Category Archives: Aviation

That Stretched US Air Force–One Major War at a Time

Further to this post,

The incredible Shrinking US Air Force, or, Waiting for NGAD

the very realistic and capable air force secretary speaks very frankly (wish we had people like him in the spin-mad, all image all the time, Canadian government–see the secretary’s impressive bio here)–at Air Force Magazine:

Kendall: ‘Unrealistic’ for Air Force to Fight Two Wars While Modernizing

June 24, 2022 | By Abraham Mahshie

As Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall looks to modernize the force, he is calling for tough decisions that will shrink the size of the fleet [see post noted at start of this one] and make the waging of two simultaneous wars “unrealistic,” he said at an AFA [Air Force Association] Leaders in Action event June 24.

Kendall sat down with AFA’s president, retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright, for an in-person discussion attended by a hundred air power professionals and enthusiasts at the Air and Space Forces Association’s headquarters in Arlington, Va. Kendall addressed topics ranging from threats posed by China and Russia to the ongoing congressional funding decisions that he said are necessary to keep pace with China’s heavy technological investments.

“I think it’s quite frankly unrealistic to think that we can have a force that will fight two major wars at the same time,” he said. He also said he did not believe any nation was capable of immediately ramping up from a peacetime force to engage in a prolonged, conventional war [emphasis added, note that “immediately”].

Kendall demurred when asked how many combat squadrons the Air Force should maintain, but he was clear in his commitment to take on the risk of a smaller Air Force flying fewer hours in order to make big investments in the short term.

“The critical thing is to get to the next-generation capabilities as quickly as we can [emphasis added, see this post yesterday: “USAF NGAD: Big Laser-Shooting Arsenal Fighter?],” he said. “Do we maintain current capability, keep the platforms that we have, or do we shrink down a little bit in order to get to the future? I think those are the trade-offs that we’re going to have to face.”

The Air Force currently has 55 operational combat squadrons, 32 in the Active duty and 23 in the Guard or Reserve, according to a Heritage Foundation study. And according to data provided to Air Force Magazine by the Air Force, fighter pilot hours declined 16 percent from 2020 to 2021, to an average of just 6.8 hours per month per pilot.

Kendall said it would be “hard” to get pilot hours back up, but he still called the force “healthy.”

“We’ve got to think carefully about the balance,” he said. “We’ve got to do it in a way which maintains a healthy force, while we’re doing this, as well as keeps pace with the technological competition.”

To continue to deter and defeat adversaries, Kendall called for leveraging “integrated deterrence,” or the flexing of allies’ and partners’ military and non-military capabilities, while the U.S. catches up to China’s decades of heavy military investment [e.g. various missile capabilities for attacking US bases in the Western Pacific].

Kendall has been pounding the pavement on Capitol Hill, he said, taking a classified threat briefing to the committees of Congress in order to help convince members of the importance of modernization over fleet size.

“Our average aircraft is 30 years old, and we have some aircraft that are not tailored to the high-end fight at all,” he said. “The people who manage and operate those aircraft do a fantastic job—I’m real proud of them. But we’re going to have to get to the next generation [emphasis added].”

And situation of the US Navy vs the PLA Navy is hardly encouraging either.

PREDATE: Kendall in 2012 under the Obama administration–imagine a senior Canadian official being so brutally frank:

F-35 Production Move Was ‘Acquisition Malpractice’: Top DoD Buyer

Given earlier comments by the F-35 program head, today’s [Feb. 6] remarks by the acting head of Pentagon acquisition that “putting the F-35 into production years before the first test flight was acquisition malpractice,” isn’t really news so much as confirmation that senior Pentagon leaders know mistakes were made.

Frank Kendall, who has been nominated to take the chair as undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told a Feb. 6 event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies here, that the decision “should not have been done” and that “now we’re paying the price for being wrong.” This was Kendall’s first public appearance since he was nominated to lead the Pentagon’s acquisition efforts.”..

Relevant post a year ago:

US Air Force Planning vs PLA in Indo-Pacific

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

USAF NGAD: Big Laser-Shooting Arsenal Fighter?

Perhaps amongst other things. At US Naval Institute News:

Report to Congress on Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program

The following is the June 23, 2022 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program [NGAD, more on the CRS here–excellent and expert non-partisan papers].

From the report

According to the Air Force, the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program is intended to develop “a portfolio of technologies enabling air superiority.” The Air Force intends for NGAD to replace the F-22 fighter jet beginning in 2030, possibly including a combination of crewed and uncrewed aircraft, with other systems and sensors. NGAD began as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project. Since 2015, Congress has appropriated approximately $4.2 billion for NGAD.

NGAD is a classified aircraft development program, but the Air Force has released a few details. On September 15, 2020, then-U.S. Air Force acquisition executive Dr. Will Roper announced that the Air Force had flown a full-scale flight demonstrator as part of the NGAD program. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall announced on June 1, 2022 that NGAD program technologies have matured enough to allow the program to move to the engineering, manufacture, and design phase of development.

Is the Goal of NGAD a New Fighter? 

While a stated aim of the NGAD program is to replace the F-22 fighter jet, the aircraft that come out of the NGAD program may or may not look like a traditional fighter. The Air Force is developing technologies involved in NGAD to provide air dominance. Part of the program’s goal is to determine how to achieve that end, independent of traditional U.S. military approaches to air dominance. NGAD could take the form of a single aircraft and/or a number of complementary systems—manned, unmanned, optionally manned, cyber, electronic—forms that would not resemble the traditional “fighter.”

For example, a larger aircraft the size of a B-21 may not maneuver like a fighter. But that large an aircraft carrying a directed energy weapon, with multiple engines making substantial electrical power for that weapon, could ensure that no enemy flies in a large amount of airspace [my “arsenal fighter”]. That would achieve air dominance. There appears to be little reason to assume that NGAD is going to yield a plane the size that one person sits in, and that goes out and dogfights kinetically, trying to outturn another plane—or that sensors and weapons have to be on the same aircraft…

The USAF certainly seems to be thinking, and prototyping, very creatively. The efforts had better work.

A very relevant recent post:

The incredible Shrinking US Air Force, or, Waiting for NGAD

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

US Defence Aerospace Companies Now Federal Government Lobbying Outfits

Funny how the biggies will almost all have their HQs in the D.C. area–at Aviation Week and Space Technology:

First Take, June 13, 2022

Graham Warwick June 10, 2022

VIEW FROM THE BELTWAY

Virginia Snags Another Aerospace Giant

Raytheon Technologies will move its global headquarters from suburban Boston to Arlington, Virginia, this summer, making it the last of the Big Five U.S. defense contractors to base its operations in the Washington region. The move into an existing Raytheon office tower near the Potomac River “increases agility in supporting U.S. government and commercial aerospace customers,” the aerospace giant says. But it is not expected to result in a large number of job shifts. Boeing announced last month that it is moving its home base from Chicago to Northern Virginia, following Northrop Grumman (2011) and General Dynamics (1991). Lockheed Martin is headquartered in nearby Bethesda, Maryland.

Capitalism at its finest hard at work. eh?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

“Top Gun Maverick”: Tom Cruise is Flying the Wrong Fighter

An article at Aviation Week and Space Technology–their writers know their stuff:

The Weekly Debrief: Why The F-35 Should Have Been The Star Of The Top Gun Sequel

Top Gun: Maverick is—no spoiler!—a movie. And here are two things the Paramount blockbuster, which netted $151 million on its opening weekend, is not: a documentary, or a fictional account based on a true story. 

This seems obvious, but it’s important. The actors and director of the Top Gun sequel are in no way required to produce a realistic account of a strike mission. Their scriptwriters are, likewise, not obligated to constrain their characters to conventional tactics, or limit weapon systems to known specifications or even physics. 

For the sake of storytelling, your author prefers that they don’t, as long as any fictional conceits make the story more entertaining. By the subjective standards of this column, the Joseph Kosinki-directed sequel to the 1986 action film succeeds in ways that few follow-ups ever have.

All of that stated, it is time—and here come the spoilers, so you’re invited to stop reading if you care deeply about plot details yet missed opening weekend—to ruin a central premise of the plot of Top Gun: Maverick [emphasis added]

In an early, expository scene, Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a semi-successful hypersonic test pilot who has been re-assigned to train a detachment of elite Fighter Weapons School graduates for a seemingly kamikaze strike mission, explains that only the Boeing F/A-18E/F is capable of hitting a target in a GPS-denied environment. As a result, he explicitly rules out the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II as an option for the mission. 

Unfortunately, it appears that Mitchell—er, Maverick—is not only foolish and dangerous (Iceman’s words, not mine): He’s also wrong. To borrow Maverick’s 2022 reply to a spiteful rear admiral: “Maybe so, sir. But not today.”

Maverick’s assessment of the F-35 was once correct. As filming of Top Gun: Maverick was beginning in 2018, the real stealth fighter was limited to an internal load-out of GPS-guided munitions. By November 2018, however, Lockheed Martin had integrated the Raytheon GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II. 

This dual-mode, GPS- and laser-guided munition gave the F-35 the ability to strike moving or stationary targets in almost any situation. If an enemy successfully defeated the munition’s anti-jam technology for receiving the GPS signal, the pilot could still designate the target with a laser. The F-35 could have performed the mission. 

As Maverick is fond of saying, “If you think up there, you’re dead.” Likewise, if you think during a Hollywood movie account of air combat, you’re probably missing the point. 

If you do, however, you might wonder why supposedly elite Navy pilots are dispensing flares to defeat radar-guided missiles, why an enemy with at least three Su-57 fighters somehow relies on 60-year-old SA-3s for ground-based air defenses and why the same enemy did not think to harden their mountain hide-out against anything except an attack by a 30,000-lb, GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator. 

Despite some discrepancies in the details, Top Gun: Maverick highlights one of the biggest challenges in modern air combat. More than 30 years after Operation Desert Storm, GPS can no longer be relied on for accurate targeting by stand-off munitions. 

Next year, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory plans to launch the Navigation Technology Satellite-3 into orbit, hoping to field a regional alternative to GPS guidance for munitions with greater resistance to enemy interference. Meanwhile, the Army’s Assured-Positioning, Navigation and Timing program is seeking to provide similar navigation support to dismounted soldiers. 

To quote one of the sequel’s less-heralded characters: “Put that in your Pentagon budget.” 

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.

Plus a good background story at the NY Times (just right-click on the headline below):

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

What a Twist of Fate if Airbus Helps Kill Bombardier as a Bizjet-Maker…

…with a bizjet version of the A220 airliner that Bombardier created. Airbus is looking to break into the long-range business net market big-time with a bizjet version of the A220 (once upon a time the Bombardier CSeries; the Canadian company now just makes bizjets, see latter part of this post: “Bombardier to Build New Plant for Bizjets at Toronto…”). Start of an article at Aviation Week and Space Technology:

ACJ Eyes Long-Range Bizjet Market As TwoTwenty Nears Entry To Service

Angus Batey

In the high-end bizliner market, 10 or 12 sales would qualify as a good year for a manufacturer. So, when Benoit Defforge, president of Airbus Corporate Jets, says he expects to be able to sell 10 of just one model of aircraft in a calendar year—without cutting into sales across the rest of its range—it is clear that the company believes it has a hit on its hands.

The aircraft that has got Dafforge and his colleagues at ACJ so excited is the ACJ TwoTwenty. And the reason for their bullish perspective on the likely market—for a jet which, as yet, has not been delivered in a business configuration—is threefold. “Between the budget, the space and the range, this aircraft is at the sweet spot,” he says.

The bizliner [versions of airliners used for private business purposes] territory that is traditionally fought over by ACJ and their colleagues at rival Boeing amounts to, Airbus reckons, about 400 in-service aircraft. 

“It’s interesting,” Defforge says. “It’s a niche market. It’s the high end of our market. But it’s a limited market. But if we go to the high end of the traditional business-jet market, it’s more than 2,000 aircraft. And we are addressing this market with the TwoTwenty.”..

Read on. The Airbus webpage for the plane is here.

Meanwhile Bombardier fires back for the high-end bizjet market, good luck:

Bombardier launches latest ultra-long range business jet Global 8000

Eric Martel, CEO of private jet maker Bombardier, attends the launch of the Global 8000 aircraft during the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 23.DENIS BALIBOUSE/Reuters

Bombardier Inc BBD-B-T -5.79% decrease launched a new long-range business jet on Monday [May 23], as it looks to stay competitive in a market that serves the ultra-rich and has remained robust amid COVID-19 driven boom in demand for private aircraft.

The Montreal-based planemaker said the Global 8000 will become the world’s fastest business jet with an ultra-long range of 8,000 nautical miles (9,206 miles) and a top speed of Mach 0.94 (721 miles per hour).

The plane will enter service in 2025 and compete with high-end models offered by rivals General Dynamics and France’s Dassault Aviation – the Gulfstream G700 and Falcon 10X, respectively [and now the ACJ TwoTwenty?].

Bombardier said the Global 8000 will have a list price of $78 million, slightly higher than the $75 million which its predecessor and the company’s flagship Global 7500 lists for. Both rivals, the G700 and the Falcon 10X, are also priced at $75 million…

Looks like another derivative from an existing aircraft, a usual Bombardier approach. But how much longer? A relevant post from October 2021-

How long can Bombardier go on without Government Subsidies to Develop a new Bizjet? Or a Takeover?

UPDATE: Yep, new Bombardier just another update–also at Aviation Week and Space Technology:

An upgrade on the Global 7500, the Global 8000 will use the same fuselage as its predecessor, which it will eventually come to replace…

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Theme song:

When Flying Boats Ruled the Air and the Waves

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “The Yankee Clipper, circa 1939.”)

The Globe and Mail’s “Moment in Time” for May 20, the year 1939:

Yankee Clipper offers first regular transatlantic postal service [scroll down at link]

Twelve years to the day after Charles Lindbergh took off on the first solo, non-stop transatlantic flight, and seven years after Amelia Earhart embarked on her historic solo jaunt, the Yankee Clipper made history of its own. The plane, a Boeing 314 owned by Pan Am, was a behemoth weighing 38 tonnes and featured a dining room and three lounges for passengers. U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt had christened it in March, 1939, with a champagne bottle filled with water from the seven seas. On this day the same year, the plane was loaded with more than 100,000 pieces of mail and inaugurated the U.S. Postal Service’s transatlantic airmail service. The Clipper took off from Manhasset Bay, Long Island, N.Y., and flew over the heads of crowds at the New York World’s Fair on its way to Marseille, France, with stops in the Azores and Lisbon. The trip took 26½ hours. It was far faster than the only other option – the record for an ocean liner crossing at the time was four days. It’s a long way from the Clipper to how we send messages by e-mail at lightning speed today, but the driving impulse is the same: faster, faster, faster. Dave McGinn

More details on transatlantic air mail service here:

Item #MA1804 – First Trans-Atlantic Airmail Service First Flight Cover.

The start of passenger service soon followed:

Pan American’s Dixie Clipper Makes First Regular Trans-Atlantic Passenger Service to Europe

June 28th marks the 81st anniversary of the first regular trans-Atlantic passenger service via Pan Am’s Boeing 314 ‘Dixie Clipper’. The aircraft left Port Washington, New York with 22 passengers on the southern route to Horta, Lisbon, and Marseilles…

This flight began the era of the heavier-than-air trans-Atlantic passenger service. Later, on July 8, the Yankee Clipper would launch Pan Am service across the Atlantic on the northern route, carrying 17 passengers to England.

The aircraft flew the southern route across the Atlantic, landing in Lisbon the next afternoon after a flight of approximately 27 hours (which included a stop at Horta in the Azores), and then flew to its final destination in Marseilles, France the next day…

And here’s an excellent website on the Boeing 314, “The Airborne Palace”:

That is one airplane I dearly wish I could have travelled on. Some tweets:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

The incredible Shrinking US Air Force, or, Waiting for NGAD

Further to this 2020 post,

US Air Force Trying to Shake, Rattle…(and note NORAD)

the USAF is in a touchy position, forced to make retirements from an increasingly aging fleet while awaiting in particular the new sixth-generation super-fighter (with its accompanying drones) and the new B-21 stealth bomber (which should be in service much sooner). All while facing seemingly ever-growing and more capable PRC forces. The frankness and depth of public discussion about US defence matters can only make a poor Canadian green (with spring!) envy.

1) First from an article at The Drive’s “War Zone”:

The Air Force Has Abandoned Its 386 Squadron Goal

The Air Force Secretary has poured cold water on the previous goal of a 386 squadron USAF and wants a posture based on the Chinese threat.

by Thomas Newdick, Tyler Rogoway May 4

The U.S. Air Force’s long-standing aspiration to increase the number of its squadrons to 386 by 2030 appears to have been dropped. The goal of an enlarged force, which was announced as long ago as 2018, is now deemed less important than fielding more capable platforms, with a particular eye on potential future conflicts with an increasingly advanced Chinese military. That, at least, is the view of the Air Force Secretary, the senior leader overseeing the Department of the Air Force, comprised of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force.

The development was announced by Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, speaking on a Brookings Institution webcast, under the title The future of American air power, on May 2nd, 2022. Among the highlights of a wide-ranging discussion were Kendall’s comments on Air Force size and structure and how these should be balanced, in the future, against capability levels which, in turn, will need to be optimized to meet the potential threat from the Chinese military.

“I’m not focused on counting end-strength or squadrons or airplanes,” Kendall said, but rather “I’m focused on the capability to carry out the operations we might have to support [toward] … defeating aggression. If you can’t deter or defeat the initial act of aggression, then you’re in a situation like we’re seeing in Ukraine: a protracted conflict.”

…the kind of Air Force structure that Kendall is proposing would be tailored very much for the kind of threat posed by China, not Russia [emphasis added], and which would involve fighting “several thousand miles away” from many established bases against an opponent that combines high-end weapons with innovative ways of employing them [see post on “Distributed Operations” noted at bottom of this one]

To…dissuade — and potentially defeat — a fast-expanding and increasingly sophisticated Chinese military, the U.S. Air Force needs to focus less on its size and more on fielding more capable and modern assets.

“An awful lot of equipment that we have is old,” Kendall said, pointing out that the average age of one of the service’s aircraft is 30 years, and that this number is growing every year.

Playing a fundamental part in modernizing the Air Force will be the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, or NGAD, one of Kendall’s key priorities, or operational imperatives. He described NGAD as a family of systems [emphasis added] that will include not just a new manned platform, but also uncrewed combat aircraft, new weapons, connectivity architecture, and relationships to outside support.

…With NGAD, as well as the B-21 Raider stealth bomber and nuclear modernization efforts all ongoing, there are some seriously expensive programs that all require funds. Development of the B-21 alone accounts for $381 million in the latest Air Force budget request, plus another $1.7 billion to actually begin purchasing the aircraft…

The idea of rapidly fielding a new platform and then working to improve it incrementally once it enters the inventory is espoused by Kendall and it’s one that we’ve heard before. Broadly, it parallels the so-called ‘Digital Century Series’ approach that was the brainchild of Will Roper, the former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics…

The biggest concern that is likely to come from Kendall’s emerging strategy is near-term risk, by retiring far more operational aircraft than the already ‘too small for demand’ Air Force is buying, and especially the idea long-term that quality will far supersede quantity in the aerial battlefield of the future [emphasis added]. No matter how capable a fighter or bomber may be, it can only be in one place at one time, and that is usually on the ground, with a substantial part of that time being torn apart for maintenance. In an expeditionary fight, where the U.S. is fighting thousands of miles from home, or even from secured airfields, quantity becomes a real issue in order to sustain the fight over the long haul. China will be fighting on its own turf without these strangling issues and its force is growing in both quantity and quality…

2) And from Aviation Week and Space Technology on the fighter force:

New Leadership Reimagines U.S. Air Force Fighter Fleet Structure

Steve Trimble Brian Everstine April 29, 2022

A new, long-term vision for the U.S. Air Force fighter fleet has gradually come into focus, and, if Congress approves, the changes for the tactical aviation portfolio could be stark.

A sixth-generation fighter to be acquired in the next decade by the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program will cost in the “hundreds of millions” each and enter service in the 2030s alongside a phalanx of uncrewed Collaborative Combat Aircraft with autonomous control systems, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) panel on April 26.

Until then, the Air Force plans to nearly halve a Trump administration plan to buy at least 144 Boeing F-15EX fighters as a short-term replacement for more than 200 F-15C/Ds, cutting the procurement program off after ordering only 80 of the Eagle II fighters in fiscal 2024.

Although the Lockheed Martin F-35A is the only feasible alternative as an F-15C/D replacement in the near term, the Air Force instead aims to slash planned orders for the stealthy, single-engine fighter over the next two years by as many as 34 jets, then ramp up orders after F-15EX procurement is completed in fiscal 2024. The 33-year-old F-15E fleet, meanwhile, emerges from the fighter reshuffling unscathed.

Finally, the Air Force wants to offset cuts to other fighter fleets with major upgrades to the remaining aircraft.

Controversially, the Air Force plans to retire all Fairchild Republic A-10s over the next five years, along with the 33 Lockheed F-22s that are not equipped to fight in combat.

In exchange, the Air Force would like to invest money in major upgrades. More than 600 Lockheed F-16s would be upgraded to the Block 70/72 standard, including Northrop Grumman APG-83 active, electronically scanned array radars and the Northrop Grumman Next-Generation Electronic Warfare suite.

Meanwhile, the surviving fleet of nearly 150 F-22s also is in line for new equipment. Gen. Mark Kelly, the head of Air Combat Command, may have previewed some of the options in an April 27 tweet that celebrated the anniversary of the first F-22 public demonstration routine in 2007.

Kelly’s tweet included a concept image of an F-22 equipped with pods mounted on outboard wing pylons carrying apparent infrared search-and-track sensors, low-radar-cross-section fuel tanks and a next–generation air-to-air missile. The F-22 supposedly receives the first operational Lockheed AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile this year, but Air Force officials said during the April 27 hearing that the long-range weapon remained in development.

All of this fleet reshuffling would result in a 16% reduction in fighter fleet capacity through fiscal 2027, cutting a 2,138-strong fleet now down to 1,792 jets over the next five years [emphasis added].

Air Force officials are seeking to finance new fighter capabilities such as NGAD and F-35 Block 4 by retiring aircraft in the short term. The strategy has usually been met with resistance by Congress…

Kendall has proposed reengining the F-35. The Pratt & Whitney F135 is meeting specifications, but Block 4 electronic upgrades risk overwhelming the power and thermal management system. Pratt designed the 43,000-lb.-thrust engine to provide bleed air from the compressor to cool the onboard electronics [see this story at Breaking Defense: “How to save $40B on the F-35 Program: Cost, risk, and alliances are key considerations for F-35 propulsion modernization”].

…In written testimony submitted to the HASC, a joint statement from Kendall and current Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., is explicit: “This [NGAD] family of systems will include a sixth-generation crewed platform as well as uncrewed combat aircraft and a cost-effective mix of sensors, weapons and communications systems.”

Kendall said he expects to be fielding the NGAD in the 2030s, but two lawmakers, Reps. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) and Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), said they understood the program is delayed [emphasis added]

The sixth-generation fighter at the heart of the NGAD program is already expected to become the most expensive tactical aircraft ever developed. The price of “hundreds of millions” each cited by Kendall aligns with a 2018 projection by the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated a unit cost of about $300 million each for a future penetrating counter-air platform.

With such a high price per copy, the Air Force is trying to shift to a different approach for its fighter fleet.

…Air Force planners are internally debating how future fighter squadrons will be composed with crewed and uncrewed elements [emphasis added]. The newly branded Collaborative Combat Aircraft—formerly described as “Loyal Wingman”—builds on autonomous technology developed as part of programs such as Skyborg and Boeing’s MQ-28 Ghost Bat platform in Australia. It is “quite a few ways out,” Brown says.

Kendall has said he expects these aircraft to cost about half the price of the crewed platform, or potentially $150 million or more. In the short term, that is why the service is focusing on its four-aircraft mix of F-15s, F-16s, F-35s and the NGAD.

Challenges, challenges, challenges. But the RCAF can only wonder at how seriously the American administration and Congress take them. But they are a great power and we most certainly are not. Whether Canada even remains a middle power is open to real question.

And, boy!, does the US have vibrant, intelligent and well-informed defence media. A Canadian sighs.

Related posts;

US Air Force Planning for “Distributed Operations” in Pacific

US Air Force Planning vs PLA in Indo-Pacific

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Making It Harder to Fly Canadian Skies…

…through unfriendly foreign ownership regulations. Airlines are another protected Canadian industry like telcos, broadcasting, dairy (a 2019 story: “Protected industries: Why more than a third of the Canadian economy is walled from competition”)–so higher prices and business complacency, especially regarding innovation. Tough on us, eh? Excerpts from an opinion piece at the Globe and Mail by an excellent columnist:

Flair Airlines flap should prompt Ottawa to relax foreign ownership rules

Rita Trichur

The fate of Flair Airlines [website here] is caught up in stifling and outmoded federal airline regulations, and Canadians should be outraged at the prospect of losing yet another discount carrier.

At issue is whether Edmonton-based Flair is actually controlled by foreigners, in contravention of federal law, despite the airline’s claim of being 58 per cent Canadian owned. Specifically, the Canadian Transportation Agency suspects U.S. investment firm 777 Partners is actually calling the shots at Flair, even though it only owns a 25-per-cent stake.

It seems three of Flair’s five directors are – gasp – U.S. citizens who have connections to 777 Partners. What’s more, Flair apparently leases a number of planes from the Miami-based investment firm and owes it a whole whack of money.

Oh my swirls! An American private equity firm is investing in our airline industry and providing us with a lower-cost choice for air travel to Canadian, U.S. and Mexican destinations. Predictably, rival airlines are kicking up a fuss. But good luck trying to find a Canadian who thinks this is an actual problem.

This regulatory fiasco involving Flair is the latest example of how Canada’s outdated laws and regressive attitude toward foreign investment doom discount airlines, limit competition and harm ordinary Canadians who are fed up with overpriced air fares.

The blame for this mess lies squarely with Ottawa. Instead of opening up Canadian skies to real competition from foreign-controlled airlines when it had the chance, the Trudeau government opted to merely tinker with our foreign investment rules…It’s clear our government’s aversion to foreign investors makes no sense. So, if Ottawa is serious about increasing competition in the airline sector, it must relax the remaining foreign ownership restrictions for airlines that fly domestic routes.

No Canadian cares if Americans, or other foreigners for that matter, control airlines that service destinations within Canada. We just want to pay the lowest possible price for a ticket.

…How many money discount airlines need to fail before Ottawa pursues policies that create real competition?

Canadians shouldn’t have to pay through the nose for air travel. We’ve suffered long enough. And after being stuck at home for the past two years, now is the time to demand change.

Follow Rita Trichur on Twitter: @ritatrichur

And those protected biggies have an awful lot of lobbying clout with Ottawa Centre so plus ça ne change pas, plus c’est la même chose, to vary the phrase.

Earlier posts based on pieces by Ms Trichur:

Will Financial Actions Taken under Emergencies Act Lead to PM Trudeau’s Government Acting Seriously vs Money Laundering in General?

Money Laundering, or, Canada Washes Whiter in the Great Shell Company Game (Note “Cartoon of the day” UPDATE)

PM Trudeau’s Government vs Financial Crime/Money Laundering: “Kid- Glove Treatment”

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Wish this was the theme song for this country:

See the Lockheed Super Constellation to the left of Frank?

Hypersonics: US Air Force Getting Leary of Boost-Glide ARRW, Leaning towards Air-Breathers

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Two AGM-183As were carried aboard a Boeing B-52 during an August 2020 captive-carry event. But the missile’s unique glide vehicle still has not been tested. Credit: Matt Williams/U.S. Air Force”.)

Further to this post,

How Rapidly, How Much should US Commit to Hypersonics? What about Defence? Information and Command and Control?

And this tweet,

the latest on the USAF (note US Navy and Army at end) from Aviation Week and Space Technology:

U.S. Air Force ARRW Program Stalls As Focus Shifts To Scramjets

Steve Trimble April 01, 2022

A secret test of a hypersonic cruise missile demonstrator  and a budget setback for a troubled boost-glide missile prototyping program highlights a growing divergence in the U.S. Air Force’s plans for a future class of missiles that can maneuver at speeds faster than Mach 5.

The Lockheed Martin version of the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) completed a secret flight test in February that a DARPA spokesman described “as nothing short of successful.” The agency has released no further details about only the second confirmed hypersonic flight test during the eight-year-old program.

*Lockheed Martin stages “successful” scramjet test

*U.S. Air Force to yank procurement funding for ARRW

*Army/Navy boost-glide system remains on track

The flight of the Aerojet Rocketdyne scramjet-powered, Lockheed demonstrator follows a successful hypersonic test of the Raytheon/Northrop Grumman version of the HAWC demonstrator last September.

Both demonstrators are intended to smooth an accelerated path to fielding an operational prototype of a scramjet-powered, hypersonic cruise missile for Air Force fighters and bombers by fiscal 2027 [emphasis added]. Lockheed, the Raytheon/Northrop team and Boeing are now competing for a contract to deliver the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) in five years.

The HACM program is moving forward as the Air Force’s first two operational prototyping efforts for hypersonic boost-glide missiles have disappeared or stalled.

The Air Force launched the Air-Launched Rapid-Response Weapon (ARRW) in 2017 and the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) a year later, seeking to rapidly field the first operational prototypes by the end of this year and 2023, respectively.

But the Air Force canceled the HCSW program as redundant in the fiscal 2021 budget, and Congress transferred the ARRW program’s funding to a research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) account instead of the procurement budget in the fiscal 2022 budget enacted in mid-March.

The Air Force plans to follow suit in the fiscal 2023 budget request submitted to Congress on March 28. The current version of the request includes $46.5 million in procurement funding to buy only one of the Lockheed AGM-183A missiles developed under the ARRW program [emphasis added]. But Air Force officials clarified that they intend to transfer those funds to an RDT&E account by filing a reprogramming request with Congress. The future of the program beyond fiscal 2023 is uncertain [emphasis added].

“It’s funded in [fiscal] 2023, and then we’ll make an assessment after that,” says Maj. Gen. James Peccia, the Air Force deputy assistant secretary for budget.

The Air Force’s canceled or stalled boost-glide missile programs stand in contrast to similar efforts being pursued by the U.S. Army and Navy. Despite a test failure on Oct. 21, 2021, the Army’s ground-launched Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) and the Navy’s matching, sea-launched Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) programs remain on track to enter service in 2023 and 2025, respectively [emphasis added].”..

Sure is hard to do truly joint weapons programs. Also
USAF can air-launch either type of hypersonic. Navy and army don’t have appropriate aircraft for air-launch so stuck with sea-/ground-launch missiles.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Quebec Bribes Airbus to Keep A220 (ex-Bombardier CSeries) Jobs at Mirabel

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “An employee works on an Airbus A220-300 at a facility in Mirabel, Que., on Feb. 20, 2020. Christinne Muschi/Reuters”.)

Just business as usual for Canadian governments (note “Theme song” at bottom of the post)–further to this post,

Canadian and Quebec Taxpayers Hosed by Bombardier C-Series as Airbus Ends up with Lovely A220

without the latest bribe, er, investment those Quebec jobs likely would be (non-union) Alabama-bound–excerpts from article at the Globe and Mail:

Quebec reaches $1.2-billion investment deal with Airbus on A220 jetliner production [print headline: “Quebec pours more money into Airbus A220 output”]

Nicolas Van Praet

The Quebec government is pumping more money into its manufacturing partnership with Airbus SE on the A220 jetliner, a move that buys it more time as the company tries to bring the program to profitability amid strong demand for the aircraft.

Quebec will add another US$300-million to its initial investment of US$1-billion in the limited partnership, while Airbus commits another US$900-million, the partners said in a statement on Friday. The money will be used to accelerate the production rate of the aircraft in the months and years ahead as Airbus delivers on a strong order book for the plane, they said.

Boosting its investment allows Quebec to remain a shareholder in the venture for an additional four years to 2030 [emphasis added], the partners said. Under the previous deal, Airbus had a right to buy out Quebec’s share in 2026…

The A220, a single-aisle plane seating 100 to 150 people, is the former C Series airliner developed by Bombardier Inc. at a cost of more than US$6-billion. It was the biggest research and development effort in company history, a nearly two decades-long push funded in part by public money with the aim to put Bombardier at the cutting edge of global passenger-jet manufacturing.

The plane was two years late to market and US$2-billion over budget, and Bombardier misjudged how aggressive its rivals would be. After searching for a partner to help fund the venture, Bombardier turned to Airbus in 2018, handing over control for a nominal fee.

Quebec, which had invested US$1-billion in the program to help Bombardier avoid a financial collapse, later boosted its share to 25 per cent. Airbus owns the other 75 per cent [emphasis added, the feds have also “invested” a whole lot of lolly in Bombardier over the years, including for what was the CSeries]

The company has received 668 orders for the plane in all, and had delivered 193 at last count. Airlines that have bought the jet include Air Canada, Air France and Delta Air Lines.

However, the A220 program remains a money-losing proposition from a manufacturing perspective, both for Quebec and for Airbus. The province has taken a mandatory accounting provision against future losses and says the current book value for its stake is zero…

Airbus, which is based in Toulouse, France, estimates it will break even on the A220 in the middle of the decade. The airliner is built in the Montreal suburb of Mirabel, Que., and Mobile, Ala.

With the investment, Quebec obtained more formalized contract language requiring Airbus to keep production of the A220 in Mirabel [emphasis added, only until 2030 when the company can buy out the provinces’s stake], Mr. Fitzgibbon [province’s minister of economy and innovation] said. He called that aspect a key win as the government tries to boost wealth by creating and maintaining high-paying jobs. Airbus employs about 2,500 people in the province [emphasis added].

And I’d wager quite a bit of lolly that the coming larger A220-500 (could well end up the most successful variant of the plane) will be built only in Mobile:

That theme song:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds