Category: National Defense

Crash Grounds All F-35 Stealth Fighters

The Pentagon grounded the global fleet of F-35 stealth fighters Thursday so that engineers could conduct urgent inspections following the first ever crash of the costliest plane in history.

Preliminary data from a Marine Corps F-35B that was completely destroyed in a South Carolina crash last month showed a potential problem with a fuel tube, officials said.

“The US services and international partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while the enterprise conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft,” said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program.

He added that suspect fuel tubes would be removed and replaced. If good tubes are already installed, then those planes will be returned to operational status.

Inspections were expected to be completed within 24 to 48 hours.

According to Pentagon figures, 320 F-35s have been delivered globally, mainly to the US but also Israel and Britain, as well as other partner countries.

Britain said the Pentagon measure did not affect all of its F-35s, and that some flying missions had been “paused,” not grounded.

“F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing and the program remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability,” a British defense ministry spokesman said.

– ‘Ready and prepared’ –

The Israeli military said it was taking additional precautions and conducting tests on its version of the F-35, known as the F-35I.

But if the planes are “required for operational action, the F-35I aircraft are ready and prepared,” a statement read.

On September 28, a Marine Corps F-35 crashed in South Carolina. The pilot survived after ejecting.

The incident occurred only one day after the US military first used the F-35 in combat, when Marine Corps jets hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, Defense News reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had ordered the Air Force and Navy to make 80 percent of the fleet of key fighters, including the F-35, mission capable within a year.

The order sent ripples through the Pentagon, where officials have for years bemoaned a general lack of readiness for key equipment.

Launched in the early 1990s, the F-35 program is considered the most expensive weapons system in US history, with an estimated cost of some $400 billion and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.

Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft’s lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion.

Proponents tout the F-35’s radar-dodging stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information.

But the program has faced numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that led commanders to temporarily ground the planes.

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China Refuses U. S. Warship Visit As Trade War Accelerates

China has pulled the plug on a US warship’s scheduled visit to Hong Kong, and scrapped plans for a top admiral to meet with his US counterpart in Washington, officials said Tuesday.

The moves come as trade tensions soar between Beijing and Washington, which this week enacted new tariffs against China covering another $200 billion of its imports.

The USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, was due to visit Hong Kong next month. Lieutenant Colonel David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Chinese had scrapped the visit.

“Thes Chinese government did not approve a request for a US port visit to Hong Kong by the USS Wasp,” Eastburn said.

“We have a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, and we expect that will continue.”

China’s decision comes after Beijing recalled a top admiral who was visiting the US.

A US defense official told AFP that Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong, who commands the People’s Liberation Army Navy, attended a naval symposium in Rhode Island last week.

Following the event, he was planning a visit to Washington that would have included meetings at the Pentagon with his US counterpart, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson.

“We were informed that Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong has been recalled to China and won’t conduct a visit with Admiral Richardson,” Eastburn said.

Last week, Washington placed financial sanctions on the Equipment Development Department of the Chinese Defense Ministry, and its top administrator, for its recent purchase of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.

Beijing responded by summoning the US ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, to lodge an official protest, while the Chinese military expressed “strong indignation and resolute opposition” to the sanctions.

United in their resentment of America’s global influence, China and Russia have sought in recent years to tighten up their ties and this month conducted weeklong joint military drills in Moscow’s largest ever war games.

Further inflaming tensions, the US State Department said Monday it was set to approve a $330 million sale of military aviation parts to the self-governing island of Taiwan.

Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting unification, and is deeply suspicious of the island’s relations with the US.

China expressed “strong dissatisfaction” on Tuesday over the planned sale and urged Washington scrap the contract.

Beijing has been incensed by recent warming ties between Washington and Taipei, including the State Department’s approval of a preliminary license to sell submarine technology to the island.

U.S. Government Seeks Skynet As DARPA Announces $2B Artificial Intelligence Challenge

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, has announced a $2 Billion Dollar Challenge to companies and universities for the development of the next generation of artificial intelligence computer systems with military applications, akin to the Terminator movie series’ Skynet and the Terminators themselves.

The text of the DARPA’s full announcement appears below. Before reading it, the Sentinel suggests two things to keep in mind:

1. Despite the benign objectives listed in then proposal, DARPA has, not once in 60 years, spent any kind of money on projects whose purpose is to stream line administrative procedures, such as the release suggests “key areas to be explored may include automating critical DoD business processes, such as security clearance vetting in a week or accrediting software systems in one day for operational deployment…” DARPA’s projects are intended to help us get them before they get us. Third generation AI when developed, will be used for that purpose, and $2,000,000,000.00 is intended to see that it can, not to take human delays out of background screening.

-and-

2. As much as our military having Skynet and Terminators might strike fear in a Citizen’s heart, the idea of any other nation developing them first is a terror too vast to contemplate.

If someone is to develop them, and they will be developed, best we do it before some militant dictator or suppressive regime does.  The future of our liberty may depend on it.

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DARPA Announces $2 Billion Campaign to Develop Next Wave of AI Technologies

DARPA’s multi-year strategy seeks contextual reasoning in AI systems to create more trusting, collaborative partnerships between humans and machines

OUTREACH@DARPA.MIL
9/7/2018

Over its 60-year history, DARPA has played a leading role in the creation and advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that have produced game-changing capabilities for the Department of Defense. Starting in the 1960s, DARPA research shaped the first wave of AI technologies, which focused on handcrafted knowledge, or rule-based systems capable of narrowly defined tasks. While a critical step forward for the field, these systems were fragile and limited. Starting in the 1990s, DARPA helped usher in a second wave of AI machine learning technologies that created statistical pattern recognizers from large amounts of data. The agency’s funding of natural language understanding, problem solving, navigation and perception technologies has led to the creation of self-driving cars, personal assistants, and near-natural prosthetics, in addition to a myriad of critical and valuable military and commercial applications. However, these second wave AI technologies are dependent on large amounts of high quality training data, do not adapt to changing conditions, offer limited performance guarantees, and are unable to provide users with explanations of their results.

To address the limitations of these first and second wave AI technologies, DARPA seeks to explore new theories and applications that could make it possible for machines to adapt to changing situations. DARPA sees this next generation of AI as a third wave of technological advance, one of contextual adaptation. To better define a path forward, DARPA is announcing today a multi-year investment of more than $2 billion in new and existing programs called the “AI Next” campaign. Agency director, Dr. Steven Walker, officially unveiled the large-scale effort during closing remarks today at DARPA’s D60 Symposium taking place Wednesday through Friday at the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

“With AI Next, we are making multiple research investments aimed at transforming computers from specialized tools to partners in problem-solving,” said Dr. Walker. “Today, machines lack contextual reasoning capabilities, and their training must cover every eventuality, which is not only costly, but ultimately impossible. We want to explore how machines can acquire human-like communication and reasoning capabilities, with the ability to recognize new situations and environments and adapt to them.”

DARPA is currently pursuing more than 20 programs that are exploring ways to advance the state-of-the-art in AI, pushing beyond second-wave machine learning techniques towards contextual reasoning capabilities. In addition, more than 60 active programs are applying AI in some capacity, from agents collaborating to share electromagnetic spectrum bandwidth to detecting and patching cyber vulnerabilities. Over the next 12 months, DARPA plans to issue multiple Broad Agency Announcements for new programs that advance the state of the art in AI.

Under AI Next, key areas to be explored may include automating critical DoD business processes, such as security clearance vetting in a week or accrediting software systems in one day for operational deployment; improving the robustness and reliability of AI systems; enhancing the security and resiliency of machine learning and AI technologies; reducing power, data, and performance inefficiencies; and pioneering the next generation of AI algorithms and applications, such as “explainability” and commonsense reasoning.

In addition to new and existing DARPA research, a key component of the campaign will be DARPA’s Artificial Intelligence Exploration (AIE) program, first announced in July 2018. “In today’s world of fast-paced technological advancement, we must work to expeditiously create and transition projects from idea to practice,” said Dr. Walker.

Accordingly, AIE constitutes a series of high-risk, high payoff projects where researchers will work to establish the feasibility of new AI concepts within 18 months of award. Leveraging streamlined contracting procedures and funding mechanisms will enable these efforts to move from proposal to project kick-off within three months of an opportunity announcement.

http://www.darpa.mil/work-with-us/ai-next-campaign.

Defending The Earth, A New U.S. Space Force?

U.S. President Donald Trump’s desire to create a Space Force might sound a little out of this world, but the idea of making military use of space is not new.

“We already, in fact, have a kind of Space Force,” says Ilya Somin, a professor of law at George Mason University. “We have military satellites that already exist. They’ve existed for a long time. It’s just that they’re controlled by the Air Force and sometimes by the Navy. So if Trump succeeds in persuading Congress to create a Space Force, all that will happen, at least initially, is that the sort of thing that was previously done by the Air Force will now be done by the Space Force.”

The U.S. military is currently composed of five armed services – the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. President Trump wants the Space Force to become a sixth military service branch focused on space warfare.

Constitutional scholars are debating how such a force would come into existence. Some question whether the U.S. Constitution, the nation’s founding governing document, allows for the establishment of a Space Force.

The Constitution grants Congress the power to “raise and support Armies” and also to “provide and maintain a Navy.”

Originalists, scholars who believe the Constitution should be interpreted as it was understood at the time it was enacted back in 1787, might argue that even the Air Force, which became a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces in 1947, should be considered unconstitutional.

Yet originalists could defend a Space Force if it were to be part of the Navy or Army, as the Air Force once was.

“A Space Force, like an Air Force, under modern conditions, is essential to conducting ground operations. It’s just another weapon for ground operations and sometimes naval operations,” Somin says. “The Constitution nowhere limits the kinds of weapons the Army or Navy is allowed to have. So if they’re allowed to have bullets that fly through the air, they can have planes that fly through the air and even spacecraft that fly through space.”

Originalists could also make a case for a completely separate Space Force organizationally because the Constitution gives Congress powers to do what is “necessary and proper” to enable lawmakers to execute their powers.

Agreeing that a Space Force is constitutional might come easily to “living constitutionalists,” scholars who believe that the meaning of the Constitution can change over time to account for modern conditions.

There is, however, one kind of Space Force that both originalists and living constitutionalists might have a problem with – a deep Space Force along the lines of Star Trek’s science fictional Starfleet, which conducts interstellar warfare, exploration and colonization.

“If you’re talking about the Starship Enterprise and it’s light years away from Earth and it’s fighting the Klingons or something in space, that has little or no connection to ground or naval warfare,” says Somin, adding, “I think there is a genuinely strong argument that that kind of deep Space Force would not be permissible under the original meaning of the Constitution.”

But what if aliens in a galaxy far, far away, plan to attack Earth?

“Any such thing, [our ability to use technology for deep space interstellar flight], if it ever happens at all, is many decades away probably, so we have plenty of time to discuss it and debate it, and if we decide this is something we really need, we can do a constitutional amendment,” Somin says. “It’s not like the Klingons or the Romulans are about to attack us tomorrow and we have to immediately authorize Starfleet to defeat them.”

Senate Sends Defense Bill To President Trump For Signing

The US Senate easily passed a $716.3 billion defense authorization bill Wednesday that ramps up military spending and bolsters America’s posture against Russia, while avoiding policy changes that would have antagonized President Donald Trump.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed 87 to 10 in the Senate a week after clearing the House of Representatives, and now heads to the White House for Trump’s signature.

The bill provides $69 billion in special war funding known as overseas contingency operations, authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for members of the armed forces, and invests tens of billions in modernizing the Pentagon’s air and sea fleets and missile defenses.

It notably prohibits delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey, a NATO ally with increasingly fraught relations with Washington, until Ankara can confirm it will not buy Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system.

And while China and Russia are classified as “strategic competitors” to the United States, the legislation negotiated between the House and Senate left out a proposal by senators that would have blocked a deal Trump reached with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE that eases tough financial penalties on the firm for helping Iran and North Korea evade American sanctions.

The capitulation smoothed things over with the White House, but it angered Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who voted against the bill.

“It’s time we opened our eyes,” Rubio told colleagues.

“We are engaged in a geopolitical competition, not with some poor agrarian country trying to catch up, but with a global super power who is quickly nipping at our heels and doing so unfairly, with the intent of replacing us in the world as the most powerful country militarily, economically, geopolitically and technologically.”

The NDAA also includes a provision allowing the administration to waive some Russia-related sanctions that would have barred Washington from selling defense-related equipment to countries using Russian technology.

Supporters of the provision stress that the change will help certain countries wean themselves off of Russian influence.

The bill including provisions which allow for better assessment of risks to US national security from transactions involving foreign firms aiming to gain access to sensitive American technology.

It also extends a restriction on US-Russian military cooperation, and authorizes $65 million to revamp the US nuclear arsenal by developing new “low-yield” nuclear weapons.

This year’s NDAA was named after Senator John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and national security hawk who is home in Arizona battling brain cancer.

“This year’s NDAA represents an important opportunity to implement an effective approach to confront a growing array of threats around the world,” McCain said.

Congress has passed the NDAA for 57 consecutive years, and Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal noted its success marks “a victory for the notion that national security is above politics and party.”