Sep 28, 2016 00:48 UTC
The F-35 could be getting new engines
by the mid-2020s, with the potential for either an upgraded version of the Pratt & Whitney F135 design currently in use or a new engine from a competitor. Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, head of the Joint Program Office, made the announcement at last week’s Air Force Association conference. The USAF is currently in the early stages of funding their Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP
) competition, with both P&W and General Electric Aviation securing contracts worth $1.01 billion to research if its possible to “demonstrate 25 percent improved fuel efficiency, 10 percent increased thrust, and significantly improved thermal management.”
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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Sep 23, 2016 00:48 UTC
The US State Department has cleared the sale
of four KC-46A
aerial refueling tankers to Japan in what is estimated to be a $1.9 billion deal. All aircraft will come equipped with Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-24(V) Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system. Tokyo first announced its intention to purchase the new tankers last October, with the recent approval
from the Pentagon moving it closer to becoming the aircraft's first foreign customer for manufacturer Boeing.
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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Sep 20, 2016 00:42 UTC
Airbus admits to planned cost-cutting measures
as the European defense giant embarks on a project to introduce more digital methods into its operations. The company stated that "the envisaged cost-cutting aims at being a contribution to value creation and in particular to the digital transformation at Airbus Group," but denied reports that they are working on new cuts as a result of cost overruns on their largest planes. Aircraft such as the A400M
military transporter have undergone severe delays, cost overruns, and fines during its development, causing much ire from customer nations.
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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Sep 01, 2016 00:55 UTC
The US Army is planning to make the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV
) its new Light Reconnaissance Vehicle platform and arm it with
a variant of the M230 chain gun
found on the AH-64 attack helicopter. Manufacturer Oshkosh won a $6.7 billion contract last fall to build the first 17,000 production models of the JLTV. In total, the Army and Marine Corps plan to buy a total of nearly 55,000 of the combat vehicles, including 49,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the Corps, to replace about a third of the Humvee fleets.
Ultra APV demonstrator
In an age of non-linear warfare, where front lines are nebulous at best and non-existent at worst, one of the biggest casualties is… the concept of unprotected rear echelon vehicles, designed with the idea that they’d never see serious combat. That imperative is being driven home on 2 fronts. One front is operational. The other front is buying trends.
These trends, and their design imperatives, found their way into the USA’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program, which aims to replace many of the US military’s 120,000 or so Humvees. The US military’s goal is a 7-10 ton vehicle that’s lighter than its MRAPs and easier to transport aboard ship, while offering substantially better protection ad durability than existing up-armored Humvees. They’d also like a vehicle that can address front-line issues like power generation, in order to recharge all of the batteries troops require for electronic gadgets like night sights, GPS devices, etc.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. JLTV certainly qualifies, and recent budget planning endorsements have solidifed a future that was looking shaky. Now, can the Army’s program deliver?
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Sep 01, 2016 00:50 UTC
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin's Javelin Joint Venture team has inked a letter of intent
with India's Tata Power Company to explore development of the Javelin
missile under the Make in India initiative. The venture would see the collaboration also create a strategy to co-develop and produce the Javelin system while integrating platform mounts to meet Indian requirements. Fielded by the US Army and the US Marine Corps, the missile system has been approved for 15 foreign military sales customers.
The FGM-148 Javelin missile system aimed to solve 2 key problems experienced by American forces. One was a series of disastrous experiences in Vietnam, trying to use 66mm M72 LAW rockets against old Soviet tanks. A number of replacement options like the Mk 153 SMAW and the AT4/M136 spun out of that effort in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until electronics had miniaturized for several more cycles that it became possible to solve the next big problem: the need for soldiers to remain exposed to enemy fire while guiding anti-tank missiles to their targets.
Javelin solves both of those problems at once, offering a heavy fire-and-forget missile that will reliably destroy any enemy armored vehicle, and many fortifications as well. While armored threats are less pressing these days, the need to destroy fortified outposts and rooms in buildings remains. Indeed, one of the lessons from both sides of the 2006 war in Lebanon has been the infantry’s use of guided missiles as a form of precision artillery fire. Javelin isn’t an ideal candidate for that latter role, due to its high cost-per-unit; nevertheless, it has often been used this way. Its performance in Iraq has revealed a clear niche on both low and high intensity battlefields, and led to rising popularity with American and international clients.
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Aug 30, 2016 00:48 UTC
Lockheed Martin is to provide
five additional C-130J Super Hercules
aircraft to the USAF. The $287 million modification contract is expected to be completed by April 2020. An update of the C-130 Hercules, the C-130J has attracted a wide number of interested customers, with orders received from at least 15 nations since induction in 1999. It's expected that the company could see another 100 units produced
for US and international customers.
RAAF C-130J-30, flares
The C-130 Hercules remains one of the longest-running aerospace manufacturing programs of all time. Since 1956, over 40 models and variants have served as the tactical airlift backbone for over 50 nations. The C-130J looks similar, but the number of changes almost makes it a new aircraft. Those changes also created issues; the program has been the focus of a great deal of controversy in America – and even of a full program restructuring in 2006. Some early concerns from critics were put to rest when the C-130J demonstrated in-theater performance on the front lines that was a major improvement over its C-130E/H predecessors. A valid follow-on question might be: does it break the bottleneck limitations that have hobbled a number of multi-billion dollar US Army vehicle development programs?
C-130J customers now include Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States. American C-130J purchases are taking place under both annual budgets and supplemental wartime funding, in order to replace tactical transport and special forces fleets that are flying old aircraft and in dire need of major repairs. This DID FOCUS Article describes the C-130J, examines the bottleneck issue, covers global developments for the C-130J program, and looks at present and emerging competitors.
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Aug 24, 2016 00:45 UTC
General Atomics has been contracted
by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to develop a laser tracking system for the MQ-9 Reaper
UAV. Valued at $9.6 million, the contract will set the company to design, build and test in the lab key laser subsystems to demonstrate precision tracking. Furthermore, the company will develop and demonstrate an MQ-9 flight representative laser system with the beam train optics required to upgrade a multi-spectral targeting system for use as an active tracking sensor.
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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Aug 15, 2016 00:55 UTC
Taiwan has agreed to part of a US weapons package that will see delivery of
13 sets of Phalanx close-in weapons systems
(CIWS) and other equipment set to the tune of $286.6 million. While not due for delivery until at least 2024, the new CIWS systems will add to one MK 15 Block 1B CIWS system found on one of its Kidd-class destroyers and give an uplift in capabilities to the older Phalanx systems currently in use. The deal is part of a wider $1.83 billion defense package that includes two Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates, 36 AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles, and 250 Block I-92F MANPAD Stinger missiles.
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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Aug 11, 2016 00:56 UTC
An agreement between the Pentagon and Seoul will see the transfer of a crucial GPS component
for the Taurus cruise missile, paving the way for its operation by RoKAF F-15K fighters. It's expected that the Taurus will be delivered and in use by the end of the year. Dubbed as a "jamming proof" air-to-ground guided missile, the decision to allow Taurus exports to South Korea comes as North Korea flexes its muscles with ballistic missile tests.
F-15K Poster: apropos?
The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) originally planned to buy 120 advanced, high-end fighters as its next-generation platform, in order to replace its existing fleet of F-4 Phantom IIs and other aircraft. So far, it has bought 60 fighters in 2 phases. Back in 2002, the South Koreans picked the advanced F-15K derivative of the F-15E Strike Eagle for its F-X Next Generation Fighter Program, and bought 40. In 2008, a 2nd F-X Phase II contract was signed for 20 more F-15ks, with slight modifications.
As the 3rd phase loomed, the question was whether it will be a variant of their existing fleet, or something new. While the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) dreamed of developing their own “5th generation” aircraft for Phase 3, reality eventually had its say. Now, foreign manufacturers are offering the ROKAF a number of off-the-shelf options. But throughout 2013 DAPA couldn’t seem to be able to reconcile the air force’s desire for advanced technology with its budget constraints. Boeing seemed on the edge of winning with its F15-SEs as the sole contender within budget, only to be rejected by the end of September 2013. This reopened the tender with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 as the likely favorite, a choice which was confirmed as 2014 unfolded.
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Aug 05, 2016 00:55 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
India's MoD has approved $294 million to go toward a program to upgrade
its ten Ka-28 anti-submarine warfare helicopters. A 42 month modernization will see state-of-the-art western weapons and sensors integrated on a fleet that currently suffers from poor serviceability. First purchased in 1980, only four
Ka-28s are currently operational.
(click to view larger)
In September 2008, Flight International reported that India’s defence ministry has issued a tender for “advanced multirole naval helicopters” to several manufacturers around the world, including AgustaWestland, EADS and Sikorsky. The initial RFP reportedly covered 16 helicopters, with a potential expansion to 60 helicopters.
The problem, as usual, is that nothing happened for years, while critical Indian defenses were left rotting. India’s naval sphere of influence is growing, and the country purchased long-range P-8i jets to improve its territorial coverage. Unfortunately, that can’t paper over a glaring hole in India’s defenses. The Navy currently has many high-end ships without serious naval helicopter capability. Few of their Russian Ka-28s are still fit for service, and their small and aged Sea King fleet faces both technological and airframe limitations. It’s a terrible policy for a country that continues to add high-cost, high-value ships to its fleet, in a region with more and better submarines.
Finally, by the end of 2014 India indicated interest in expediting its initial naval multirole helicopter acquisition.
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