Well, I thought it was a bit cheesey but even Yahoo covered it.
Eric L. Palmer and I don’t often agree on much. He’s the single most vocal critic of the F-35 program that I’ve ever seen. But he likes the CH-47 and thinks the MV-22 is a boondoggle, so he gets points for that in my book.
I’m generally very sympathetic to CAGW’s purpose. Indeed, I hate gold-plating programs with a passion. One of the best things SecDef Gates has called for is the “80%” solution- programs that are very good at doing 80% of all possible tasks, for far less money than you’d need to spend on a “perfect” program.
Comes now news that the Air Force is at long last looking to replace its fleet of UH-1N helicopters. These durable birds have been serving since the early 1970s, and are due for replacement. Buying UH-60M Blackhawks from the Army seems straightforward. After all, the whole point of the UH-60 design was to replace the Huey.
But CAGW sees the larger price tag, per unit, of the Blackhawks:
Citizens Against Government Waste — a non-partisan watchdog group — also has taken issue with the Air Force’s pursuit of the Black Hawk to replace the Huey.
“Instead of having an open competition for a helicopter that meets the CVLSP requirements, the Air Force wants to cut corners and buy a bigger, more expensive helicopter from the Army. This would be like buying Humvees to replace mail trucks,” the watchdog group wrote on its website.
CAGW is taking a very near-sighted look at this issue. Yes, the Air Force is pretty clearly trying to do an end-around the normal contracting procedure. Why? Because it is badly broken. The Air Force can’t run a competition without being sued by the loser of the competition. See “KC-X” or the “CSAR-X” programs. That takes time, and time is money. Let’s suppose the Air Force decided they wanted to buy the AW319, which is nominally a cheaper aircraft. What would the hidden costs be? Well, they’d have to run the new chopper through the entire Operational Test & Evaluation rigmarole, something they won’t have to do with UH-60s. They’d have to establish an entirely new training pipeline, from aircrews to mechanics. They’d have to establish and manage an entirely new logistics pipeline for thousands of unique parts. They’d have to establish entire libraries of maintenance and operations manuals. With the UH-60, a basic platform they already use, they’d have to make only minimal changes.
Buying the UH-60 comes with a fixed, known cost, and can be done now. But buying any other aircraft, or even just running a competition, even if the Blackhawk wins, introduces both delays into the program, and price uncertainties. Further, does anyone think that if there was an open competition for the CVLSP, the Air Force wouldn’t succumb to the temptation to load the requirements up with goodies that should really be in the “nice, but not needed” category?
We see a classic case of a simple solution to what is frankly a very simple problem. And yet, people are determined to make it complicated.
Stars and Stripes newspaper tells us the Army is finally getting around to addressing some of the deficiencies in the M4 Carbine.
Upgrades to the M4 include a more resilient barrel, ambidextrous controls and a full-automatic setting. Add better ammunition, and soldiers will have a more lethal weapon to fight insurgents, according to Program Executive Office Soldier, which introduced the improvements.
The new carbines are expected to be integrated into the force starting next year.
Soldiers in Afghanistan expressed enthusiasm about the improvements, especially the ability to shoot on fully automatic.
I’m not wild about putting in the full-auto option. I understand why they did it. The burst selector on the regular M4 is poorly designed. If your previous burst was two rounds, your next burst will only be one round. But surely there are other ways of addressing that problem. As to a heavier barrel, that’s almost always a good idea. Ambidextrous controls? I’m not a lefty, so I can’t say I ever worried about that. Most southpaws I knew didn’t seem to have too many problems flipping the selector or the magazine release. But what do I know?
I’m not familiar with the changes to the ammo, with the new M855A1 round. But I find it interesting that now that the majority of fighting in Iraq, where combat was usually very close, is winding down, they introduce a round optimized for shorter ranges just as the emphasis shifts to Afghanistan, where the main complaint has been that the 5.56mm has a hard time reaching out past 300m.
What do you guys think?
The AC-130 seems like a fairly simple airplane. It’s just a cargo plane with guns sticking out the side, right? Would you believe the going price is somewhere around $200 million? The Spooky has just about the most impressive array of sensors of any aircraft in the fleet.
The big gun is a 105mm howitzer. It is a highly modified version of the venerable Army M102 howitzer. The rotary cannon is either a 20mm M61 Vulcan, or, more likely, an 25mm GAU-12 cannon (frankly, I wasn’t paying attention during that part of the video). The last gun, where the gunner is loading clips in the top, is a Bofors 40mm cannon. Just the thing for busting trucks.
While the sentiment is true, the folks who put the add together might have looked a little closer.
I’m a low tech guy. My phone makes calls. Barely. But smart phones are all over the place, and the iPad is quickly becoming ubiquitous. Not surprisingly, a lot of smart people have figured out that there is potential for a lot of cheap, simple apps that can support the warfighter.
The SoldierEyes Common Operating Picture, for instance, is like a mini Blue Force Tracker, explains Evan Cormin, who works on the project: a real-time way for soldiers to monitor where friendly forces are at any given time, represented by little blue boxes. And not just friendlies: Plug in an enemy’s position, and the cloud shares it with anyone else running SoldierEyes, whether out on patrol or back at the command post. Its GPS components allow soldiers to use the map for navigation while they see where their friends and foes are.
Load Augmented Reality, another SoldierEyes sub-app, ditches the map. Instead, it uses your handheld’s camera to give you a picture of what’s in front of you — but with the colored boxes of friendlies and enemies in position on the screen. The idea is make sure that soldiers getting out of their vehicles don’t lose a sense of their surroundings once the Humvee doors swing open and they aren’t behind a computer screen anymore.
These are exactly the kinds of things our troops need, and they are being invented without a multi-billion dollar, multi-year development program that gives the OSD staff a chance to build empires. Moar, please. Faster, please.
I’m a little under the weather, and haven’t gotten around to a follow up on this post. Fortuitously, The Daily Mail has an article that addresses that very topic.
But Chief of Staff General George Casey told the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference that cuts had been reached by instead trimming overheads and low-priority programs over the next five years.
Casey and Army Secretary John McHugh told the military trade show they were keenly aware of the strains that two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had put on soldiers.
They said they would not cut programs that are aimed at slowing an alarming rate of suicides among troops, and will help soldiers deal with injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.
‘For us the most important thing is we get through the next several years without having to cut force structure,’ said Casey.
We’ve already got a very small army. But with budget cuts coming, there’s only going to be two options: cut the size of the force, or cut back the number of commitments the Army has.
H/T: War News Updates, which you really need to be reading on a daily basis.
BillT dodges a big bullet.
Bill was an early supporter of our meager blogging efforts, so we’re glad he’s OK.