Apr 14, 2017 00:23 UTC
Italian manufacturer Leonardo has handed over its 500th operational Eurofighter Typhoon
to the Italian Air Force. Marking the occasion was a ceremony
at the firm's Turin facility and saw attendance from various military and security industry representatives, including leaders from Leonardo, NETMA, and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug. Speaking at the event, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug CEO Volker Paltzo stated that the "500-strong Eurofighter Typhoon fleet represents one of the largest and most capable fighter fleets in the western hemisphere, and will be the backbone of European airpower for decades to come." European armed forces have been operating the Typhoon since 2003, when the first completed jet was delivered to Britain's Royal Air Force. The service received their 100th plane in September 2006 while Germany's air force accepted the delivery of the 400th jet in 2013.
The multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon has been described as the aerodynamic apotheosis of lessons learned from the twin engine “teen series” fighters that began with the F-14 and F-15, continued with the emergence of the F/A-18 Hornet, and extended through to the most recent F/A-18 Super Hornet variants. Aerodynamically, it’s a half generation ahead of all of these examples, and planned evolutions will place the Eurofighter near or beyond parity in electronic systems and weapons.
The 1998 production agreement among its 4 member countries involved 620 aircraft, built with progressively improved capabilities over 3 contract “tranches”. By the end of Tranche 2, however, welfare state programs and debt burdens had made it difficult to afford the 236 fighters remaining in the 4-nation Eurofighter agreement. A 2009 compromise was found in the EUR 9 billion “Tranche 3A” buy, and the program has renewed its efforts to secure serious export sales. Their success will affect the platform’s production line in the near term, and its modernization plans beyond that.
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Apr 03, 2017 00:57 UTC
Boeing has been awarded a $2.1 billion US Navy contract
to produce 17 P-8A Poseidon
aircraft. Under the agreement, the company will deliver 11 units to the Navy, and five for cooperative partners and as foreign military sales, with completion expected for December 2020. The sale also includes manufacturing orders for long lead parts, obsolescence monitoring, and integrated baseline program management reviews. While the destination of the foreign orders were not included, India and Australia are both primary operators of the aircraft.
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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Apr 03, 2017 00:55 UTC
Leonardo has selected a site in Alabama as the destination for producing the T-100
jet trainer if chosen by the USAF as the winner of the T-X competition. Last Thursday's announcement
said that the company will work on the pending contract at their Alabama facility, adding that the move will help create jobs in the country in addition to providing the Air Force with a next-generation trainer. The trainer was initially intended to be built in partnership at one of Raytheon's facilities, however that pairing was terminated in January, requiring a new location for final assembly.
Tornado refuels M346
Alenia’s Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer began life in 1993, as a collaboration with Russia. It was also something of a breakthrough for Alenia Aermacchi, confirming that the Finmeccanica subsidiary could design and manufacture advanced aircraft with full authority quadriplex fly-by-wire controls. Those controls, the aircraft’s design for vortex lift aerodynamics, and a thrust:weight ratio of nearly 1:1, allow it to remain fully controllable even at angles of attack over 35 degrees. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Not to mention Sukhoi’s SU-30 family, which has made a name for itself at international air shows with remarkable nose-high maneuvers.
The Russian collaboration did not last. For a while, it looked like the Italian jet might not last, either. It did though, and has become a regular contender for advanced jet trainer trainer contracts around the world. Its biggest potential opportunity is in the USA. For now, however, its biggest customer is Israel.
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Mar 31, 2017 00:55 UTC
Indonesia has signed a letter of intent
to buy a number of A400M aircraft from Airbus. The announcement was made by the office of French President Francois Hollande following his recent trip to the region. While the number of aircraft to be sold was not given, Jane’s reported in January that Jakarta wanted to buy five A400Ms, joining neighboring Malaysia as only the second export customer for the troubled program. Previous attempts to sell the transport to South Africa in 2009, and more recently Chile, have all fallen through amid soaring costs and development delays.
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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Mar 30, 2017 00:56 UTC
Boeing has received a $59 million contract modification
to continue production for the USAF's KC-46
tanker aircraft. The deal will see the company provide interim contracting support, a temporary service conducted in lieu of organic capability for a predetermined time. The deal allows Boeing to defer investment in all or part of required support resources. Work is expected to be complete by March, 2018.
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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