Oct 16, 2017 04:59 UTC
A Boeing and US Air Force (USAF) test team has successfully
completed the first mid-air refueling involving two KC-46A
aerial tankers. The demonstration took place during a recent four-hour flight, during which the two aircraft transferred 38,100 pounds of fuel to each other at 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute. Manufacturer Boeing hailed the demonstration as a "milestone" that opens the door to additional certification and specification compliance testing. More than a dozen KC-46s will be delivered to the USAF next year and will begin replacing the service's ageing fleet of KC-135s. So far, KC-46 test aircraft have had more than 1,300 contacts during refueling flights with a number of aircraft, including the F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10 and KC-10.
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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Oct 01, 2017 23:57 UTC
Kuwait had been scouted as a potential source
of F/A-18s for Canada's CF-18 successor program
, but the Gulf state could not supply their surplus aircraft fast enough. The revelation was made by Canada’s Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan on Sept. 28, and the ministry will now pursue talks with Australia over their surplus stock. However, it remains to be seen whether any of Australia's F/A-18s have enough service life left in them to serve alongside Canada's CF-18s until replacements for both begin to arrive in the mid-2020s. The government's backing of Montreal-based Bombardier in a dispute with the Super Hornet's manufacturer Boeing, has left purchasing from the source untenable for now. On Sunday, the British government appealed
for all parties involved to negotiate a solution to the trade dispute, which has put more than 4,200 jobs at a Bombardier plant in Northern Ireland at risk.
CF-18, 20-year colors
Canada’s 138 “CF-18s” were delivered between 1982-1988, but accidents and retirements have reduced the fleet to about 103, with only 79 upgraded F/A-18 AM/BM Hornets still operational. The CF-18s are expected to be phased out between 2017 – 2023. Maintenance and upgrades will remain necessary until then, and possibly beyond.
Canada has been an active Tier 3 partner in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, participating in both the Concept Demonstration Phase ($10 million) and the System Development and Demonstration Phase ($150 million). This USD $160 million has included funding from both the Department of National Defence, and from Technology Partnerships Canada (TPC). In the Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development Phase of the F-35 program, it is estimated that Canada’s contribution will exceed C$ 550 million (about the same in USD) over 44 years. As of September 2011, the government had disbursed about C$ 335 million toward participation in the JSF Program, and related support to Canadian industry.
Now, 65 new CF-35As are Canada’s official choice to replace its Hornets – and estimates of the cost range from $17 billion to $45.8 billion. This article covers efforts to keep existing CF-18s fit for service, as well as Canada’s replacement fighter buy. As timelines continue to slip, these 2 programs have become more interdependent – and the F-35’s selection less certain.
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Sep 27, 2017 04:58 UTC
S&K Aerospace will provide supply, maintenance and facility services for the Royal Saudi Air Force's (RSAF) F-15 fighter fleet
, after winning a $559 million US Air Force contract
on Friday. The agreement, which falls under foreign military sales to the Gulf kingdom, covers the provision of consumables, parts and maintenance of print on demand parts facilities for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's F-15 program, including all F-15 C/D/S/SA fleets. Work will be carried out in Saudi Arabia and is expected to run through March 31, 2023. The F-15 Eagle is one of the main fighter aircraft operated by the RSAF, and is currently receiving delivery of its most advanced version, the F-15SA, which features upgraded avionics, electronics warfare systems and a greater payload.
F-15S & weapons
In October 2010, talks that Saudi Arabia was negotiating a $30-60 billion arms package with the USA were made official with a full multi-billion request that included 84 F-15 Strike Eagles to replace the Kingdom’s Tornado strike aircraft and/or F-15A-D fighters, upgrades for another 70 planes, about 132 UH-60 Black Hawk utility and AH-64 attack helicopters, and armaments to equip them.
This article looks at those requests, their tie-ins, the issues that are part of these potential deals, and related follow-on requests. As is often the case with DSCA announcements, years can pass between the requests and the signed contracts, but these contracts have started to roll in, alongside other significant buys.
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Sep 07, 2017 04:58 UTC
French MQ-9 Reapers
UAVS in Mali will soon be armed
. Six Reapers, scheduled for delivery in 2019, will come armed with Hellfire missiles while the six remaining unarmed UAVs will be armed by 2020. France currently has five unarmed Reaper reconnaissance drones positioned in Niger's capital Niamey to support its 4,000-strong Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in Africa, and one in France. The armed drones are expected to offer a quick-response to Islamist militants operating in the Sahara region.
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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Sep 05, 2017 04:59 UTC
* General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems has been awarded a $60 million US Army contract modification
to an earlier 2014 award for additional Hydra-70
air-to-ground rocket systems. The rockets will be for US combat aircraft and for customers of the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The unguided 2.75"/70mm Hydra-70 air-to-ground rocket comes in a wide variety of warhead configurations and is used by a variety offixed-wing and rotary aircraft, including Apache and Cobra attack helicopters, F-16 Fighting Falcons and aircraft of other nations.
Sen. Leahy’s [D-VT] worked in the mid-2000s to keep the Hydra 70mm rocket family alive through special appropriations, just in time for the Hydras’ potential on the battlefield to rise again. The key was the addition of low-cost precision guidance, which would expand the number of precision weapons carried by helicopters, aircraft, and even UAVs.
Over the last few years, the US Army’s 2nd attempt at an APKWS 70mm guided rocket had a near-death experience, before righting the program with Navy funding. Meanwhile, private development efforts are introducing new competitors into the precision-guided rocket space: Lockheed Martin, Thales TDA, and a raft of international partnerships involving major defense firms and partners in Korea, the UAE, Canada/Norway, and Israel. This DID FOCUS article covers the most prominent competitors within the guided rocket trend. Their products will sit between full anti-armor missiles like Hellfire, TOW, and Brimstone, and an emerging class of ultra-small precision attack weapons like Northrop Grumman’s Viper Strike, Raytheon’s Griffin, etc.
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Aug 08, 2017 04:59 UTC
The US Navy has awarded Boeing a $11.1 million contract modification
to conduct additional ground repair work on the P-8A Poseidon
maritime patrol aircraft operated by the service. Work will be carried out at Jacksonville, Fla., as well as other sites throughout the United States and locations in Japan, Australia and Italy, with a scheduled completion of June 2018. The Navy currently operates a fleet of 50 Poseidons and expect future deliveries to bring the fleet to 109 as it replaces its older P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft.
Maritime surveillance and patrol is becoming more and more important, but the USA’s P-3 Orion turboprop fleet is falling apart. The P-7 Long Range Air ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) Capable Aircraft program to create an improved P-3 began in 1988, but cost overruns, slow progress, and interest in opening the competition to commercial designs led to the P-7’s cancellation for default in 1990. The successor MMA program was begun in March 2000, and Boeing beat Lockheed’s “Orion 21” with a P-8 design based on their ubiquitous 737 passenger jet. US Navy squadrons finally began taking P-8A Poseidon deliveries in 2012, but the long delays haven’t done their existing P-3 fleet any favors.
Filling the P-3 Orion’s shoes is no easy task. What missions will the new P-8A Poseidon face? What do we know about the platform, the project team, and ongoing developments? Will the P-3’s wide global adoption give its successor a comparable level of export opportunities? Australia and India have already signed on, but has the larger market shifted in the interim?
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Jul 26, 2017 04:57 UTC
BAE Systems has teamed with Italian firm Goriziane Group SpA to offer joint support
of the BvS10 Beowulf
armored all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Gorizioni Group, who have already worked with BAE on the older BV206 ATV, are specialists in the engineering and maintenance of vehicles and other heavy equipment, and this extended agreement is part of BAE's dedication to "work closely with industries in the countries we do business in to support government programs and local economies," according to Tommy Gustafsson-Rask, general manager of BAE Systems Hagglund. The Italian military is one of the largest users of the BV206 and BV206S vehicles, and is also in use with the militaries of Austria, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
A Viking comes ashore
The BvS10 is the successor to the wildly popular Bv206, 11,000 of which have been sold to 40 countries around the world – including the USA (M978). Readers may have seen these vehicles elsewhere, too, as a number of Bv206s have post-military careers at ski resorts, in industries like mining and logging, etc. The new BvS-10 is larger and more heavily armored; it’s in use in Britain, France and the Netherlands as a key armored vehicle for their respective Marines, has been bought by Sweden, and is under evaluation elsewhere. International interest includes imitators: Singapore’s Bronco ATTC is a BVS10 competitor, and Finland and Norway have their own local Bv206 variants.
What makes this unusual-looking vehicle family and design so popular? They aren’t like Humvees or similar wheeled mainstays. They aren’t full armored personnel carriers, either – they’re armored, but Bv family vehicles can’t take the kind of punishment that a Bradley or LAV can absorb. Instead, the secret to their success lies in a remarkable all-terrain capability, and their ability to fill a rare and critical role: air-portable and amphibious infantry enhancement. These success factors are discussed below, along with contracts and key developments related to this vehicle family.
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Jul 19, 2017 04:57 UTC
Israel has increased the scope
of its Leonardo Aermacchi M-346
"Lavi" advanced jet trainers after the successful upgrade of the aircraft's software. Additional external fuel tanks have already been added to the trainers with future enhancements planned includes the addition of live bombs which will allow for advanced training of air-to-surface strike missions. The aircraft are also being employed to support advanced training involving "fourth-generation" fighters.
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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Jun 08, 2017 04:59 UTC
Raytheon has bee awarded at $12.5 million modification
to an existing contract for the Phalanx
Close-in Weapons System (CIWS). Under the terms of the deal, the company will deliver Phalanx CIWS hardware kits to the US Navy that are intended to upgrade the Phalanx weapons system to the latest approved configuration. Work will be performed at El Segundo, Calif. And Louisville, Ky, and the program is expected to be completed by March 2019.
The radar-guided, rapid-firing MK 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS, pron. “see-whiz”) can fire between 3,000-4,500 20mm cannon rounds per minute, either autonomously or under manual command, as a last-ditch defense against incoming missiles and other targets. Phalanx uses closed-loop spotting with advanced radar and computer technology to locate, identify and direct a stream of armor piercing projectiles toward the target. These capabilities have made the Phalanx CIWS a critical bolt-on sub-system for naval vessels around the world, and led to the C-RAM/Centurion, a land-based system designed to defend against incoming artillery and mortars.
This DID Spotlight article offers updated, in-depth coverage that describes ongoing deployment and research projects within the Phalanx family of weapons, the new land-based system’s new technologies and roles, and international contracts from FY 2005 onward. As of Feb 28/07, more than 895 Phalanx systems had been built and deployed in the navies of 22 nations.
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May 09, 2017 04:58 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Northrop Grumman has been awarded
a $36.8 million contract to integrate radar systems on the MQ-8C Fire Scout
UAV for the US Navy. The pre-existing contract will include software updates, testing programs, and installation and support systems, and work will be carried out both in the US and in the UK through to May 2020. Research and development funds previously allocated for Fiscal 2016 will include $11.8 million set to expire at the end of the fiscal year.
MQ-8B Fire Scout
A helicopter UAV is very handy for naval ships, and for armies who can’t always depend on runways. The USA’s RQ/MQ-8 Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Vehicle has blazed a trail of firsts in this area, but its history is best described as “colorful.” The program was begun by the US Navy, canceled, adopted by the US Army, revived by the Navy, then canceled by the Army. Leaving it back in the hands of the US Navy. Though the Army is thinking about joining again, and the base platform is changing.
The question is, can the MQ-8 leverage its size, first-mover contract opportunity, and “good enough” performance into a secure future with the US Navy – and beyond? DID describes these new VTUAV platforms, clarifies the program’s structure and colorful history, lists all related contracts and events, and offers related research materials.
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