Oct 21, 2014 17:40 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Boeing admits that the development schedule has to change. Can they avoid proving Airbus right?; Formatting and background improvements to help readers follow KC-X's long and winding road.
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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Oct 21, 2014 16:10 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Initial Operational Capability & deployment plans.
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 12, 2014 20:52 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Major UISS contract for USVs; AMNS support contract; Support for MK18 interim mine-hunting UUVs; USV + sonar may give USN an alternative to MH-53s and MH-60S for detection; US negotiating with Japan to buy retired MH-53s and keep its own mine-hunting helicopters in the air.
MH-53E & Mk-105 sled
The US Navy currently uses large CH-53/MH-53 helicopters and towed sleds to help with mine clearance work, but they hope to replace those old systems with something smaller and newer. The MH-60S helicopter’s Airborne Mine Counter-Measures (AMCM) system adds an operator’s station to the helicopter cabin, additional internal fuel stores, and towing capability, accompanied by a suite of carried systems that can be mixed and matched. AMCM is actually 5 different air, surface and sub-surface mine countermeasures systems, all deployed and integrated together in the helicopter.
While the US Navy develops AMCM, and complementary ship-launched systems for use on the new Littoral Combat Ships, new minehunter ship classes like the Ospreys are being retired by the US Navy and sold. All in an era where the threat of mines is arguably rising, along with tensions around key chokepoints like the Suez Canal and Strait of Hormuz.
This article explains the components involved (AQS-20, ALMDS, AMNS, OASIS, RAMICS; COBRA, RMS, SMCM), chronicles their progress through reports and contracts, and provides additional links for research.
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Oct 07, 2014 19:55 UTC
Latest updates[?]: India reportedly looking at replacing HAL for Mk.2 production. What are the policy arguments, risks, and opportunities?
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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