning effort were announced, there are:
- Institutional Reform. This summer, Hagel announced a 20-percent reduction in headquarters budgets across the department, beginning with the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
- Re-evaluate military’s force planning construct. «The goal», he added, «is to ensure they better reflect our goals and the shifting strategic environment, the evolving capacity of our allies and partners, real-world threats, and the new military capabilities that reside in our force and in the hands of our potential adversaries».
- Preparing for a prolonged military readiness challenge. This is the Department’s highest responsibility to its forces, the Secretary said, and yet already, «we have seen the readiness of nondeploying units suffer as training has been curtailed, flying hours reduced, ships not steaming, and exercises canceled».
- Protecting Investment in emerging military capabilities - especially space, cyber, special operations forces, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. «As our potential adversaries invest in more sophisticated capabilities and seek to frustrate our military's traditional advantages, including our freedom of action and access… around the world», he said, «it will be important to maintain our decisive technological edge».
- Balanced mix between capacity and capability. «In some cases we will make a shift, for example, by prioritizing a smaller, modern and capable military over a larger force with older equipment. We will also favor a globally active and engaged force over a garrison force», Mr. Hagel explained.
- Personnel and compensation policy. «Without serious attempts to achieve significant savings in this area, which consumes roughly now half the DOD budget and increases every year, we risk becoming an unbalanced force, one that is well-compensated but poorly trained and equipped, with limited readiness and capability», he said.
Going forward, the department must make hard choices in this area to ensure that the defense enterprise is sustainable for the 21st century, the Secretary noted. The planning reform is a response to budget constrains as it is emphasized in all comments on military issues.
Research and tests up and running
The US arms spending is reported to be on the slide due to the sequester resulting from financial woes the nation gaces. Speaking before the Senate Armed Forces Committee in February Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey said the sequestration will «put the nation at greater risk of coercion». At that the key military programs are on and running giving rise to concern among other world actors.
On May 1, 2013 X-51A Wave Rider, an experimental unmanned aircraft developed for the US Air Force, flew at more than five times the speed of sound in a test off California. The test marked the fourth and final flight of the UAV. This is a breakthrough in scramjet technology that allegedly can be used to deliver strikes around the globe within minutes. This was the fourth and last in a series of tests. The Wave Rider is designed to reach speeds of Mach 6 or above, six times the speed of sound and fast enough to cross the Atlantic Ocean and strike a target in Europe in less than an hour. Many details of the program are classified…What is known is that the Air Force will continue hypersonic research and the successes of the X-51A will make a contribution into the High Speed Strike Weapon program currently in its formation phase.
Lockheed Martin has unveiled plans for a hypersonic spy plane SR-72 that could fly at hypersonic speed. It was designed using off-the-shelf materials to keep it affordable in the current tough budget environment. Aviation Week and Space Technology’s Guy Norris published an exclusive article devoted to SR-72. The new airplane will be roughly the same size as the record-setting Blackbird, but will be able to fly twice as fast. It will be capable of Mach 6 cruise speeds, making it the first hypersonic aircraft to enter service should it be produced. Guided by the U.S. Air Force’s long-term hypersonic road map, the SR-72 is designed to fill what are perceived by defense planners as growing gaps in coverage of fast-reaction intelligence by the plethora of satellites, subsonic manned and unmanned platforms meant to replace the SR-71. A vehicle penetrating at high altitude and Mach 6, a speed viewed by Lockheed Martin as the «sweet spot» for practical air-breathing hypersonics, is expected to survive where even stealthy, advanced subsonic or supersonic aircraft and unmanned vehicles might not.
The aircraft is also expected to have optional strike capabilities. The timing also dovetails with the Air Force hypersonic road map, which calls for efforts to support development of a hypersonic strike weapon by 2020 and a penetrating, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft by 2030. The 2018 time line is determined by the potential schedule for the high-speed strike weapon (HSSW), a U.S. hypersonic missile program taking shape under the Air Force and DARPA. The Wave Rider mentioned above matches perfectly with SR-72 greatly enhancing conventional first strike capability (Prompt Global Strike - PGS) evidently going much further then deterring terrorist groups. The match is a formidable weapon against command and control infrastructure, as well as ICBM sites. The higher speed of the SR-72 would also give it the ability to detect and strike more agile targets.
Brad Leland, the Lockheed engineer who has headed the seven-year research effort, said the new aircraft offered game-changing capabilities to the military - and a twin-engine demonstrator jet that could reach any target in an hour could be developed for under $1 billion in five to six years. The SR-72’s purpose is to provide the United States with not only a hypersonic recon platform, but also a strike aircraft as well. According to Brad Leland, «Hypersonic aircraft, coupled with hypersonic missiles, could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour». No new technologies needed to be invented for the SR-72 so a demonstration aircraft could fly by 2018, and the plane could be operational by 2030. Details of the new hypersonic spy plane project emerged days after Lockheed, the Pentagon's biggest supplier, teamed up with No. 2 supplier Boeing Co (BA.N) to develop a bid for the Pentagon's new long-range bomber.
Lockheed, Boeing and other big weapons makers are pressing the Pentagon to continue funding new aircraft development programs despite big cuts in military spending, arguing that a retreat from such projects could undercut U.S. military superiority in years to come.
In December 11, 2012 the Orbital Test Vehicle Boeing X-37B went through its third test flight. The X-37B, an unmanned robotic reusable vertical take-off, horizontal landing spacecraft, can re-enter Earth's atmosphere and land autonomously. The robot can even adjust its course in space instead of following the same predictable orbit once it's aloft. The spacecraft's orbital endurance is enabled by its solar array, which generates power after deploying from its payload bay making it remain in orbit up to 270 days. The X-37B is no doubt a spy plane as well as a testing model for a future «space bomber» that will be able to destroy targets from the orbit. It cannot be excluded the aircraft itself might be a delivery system for a nuclear bomb, a satellite-tracker or a satellite-killer.
On November 2 the Navy has christened the service’s eleventh Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine USS North Dakota (SSN 784) in Groton, Conn. Virginia-class subs have improved stealth and sophisticated surveillance capabilities. Their special warfare enhancements enable them to meet multiple mission requirements. The US Navy's total requirement is for 30 of the class. The $2.6billion North Dakota (SSN-784) is the first of a planned eight Block III modification Virginia submarines. There are two notable changes from Block II to Block III. The Block IIIs include two Multiple All Up Round Canisters (MAC) fore of the boat’s sail. The MAC tubes can hold up to six Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM). The Block IIIs also feature a new sonar in the bow. The Large Aperture Bow (LAB) array requires fewer parts and less maintenance than previous Virginia sonars. Additional changes include improved construction efficiencies from the previous two blocks.
(To be continued)