30 April 2009

Stand-up of the Navy Air and Missile Defense Center (NAMDC)

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namdc-01aOn Thursday, 30 April 2009, the Navy's newest Center of Excellence (COE), the Navy Air and Missile Defense Center, was opened for business onboard the Naval Weapons Development Center, Dahlgren Virginia. RADM Brad Hicks, who is also the Aegis BMD program director, will serve as the Center's first commander until a permanent flag is assigned later this year. The ceremony's keynote speaker, ADM Robert "Rat" Willard, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet spared no words in underscoring the importance of this particular COE in the context of recent events to include the recent North Korean launch.

The challenge ahead of the center will be the role it plays in Navy's quest to equally field a national missile defense to shield the homeland, a regional defense for friends and allies and theater systems for protection of forward deployed forces while still accounting for the multi-mission nature of platforms like the Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers currently deployed. And the center's efforts won't end there, for the threat includes ever-increasingly proliferated cruise missiles and a host of other airborne threats. In that context the NAMDC will serve to integrate technical capabilities, warfighter concepts and C3 solutions to cover the entire kill chain, from the "high-end" of afloat BMD to the wave-tops.

The Center's focus also won't be Aegis- or even Navy-only, though that will constitute a good portion of its effort. As one of six envisioned Warfare Centers of Excellence that also include the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center in Fallon, Nev., and the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command in San Diego, Calif, NAMDC as the lead organization for Navy and Joint AMD will also partner and work closely with organizations like Joint Force Command's Joint Warfighting Center down the road in Suffolk, VA. I should also note that with close proximity to Pax River and Norfolk/Oceana, the center should also have ready access to work with the VAW and VFA communities, especially important when one looks at the capabilities currently available (e.g. Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), and the AESA in the newer Super Hornets) and planned (e.g., E-2D Advanced Hawkeye) for those communities.

This was a much needed step in beginning to restore balance to a force that has , frankly, become very power projection-centric. Along with other warfare areas, such as blue-water ASW, it seemed in the post-Cold War environment that integrated air and missile defense was increasingly pushed to the back even while threats like those posed by new generations of low-observable, fast cruise missiles were widely proliferated. However, the emerging area denial capabilities of countries like China and Iran, not to mention the requirements levied by the Maritime Strategy (and, one presumes, the NOC when it ever is released) clearly demand the establishment of an organization to oversee the disparate parts of the air defense picture. I would go further to say that it is one which should have taken place a couple of decades ago, around the time of the introduction of Aegis to the fleet with all the attendant integration, coordination and synchronization issues that presented with other ship- and airborne platforms, sensors and networks.

The NAMDC will have an initial staff of approximately 25 personnel, and grow over the next three years to a fully operational staff of about 75 members, equally divided between military personnel, government civilian employees and supporting contractors. Considering the magnitude of the challenge ahead, I'd say they will all be fully engaged, especially if what ADM Willard said, that the Center is "the most important thing to the future of this capability in the Navy" comes to pass.

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28 April 2009

Красная звезда среда - Red Star Wednesday

Several items on the docket today:


If at first you don't succeed...


bulava1From Ria Novosti comes word the much troubled Bulava SLBM will be tested five times in the coming year:

Despite five failures in 10 trials, Russia's Defense Ministry is planning to complete a series of Bulava tests and put the ICBM into service by the end of 2009.

"Considering that we must ensure reliable performance characteristics of the [Bulava] missile, we have decided to raise the number of additional test launches to five, if everything goes well," Vladimir Popovkin said.

Popovkin, who is visiting the Russian exposition at the IDEF-2009 arms show in Turkey, said that a faulty detail caused a test launch failure in December last year, and that the on-board systems would undergo additional ground testing in June-July prior to the next test launch.

At the same interview, it was revealed that sea trials of the Yury Dolgoruky, Russia's first Borey class strategic nuclear submarine, are due to start in the summer, and two other Borey class nuclear submarines - the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh - are currently under construction at the Sevmash shipyard. They are expected to be completed in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Russia is planning to build a total of eight submarines of this class by 2015.

Some days you're the bug - others the windscreen

su-35bmOne of Russia's prototype Su-35's (SU-35BM) was destroyed earlier this week during testing. According to a plant spokesman, the prototype caught fire during take-off, but the pilot safely ejected:


"The accident occurred at 09.55 Moscow time [05.55 GMT] on Sunday at the Dzemgi airfield during the Su-35 prototype's take-off," Vitaly Tyulkin said, adding that the pilot ejected safely. "We will announce the details of the accident later in the day," he said.

According to the news report in Ria Novosti, speculation is centering on a faulty fuel pump. The aircraft was one of three Su-35 prototypes that incorporate improved engines and avionics (including the new Irbis-E AESA radar allowing automatic detection and tracking of up to 30 targets and engaging up to 8 of those) with the proven SU-27 airframe to create what is billed as a "4++ gen fighter with 5th generation features." The third prototype had been recently added to the program in hopes of speeding up test and development flights to 160 or so a month and stay ontrack for deliveries to the Russian air force, Malaysia and Algeria among others.

Aircraft carriers - everyone wants them it seems; India, China and now Russia talks about new plans:

kuznetsov-aftA deputy minister for defense procurements, Vladimir Popovkin was quoted on a recent trip abroad as saying that final plans for the next generation of new Russian aircraft carrier will be finalized sometime in the 2011-2012 timeframe. Nuclear-powered and with an expected displacement of close to 60K metric tons (for comparison, the Kuznetsov is about 55K metric tons), the new carrier is expected to host new fixed- and rotary wing aircraft (ed. think a hummerinski will be amongst them this time? - SJS) to include a fifth generation fighter to replace the SU-33/MiG-29K currently employed. In one interesting note that hints at the possible configuration, Vice Adm. Anatoly Shlemov, the head of defense contracts at the United Shipbuilding Corporation noted that unlike past carriers, the new one would not be armed with cruise missiles as "that's not part of it's job description..." Cost is estimated at $4 billion.

While the next item may seem surprising, when one considers Turkey already deploys Russian-made anti-tank and has cooperated with the Chinese on SRBMs, it seems less so:

s-400_launchAccording to Ria Novosti, Turkey has approached Russia regarding purchase of the S-400:

"Turkey has expressed a strong interest in buying S-400 air defense systems from Russia," said Anatoly Aksenov, a high-level adviser to the head of Russian arms export firm Rosoboronexport. "We have explained to Turkish officials that S-400 is not just a simple air defense system but an element of strategic missile defenses, which can be placed in one country but protect the airspace over a number of neighboring countries," said a source who accompanied Aksenov as part of the Russian delegation to this year's International Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul

The prospect of this sale raises questions on any one of a number of fronts. As Aksenov points out, the range of the S-400 is enough to provide defense to more than just the deploying nation. Given that there is no love lost between the Turks and Greeks, especially where Cyprus is involved, there may be something there (i.e., protection of Turk interests on Cyprus and in the Aegean). The same with Syria - no love lost there either. A more likely answer may lay to the east and southeast - towards one country (Israel) which has demonstrated an ability for long-range airstrikes that may have violated Turk airspace as well as an unacknowledged regional nuclear strike capability with its Jericho II MRBMs. Further to the east is another country that appears bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and certainly is working hard to develop and deploy a long-range missile system to deliver the weapons when able. The recent successful Safir SLV launch certainly imputes a nascent IRBM capability to Iran. Given the S-400's alternate role as part of a strategic (i.e., regional) missile defense system, Turkey may well be seeking an indigenous capability that will not rely on the US (which has been very busy in cooperative efforts with Israel to develop and build a multi-tiered BMD system for the protection of Israel) and provide protection from Israeli OR Iranian attack. To be sure, if Turkey goes through with the purchase, it would make it difficult to integrate with one of the US regional systems coming online - THAAD or land-based SM-3, for example.

То все для теперь - см. вас следующая неделя!

27 April 2009

Bye, Bye Bandit...

...and GTO.









GM puts a bullet in Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer.


And, of course, a greater share by the feds of the General...

The Ridiculous Not Restricted to DC

Air Force One


Meantime, the denizens of NYC were, not surprisingly, alarmed at the sight of a large airliner being intercepted and escorted by a fighter near the site of the World Trade Center:






hudson-480


Yep, you're not seeing things - it's the 747 that serves as Air Force One on a photo op over downtown NYC...


But hey, it's ok - the director of the White House Military Office apologized...

Springtime in DC

Ahhhh, just soak it in -- warm days, Dogwood blooming, pollen a dustin' and all around the city, the sap is rising:


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Alas, for the poor dears - not as many this year as in years past because, you know, it's *expensive* coming to DC and what with the economy and all, mom and dad just couldn't spring for a spring break trip to DC this year...


20 April 2009

Rememberig Columbine - 10 Years Later

It began as an ordinary, early spring day - teachers going about their business of teaching students; students doing what normal high school students are wont to do. At 1140, itdramatically, tragically changed with 12 students and a teacher dead and 23 others physically wounded - many more emotionally scarred.

Two years, four months and 22 days later, another "ordinary" day would close with thousands dead and many more physically and emotionally scarred. At the Pentagon, among the hundreds and thousands of cards and remembrance banners received, there was one that is still etched in my memory, for I saw it on my way into the building each and every day the following weeks and months. It was a profoundly simple banner from the students, faculty and parents of Columbine HS that stated their support, love and remembrance.

Today, I return my own as we remember the events of that day ten years ago and the innocence lost. God bless you all. - SJS

14 April 2009

This Date in Naval Aviation History: 15 Apr 1969 - Deep Sea 129

ec121 The weak can be rash. The powerful must be restrained.- Secretary of State William Rogers, April 1969

For most of these past several weeks, international attention has been focused on the activities taking place near a peninsula on the north-east coast of Korea. There, despite protests and warnings from around the world, the North Koreans attempted to duplicate the success of another pariah state, Iran, and place a satellite in orbit atop a missile that also had ICBM capability. That effort failed in its stated intent, with the payload finding a watery grave in the broad ocean area of the Pacific, but the fact that the North Koreans defiantly carried out their intent should not have come as a surprise to international community. Indeed, roughly 100 nm east-north-east of the launch site is the site, unmarked, of another North Korean action undertaken in contravention of international norms. That spot is the terminus of Deep Sea 129’s final flight, now forty years ago this April 15th (Korea time, April 14th US).
slide13Deep Sea 129 was a Navy EC-121 Warning Star operated by VQ-1. With a crew of 31 (8 officers and 23 enlisted), the flight launched from NAS Atsugi, Japan on what was known as a BEGGAR SHADOW mission to collect ELINT information off the Soviet port of Vladivostok. The big four-engined aircraft was originally designed and built as a land-based AEW follow-on to Project CADILLAC II’s PB-1W’s with a capability to haul a significantly larger and more powerful radar aloft, remain onstation much longer and carry a larger crew to support the expanded mission and endurance. All of those characteristics made it an ideal platform to modified for the PARPRO mission. PARPRO, the Peacetime Aerial Reconnaissance PROgram, covered the variety of airborne missions flown by US Army, Navy and Air Force crews near what was termed “denied territory” which constituted hostile nations such as the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea among others. These missions gathered information on radar and other electronic equipment (signals intelligence or SIGINT), communications such as those found at regional or sector air defense centers (communications intelligence or COMINT), photography of critical facilities or geographic features (PHOTOINT which later became imagery intelligence or IMINT) or a combination of COMINT and SIGNINT – ELINT. The program began shortly after WWII when it became apparent the Soviet Union had designs on expanding its reach in to western Europe, the Mediterranean and Far East. As an Iron Curtain was reigned down on the Soviet perimeter, the need for intelligence collection grew on the capabilities of Soviet forces. With the acquisition of the atomic bomb by the Soviets in 1949, the urgency of that requirement grew. Surprises, like the appearance of the MiG-15 jet fighter and China’s ground incursion during the Korean War underscored the importance of intelligence collection and the need for expanded coverage from the air and sea.
Most of the PARPRO missions were flown in international airspace – electronic signals don’t obey national borders, but some were flown immediately adjacent to and at times, across those same borders. Sometimes, the effort was safely completed, all too frequently it wasn’t. And sometimes, despite the fact the aircraft, or ships (viz. USS Liberty) were operating in international airspace or waters and clearly marked with US colors, they were still attacked. Some survived and were rescued or captured and disappeared into the Gulag – many never came back. That was Deep Sea 129’s lot.
There were no indications of possible hostile intent on the North Korean’s part when the WV-2 launched on the morning of the 15th, despite the capture of the USS Pueblo a bit over a year ago. Setting course for the operating area, a point off Musu Point where it would set up 120nm orbits focused on Vladivostok. Besides the Navy airmen onboard, there were 9 Naval Security Group cryptologists and Russian and Korean linguists onboard, including a Marine. The mission was under strict orders not to approach the Korean coast any closer than 50 nm and the two hundred-some odd flights in the past three months by USN and USAF aircraft on the BEGGAR SHADOW track had given no foreshadowing of possible action by the Koreans – but then, neither had there been for the Pueblo.
PARPRO missions, since the Gary Powers shootdown over Russia required monitoring and tracking by ground-based sites to serve as both a means of flight following and to provide warning if danger approached. That day, radar sites in Japan and Korea monitored Deep Sea 129’s mission, and the USAF 6918th Security Squadron at Hakata Air Station, Japan, and Detachment 1, 6922nd Security Wing at Osan Air Base monitored the North Korean reaction by intercepting its air defense search radar transmissions. Additionally, the Army Security Agency communications interception station at Osan listened to North Korean air defense radio traffic, and the Naval Security Group at Kamiseya, which provided the seven of the nine CTs aboard Deep Sea 129, also intercepted Soviet Air Force search radars. Still, there was no airborne escort and it would take several minutes, long agonizing minutes, for interceptors to be airborne and reach the Warning Star’s OPAREA should it come under attack. But with nothing showing on the boards that would lead commanders to think otherwise, no alerts were moved up or placed airborne.
It is an axiom of aviation that a problem in the developing stages tends to be slow and stealthy, but in the final stage it reaches completion in a rush. Thus an incipient icing condition builds slowly, steadily stealing lift until an aviator finds himself in an impossible coffin corner of airspeed, maneuverability and altitude with fatal results. So too did the final hour of Deep Sea 129’s mission progress.
At 1234 local, radar and listening posts reported the launch of suspected Mi-21’s in North Korea. Alerted, the larger monitoring network pricked it’s electronic ears and eyes to attempt and see and hear more. Deep Sea 129 completing a 1300L “ops normal” report to parent squadron VQ-1 and twenty-two minutes later the MiG’s were lost, not being re-acquired until 1337L. Alerted, VQ-1 passed a “Condition 3” report to the Warning Star indicating a possible intercept might be in progress. LCDR Overstreet, plane an mission commander for the flight, acknowledged the report and instituted abort procedures to terminate the mission. At 1337L the radar tracks of the MiG’s and Deep Sea 129 merged with radar and radio contact with the EC-121 and its crew lost two minutes later.
No CAP was launched and while a rescue effort was launched later that day, and eventually expanded to include over 20 aircraft, no debris was sighted until the following morning – which just happened to have been recovered by two Soviet destroyers in the area. When US ships arrived on the scene that evening, the USS Henry W. Tucker (DD 875) recovered a piece of the aircraft, riddled with shrapnel. The bodies of LTJG Joseph R. Ribar and AT1 Richard E. Sweeney were also recovered, the only ones thus so. The Soviet ships turned over what wreckage they had recovered to the US ships who then returned to Japan.
North Korea not only acknowledged the shoot down, they loudly and boastfully celebrated their action. President Nixon suspended PARPRO flights in the Sea of Japan for three days and then allowed them to resume, only with escorts. No reparations were ever paid to the US or the families of the lost airmen.
And Kim Il-Sung celebrated another birthday (April 15th).
The crew of Deep Sea 129:
LCDR James H. Overstreet,
LT John N. Dzema,
LT Dennis B. Gleason,
LT Peter P. Perrottey,
LT John H. Singer,
LT Robert F. Taylor,
LTJG Joseph R. Ribar,
LTJG Robert J. Sykora,
LTJG Norman E. Wilkerson,
ADRC Marshall H. McNamara,
CTC Frederick A. Randall,
CTC Richard E. Smith,
AT1 Richard E. Sweeney,
AT1 James Leroy Roach,
CT1 John H. Potts,
ADR1 Ballard F. Conners,
AT1 Stephen C. Chartier,
AT1 Bernie J. Colgin,
ADR2 Louis F. Balderman,
ATR2 Dennis J. Horrigan,
ATN2 Richard H. Kincaid,
ATR2 Timothy H. McNeil,
CT2 Stephen J. Tesmer,
ATN3 David M. Willis,
CT3 Philip D. Sundby,
AMS3 Richard T. Prindle,
CT3 John A. Miller,
AEC LaVerne A. Greiner,
ATN3 Gene K. Graham,
CT3 Gary R. DuCharme,
SSGT Hugh M. Lynch,(US Marine Corps).

Underway ... Again

Well, pulling the old blog out of mothballs and getting underway again. Seems certain organizations just can't get their blocking software to work uniformly across the net. Of course, for those of us who have experienced first hand those same organization's abilities at more mundane matters, like, oh, maybe migrating user's domains, we aren't very surprised...
So here's the gameplan. Check the mothership first, if no joy, pogo this.
Steeljaw sends...