Nov 24, 2015 00:19 UTC
The US Navy's Littoral Combat Ship Class
(LCS) program is picking up speed as two more of the ships were launched over the last few days. November 20 saw the USS Omaha
enter the water in Mobile, Alabama and the USS Milwawkee
was commissioned the following day by the Mayor of Milwawkee. There are now five LCS class ships operational and they are being completed at an average of four per year. It is hoped that by 2018, 38 of the ships will have undergone construction in only 13 years and will be operating in shallow and coastal waters throughout the world.
Trimaran LCS Design
(click to enlarge)
Exploit simplicity, numbers, the pace of technology development in electronics and robotics, and fast reconfiguration. That was the US Navy’s idea for the low-end backbone of its future surface combatant fleet. Inspired by successful experiments like Denmark’s Standard Flex ships, the US Navy’s $35+ billion “Littoral Combat Ship” program was intended to create a new generation of affordable surface combatants that could operate in dangerous shallow and near-shore environments, while remaining affordable and capable throughout their lifetimes.
It hasn’t worked that way. In practice, the Navy hasn’t been able to reconcile what they wanted with the capabilities needed to perform primary naval missions, or with what could be delivered for the sums available. The LCS program has changed its fundamental acquisition plan 4 times since 2005, and canceled contracts with both competing teams during this period, without escaping any of its fundamental issues. Now, the program looks set to end early. This public-access FOCUS article offer a wealth of research material, alongside looks at the LCS program’s designs, industry teams procurement plans, military controversies, budgets and contracts.
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Nov 20, 2015 00:19 UTC
he Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton UAV has reached a significant stage as it now enters the program's Milestone C review
. Operational tests will involve six test flights and if successful will lead to the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT & E) phase. Successful testing of the UAV will lead to a production contract
(albeit at low levels initially) with the Navy committed to ordering three in 2016 but will increase orders to 68 in 2017. Overseas contracts potentially include seven of the Tritons being procured by Australia with Germany, India and the UK also looking at purchases.
BAMS Operation Concept
The world’s P-3 Orion fleets have served for a long time, and many are reaching the end of their lifespans. In the USA, and possibly beyond, the new P-8 Poseidon Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft will take up the P-3’s role. While the P-8’s base 737-based airframe offers strong service & maintenance arguments in its favor, the airframe is expensive enough that the P-3s cannot be replaced on a 1:1 basis.
In order to extend the P-8 fleet’s reach, and provide additional capabilities, the Poseidon was expected to work with at least one companion UAV platform. This DID FOCUS Article explains the winning BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) concept, the program’s key requirements, and its international angle. We’ll also cover ongoing contracts and key events related to the program, which chose Northrop Grumman’s navalized MQ-4C Triton Global Hawk variant.
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Nov 13, 2015 00:20 UTC
Ghana has acquired
a third C-295
from Airbus, following delivery of the first two aircraft
also referred to as the C-27J Spartan
. The country received the first aircraft in November 2011, the second following in April 2012, with the country's president John Dramani announcing in November last year that the government would acquire a third C-295.
In September 2009, a US DSCA request for 4 C-27J aircraft plus ancillaries and support, at a price of up to $680 million, sparked considerable controversy in Ghana. As we noted at the time, a DSCA request is not a contract. It’s a legal notice under American export laws, and if Congress does not block the sale within 30 days, negotiations may begin.
Ghana is a West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea. Its parliament was chosen to host President Obama’s 2009 Africa speech, and the DSCA describes the country and the sale as “…a U.S. Government partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and democracy in Africa.” As of 2011, however, Ghana is not listed or cited among the C-27J’s buyers or operators. On the other hand, it has become a confirmed buyer of Airbus Military’s rival C-295.
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Nov 13, 2015 00:19 UTC
The USMC is hoping
that foreign production orders will cover a gap in V-22 Osprey
production between 2017 and 2020, with a planned multi-year buy appearing insufficient to keep the Boeing production line healthy until a newer variant is introduced. By bringing in orders from international partners, the per-unit price of future multi-year buys could be reduced by around 10%. Countries such as Japan
, South Korea
and Israel could be precisely the type of orders the Marines are hoping for. The latter of which could receive the aircraft as part of a US military aid package
currently under negotiation.
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 13, 2015 00:18 UTC
BAE Systems is slowing Eurofighter
production in order to sustain production lines out past 2018
, in addition to cutting jobs on the fighter's UK production line. The decision reflects the company's orderbook, covering production orders which conclude in 2018 and an expected uptick in production as a result of an order for 28 Eurofighters by Kuwait, following an agreement between the Italian and Kuwaiti governments earlier this year
; however a finalized deal has yet to materialize.
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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Nov 04, 2015 00:19 UTC
The Pentagon is urgently
trying to gain the necessary clearances required for combat aircraft to refuel from Airbus A330 MRTTs, used by coalition partners operating above Syria and Iraq. The Navy is also looking to gain clearances to use hose-and-drogue refueling systems installed on Royal Air Force Voyager
tankers to certify the F-35B for this type of refuelling method. A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A (a modified A330 MRTT) has already been used to conduct trials with a F-35A
, with tests planned on a variety of other platforms.
Voyager & friends
Back in 2005, Great Britain was considering a public-private partnership to buy, equip, and operate the RAF’s future aerial tanker fleet. The RAF would fly the 14 Airbus A330-MRTT aircraft on operational missions, and receive absolute preferential access to the planes. A private contractor would handle maintenance, receive payment from the RAF on a per-use basis – and operate them as passenger charter or transport aircraft when the RAF didn’t need them.
The deal became politically controversial, and negotiations on the 27-year, multi-billion pound deal charted new territory for both the government, and for private industry. Which may help to explain why a contract to move ahead on a “Private Financing Initiative” basis had yet to be issued, and procurement had yet to begin, over 7 years after the program began. In March 2008, however, Britain issued the world’s largest-ever Defence Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract. This FOCUS Article describes the current British fleet, the aircraft they chose to replace them, how the new fleet will compare, the innovative deal structure they’ve chosen, and ongoing FSTA developments.
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Oct 27, 2015 00:18 UTC
India has offered
Sri Lanka the Tejas
Light Combat Aircraft as an alternative to the JF-17 Thunder
, co-developed by China and Pakistan. Previous reports in June
by the Pakistani press indicated that the Sri Lankans had signed for an undisclosed number of JF-17s, with this subsequently denied
by the Sri Lankan Air Force which stated that it was still evaluating possible fighter options. However, Sri Lankan and Pakistani officials are due to meet
in November to discuss the possible acquisition of the JF-17, with India likely looking to export the problematic Tejas LCA in an attempt to undermine strategic rival Pakistan.
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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Oct 20, 2015 00:18 UTC
The Royal Navy's future Queen Elizabeth-class carrier
looks set to feature unmanned boats, with BAE Systems and ASV demonstrating
an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) boat near Portsmouth Naval Base. The system is purportedly capable of allowing the boats to operate for up to twelve hours at a time in a reconnaissance and surveillance capacity. The technology - designed to be retrofitted onto Pacific 24 Rigid Inflatable Boats - could also equip manned RIBs deployed on Type 23 Frigates
and Type 45 destroyers
RN CVF Concept
Britain’s 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) announced a big leap forward for the Royal Navy: plans to replace the current set of 3 Invincible Class 22,000t escort carriers with 2 larger, more capable Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) ships that could operate a more powerful force. These new carriers would be joint-service platforms, operating F-35B aircraft, plus helicopters and UAVs from all 3 services. Roles could include ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance), force projection and logistics support, close air support, anti-submarine/ anti-surface naval warfare, and land attack.
The scale of the CVF effort relative to Britain’s past experiences means that the program structure is rather complex. It has passed through several stages already, and is being run and conducted within an industrial alliance framework. There is also a parallel international framework, involving cooperation with France on its PA2 carrier as a derivative of the CVF design. This DID FOCUS article covers that structure and framework, ongoing developments, and the ships themselves as they move slowly through construction, and eventual fielding.
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Oct 16, 2015 00:18 UTC
The first of Japan's ordered E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft are underway as the US government issued contracts
to Northop Grumman for $151 million to build one of the aircraft. Japan hopes to buy four
in total which they hope will boost their maritime capabilities in the region.
Northrop Grumman’s E-2C Hawkeye is a carrier-capable “mini-AWACS” aircraft, designed to give long-range warning of incoming aerial threats. Secondary roles include strike command and control, land and maritime surveillance, search and rescue, communications relay, and even civil air traffic control during emergencies. E-2C Hawkeyes began replacing previous Hawkeye versions in 1973. They fly from USN and French carriers, from land bases in the militaries of Egypt, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan; and in a drug interdiction role for the US Naval Reserve. Over 200 Hawkeyes have been produced.
The $17.5 billion E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program aims to build 75 new aircraft with significant radar, engine, and electronics upgrades in order to deal with a world of stealthier cruise missiles, saturation attacks, and a growing need for ground surveillance as well as aerial scans. It looks a lot like the last generation E-2C Hawkeye 2000 upgrade on the outside – but inside, and even outside to some extent, it’s a whole new aircraft.
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Oct 07, 2015 00:15 UTC
Egypt and France are reportedly
engaged in talks over a potential acquisition of NH90 helicopters
. With Egypt recently purchasing a significant quantity of French naval hardware with Saudi funding - including Gowind corvettes
and a FREMM frigate
- with which the NH90 would be compatible, the precise model being discussed could be the naval NFH variant, or a mix of NFH and TTH troop transport variants. Egypt signed a contract to buy the two Mistral LHDs
formerly destined for Russia, with reports indicating that the country had also ordered Ka-52 navalized attack helicopters
from Russia to equip the new vessels; however, these reports now appear to have been erroneous, with Russian officials now denying
that an order has been placed.
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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