May 24, 2017 14:28 UTC
Latest updates[?]: M-346
advanced jet trainers operated by the Israeli Air Force are scheduled for a set of upgrades
that includes the integration of inert training bombs and external fuel tanks. Tel Aviv possesses 30 M-346 trainers—the last of which arrived in 2016—and the upgrades are expected to enable the air force to further streamline its training process. The air force's flight test centre is currently collaborating with manufacturer Leonardo and will oversee the modifications, as well as opening the trainer's full flight envelope, to match the service's operational requirements.
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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May 24, 2017 04:59 UTC
Lockheed Martin has won a $137.8 million contract modification
for cost-reduction programs for the initial low-rate production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
. Fiscal 2016 aircraft procurement funds from the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps of $137.8 million will be allocated to the program, none of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year. Eighty percent of the modification will go to the Air Force, with the rest split between the Navy and Marine Corps. Scheduled to be completed by December 2020, work will take place at Waco, Texas, El Segundo, Calif. and Warton, England, with other work being completed across the United States.
F-35B: off probation
The $382 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE) Lightning jet. Lightning II system development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3), with Singapore and Israel as “Security Cooperation Partners,” and Japan as the 1st export customer.
The big question for Lockheed Martin is whether, and when, many of these partner countries will begin placing purchase orders. This updated article has expanded to feature more detail regarding the F-35 program, including contracts, sub-contracts, and notable events and reports during 2012-2013.
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May 24, 2017 04:58 UTC
In addition to its deal to build Blackhawk helicopters in the kingdom, Lockheed Martin will develop a $28 billion air and missile defense program
that will include the THAAD
ballistic missile defense system, the anti-aircraft missile Patriot, 150 utility Blackhawk helicopters, and other systems and logistical support. The program is projected to support 18,000 skilled jobs in the US, along with thousands of jobs maintaining the equipment in Saudi Arabia for the next 30 years. It had been reported that Riyadh was interested in THAAD ahead of US President Donald Trump's visit last weekend.
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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May 23, 2017 04:59 UTC
Boeing is planning future upgrades
for the F/A-18 Super Hornet
that will keep the fighters flying into the 2040s. If approved, the plan will see continued development of the aircraft after the current Block 3 enhancement planned for the E/F variant of the Super Hornet enters production in 2020. Speaking on the plan, Larry Burt, director of Global Sales & Marketing for the Global Strike division, said that there "could well be lots of new capabilities added after Block 3. The Block 3 is built around a new processor that is a hundred times more powerful that today's. This processor resides outside of the aircraft's Operational Flight Program [computer], and so is not tied to its five-year software development cycle. It is truly open architecture that allows for plug and play of weapons, sensors, and systems."
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 22, 2017 04:56 UTC
General Atomics has received a $$195.2 million contract modification
for the advanced arresting gear of the CVN-80 Enterprise aircraft carrier currently under construction. Built as the the third in the Gerald R. Ford-class
line of aircraft carriers, the contract includes manufacturing, assembly, and testing, while technical data and drawing changes are also part of the program. Work will be completed in primarily in San Diego, Calif., with portions conducted in Tupelo, Miss., Boston, Mass., and other locations across the country. Completion is scheduled for September 2027.
USA’s Nimitz Class &
UK’s Invincible Class
Some nations have aircraft carriers. The USA has super-carriers. The French Charles De Gaulle Class nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India’s new Vikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t, while the British Invincible Class carriers that participated in the Falklands War weigh in at just 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy’s excellent new Cavour Class (27,000t), and Spain’s Principe de Asturias Class (17,000t). The USA’s Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000+ tonne range. Hence their unofficial designation: “super-carriers”. Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.
Nimitz Class cutaway
As the successor to the 102,000 ton Nimitz Class super-carriers, the CVN-21 program aimed to increase aircraft sortie generation rates by 20%, increase survivability to better handle future threats, require fewer sailors, and have depot maintenance requirements that could support an increase of up to 25% in operational availability. The combination of a new design nuclear propulsion plant and an improved electric plant are expected to provide 2-3 times the electrical generation capacity of previous carriers, which in turn enables systems like an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS, replacing steam-driven catapults), Advanced Arresting Gear, and integrated combat electronics that will leverage advances in open systems architecture. Other CVN-21 features include an enhanced flight deck, improved weapons handling and aircraft servicing efficiency, and a flexible island arrangement allowing for future technology insertion. This graphic points out many of the key improvements.
DID’s CVN-21 FOCUS Article offers a detailed look at a number of the program’s key innovations, as well as a list of relevant contract awards and events.
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May 19, 2017 04:58 UTC
The USAF has awarded a $400 million contract
to General Atomics for the production and delivery of 36 MQ-9 Reaper
UAVs. The contract comes from acquisition funds already appropriated sole-source acquisition funds from Fiscal 2016. Work will take place at Poway, California, and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2020. The Reaper, the larger and more heavily successor to the MQ-1 Predator, the UAV boasts a cruise speed of 230 mph, a flight ceiling up to 50,000 feet, and a range of 1150 miles, and can carry a payload of up to 3750 lbs. Munitions integrated include the Hellfire laser-guided missiles, GBU-12 Paveway bombs, and GPS-guided GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
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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May 19, 2017 04:57 UTC
Raytheon has received a $26.8 million contract
for the engineering and support of the MK-31 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM
). The US Navy contract was awarded as part of a joint cooperative development and production program between the United States and Germany under a memorandum of understanding. The program is meant to test reliability, along with maintenance, logistics, and software issues, and work is expected to be completed by September 2018. The RAM is designed for point-defense against anti-ship missiles and can be deployed on ships of any size. . It uses passive radio frequency and infrared guidance systems to track and destroy targets.
Mk-44 firing RAM
The Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) MK-31 guided missile weapon system is co-developed and co-produced under a NATO cooperative program between the United States and German governments to provide a small, all-weather, low-cost self-defense system against aircraft and cruise missiles. The RIM-116 was later called RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), because it spins during flight. To save costs, Designation Systems notes that the RAM was designed to use several existing components, including the rocket motor of the MIM-72 Chaparral, the warhead of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, and the Infrared seeker of the FIM-92 Stinger. Cueing is provided by the ship’s radar, or by its ESM signal tracing suite.
RAM is currently installed, or planned for installation, on 78 U.S. Navy and 30 German Navy ships, including American LSD, LHD, LPD and CVN ship types. This number will grow as vessels of the LPD-17 San Antonio Class and Littoral Combat Ships enter the US Navy, and the LCS will sport an upgraded SeaRAM system that will include its own integrated radar and IR sensors. Abroad, the South Korean Navy has adopted RAM for its KDX-II and KDX-III destroyers, and its LPX Dokdo Class amphibious assault ships; other navies using or buying RAM include Egypt, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and the UAE/Dubai.
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May 17, 2017 04:54 UTC
The Pentagon's inspector general has opened an investigation
as to whether the USAF has imposed unnecessary additional secrecy on its B-21
bomber program. Last year, the Air Force rebuffed requests, including from Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, to reveal basic information such as the value of the development contract awarded to lead contractor Northrop Grumman or the amount of the fee set aside to encourage meeting program goals, citing their potential value to adversaries. Now, the DoD's watchdog office will review and submit a report to Congress within the next six months aiming to ascertain whether there is the right mix of balanced program classification and transparency.
B-52H, B-1B & B-2A
The good news? 2006 saw a convergence of opinion within the USAF that a new long-range strike platform was needed. This is understandable given the B-52H Stratofortress fleet’s age (40-50 years), the B-1B Lancer’s internal power and electronics issues, both of these platforms’ low survivability against advanced air defense systems, and the B-2A Spirit stealth bomber’s very small numbers (21, of which 7-12 are generally operational). The unmanned J-UCAS program, meanwhile was seen as having inadequate range and payload (Boeing X-45C: 1,400 mile radius with 8 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs). The USAF decided that J-UCAS wasn’t a solution and pulled out, stalling American UCAV development until the Navy chose to go ahead with the carrier-based N-UCAS.
The bad news? They seemed to have little idea of exactly what they wanted in their bomber. The FY 2010 budget killed those plans anyway, but in September 2010, pressure to field a new bomber began to rise again. By the time fiscal year 2015 budget planning was in motion, both DoD and the Air Force seemed committed to making the program one of the service’s top 3 priorities.
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May 15, 2017 04:58 UTC
The Indian Air Force has successfully test-fired a Darby radar-guided air-to-air missile from one of its LCA Tejas
fighters. Conducted on May 12, New Delhi's announcement stated
that “the missile launch was performed in Lock ON after Launch mode for a BVR target in the look down mode and the target was destroyed,” and that aircraft avionics, fire-control radar, launchers and Missile Weapon Delivery System all performed as required. The test is one of several steps needed to clear beyond visual range (BVR) capabilities for the LCA.
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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May 15, 2017 04:55 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
The Japanese government has completed its study
into the possible procurement of the land-based Aegis Ashore
system, concluding that developing a new missile defense layer with the system is more cost-effective than purchasing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD
) system. At present, Tokyo operates a two-tier missile defense system with the first being SM-3 interceptors onboard Aegis-equipped destroyers, while the surviving missiles will then face a Patriot
battery firing Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air guided missiles. Discussions on the procurement are expected to last into the summer and will likely take several years to implement. It is expected that two fixed Aegis Ashore sites equipped with the SM-3 Block 2A missile would be sufficient to cover the country, at a cost of $705 million.
Land-based SM-3 concept
SM-3 Standard missiles have been the backbone of the US Navy’s ballistic missile defense plans for many years now, and are beginning to see service in the navies of allies like Japan. Their test successes and long range against aerial threats have spawned a land-based version, which end up being even more important to the USA’s allies.
In July 2008 the US Missile Defense Agency began considering a land-based variant of the SM-3, largely due to specific requests from Israel. Israel currently fields the medium range Arrow-2 land-based ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) system, and eventually elected to pursue the Arrow-3 instead of SM-3s. Once the prospect had been raised, however, the US government decided that basing SM-3 missiles on land was a really good idea. The European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense is being built around this concept, and other regions could see similar deployments.
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