Militaries around the world are moving to modernize and transform themselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Our mission is to deliver a monthly cross-section of relevant, on-target stories, news, and analysis that will help experts and interested laypeople alike stay up to speed on key military developments and issues. Stories are broken down by military category and presented as fast bullet points that orient you quickly, with accompanying links if you wish to pursue more in-depth treatments.
Some of This Month's Targets of Opportunity Include: New 'bunker busters' that tunnel through stone; India moving toward more "strategic reach"; Euro UCAVs; Hunter-killer standoffs and Hellfire Jr.; FCS and urban warfare; Exoskeletons; Shooting down RPGs; Secret weapon - green laser pointers; Or how about laser blimps?; Conventional ballistic missiles and ray guns; USAF Smart Operations 21 process improvement; Budget games; QDR 2006 links and reactions; The Pentagon's FY 2007 budget request; The Pentagon's broken accounting system.
- Air & Space Sector
- C4SI Dimension
- Land Sector
- Maritime Sector
- Supply & Support
- Transformation: Policy & Doctrine
Your editors Murdoc and Joe Katzman present this monthly briefing as part of a team that includes professional publications Defense Industry Daily, Military.com's DefenseTech, and eDefense Online. To contact us with story tips, email transformation @windsofchange dot net.
- Congress killed the RNEP nuclear bunker-buster program, but the ability to reach buried targets with precision strikes is still important. Meet Deep Digger, first of a revolutionary new generation of unconventional conventional bunker-buster bombs. This literally ground-breaking new technology uses cannon fire to tunnel through solid rock, drilling a channel for the bomb. DefenseTech has the special feature: Part 1 | Part 2.
- UCAVs, drones with capabilities that approach an F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter's, are popular projects these days. Britain is flying the CORAX, which kind of resembles the late 1990s Darkstar project. Meanwhile, France is leading a 6-nation Euro consortium to create the nEUROn UCAV.
- In the Pacific, the USA is proposing a transformational system for its allies in the region: a shared Pacific "pool" of ultra-long range Global Hawk UAVs based in Guam. The proposal before Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Thailand includes options for a shared and commonly funded fleet along the lines of NATO's E-3 AWACS model, or an option in which countries acquire their own Global Hawks and make them available to the common regional fleet on agreed terms. The Global Hawk is also competing for a maritime patrol aircraft RFP in India, so the pool could deepen.
- Speaking of India, India's Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi remarks that Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to acquire more advanced fighters, sophisticated defence systems and smart long-range weapons, as the country's "strategic boundaries have been redefined" by its growing energy needs and participation in disaster management operations. Tyagi said the current scenario "necessitated a strategic reach..."
- In the USA, the Hunter Killer Standoff Team (HKST) consists of a Hunter UAV controlled from an AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopter. Those RQ-5 Hunter UAVs have a sting of their own, too, via small precision weapons called Viper Strikes. Other UAVs, too, are being fitted with missiles, miniguns, and even automatic shotguns.
- The laser-guided Hellfire missile is a mainstay in the US arsenal, but these missiles don't come cheap at $100K to $150K apiece. Designed to take out heavy Soviet tanks, they're often overkill on today's battlefield. The APKWS II "Hellfire Junior" (target price $10K) is a laser guidance system that fits onto a standard 2.75 inch rocket, creating a low-cost light alternative that puts more precision weapons on more platforms. Lockheed-Martin recently conducted a successful ground-launch of the system.
- Lasers aren't just for guiding bombs, either. The Airborne Laser (on the nose of a 747) and its little cousin the Airborne Tactical Laser (on the belly of a C-130) are still struggling through development. Meanwhile, Tactical Relay Mirror System could someday use mirrors (perhaps mounted on giant blimps) to let lasers shoot around corners.
- Defense Industry Daily offers a deep, in-depth look at the the USA's $18 billion Transformational Satellite (TSAT) system, the planned future for the USA's space-based communications backbone, and the potential threat from "incremental alternatives." Will TSAT go the way of Iridium?
- "ROVER" is an unimpressive looking piece of equipment. Mostly, it looks like a ruggedized laptop with antennas. Lt. Col. Gregory E. Harbin, of the 609th Combat Operations Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, SC says "...the ROVER is bringing a phenomenal capability to our people on the ground." Read why.
- Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright says the US Army's Future Combat Systems electronics will probably have a Linux/Intel base because 'it works best with the service's current and future applications.'
- Maj. Gen. Roger Nadeau, who heads the US Army's research and development command, looks at the lessons of Iraq and says, among other things: "If [the $120+ billion Future Combat Systems set] were here in its entirety today, how would the soldier's life in that city [amidst urban warfare] be better? If we can't answer that, we're probably going down the wrong path and we need to make some modifications."
- Meanwhile, the US Government Accountability Office steps in with a report that takes a hard look at the Future Combat Systems program management.
- It isn't always the big ticket items that make a difference. Read why 2,000 eye-safe civilian green laser pointers are being rushed to Iraq. Not to mention some seriously bright flashlights.
- Rocket propelled grenades are second only to improvised explosive devices in the insurgent's arsenal. The Army's Stryker vehicles carry a heavy and bulky "bird-cage" of slat armor to defend against the threat, and it's worked pretty well. But what if the incoming RPGs were shot down instead? Raytheon Company's new Quick Kill System means to do just that. eDefense Online has more, and Defense Tech has background and links about various "active defense" systems here.
- The Patriot missile system alternates between hero and scapegoat, but the Army says software upgrades, data links, and improved training will solve the problems by next year.
- The quest for "Starship Troopers continues: Exoskeletons Make You Tough. Background, links, and the Invincible Iron Man over at Defense Tech.
- The SEALs' new $6 million Stiletto stealth ship: Look different. Ride different. Buy different.
- It was just revealed that the US Navy successfully tested the AN/BLQ-11 Long Term Mine Reconnaissance System (LMRS) unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) in January 2006, by having it find and dock with a sub. The LMRS is designed to enable submarines to conduct clandestine undersea surveys to locate mines.
- The US Navy is looking to field a conventional warheadded Trident sub-launched ballistic missile for "Prompt Global Strike" capability against targets within less than one hour of the order to launch. But the proposal is under fire. And the Air Force thinks land-based missiles are better-suited. Did we mention that the Air force operates those land-based missiles?
- Meanwhile, the US Navy is also working on rail guns that it hopes will be able to fire shells hundreds of miles.
- The USA continues to step up its use of Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tags throughout its logistics chain, and there are programs afoot to create interoperable systems with allies for coalition operations.
- In its search to improve aircraft maintenance turnaround and improve quality, The US Air Force spliced elements of several civilian efficiency programs to develop "Smart Operations 21." The program is based on both Lean and Six Sigma business process improvement tools.
- The Army's Theater Support Vessel (TSV-1X) "Spearhead" is a high-speed low-draft "transport plus" catamaran that just oozes of transformation. (PDF version with images here) Yes, the Army! DID has an article covering the JHSV program that will follow.
- The biggest recent event on the military transformation policy front was the USA's 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. Overall, the services seem happy but the broader buzz is not good. Defense Industry Daily has a comprehensive QDR roundup from the Pentagon, the services, and outside commentators.
- Defense Industry Daily offers a similar roundup for the Pentagon's upcoming FY 2007 budget, which already shows some influence from the QDR.
- So what about this year? Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, with 31 years experience on national security issues for US Senators from both parties and the GAO. He dissects the USA's FY 2006 military budget, including controversies re: its real size and some of the dodges and tricks to watch out for when looking at it.
- Is the USA's new brigade-centric organization going to lead to HQ bloat and reduced combat power?
- How Marines are preparing for hybrid wars: A. Small wars? B. Amphibious operations? C. Major land combat? D. All of the above?
- Finally, technological transformation isn't everything - the human element is still decisive. This account of how an 'obsolete' Serbian missile battery shot down an American F-117 stealth fighter and survived NATO's Kosovo air campaign provides a vivid and memorable example.
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