Monday, October 11, 2010

Mattis over USAF Mike any day ...

Sorry fella. I know you didn't like my post last week - but I know someone who would.

From
March;
The quest for a low-cost, low-tech, irregular warfare aircraft to provide ground pounders with long loitering, on-call recon and strike got a big boost recently when Joint Forces Command’s Gen. James Mattis threw his support behind the Navy and Air Force “Imminent Fury” effort.

Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that he was taking a personal interest in the classified project, being run chiefly out of the Navy’s Irregular Warfare Office, that is looking at small turboprop aircraft for ground support. The sought after design falls somewhere between the Vietnam era OV-10 Bronco and A-1 Skyraider. It must stay aloft for a long time for surveillance needs but also have the punch to provide precise fire support when needed; a true “over the shoulder” aircraft for small ground units doing distributed operations in remote locations.
...
“A LAAR aircraft capability has the potential to shift air support from a reactive threat response, to a more proactive approach that reduces sensor to shooter timelines, with immediate and accurate fires, providing surveillance and reconnaissance throughout a mission, while providing communication and navigation support to troops on the ground,” said Mattis.
What he said.

Hat tip Mike.

36 comments:

Redeye80 said...

Sounds like an OV-10! If needed, why spend money developing a new weapon system, when the solution already exists.  I am sure Boeing or Lockheed could start a production line for OV-10D.

Everything you need. Combat proven, expeditionary capable aircarft, what more do you want?

Andy said...

I believe that somehow, someone had the foresight sometime back to preserve the jigs and tools for the OV-10 line and that Boeing has already indicated a willingness to reopen production and support. Given the large numbers of OV-10's currently flying fire-fighting spotter missions int he west, there's already some parts support ongoing, so this may be one option to explore.  Bear in mind these things are way easier to say than to do; there's a lot to restabalish a line.  I think the last production line to resurrect was the C-2 line back almost 30 years ago.

sid said...

<span>I am sure Boeing or Lockheed could start a production line for OV-10D. </span>

OMG Redeye!!!!

All you will get from them is a multimillion dollar ppt in 5 years or so.

Maybe....Maybe.... In about 7 years or so you will get a grossly overweight' grossly over budget, grossly low availability prototype.

ACS, LCS, Darkstar....

Need I say more?

sid said...

Its been a couple years...But I've spied curious OV-10s in the pattern at Patrick.

They are not extinct.

Anonymous said...

But General Mattis thinks that, heaven forbid, the INFANTRY is the focus of effort on the battlefield.  Whereas we know that the role of the infantry is to point in amazement at the much more intelligent, much more important, much more exciting airplanes and their pilots.

sid said...

Its time to bring up this old oral history again.

Good stuff, worth the time to read and reflect upon.

Might add too, that it took NAA just 90 days -with slide rules and sharp pencils to design the P-51.

Weren't computers s'sposed to make it all easier?

UltimaRatioRegis said...

That guest was, of course, me. 

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Computers make it easier to over-design weapons systems and fleece the taxpaying public for billions....

SNAnonymous said...

I know a hell of a lot of guys who would sign up for this job.  Like I've said before, I think our military needs more practical people, like General Mattis, in positions of responsibility. 

Byron said...

Sorry, you're wrong on this one. Computers will give you EXACTLY what you put into them: GIGO. Lay the blame where it belongs: Congress, the big MIL CORPS and DoD.

Byron said...

If they do decide to do something like this, they best remember the old adage of the "best is the enemy of the good enough".

John said...

Burt Rutan could probably come up with something to fit the bill if given some requirements to work with.  Bet it would be an amazing, out of the box solution, too.

xbradtc said...

I'm gonna cut AFMike a little slack here. He wasn't against a COIN aircraft so much as the concept of having an entire wing of them. 

Sadly, though, he's mistaken in that judgment. He's right that we are a maritime nation and need to keep the Navy strong. The posts above show CDR Sal's commitment to that and show there's a little hope on the horizon. 

But I don't think a single wing of low cost aircraft is too large a commitment for the Air Force to make in support of the current wars, and there's a very good chance they would be quite useful in future conflicts. 

Heck, operating a wing of COIN aircraft would reduce the demand signal fast-mover CAS and extend the lifetime of those high-cost assets. Done properly, the program would end up saving the Air Force money. 

It would also likely open up some FMS opportunities. 

UltimaRatioRegis said...

No slack.  Crush him like the mailman-uniform-wearin' bug that he is....

Andrewdb said...

While we are re-designing the USAF, it might be nice to also get those new tankers under construction.  Bombers in real numbers would also be nice - we have what, TWENTY B-2's?  I don't think the drones are a replacement - they can't carry nearly as much firepower, at least yet.  The age of the air fleet makes the Navy look downright young.  Same problem though, too much Tiffany.

Will S said...

Me too....

sid said...

I didn't convery the snark so well...

Point is, even though we have all this high productivity stuff, we end up with mediocre junk, years late, and billions over budget.

I mean, if they could do what they did with slide rules and pencils...

Then the real problems of today are not technical.

Redeye80 said...

I think we are down to 19 after the Guam accident.

USAF Mike said...

There were 20, then they converted a test aircraft to full up Block 30 standard in the mid'90s, then we had the Guam crash so now we're back to 20, although I think one of those is on semi-permanent test status so there are 19 on the ramp at Whiteman...although I could be wrong with all of that.

And Andrew points to the heart of my argument why we don't need an entire wing of these...we have more important priorities.  Like getting new tankers.  Like getting a new bomber (it's 2010 and there's still been precious little money allocated for the mythical 2018 bomber that we're supposed to get).  And before anyone gets all butthurt with me saying we have more important priorities than the current fight, the U.S. has strategic responsibilities that span the globe, and many of those have absolutely nothing to do with COIN.  Now, if our civilian leadership wants to change those strategic responsibilities, that's fine.  That's their perogative, and if/when they do, it's our duty to readjust our priorities accordingly.  But until they do, this emphasis by OSD and others on judging every single program by what it brings to the COIN fight (and nothing else) is going to have harmful effects on the long term security of the U.S.

That said, I don't disagree with any of Gen Mattis's comments (I find it's a good practice to avoid disagreeing with General Mattis as much as possible).  Like Brad pointed out, my issue with this program was never whether we should do it at all, it was with the extent of the program.  If you want to be useful in future conflicts of this nature, the focus should be on developing our FID capabilities, not on providing U.S. forces to do the fighting.  In other words, don't stand up a wing of aircraft that are U.S. owned and operated, instead increase the ability of the U.S. to train others to own and operate their own aircraft.  And yes, whoever does this (6th SOS in the case of the AF) should absolutely operate some of these aircraft.

And URR, we hate the bus driver uniform as much as anyone else...that's why those of us that matter (Ops and Maintenance) wear it as little as possible.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

"<span>we hate the bus driver uniform as much as anyone else"</span>

Ich verstehen.  I feel your pain.  You know, the best dress uniform you had was the first one.  The "Uxbridge 1682 Blue" uniform.  Named because it was produced about 7/10 of a mile from the house I grew up in. (Uxbridge, MA) The mill burned down, unfortunately, in 2007.

Darned shame.  You should go back to that uniform.  Uxbridge could use the business.

Redeye80 said...

Maybe I should invoke my minority status and start a business to build new OV-10s or maybe P-51s.  Anybody got a spare $100M?

Andrewdb said...

test

Andrewdb said...

Mike, from your comments I am wondering if the AF is, like the Navy, worried about the future and China. Is this the case? I ask because I honestly don't know. The alternative is that they just (and always) want more, better, and faster Fighters.

The Army and Marines seem too busy with the current land war in Asia to be thinking much ahead (or maybe they are still listening to McArthur?).  Although even there I think the pendulum is beginning to swing a little away from light infantry.  That may just be a function that there isn't any way the pendulum could swing further towards light infantry.  The "terrible twenties" won't just be a Navy issue  - the AF and Army also need (or want) heavy equipment.

PS - you and I are the last ones that should use the word "butthurt" in a public forum.

Mike M. said...

No, they are managerial.  Ditch DOD-5000, the laundry list of Congressional mandates, and the current systems engineering spec-obsession and you could get something done.

USAF Mike said...

Absolutely.  We're working (in theory...as much as either service is working, anyway) with the Navy on AirSea Battle.  We're just as concerned as the Navy, if not more so, about area denial/anti-access strategies being pursued by certain nations not particularly friendly to the U.S. (Iran and China pop to the top of the list).   I'll save the in depth discussion for another forum, but yes, we're concerned with these strategies because in a nutshell, all they have to be able to do is make it cost prohibitive for us to operate in their space.  We don't have to be able to win in neutral airspace (or ocean, in the case of the Navy), we have to be able to provide a credible enough deterrent to convince them that we can ruin their day, in their own airspace/ocean, that whatever shenanigans they're thinking about starting aren't worth it.

So in short, yes, we are absolutely worried about the future and China.  I won't get started on our version of the "terrible twenties," but suffice to say that we're in at least as bad of shape as the Navy.  Of all the major functions of the AF, the only one that isn't going to be severely hit in the next 10-20 years is airlift, and that's limping along only because we keep buying C-17s and C-130s.

USAF Mike said...

To add, if we were just interested in new and better fighters, all we'd be concerned with are F-22s...for AirSea Battle type stuff, you need a) tankers and b) strategic bombers (particularly with the tyranny of distance in the Pacific).  We're concerned (at least as much as we can be regarding the strategic bomber with the current environment in the Pentagon) about both of them, among many other things.  (And yes, many of the problems with these programs are of our own doing...we make just as many mistakes, if not more so, as the Navy when it comes to procurement.)

And good point about butthurt.

Casey Tompkins said...

...Here we go again... :)

Cost to build a new plant. Cost to train the workers. Cost to upgrade the engines. Cost to upgrade the electronics. Cost to meet modern environmental regulations. Cost to meet new safety regulations. Not even going to mention cost of training pilots and developing logistical support for the aircraft.

And you're going to do this when there are at least a half-dozen modern, up-to-date, in-production choices available!?

While we're at it, let's re-introduce M-14s for the infantry... *DONT_KNOW*

Casey Tompkins said...

But they're also not in production... :)

Casey Tompkins said...

ARRRGH.

I had very nice post to put up, but forgot about the 'Phib's 3000-character limit.

Clicked on "post," got DING (error message about 3000-character limit), and NO POST.

Sheesh.  Couldn't even Alt-left-arrow back to previous screen.

Anyway.

Sid, the first Mustang was rolled out (without engine) in about 139 days after contract approval. Not 90. Add a couple months before engine install and first flight. Add more time for the P-51A. Add more for the P-51B (definitive Merlin-engined model). Etc. The Mustang took several years to develop as an effective weapon.

Add to that the far lower levels of reliability WW2 craft compared to today. Back then, 200 to 300 losses per 100,000 flights was normal. Today "unreliable" craft have loss rates around 12 per 100,000. Back in WW2 we lost more aircraft to non-combat causes than combat causes. You want to continue that tradition? Then continue with "classic" slide rule & paper designs.

That's not to mention far more stringent requirements with respect to armaments and electronics, the latter especially. That's also not to mention airframe design requirements. Back in 1940, flush rivets were bleeding-edge high-tech. These days we have composite surfaces closely mated to extraordinarily close tolerances. That's why modern fighter craft are so much more effective than WW2 designs.

There's a lot of gold-plating going on, yes, but todays designs require far more R&D than do WW2 designs, which could be assmbled by semi-skilled riveters.
Out of curiosity, just which aircraft designs of the past (say) forty years do you consider to be "<span>mediocre junk," anyway? The F-14? F-15? F-16? Not the F-18, I hope. :) Never mind, that would be Lex, not 'Phib. Heh.
</span>

The F-22 and F-35 are behind budget because they were Cold War designs set back by the end of the Cold War. While the fly-away cost of the aircraft may seem high (i.e. "over budget") that's due to Congress' mucking about with production runs. The budget numbers generated at the time were reasonable, given the expected purchase runs.

Given that the most obvious examples of what you describe come from the Navy (LCS) and the Army (FCS Crusader), I would like to hear of equivalent examples from aviation procurement.

Casey Tompkins said...

Screw the B-2s. We need more flying trucks, like the BUFF.

Damn Spirits need to be re-skinned after every flight just to maintain stealth, and to date we've never come even close to needing their capability. We've been using them to deliver SDBs, fer crying out loud. Even the B-1s cost too much, compared to the B-52s. Last I heard/read the BUFFs were around 85% availability compared to around 52% for the Lancer.

The B-1 & B-2 are the new dreadnoughts. Most advanced, powerful ships ever designed, but too damned expensive to put into harm's way. Go back and review WW1 naval history.

Casey Tompkins said...

Sorry, stupid question, but what's wrong with the C-130? Short/medium-range battlefied semi, although some would call it a battlefield truck these days.

Southern Air Pirate said...

Casey,

They are bring back the M-14 for the Infantry. The US Army, SOCOM, and even the USMC were all snagging out of National Guard Armories and reserve armories XM-21's and M-14's to use as anti-sniper and general door kicker rifle. Since the 7.62mm round is better at putting the bad guys down. It was getting so bad for want of the M-14 that according to an article I read in American Rifleman about three years ago, the DoD was sniffing around with Springfield Armory to contract build a small number along with spares specifically for usage in theater and in Afghanistan. I don't remember what happened to that rumor, and by google-fu is failing me. For the in-between time, though more then a few NG and Reserve units are buying up the SA's SOCOM 16 version or the standard M1A with a synthenic stock for temporary duty. Here are some photo examples, One, two, three, four, five, six, 

Southern Air Pirate said...

You keep bringing up the need to build/tool factories, add in additional avionices, upgrade the engines, etc that all would be factored into the costs of re-starting a production line. You also mention half a dozen up-to-date in production choices, where in the US are they? What are they? Nearly all of the current crop of COIN aircraft are manufactured out of CONUS. The T-6 Texan, which is based off the EMB314 is a license production version, there are a slew of other licensed civilian versions or trainer versions of some popular COIN aircraft right now in production in the US. The license fees for those aircraft don't allow for militarization of them. To do so, would violate the license agreements, bring lawyers into court and cost the taxpayers $$$. Meanwhile the cost of that compared to re-starting a line or even updating an aircraft that they still have the tooling/jigs/templetes for might be considerably less. The hardest part about updating the avionics in an aircraft is the wiring. Even on something as small as a C182 there can be something close to a mile worth of wiring going to/fro on everything. So most of the time to save turn around when new avionics come out, companies will include new connectors for the wires and modify thier boxes a little bit to fit the space and racks. New engines aren't always an issue either. The classic P&W R2800 Double Wasp radial fit everything from the F6F up to the DC-6. The last major aircraft to get them prior to that line going out of business was the Candair CL-215 water bomber, which was introduced in 1969, about nine years after P&W quit making the R2800. Now most of the spare parts are coming from salvage yards, but there has also sprung up a cottage industry to feed the warbird and racer sets with parts and even complete rebuilds with new manufactured parts. Most of these parts are coming from in house. I would also suggest you take a look around at the civilian market and see what has happened in some of the GA world as engines have died off. 9 times out of 10 the company that has produced the older engine, makes a newer engine that is designed to fit in the same space, or only with some small frame modifications fit in the same space. That is how some of the older radials engined aircraft have had a chance to stick around for a while is the operators have bought updated engines or replaced the engines with turboprops that fit the same space and only some limited airframe modifications.

USAF Mike said...

Nothing's wrong with the C-130...that's why we're buying more of the brand spanking new -J models.

As for the bomb/cruise missile truck argument...depends on what you want/need the aircraft to be able to do.  Additionally, worth considering that a worst case IADS situation in an area denia/anti-access environment would render the BUFF incapable of even approaching the fight to be within range to launch cruise missiles.

B-2 level stealth may be unnecessary, but we're going to want some level of LO in the next strategic bomber we buy...and that's going to increase the price, unfortunately.

Also, be wary of comparing mission capabable rates...I'm pretty sure that the MC rate for the Bone is higher than that and that the ones for the BUFF are a bit lower (although I do believe that the BUFF's is higher than the Bone), but that misses the larger point that the AF has been chronically underfunding maintenance across the force.  This can skew MC rates quite a bit.

USAF Mike said...

All of those M-14 pictures are the full size version, because that's the only one that is still useful today, and only then as a DM/overwatch type rifle...as all those pictures are, hence the scopes on all the rifles (don't know many door kickers with a scope mounted on the rifle for CQB).  A full auto CQB type weapon in 7.62x51 in the hands of the average infantryman is just going to punch holes in the ceiling.  I haven't heard of anyone using the M-14 outside of the DM role.

Also, the T-6 is actually based on the Pilatus PC-9...and it isn't a licensed version, Beechcraft (or more accurately, the holding company that now owns the company formerly known as Beechcraft) outright owns the design now and has already sold an armed version to the Hellenic Air Force (as well as a deal that fell through at the last minute with the Iraqi Air Force), so an armed version wouldn't be a problem.  The only other real front runner in any theoretical COIN aircraft competition is the Super Tucano, and I was unaware of any production line for it set up in the U.S....and in any case, the Brazilians are selling armed versions of them to anyone who wants them, so I doubt an armed version would be an issue there either.

The production lines for all of the ideas people have been kicking around are long shut down, and the tooling/jigs/etc have long since been destroyed.  So yes, the production lines for a wet dream OV-10/P-51/Skyraider COIN aircraft would have to in effect be started up from scratch.  The avionics thing isn't an issue with new manufacture aircraft, as you say, but there's no way a P-51 or a Skyraider or even an OV-10 would be able to support the type of avionics we're talking about here (FLIR, EO, 1760 weapons bus for JDAM/WCMD type weapons, etc.) without extensive modifications.

The engine upgrade thing is a valid point, but that doesn't negate the fact that new production lines cost way more money compared to a new manufacture aircraft from an already existing production line.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

"<span>All of those M-14 pictures are the full size version, because that's the only one that is still useful today, and only then as a DM/overwatch type rifle..."</span>

You definitely gotta get out more.  Marines were scrambling to get their hands on the M-14, because it is more rugged and has far more hitting power than the M-4.  And the Marines don't do the DM thing.  Every Marine a rifleman.  A modernized, lightened (NOT the version with every gizmo some contractor can hang off it) M-14 remains a highly effective weapon.  With a FG stock and 20 round magazine, an M-14 weighs about 20 ounces more than a fully loaded M-16A2.