Aug 27, 2015 02:45 UTC
t should go without saying that yesterday's Oshkosh award of the JLTV program may well be contested
. The Army has yet to debrief Lockheed or AM General, a key step in the process toward a proper GAO protest.
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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Aug 25, 2015 00:50 UTC
Belgium's four NH90 NFH
naval helicopter fleet have achieved Initial Operating Capability
, eight years after they were ordered in May 2007
through a mixed order for ten NH90 helicopters. Three of the country's four helicopters have now entered service, with a fourth scheduled to join them in early 2016.
NH90: TTH & NFH
The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NH Industries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.
The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60 Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.
As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at around 500 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.
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Aug 19, 2015 00:11 UTC
The mistake earlier this month
involving the accidental insertion of chemicals into the fuel system of the KC-46A
tanker has officially delayed
the aircraft's first flight by a month. The tanker will now see its first flight in late-September or early October, with the program's original timetable calling for this flight to have taken place last year, with this pushed back to April and then again to late August, before this latest setback.
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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Aug 14, 2015 00:05 UTC
The Navy is reportedly
considering reducing the number of F-35C fighters it plans to procure, alluding to budgetary concerns. The Navy is also less enthused by the Joint Strike Fighter
compared to the Marines
and Air Force because of the Service operating more modern aircraft, including new and upgraded Super Hornets
F-35B: off probation
The $382 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE) Lightning jet. Lightning II system development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3), with Singapore and Israel as “Security Cooperation Partners,” and Japan as the 1st export customer.
The big question for Lockheed Martin is whether, and when, many of these partner countries will begin placing purchase orders. This updated article has expanded to feature more detail regarding the F-35 program, including contracts, sub-contracts, and notable events and reports during 2012-2013.
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Jul 30, 2015 00:00 UTC
Confirming reports from June
indicating that Brazil was looking to refinance its procurement of 36 Saab Gripen NG
fighters, Sweden has reportedly
agreed to reduce the commercial interest rate applied by the Swedish Export Credit Corporation from 2.54% to 2.19%. Brazil cut the amount of funding it planned to take from Sweden in June
, with the original sales contract announced in October 2014
. The revised agreement will now be transferred
to Brazil's Federal Senate to be signed-off. Meanwhile, Brazilian prosecutors announced in April 2015
that they were planning to investigate the $5.4 billion Gripen deal.
South African JAS-39D
As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defense against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken (“Dragon,” 1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt,” 1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. This record of consistent project success is nothing short of amazing, especially for a country whose population over this period has ranged from 7-9 million people.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for background, news, and contract awards related to the JAS-39 Gripen (“Griffon”), a canard-winged successor to the Viggen and one of the world’s first 4+ generation fighters. Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter? In 2013 a win in Brazil started to answer that question.
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Jul 29, 2015 00:10 UTC
The Air Force has reportedly
retained some ageing C-130U Hercules aircraft for use as airborne laser testbed aircraft. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) plans to use the aircraft to test both offensive laser weapons and defensive lasers designed to act as less-than-lethal options. DARPA has been field testing
the use of lasers against hostile projectiles, with the Air Force expecting
to field airborne lasers on larger cargo aircraft models from 2021. However, the further development of these capabilities could be hamstrung
by sequestration and a lack of political will.
RAAF C-130J-30, flares
The C-130 Hercules remains one of the longest-running aerospace manufacturing programs of all time. Since 1956, over 40 models and variants have served as the tactical airlift backbone for over 50 nations. The C-130J looks similar, but the number of changes almost makes it a new aircraft. Those changes also created issues; the program has been the focus of a great deal of controversy in America – and even of a full program restructuring in 2006. Some early concerns from critics were put to rest when the C-130J demonstrated in-theater performance on the front lines that was a major improvement over its C-130E/H predecessors. A valid follow-on question might be: does it break the bottleneck limitations that have hobbled a number of multi-billion dollar US Army vehicle development programs?
C-130J customers now include Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States. American C-130J purchases are taking place under both annual budgets and supplemental wartime funding, in order to replace tactical transport and special forces fleets that are flying old aircraft and in dire need of major repairs. This DID FOCUS Article describes the C-130J, examines the bottleneck issue, covers global developments for the C-130J program, and looks at present and emerging competitors.
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Jul 24, 2015 00:01 UTC
The F-35's GAU-22/A
25mm cannon has been tested on the ground at Edwards Air Force Base, with the General Dynamics-designed weapon having been developed for both internal and external gun systems of the Joint Strike Fighter
. The cannon is mounted on an external pod for the F-35B and C variants, with the Air Force's F-35A variant positioning the weapon internally. The four-barrel system allows the fighter to let loose just 180 rounds per reload, allowing for three short passes at best. That last problem featured heavily in criticism of the Air Force for floating the idea - since backtracked - that the F-35A could serve as the main ground forces protection platform. The program has been busy testing other weapons in recent weeks, including the Marines testing live JDAM
bombs in early July
. The Pentagon has been mulling
what to include in future F-35 weapon tranches, with options including the Small Diameter Bomb II
and Joint Strike Missile
, as well as several others.
Grim Reapers F-35C
The $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy.
This article will serve as DID’s central repository explaining and contrasting all 3 F-35 variants, detailing the fighter family’s core technologies and features, and laying out the core industrial framework whose “political engineering” has made the program almost impossible to kill. It will also summarize the core arguments that swirl around the fighter’s future capability, and provide useful background links regarding the program and its key technologies.
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Jul 09, 2015 01:00 UTC
India is reportedly engaged in talks
with Russia over a possible nuclear submarine leasing agreement. The topic is scheduled to be included on a list of topics to be discussed between India's Modi and Vladimir Putin when the Indian PM visits Moscow next week. It is likely that instead of leasing a third Akula-class attack sub from the Russians to complement the existing leased subs
, the Modi government will look to lease a more modern Yasen-class sub
, or a customized variant of a different class. Russia recently announced that it will upgrade
its own Akula-class
fleet, also recently laying-down
a fifth Yasen-class boat.
India’s submarine fleet currently consists of 16 boats: 10 Russian SSK Kilo (Sindhugosh) Class, 4 locally built SSK U209 (Shishumar) Class, a leased nuclear-powered Improved Akula Class SSN from Russia (INS Chakra), and its own INS Arihant SSBN. Most of the Kilos have been modernized, but readiness rates for India’s existing submarine fleet sits below 40%, and the U209s will have trouble lasting much beyond 2015. With Pakistan acquiring modern submarines, and Chinese submarine building exploding, expanding India’s submarine fleet became an obvious national priority.
In 2005, India confirmed that it would buy 6 Franco-Spanish Scorpene diesel submarines, with an option for 6 more and extensive technology transfer agreements. Unfortunately, 7 years after that deal was signed, “Project 75″ has yet to field a single submarine. A poor Indian procurement approach, and state-run inefficiency, are pushing the country’s entire submarine force toward an aging crisis. This DID FOCUS article covers the Scorpene deal and its structure, adds key contracts and new developments, and offers insights into the larger naval picture within and beyond India.
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Jun 11, 2015 00:36 UTC
South Korea has requested
the sale of the Aegis Combat System through a Foreign Military Sale. The potential sale of three of the systems, as well as auxiliary equipment, could be worth $1.9 billion and comes weeks after
the North tested a "submarine-launched" missile
. The ACS comprises the SPY-1 radar, Display System and Underwater Countermeasure System
, with the Aegis system also capable of operating in a Ballistic Missile Defense capacity
The Korean Destroyer eXperimental (KDX) surface combatant shipbuilding program involves 3 individual classes of ships. The 3 KDX-I Gwanggaeto Great Class ships are called destroyers, but at 3,800 tons, their size and armament more properly rank them as small frigates. The last ship of class was commissioned in 2000. The next 6 KDX-II Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin Class ships are indeed destroyers at 6,085 tons full load, with a hull design licensed from Germany’s IABG, and more advanced systems that include SM-2 air defense missiles. They were commissioned between 2003-2008.
With that experience under their belts, Korea entered the 3rd phase of the program. Their KDX-III King Sejong Great Class destroyers weigh in at 8,500 tons standard displacement and 11,000 tons full load. That’s heavier than the USA’s CG-47 Ticonderoga Class cruisers, making them the largest ships in the world to carry Lockheed Martin’s AEGIS combat system. They will form the high end of South Korea’s Navy, while offering a premium showcase for some of the new weapons and electronic systems developed by South Korea’s defense sector.
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May 22, 2015 02:38 UTC
Turkey has requested
upgrades for its Phalanx close-in weapon systems
, as well as four new systems, in a potential $310 million deal. The deal would also include Remote Weapons Stations, equipment, parts and training, as well as contractor (Raytheon) support. The Phalanx has been exported to several countries, with Australia recently requesting
an upgrade package, with the UK
and South Korea
having imported the system, alongside other international customers. The CIWS is designed to provide a final tier defensive capability, with radar guiding a cannon to shoot down missiles and aircraft.
The radar-guided, rapid-firing MK 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS, pron. “see-whiz”) can fire between 3,000-4,500 20mm cannon rounds per minute, either autonomously or under manual command, as a last-ditch defense against incoming missiles and other targets. Phalanx uses closed-loop spotting with advanced radar and computer technology to locate, identify and direct a stream of armor piercing projectiles toward the target. These capabilities have made the Phalanx CIWS a critical bolt-on sub-system for naval vessels around the world, and led to the C-RAM/Centurion, a land-based system designed to defend against incoming artillery and mortars.
This DID Spotlight article offers updated, in-depth coverage that describes ongoing deployment and research projects within the Phalanx family of weapons, the new land-based system’s new technologies and roles, and international contracts from FY 2005 onward. As of Feb 28/07, more than 895 Phalanx systems had been built and deployed in the navies of 22 nations.
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