India: RSH/LUH light helos: India will restart its reconnaissance/surveillance helicopter (RSH) procurement process, after having botched the first two attempts. Previous finalist Airbus Helicopters (AS550 C3 Fennec) will compete again, along with other finalist Kamov (Ka-226T2 Sergei). And Bell Helicopter will re-enter the fray. Bell had been a part of the first competition back in 2003. It will be fielding its Bell 407GT, the militarized version of its 407GX. More »
SBIRS early warning satellite: The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center finished a three-day test of the Increment 2 ground control system for SBIRS. The Increment 2 system features a single control center to operate all three types of satellite, and includes a backup system. More »
The USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) came off the stocks at Austal’s manufacturing facility in Mobile, Alabama. Austal will soon be pumping out two LCSs per year. The Giffords will be delivered in 2017 after further work and testing is done.
Bell Helicopter is worried that the U.S. will be dumping the almost 800 helicopters it is rendering obsolete with its Aviation Restructure Initiative onto foreign markets, severely depressing the market for helicopter sales.
Boeing’s F/A-18 production line is set to be finished up in 2017 in the absence of new orders, but it feels pretty bullish about the prospects of new orders. With additional Growler demand; foreign fighter upgrades and the F-35 price to value ratio being questioned in several partner countries, such as Canada, it seems unlikely there won’t be activity past 2017.
Rather than just sell spectrum assets and shunt the money over to the 2.2 billion Euro hole in its defense budget, France is concocting a sale/lease-back arrangement, where it will sell several A400Ms, a few FREMM frigates and various other hardware to a new firm owned by the state, and then lease those assets back. From itself. The budget kabuki will serve to remove Parliament from the choice of where spectrum sales proceeds will go (which it will authorize with the passage of a bill currently under debate). The effect will be to characterize hardware purchases as revenues roughly commensurate to items’ purchase prices, which allows France – on paper at least – to double its procurement spending by effectively printing money. But those revenues that come in as finance payments will be paid into concerns that are military-specific, and the costs will be characterized as operations expenses, rather than capital expenses.
| The Navy tells Congress that it will move up work on the JFK, but not to launch the ship any sooner. To do so would create an impractical overlap of an extra carrier for a couple year prior to the retirement of CVN-68. Instead, they will delay the completion of the ship, waiting until the last minute to purchase and install the electronics, which presumably will be somewhat improved by the period just before launch in the summer of 2022. More »
| Australia tests new wing kits called the JDAM ER (standing for extended range), tripling range from 24 miles to 72 miles. They were launched out of F/A-18s. The RAAF will purchase the kits later in 2015 pending additional certification tests. More »
| Defense News reports that an Indian Defence Ministry official confirmed that the medium-range (MRSAM) variant is a go for joint development with Israel, with an initial expected order of $1.5 billion. Rafale and IAI would work with Indian firms Bharat Dynamics Tata Power SED and Larsen & Toubro. More »
| France reportedly is to start shipping its planned sale of $3 billion worth of Saudi-purchased arms to Lebanon in April. The announcement appears to have taken many media organs by surprise, given the already volatile military situation in the country. Different reports ascribe various Saudi motives for the pressing of the weapons into Lebanese Army hands, ranging from expressing pique at the U.S. (UPI) - whose arms were not purchased - to a direct effort to fund a force to take on Hezbollah (MintPress). It took the French two years to get to this point of readiness. Had the Saudis sought U.S. arms, the approvals would certainly have been much longer in coming, if they ever came. That the Lebanese Army would take on Hezbollah remains unlikely, as precedent shows a long inability to deny Hezbollah anything in Lebanon the group wishes to take. More »
| The F-35 is a fairly stealthy plane, so long as it is mostly unarmed. About five sixths of its armament capacity must be carried externally, effectively rendering it visible to radars. That has been one of the several good arguments as to why stealth development may have been a low bang-for-buck result. Australia announced that it was going in with Kongsberg to adapt the Joint Strike Missile to fit inside the F-35's armament bay. We helpfully suggest that the new variant be named the JSM-III Sardine. More »
| Mindful of the trend of shipyards to consolidate to the point where there is barely the opportunity for real competition, the Navy is deliberately packaging three very different major defense acquisition programs together and selecting two shipyards to bid for each, with the explicit expectation that each will be rewarded at least one. General Dynamics NASSCO and Huntington Ingalls Industries will compete for the redesign of the LHA-8 (which sorely needs its well deck back now that Marines vehicles have plumped up); the T-AO(X) fleet oiler and the LX(R) dock landing ship replacement.
"Each shipyard will be awarded one detail design and construction contract for LHA 8 or one DD&C for T-AO(X) ships 1-6," said a Navy representative. "This approach balances the Navy's commitment to maintaining a viable shipbuilding industrial base while aggressively pursuing competition." The arbitrary connection of three disparate programs and the automatic win that could go to a loser seems reminiscent of a kindergarten awards ceremony, but at least the creation and maintenance of this duopoly appears to be deliberate. It may shed light on the decision-making process as it happens for the Ingalls/BIW duopoly on the Arleigh Burke contracts and the ancient Newport News/Electric Boat rivalry for submarine work. More »