Sep 22, 2017 04:59 UTC
The US Air Force's (USAF) newest gunship, the AC-130J Ghostrider
, will be declared operational
later this month. However, the aircraft will not be combat ready for another two years as the USAF Special Operations Command is behind in training operators. The new configuration has taken the refuelling pods out of an existing MC-130J, replacing them with weapons racks outfitted with precision strike packages. Armaments found on the Block 10 AC-130J configuration includes an internal 30mm gun, GPS-guided small diameter bombs and laser-guided missiles that will launch from the rear cargo door, while the Block 20 adds a 105mm cannon and large aircraft infrared countermeasures. Future updates include the addition of wing-mounted Lockheed AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and radio-frequency countermeasures. A number will have the 30mm gun replaced with a high-energy laser.
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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Sep 21, 2017 04:59 UTC
The head of the USAF's Air Mobility Command has revealed
that deliveries of the KC-46A
tanker from Boeing will likely take place next year, and it remains unknown whether the firm will meet the "required assets available" milestone scheduled for October 2018. Speaking at the annual Air, Space and Cyber conference near Washington DC, Gen Carlton Everhart said that the service had discovered severe flaws on the tanker, known as “category 1 deficiencies”. Among the most glaring, the tip of its boom has on occasion struck receiver aircraft outside their refuelling slipways. Unless Boeing resolve the issue quickly it could delay a scheduled 1 December delivery.
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, 2017 04:56 UTC
A new electronic warfare suite for the JAS-39 Gripen E/F
fighter has been launched
by Saab. The Arexis electronic warfare (EW) suite comprises of a radar warning receiver (RWR), enabling the equipped fighter with situational awareness of enemy radar tracking activity. It also includes Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM)-based Electronic Countermeasures (EC) systems for jamming against enemy radars, be it onboard enemy aircraft or air-to-air missiles (AAM). For dedicated EA roles, the Arexis can be packaged into a pod, which Saab states, “provides high output power” for dedicated EW/EA roles.
South African JAS-39D
As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defense against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken (“Dragon,” 1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt,” 1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. This record of consistent project success is nothing short of amazing, especially for a country whose population over this period has ranged from 7-9 million people.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for background, news, and contract awards related to the JAS-39 Gripen (“Griffon”), a canard-winged successor to the Viggen and one of the world’s first 4+ generation fighters. Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter? In 2013 a win in Brazil started to answer that question.
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Sep 19, 2017 04:58 UTC
Airbus has refuted claims
levelled at it by Austrian prosecutors that it carried out fraud and willful deception during a $2 billion Eurofighter Typhoon
deal. The aerospace giant went on to threaten legal action at Austria’s Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil, accusing the minister of disregarding the presumption of innocence in the case and therefore violated the firm's rights. A final report of a parliamentary inquiry into the 2003 jet purchase, how side deals were awarded and whether bribes were paid, is expected on Tuesday.
The multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon has been described as the aerodynamic apotheosis of lessons learned from the twin engine “teen series” fighters that began with the F-14 and F-15, continued with the emergence of the F/A-18 Hornet, and extended through to the most recent F/A-18 Super Hornet variants. Aerodynamically, it’s a half generation ahead of all of these examples, and planned evolutions will place the Eurofighter near or beyond parity in electronic systems and weapons.
The 1998 production agreement among its 4 member countries involved 620 aircraft, built with progressively improved capabilities over 3 contract “tranches”. By the end of Tranche 2, however, welfare state programs and debt burdens had made it difficult to afford the 236 fighters remaining in the 4-nation Eurofighter agreement. A 2009 compromise was found in the EUR 9 billion “Tranche 3A” buy, and the program has renewed its efforts to secure serious export sales. Their success will affect the platform’s production line in the near term, and its modernization plans beyond that.
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Sep 15, 2017 04:59 UTC
Oshkosh Defense has brought its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV
) to the DSEI show
in London, England. In anticipation of a forthcoming sale to the UK, the model brought was given an obligatory coat of British Army green paint, and came equipped with an in-service Kongsberg remote weapon station, AmSafe Bridport anti-rocket-propelled grenade armor and a Harris radio. George Mansfield, the vice president of international programs at Oshkosh Defence, said the configuration was meant to give a glimpse of the sort of items the British could fit based on those already in the inventory. He noted it wasn’t representative of any particular requirement. While the US State Department have already cleared the foreign military sale (FMS), the MoD does not expect a final decision on the FMS proposal until “early 2018.” The final go-ahead for the deal may have to await the results of a largely financially driven capability review due for completion by the end of the year by the British government.
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 11, 2017 04:59 UTC
Raytheon has been awarded a $38 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract
by the USAF to conduct work for the System Improvement Program 3- Engineering Manufacturing, Development. Under the terms of the deal, the firm will develop an incrementalsoftware solution for the AIM-120D
“to improve its performance against rapidly advancing threats.” Work will be carried out in Tuscon, Arizona with a completion date of January 5, 2021.
AIM-120C from F-22A
(click for test missile zoom)
Raytheon’s AIM-120 Advanced, Medium-Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) has become the world market leader for medium range air-to-air missiles, and is also beginning to make inroads within land-based defense systems. It was designed with the lessons of Vietnam in mind, and of local air combat exercises like ACEVAL and Red Flag. This DID FOCUS article covers successive generations of AMRAAM missiles, international contracts and key events from 2006 onward, and even some of its emerging competitors.
One of the key lessons learned from Vietnam was that a fighter would be likely to encounter multiple enemies, and would need to launch and guide several missiles at once in order to ensure its survival. This had not been possible with the AIM-7 Sparrow, a “semi-active radar homing” missile that required a constant radar lock on one target. To make matters worse, enemy fighters were capable of launching missiles of their own. Pilots who weren’t free to maneuver after launch would often be forced to “break lock,” or be killed – sometimes even by a short-range missile fired during the last phases of their enemy’s approach. Since fighters that could carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 tended to be larger and more expensive, and the Soviets were known to have far more fighters overall, this was not a good trade.
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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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Sep 04, 2017 04:57 UTC
Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky has been awarded
a Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 1 contract to deliver
two CH-53K King Stallion
heavy-lift helicopters to the US Marine Corps (USMC). Valued at $304 million, the firm will deliver the models by 2021 in addition to spares and support, with work to be carried out in Stratford, Connecticut. The US Department of Defense's Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft, with the USMC intending to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements. Designed to lift three times as much weight as its predecessor, the CH-53E Super Stallion, its increased payload capacity can internally load 463L cargo pallets, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) or a European Fenneck armored personnel carrier while still leaving the troop seats installed.
The U.S. Marines have a problem. They rely on their CH-53E Super Stallion medium-heavy lift helicopters to move troops, vehicles, and supplies off of their ships. But the helicopters are wearing out. Fast. The pace demanded by the Global War on Terror is relentless, and usage rates are 3 times normal. Attrition is taking its toll. Over the past few years, CH-53s have been recalled from “boneyard” storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ, in order to maintain fleet numbers in the face of recent losses and forced retirements. Now, there are no flyable spares left.
Enter the Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program, now known as the CH-53K. It aims to offer notable performance improvements over the CH-53E, in a similar airframe. The question is whether its service entry delay to 2018-2019 will come too late to offset a serious decline in Marine aviation.
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Aug 31, 2017 04:59 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and US Navy have successfully conducted
a scheduled test of a Standard Missile-6 guided missile (SM-6
) off the coast of Hawaii. Launched from the deck of the USS John Paul Jones, the missile intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile target, and comes just one day after North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan. The MDA said the test gives the naval component of the missile defense system higher ability to intercept ballistic missiles in their terminal phase.
SM-2 Launch, DDG-77
(click to view larger)
Variants of the SM-2 Standard missile are the USA’s primary fleet defense anti-air weapon, and serve with 13 navies worldwide. The most common variant is the RIM-66K-L/ SM-2 Standard Block IIIB, which entered service in 1998. The Standard family extends far beyond the SM-2 missile, however; several nations still use the SM-1, the SM-3 is rising to international prominence as a missile defense weapon, and the SM-6 program is on track to supplement the SM-2. These missiles are designed to be paired with the AEGIS radar and combat system, but can be employed independently by ships with older or newer radar systems.
This article covers each variant in the Standard missile family, plus several years worth of American and Foreign Military Sales requests and contracts and key events; and offers the budgetary, technical, and geopolitical background that can help put all that in context.
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