Jan 30, 2015 08:38 UTC
Maj. Gen. Michael Lundy, the Army's aviation chief, indicated that in facing two competing technologies from two vendors for the medium-capacity variant of the Future Vertical Lift program, the Army would like both. One can be fitted for the troop carrying role, and the other for the attack/reconnaissance role. The Bell V-280 Valor (tilt rotor) has been theoretically competing against the Sikorsky/Boeing SB>1Defiant. Lundy told BreakingDefense.com
that the decision was akin to the split between the Apache versus the Black Hawk.
The plan depends on the assumption
- that other services have not been quite as bold in making - that sequestration will be lifted for FY 2016 onward. Lundy's tone was fatalistic, indicating that the Army was planning for that one rosy scenario because the others - however likely - wouldn't suit: "If we went to the worst case, it would affect almost every modernization program we’ve got in our branch."
In addition to vanquishing sequestration, the Army's modernization plans hinge on Congress approving their ARI plan, which involves shelving Kiowas and replacing that reconnaissance capacity with Apaches taken from reserve units, among other decisions that would be unpopular in many individual congressional districts.
The future is now
The JMR-TD program is the science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense’s estimated $100 billion Future Vertical Lift program, which is expected to replace between 2,000-4,000 medium class UH-60 utility and AH-64 attack helicopters after 2030.
In reality, FVL will fall far short of that number if it ever goes ahead, but those figures are the current official fantasy. While they’re at it, the Pentagon wants breakthrough performance that includes the same hovering capability as smaller armed scout helicopters, and a 100+ knot improvement in cruising speed to 230+ knots. That’s almost certainly achievable, thanks to new developments that involve very different helicopter designs.
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Jan 30, 2015 01:00 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Airbus sacked its military aircraft chief as European partners chafe at continuing delays in the delivery of the A400M heavy lift plane. Domingo Ureña Raso is out and the program's industrial activities will be transferred to another unit. A wider reorganization is underway, the details of which are to be announced in late February.
A400M rollout, Seville
Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition.
Airbus’ biggest program issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as a combination of A400M delays and Lockheed’s strong push for its C-130J Super Hercules narrow the field for future exports. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into the delivery phase. Will Airbus’ 3rd big issue become its own customers?
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Jan 27, 2015 02:40 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Boeing conducted a flight test from Payne Field in Everett, Washington. The four-hour flight was uneventful.
KC-135: Old as the hills…
DID’s FOCUS articles cover major weapons acquisition programs – and no program is more important to the USAF than its aerial tanker fleet renewal. In January 2007, the big question was whether there would be a competition for the USA’s KC-X proposal, covering 175 production aircraft and 4 test platforms. The total cost is now estimated at $52 billion, but America’s aerial tanker fleet demands new planes to replace its KC-135s, whose most recent new delivery was in 1965. Otherwise, unpredictable age or fatigue issues, like the ones that grounded its F-15A-D fighters in 2008, could ground its aerial tankers – and with them, a substantial slice of the USA’s total airpower.
KC-Y and KC-Z buys are supposed to follow in subsequent decades, in order to replace 530 (195 active; ANG 251; Reserve 84) active tankers, as well as the USAF’s 59 heavy KC-10 tankers that were delivered from 1979-1987. Then again, fiscal and demographic realities may mean that the 179 plane KC-X buy is “it” for the USAF. Either way, the KC-X stakes were huge for all concerned.
In the end, it was Team Boeing’s KC-767 NexGen/ KC-46A (767 derivative) vs. EADS North America’s KC-45A (Airbus KC-30/A330-200 derivative), both within the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress. The financial and employment stakes guaranteed a huge political fight no matter which side won. After Airbus won in 2008, that fight ended up sinking and restarting the entire program. Three years later, Boeing won the recompete. Now, they have to deliver their KC-46A.
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