Mar 04, 2015 04:10 UTC
Now that the U.S. has green-lighted UAV sales to additional allies, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. and Spanish engineering firm SENER are partnering
to bring the Predator B to Iberia.
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 03, 2015 01:28 UTC
India will restart
its reconnaissance/surveillance helicopter (RSH) procurement process, after having botched the first two attempts. Previous finalist Airbus Helicopters (AS550 C3 Fennec) will compete again, along with other finalist Kamov (Ka-226T2 Sergei). And Bell Helicopter will re-enter the fray. Bell had been a part of the first competition back in 2003. It will be fielding its Bell 407GT, the militarized version of its 407GX.
How safe are the Indian Army’s aging fleets of Chetaks (Aerospatiale SA316 Alouette III) and Cheetahs (SA315B Alouette II/III mix)? These old designs have consistently proven themselves in high altitude operations, and remain useful as long as their airframes remain safe. The problem is that at their age, the safety margin is pretty slim. Or worse.
In 2003, India issued an RFP for 197 light helicopters estimating a deal worth between $500-$600 million to buy 60 helicopters outright, with the remaining 137 being built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Eurocopter’s AS550 C3 Fennec and Bell Textron’s 407 competed in the second and final round of summer trials, and as 2007 ticked toward a close, it looked like we had a winner. As often happens in India, however, the process ended up completely derailed. A new RFP out for a successor “Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter program” (RSH) went out in 2008, and testing was done in 2010. Has the RSH competition gone the way of the 1st aborted contract, even as India’s high altitude border posts struggle for adequate support?
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Mar 03, 2015 00:03 UTC
Latest updates[?]: The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center finished a three-day test of the Increment 2 ground control system for SBIRS. The Increment 2 system features a single control center to operate all three types of satellite, and includes a backup system.
The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-High satellite program is a key component of the USA’s future missile alert system, designed to give maximum warning and monitoring of ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world. The new satellites will replace the existing Defense Support Program (DSP) fleet. Their infrared sensors have 3x the sensitivity of DSP and 2x the revisit rate, while providing better persistent coverage.
Unfortunately, the program has been beset by massive cost overruns on the order of 400%, technical challenges that continue to present problems, and uncertainties about performance. Despite these problems, the U.S. Air Force is proceeding with the program, and has terminated potential alternatives and supplements. However, as part of a January 2015 effort to institute cost reforms, the Air Force will weaken requirements for the program, and at least three other major procurement programs.
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Mar 02, 2015 00:24 UTC
The Navy tells Congress that it will move up work
on the JFK, but not to launch the ship any sooner. To do so would create an impractical overlap of an extra carrier for a couple year prior to the retirement of CVN-68. Instead, they will delay the completion of the ship, waiting until the last minute to purchase and install the electronics, which presumably will be somewhat improved by the period just before launch in the summer of 2022.
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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Mar 02, 2015 00:03 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Australia tests new wing kits called the JDAM ER (standing for extended range), tripling range from 24 miles to 72 miles. They were launched out of F/A-18s. The RAAF will purchase the kits later in 2015 pending additional certification tests.
B-2 drops JDAM
Precision bombing has been a significant military goal since the invention of the Norden bomb sight in the 1920s, but its application remained elusive. Over 30 years later, in Vietnam, the destruction of a single target could require 300 bombs, which meant sending an appropriate number of fighters or bombers into harm’s way to deliver them. Even the 1991 Desert Storm war with Iraq featured unguided munitions for the most part. The USAF some laser and TV-guided weapons like Paveway bombs and Maverick missiles, but they were very expensive, and only effective in good weather. If precision bombing was finally to become a reality throughout the Air Force, a new approach would be needed. The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) became that alternative, an engine of military transformation that was also a model of procurement transformation.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This DID FOCUS Article looks at the transformational history of the JDAM GPS-guided bomb program, the ongoing efforts to bring its capabilities up to and beyond the level of dual-mode guidance kits like Israel’s Spice and Raytheon’s Enhanced Paveway, and the contracts issued under the JDAM program since its inception.[updated]
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Feb 27, 2015 00:05 UTC
France reportedly is to start shipping its planned sale of $3 billion worth of Saudi-purchased arms to Lebanon in April. The announcement appears to have taken many media organs by surprise, given the already volatile military situation in the country. Different reports ascribe various Saudi motives for the pressing of the weapons into Lebanese Army hands, ranging from expressing pique at the U.S. (UPI)
- whose arms were not purchased - to a direct effort to fund a force to take on Hezbollah (MintPress)
. It took the French two years to get to this point of readiness. Had the Saudis sought U.S. arms, the approvals would certainly have been much longer in coming, if they ever came. That the Lebanese Army would take on Hezbollah remains unlikely, as precedent shows a long inability to deny Hezbollah anything in Lebanon the group wishes to take.
Lebanese armed forces
The Lebanese Army’s own web site is blunt: “The assistance received from Syria, the USA, and other friendly countries has played a basic role in bridging the gap between needs and available means.”
A number of countries are stepping up to fill those gaps, left in a military ravaged by foreign occupation, a long and losing civil war, and the presence of Hizb’Allah – a foreign-backed private army in Lebanon, with superior firepower. The battle for influence in that country is multi-polar, with countries including the USA, France, and Saudi Arabia moving to counter Syria and Iran’s proxies, and countries like Russia working with independent agendas. The USA has been supplying a wide range of equipment from ammunition to armored vehicles, and is adding tanks, mini-UAVs, and even patrol boats to that list. Belgium has worked to sell some of its own tanks and APCs, France has offered help with Lebanon’s existing French equipment; and in April 2009, Russia went so far as to offer MiG-29 fighters, for free, from its own stocks.
What capabilities would these systems bring? How are those sales going? And how is Lebanon itself changing, in the wake of both Hezbollah’s takeover and Syria’s civil war?
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Feb 26, 2015 01:05 UTC
The F-35 is a fairly stealthy plane, so long as it is mostly unarmed. About five sixths of its armament capacity must be carried externally, effectively rendering it visible to radars. That has been one of the several good arguments as to why stealth development may have been a low bang-for-buck result. Australia announced
that it was going in with Kongsberg to adapt the Joint Strike Missile to fit inside the F-35's armament bay. We helpfully suggest that the new variant be named the JSM-III Sardine.
NSM test launch
Kongsberg’s stealthy new Naval Strike Missile (Nytt SjomalsMissil), which continues its development and testing program, has already shown potential in the crowded market for long-range ship attack and shore defense weapons. NSM’s Joint Strike Missile counterpart may have even more potential, as a longer-range air-launched naval and land strike complement to Kongsberg’s popular Penguin short-range anti-ship missile.
The market for anti-ship missiles is a crowded one, and the distinction between anti-ship and precision land strike weapons is blurring fast. Aside from a bevy of Russian subsonic and supersonic offerings, naval buyers can choose Boeing’s GM-84 Harpoon, China’s YJ-82/C-802 Saccade, MBDA’s Exocet, Otomat, or Marte; IAI of Israel’s Gabriel/ANAM, Saab’s RBS15, and more. Despite an ongoing shift toward supersonic missiles, Kongsberg chose not to go that route. So, how do they expect to be competitive in a crowded market? The F-35 Lightning II may hold the key.
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Feb 25, 2015 00:04 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Mindful of the trend of shipyards to consolidate to the point where there is barely the opportunity for real competition, the Navy is deliberately packaging three very different major defense acquisition programs together and selecting two shipyards to bid for each, with the explicit expectation that each will be rewarded at least one. General Dynamics NASSCO and Huntington Ingalls Industries will compete for the redesign of the LHA-8 (which sorely needs its well deck back now that Marines vehicles have plumped up); the T-AO(X) fleet oiler and the LX(R) dock landing ship replacement.
"Each shipyard will be awarded one detail design and construction contract for LHA 8 or one DD&C for T-AO(X) ships 1-6," said a Navy representative. "This approach balances the Navy's commitment to maintaining a viable shipbuilding industrial base while aggressively pursuing competition." The arbitrary connection of three disparate programs and the automatic win that could go to a loser seems reminiscent of a kindergarten awards ceremony, but at least the creation and maintenance of this duopoly appears to be deliberate. It may shed light on the decision-making process as it happens for the Ingalls/BIW duopoly on the Arleigh Burke contracts and the ancient Newport News/Electric Boat rivalry for submarine work.
Modern U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ships project power and maintain presence by serving as the cornerstone of the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) / Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). LHA/LHD are a key element of the Seapower 21 doctrine pillars of Sea Strike and Sea Basing, transporting, launching, and landing elements of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) via a combination of LCAC hovercraft, amphibious transports and vehicles, helicopters, and aircraft.
Designed to project power and maintain presence, LHA-Replacement (LHA-R, aka. LH-X, and now the New Amphibious Assault Ship or NAAS) large deck amphibious assault ships were slated to replace the US Navy’s 6 LHA-1 Tarawa Class vessels. They are based on the more modern LHD Wasp Class design, with the LHD’s landing craft and well deck removed in favor of more planes and hangar space. While its LHA/LHD predecessors were amphibious assault ships with a secondary aviation element, it’s fair to describe the America Class as escort carriers with a secondary amphibious assault role.
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Feb 25, 2015 00:01 UTC
An RAAF officer spoke to media
about the two real-world taskings the Wedgetail pulled: the marshaling of disparate aircraft in the search for Malaysia Airlines MH370 and in recent operations against ISIS. Wing Commander Paul Carpenter said the reliability rate was 90 percent or higher. He also said that since the platform is based on the Boeing 737, when it operated away from Australia, it benefited from high availability of the 737 support chain.
over New South Wales
The island continent of Australia faces a number of unique security challenges that stem from its geography. The continent may be separated from its neighbors by large expanses of ocean, but it also resides within a potential arc of instability, and has a number of important offshore resource sites to protect. Full awareness of what is going on around them, and the ability to push that awareness well offshore, are critical security requirements.
“Project Wedgetail” had 3 finalists, and the winner was a new variant of Boeing’s 737-700, fitted with an MESA (multirole electronically scanned array) radar from Northrop Grumman. That radar exchanges the traditional AWACS rotating dome for the E-7A’s “top hat” stationary antenna. That design, and the project as a whole, have run into severe turbulence, creating problems for Boeing earnings, the ADF, and other export orders for the type. DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This one covers contracts, events, and key milestones within Australia’s E-7A program, from inception to the current day.
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Feb 24, 2015 00:04 UTC
Oshkosh Defense announced a new version of its ambulance variant
of its M-ATV. The first ambulance version appeared in 2010.
“The Government plans to acquire an MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). The M-ATV is a lighter, off-road, and more maneuverable vehicle that incorporates current MRAP level [bullet and mine blast] protection. The M-ATV will require effectiveness in an off-road mission profile. The vehicle will include EFP (Explosively Formed Projectile land mine) and RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade panzerfaust) protection (integral or removable kit). The M-ATV will maximize both protection levels and off-road mobility & maneuverability attributes, and must balance the effects of size and weight while attempting to achieve the stated requirements.”
— US government FedBizOpps, November 2008
Oshkosh Defense’s M-ATV candidate secured a long-denied MRAP win, and the firm continues to remain ahead of production targets. The initial plan expected to spend up to $3.3 billion to order 5,244 M-ATVs for the US Army (2,598), Marine Corps (1,565), Special Operations Command (643), US Air Force (280) and the Navy (65), plus 93 test vehicles. FY 2010 budgets and subsequent purchases have pushed this total even higher, and orders now stand at over 8,800 for the USA, plus another 800 for the UAE.
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