Feb 11, 2016 00:19 UTC
An Israeli news source has reported
that the US government has cleared the sale for two of Boeing’s newest KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tankers to Israel via the security assistance package. The Pentagon had originally put a pause
on selling new aircraft to Israel, initially offering them older models. However, Israel has been insisting on the latest multi-mission tanker with the deal only approved upon the completion of the nuclear deal with Iran. The tanker sale could have become a point of contention for Tehran as its specs allow for a range of 7,350 miles with in-flight refueling. With an average price tag of $188 million each, the addition of Israeli system modifications will see each aircraft cost a quarter of a billion dollars.
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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Feb 09, 2016 00:19 UTC
The final block of the USAF's Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF satellite has been launched
, finally paving the way for the start of the next generation's long overdue GPS III. The GPS IIF-12 satellite will join dozens of other satellites launched over the last 27 years as part of the GPS Block II program. News of the launch follows days after Lockheed Martin was awarded a $94 million contract modification, providing contingency operations for GPS III satellites, ahead of the USAF’s Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX
) program being put in place. With no announced schedule to have GPS III satellites launched in the near future, air force officials have said the GPS IIF-12 is expected to bridge gaps and improve on existing capabilities. Back in December
, Air Force Space Commander Gen. John Hyten called the OCX program "a disaster" after reports of cyber-security concerns, ballooning costs and constant delays.
GPS IIIA concept
GPS-III satellites, in conjunction with their companion OCX ground control, system are the Global Positioning System (GPS) future. They offer big advantages over existing GPS-II satellites and GCS, but most of all, they have to work. Disruption or decay of the critical capabilities provided by the USA’s Navstar satellites would cripple both the US military, and many aspects of the global economy.
The time-based GPS service is the most-used application of Einstein’s Theories of Relativity. GPS has become part of civilian life in ways that go go far beyond those handy driving maps, including crop planting, timing services for stock trades, and a key role in credit card processing. At the same time, military class (M-code) GPS guidance can now be found in everything from cruise missiles and various precision-guided bombs, to battlefield rockets and even artillery shells. Combat search and rescue radios rely on this line of communication, and so does a broadening array of individual soldier equipment.
This DII FOCUS article looks at the existing constellation, GPS-III improvements, the program’s structure, its progress through contracts and key milestones, and extensive PTN (Positioning, Timing & Navigation)/ GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) research links.
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Feb 04, 2016 00:19 UTC
Rep. March McSally has written
to the White House in defense of the A-10
ahead of Obama's budget rollout this week. The former USAF pilot has been one of the biggest political supporters of keeping the close air support aircraft in service until full plans for its legacy replacement are in motion. McSally's efforts to keep the plane have so far resulted in the USAF reportedly shelving the A-10’s retirement plan indefinitely, due to increased demand for the attack plane in military operations in the Middle East. The letter also urged the president and defense secretary to fund depot support, maintenance, and upgrades to extend the life of the A-10 fleet, such as finishing the wing replacement effort.
A-10A over Germany
The Precision Engagement modification is the largest single upgrade effort ever undertaken for the USA’s unique A-10 “Warthog” close air support aircraft fleet. While existing A/OA-10 aircraft continue to outperform technology-packed rivals on the battlefield, this set of upgrades is expected to make them more flexible, and help keep the aircraft current until the fleet’s planned phase-out in 2028. When complete, A-10C PE will give USAF A-10s precision strike capability sooner than planned, combining multiple upgrades into 1 time and money-saving program, rather than executing them as standalone projects. Indeed, the USAF accelerated the PE program by 9 months as a result of its experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for the PE program, and for other modifications to the A-10 fleet. It covers the A-10’s battlefield performance and advantages, the elements of the PE program, other planned modifications, related refurbishment efforts to keep the fleet in the air, and the contracts that have been issued each step of the way.
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Feb 04, 2016 00:19 UTC
Following Michael Gilmore's thoughts on the F-35 program, his report has also shed some light
on the hotly contested Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV
) competition. His report goes into detail on how the three offerings for the USMC Humvee replacement faired in tests. While Lockheed Martin and competition winner Oshkosh met protection requirements, Humvee producer AM General fell short. The shortfall resulted in AM General losing out on a contract potentially worth $30 billion, one of the biggest Army contracts in recent times. Lockheed Martin went on to begin a legal proceeding against the award to Oshkosh; however, these were thrown out before the new year.
Ultra APV demonstrator
In an age of non-linear warfare, where front lines are nebulous at best and non-existent at worst, one of the biggest casualties is… the concept of unprotected rear echelon vehicles, designed with the idea that they’d never see serious combat. That imperative is being driven home on 2 fronts. One front is operational. The other front is buying trends.
These trends, and their design imperatives, found their way into the USA’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program, which aims to replace many of the US military’s 120,000 or so Humvees. The US military’s goal is a 7-10 ton vehicle that’s lighter than its MRAPs and easier to transport aboard ship, while offering substantially better protection ad durability than existing up-armored Humvees. They’d also like a vehicle that can address front-line issues like power generation, in order to recharge all of the batteries troops require for electronic gadgets like night sights, GPS devices, etc.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. JLTV certainly qualifies, and recent budget planning endorsements have solidifed a future that was looking shaky. Now, can the Army’s program deliver?
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Feb 01, 2016 00:18 UTC
The US Navy has placed an order
with Boeing for twenty P-8A Poseidon aircraft in a contract
worth $2.5 billion. Sixteen will replace the P-3C Orion used by the Navy for long-range, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare as well for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Four will be sold to Australia under the US Foreign Military Sales program. Included in the contract, Boeing will also be tasked with providing obsolescence monitoring, change assessment, and integrated baseline and program management reviews.
Maritime surveillance and patrol is becoming more and more important, but the USA’s P-3 Orion turboprop fleet is falling apart. The P-7 Long Range Air ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) Capable Aircraft program to create an improved P-3 began in 1988, but cost overruns, slow progress, and interest in opening the competition to commercial designs led to the P-7’s cancellation for default in 1990. The successor MMA program was begun in March 2000, and Boeing beat Lockheed’s “Orion 21” with a P-8 design based on their ubiquitous 737 passenger jet. US Navy squadrons finally began taking P-8A Poseidon deliveries in 2012, but the long delays haven’t done their existing P-3 fleet any favors.
Filling the P-3 Orion’s shoes is no easy task. What missions will the new P-8A Poseidon face? What do we know about the platform, the project team, and ongoing developments? Will the P-3’s wide global adoption give its successor a comparable level of export opportunities? Australia and India have already signed on, but has the larger market shifted in the interim?
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Feb 01, 2016 00:17 UTC
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted a successful non-intercept flight test
of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). A long-range ground-based interceptor was launched to evaluate the performance of alternate divert thrusters for the system’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. A USAF C-17 aircraft was used to to fire a a target representing an intermediate-range ballistic missile over a broad area of ocean near Hawaii. The missile was then detected, tracked and given a fire control solution to engage the target from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The test of the missile has involved cooperation from several parties alongside the MDA including the USAF 30th Space Wing, the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, and the US Northern Command.
GMD launch, 2001
The USA’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program uses land-based missiles to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in the middle of their flight, outside the atmosphere. The missiles are currently based at 2 sites in the USA: 4 at Vandenberg AFB in California, and 20 (eventually 26) at Fort Greely in Alaska.
The well-known Patriot missiles provide what’s known as terminal-phase defense options, while longer-reach options like the land-based THAAD perform terminal or descent-phase interceptions. Even so, their sensors and flight ranges are best suited to defense against shorter range missiles launched from in-theater.
In contrast, GMD is designed to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). It depends on tracking that begins in the boost phase, in order to allow true mid-course interception attempts in space, before descent or terminal phase options like THAAD and then Patriot would be tried. In order to accomplish that task, GMD missiles must use data feeds from an assortment of long-range sensors, including satellites like SBIRS and DSP, some SPSS/BMEWS huge early-warning radars, and even the naval SBX radar.
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Jan 28, 2016 00:18 UTC
South Korea's planned acquisition of German made Taurus missiles for their F-15K has run into problems, as the US has stalled
in approving export licenses of a key GPS component needed. The GPS component is an integral part of the missile integration project for the jet's trace and key-target hitting functions which can automatically detect, trace and hit targets and penetrate a concrete wall as thick as six meters. Plans had been made to have 170 of the air-to-surface cruise missile delivered by the first half of next year, but any decision on the matter won't be made until August. As a result, the project has stalled in the middle of missile installation; frustrating plans to have the missile deployed on time.
F-15K Poster: apropos?
The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) originally planned to buy 120 advanced, high-end fighters as its next-generation platform, in order to replace its existing fleet of F-4 Phantom IIs and other aircraft. So far, it has bought 60 fighters in 2 phases. Back in 2002, the South Koreans picked the advanced F-15K derivative of the F-15E Strike Eagle for its F-X Next Generation Fighter Program, and bought 40. In 2008, a 2nd F-X Phase II contract was signed for 20 more F-15ks, with slight modifications.
As the 3rd phase loomed, the question was whether it will be a variant of their existing fleet, or something new. While the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) dreamed of developing their own “5th generation” aircraft for Phase 3, reality eventually had its say. Now, foreign manufacturers are offering the ROKAF a number of off-the-shelf options. But throughout 2013 DAPA couldn’t seem to be able to reconcile the air force’s desire for advanced technology with its budget constraints. Boeing seemed on the edge of winning with its F15-SEs as the sole contender within budget, only to be rejected by the end of September 2013. This reopened the tender with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 as the likely favorite, a choice which was confirmed as 2014 unfolded.
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Jan 22, 2016 00:20 UTC
The USMC has declared
that the RQ-21A Blackjack UAV has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) with deployment of the system to commence this summer. Formerly known as the Integrator, the Blackjack has been developed by Boeing as part of a low rate production of a small tactical unmanned air system (STUAS) for the US Navy, and uses the same same launcher and recovery system as the Scan Eagle
system. One hundred systems of five vehicles each are planned for the USMC by 2017.
ScanEagle’s base Insight UAV platform was originally developed by Washington state’s Insitu, Inc. to track dolphins and tuna from fishing boats, in order to ensure that the fish you buy in supermarkets is “dolphin-safe”. It turns out that the same characteristics needed by fishing boats (able to handle salt water environments, low infrastructure launch and recovery, small size, 20-hour long endurance, automated flight patterns) are equally important for naval operations from larger vessels, and for battlefield surveillance. A partnership with Boeing took ScanEagle to market in those fields, and the USMC’s initial buy in 2004 was the beginning of a market-leading position in its niche.
This article covers recent developments with the ScanEagle UAV system, which is quickly evolving into a mainstay with the US Navy and its allies. Incumbency doesn’t last long in the fast-changing world of UAVs, though. Insitu’s own RQ-21 Integrator is looking to push the ScanEagle aside, and new multiple-award contracts in the USA are creating opportunities for other competitors. Can Insitu’s original stay strong?
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Jan 22, 2016 00:19 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
US Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James has dismissed
ideas that production of F-22 Raptor
would restart after a cap of 187 was made in 2011. Citing the spiraling costs of the development and length of time to produce the aircraft, factors which caused the program's termination, James called a potential reboot "a non-starter". The current fleet, which is currently seeing missions in Syria, will be joined by the F-35, and while very much a different beast, James stated they would compliment the Raptors in use.
Into that good night
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.
This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.
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