Dec 07, 2016 00:50 UTC
Mid-life upgrades of Finnish F/A-18
fighters will see the inclusion of the Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS-JTRS), following approval
by the US State Department. 90 units of MIDS-JTRS will be sold to Helsinki at a cost of $156 million. MIDS-JTRS is the communication component of the Link 16
military technical data exchange network, used by the US, NATO, and approved partner nations.
The US Navy flies the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighters, and has begun operating the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare & strike aircraft. Many of these buys have been managed out of common multi-year procurement (MYP) contracts, which aim to reduce overall costs by offering longer-term production commitments, so contractors can negotiate better deals with their suppliers.
The MYP-II contract ran from 2005-2009, and was not renewed because the Pentagon intended to focus on the F-35 fighter program. When it became clear that the F-35 program was going to be late, and had serious program and budgetary issues, pressure built to abandon year-by-year contracting, and negotiate another multi-year deal for the current Super Hornet family. That deal is now final. This entry covers the program as a whole, with a focus on 2010-2015 Super Hornet family purchases. It has been updated to include all announced contracts and events connected with MYP-III, including engines and other separate “government-furnished equipment” that figures prominently in the final price.
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Dec 07, 2016 00:48 UTC
The Pentagon's chief arms buyer, Frank Kendell, is hopeful
that a three-year block buy of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
will go ahead. Covering some 400 F-35 units for both the US military branches and partner nations, the agreement is expected to generate large savings through bigger economies of scale between the fiscal years 2018 through 2020. Negotiations with lead contractor Lockheed Martin, however, have been slow as seen in the year-long negotiations of the fighter's ninth batch, while the government's chief weapons tester, Michael Gilmore, has long argued about the need to test the planes before buying and building larger quantities.
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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Nov 30, 2016 00:40 UTC
As part of governmental approval to increase defense spending, Norway plans to drop some $1.15 billion
on five P-8A Poseidon
maritime patrol aircraft. With Norway sharing a long maritime border with Russia, the acquisition comes as Nordic and Baltic states ramp up modernization and capability efforts in order to dissuade Moscow from trying to pull another "Crimea" in the Baltics. Delivery of the planes will take place between 2021 and 2022 and will replace the current fleet of six P-3 Orion and three DA-20 Jet Falcon 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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Nov 29, 2016 00:48 UTC
The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office has been awarded a $267.2 million US Navy contract modification
for additional logistics support for MV-22
Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. Under the deal, both the USMC MV-22 and the USAF Special Operations Command CV-22 variant will be covered. The contract runs until November 2018.
In March 2008, the Bell Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, TX received a $10.4 billion modification that converted the previous N00019-07-C-0001 advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-fee, multi-year contract. The new contract rose to $10.92 billion, and was used to buy 143 MV-22 (for USMC) and 31 CV-22 (Air Force Special Operations) Osprey aircraft, plus associated manufacturing tooling to move the aircraft into full production. A follow-on MYP-II contract covered another 99 Ospreys (92 MV-22, 7 CV-22) for $6.524 billion. Totals: $17.444 billion for 235 MV-22s and 38 CV-22s, an average of $63.9 million each.
The V-22 tilt-rotor program has been beset by controversy throughout its 20-year development period. Despite these issues, and the emergence of competitive but more conventional compound helicopter technologies like Piasecki’s X-49 Speedhawk and Sikorsky’s X2, the V-22 program continues to move forward. This DID Spotlight article looks at the V-22’s multi-year purchase contract from 2008-12 and 2013-2017, plus associated contracts for key V-22 systems, program developments, and research sources.
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Nov 29, 2016 00:45 UTC
The first flight of the Gripen E
will have to wait until 2017 as manufacturer Saab self-imposes a delay of at least six months
. It was initially expected that the latest Gripen model would fly before the end of the year, however Saab has chosen to fully qualify its distributed integrated modular avionics (DIMA) design to commercial standards prior to the first flight. Deliveries of orders to the Swedish and Brazilian air forces, slated for 2019, are not expected.
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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Nov 18, 2016 00:48 UTC
Boeing is eager to sell
aerial refueling tanker to India. The Indian Air Force has yet to procure a capability to refuel its C-17 and P-8I aircraft, and New Delhi has eyed up the Pegasus to fill such a role. A laborious search has been underway to fill a six multi-role tanker capability soon to be vacated by their aging IL-76 aircraft. Earlier attempts to procure Airbus A 330 MRTT never came to fruition.
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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Nov 09, 2016 00:40 UTC
India's Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved the purchase
of 83 Tejas Mk 1A
fighters and 15 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH
), marking the first clearances under the Indigenous Design Development and Manufacturing (IDDM) category. However, it was also reported that a hotly expected decision
on whether New Delhi would sign off on purchasing 12 US-2 amphibious aircraft from Japan was deferred. DAC also cleared India's new blacklisting policy.
India’s Light Combat Aircraft program is meant to boost its aviation industry, but it must also solve a pressing military problem. The IAF’s fighter strength has been declining as the MiG-21s that form the bulk of its fleet are lost in crashes, or retired due to age and wear. Most of India’s other Cold War vintage aircraft face similar problems.
In response, some MiG-21s have been modernized to MiG-21 ‘Bison’ configuration, and other current fighter types are undergoing modernization programs of their own. The IAF’s hope is that they can maintain an adequate force until the multi-billion dollar 126+ plane MMRCA competition delivers replacements, and more SU-30MKIs arrive from HAL. Which still leaves India without an affordable fighter solution. MMRCA can replace some of India’s mid-range fighters, but what about the MiG-21s? The MiG-21 Bison program adds years of life to those airframes, but even so, they’re likely to be gone by 2020.
That’s why India’s own Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project is so important to the IAF’s future prospects. It’s also why India’s rigid domestic-only policies are gradually being relaxed, in order to field an operational and competitive aircraft. Even with that help, the program’s delays are a growing problem for the IAF. Meanwhile, the west’s near-abandonment of the global lightweight fighter market opens a global opportunity, if India can seize it with a compelling and timely product.
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Nov 07, 2016 00:55 UTC
A Canadian CH-148 Cyclone has conducted its first anti-submarine warfare testing
with the HMCS Windsor off the coast of Nova Scotia. The Sikorsky-made naval helicopter was tested as part of its Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) carried out by the Helicopter Test and Evaluation Facility (HOTEF). Crews onboard the CH-148 employed Expendable Mobile ASW Training Targets (EMATTs) to simulate submarine movements and noise patterns, which allowed HOTEF crews to further develop those tactical procedures that will be used by operational crews following CH148 Release to Service.
Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Replacement Program has been a textbook military procurement program over its long history. Unfortunately, it has been a textbook example of what not to do. While Canada’s 50-year old Sea King fleet aged and deteriorated to potentially dangerous levels, political pettiness and lack of concern turned a straightforward off-the-shelf buy into a 25+ year long odyssey of cancellations, lawsuits, rebids, and more. Eventually, the Canadian military settled on Sikorsky’s H-92 Superhawk as the basis of its new CH-148 Cyclone Maritime Helicopter, which will serve from the decks of Canada’s naval ships and bases.
The civilian S-92 has gone on to some commercial success. To date, however, Canada has been the H-92’s only military customer – with all of the associated systems integration and naval conversion burdens that one would expect. After a long series of badly missed milestones and delivery delays, there are also deeper questions being raised concerning both the machines’ fitness, and DND’s conduct of the program as a whole. This article covers the rationale for, history of, and developments within Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Program.
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Oct 24, 2016 00:50 UTC
Four companies have been awarded contracts by the US Navy to conduct risk reduction work on their designs for the MQ-25 Stingray. Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Lockheed Martin received contracts for $43 million each while Northrop Grumman received $35.8 million. The risk reduction work will see the companies alter previous designs of the MQ-25
as an unmanned strike bomber to fit its new role as an aerial tanker under the carrier-based air refueling system (CBARS
UCAS-D/ N-UCAS concept
The idea of UAVs with full stealth and combat capabilities has come a long way, quickly. Air forces around the world are pursuing R&D programs, but in the USA, progress is being led by the US Navy.
Their interest is well-founded. A May 2007 non-partisan report discussed the lengthening reach of ship-killers. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s carrier fleet sees its strike range shrinking to 1950s distances, and prepares for a future with fewer carrier air wings than operational carriers. Could UCAV/UCAS vehicles with longer ranges, and indefinite flight time limits via aerial refueling, solve these problems? Some people in the Navy seem to think that they might. Hence UCAS-D/ N-UCAS, which received a major push in the FY 2010 defense review. Now, Northrop Grumman is improving its X-47 UCAS-D under contract, even as emerging privately-developed options expand the Navy’s future choices as it works on its new RFP.
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Oct 19, 2016 00:48 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]: MQ-8C Fire Scout
UAVs will be supplied with Leonardo's 2-panel Osprey AESA radar following the dismissal of a protest
by rival bidderTelephonics. Five radars will be delivered to the US Naval Air Systems Command in the first financial quarter of 2017 and will be used for integration, test and evaluation on-board the Bell Helicopter 407-derived MQ-8C, and the USN holds an option to buy a larger quantity for operational use. The radar will provide only 260-degree field of view and will come equipped with air-to-air targeting mode.
MQ-8B Fire Scout
A helicopter UAV is very handy for naval ships, and for armies who can’t always depend on runways. The USA’s RQ/MQ-8 Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Vehicle has blazed a trail of firsts in this area, but its history is best described as “colorful.” The program was begun by the US Navy, canceled, adopted by the US Army, revived by the Navy, then canceled by the Army. Leaving it back in the hands of the US Navy. Though the Army is thinking about joining again, and the base platform is changing.
The question is, can the MQ-8 leverage its size, first-mover contract opportunity, and “good enough” performance into a secure future with the US Navy – and beyond? DID describes these new VTUAV platforms, clarifies the program’s structure and colorful history, lists all related contracts and events, and offers related research materials.
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