Nov 06, 2014 19:56 UTC
Latest updates[?]: EUR 250 million FCAS contract signed; Some Taranis design features.
The European nEUROn project joins Britain’s Taranis UCAV, Russia’s MiG SKAT, Boeing’s X-45 Phantom Ray, and the US Navy’s X-47 UCAS-D program as unmanned aircraft projects with fighter-substitution potential.
Multinational projects are often fraught affairs, and Europe’s stealth Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) had its own close calls. In November 2005, a Forecast International report on the future UAV market saw political trouble coming for the proposed 6-nation nEUROn project, unless the partner nations could get their act together and agree. In the end, the project got rolling with committed funding of EUR 535 million and counting, and the French DGA (Délégation Générale pour l’Armement) procurement agency acting as the program executive. This FOCUS article covers the Neuron program’s 3-fold goals, envisioned platform, program structure and schedule, and ongoing contracts and developments. In the wake a Franco-British joint UCAV development memo, Britain’s Taranis project has been added to this article in a separate coverage stream.
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Nov 04, 2014 18:23 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Sweden makes budget changes in response to Swiss referendum loss; Program timeline updated; Production chart updated with Brazilian win.
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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Nov 02, 2014 18:10 UTC
Latest updates[?]: NEW Program Summary section; Explosion in Uzbekistan raises questions re: RTM322 engines; TopOwl HMD injuring pilots; Lateness & corrosion will cost the Dutch an extra $100+ million; New Zealand finishes deliveries; Timeline updated; Marte-ER anti-ship missile integration.
NH90: TTH & NFH
The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NH Industries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.
The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60 Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.
As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at 474 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.
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