May 23, 2016 00:50 UTC
Boeing is still holding on to hope that it can sell its Super Hornets to Denmark after claiming that the Danish government had used “incomplete and possibly flawed data” to conclude that the Super Hornet was more expensive to operate than the F-35. The comments were made by a Boeing official speaking to a Danish parliamentary committee
last Thursday following the government's decision to opt
for the next generation F-35
to replace its aging F-16s.
The US Navy flies the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighters, and has begun operating the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare & strike aircraft. Many of these buys have been managed out of common multi-year procurement (MYP) contracts, which aim to reduce overall costs by offering longer-term production commitments, so contractors can negotiate better deals with their suppliers.
The MYP-II contract ran from 2005-2009, and was not renewed because the Pentagon intended to focus on the F-35 fighter program. When it became clear that the F-35 program was going to be late, and had serious program and budgetary issues, pressure built to abandon year-by-year contracting, and negotiate another multi-year deal for the current Super Hornet family. That deal is now final. This entry covers the program as a whole, with a focus on 2010-2015 Super Hornet family purchases. It has been updated to include all announced contracts and events connected with MYP-III, including engines and other separate “government-furnished equipment” that figures prominently in the final price.
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May 19, 2016 00:45 UTC
The Navy's V-22 Osprey program
has set 2018 for the deployment
of the aerial tanker variant of the USMC's MV-22B. Once the new capability is installed, it will be possible for the air combat element of a Marine Expeditionary Unit to refuel in air its F-35 Lightning II strike fighters and CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters, and eventually even other V-22s may be a possibility. This capability will extend the reach of the amphibious ready groups for strike and assault missions.
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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May 18, 2016 00:45 UTC
The US Navy has disclosed
that AIM-9X Block II
missiles have a "beyond-visual-range" capability. Announcing the capability was Capt. Jim Stoneman, chief of the US Navy’s Air-to-Air Missiles Program Office at the 2016 Sea-Air-Space Exposition. Plans for a Block III version of the newest member of the Sidewinder family are also in place; the program however, remains unfunded.
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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May 16, 2016 00:45 UTC
Airbus is to swap out parts and components of its troubled A400M
aircraft during regular maintenance and upgrades after cracks were discovered
in a French aircraft. German lawmakers were notified of the updates after being addressed by Germany's Defense Ministry. With three of Germany's 53 ordered A400s delivered, the government has demanded retrofits of the three aircraft which did not meet requirements, such as air dropping of paratroopers and equipment, and medical evacuations. Feared delays to delivery may send Berlin looking elsewhere to meet its transport aircraft gap with Lockheed Martins C-130J and Boeing's C-17 potential options.
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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May 09, 2016 00:45 UTC
Boeing has announced that they have developed a hardware and software fix
for the KC-46A
aerial tanker, allowing it to pass fuel to C-17 aircraft. The company encountered problems regarding a boom axial load issue during an earlier test to refuel the C-17, causing a setback to the already delayed flight test program. A "milestone C" decision on low rate production by the Pentagon is now expected in June after initially planned for April and now May.
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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May 04, 2016 00:50 UTC
The US Navy is expected to release a risk-reduction request
for proposals (RFP) for its MQ-25 Stingray
program this summer. This will help set out the timeline in which the service can realistically expect the tanker system to be deployed on-board its carrier fleet. It is expected that this will be followed by an engineering, manufacturing and design RFP in early FY2017. Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman all have designs they were going to pitch for UCLASS, and are expected to modify them for the Stingray’s new role.
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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