Apr 03, 2017 00:55 UTC
Leonardo has selected a site in Alabama as the destination for producing the T-100
jet trainer if chosen by the USAF as the winner of the T-X competition. Last Thursday's announcement
said that the company will work on the pending contract at their Alabama facility, adding that the move will help create jobs in the country in addition to providing the Air Force with a next-generation trainer. The trainer was initially intended to be built in partnership at one of Raytheon's facilities, however that pairing was terminated in January, requiring a new location for final assembly.
Tornado refuels M346
Alenia’s Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer began life in 1993, as a collaboration with Russia. It was also something of a breakthrough for Alenia Aermacchi, confirming that the Finmeccanica subsidiary could design and manufacture advanced aircraft with full authority quadriplex fly-by-wire controls. Those controls, the aircraft’s design for vortex lift aerodynamics, and a thrust:weight ratio of nearly 1:1, allow it to remain fully controllable even at angles of attack over 35 degrees. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Not to mention Sukhoi’s SU-30 family, which has made a name for itself at international air shows with remarkable nose-high maneuvers.
The Russian collaboration did not last. For a while, it looked like the Italian jet might not last, either. It did though, and has become a regular contender for advanced jet trainer trainer contracts around the world. Its biggest potential opportunity is in the USA. For now, however, its biggest customer is Israel.
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Mar 31, 2017 00:57 UTC
Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $273 million contract
to produce Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD
) Lot 9 Interceptors for the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA). In addition to Lot 9 Interceptors, the fixed-price agreement also includes one-shot devices and associated production support efforts, and delivery is expected by the end of March 2020. The THAAD system is used to engage incoming ballistic missile attacks and other airborne threats, and has been recently deployed to South Korea as a response to North Korean ballistic missile tests.
THAAD: In flight
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is a long-range, land-based theater defense weapon that acts as the upper tier of a basic 2-tiered defense against ballistic missiles. It’s designed to intercept missiles during late mid-course or final stage flight, flying at high altitudes within and even outside the atmosphere. This allows it to provide broad area coverage against threats to critical assets such as population centers and industrial resources as well as military forces, hence its previous “theater (of operations) high altitude area defense” designation.
This capability makes THAAD different from a Patriot PAC-3 or the future MEADS system, which are point defense options with limited range that are designed to hit a missile or warhead just before impact. The SM-3 Standard missile is a far better comparison, and land-based SM-3 programs will make it a direct THAAD competitor. So far, both programs remain underway.
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Mar 31, 2017 00:55 UTC
Indonesia has signed a letter of intent
to buy a number of A400M aircraft from Airbus. The announcement was made by the office of French President Francois Hollande following his recent trip to the region. While the number of aircraft to be sold was not given, Jane’s reported in January that Jakarta wanted to buy five A400Ms, joining neighboring Malaysia as only the second export customer for the troubled program. Previous attempts to sell the transport to South Africa in 2009, and more recently Chile, have all fallen through amid soaring costs and development delays.
A400M rollout, Seville
Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition.
Airbus’ biggest program issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as a combination of A400M delays and Lockheed’s strong push for its C-130J Super Hercules narrow the field for future exports. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into the delivery phase. Will Airbus’ 3rd big issue become its own customers?
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Mar 30, 2017 00:56 UTC
Boeing has received a $59 million contract modification
to continue production for the USAF's KC-46
tanker aircraft. The deal will see the company provide interim contracting support, a temporary service conducted in lieu of organic capability for a predetermined time. The deal allows Boeing to defer investment in all or part of required support resources. Work is expected to be complete by March, 2018.
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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Mar 29, 2017 00:55 UTC
A number of US senators have come together in a bipartisan effort to pressure the Trump administration into approving two key defense deals with India
. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Mark Warner, D-Va urged Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in joint letters to approve co-production of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 in India and to approve the export of General Atomics’ Guardian, a nonlethal maritime version of the MQ-9 Reaper
. Speaking on the F-16 negotiations, the letters stated that a successful deal “will increase interoperability with a key partner and a dominant power in South Asia, build India’s capacity to counter threats from the north, and balance China’s growing military capability in the Pacific,” while on the Guardian UAV deal, the men warned that a failure to go through with the sale "will not only have implications for regional security in the Asia-Pacific, but could also significantly impact the MQ-9 production line and put thousands of US manufacturing jobs at risk.”
The MQ-9 Reaper UAV, once called “Predator B,” is somewhat similar to the famous Predator. Until you look at the tail. Or its size. Or its weapons. It’s called “Reaper” for a reason: while it packs the same surveillance gear, it’s much more of a hunter-killer design. Some have called it the first fielded Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV).
The Reaper UCAV will play a significant role in the future USAF, even though its capability set makes the MQ-9 considerably more expensive than MQ-1 Predators. Given these high-end capabilities and expenses, one may not have expected the MQ-9 to enjoy better export success than its famous cousin. Nevertheless, that’s what appears to be happening. MQ-9 operators currently include the USA and Britain, who use it in hunter-killer mode, and Italy. Several other countries are expressing interest, and the steady addition of new payloads are expanding the Reaper’s advantage over competitors…
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Mar 27, 2017 00:28 UTC
New British Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will not have V-22
tiltrotor aircraft onboard, according to a written parliamentary reply
to Lord West. Lord West, a retired Royal Navy officer and former government minister, had asked if the government was considering the Osprey for use by the state's special forces. In response, the government stated that the aircraft was not part of plans to deliver the UK Carrier Strike capability. However, the MoD will continue to explore a variety of options to augment the capabilities of the carriers.
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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Mar 24, 2017 00:55 UTC
The US Navy’s MQ-25A Stingray
unmanned aerial tanker is likely to have a wing-body-tail design
after Lockheed Martin's Skunk Work division found that a flying wing design is not the best aerodynamic shape for the service's latest requirements. While the Navy had initially intended a surveillance and possible strike capability for the aircraft, the current requirements suggest a strong emphasis on a tanking role and less on ISR. As a result, competing firms Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Boeing are likely to redesign their bids for the competition.
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.
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Mar 23, 2017 00:28 UTC
It's been revealed that Myanmar has received the first batch
of three Yak-130
combat trainer aircraft, with the contract to be fully delivered by the end of 2017. Yangon ordered the aircraft
back in 2015 to become the fourth export customer (after Algeria, Belarus and Bangladesh), and followed up with an order of a Yak simulator in 2016. The announcement was made by Mikhail Petukhov, deputy director of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), at this year's Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition LIMA-2017.
Russia’s air force (VVS) aged badly in the wake of the Cold War, and the recapitalization drought soon made itself felt in all areas. One of those areas involved advanced jet trainers, which form the last rung on the ladder before assignment to fighters. Russia’s Czech-made L-29 and L-39 trainers were left with questionable access to spare parts, and a competition that began in the 1990s finally saw Yakolev’s Yak-130 collaboration with Italy’s Finmeccanica beat the MiG-AT in 2002. Unfortunately, Russian budget realities allowed orders for just a dozen early production Yak-130s, even as the VVS’s L-39 fleet dwindled drastically.
The Yak-130’s multi-mission capabilities in training, air policing, and counterinsurgency make it an attractive option for some customers beyond Russia. Initial export successes helped keep Yak-130 production going in those early years, mostly via a confirmed order from Algeria (16). In December 2011, however, Russia finally placed a significant order that got production started in earnest. Russia continues to promote the aircraft abroad, and now that the plane’s future is secure, interest and orders are picking up…
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Mar 22, 2017 00:29 UTC
Lockheed Martin has been given a $40 million contract modification
to strip and recoat F-22 coatings for the USAF's F-22 Raptor
fleet. Work on the contract will be performed at various locations in California, Georgia, Utah, and Texas, and work is expected to be completed by the end of June 2019. At the time of the award, the company received $6.4 million. The fifth-generation tactical stealth fighter has been in service since 2005 and designed to perform air superiority missions.
Into that good night
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.
This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.
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Mar 20, 2017 00:58 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Boeing and the US Army have signed a five-year $3.4 billion contract
that will see the company provide Apache helicopters
to both the US Army and the government of Saudi Arabia, marking the first multi-year agreement for the helicopter's “E” variant . Under the deal, Riyadh will receive 24 brand new Apache Guardians
while the Army will receive 244 remanufactured aircraft, with work expected to be completed by June 30, 2022. Saudi Arabia's procurement of Apaches is part of an effort
to build a 156-strong rotary-wing force and they have so far procured 36 helicopters in the last two years.
AH-64 in Afghanistan
The AH-64 Apache will remain the US Army’s primary armed helicopter for several more decades, thanks to the collapse of the RAH-66 Comanche program, and the retirement sans replacement of the US Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). Apaches also serve with a number of American allies, some of whom have already expressed interest in upgrading or expanding their fleets.
The AH-64E Guardian Block III (AB3) is the helicopter’s next big step forward. It incorporates 26 key new-technology insertions that cover flight performance, maintenance costs, sensors & electronics, and even the ability to control UAVs as part of manned-unmanned teaming (MUT). In July 2006, Boeing and U.S. Army officials signed the initial development contract for Block III upgrades to the current and future Apache fleet, via a virtual signing ceremony. By November 2011, the 1st production helicopter had been delivered. So… how many helicopters will be modified under the AH-64 Block III program, what do these modifications include, how is the program structured, and what has been happening since that 2006 award? The short answer is: a lot, including export interest and sales.
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