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Space Exploration Technologies Corp. blamed the recent failure of an unmanned rocket bound for the International Space Station on a faulty strut and pledged to better scrutinize its supply chain.

Those were among the details released Monday after Elon Musk, the billionaire head of the Hawthorne, California-based company known as SpaceX, discussed the mishap during an afternoon conference call with reporters. [Continue reading…]

141105-F-XC395-173Air Force F-35A pilots flew last month for the first time in a large scale combat training mission to specifically defeat enemy air defense systems.

Known as SEAD, or suppression of enemy air defenses, military leaders have highlighted the F-35’s ability to defeat air defense systems to allow U.S. and coalition aircraft to penetrate enemy borders. The military has allowed other aircraft such as the EA-6B Prowler to retire and allow the F-35 to take over the SEAD mission.

The F-35A is still a year away from its initial operating capability date but F-35A pilots flew SEAD missions in the recent Air Force Weapons School Integration Phase out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for the first time. [Continue reading…]

Next Gen Bomber

The biggest question facing the Air Force when it comes to contracting for its next-generation long-range bomber is not meeting an award date set and then changed in recent months by its civilian leadership.

And it’s not who will get the long-awaited contract – Northrup-Grumman or a team made up of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, says Peter W. Singer, a defense strategist and senior fellow at New America.

“The core question is do we keep the contract to time and do we get a sufficient number [of aircraft] so that it is of value to the nation and the unit cost is reasonable,” Singer told Military​.com. He said he supports the program, saying it is needed because of the “rising threat” of potential adversaries such as China and because the plane would replace the aging B-2 – “not just a multi-years old aircraft, but multi-decades.”

If the U.S. is to get the most out of its next-generation bomber – in terms of national security and cost – it has to keep to what contract schedule is and the number. Currently the Air Force is in the market for 80 to 100 new bombers, projecting an average unit cost of $550 million.

According to Singer, one need only look at the Air Force’s experience with the B-2 Spirit to see how quickly fleet sizes can shrink, sending per-unit costs skyward.

“You want the success story of the B-2 [as a weapons system] but avoid the problems of the B-2 acquisitions and development,” he said.

The Air Force initially planned a 132-plane Spirit fleet, but ultimately produced 21. The cost estimate was based on one number, but then you end up with a different number, he said. By 1996 the per unit cost reached $2.1 billion, and the General Accountability Office had no problem concluding that the B-2 was “most expensive bomber to operate and sustain on a per aircraft basis, costing over three times as much as the B-1B and over four times as much as the B-52H.”

Since its first combat mission during the Kosovo War in 1999 the B-2 has carried out successful operations over Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

But the Air Force needs to avoid a repeat of the B-2 acquisitions experience, he said.

“If we end up with 20 or less of them, that’s not just a loss to the company [that expecting to build a large fleet], but to the nation, and that’s my concern,” Singer said.

Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com.

CV-22-OspreyThe sale of five V-22 Osprey aircraft to Japan will substantially bolster U.S.-Japan military-to-military cooperation and improve the island nation’s ability to help counter-balance China’s assertive behavior as tensions rise in the Pacific, Pentagon officials said.

The Japanese Defense Forces’ acquisition of Ospreys also comes as tensions between Japan and neighboring China appear to be worsening.

Not only have the two countries been locked in a territorial dispute over contested islands in the East China Sea, but China recently released a statement criticizing a move by Japanese parliament to pass a bill that would allow Japanese troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War II, according to a news report from Agence France-Presse.

“It is fully justified to ask if Japan is going to give up its exclusively defense-oriented policy”, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement, according to the report. [Continue reading…]

000222-N-5221P-001After years of trying, the Navy and Bell Boeing have announced the first foreign sale of the V-22 Ospreys, with five of the tilt-rotor aircraft under contract for delivery to Japan.

The $332.5 million contract for the Block C version of the Osprey included support, training, and equipment to boost the mobility of Japan’s Self-Defenses Force and provide a faster and more agile platform in response to natural disasters, Bell Boeing said in a statement Tuesday.

The five Ospreys were expected to be the first phase in the delivery of a total of 17 of the aircraft to Japan for a total cost of about $3 billion.

“The Bell Boeing team is honored to have Japan as the first international customer for the V-22 tilt-rotor,” said Mitch Snyder, executive vice president of Military Business for Bell Helicopter. [Continue reading…]