Tuesday, November 30, 2021

B-21 Raider will replace B-1 and the B-2 but NOT the B-52.

AFCEC leads bed-down efforts for B-21 Raider Stealth Bomber

Published Nov. 24, 2021
By Mila Cisneros
Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public AffairsJOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) --

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center is leading a large-scale, multi-year facilities construction project to deliver infrastructure needed to support the beddown of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber, the future backbone of the Air Force bomber fleet.

The B-21 will incrementally replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit to perform both conventional and nuclear missions alongside the B-52 Stratofortress. As the Air Force transitions to a two-bomber fleet, the strategy to beddown the new bomber has been to minimize operational impacts, maximize reuse of existing facilities and reduce overhead as much as possible.

“Maintaining the lethality and readiness of Air and Space Forces’ requires continuous sustainment and modernization of mission-critical infrastructure,” said Col. Dave Norton, deputy director of AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate. ”AFCEC partners with the Department of the Air Force to deliver resilient and sustainable infrastructure solutions required to successfully accomplish missions of national defense.”

In 2019, the secretary of the Air Force announced that the preferred locations for the B-21 are Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, Whiteman AFB, Missouri and Dyess AFB. After completing the requirements within the National Environmental Protection Act and the Environmental Impact Statement, in June 2021, the Air Force signed a Record of Decision officially naming Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, as the first B-21 Main Operating Base, or MOB. A second NEPA/EIS is anticipated to begin in 2022 to assess the selection for the second and third MOBs.

AFCEC has been working hand-in-hand with Air Force Global Strike Command, the DAF Rapid Capabilities Office, the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s Detachment 10 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure infrastructure is in place at all MOBs to support this critical combat capability when the first aircraft is delivered to Ellsworth AFB in the mid-2020s.

As the program makes steady progress through the engineering and manufacturing development phase, Ellsworth AFB was selected as the test site to construct a temporary prototype Environmental Protection Shelter in March 2020, for which AFCEC delivered the planning. The location of the installation provides the most extreme and diverse weather conditions to test the temporary structures.

“The installation of the prototype shelter will collect data necessary to identify the most effective and affordable EPS designs for facilities to extend the life of the new aircraft and protect maintainers working on the aircraft on the flight line,” said Tom Hodges, AFCEC’s Mobility Support Branch chief.

Beyond the shelter prototype activities, AFCEC continues beddown planning at Ellsworth AFB and expects to finalize the design for mission-critical infrastructure over the next five to 10 years.

The program will account for everything from new buildings to supporting infrastructure with a mix of military construction, and operations and maintenance projects.

“It is a large construction program for a single base which is always challenging,” Hodges said. “We are well into the planning and design stages for many projects that are expected during fiscal years 2022 – 2024 and will soon begin planning for projects we anticipate for FY25 and beyond. We will be awarding five more construction contracts in 2022.”

Overall, the Air Force is projecting a $1 billion investment at Ellsworth AFB to meet warfighter demands for bomber airpower.

“We are actively working with mission commanders on a wide scope of beddown requirements for the new weapons system, and we anticipate awarding projects worth up to $410 million at Ellsworth (AFB) in the next year,” said Naomi Gabriel, AFCEC program manager.

This is a very complex program requiring careful programming, diligent planning and close partnerships with stakeholders to minimize the construction impact and maintain continuity of current B-1B operations, Gabriel said.

Specifically, Ellsworth AFB will receive a mission operations planning facility, training and flight-simulator facilities, wash rack and general maintenance hangar, warehouses and equipment storage in addition to new roads, parking and airfield infrastructure.

So far, AFCEC, in partnership with USACE, AFGSC and the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron, awarded construction for an approximate $130 million low-observable restoration facility at the South Dakota installation Sept. 17, 2021.

It will provide a new state-of-the-art, 90,000-square-foot, two-bay facility with paint booth type functionality to support B-21 weapons system maintenance and operations. Construction will also include airfield paving, site features and supporting infrastructure.

New construction to meet B-21 mission requirements at Ellsworth AFB is expected to be completed over the next five to 10 years.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Pentagon announces new will investigate UFOs as possible threats to military zones.

ABC NEWS: In the wake of a UFO report last summer, the Pentagon has announced the formation of a new group that will investigate reports of UFOs close to sensitive military areas. The new Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group will specifically look at reports of Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (UAP) near U.S. military facilities. UAP is the military term to describe what is known as UFOs or Unexplained Flying Objects.

"Incursions by any airborne object into our SUA (Special Use Airspace) pose safety of flight and operations security concerns, and may pose national security challenges," said a Pentagon press release using the term that includes restricted military airspace, military operations areas, firing ranges and places restricted for national security and other uses.

In a memo outlining the group's formation, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks wrote that unidentified aerial phenomena in special-use areas "represents a safety of flight risk to aircrews and raises potential national security concerns."

The new group will synchronize the Pentagon's efforts with other federal agencies "to detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in Special Use Airspace (SUA), and to assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security."
It will be overseen by the under secretary of defense for intelligence, who will head an executive council including the director of the Joint Staff and senior officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Last June, the U.S. intelligence community released a report requested by Congress that provided the first unclassified assessment of Unexplained Aerial Phenomena.

Compiled by the Navy's Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, that report could not explain 143 incidents and said 18 of them appeared "to demonstrate advanced technology." The UAP Task Force will now be absorbed into the newly formed group announced by the Pentagon.

The UAP report also identified the need to make improvements in the Pentagon's processes, policies, technologies and training to improve its ability to understand UAP.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Russia's A-SAT test causes international outrage and risks to satellites and manned orbital platforms

BBC: Russia has carried out a missile test, destroying one of its own satellites. The action has caused international outrage because the debris could threaten the International Space Station (ISS) and satellites in low-Earth orbit.

Russia's test of an anti-satellite (A-Sat) missile system is not the first of its kind.

Back in 2007, China tested its own missile system against one of its own weather satellites in orbit. The explosion created more than 3,000 pieces of debris the size of a golf ball or larger - and more than 100,000 much smaller pieces.

Of the orbiting fragments considered a threat to the ISS, about a third are from this Chinese test. And at the speeds these objects travel in orbit, even small pieces can threaten spacecraft with destruction.

The A-Sat tests fit into the wider issue of space debris, which is being made worse by our continued activities in space.

There is now a wild jungle of debris overhead - everything from old rocket stages that continue to loop around the Earth decades after they were launched, to the flecks of paint that have lifted off once shiny space vehicles and floated off into the distance.

It is the legacy of 64 years of space activity.

It's estimated there is close to 10,000 tons of hardware in orbit - much of it still active and useful, but far too much of it defunct and aimless.Almost 30,000 pieces of debris are being tracked on a daily basis. These are just the big, easy-to-see items, however. Go below the scale of 1cm (0.39in), and objects move around more or less untracked. There may be 300 million of these. All of this stuff is travelling at several kilometres per second - sufficient velocity for them to become damaging projectiles if any were to strike an operational space mission.

The threat was starkly demonstrated in 2009 when an active communications satellite operated by the US company Iridium and a defunct Soviet-era military communications satellite were obliterated when they collided in orbit.

Now consider the threat to a space vehicle with humans aboard.

On Monday, Russia carried out the A-Sat test from Plesetsk Cosmodrome, about 800km (500 miles) north of Moscow. The missile destroyed an old Soviet spy satellite, called Kosmos 1408, that was once part of Russia's Tselina radio signal surveillance programme.

US state department spokesman Ned Price said the destruction of Kosmos 1408 had generated about 1,500 pieces of larger orbiting objects, for which tracking information is available to civilian sources. But it also created hundreds of thousands of smaller fragments.

Some of these tinier objects likely can be tracked, because the US military doesn't want to give away information about the sensitivities of its hardware. But others are probably too small to detect from the ground.

The debris field from the A-Sat test is found at an altitude of between 440km and 520km above Earth, threatening the ISS, China's Tiangong space station and other spacecraft.

When the ISS passed close to the debris cloud on Monday, crew members were told to shelter in the Soyuz and Crew Dragon spacecraft attached to the orbiting outpost. This is so that the crew could detach and come back to Earth if the space station was damaged by fragments of the satellite.

While vehicles such as the space shuttle were hit by smaller pieces of debris, it's likely that a collision with any large objects at orbital speeds would be catastrophic to the ISS.

The action by Russia has been condemned by other countries, including the US and the UK.

Russian anti-satellite missile test sparks outrage

The Russian military said it was carrying out planned activities to strengthen its defence capabilities, but denied the test was dangerous.

"The United States knows for certain that the resulting fragments, in terms of test time and orbital parameters, did not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities," it said.

Many countries now have their own A-Sat systems; the US and Russia (and previously the USSR) have been developing weapons of this kind since the 1950s. In 1985, the US used a missile launched from an F-15 fighter jet to destroy the Solwind scientific satellite.

After the Chinese A-Sat incident in 2007, the US military again shot down one of its own satellites - at a lower altitude than the Chinese or Russian operations - using a ship-launched missile. The lower height above the Earth was intended to ensure that any debris would quickly burn up in the atmosphere rather than staying aloft to threaten space-based assets.

Then in 2019, India tested its own weapon, during an operation codenamed Mission Shakti. The missile struck a test satellite in a lower orbit than those targeted by Moscow or Beijing, generating more than 200 pieces of trackable debris.

Since modern militaries rely on satellites for intelligence gathering, navigation and communications, A-Sat systems could be used to undermine an adversary's command and control system during conflict.


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