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In case you missed it, this week the Air Force announced it wants to consolidate its fighter fleet mix from seven different types of fighters to “four… plus one.” Don’t worry, we plan to unpack it next week when all the media speculation subsides. We may do it in the newsletter…or maybe on a podcast?😉
Amazon, food, Germany, and the Army all make an appearance in this week’s newsletter (for unrelated reasons).
Fighters Havin’ Some JASSM
This week the Air Force demoed
Project Strike Rodeo
, loading an F-15E Strike Eagle with five AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs). Previously, for varying reasons, Air Force fighters could only carry two JASSMs.
is largely regarded as the bomb-truck/missile-truck of the fighter world. Its large over-engineered platform is very forgiving, which is useful when hanging large heavy things on it.
is the U.S. military’s primary stand-off weapon. Its unique size, shape, stealth, and sensors allow it to hold just about any target in the world at risk — and its engine and fuel permit the launching aircraft to stand-off at ranges exceeding 600 miles (according to Google).
Instead of regurgitating what the media already covered, we're gonna explain what they haven't. Carrying more weapons is generally a good thing but in this case, it's all about the second and third-order effects. Start with the JASSM capacity math with the Project Strike Rodeo loadout:
3 F-15Es = 1 B-2
4 F-15Es = 1 B-52
5 F-15Es = 1 B-1
The second-order effects are numerous. First, the fighter-option distributes force which distributes risk and eliminates a single point of failure. Second, in the highly-contested scenarios the large, lumbering, defenseless bomber requires a ton of protection to get it to a release point without getting shot down — even at the stand-off ranges JASSM provides.
So, this could actually reduce —
not increase — the size of a strike package and tankers required to execute.
OBTW, using fighters permits forward-staging from dispersed, austere locations…like from highways inside China’s first-island chain. If you’re bad with geography, we got you: that’s roughly 1800 miles closer than the second-island chain where Guam (the Air Force’s primary Pacific bomber base) is located. This is what the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment is all about.
The increased JASSM capacity is especially important with the recent fleet-size reduction of the Air Force’s much-maligned B-1 bombers, the service’s go-to JASSM shooter. This could alleviate concerns about the service accepting risk in the bomber portfolio ahead of the B-21 Raider.
This loadout would work the same for
— JASSM’s anti-ship missile cousin.
Finally, although the test was performed on the F-15E, the work is completely transferrable to the F-15EX should its mission expand in the future. The bottom-line compelling math:
5 fully-loaded F-15EXs = 1 B-1 bomber of JASSM + 10 F-35’s of air-to-air missiles
In That Number
The Army recently disclosed the range of its land-based
Long Range Hypersonic Weapon
(LRHW) as “greater than” 1,725 miles. LRHW is the biggest stick in the Army’s family of new Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) and shares a common booster and glide body with the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike weapon.
Previously the Army claimed a Mach 5 1,400-mile range, but it’s also been asking for over $3 billion to field the LRHW by 2023. Sounds like the makings of a big bet.
During World War II, which of the following did the US government ban?
ice cream sundaes
This year’s decision on the Minuteman ICBM
is likely to
shape US nuclear policy
(and the Air Force budget) for decades. The lines are being drawn between three camps: the Extenders, the Replacers, and the Divestors. The Extenders want to keep the ICBM in service longer, even though the systems are 51-years old and counting. The Replacers want to fund the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent to the tune of $264 billion. The Divestors prefer to get rid of the missile and reduce the nuclear triad to a dyad, placing more demands on bombers and subs.
The Air Force’s effort to retire the RQ-4 Global Hawk
enters its ninth season, but this may be the series finale. Right now, there is legislation blocking the divestment that has some key stipulations about a “suitable replacement capability in place and available.” Last week, for the first time, the Air Force leadership hinted publicly they are on that path, and it’s a
penetrating ISR capability
. If Air Force leaders can disclose to Congress behind closed doors what the plan is (and convince them), expect to see some language to permit the Air Force some flexibility to start shifting funds and drawing down the RQ-4 fleet. (read: RQ-4 legislation relief = a replacement is about ready to see the light of day)
Space Force (still) wants to get into the tactical satellite imagery business...
which sounds like a
to long-time readers by now. Meanwhile, the Army continues its fight to
build and control
its own soldier-controlled tactical satellite imagery constellation, despite the OSD directive to shift service-owned space programs to the Space Force.
They Said It
“I see high costs as an existential threat to the F-35 as an enterprise. And that cost happens not just in development, not just in production, but in sustainment as well.”
— Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, Program Executive Officer for the F-35
AI is going to change the world — someday. Right now, the struggle is sifting through the hype and BS to see just when that “someday” will be. Luckily, the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence published the AI Index Report of 2021 to give us a pulse. Don’t read the report though,
zoom in here
to see 15 charts that summarize the current state of AI.
- The Air Force’s B-21 Raider is (hopefully) one year away from its inaugural flight
- University of Central Florida engineers discovered a way of stabilizing detonation for hypersonic propulsion that would enable sustained Mach 16 flight
- HawkEye recently partnered with Amazon to incorporate machine learning algorithms into HawkEye’s analytics from its maritime domain awareness constellation (detects VHF/UHF, push-to-talk, SATCOM, radar, beacons, etc.)
- German defense leaders admit there is no firm financing plan for Europe’s sixth-gen Future Combat Air System, the 2040 capability that’s already over budget and behind the timeline
- The Army is pedaling fast to field a Stryker vehicle outfitted with a 50-kilowatt high-energy laser defense system next year
- IBM introduces the world’s first 2-nm node chip, which would either boost performance by 45 percent or use 75 percent less energy while maintaining the same performance level as the next-best 7-nm chips
- The Space Force reveals a space-based GMTI program will replace its small deteriorating fleet of E-8 JSTARS
- Lockheed’s Precision Strike Missile reached 250 miles this week in an Army test, with a longer one planned in August
- German startup Wingcopter debuts a new autonomous delivery drone designed to complete three separate deliveries per flight
- Amazon Web Services helped the Air Force demonstrate edge computing with artificial intelligence and machine learning during the latest ABMS demo
- Iceye unveils new wide-area Synthetic Aperture Radar imaging that captures high-resolution imagery in 10,000 square kilometer swaths at a time
- Germany’s Rheinmetall is planting roots in Michigan, the heart of American vehicle-manufacturing territory, showing it’s serious about winning a portion of the numerous US Army and Marine Corps vehicle competitions. #boldstrategycotton
- The Navy is asking industry for next-generation electronic warfare technologies that can be integrated on surface warships in the next five years
- The F-22 continues to make the news when it successfully off-boards its IFDL datalink, even though it’s been demoed going back as far as 2008
- The GAO recommends the Pentagon fix itself if it ever wants to institutionalize PNT alternatives to GPS
- Israeli company Xtend is tapped to provide their small indoor Skylord Xtender drones to Navy, Marine Corps, and Army special operations for confined area/subterranean operations
- UK’s OneWeb low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband operator is buying Texas-based TrustComm to create a new subsidiary focused on DoD contracts (like an AFRL project to create space-based broadband for the Artic)
- SpaceX and Google team up to enhance Starlink’s 1,600-satellite (and growing) constellation computing by placing ground stations within Google’s data centers.
- Indonesia’s PT Lundin built a tank that's also a boat and named it... Tank Boat
- Concur Technologies is in negotiations with the Pentagon to replace the Defense Travel System. To get an idea of how terrible DTS is compared to modern solutions, the new software is estimated to save the DoD 10 million labor hours per year. #saveus
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Sliced Bread was
banned in 1943
as a way to control the cost of bread being passed down to customers (the price of flour had soared). It was extremely unpopular, short-lived, and didn’t even work.