May 25, 2017 04:58 UTC
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.
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May 24, 2017 04:59 UTC
Lockheed Martin has won a $137.8 million contract modification
for cost-reduction programs for the initial low-rate production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
. Fiscal 2016 aircraft procurement funds from the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps of $137.8 million will be allocated to the program, none of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year. Eighty percent of the modification will go to the Air Force, with the rest split between the Navy and Marine Corps. Scheduled to be completed by December 2020, work will take place at Waco, Texas, El Segundo, Calif. and Warton, England, with other work being completed across the United States.
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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May 23, 2017 04:59 UTC
Boeing is planning future upgrades
for the F/A-18 Super Hornet
that will keep the fighters flying into the 2040s. If approved, the plan will see continued development of the aircraft after the current Block 3 enhancement planned for the E/F variant of the Super Hornet enters production in 2020. Speaking on the plan, Larry Burt, director of Global Sales & Marketing for the Global Strike division, said that there "could well be lots of new capabilities added after Block 3. The Block 3 is built around a new processor that is a hundred times more powerful that today's. This processor resides outside of the aircraft's Operational Flight Program [computer], and so is not tied to its five-year software development cycle. It is truly open architecture that allows for plug and play of weapons, sensors, and systems."
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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May 15, 2017 04:58 UTC
The Indian Air Force has successfully test-fired a Darby radar-guided air-to-air missile from one of its LCA Tejas
fighters. Conducted on May 12, New Delhi's announcement stated
that “the missile launch was performed in Lock ON after Launch mode for a BVR target in the look down mode and the target was destroyed,” and that aircraft avionics, fire-control radar, launchers and Missile Weapon Delivery System all performed as required. The test is one of several steps needed to clear beyond visual range (BVR) capabilities for the LCA.
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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May 12, 2017 04:58 UTC
Sweden's Saab is looking to finalize
a number of near-term sales of the C and D variants of its JAS-39 Gripen
fighter. Upcoming competitions in Botswana, Slovakia, and Bulgaria, have all been targeted as potential clients for the C/D models, which if agreements are reached, will boost sales and ensure the continuation of the Gripen's production line into the future. Of the three countries, Bulgaria is the closest to moving forward with a deal, after its government announced Saab as the preferred option for its MiG-29 replacement program. Slovakia have been in negotiations with Saab since 2015, while in Botswana, a Gripen package is facing off against an offering from Korea Aerospace Industries' (KAI) FA-50
—the fighter version of its T-50 trainer.
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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May 09, 2017 04:58 UTC
Northrop Grumman has been awarded
a $36.8 million contract to integrate radar systems on the MQ-8C Fire Scout
UAV for the US Navy. The pre-existing contract will include software updates, testing programs, and installation and support systems, and work will be carried out both in the US and in the UK through to May 2020. Research and development funds previously allocated for Fiscal 2016 will include $11.8 million set to expire at the end of the fiscal year.
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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May 08, 2017 04:59 UTC
Shipyard Huntington Ingalls has launched
the second ship in the America-class
of amphibious assault ship 13 weeks ahead of schedule. The future USS Tripoli can carry 12 Osprey aircraft and six F-35s and is fitted with .50 caliber machine guns and 20mm CWIS cannons. It can also support AV-8B Harriers, Cobra attack helicopter, cargo carriers, and other equipment. More America-class vessels are expected to be built in 2018, with the next vessel to be named after the WW2 Bougainville campaign.
Modern U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ships project power and maintain presence by serving as the cornerstone of the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) / Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). LHA/LHD are a key element of the Seapower 21 doctrine pillars of Sea Strike and Sea Basing, transporting, launching, and landing elements of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) via a combination of LCAC hovercraft, amphibious transports and vehicles, helicopters, and aircraft.
Designed to project power and maintain presence, LHA-Replacement (LHA-R, aka. LH-X, and now the New Amphibious Assault Ship or NAAS) large deck amphibious assault ships were slated to replace the US Navy’s 6 LHA-1 Tarawa Class vessels. They are based on the more modern LHD Wasp Class design, with the LHD’s landing craft and well deck removed in favor of more planes and hangar space. While its LHA/LHD predecessors were amphibious assault ships with a secondary aviation element, it’s fair to describe the America Class as escort carriers with a secondary amphibious assault role.
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May 05, 2017 00:57 UTC
Boeing has reached an important milestone
in bringing its KC-46 tanker program
closer to serial production, announcing that it now has has a total of six units ready for its testing program. The newest, of the planes, which is the second to be produced under a low-rate production order, conducted its first test flight on April 26, and future testing will be largely focus on ensuring that the tanker can stand up to electromagnetic fields—radars and powerful radio towers are capable of scrambling aircraft electronic systems if they are not carefully shielded. Boeing intends to eventually produce as many as 179 KC-46 tankers for the USAF.
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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May 01, 2017 00:33 UTC
New Zealand has been cleared
by the US State Department for the $1.46 billion purchase of four Boeing P-8A
maritime patrol aircraft alongside associated equipment and support. The sale will go toward the maintenance of Wellington's Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) capability, following the retirement of the P-3K maritime patrol aircraft. Japan had also tried to sell the Kawasaki P-1 to New Zealand, a rival platform being marketed agains Boeing's P-8A.
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 10, 2017 00:55 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Bell Helicopters is scheduled to deliver
the first three of 12 AH-1Zs
to Pakistan this summer, with the remainder to be delivered next year after being handed over to the US government. Approval for the deal was granted by Washington last April. The sale comes as the company expects the signing of a second export order for the H-1 series UH-1Y Venom utility and AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters in the coming months.
UH-1Y and AH-1Z
by Neville Dawson
The US Marines’ helicopter force is aging at all levels, from banana-shaped CH-46 Sea Knight transports that are far older than their pilots, to the 1980s-era UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters that make up the Corps’ helicopter assault force. While the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey program has staggered along for almost 2 decades under accidents, technical delays, and cost issues, replacement of the USMC’s backbone helicopter assets has languished. Given the high-demand scenarios inherent in the current war, other efforts are clearly required.
Enter the H-1 program, the USMC’s plan to remanufacture older helicopters into new and improved UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopters. The new versions would discard the signature 2-bladed rotors for modern 4-bladed improvements, redo the aircraft’s electronics, and add improved engines and weapons to offer a new level of performance. It seemed simple, but hasn’t quite worked out that way. The H-1 program has encountered its share of delays and issues, but the program survived its review, and continued on into production and deployment.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article covers the H-1 helicopter programs’ rationales and changes, the upgrades involved in each model, program developments and annual budgets, the full timeline of contracts and key program developments, and related research sources.
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