Feb 23, 2015 03:12 UTC
Middle East / Africa
- Israel will order another 14 F-35s for $110 million a piece, including logistical support, training, parts and maintenance, which appears to be a much better price than the U.S. itself has been able to manage. The 14 fighters will join an earlier order of 19 jets. An option to acquire 17 more has been secured, bringing the total to 50, which has been Israel’s goal in fielding two squadrons of 25 fighters each.
- Germany has rejected a request for Boxer tanks from Lithuania, according to Die Welt (German). The paper cited concerns for Germany’s own preparedness (recently called into question with “rapid reaction” troops found to be operating without rifle barrels during a NATO exercise.)
- The Eurofighter Typhoon will get the latest Brimstone 2 surface attack missiles in a $228 million deal with Eurofighter Jagdflugzeung GmbH to integrate the missiles as has been done with the British Tornados in Afghanistan.
- The recently announced approval of UH-60M exports to Slovakia may be for naught, as Slovokia is reportedly balking at the price. Likely unrelated to that, news reports appear to be erroneously tagging the entire buy’s cost as a cost-per-helicopter.
- Russia has begun construction on two new stealth corvettes.
- Now that the U.S. has agreed to allow UAV exports, the Philippines is seriously considering the various U.S. options, likely for an unarmed reconnaissance version.
- In addition to the known 6-submarine procurement sought by India for a domestically-produced undersea platform, seven new stealth frigates are to be produced, Four at the will be produced in Mumbai at Mazagon Docks, with the other three being built in Kokata. This, on top of three recently completed.
- Raytheon announced its newest AMRAAM-ER air-to-air missile will have extended range and more maneuverability. It plans tests before the year is out.
- The chief of Lockheed’s Skunkworks, Rob Weiss, has been unapologetic and fairly vocal in the past week regarding U.S. military aviation needs, acting as the source of several news stories; generally indicating that new programs are needed, and that those programs need to be done large. The comments have come after the latest Administration budget was released, causing some military officials to make noise about being more cost conscious, such as lowering new trainer requirements and discussing the taboo of possibly ignoring stealth in the F/A-XX program. That Weiss’s comments keep rolling in indicates that neither Lockheed nor the Air Force has been proactive in asking Weiss to pursue a lower key approach. The latest: an insistence that a new spy plane program is needed to supplant both the U-2 and the Global Hawk that was supposed to – at least at one point – replace it.
- DynCorp has characterized as a response to several potential threats, ranging from Russia’s recent belligerence and the growing ISIS threat.
- Austal USA laid the keel for the USS Omaha (LCS 12), the latest and sixth littoral combat ship in the Independence class.
- Lockheed Martin announced it has tweaked the Fury UAV to have longer endurance.
- With two new Russian stealth corvettes under construction (see above), here is the
shipyard’s promotional video showing their most interesting features…
Feb 19, 2015 07:00 UTC
The F-35 needs some code rewrites before it can be released as initially combat ready, according to the head of Lockheed’s aeronautics division. The radar tracking parts of the mission systems software had problems, but the Lockheed executive said the problem was manageable before the July due date. That said, when asked by Reuters if it could mean another delay, he said a decision could be expected in weeks whether a separate update would be required. On the good news side of the ledger, Lockheed indicated it was on track to save about one quarter of one percent of the cost per F-35 via improved manufacturing techniques. They hope to bring costs down a total of one percent of the cost with the next low rate initial production contract (LRIP 9). Lockheed expressed the ambition of lowering the incremental cost per fighter with engines to $80 million by 2019. Those figures do not count weapons and other systems that can cost more than the fighter, nor do they include the overhead costs of program development.
- The U.K. released photos via Twitter showing Pantsir-1/SA-22 anti-aircraft systems rolling through rebel-controlled Ukraine. The SA-22 was never fielded by Ukraine and almost certainly came compliments of the Russian government. The Foreign Office calling out Russia via Twitter may indicate that the alternative to diplomacy isn’t force after all. To do harm to Zhou Enlai’s famous quotation: “All social media is a continuation of diplomacy by other means.”
- North Korea reportedly made its first flight test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The country reputedly has as many as 70 submarines, although most are merely mini-subs, capable of providing guerrilla ingress.
- Iran, too, is announcing its new submarine – a 1,300-ton 60-meter boat made in-country – will have cruise missile launching capacity. Iran currently runs three Russian Kilo-class subs, none of which could be adapted to launch missiles. They had previously built the capacity into surface ships.
- The new strategic bomber program, an RFP for which is expected in the spring, is expected to cost about half a billion dollars per copy. Key industry players already have broad requirements documents, which have not yet been made public. It is expected they should be stealthy, although there is debate on that requirement with the future F/A-XX fighter. Some in the Air Force worry that stealth is enormously expensive and a transient benefit with advancing detection technologies. But the chief of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, the primary purveyor of stealth technology today, thinks that is hogwash. There may also be a requirement for the bomber to be flown by wire. The Air Force has an abiding ambivalence on having its main airframes go unmanned, and that can be seen with Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson last month indicating it isn’t a requirement now, but may become one later.
- The Government Accountability Office chastened the Defense Health Agency for not having mechanisms in place to find or prevent improper medical payments for the DHA’s TRICARE system. The Medicare system, famous for having been loose with payment controls, has better systems.
- Lockheed Martin’s CEO Marillyn Hewsonnoted that they saw a fifth of their revenue come from non-U.S. sources in 2014 and hope and expect that to reach a quarter of revenues in the next few years. The backlog of orders is already more than 25 percent international.
- DARPA, at it again, is hiring designers and comic book illustrators among others to address novel cyber defense issues. Currently, defenders do not have good visual interfaces allowing them to see attacks, nor do they often have a vocabulary of pre-tested methods for addressing many types of attacks. This CS Monitor report shows their journey, slated to cost $125 million over four years.
- Lockheed felt need to announce publicly that it too has a “clean sheet” option in the competition to provide 350 replacements for the T-50 trainer. With Northrop bragging about it throwing out old designs in the past weeks, Lockheed noted that while it is offering a T-50 variant along with Korea’s KAI, it also started a clean sheet process in 2010 at the Skunk Works, but that this is not its preference. Lockheed’s Rob Weiss said that a clean sheet project would not be “in alignment with what the Air Force has said they’d like to do,” indicating that it would likely be more expensive and carry much higher risk. Mr. Weiss may not have had much opportunity to meet Air Force personnel. Northrop Grumman will eschew the BAE Hawk training system for a completely new design. That puts them up against a Boeing/Saab effort, also with a new design; the Lockheed/KAI push for a T-50 and T-100- based model; General Dynamic’s use of the M-346 of Alenia Aermacchi and a Textron Airland effort using their Scorpion. In Mid-January the Air Force did brag a bit about their lowering the T-X requirements for cost reasons in an effort to show their flinty bonafides.
- Iran’s domestic submarine ambitions grow. Their 1,300-ton sub (above) is in part possible due to their scrappy development of domestic capacity, as is shown in the Iran state TV item from a couple years ago, upon the launching of a domestically-refit Kilo-class boat…
Feb 18, 2015 03:24 UTC
In a clever game of resource swapping, Germany is now receiving 20 Leopard 2A7 main battle tanks in return for having lent a number of Leopard 2 A6M tanks to Canada for its immediate needs in the Afghanistan deployment. Canada, as promised, procured 20 Leopards from the Dutch and paid for their refurbishment. Germany took the opportunity to have Krauss-Maffei Wegmann upgrade them to the A7 variant on its own dime. The first were delivered in December.
- Dassault is reportedly in the final stages of negotiations to sell 36 Rafale fighters to Qatar. The deal was first hinted back in March of 2014. The primary alternative is reported to be Boeing’s F-15.
- U.S. Army trainers were in Yavoriv, Ukraine training soldiers how to use two lightweight counter-mortar radars. The radars backtrack the path of incoming mortars to provide targeting information. The radars are part of a $118 million equipment previously made to Ukraine.
- If India falters in its acquisition of the Dassault Rafales, the number two official at Rosoboronexport helpfully noted that they stood ready to deliver any number of Su-30MKIs (Flanker-Hs) if given the word.
- We have already seen both the U.S. and China put 3-D printers on ships in an effort to afford inventory flexibility – essentially making parts on the fly. Taking the idea a step further, DARPA and MIT are helping the navy install a “Fab Lab” at a major Navy training port in order to bring the skills needed for fully exploiting high tech fabrication equipment on ships.
- DARPA is indicating progress in its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, designed to provide a capacity to launch a 100-pound payload into orbit for less than $1 million. Phase 1 is complete, with three different concepts proving viability. Among them, Boeing won the contract to push Phase 2, which includes diverse elements such as mission planning software and a novel single-liquid propellant. It has an ambitious schedule. First flight is slated for late 2015 and first orbital test in 2016.
- Under pressure after having said “no” a few times recently, the Obama Administration announced Tuesday that it will allow the sale of armed drones to allies – but on a case-by-case basis. This isn’t terribly new, as the U.S. has already exported drones to several of its closest allies. A key concern as has been compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime signed by 34 countries in 1987, which forbids exports of technology that could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction – then defined as a vehicle with roughly a half ton of payload capacity that can get it to a target 186 miles downrange. The State Department said that sales would likely be subject to restrictions and monitoring.
- Apparently not satisfied with just one Buck Rogers gun moving onto its ships, with the soon to be deployed rail gun, the U.S. Navy awarded Boeing a $29.5 million contract to figure out how to keep laser weapons aimed to a single point on potentially distant and moving targets. Lasers rapidly lose their effectiveness if their impact is not kept on a single point.
- TACOM Lifecycle Management Command awarded General Dynamics $49.7 million to upgrade M1A1 Abrams to M1A2 variants. This is an exercising of an option off of the original 2008 contract.
- General Atomics, recently denied permission to export its Reapers to another country, may be mollified by the $279 million order it just won from the Air Force for more Reapers.
- The U.S. Marines is authorizing the use of Glock 19s. This may appear to be big news – as the services like to keep their personal service arms choices cloistered in decades-long, inscrutable decision processes, but these guns are to go to special operations forces, which have long short-circuited those procurement processes.
- With South Korean subs in the news, here is a tourists-eye view of the captured North Korean mini-sub that was wrecked on South Korea’s rocky shores in 1996, fomenting a 7-week running battle with the occupants, all but one of which were killed…
Feb 17, 2015 00:22 UTC
Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, joined other brass in proclaiming continued desire to perform the close air support mission. Welsh himself was an A-10 pilot in the early 1980s. The Air Force has been simultaneously fighting the impression that it wants to rid itself of CAS responsibilities and also feeding that sort of speculation with its budgeting actions. Welsh pointed out that the A-10 has about a dozen more years of life left, and that another option needs to be found for replacement, so the old but well-loved platform shouldn’t be fetishized. He spoke of the F-35 as a possible replacement, which is actually one of the fears that some ground forces analysts have. Two issues of concern appear to be surfacing with the F-35: that a platform meant for other missions is more likely to mean that a particular resource will be prioritized to non-CAS mission at any given moment of need; that the cost of the F-35 is roughly ten times greater than an A-10. Replacing the U.S.’s 173 A-10C aircraft would cost in the tens of billions of dollars. That gives rise the fear that the Air Force would merely double-duty existing fighters, eat the budget, and not necessarily have those pilots and fighters trained, configured and/or deployed for CAS as the first priority mission.
- Having explored it with defense ministry working groups, Finland is now abruptly rejecting Russia’s offer to become closer with Moscow through defense supplier relationships. Finland’s industrial sector would become eligible for subcontractor work for major Russian defense programs, provided Finland bought adequate quantities of ships and planes. The Ukraine conflict coincides with the beginning of the stalling of the relationship. The military appears to have taken the offer seriously, incorporating it as an analyzed option in determining future options for imminent fleet replacements. Civilian leaders have been quite negative, and publicly so, on the matter. The two key fears appear to be that Russia would have access to defense platform kill switches, and also the matter that Finland is not terribly worried about being invaded and occupied by Europe.
- Italy, under increasing pressure to further lower or nix its F-35 orders in the face of grinding budget pressure, is expressing its resolution to continue with the remaining 90 orders, especially now that it can hang its hat on a new Finmeccanica contract for maintaining the fighters.
- The U.K. is preventing Russia from participating in an upcoming defense wares trade conference.
- Dauria Aerospace, Russian producer of microsatellites, is pulling up stakes in the U.S. and E.U., recognizing that the current political climate is not auspicious.
- Poland is embarking on a spending spree for defense upgrades, amounting to about $42 billion and including missiles, helicopters and UAVs.
- Pakistan – previously facing an annoyed Russia in regard to the potential competition the Pakistani-Chinese JF-17 fighter may present on the export market – is now lining up Russian cooperation. One sign is that the RD-93 engines they buy-in are now to be acquired directly from Russia, rather than having to get them retail from the Chinese, who have been buying them for a number of platforms, including China’s stealthy J-31 in addition to the Chinese version of the JF-17, the JC-1.
- The negotiation-via-newspapers exchange continues between France’s Dassault and India in regard to the Indian purchase of Rafale fighters. India’s MoD is now saying that upon thinking about it a bit more – for three years – they think the Dassault offer is going to be more expensive than some other, rejected bidders. Being India’s first life cycle costing contract, the RFP for 126 fighters did not demand specific information on some items relevant to that cost cycle, according to an unnamed official involved with the contract negotiation committee.
- Labor groups are pressuring Boeing regarding its 3,000 layoffs over the past couple of years, and using aerospace tax credits as a pressure point. Union leaders are linking the $8.7 billion in tax credits received since 2013 to a sense of obligation they feel Boeing should have to keep or expand employees.
- The U.S. declassified the yield size of the B53/W53 nuclear warhead. It was indeed 9 megatons, as has been unofficially surmised.
- Raytheon’s Small Diameter Bomb mark II passed a couple live fire tests, this time with live warheads – the last step before low rate initial production.
- A Deloitte forecast reportedly predicts global arms industry growth of three percent.
- A short documentary on the now-dismantled B53 nuclear bomb, which the U.S. just confirmed wielded a 9 megaton yield…
Feb 13, 2015 05:39 UTC
Russia’s Ilyushin aircraft company is testing out the mounting of bomb rails onto its Il-76MD transport aircraft. War Is Boring reports that Russia intends to field them in Tver, Orenburg, Pskov and Taganrog, conveniently close to potential future conquests. The idea of the each IL-76 dropping bombs to clear a path, then disgorging 225 soldiers is the sort of deliciously violent imagery that may be more designed to server Russia’s current diplomatic efforts with Europe than it is in shaping an actual battle field in a practical manner.
- Much ink has been spilled over the past few weeks regarding the U.S. Air Force’s animus toward the A-10, the close air support aircraft that the Air Force would be happiest to have cut from its budget. Recent daggers in its back include the Air Force’s release of a factoid: that the A-10 is the most lethal jet in the inventory for fratricide. Which was established since as misleading by a POGO piece. With some wondering why the close air support should even continue to be in the remit of the Air Force, its air combat command reportedly indicated that a follow-on platform may be in store.
- The Navy is recruiting female enlisted submariners, now that the January 21 has passed and women are allowed to serve. Already 60 female officers are serving.
- The Brazilian Air Force is bragging (Portugese) about a successful test firing of an air-to-air A-Darter missile developed with along with South Africa. The heat-seeking missile hit a drone flying at a 90 degree angle. It has a maximum range of 12 miles and maneuvers without control surfaces, using instead using thrust vectors. The news release appeared geared to an export market, noting that other missiles with similar technologies aren’t allowed to be exported from those producing countries.
- Indeed, as indicated in the past week, French President Francois Hollande confirmed that Dassault will sell a couple dozen Rafale fighters to Egypt, along with a FREMM frigate and MBDA missiles for about $6 billion. The purchase appears to be arranged on credit, which signifies a vote of confidence on the part of France that the Egyptian military-led government is likely to become and remain stable.
- Boeing is still pushing F/A 18 Block II craft for Malaysia – they’ve been negotiating with the country for more than a dozen years. What is interesting about their paid messages is the messaging. They’re going with “extremely affordable.”
- With the Brazilian Air Force excited about their A-Darters, here is a video of them doing range training in their A-1s. More info on the munitions and context from The Aviationist.