Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Facing the truth about what we want the Australian Navy to be

Australia’s Navy might only be good for other-than-war missions. The reason? The threats growing in the Pacific Rim are just way too dangerous for RAN surface ships to survive.

The extreme threat will come from super-sonic capable cruise missiles. And while there may be treaties and some defensive measures aboard ship, I don’t think we can expect legacy surface warship thinking and legacy warship procurement, to provide the defensive value we need.

But what about those super long range surface-to-air missiles on our “Air Warfare Destroyer” and U.S. Navy ships? Answer: radar horizon. The clock of threat discovery starts running at about 24 to 30 miles out. The threat will be just above the waves; super-sonic. The target ship combat information center is now in a relatively slow human decision cycle. And, the victim might not even be at battle stations.

These super-sonic cruise missiles proliferating into the region—Indonesia just got their first batch—can be used against ships and land targets.

These high-speed cruise missiles from other nations will be fired from aircraft, ships, submarines and mobile launchers on land.

Australia has no plan to purchase high-speed cruise missiles so it will not even have the option of parity. Secondly, it has no reasonable air power plan to low the risk against these threats. Finally, Australia’s all-important submarine procurement plan is in a complete shambles.

With that, Australia might only be capable of fielding a navy that can perform low-intensity warfare and peace-keeping missions. Since there are no great strategic thinkers and planners ready to exercise true leadership in this area of interest, accepting reality now may save us a lot of wasted efforts.

One of those wasted efforts is the troubled Air Warfare Destroyer project at $8-plus billion. Or should we still continue with the fantasy? Is that more pleasant?

P-800 Oniks


Klub (terminal-only super-sonic)

The other side of the carbon debate

For those that want another opinion of that advert, Stephen Grenville on the Interpreter Blog has a good response with "The new carbon tax ad gets it right". If you want the carbon tax as a plan of action, his opinion makes good sense.

I think it is going to happen regardless. However, the political point scoring is far from over.

2 more Australian soldiers killed. What strategy?

Two more Australian soldiers are dead in Afghanistan.

That is 3 in a short time; along with more wounded. Rather than start with the bare facts, the war-cheerleaders in the news media start out the piece by stating how the Prime Minister states Australia is committed to the mission in Afghanistan. Is “Australia” really all for Operation: USELESS DIRT? I’m not so sure. Certainly both the mainstream war parties are for the mission. The troops do what they are told and carry out the mission to the best of their ability; even if the strategy is grossly flawed.

“One Digger was murdered and another killed in a chopper crash in a black day for the Australian army in Afghanistan.

The first death occurred at a forward operating base in the Baluchi-Chora Valley when a rogue Afghan national army solider shot dead an Australian lance-corporal as they performed guard duty together.

The second, from Victoria, was badly wounded and later died from his injuries after an Australian army CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in Zabul Province. The victim was a qualified helicopter pilot, but had not been flying the chopper when it crashed.”

Vietnam: just on a different scale. Pakistan (Laos and Cambodia for the historian) is also not secure. It is pretty hard to win hearts and minds of a tribal society. It is even more difficult when the mission provides no valid security for Australia. For instance, 911, the reason to get into this mess, was caused by poor U.S. visa control and poor airline and airport security. The initial reason to go to Afghanistan as stated by the then U.S. President was to get Osama. That mission is over.

How many troops is our brave Prime Minister willing to sacrifice for a fool’s errand?

It is rather interesting that Houston just testified to the validity of Australia’s involvement in this war. Maybe at least if someone is going to be running this side-show then they need real Army experience? Sorry, but the political war hawks along with Houston, don’t give me the confidence of being war leaders.

I don’t think Houston has a grasp on the lack of quality of the Afghan security forces.

Then there is the issue of nation building. Why would I or anyone else want to contribute any money to a society that thinks child molestation is a sport?

Australia does not have any war leaders. This is unfortunate for our soldiers that ultimately pay for strategic folly. Just because they rightly volunteer to defend our country does not give the executive leadership the right to misuse them. It would be nice to see this discussion explored in the public. Maybe by doing that, we can save some lives.

A new episode of Defence CSI

What should a future defence white paper look like; one that works?

I don’t think many in Australia know, but here is some advice from a U.S. Army guy 2 years after the scene of the crime that was the 2009 defence white paper. Defence CSI if you will.

Defence white paper wrong, says US officer


Defence strategy 'out of touch' with region

Certainly, with a culture of non-accountability, a broken procurement and sustainment system and an industry that can’t trust government, there is hope for Defence? I don’t know.

I do know that it isn’t worthwhile talking about much else until we dissolve the Defence Material Organisation (DMO) and give procurement planning (all aspects) back to the uniform services.

For Australia, that by itself is a strategy. Thinking of anything else before that is fixed won’t be very useful.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Good expanation of Why the Cate Blanchett ad sucks

Sam explains it well in his post today, "Why the Cate Blanchett ad sucks."

"Critics of this new ad campaign have missed the point. To me, the main problem is not Cate Blanchett (though this argument does have some merit), but the 'make big companies pay' line at the beginning of the ad. It's a line that reveals some crude ideological prejudices among the coalition of green groups and unions backing the campaign; it's also curiously retro in its politics.

The problem for the 'Say Yes' campaign is that a large percentage of its potential audience actually works for those big companies, many others work as private contractors to them, and the rest consume their products and services. Setting up the debate as a retread of the class war between capital and labour ignores all that interdependence."

No matter what position one holds in this debate over carbon and climate change, the old messages (maybe even mine?) might not be especially helpful.

More on Australia's air warfare destroyer woes

From what is now known, the Air Warfare Destroyer project is almost certainly on its way to the infamous project of concern list.

'More than 2400 faults' in data on $8bn destroyers.

The he-said, she-said is on-going. When reading through all of this just remember that it was the responsibility of the Defence bureaucracy to properly evaluate the risk, do their homework and set it up for the Defence Minister to put pen to paper or reject it as unworkable.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

We should worry about our flag ranks

After reading this,"Officials: Military may deploy F-35 early", I am now certain some have been promoted way above their capability.

Just the opening paragraph should make one wonder.

"The military may deploy the F-35 joint strike fighter before the tri-service combat jet formally achieves initial operational capability, top uniformed officials told Congress earlier this week."

The F-16 became a largely successful program. The F-35 appears to be not only one of the most expensive but one of the most complex and faulty programs. When the F-16 was officially put into an active squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, it was still significantly under-tested. Various documentation provided by the test community was incomplete and not always very clear. The pilots of the first operational squadron of F-16s became test pilots by any other name even though they were not qualified in that special skill. Pilots died in that first squadron simply because the USAF was in a rush to get the jet into service.

What do you think will happen if the F-35 is rushed into service before proper testing is done? The officials mentioned in the article of course claim it will be safely done. That was probably the same claim used by those that made the decision to rush the F-16 into service. CYA; in words anyway.

The F-35 program doesn't have a working helmet visual interface and does have a stack of other non-trivial problems.

What else is different in this F-16/F-35 comparison? Back then we had way more capable and qualified engineers working on USAF problems. Think about that as the DOD tries to make the F-35 flying piano work.

DOD has too many flag ranks. I suggest we start by getting rid of those guys. They are too dangerous to feed and house.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Miss my guns....

I miss my handguns. Had a Colt Combat Commander .45; It was a lot of fun. Kind of similar to this.

How different is the new destroyer from its Spanish roots? More than you may think



>Photo—2007--Spin the Roulette wheel. Australia's Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Russ Shalders, Minister for Defense Dr Brendan Nelson, and Chief of Defense Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston with model of new Air Warfare Destroyer.<

The Air Warfare Destroyer warship project that the then Defence Minister Nelson signed off on back in 2007 isn’t as simple as just throwing a few Australian specifications at a Spanish design. It is very high-risk.

Australia is not just trying to build an existing Spanish warship design. There are a lot of changes. More displacement; a lot more space needed for crew quarters; provisions; helicopter requirements; weapons systems accessories and more. How much more? It is very possible that it could be way more than our current situation of poor defence project management skills can handle. Consider the list at the bottom that shows the difference between the Spanish design and what Australia really wants for its Air Warfare Destroyer now languishing in project management hell.

All that, and as we now know, the project leaders can’t even produce the basic hull without serious trouble.

A proper Defence bureaucracy would have recognized the huge risk involved before a contract was even signed. Now, it is too late.

See also, today’s update from The Australian. The current government was warned about additional problems with the build back in February.


The Hobart Class - Differences from the F100 Class

Navantia’s F104 ship design is the basis for the AWD. The F104 baseline is being updated for AWD to include;

  • Key F105 features,
  • Australian Combat system modifications, and
  • Selected platform upgrades that are unique to the Hobart Class.

These features are summarised as follows:

F105 Modifications
  • More efficient and powerful diesel engines coupled with improved fuel tank arrangements will provide increased range,
  • The inclusion of a bow thruster will improve manoeuvrability in harbours;
  • Improvements to underway replenishment arrangements for manpower efficiencies;
  • Changes to funnel tops to improve the ship’s air wake; and
  • Bunk size increases to improve habitability.
AWD Combat System Modifications
  • The Hobart Class will use the Aegis Weapon System Baseline 7.1and the AN/SPY-1D(V) Phased Array Radar.
  • The Under Sea Warfare capability will be upgraded by:
    • Enhanced Anti Submarine Warfare capabilities and the addition of a torpedo defence system;
    • ASW decoys for torpedo defence;
    • Enhanced undersea communications;
    • Integration of the MU90 torpedo.

Other changes include:

  • Modification of the MK45 gun and Gun Fire Control System, including provision for Extended Range Munitions (ERM);
  • Addition of the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC);
  • Modification of the IFF UPX-29 to the current tactical standard;
  • Addition of an Horizon Search Radar (HSR) for improved anti-ship missile defence;
  • Upgrades to the Surface-to-Surface Missile System to improve target selectivity in congested water, littoral and coastal operations;
  • Upgrades to the Very Short Range Defence system to improve its integration and utility against asymmetric surface threats;
  • Upgrades to the Electronic Warfare system, including the addition of electronic attack capabilities;
  • Addition of X/Ka Satcom and INMARSAT Fleet Broadband and INMARSAT C capability;
  • Improved Infrared Search and Track capabilities;
  • Improved Electro-Optical Surveillance capability;
  • Addition of Nulka Launchers for active missile decoys;
AWD-Unique Platform Modifications

The ship’s displacement will be increased to 7,000 tonnes for an improved service life margin.

Cold weather operation will be improved to allow for deployment into Australia’s southern waters.

The hangar will be modified to accommodate a range of helicopters.

Other modifications include:

  • Increased total cold room capacity for improved endurance;
  • Incorporation of a fixed gas detection system to warn of the presence of harmful gases in compartments where personnel exposure risks exist;
  • Modification of the 220V/50Hz network to 240V/50 Hz, incorporation of Residual Current Devices (RCD) and the Australian pin configuration for general purpose outlets, and
  • Modification of existing stowage, and increases in the overall number of stowage facilities, for thermal protective suit and life raft containers.

(Source: Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance)

Friday, May 27, 2011

They couldn't sustain it, so they retired it, HMAS Manoora decommissioned

Farewell HMAS Manoora.

Retired a year early as a monument to the incompetence of the Defence Material Organisation to properly maintain ships. Yes, the Navy's future may beckon, but what that turns out to be is a great unknown.

This from Defence-
HMAS Manoora retired as Navy’s future beckons

After 17 years of dedicated service, the Royal Australian Navy’s amphibious transport ship, HMAS Manoora, was decommissioned at her homeport of Garden Island, in Sydney, today.

Following a time honoured tradition, the Australian White Ensign was lowered for the last time and handed to Commanding Officer, Commander Stephen Dryden, RAN.

Commander Dryden said Decommissioning the vessel was a bitter sweet moment.

“It is always sad to farewell a ship like Manoora, which has provided significant amphibious capability to the Australian Defence Force over her many years of service,” said Commander Dryden.

“Manoora has proven herself to be versatile and resilient, supporting humanitarian aid and disaster missions in the Solomon Islands and East Timor and undertaking active service in the Middle East as part of Operations Slipper and Falconer.”

“Her hard work has paved the way for the future of the Navy by providing an understanding of how to carry out amphibious and expeditionary warfare,” said Commander Dryden.

“Today it is also important to acknowledge the hard work of the current and former crews who have called Manoora home. Their dedication has enabled the platform to respond to situations in war and peace, whenever tasked by Government to do so.”

Manoora is a helicopter capable amphibious transport ship with a 40 bed hospital, which has seen an army contingent embedded as part of her crew.

Project of Concern cover-up with the Air Warfare Destroyer project?

The troubles with building new warships here in Australia (mentioned yesterday) has some new he-said/she-said that has appeared in today’s The Australian.

The new article is called, “Overdue and over budget: $8bn destroyer plan in crisis”. I think it is a must-read. It is written in the style of high drama. We (as the public) have seen so many Defence project goof-ups before it has to really impress to get the attention; or so it seems.

I don’t know the author of the story in The Australian but it is by Cameron Stuart and it has the word “Exclusive” by his name. The story also states that Defence only made this recent news about warship building public because his paper had the scoop.

Mr. Gumley, the head of the DMO is mentioned in Mr. Stuart’s article by name. With rank comes responsibility. Maybe someday we can actually expect this to happen.

“The Australian understands BAE has accused DMO chief Stephen Gumley of making exaggerated claims about BAE's culpability, and that relations between several key partners in the project have become badly strained.”

Surprisingly—or not—the root problem points back to planning in the Defence Material Organisation (DMO). I pointed to some claims of bad DMO relations with industry the other day.

One charge being pushed is that the Air Warfare Destroyer project was kept off the recent update to the project of concern list even though known delays should have put it there. If true, this is serious.

Still, I haven’t seen anyone put in jail for misleading our elected officials, which does happen often; year after year. Capability, sustainment, budget, expectations; mostly it is a kind of fraud by the Defence bureaucracy to keep their phony baloney jobs. In Australia you can spin stories about Defence to elected officials in hearings and get away with it.

I propose we rename the Defence Material Organisation. I suggest a good name for it would be, “Project of Concern”.

Canadian DND still misleads the public over the F-35

"Of course it gives me cause for concern," he said. "But ... there are three configurations for the F-35. We are purchasing the conventional takeoff model. Much of the criticism has been directed at the vertical-takeoff model. ... We're not buying that plane."

It's good to be king.

Define "much".

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Faith is not quality Mr. Davies--ASPI opinon on the F-35 is unsupportable

This wouldn't be so bad if it was just one guy with an opinion.

The problem is that this one guy does taxpayer funded reports that Defence and politicians--in their own ignorance on the topic--seriously consider.

That is a big problem when what Mr. Davies states about air power is mostly wrong.

Over the years in hearings before our elected officials, the media, think-tanks and so on, one will see mention about maintaining air superiority.

The F-35 has not shown any proof that it is capable of doing this. So the question should be; why are we not an intelligent purchaser of military equipment? In other words; we should see a completed go-to-war, fully tested F-35 before we make a buying decison. One of these may not exist for many years.

A total indifference to what is real? It sure seems so. Consider this which is quite different from what ASPI writes about the F-35.

(note some of the following links are PDF files)



Independent analyses on JSF affordability have been done. A summary of earlier analyses (circa 2002-06) may be found here. The attached file (USMC_DoN_2008.pdf) provides a summary of costs for the DoN JSF for the projected FYDP (pre-WEC).

Australia terminated evaluations under the Air6000 New Air Combat Capability Project and entered the JSF SDD Program back in 2002. The Chief of the Air Force advised the unit price for the JSF aircraft was going to be “…about forty million dollars”.

Current Australian Defence and JSF Program Office Plans have initial procurements of Block 3 F-35A JSF aircraft in the 2012-2014 period.

The results of risk based analyses of JSF costing data from the pre-World Economic Crisis (WEC) era have been provided to Defence. These show the JSF unit price would likely be around US$168 million (-10%/+30% variance range) in the 2012-14 timeframe.

Using the same methods of analysis, the price estimated for the F-22A Raptor is around US$136 million.

Recent articles published by the IEEE put the unit price figure for the F-22A Raptor at US$137 million.

In summary, in 2014 on a per unit procurement cost basis, the Block 3 F-35A JSF would likely cost as much, if not more, than the F-22A Raptor would cost.

Opening Questions:

  1. In US dollars, what was the pre-WEC estimate of the unit procurement cost (UPC) for the Block 3 Configuration F-35A JSF aircraft planned to be delivered in 2014?
  2. Does this price estimate include any dollar amounts to cover any developmental or procurement or other risks?
  3. If so, what are these risks and what amounts of money, in 2014 US dollars, have been allocated (in cost per aircraft terms, please) to cover each of these risks?



Lethality is measure of how much physical damage a combat aircraft can inflict upon the enemy. It can be measured, in the tactical context, by the number and size of munitions carried, and in the strategic context by the same plus the range to which such weapons can be delivered and the resulting effectiveness.

With survivability dictating internal carriage, the JSF is constrained to a pair of weapon bays, each sized around a single MK.84 size bomb, and a single AMRAAM.

Since the start of the SDD, a progressive reduction in the range of weapon types intended to be integrated and cleared has been observed, with only a small fraction of the initially stated weapon types now planned for SDD.

The world has moved on since the JSF was first specified, but somehow those defining capability requirements have failed to keep pace, if not gone backwards due to CAIV.

This is a new world where the aphorism ‘the quick and the dead’ applies.

Opening Questions:

  1. Why has the range of weapon types intended under SDD been so dramatically scaled back?
  2. Is not moving the certification of the remaining weapons out of the SDD Phase and into the Operational Phase what, in keeping with modern day Risk Management Standards such as AS/NZS4360:2004, should be called Extreme Risk?
  3. The weapon bay configuration of the JSF with its canted carriage (about 5 degrees nose in to the centreline, I believe) and forward centroid location (both mass and aerodynamic) relative to the aircraft’s CoG range, also presents significant risk to the carriage and clearance of weapons from these bays.
  4. How is LM planning to mitigate all such risks to the clearance of weapons from these bays?
  5. How does the JSF Program intend to accommodate internal carriage of more than two AAMs, and how many will the aircraft be able to ultimately carry internally and deliver?
  6. Will each of the JSF weapon bays accommodate the carriage and delivery of 4 x SDB + an AAM and, if so, when will this be certificated?
  7. What are the in flight opening/closing times for the weapon bay doors?



Survivability is a measure of what fraction of a combat fleet remains alive in a given threat environment, flying repeated sorties over a sustained period of time.

The survivability paradigm for the JSF was defined around the ability to survive in a battlefield interdiction environment where the aircraft would be confronted by medium range and short range SAMs, and AAA systems, assuming that hostile fighters, long range SAMs and supporting radars will have been already destroyed by the F-22 fleet.

The JSF’s stealth performance, reflected in shaping, was optimised around this model, with independent technical analyses showing that the aircraft will have viable stealth in the front sector, but much weaker stealth performance in the beam and aft sectors.

The evolving market for radars and surface to air missiles has, however, taken a different turn to that anticipated when the JSF program was launched.

Highly mobile long range SAMs, supported by high power-aperture radars, have been far more popular in the market than the short and medium range weapons which the JSF was defined to and built to defeat.

Opening Questions:

  1. What threat Surface to Air Missile systems and supporting radars was the JSF’s stealth capability modelled against, and which was it not modelled against? For your convenience, a summary of the threat systems may be found here.
  2. What threat combat aircraft types and supporting systems was JSF’s stealth and aerodynamic capability modelled against, and which was it not modelled against? A range of the threat combat aircraft and supporting system may be found here.
  3. Why did the JSF Program discard the flat lower centre fuselage design of the X-35, and replace it with the complex curvature design of the SDD F-35, given that even the basic RCS modelling shows this would adversely impact the stealthiness of the aircraft when illuminated from its side aspect?
  4. Why does the JSF Program believe that opposing threat systems will not use all of their capabilities to survive when confronted by the JSF in combat?
  5. Where is the JSF escape system (pilot ejection system) in its certification program and when do you expect the system to be certificated?
  6. What will be the envelope of the JSF pilot ejection system?
  7. What will be the maximum speed at which the JSF canopy will be certificated for bird strikes?



Over the past 30 years, there have been various attempts to reduce the life cycle costs of operating military aircraft. Options strongly supported by Industry have encouraged the transfer of risk and responsibilities to Industry. Such options have included Total System Performance Responsibility (TSPR) contracting models, Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracting models and various other outsourcing contract models.

With noted exceptions, the military customers’ satisfaction with such arrangements and their outcomes has been less than optimal. One recurring series of complaint has been the consequential deskilling of the military while cost overall have not reduced and, from those of the pre-deskilling era, observations and concerns about increasing loss of control of assets leading to truly sovereign risks for the clients – loss of the most basic of sovereign controls of air combat assets – the aircraft’s configuration.

The latest forms of addressing life cycle costs are the performance based agreement (PBA) models and such things as the Autonomic Logistics Model of the JSF Program – elements of both having been proposed to the P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft community and, more recently, the C-130J Hercules Strategic Air Lift Aircraft community.

Opening Questions:

  1. What is the estimated total cost per flying hour, in USD/FH, for the Block 3 F-35A JSF in 2014 for a per aircraft flying rate of 350 hrs per annum and a fleet size of 100 aircraft performing all training missions and roles that achieves a level of preparedness able to fully utilise the full JSF capabilities, with repeatability?
  2. What are the JSF capabilities, training sequences and rates of effort (ROEs) used to determine the answer to the preceding question?
  3. Which organisation or organisations will have the ability and capabilities to control and change the technical configurations of the JSF and its airborne and ground based systems?
  4. By all accounts, including using some of the tools you and I were trained in at USNTPS, the approach speed of the F-35A is inordinately high – reportedly 180 KCAS. Is this the case?
  5. If so, what modelling/simulations have been done to determine the levels of risk and hazards such a high approach speed presents to the operations and support of the F-35A JSF?
  6. What is the means of controlling the temperatures of the ElectroHydroStatic Actuators (EHSA) used to drive the F-35 JSF control surfaces and are these actuators rated for a continuous duty cycle at a loading above 100% of the JSF operational loading? If not, what is their duty cycle rating?

Finally and more generally, the results of analyses undertaken by a number of domain experts around the world do not support the notion that the JSF will not be able to meet its original specification. What they do indicate is, due to the effects of management decisions under paradigms like Cost as An Independent Variable (CAIV); the transfer of risks from the SDD Phase to the Operational Phase; and, the extensive deskilling that has occurred in Departments and Ministries of Defence around the Western World, due to the end of the Cold War ‘peace dividend’, this specification will most likely not be met till around Block 6/7, circa 2020 or later.

However, where these independent analyses converge is full agreement that the original JSF JORD specification and the specification to which the aircraft has been designed and is being built are based on threat assessments from an era past. This combined with the constraining nature of the original air vehicle specification and the on going effects of expeditious management decisions made under CAIV, mean the overall capabilities of the JSF will have been surpassed by the middle of the next decade, if not earlier.

In summary, all the indicators point to a penultimate question -

Will the F-35 JSF be obsolete before its time?

If not, then why not, given where the JSF Program is in its schedule and overall life cycle compared with where the developing threats are in theirs?

That being said, there is much reason for a robust and strong debate. We look forward to your answers, along with the supporting data, information and knowledge, at your earliest, in the spirit of working with you to get the best we can for those who fly as our aim, and confidently demonstrating this thesis (or its antithesis) with hard data and facts as the paramount measures of effectiveness of a strong debate.

Faith will not give Australia a proper air power solution. It would be nice if ASPI would consider that when they produce advice with the big label "Analysis" on the first page.

Home industry has to re-work its shipbuilding plan for new warships

Just imagine if this was the project to build the 12 subs that will replace the Collins class.

Home industry has maxed out the amount of skill available to do the work here in Australia for new warships. There will probably be delays.

Australia's new air warfare destroyers (AWDs) are set to run a year late with some construction work to be re-allocated from the stretched Melbourne BAE Systems shipyard to yards in Adelaide and Newcastle.

As well, some work worth millions of dollars will now be performed in Spain rather than Australia.

This will avoid what would have been an even worse delay of two years.

For those in the Defence Material Organisation (DMO), stay with me, these ships are much less complex than subs.

Also, ASPI has seen the light (sort-of) admitting that the 2009 Defence White Paper has serious problems. Along with that, they advise increases in Defence spending should not happen. I agree. Defence spending should only increase if there is a realistic strategic plan.

The U.S. non-answer to the Pacific threat

In unusually candid comments on China’s growing military power, Gen. Carlisle said: “You need only look across the Pacific and see what [China] is doing, not just their air force capability, but their surface-to-air [missile] capability, their ballistic missile capability, their anti-ship ballistic missiles,” and new missiles that can reach U.S. bases in Guam and Japan.

Yeah we can look. Problem is that what DOD and the rest of D.C. propose is a non-answer.

"Adm. Philman said the J-20 rollout is a concern, but with 1,000 test hours on the F-35, the jet is a “far leap ahead from the Chinese fighter that’s flown three times."

Good luck sir.

The F-35 won't be able to fix this. And it isn't just about the J-2x and PAK-FA and surface-to-air threats. If growth technology from the SU-35 gets pumped into the SU-3x series of aircraft and/or SU-35s show up, the F-35 won't be competitive against these threats either.

Then there is the issue of honesty from China. This does not look like a casino.

With that, a more dire threat is the massive amounts of U.S. debt.

We have similar problems to Russian Defence

Russia says a fifth of defense budget stolen

I know how they feel.The project of concern list; same result, slightly different methods.

And then there is the U.S. DOD.

We have a lot in common. Really.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The end of American air dominance with the help of the USAF

And so went the end of American air dominance because of thinking like this...

"We have the same assessment," added Marine Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, that service's deputy commandant for aviation, who was testifying alongside Carlisle. "What's keeping us ahead right now - I think the Joint Strike Fighter and its capabilities will do that."

Speaking to reporters after his testimony, Carlisle added that although he thought Russia and China will eventually get to an operational fifth-generation fighter, they are not remotely close to matching the F-35."

Rico Gates and his great air power knowledge failure

Different day. Same thing. Gates is still clueless about air power.

"The nation must field the F-35 joint strike fighter at a cost that permits large enough numbers to replace the current fighter inventory and maintain a healthy margin of superiority over the Russians and Chinese."

Here is some additional reading for you and your replacement Mr. Gates.

A side-show with no strategy. Our involvement in Libya

Take a look at all the firepower used in this graphic. Imagine if it had a real strategy backing it up? This is a side-show for no practical gain.

Stop wasting my money on stupid conflicts Mr. President. Crazy man Kadaffi is looking more and more like a military genius each and every day. He's still there.

Just think. Someone actually advised the President on this mess. The mission is stupid. Yet if you are going to do something like this, it had to be backed up with ground troops. Once it was determined that this wasn't going to be a "strategy", well, here you are Mr. President. You own this one. All the way. Sorry, that was a motto for the 82nd Airborne Division. My bad.

H/T- CDR Salamander

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Defence can be fixed. Who will help?

General Molan has an interesting write-up over on the Interpreter blog about the same old sad story of Defence management woes.

He brings up the complaints of Mr. Babbage--one of the authors of the 2009 Defefence White Paper--but doesn’t mention that Mr. Babbage’s statements to our elected officials have always been weak in understanding things like net-centric warfare (over-selling it), air power (blessed be the system of systems approach...it will win); you name it. Is Mr. Babbage really someone you want helping to author a Defence White Paper?

General Molan goes on to state this.

“That the Government is, in an underhanded and duplicitous way, shredding the previously announced 2009 defence plan should not surprise any of us. Governments have done this to Defence White Papers since 1976. But this Government has done it faster and more deeply than even Kim Christian Beazley did, which is saying something.”

In some ways, this is well and proper. The Government should treat the 2009 Defence White Paper with all the contempt it is due because it is a laughing stock of a product. It is a rudder that is jammed making us go around in circles; going nowhere fast; chasing our tails. The 2009 Defence White Paper has little worth.

He states that “the retired community is deathly silent”. I disagree. There are a few people that have tried to make a difference. However, if no one listens and the groupthink mode rules the day, no amount of quality analysis will make a difference.

Defence will be gutted simply because there are few that can make sensible plans and few that can advocate change that makes both strategic and affordable sense.

When Australia can demand that the entrenched Defence bureaucracy is held to real account; that proper strategic thought can be put to paper; that institutional groupthink is hunted down and killed, we might be able to make a go of having an ADF worthy of the name.

Battle over the Navy's A-12 Avenger cancellation 20 years ago still not solved

It was big. It was heavy. It was overly complex. It cost a lot of money; and it never flew.

20 years-ago the stealth strike aircraft for the U.S. Navy known as the A-12 Avenger was cancelled by then U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney due to insurmountable problems with the program.

"The A-12 I did terminate. It was not an easy decision to make because it's an important requirement that we're trying to fulfill. But no one could tell me how much the program was going to cost, even just through the full scale development phase, or when it would be available. And data that had been presented at one point a few months ago turned out to be invalid and inaccurate."

Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, 1991.

After the cancellation, the U.S. Navy dusted off the plans for the advanced Hornet--something it previously rejected--and the Super Hornet was born.

Forget lawyers looking over the shoulder of a drone pilot ready to pull the trigger on a dirt insurgent. Big-dollar military industrial complex contracting is were the iron crosses grow for real lawfare.

The legal battle of who should pay what between the contractor and the government for the cancellation of the A-12 still rages on today.

"The Supreme Court unanimously overturned a lower court ruling that would have required Boeing and General Dynamics to repay billions in federal payment, instead sending the 20-year old case over the failed A-12 stealth fighter jet back for further litigation."

The U.S. Government and Lockheed Martin figure that the alleged life of the F-35 program could go out to 2065. If it is cancelled in the coming years--alternatives and all that--this may be true; for the legal fallout anyway. And what historical lessons do you think industry lawyers looked at when they wrote up F-35 contracts for the government to sign? In the war to make bullet-proof contracts, traditionally, who has better lawyers; industry or government?

Defence cutting hazard allowances from the troops?

If this is true, I could think of a lot of places to do more Defence cuts without taking any money away from the pointy end of the spear.

Defence bean counters plan to rip tens of thousands in tax-free pay from overseas-serving personnel.

Details of the new pay scales were due to be released later this week for comment, but the Federal Government last night denied any knowledge of the plan.

Tax-free allowances have been a key sweetener for military personnel forced to spend months away from family and friends working seven-day shifts often in temperatures above 50C.

Oh yeah, and unlike a safe dead-wood job in the DMO or similar, the pointy end of the spear can get shot at, blown up or face numerous other job related hazards not even conceived of by the chairborne rangers.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How dangerous is the Defence Material Organisation to our Defence Industry?

If anyone takes the time to study the Defence Material Organisation (DMO), you will find gross inefficiency.

Certainly the Australian Defence industry thinks so; and worse.

Mr Burns said the Defence Teaming Centre canvassed extensively its 230 member companies to compile a written submission to the Senate's Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into procurement of defence contracts.

Its submission maintains the DMO:

LACKS any capacity to learn from its mistakes;

CANNOT attract the right staff to project manage its projects;

SCARES companies into thinking there will be repercussions if they complain;

HAS no drive or motivation;

TAKES an adversarial approach to companies;

MAKES false allegations against companies.

The DMO has been under attack for its efficiency since last year when it was revealed two Adelaide projects were on a list of 22 which were running up to a decade late; the Collins-class submarine reliability and sustainability project and the Collins-class submarine replacement combat system.

The results above match pretty closely to what I hear from industry people that have to deal with the DMO. Really. How does one make payroll and keep investors happy having to deal with that kind of hostile business environment?

H/T- To a reader for finding this story.

Green bombast all in the news today

The video below is the kind of propaganda pushed by Greenpeace in this part of the world. It is a direct attack on an industry that literally sustains the Australian economy.

Just thought I would mention that while the current government is in the news today bloviating on the man-made global-warming causation theory and the carbon tax con.

We should be happy to throw away $36 billion




Australian industry and Defence senior leadership, along with a variety of politicians are happy to follow the poor 2009 Defence White Paper no matter what.

There will always be work for the over-stressed project of concern list.

U.S. Middle East policy can only go so far as AIPAC

Well, that was quick.

"AIPAC appreciates President Obama's speech today at our annual policy conference in which he reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and the shared values that define both nations. In particular, we appreciate his statement that the U.S. does not expect Israel to withdraw to the boundaries that existed between Israel and Jordan in 1967 before the Six Day War."

When you have to issue a "clarification" to one of your important campaign donors, maybe the message was never properly thought out in the first place. I would say that pretty much covers Obama's Middle East policy as it pertains to Israel. The need for campaign dollars; the need to win the next election and so on. For the U.S., AIPAC is a big part of Middle East Policy. Even if it shouldn't be.

(image 2008 via Flickr-by wordhustlerllcs )

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Arms sales entertainment, the ERC 90

OK, so it might not be IED or RPG resistant but gosh darn, it sure is cute.

Submitted for your entertainment.

Who is misleading the Australian Defence Minister?

It appears the Australian Defence Minister can't get any worthwhile advice about the faulty and overly expensive F-35. Our military has made a contract with the devil and it is going to hell; fast.

Thursday, the U.S. Senate had a bad time receiving the latest troubling news on the F-35. How did Mr. Smith's office respond? With pure spin.

A spokesman for Defence Minister Stephen Smith says the US senate review is "standard stuff" and the cost per unit will be lower as the program goes on.

But he said the cost of the initial 14 planes, at a cost of $3.2 billion or $228 million per aircraft, was a necessary cost to buy early-build units so pilots could be trained on the advanced fighter-bomber.

He said the balance of the order would be from aircraft made later in the production cycle when prices would be lower.

Below are some links to read up on for those that care. After reading, then consider if you think the Defence Minister is being well advised. Me? I think he is not only being poorly advised, but deceived. Faith-based project management won't get us a useful fighter force.

(click on images to make them larger)

Consider the next slide when Defence tells you they want jets early or even that they want them by 2018. What will we be buying? Under-tested mistake-jets that need lots of fix-it work because the aircraft have gone into production well before the engineers have figured everything out.

Australia should put a hold on any big dollar weapon systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Failure or the fantasy-by-the-dozen new submarines. Defence/DMO does not have the decision making capacity or the true engineering foresight needed. If the Defence industry wants to make money, they better put as their prime interest, aggressive lobbying for massive change in the moribund Defence bureaucracy.

Australia should not pay for this current environment of mass stupidity in Defence decision making.


Testimony from the U.S. Senate hearing on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Thursday, 19 May 2011.

-U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO)

Statement from Senator John McCain with selected questions and answers.


Additional reading:

An Analysis of Defence Materiel Organisation Major Projects Management and What Needs to be Fixed



Saturday, May 21, 2011

How "on-track" became "off-track" with the F-35

Just now reading the U.S. Senate hearing from the other day on the debacle that is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Senator McCain asks the DOD top procurement guy Ashton Carter what went wrong all these years; there was all that happy news reported to our politicians. The answer is very troubling. After all; we saw the term "on-track" so many times....

"And one of the things that Admiral Venlet and Dave Van Buren are doing now is restoring to the program the technical expertise resident at Pax River and Dayton and elsewhere and infusing this program office with it so that the Government side of the program is strong. I told you I did not have good management information a year ago because the program office was not strong. It did not have our very best people looking at this airplane, and all of our information came from the performers of the work and not from us. So that went on for a long time in the Joint Strike Fighter program, and the program office was not as strong technically as it should have been."

The whole transcript has a lot of worrying language. Enough to make it impossible to believe anything from the F-35 cheerleaders was true.

And matches well when we hear this deception from the then DOD F-35 program manager General Davis back in 2008 when responding to criticism from government audits.

"We do not agree with that estimate, there is no basis for that estimate, and we do not support it."

We can ill afford program managers that go native.

What Australian schools don't teach their kids about history and geography

In Australia, the state of teaching history and geography in primary school and high school is terrible.

Each successive grade has its own version of Aboriginal history and then everything else gets glossed over or ignored. Aboriginal history is important, but it must be within proportion and not at the expense of everything else.

Consider how gigantic the Pacific region is and then consider how many don’t learn a heck of a lot about it in school.

The following could be some questions that would probably be answered wrong by many of today’s high school graduates simply because the school system failed to teach the subject.

  • What year was Darwin bombed; by whom; and why?

  • What effect did the end of World War 1 have on Australian regional power?

  • What did the Australian coast-watchers do?

  • Who was Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith and what did he accomplish?

  • Name ten countries that are located in the Pacific Ocean region.

  • Why was the battle of Coral Sea so important for Australia?

  • What happened at Balibo?

  • How would your children score with those questions?


    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Great story about a Collins-class sub in an exercise that never happened

    Navy News, a publication of the Australian Navy, has sunk its credibility.

    According to The Australian, Navy News published a story about how great an Australian Collins class submarine did on an exercise with our allies.

    "The free-play phase provided Ballarat and Parramatta with the chance to exercise their anti-submarine warfare capabilities against a Collins-class submarine recognised as the best diesel-electric boat in the world.

    "During the live phase, Dechaineux stalked the Anzac-class frigates and the other seven warships in a tactical game of cat and mouse, while evading military aircraft such as Ballarat's embarked Seahawk from 816 Squadron."

    The problem is, the Dechaineux was never there. It was broken; tied up to a dock in Singapore. It appears that the dysfunctional Collins-class submarine program is so lethal that it can perform its mission tied up to a dock. Many could be forgiven for thinking this is the main mission of the Collins-class; to be tied up to a dock.

    "The Dechaineux remains stranded in Singapore, where personnel from the Australian Submarine Corporation and the Defence Materiel Organisation are trying to fix the problem."

    But yeah, we need to double our pain and build 12 replacements at home; even if there isn't enough project management skill to do the job.

    Where are the I.T. project managers?

    It has been my observation that lousy I.T. project management is the curse of Australia. I saw a relatively simple migration project blow out from $1M to over $7M. Too big to fail and all that.

    I have seen back-end web app projects deliver similar results. The project manager's main motivation was less about making the end product work and more about making themselves look good. Project managers that are not.

    So reading about this Defence I.T. project going bad is no surprise.
    "It has left a lot of the operators of this system screaming and throwing their hands up in the air. Unfortunately, quite often a lot of the transactions simply won't work, for unknown reasons."

    Yeah. Seen that before. Define "unknown reasons".

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    South Korea wants a low-observable cruise missile

    South Korea is looking for a JASSM like cruise missile. If the JASSM worked as advertised this might be a good idea. Well it might be a good idea regardless.

    The JASSM blew out on costs big time in the U.S. It still has to prove some fusing issues and is on a watch list to keep reliability acceptable for the USAF in anything other than highly scripted range events.

    Yet even if the probability of kill is lower than needed and you end up with more than the expected number of duds it might not be so bad. Why?

    Most of the targets South Korea would want to hit are kind of close. Spend a billion or more on “JASSM-level” missiles (whatever that means) might be a better idea than spending tens of billions on over-priced and over-hyped Just So Flawed fighters or some other option.

    Yeah, that might work.

    Australia's carbon tax--is it a big winner?

    What is going on in Australia recently? Well let me start out to explain I am no expert. Comments will then start out with, “You are right ELP; you are no expert”.

    So with that ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let me throw this one at you and see how close it is to explaining a few recent events.

    The carbon tax plan by the government is all the rage here. This can only be interpreted as a money grab by the government given their confusing message on green energy. We should hand over the money to Guido for the carbon tax yet on the other hand you have the following problem with solar energy.

    Although it is a small number; there are people in the state of New South Wales who invested into expensive solar energy kit for their home or business. An NSW government scheme lets them receive money for any excess energy they can pump back into the grid. The recent budget just cut that fee by one-third. So all those that believed in this green initiative—and anyone thinking of getting into this plan—feel betrayed. As well they should. Those fees were to help pay for the expensive kit. Along with that, the phones stopped ringing for businesses that sell the solar equipment.

    I doubt the carbon tax is going to be a big winner. With or without the carbon tax, electricity prices are going up. With it; they will go up more.

    Part of the government justification is to keep up with world treaties. Well Australia is not a third world nation; has a fairly functional political capability and can mind its own business without outside interference. I don’t think that is nationalism. It is just a strong opinion that may have merit.

    Next there is the rising dollar. This is going to put a hit on exports for Australia. The nation gets a big part of its wealth from things it digs up out of the ground and sells to China. If China can find a cheaper mineral resource elsewhere, this may have a negative effect on the economy; plus well...that carbon tax thing.

    The Australian economy is healthier than most. It will be interesting to see how the current government avoids its mixed message on the carbon tax; as well as other ideas that drain profits from business large and small. The last prime minister found out what happens when you declare war on one of Australia’s cash cows. Let us see if the current one is smart enough to avoid the same fate.

    Update from Defence about that PC-9 mishap

    Update from Defence about that PC-9 mishap.

    Update on PC-9A aircraft incident

    Squadron Leader Bruce Collenette, a qualified flying instructor aged 45, remains in a satisfactory condition in hospital.

    Flight Lieutenant Steve Andrews, a qualified pilot and instructor trainee aged 28, remains in a satisfactory condition, but has been transferred to Melbourne for further testing and specialist care.

    Both are in good spirits.

    Overnight, the details of their routine training flight have been confirmed. The crew were undertaking a routine training flight. On climb out of the airfield, the aircraft lost power approximately 9 kilometres from the airfield and turned back towards East Sale.

    Power could not be restored to the engine, so the crew followed the engine shutdown procedures checklist. The crew did not have sufficient glide potential to reach the runway, so ejected from the aircraft in line with standing procedures.

    Their response was testament to their high level skills and training. Air Force is providing support to them and their families, and wishes them a speedy recovery.

    What the U.S. Navy needs are frigates (sorry Mr. Work)

    Last week a British destroyer (more frigate than destroyer) had to use its main gun in a fight. The weapon is similar to the kind of gun on other frigates and not just destroyers.

    The RN engaged low tech targets using a low cost and effective weapon; a weapon size that the dysfunctional Littoral Combat Ship (the great hope of the Navy) will never see. The Littoral Combat Ship has a small pea-shooter and if the mission packages arrive someday, maybe some overly expensive missiles that won’t bring value to taking out pirates and third-rate threats.

    China has claimed they are not out to trump the U.S. Navy. Depending on if you believe that or not, certainly the Littoral Combat Ship is not the answer for that threat either.

    Frigates (the kind that don’t pretend to be destroyers) are cost-effective and can carry a helicopter and are generally useful for a variety of work the U.S. Navy will face.

    Hunting pirates with aircraft carriers, cruisers and even destroyers is money we can ill afford to spend. The U.S. Navy budget needs a serious realignment. One that is more practical to our real needs. When looking at the kind of work the U.S. Navy is likely to do, there just is no use for the gold-plated and faulty Littoral Combat Ship.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    National broadband?

    National Broadband? I do wonder. It is big money and a big discussion here. Plenty of opportunities to make it a political football too.

    This is the same government that couldn't even get home insulation installed without...well you know that story.

    Links of Interest 18 May 2011

    The guy that has helped to give us the bulk of the infamous project concern list by virtue of his position as the head of the Defence Material Organisation will take on the role as a representative for non-U.S. F-35 partner nations as the co-chair of the Joint Strike Fighter Executive Steering Board. This is a rotating duty between partner nations. Should we worry?

    And while they do fire some people for bad Defence work, it isn't always permanent and they don't seem to fire the high profile ones that are really causing the damage to the tune of billions per year.

    Even though victory was declared with getting Osama, the Germans are still not happy about the U.S. drone strike campaign in Pakistan. Can we leave now? Afghanistan is not in our national interest.

    Light bulbs. The fanatics--along with industry--got us the overly expensive light bulbs. I can see a black market industry for proper light bulbs. Tunnels going under the Mexico border and all that.

    And finally this shot from a passenger on an airliner going from New York to Florida of the shuttle Endeavour launch.

    Defence budget-national "Ponzi scheme"

    So well said from James Brown on duty over at the Lowy Institute. I will add to it that this is the fault of an entrenched senior bureaucracy that is bleeding our tax dollars for very little return.

    "The defence budget is increasingly becoming a national ponzi scheme: drawing down on our strategic future to meet the political promises of our past. Australia is no longer on track to build the defence force outlined in the 2009 Defence White Paper."

    Well, Australia could never be "on track" to do much with the failed 2009 Defence White Paper which was dead on arrival.

    Get rid of the cruisers

    We have over 20 Tico-class cruisers in service with the U.S. Navy.

    The Soviet threat is gone and any new anti-access threat would make short work of these anyway (not unlike the sinking of the Price of Wales and Repulse). Just as battleships became obsolete, so should cruisers.

    These cruisers consume a lot of supplies and manpower. Anything they can do a Burke can do cheaper with the same effect. And, hunting pirates with a cruiser shows how inefficient we really are with this threat.

    If the Navy really wants to save some money, or is forced to save money as part of a federal budget disaster, this would be a good place to start.

    Dilbert weighs in on U.S. defense project management

    Dilbert gets in on the topic of U.S. defense project management.


    Reasonable doubt

    The wife had never seen this movie. I had; years ago. It is one of my favorites.

    12 Angry Men.

    This blog.....

    This blog known as ELP is going to take a different path.

    I will write about Defens(c)e matters, but I will also write about other things: Australia, the U.S., politics, technology, and anything of interest.

    The albatross known as the F-35 may come up from time to time, but those days are mostly done. If someone hasn't figured out that it is a failure by now, they never will until it is too late.

    I am going to be less abrasive. It was a useful tool that suited the purpose to get people's attention but it is not me. And; it is a rather tiring act. I don't want to be type-cast.

    I want to help out others or at least highlight them more. That would be Galrahn, War News Updates, Alert5, and some others that have to be your daily read. I want to help Sam and crew at Lowy Institute's The Interpreter Blog be more successful with their goals to have a wider coverage. They are important daily reads; for me anyway.

    I will also be blogging more on a variety of Aviation Week articles.

    Also, I don't have to agree with something everyday; all the time to like it.

    I am still working on the layout of this blog. As there are a lot of mobile users, don't expect it to be anything but a simple format.

    I hope you enjoy where I am going.

    Cry for Defence, but only cry for the lack of leadership, not money

    I am not a fan of Mr. Babbage. He was one of the contributors to the nonsensical 2009 Defence White Paper that some are so quick to quote as if it has worth.

    Defence does not need more money. It needs real leadership and a real plan. When we as a nation demand that the dead wood in the Defence bureaucracy be gotten rid of, then maybe we won't see so many failures on the infamous project of concern list.

    Defence--$500M short in facilities management

    Facilities management is part of the job of the Defence bureaucracy. So why are we finding out that they claim to be $500M short in this area over the next three years?

    "The Australian Defence Force faces a $500 million shortfall in the funds needed to maintain its extensive array of bases, training areas and buildings over the next three years."

    There is money out there to be had to fix this. Simply because there are Defence projects out there that we just do not need. On a whim, Defence just got approval of $500M for a C-17 that was never before mentioned as a need.

    Who in the Defence bureaucracy is not doing their job?

    Whistle-blower--Air marshals, security guards, embassy staff, a sample of poor vetting

    An investigation will be launched to look into whistle-blower claims that Defence is not doing proper security vetting of personnel. How far does this go?

    "The whistle-blowers said Australian embassy staff, air marshals and security guards working on military bases were among those who had not been properly vetted."

    U.S. defense projects on Guam cut short by Japanese earthquake

    Brilliant catch by Galrahn.

    The Japanese earthquake has delayed their funding of U.S. defense projects on Guam.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Smith in control?

    The Lowy Institute blog the Interpreter broke this story. More on how Smith is trying to keep control over those he supervises in his Portfolio.

    Sam mentions...

    The Australian has a piece today alleging Defence Minister Stephen Smith is sitting on ADF senior appointment decisions. In the middle of the article comes this line:
    --"Some officers are concerned that the delay might indicate that Mr Smith is planning to impose his own team on Defence rather than those suggested by ADF chiefs."--

    Mr. Smith still has a lot of work to do. With that, he has done more than most in this job; even if I completely disagree with his theories on why Australia should be in Afghanistan.

    Pakistan fires on NATO helicopter

    Via the LA Times

    Two soldiers are reported injured, and a U.S. official in Afghanistan says a border incident is being investigated. Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan already were strained by the incursion to kill Osama bin Laden.

    Along with that, Senator Kerry is in Pakistan for a visit and the Pakistan leadership is off to China.