Apr 29, 2016 00:45 UTC
Airbus has reported further delays to the development
of the A400M
with the latest issue involving the engine gearbox of the military transport plane. In a statement following the the first-quarter financial results by chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm, he warned of “serious challenges for production and customer deliveries” of the A400M this year. Negotiations on a new delivery schedule
are being held through OCCAR, the European procurement agency.
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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Apr 29, 2016 00:35 UTC
Latest updates[?]: April 29/16: Legislation being considered by the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) could see the last external link of the USAF’s F-117A Nighthawk fleet sent to the scrap yard. Retired since 2007, a fleet of the pioneering stealth aircraft have been kept in special climate controlled storage hangers in the event they were ever needed again. Now, Congress is considering removing those mothballed aircraft and having them scrapped and gutted for hard-to-find parts.
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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Apr 27, 2016 00:45 UTC
The DoD has issued a notice to modify
so that a 18-inch gimbaled multispectral sensor can be lowered from the tilt-rotor’s cargo hold well. The new sensors will increase the ability of the US military to target enemies from afar, giving the aircraft similar situational awareness and precision targeting capabilities to the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Predator UAV. Up to four competing sensor solutions will be tested at the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) tactical demonstration next year.
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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Apr 12, 2016 00:45 UTC
AIM-9X missiles fired from the US Army's new Multi-Mission Launcher has defeated a cruise missile and an unmanned aerial system (UAS)
. The tests conducted on April 1 and March 29 respectively were part of an engineering demonstration of the Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept (IFPC Inc 2-I). Other missiles capable of being fired from the system include the Miniature Hit-to-Kill (MHTK) missile, Raytheon's Stinger, and Lockheed Martin's Longbow Hellfire missiles, although the last two have yet to been tested rigorously. The IFPC Inc. 2-I is intended to defeat UAS, cruise missiles, rockets, artillery, and mortars, and so far $119 million has been spent on developing prototypes for the system, a figure believed to be three times higher if developed outside the Army.
AIM-9X test, F-18C
(click for close-up)
Raytheon’s AIM-9X Block II would have made Top Gun a very short movie. It’s the USA’s most advanced short range air-air missile, capable of using its datalink, thrust vectoring maneuverability, and advanced imaging infrared seeker to hit targets behind the launching fighter. Unlike previous AIM-9 models, the AIM-9X can even be used against targets on the ground.
These changes will help keep it competitive against foreign missiles like MBDA UK’s AIM-132 ASRAAM, RAFAEL of Israel’s Python 5, the multinational German-led IRIS-T, and Russia’s R73/ AA-11 Archer. So far, only American fighter types can use AIM-9X missiles, but that hasn’t stopped a slew of export requests and sales, especially in the Middle East.
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Mar 30, 2016 00:30 UTC
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published its annual report
on the the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS
) program, as authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. By analyzing the DOD budget for FY 2017 and speaking to program officials, the GAO found that the U.S. Navy has begun to develop modifications to existing shipboard systems to support the UCLASS’ latest iteration – Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS). As with the UCLASS program, CBARS will include an air system segment, an aircraft carrier segment, and a control system and connectivity segment.
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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