Category “Military News”
The office of the secretary of defense (OSD) has directed the Navy to limit its overall buy of littoral combat ships to a total of 32 ships, foregoing 20 more of the small, fast and controversial warships, Pentagon sources have confirmed.
The decision, in a Jan. 6 memo from acting deputy secretary of defense Christine Fox, came after the Pentagon received its final 2015 budget guidance from the White House. Several major acquisition decisions, including direction on what to do with the LCS program, were awaiting the numbers from the Office of Management and Budget.
The program of record calls for the service to build 52 LCSs, built to two designs, one from Lockheed Martin and the other from Austal USA. Three of the ships are in service, and a fourth ship will be commissioned in April. Another 20 are under construction or on order, split evenly between the two prime contractors.
Asked for comment, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ryan Perry said “we’ll continue to work with OSD on LCS acquisition plans.” No date has been announced for the submission of the 2015 budget to Congress, but it’s expected to take place no earlier than mid-February.
While the decision isn’t final, there has been some debate inside the Navy and Penatgon to potentially cut the order further from 32 to 24. LCSs are meant for short-term missions dealing with things like SEAL Teams, anti-submarine recon, and counter-mining (as in “BOOM!” not “dig”) operations.
Cong. Reid Ribble (R-Sherwood) issued a statement yesterday on the news saying he’ll try to get the original contract order back online. Honestly, this may be a tough row to hoe given how often directives from the OSD are hard to turn around especially if the branch of military the weapons system is meant for is debating it needs it or not.
Forget the environmental pluses, the tactical advantages of such a propulsion system would be mind-blowing for the U.S. Navy.
Last month, a national-security commission advised Congress to fund shipbuilding and increase the U.S. naval presence in the Asia-Pacific region in the next decade to compete with China’s growing fleet. But upping production of petroleum fuel to meet potential future demands is at odds with the Navy’s plans to reduce its dependence on the fossil fuel, the deadlines for which are fast approaching. The Department of the Navy has pledged to cut petroleum use in the service’s commercial fleet in half by 2015, and produce at least 50 percent of its jet fuel using alternative sources by 2020.
The Naval Research Laboratory, a 90-year-old corporate research hub serving the Navy and Marine Corps, is searching for such alternative sources. Led by analytical chemist Heather Willauer, the lab is currently developing technology that sucks up the gases necessary to produce synthetic jet fuel for ships right out of the seawater they tread. If and when it becomes commercially viable, the technology could transform naval operations.
“If they made fuel at sea,” Willauer says, “they wouldn’t be buying it.”
The process begins with a three-chambered cell that receives a stream of seawater in the central compartment. Right now, one of these units sits on the shore of Key West, Fla., at the lab’s Center for Corrosion Science & Engineering facility.
The cell pulls a relatively pure and concentrated source of carbon dioxide from the seawater. This source is usually better than carbon dioxide recovered from flue or stack gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels, Willauer says. Such gases require expensive, energy-intensive hardware to further purify them so they’re safe to use and won’t harm living organisms.
The cell produces hydrogen, which aids in recovering carbon dioxide from seawater. Both processes occur in tandem. The unit captures up to 92 percent of carbon dioxide from the seawater, where it is 140 times higher in concentration than in the air. All the energy supplied to the cell goes into making hydrogen, not into the extraction process, so the recovered carbon dioxide is actually free, Willauer says.
The lab then uses an iron-based catalyst to convert the gases into olefins, a type of reactive chemical compound. The compound can easily undergo further catalytic conversion into a liquid that contains hydrocarbon molecules, which can eventually be transformed into jet fuel.
The entire process costs about $3 to $6 per gallon of jet fuel to produce. That’s about the current price on the open market.
The current downside, the process chemically creates more carbon in the atmosphere. Al Gore might be a tad upset about that.
This sounds similar to what NASA wishes to do for a manned mission to Mars. The first rocket sent to the red planet wouldn’t be the mission capsule, but a fuel station / return ship which would land and turn out rocket fuel by sucking in the Martian atmosphere and chemically converting the needed amount fuel for the return trip to Earth.
Of course, all this is moot if you’re dealing with a nuclear-powered submarine or aircraft carrier. That’s an entirely different propulsion system.
Well this is nice.
Bo has a new best friend in the White House.
President Obama and his family took in a second Portuguese Water Dog named Sunny, an adorable addition who will serve as playmate and “little sister” to First Dog Bo, according to the White House’s official website.
Sunny, named by Michelle Obama for her cheerful disposition, officially joined the family on Monday. The puppy was born in Michigan just last June.
“We suspect Sunny will follow in Bo’s footsteps and keep the President company in the Oval Office, go for walks with the First Family after their 6:30 family dinner and even jump up on the First Lady’s lap from time to time!” reads a statement on the website introducing the pup.
By the way, I couldn’t have been the only one who noticed that long-time liberal critics of the Marine Corps V-22 Osprey military aircraft (it takes off like a helicopter, but can then fly like a plane simply by transitioning the propellers) went silent when news broke of the Bo getting a separate helicopter flight on the controversial aircraft.
Liberals used to love pointing to the Osprey as their project of choice to criticize the Pentagon. Not only was it "unsafe," but it was also costly as hell.
I’m a relatively big fan of the F-35, usually known as the “Joint-Strike Fighter.” As a fifth-generation aircraft, it could become not just the United States’ military of aircraft of choice for the next 25 years, but interested friendly governments like the U.K., France, Germany and Israel could pretty much make it the NATO / Allied aircraft which replaces the hangers full of F-16’s still out there.
There’s a lot to go before the JSF officially joins the fleet in 2015, when the Marine Corps wants them to replace aging F-18s.
Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and the Pentagon on Tuesday said they reached an agreement for 71 more F-35 fighter jets, with lower pricing allowing the U.S. government to buy all the planes it had planned despite budget cuts that took effect in March.
The agreement, which was first reported by Reuters on Monday, covers 36 jets in a sixth batch, with each warplane to cost about 4 percent less than the previous lot, and 35 planes in a seventh batch, also at a 4 percent discount, Lockheed and the Pentagon’s F-35 program office said in a statement.
The statement did not provide an overall value for the two contracts, but analysts say they will be worth over $7 billion.
The agreement is good news for Lockheed, which generates about 15 percent of its revenues from the F-35 program, and its key suppliers: Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and Britain’s BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L). At a projected procurement and development cost of $392 billion, it is the Pentagon’s biggest arms program.
The government is negotiating a separate contract with engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), and an agreement is also expected there soon.
The lower cost of the planes, coupled with lower prices on a number of other smaller contracts, “will allow the Pentagon to buy all the aircraft originally planned, including those that were in jeopardy of being cut” as a result of mandatory budget cuts imposed on the Pentagon in March, the statement said.
It is unknown yet if the Pentagon will give the go-ahead for the full order of F-35’s. That’s said to be nearly 2,500 to 3,000 planes, and will be used by all branches of the United States military, with three different variations to fit the particular needs of carrier groups, air bases and strike forces needs.
No longer the fantasy weapon of tomorrow, the U.S. Navy is set to field a powerful laser that can protect its ships by blasting targets with high-intensity light beams.
Early next year the Navy will place a laser weapon aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf where it could be used to fend off approaching unmanned aerial vehicles or speedboats.
The Navy calls its futuristic weapon LAWS, which stands for the Laser Weapon System. What looks like a small telescope is actually a weapon that can track a moving target and fire a steady laser beam strong enough to burn a hole through steel.
A Navy video of testing conducted last summer off the coast of California shows how a laser beam fired from a Navy destroyer was able to set aflame an approaching UAV or drone, sending it crashing into the ocean.
“There was not a single miss” during the testing, said Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of Naval Research. The laser was three for three in bringing down an approaching unmanned aerial vehicle and 12 for 12 when previous tests are factored in.
But don’t expect in that video to see the firing of colored laser bursts that Hollywood has used for its futuristic laser guns. The Navy’s laser ray is not visible to the naked eye because it is in the infrared spectrum.
The video which the Navy provided the media is pretty unimpressive. The target is never shown being shot by anything visual, but it does catch fire quite quickly until it crashes. The rear admiral running the presentation called the rays actions similar to a blow torch cutting through steel.
It is the future of military tech, and so far it is ours and ours alone.