Aug 11, 2017 04:57 UTC
Deliveries of the LCA Tejas
aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been delayed
after the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has delivered only four aircraft to the IAF out of 40 ordered in 2005. The four aircraft so far delivered are from a batch of 20 designated for initial operational clearance (IOC), while the remaining 20 aircraft were designated for final operational clearance (FOC). In order to ramp up production, the government has established a second manufacturing line to support “structural and equipping activities. HAL has also altered the production of certain components and has reduced the manufacturing cycle time by improving supply chain management and boosting workforce.
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.
Continue Reading… »
Aug 08, 2017 04:59 UTC
The US Navy has awarded Boeing a $11.1 million contract modification
to conduct additional ground repair work on the P-8A Poseidon
maritime patrol aircraft operated by the service. Work will be carried out at Jacksonville, Fla., as well as other sites throughout the United States and locations in Japan, Australia and Italy, with a scheduled completion of June 2018. The Navy currently operates a fleet of 50 Poseidons and expect future deliveries to bring the fleet to 109 as it replaces its older P-3 Orion maritime patrol 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?
Continue Reading… »
Aug 07, 2017 04:59 UTC
The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office has received a $57.1 million US Navy contract modification
to carry out modifications to the MV-22 Osprey
fleet operated by the US Marine Corps (USMC) in support of the V-22 Common Configuration-Readiness and Modernization (CC-RAM) Program. Under the terms of the agreement, the funding will go towards the retrofit of one MV-22 as a test for improving readiness and eventual modification of the MV-22 fleet to the Block C common configuration. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania (80 percent); and Fort Worth, Texas (20 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2019. The Block C configuration includes improved environmental controls, chaff/flare countermeasures, navigation upgrades and command-and-control displays.
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.
Continue Reading… »
Aug 07, 2017 04:58 UTC
Lockheed Martin has announced that the VH-92A
presidential helicopter has made its maiden flight
. Two flights were made by Engineering Development Model 1 (EDM-1) on July 29 at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut with both sorties lasting for one hour. During the test, the team made hovering control checks, a low speed flight, and a pass of the airfield. An additional EDM-2 is on track for its first flight later this year. Expected to enter service in 2020, both helicopters will transport the president and vice president of the United States and other officials.
In January 2005, the U.S. Navy selected the US101 as the new “Marine One” baseline helicopter, for use by the President of the United States. The US101 is an American variant of AgustaWestland’s successful AW101 multi-mission medium helicopter; it beat out Sikorsky’s S-92 Superhawk, which is already in use as a government VIP transport in countries like South Korea.
That $1.7 billion victory was first endangered, and then destroyed, by ongoing changes from the White House staff. In 2008, the program’s ballooning costs and requirements got a temporary reprieve when US Navy agreed to proceed with the VH-71, despite a cost per aircraft equal or greater than the President’s Air Force One 747s. By June 2009, however, the VH-71 program had shot itself down.
Another round of competition is on the way, and back in 2009 the Pentagon said it was considering buying 2 different helicopters in the VXX follow-on program. Faced with an initial Analysis of Alternatives deemed too expensive, the OSD accepted the Navy’s revised approach in May 2012, setting things in motion for a new program of record.
Continue Reading… »
Aug 02, 2017 04:58 UTC
The US State Department has approved
a foreign military sale (FMS) package to upgrade Swiss F/A-18 Super Hornet
aircraft. If approved by US Congress, the sale of the Service Life Extension Program for the aircraft would include as many as 50 Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio Systems with Concurrent Multi-Net 4 capability, 50 ARC-210 GEN 5 RT-1900A(C) radios with a second-generation anti-jam tactical UHF radio for NATO frequency hopping, and 20 joint helmet-mounted cueing system/night vision cueing display systems. Also included in the deal are software enhancements to the APG-73 radar, improvements to the F/A-18 Software Configuration Set 29C, and sustainment for the ALQ-165 Airborne Self Protection Jammer system. The estimated value of the sale is worth up to $115 million.
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.
Continue Reading… »
Jul 31, 2017 04:58 UTC
Electromagnetic testing of the KC-46A Pegasus
tanker has been completed
by a joint team involving Boeing, the USAF, and the Naval Air Systems command, moving the aircraft closer to its first delivery. Testing tool place at Naval Air Station Patuxent, Md. electromagnetic pulse laboratory and the Benefield Anechoic Facility at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif, which aimed to assess whether the aircraft could safely operate when confronted by the electromagnetic fields generated by equipment like radar. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in March had deemed the tests as one of the two key risk factors that could keep Boeing from meeting its delivery goals. However, Boeing has stated that the timing of the electromagnetic tests would not push back other key milestones and that the company still intends to deliver the first KC-46A this year.
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.
Continue Reading… »
Jul 24, 2017 04:58 UTC
A new draft request for proposals released by the US Navy has revealed
that the service's plans for the MQ-25 Stingray
will be primarily that of a mission tanker. The draft, published on July 19, made no mention on the unmanned platform’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, instead outlining the two key performance parameters (KPP) required for the aircraft's airframes as having both carrier suitability and mission tanker capacity. As a result, the four competitors – Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Atomics – will only have to prove that their aircraft can take-off and land back on a carrier and do mission tanking.
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.
Continue Reading… »
Jul 24, 2017 04:54 UTC
Ha Sung-yong, the CEO of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), has offered to step down
after Korean prosecutors raided his company's offices to gather evidence as part of the Surion
utility helicopter scandal. Allegations levelled at the firm include that charge that the company inflated expenses for the development of the Surion military helicotper and pocketed illicit gains—to the tune of $21 million—in the process. Ha, who last year said he would resign if KAI's T-50 was not selected for the USAF's T-X trainer program, offered to resign again during a board of directors meeting, and a successor will be chosen at an extraordinary shareholders' meeting, to be arranged for as soon as possible.
South Korea currently owns around 700 helicopters, but more than half are considered outdated, and they need to be replaced. December 2005 marked the endgame for a South Korean competition to produce about 245 utility transport helicopters, which would be developed and produced as a semi-indigenous program. The KHP/ Surion is in the 8-tonne class, and is designed to carry 11 troops. Industrial offsets were also important, as the program is designed to boost Korea’s ability to design and build its own rotary-wing aircraft. EADS Eurocopter was chosen as the cooperating partner.
The Korean government gave its final approval of the contract in June 2006, and the project is underway. Note that while company releases place the program’s value at $6-8 billion, the program hasn’t reached that level yet. The initial contract was for KRW 1.3 trillion ($1.3 billion), and is for research and development only. That development finished in April 2013, and the main production contract is next. It will proceed in parallel with additional contracts to develop Surion specialty versions for Korea’s federal police and Marine Corps, and all of these models will be offered for export through a joint venture with Eurocopter.
Continue Reading… »
Jul 21, 2017 04:56 UTC
Saab's JAS-39 Gripen has been pulled
out of Belgium's fighter competition, leaving Brussels with the choice of either the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, or Lockheed Martin F-35. While Sweden's FMV defence materiel administration had initially touted the Gripen as a cost-effective solution that can easily fill the operational requirements required by Belgium, the request included the requirement that the delivering nation also provides extensive operational support—something that would require a change in both Swedish foreign policy and political mandate. As a result, Sweden and the FMV choose notto submit an answer to the Belgian request.
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.
Continue Reading… »
Jul 11, 2017 04:58 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Sikorsky has been awarded a $55 million contract modification
to a previously awarded contract for the long-lead support of low-rate production of four Lot II CH-53K King Stallion
helicopters. An upgrade of the Sea Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, work on the King Stallion contract will be conducted at the Sikorsky plant in Stratford, Conn and is expected to be completed by March 2022. The helicopter is capable carrying up of 27,000 pounds of external sling load. It can carry artillery pieces and Humvee utility vehicles and it's cabin is capable of carrying 463 pallets for cargo transportation.
The U.S. Marines have a problem. They rely on their CH-53E Super Stallion medium-heavy lift helicopters to move troops, vehicles, and supplies off of their ships. But the helicopters are wearing out. Fast. The pace demanded by the Global War on Terror is relentless, and usage rates are 3 times normal. Attrition is taking its toll. Over the past few years, CH-53s have been recalled from “boneyard” storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ, in order to maintain fleet numbers in the face of recent losses and forced retirements. Now, there are no flyable spares left.
Enter the Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program, now known as the CH-53K. It aims to offer notable performance improvements over the CH-53E, in a similar airframe. The question is whether its service entry delay to 2018-2019 will come too late to offset a serious decline in Marine aviation.
Continue Reading… »