in a fast food joint next to the imperial shipyards on coruscant capital of the galactic federation
By DAVID SHARP, Associated Press Writer
2 hrs 54 mins ago
BATH, Maine ľ The Navy's need for speed is being answered by a pair of warships that have reached freeway speeds during testing at sea.
Independence, a 418-foot warship built in Alabama, boasts a top speed in excess of 45 knots, or about 52 mph, and sustained 44 knots for four hours during builder trials that wrapped up this month off the Gulf Coast. The 378-foot Freedom, a ship built in Wisconsin by a competing defense contractor, has put up similar numbers.
Both versions of the Littoral Combat Ship use powerful diesel engines, as well as gas turbines for extra speed. They use steerable waterjets instead of propellers and rudders and have shallower drafts than conventional warships, letting them zoom close to shore.
The ships, better able to chase down pirates, have been fast-tracked because the Navy wants vessels that can operate in coastal, or littoral, waters. Freedom is due to be deployed next year, two years ahead of schedule.
Independence is an aluminum, tri-hulled warship built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. The lead contractor is Maine's Bath Iron Works, a subsidiary of General Dynamics.
Lockheed Martin Corp. is leading the team that built Freedom in Marinette, Wis. It looks more like a conventional warship, with a single hull made of steel.
The stakes are high for both teams. The Navy plans to select Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics, but not both, as the builder. The Navy has ordered one more ship from each of the teams before it chooses the final design. Eventually, the Navy wants to build up to 55 of them.
Speed has long been relished by Navy skippers. Capt. John Paul Jones, sometimes described as father of the U.S. Navy, summed it up this way in 1778: "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way."
Eric Wertheim, author and editor of the U.S. Naval Institute's "Guide to Combat Fleets of the World," said speed is a good thing, but it comes at a cost.
"This is really something revolutionary," Wertheim said. "The question is how important and how expensive is this burst of speed?"
Early cost estimates for Littoral Combat Ships were about $220 million apiece, but costs spiraled because of the Navy's requirements and its desire to expedite construction. The cost of the ships is capped at $460 million apiece, starting in the new fiscal year.
Both ships are built to accommodate helicopters and mission "modules" for either anti-submarine missions, mine removal or traditional surface warfare. The modules are designed to be swapped out within 24 hours, allowing the ships to adapt quickly to new missions.
While they're fast, they aren't necessarily the fastest military ships afloat. The Navy used to have missile-equipped hydrofoils and the Marines' air-cushioned landing craft is capable of similar speeds, Wertheim said. And smaller ships are capable of higher speeds.
Nonetheless, the speed is impressive, especially considering that other large naval vessels have been cruising along at a relatively pokey 30 to 35 knots for decades.
Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, noted that Independence sustained 44 knots despite a 30-knot headwind and 6- to 8-foot seas in Alabama's Mobile Bay. "For a ship of this size, it's simply unheard of to sustain that rate of speed for four hours," he said.
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Defense Secretary Robert Gates has approved the first deployment to Afghanistan of a Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft squadron, according to a Pentagon announcement.The deployment comes on the heels of a request from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The squadron will begin deployment in November. It would be the first time the tilt-rotor aircraft would deploy to Afghanistan. The Osprey, built by Bell Helicopter and Boeing, takes off and lands like a helicopter, but flies like a turbo-prop airplane capable of high speeds and long distances.Three Marine MV-22 squadrons have been deployed to Iraq since 2007. The squadrons have deployed one at a time.
About 200 Marines will deploy to Afghanistan as part of the MV-22 Osprey squadron. The squadron to deploy will be from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-261 in Jacksonville, N.C., and is expected support the needs of U.S. forces on the ground in southern Afghanistan.
“They just received their deployment orders,” said Lt. Col. Matt Morgan, spokesman for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command. Morgan said that the MV-22 will add to the capability of Marines already in Afghanistan.
The White House is still weighing whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, above the authorized level of 68,000. McChrystal has reportedly requested an additional 40,000 troops.
In a report issued in May, the Government Accountability Office said that the MV-22 experience in Iraq demonstrated that the Osprey can complete missions assigned in low-threat environments because its speed and range were enhancements. However, GAO said that challenges may limit its ability to accomplish the “full repertoire of missions” of the legacy helicopters it is supposed to replace. Since the 1980s, the MV-22 has experienced several fatal crashes, demonstrated various deficiencies and faced virtual cancellation — much of which it has overcome, the GAO said.
South Korean companies could bid for work on the Lockheed Martin F-35 if the country orders the stealth fighter, even though suppliers for the airframe were chosen years ago, the U.S. manufacturer says.
As production builds up turning out one fighter a day, second-source suppliers will be needed for parts that Lockheed Martin itself is responsible for supplying, says Steve O’Bryan, vice president for F-35 business development.
Building F-35 parts to Lockheed Martin’s blueprints would give Korea Aerospace Industries manufacturing work but no opportunity to advance its fighter-design skills, which it might get from participation in Boeing’s proposed program to develop the F-15SE, an Eagle with less radar reflectivity.
Korean Air Aerospace, the manufacturing division of airline Korean Air, would presumably also be interested in helping to make the F-35.
Software work will be available for block 2 and 3 F-35s, says O’Bryan says. Those two upgrades to the aircraft will be based on software improvements, not physical changes.
South Korea is looking for 60 fighters to fill its F-X Phase III requirement. Separately, the indigenous KF-X fighter is proposed for a more distant requirement for fighters that would be fielded in the 2020s. That program, whose future is expected to be decided next month, would greatly advance Korea Aerospace’s skills, but it is being criticized as poor value for money compared to the F-35. Moreover, the KF-X specification has been downgraded to only semi-stealthy performance.
The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved $560 million to continue work on an alternate F-35 engine built by General Electric Co. and Rolls-Royce Group Plc. , defying a White House veto threat.
The legislation now heads to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign into law.
Administration officials have said the president would consider a veto if the funding for the engine threatens the overall F-35 program, but the bill fully funds the Pentagon’s $6 billion request to buy 30 F-35 fighters, built by the Lockheed Martin Corp .
The bill’s backers hope that inclusion of full funding for the versatile aircraft will be enough to stave off a veto.
A White House spokesman earlier in the day declined to say whether Obama would veto the bill.
The bill also extends hate-crime legislation to cover ***s and lesbians, a measure that drew the objection of Republicans who said Democrats were exploiting the military to advance liberal social positions.
Backers of the alternate engine program say the competition will cut engine costs in the long run and reduce the risk of a fleet-wide grounding because of an engine flaw.
The Pentagon has said the alternate engine is a waste of money, and could reduce the number of F-35s it can ultimately afford to purchase.
Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp , is already building an F-35 engine.
The alternate engine could still be discontinued even without a presidential veto, as it could be cut from separate legislation that actually provides the funding for Pentagon operations.
The bill does end two other programs that the Pentagon has sought to discontinue over the objections of some in Congress: the F-22 fighter plane, and the VH-71 presidential helicopter, both made by Lockheed, as well as the ground vehicle portion of the Army’s modernization drive.
The bill also ends the C-17 cargo plane program, but that Boeing Co program is likely to be kept alive in the spending bill still pending in Congress.
The bill also authorizes a multiyear purchase of Boeing’s F/A-18 fighters.
Navy to Commission Energy-Efficient Amphibious Assault Ship Makin Island
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy will commission the amphibious assault ship Makin Island Oct. 24, during a 10 a.m. PDT ceremony at North Island Naval Air Station, Coronado, Calif.
Makin Island is named for the daring raid carried out by Marine Corps Companies Alpha and Bravo, Second Raider Battalion, on the Japanese-held Makin Island, in the Gilbert Islands, on Aug. 17-18, 1942. The raid was launched from the submarines USS Nautilus and USS Argonaut and succeeded in routing the enemy forces based there, gaining valuable intelligence. Twenty-three Navy Crosses were awarded for actions during the raid, including to the raid's leader, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, and executive officer, Marine Corps Maj. James Roosevelt (son of President Franklin Roosevelt). Marine Corps Sgt. Clyde Thomason was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for heroism during the raid and was the first enlisted Marine to be so honored during World War II. One previous ship, a Casablanca-class escort aircraft carrier (1944-1946), has borne the name Makin Island, and received five battle stars for World War II service.
Adm. Patrick Walsh, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Silke Hagee, wife of former commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Michael Hagee, will serve as ship's sponsor. In the time honored Navy tradition, she will give the first order to "man our ship and bring her to life!"
Makin Island is the eighth Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. Second only to an aircraft carrier in size, LHDs embark, transport, deploy, command and fully support an expeditionary unit of 2,000 Marines. Makin Island can accommodate three landing craft air cushion, a squadron of AV-8B Harrier II aircraft, and a full range of Navy/Marine Corps helicopters and amphibious vehicles to perform sea control and limited power projection missions.
Makin Island is the first Navy amphibious assault ship to replace steam boilers with gas turbines, and the first Navy surface ship to be equipped with both gas turbines and an auxiliary propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the Navy expects over the course of the ship's lifecycle to see fuel savings of more than $250 million, further demonstrating the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation.
Makin Island is fully equipped with command, control, communication, computers and intelligence systems for flagship command duty. The afloat capability of Makin Island's medical facility is second only to the Navy's hospital ships. The ship is armed with two NATO Sea Sparrow surface missile systems for anti-air warfare protection, two rolling airframe missile systems and two Phalanx close-in-weapons systems mounts to counter threats from low flying aircraft. Six missile decoy launchers augment the anti-ship missile defenses.
Capt. Robert Kopas, born in Cleveland and raised in Phoenix, is the ship's commanding officer. Built by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Ingalls Operations in Pascagoula, Miss., the ship is 844 feet in length with a 106-foot beam, and has living areas for nearly 3,200 crewmembers and embarked forces.
Upon commissioning, the ship becomes a member of U.S. Pacific Fleet as part of Expeditionary Strike Group 3 and will be homeported in San Diego.
Pentagon study shows F-35 jet to cost more--report
A new Pentagon study has affirmed previous findings that Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT.N) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, the costliest U.S. arms purchase program, will require billions of dollars more than planned, and more time, an online news service said on Friday.
A military "joint estimate team" tasked in July to examine the program has found the F-35 program's performance "is not markedly improving," InsideDefense.com said, citing an unidentified source.
Lockheed is developing three radar-evading F-35 models to replace at least 13 types of aircraft, initially for 11 nations.
The United States plans to buy 2,443 F-35s. Purchases by partner nations Britain, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and Australia and others could raise production to 3,000 or more.
Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L) are Lockheed's chief F-35 sub-contractors.
"A new assessment of the Joint Strike Fighter program affirms earlier findings that substantially more money and time are required for the Pentagon's largest acquisition effort, a conclusion that could pose a formidable test of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' recent support for the F-35 program and President Barack Obama's pledge to terminate weapons with bloated price tags," InsideDefense.com reported.
Its headline said the program would need "billions" more.
Obama vowed in March to reform the Pentagon's procurement practices and to crack down on programs that run over budget.
Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates decided to cap production of the Lockheed F-22 fighter at 187 planes, citing his support for the $300 billion F-35 program.
The study was undertaken to update one last year that found the program would need at least two more years and nearly $15 billion more.
"The initial results are as bad as last year's," InsideDefense.com quoted its source as saying. "In other words, things have not improved. And their cost estimate will be at least where they were last year."
In response, Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier by sales, said it disagreed with the joint estimate team conclusions
"Lockheed Martin acknowledges that modest risks to our cost and schedule baselines exist," said John Kent, a company spokesman, "but we envision no scenario that would justify a substantial delay to completion of development or transition to production milestones Engineering development is 85 percent complete and yielding outstanding results in early ground and flight tests, Kent said. "Our test plans are based on detailed test requirements and build on the extensive investments in F-35 design architecture, systems engineering, risk reduction, and simulation facilities, as well as a rigorous disciplined verification plan, compared to legacy programs."
"The program is early in the flight test phase, so it is much too soon conclude that the expected payoffs will not be realized," he added.
Asked about the InsideDefense.com report, a Defense Department spokeswoman, Cheryl Irwin, said she believed the joint estimate team was still carrying out its review. A spokeswoman for the Pentagon's F-35 program office did not return a call seeking comment.
Air Force Major General C.D. Moore, the F-35 program's deputy executive officer, said last month he was confident the program could meet its cost and schedule targets.
The Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act that became law in May requires the Pentagon to presume termination of any program that breaches certain cost targets. Should the Pentagon want to retain the F-35, as it no doubt would, it would have to be restructured and recertified
Joint US-Georgia military exercises to begin on Monday
TBILISI, October 24 (RIA Novosti) - The United States and Georgia will begin military exercises on October 26 in preparation for sending troops to Afghanistan, a foreign liaison officer in the US embassy in Tbilisi said on Saturday.
The US embassy on Friday said the exercises would begin on October 24.
"The program is specifically designed to enhance Georgia's ability to conduct joint counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan together with US forces," the embassy statement said on Friday.
The two-week joint military exercise, code-named Immediate Response, will be held in Georgia and will include training in counterterrorist operations. US military instructors have already arrived at the Krtsanisi training center.
"We commend Georgia for its voluntary contribution of forces to the critical mission in Afghanistan," the US embassy said.
The Georgian Parliament in August approved President Mikheil Saakashvili's initiative to deploy one marine company and one marine battalion to Afghanistan to help in the peacekeeping mission. According to Georgia's Defense Ministry, the company will be commanded by US forces and the battalion by French forces in Afghanistan.
Georgia with US support has requested to become a NATO member, but at the NATO summit in April 2008, members refused to admit the post-Soviet country into the Membership Action Plan (MAP), a key step for membership.
Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Nalbandov said on Thursday that the country's Annual National Program is a copy of MAP, and may suffice for membership.
Georgian state minister on reintegration, Temur Yakobashvili, told reporters that the "instrument we have is a mirror copy of MAP, so if we are discussing implementing criteria, we have the opportunity, in the framework of this document, to fulfill all commitments, which will make us closer to NATO."
"The rest is just a political decision to be made by NATO member countries," he said.
The U.S. Army will make an exception to a decades-old rule and allow a Sikh doctor to serve without removing his turban and cutting his hair, an advocacy group said Friday.
Capt. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi is the first Sikh to be allowed to go on active duty with a turban, beard and unshorn hair in more than 20 years, according to the New York-based Sikh Coalition.
The decision does not overturn an Army policy from the 1980s that regulates the wearing of religious items, Acting Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee wrote in a letter to Kalsi dated Thursday and posted online by the Sikh Coalition.
Instead, the Army's decision follows a long-standing practice of deciding such requests on a case-by-case basis, the letter said. Farrisee said the Army had weighed Kalsi's request against factors such as "unit cohesion, morale, discipline, safety and/or health."
There's no indication that the overall policy is being reconsidered, said Army spokeswoman Jill Mueller, adding that she could not confirm that the Army had reached a decision in the case until she received word from her superiors that Kalsi himself had been notified.
But Sikh Coalition director Amardeep Singh said he was hopeful the Army would announce a full policy shift.
"This bodes well for the future," he said. "My guess is the Army's going to be seeing a lot more Sikhs requesting to be a part of the Army. ... This issue is not going away."
The 32-year-old Kalsi, of Riverdale, N.J., is an emergency room doctor. He promised to serve in the Army in exchange for help paying for his medical training. A second, similar case — that of Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan — will be decided after he receives the results of his dental board exams, Amardeep Singh said.
A number of members of Congress wrote to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in August asking him to allow the men to serve while wearing the turban, beard and unshorn hair required by their faith.
October 25, 2009: The American flying death squad of Predator and Reaper UAVs over Pakistan and Afghanistan have a target list of about 420 Taliban and drug gang leaders. The CIA handles most of the data collection, and actual hits on the targets. Finding these targets is a much larger operation than the effort to keep twenty or so armed UAVs in the air.
The CIA and Department of Defense have enormous databases of people, including basic information like names, physical descriptions, family connections and so. But there is much more, like video and still images of the subjects, their vehicles, hideouts and work places.
The proliferation of video cameras on the battlefield (in UAVs, ground robots, for base security and in the hands of the troops) has provided a huge library of images that show bad guys doing what bad guys do and what they look like while doing it. This can range from moving around carrying weapons, to using those weapons, to the particular driving patterns of people up to no good. This is a unique resource, and the U.S. is putting together a library of these images. This is similar to older still pictures libraries, which were eventually used by pattern recognition software to let machines examine the millions of images digital photo satellites began producing decades ago. The basic problem was that there were quickly too many pictures for human analysts to examine. Computers had to do much of the work, or else most of the images would go unexamined. This technology was quickly adapted to the kind of combat encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan, and terrorist operations in general.
Research has shown that people staring at live video feeds start losing their ability to concentrate on the images after about twenty minutes. This problem has been known for some time, and the military (not to mention civilian security firms) have been seeking a technological solution. It's actually not as bad with UAVs, because the picture constantly changes, but cameras that are fixed can wear operators out real quick.
The basic tech solution is pattern analysis. Since the most common video is digital, it's possible to translate the video into numbers, and then analyze those numbers. Government security organizations have been doing this for some time, but after the fact. It's one thing to have a bunch of computers analyze satellite photos for a week, to see if there was anything useful there. It's quite another matter to do it in real time. But computers have gotten faster, cheaper and smaller in the last few years, and programmers have kept coming up with more efficient routines for analyzing the digital images. Commercial firms already have software on the market that will analyze, in real time, video, and alert a human operator if someone, or something (you are looking for) appears to be there.
While some military analysis does not have to be real time (like the system used in Iraq and Afghanistan to compare today's and yesterdays photos of a road to see if a bomb may have been planted), the most common need is for real time analysis. Several times a year now, a new software package shows up that does that, or tries to. These systems are getting better. Many can definitely beat your average human observer over time (several hours of viewing video). The real time analysis software is rapidly evolving. You don't hear much about it, because if the enemy knows the details of how it works, they can develop moves that will deceive it (or, to be more accurate, make the pattern analysis less accurate.) Already, this software is being used as an adjunct to human observers, and gradually taking over. There will always be a human in the loop, to confirm what the software believes it has found.
But the big breakthrough, which may already have been achieved, is a predictive analysis system that can quickly examine thousands of hours of video from a specific area, and calculate the probability that certain vehicles, or individuals, down there, are up to no good, or will simply be travelling down a certain road. This works if you have lots of examples of people you know, and are trying to find. The predictive analysis looks for enough indicators to make it likely that something specific is going to happen. When done in real time, the analysis software can instantly alert that something specific is about to happen at a specific location. If nothing does happen, that is saved and added to the library of experience the analysis software uses to make predictions. In effect, the predictive analysis software gets smarter the more often it is used. And the library of combat zone video images grows larger as well, making it possible for the analysis software to sniff more behavior patterns that predict bad actions.
The CIA also uses informants on the ground, and interrogations of prisoners, or of people who have been to a certain place. Every little bit of information can be valuable, when viewed as part of a mosaic of activity. Tracking people, who do not want to be tracked, requires all this data in order to find them, and do so in a timely enough fashion to fire a missile at them.
Raven's new digital datalink promises major advance in data transfer
AeroVironment's (AV's) RQ-11B Raven, a hand-launched aerial drone that is widely deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, is about to become the first Class I unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to use a digital datalink for communications and image-sharing.
The US Army has signed a USD16.8 million contract with AV to build 50 new Ravens with a digital datalink and to retrofit the new datalink on 206 existing systems.
At present all Class I UAVs in service with US forces use an analogue datalink, which requires large amounts of bandwidth and radio frequency spectrum to transmit real-time intelligence.
The Raven's new digital datalink will dramatically reduce the amount of bandwidth required for information sharing, including bandwidth-saturating activities such as sending full motion video, according to AV's Raven programme manager, Scott Newbern.
He said the new datalink compresses bandwidth so that fewer radio frequency channels are needed to transmit the same amount of information.
The United States government is forking over $100 million to build new military bases in Bulgaria and Romania even as the Obama Administration recently scrapped plans for a missile-defense shield in other parts of Eastern Europe.
According to the US Army weekly Stars and Stripes, this latest commitment by the Pentagon consists of a $50 million military base in Romania, which will house 1,600 American troops and a $60 million base in Bulgaria to house 2,500 soldiers.
Construction on the Romanian base is expected to be completed in the next two months, while the Bulgarian base is slated to open in 2011 or 2012.
The bases, funded by the United States, but owned by the Romanian and Bulgarian governments, will be shared between US and host-nation forces, the weekly reports.
More than 2,000 soldiers are now taking part in exercises near the two Eastern European nations.
During a recent visit to Romania US Vice President Joe Biden said Bucharest backed a new US missile shield configuration Washington announced after scrapping earlier planned missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic.
This means that elements of the US missile shield complex may eventually appear in Romania.
Moreover, American experts say that the construction of two new bases in Romania and Bulgaria is fully in line with the US troop redeployments former President George W. Bush announced as early as in 2004. Many analysts believe that US efforts in Romania and Bulgaria are part of a global redeployment strategy started in the early years of the Bush Administration to shift US forces out of Germany and move them eastward.
The Pentagon explains all this by the need to move its forces closer to the volatile Middle East.
Russia sees this as a direct threat to its interests fearing that what starts with a relatively small US military presence in Romania and Bulgaria could eventually increase and by a very wide margin to boot.
Moreover, the emergence of NATO bases on the Black Sea comes in addition to the military installations the West already has on the Baltic Sea and which effectively puts Russia in a bind.
In another alarming sign, cadets at the West Point military academy are now undergoing a crash course of Russian language and culture. Just like they started learning Arabic three years prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Preparing to grab the Caspian oil wealth, Washington will do this leaning on its bases in Romania and Bulgaria and by stoking up instability in the Caucasus. Why? To be able send its peacekeepers there to ensure the safe transportation of Caspian oil and gas. And here the American contingent in Romania and Bulgaria may come in very handy indeed.
Adding Afghanistan troops could cost $500,000 per person
Washington (CNN) -- If President Obama decides to send the 40,000 additional forces to Afghanistan as requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a rough estimate by the Pentagon projects the cost could be an additional $20 billion a year, according to a senior Pentagon official.
The official said the Defense Department comptrollers office has told Congress that based on rough estimates, the total cost of keeping an individual service member in the war zone is now about $500,000 a year.
That includes the costs of personnel operations and maintenance costs, some equipment and hazardous duty pay.
The actual costs could be higher, because the estimate does not include the cost of constructing additional facilities, providing support forces such as military intelligence assets that may be based outside Afghanistan or replacing damaged weapons or equipment. The official emphasized that until there is a formal troop plan, the costs are just estimated.
The official would not be identified because the estimates are not official.
The ongoing review of the strategy for Afghanistan continued Friday, with Obama meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the heads of the four military services.
The heads of the Army and Marines, who provide the bulk of troops for the war, have expressed concern that if they send a large number of additional troops, they will have to cut down on the time troops spend in between deployments, known as "dwell time."
Marines have only about 8,000 troops they can add without impinging on dwell time. The Army has about 12 brigades, or approximately 48,000 soldiers, that are not deployed or committed to deploy.
Regardless of the number of troops being sent, a deployment will be phased over time because of the lack of facilities in the country to house and support a large deployment, the official said.
McChrystal's plan calls for sending a majority of the forces he is requesting to the south, especially to reinforce Kandahar and Helmand provinces, and the region around Kabul, several military and Pentagon sources said. McChrystal also intends to reserve a number of forces for training Afghan forces, officials said.
But one official noted that if that plan is put into effect, additional forces would be needed to be sent to areas that the Taliban might then flee, such as the northern region.
CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, SC: The commander of the Air Force Reserve Command flew and delivered here Oct. 28 the newest C-17 Globemaster III to come off the production line at Boeing's Long Beach, Calif., plant.
Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr. accompanied by an all-Reserve crew from the 317th Airlift Squadron from Charleston Air Force Base presented a ceremonial key to Col. Steven Chapman, 315th Airlift Wing commander, on the flightline here, commemorating the Air Force's 190th C-17 and the 58th cargo aircraft to be stationed at Charleston AFB.
"It is a brand new, off-the-line airplane," General Stenner said. "It flies great."
The jet, which is the 209th C-17 built to date, had just under six hours flight time before it began its first Air Force flight, which nearly doubled it's flying hours; Hours, however, soon will grow as this jet becomes operational.
"Every 90 seconds there is a mobility plane taking off," General Stenner told Boeing employees before leaving Long Beach. "We do this 365 days a year."
Boeing officials invited nearly two dozen of its employees to witness the C-17 transfer to Air Force hands. All of the employees were reservists or retired reservists.
Before passing the general the ceremonial key and an American flag, Jean Chamberlin, the Boeing vice president and general manager for Global Mobility Systems, told General Stenner how important the C-17 and her company's relationship with the Air Force is.
"We are very proud that no matter what mission you're on, you are on the world's best airlifter, the C-17 Globemaster III," Mrs. Chamberlin said. "C-17s are making a difference, saving lives every day. We are proud to be a part of this team with you."
The C-17 is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in the deployment area. The aircraft can perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions and can also transport litters and ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations when required.
"Since the inception of the C-17, we've continued to develop. This represents what we've learned over the last 15 years," said Lt. Col. Jeff Meyers, the 315th Operations Group chief of standarization and evaluation.
Colonel Meyers said that the new plane has added an additional lighting system, safety modifications, avionic upgrades that meet all current and future requirements for increased military capabilities, and overall, uses some valued civilian technology.
This $205 million jet is part of Block 17. Each block signifies software upgrades performed on the aircraft. It takes approximately 140,000 unit man-hours across 194 days to build one, said Joseph Brown, a Boeing administrator.
Master Sgt. Michael Lang, a 317th AS loadmaster who was aboard the new jet for its welcome to Charleston AFB, spent eight years as a maintainer and the last seven years as a loadmaster. He and the rest of the crew received a tour of Boeing's 1.1 million square foot facility where C-17s are built.
"It was really neat to see where they've been building the C-17 the last 15 years," Sergeant Lang said. "When I arrived at Charleston, there were six C-17s on the line. I've seen jets from blocks 6 to 17, which is 11 different software upgrades."
When asked what he thought about the jet, he simply said, "It's clean."
As the last 15 years have shown, it won't be clean for long.
During the days of the Cold War, intelligence analysts tracked Soviet missile deployments and launches, as well as mass maneuvers, using the technological wonders of change detection, the arcane art of looking at satellite and U-2 photos to see what had moved where and how fast they were moving.
Analysts watched shadows, pondered piles of earth and eyed gantries and missiles as the Cold War waxed and waned. While resolutions improved and the US launched bus-sized radar satellites to better track what was happening, some goals remained unattainable. One of those was near real-time analysis of ground forces in almost any kind weather. Clouds render most electro-optical satellites largely useless and radar satellites are so rare that much of the earth goes unseen by them most of the time.
Northrop Grumman has worked on an a promising approach, using L-band synthetic aperture radar and a great deal of software to come up with a radar system that could offer analysts more detailed and up-to-date information. It was displayed at the Geoint conference in San Antonio.
It can cover an enormous 6,000 square miles an hour and provide impressive detail, presented in an easily interpreted form.
Program Executive Office Soldier Unveils New Equipment
WASHINGTON: Two new lightweight machine guns, the Land Warrior System and an improved oxygen device for aviators were among new equipment displayed Tuesday at the Pentagon.
Officials from Program Executive Office Soldier met with members of the media at the Pentagon to discuss the latest equipment fielded to Soldiers. Four program managers from PEO Soldier talked about advances in weapons, personal gear, and lasers and sights that Soldiers use on the battlefield.
"We act as quickly as we can and get equipment to Soldiers and commanders in the field that have the operational need," said Col. Doug Tamilio, program manager for Soldier weapons.
One major improvement, according to Tamilio, is the development of lighter weapon systems such as the MK-48, which weighs 18.6 pounds and the M-240L, which weighs 22.3 pounds and is made out of titanium. These weapons are lighter than the M-240B machine gun which weighs 27.3 pounds and they have similar capabilities to their heavier counterpart.
A Soldier that is fully equipped with the M-240B carrying the equivalent of about four gallons of milk, Tamillo said. But giving him the M-240L instead is like taking one of the gallons away, and he added the weapon is the number-one rated system by Soldiers who recently deployed.
In addition to weapon systems, PEO Soldier is working to improve other equipment used by Soldiers on the battlefield. Col. Will Riggins is program manager for Soldier Warrior and says he tries to find ways to allow Soldiers to gather real-time information that increases situational awareness on the battlefield.
"We try to integrate Soldiers into the warfighting environment and one of the ways we do that is to begin looking at the Soldier as a system," he said. "We don't just give the Soldier a piece of equipment and just add and add and add to them. We try to give them integrated capabilities and we try to make sure that capability is wider, is more effective, more efficient and works together so we can do multiple things with the same piece of equipment."
Soldier Warrior works with three different kinds of Soldiers, the air soldier, the mounted soldier and the ground soldier, Riggins said.
One piece of equipment that Riggins said is particularly useful to aviation Soldiers is the Portable Helicopter Oxygen Delivery System. The PHODS is a lightweight, wearable product that provides oxygen to Soldiers without restricting their movements in and around their aircraft. The system allows aircrew members to operate at high altitudes in excess of 10,000 feet, which is common in Afghanistan.
The PHODS weight about five pounds and replaces the 100-pound Helicopter Oxygen System. The system uses a regulation that meters oxygen flow based on respiration rate and altitude and can provide oxygen to a Soldier for two to three hours.
"You turn it on before you take off, it knows what altitude you're at and it automatically senses when you get to an altitude where you need oxygen and then it senses for your breathing rhythm," Riggins said. "Based on that breathing rhythm, instead of a continuous flow of oxygen, it releases a puff of air timed with the intake of your respiration. So that enables for more efficient operations and a more efficient use of oxygen."
The Land Warrior System, which will later be called the Ground Soldier System, is of particular use to ground soldiers, Riggins said.
There is a brigade-sized element of Land Warrior Systems currently fielded and there are plans for a battalion-sized element of Special Forces Soldiers with this capability, he said.
The Ground Soldier System will be one of the first systems to go through the new OSD process of competition in prototype. Unlike the past, instead of awarding one contract to develop the system, three contracts were awarded. Limited-user tests are planned for the systems in fall 2010.
"One of the things we want to be able to do is not necessarily compare the systems against each other but measure each individual system on its own merits," Riggins said.
After the limited-user tests are complete, one or two developers will be chosen and the system will go into low rate initial production and then do another operational test. The system is planned for fielding in 2012 to infantry brigade combat teams, he said.
Col. Bill Cole, program manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, works with developers to improve personal protective equipment that Soldiers wear on the battlefield including the Improved Outer Tactical Vest.
The IOTV has undergone significant improvements because it was not as comfortable to smaller stature soldiers as it should be, said Cole.
Refinements were made to the design and the shoulders were made more comfortable, particularly for Soldiers wearing rucksacks because the quick release dug into shoulders of Soldiers. That has now been corrected," he said.
The biggest improvement was on the side plates which are now more easily adjusted to fit slimmer Soldiers more comfortably, he said.
Two new patterns of camouflage are being fielded to Soldiers in Afghanistan, the multi-cam pattern and the universal camouflage pattern. Each pattern has been fielded to a battalion and feedback will be collected in January and given to Army leadership, Cole said.
Col. Stephanie Foster, program manager for Soldier Sensors and Lasers, stressed the key concept of see, acquire and target and the ability for sensors and lasers to be integrated into other systems.
"We want to see always, acquire first and target once," she said. "That means I have the responsibility for providing products that will give our warfighters increased survivability, mobility and lethality as we look at the integration into the rest of our portfolio."
Sensors and lasers can be integrated into personal equipment, land warrior equipment and weapon systems providing the Soldier as a system the tools needed on the battlefield, she said.
Separate capabilities such as thermal weapons systems and enhanced night vision are being developed as integrated systems, she said.
"The fusion of our thermal imagery and also the image intensification that we get with our night vision devices so that our warfighters have even heightened situational awareness," Foster said. "My work is just a reflection of what the PEO does as a whole: integrated support and delivery of products to the warfighter so that they have increased situational awareness, mobility and lethality."