Oct 28, 2016 00:48 UTC
Negotiations over low-rate initial production (LRIP) lots 9 and 10 of the F-35
Joint Strike Fighter look close to conclusion
following the completion of supplier discussions between Northrop Grumman and lead contractor Lockheed Martin. The talks indicate that Lockheed may soon wrap-up its 15-month talks with the Joint Program Office (JPO). But both the JPO and Lockheed have said that negotiations were still ongoing and gave no comment as to when they would come to an end.
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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Oct 28, 2016 00:45 UTC
It's been reported that the US military is using bases in Tunisia to conduct surveillance drone operations
against Islamic State militants in Libya with unarmed MQ-9 Reaper UAVs. However Tunisian sources have denied that the drones have been in Libyan airspace and instead are being used for training Tunisian forces and protecting the country's borders. Following attacks by jihadists
in a popular vacation destination in 2015, Washington has given more than $250 million in security assistance to Tunisia while the UK has provided personnel to train Tunisian forces.
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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Oct 24, 2016 00:45 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Eurofighter Typhoons
recently ordered by Kuwait will be fitted with
Lockheed Martin's Sniper advanced targeting pods. Under a contract with the Aircraft division of Leonardo-Finmeccanica, a member of the Eurofighter consortium, Lockheed Martin will supply 18 pods for Kuwaiti Typhoons, plus integration and logistics support. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2017.
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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Oct 20, 2016 00:55 UTC
The fourth C-130J
"Samson" tactical transporter has been delivered to Israel
. Operated by the Israeli air force's "Elephants" squadron, the aircraft has already been tested during aerial refuelling missions with a Boeing 707 tanker, and is currently testing its low-level flight capabilities using some Israeli-developed systems. Two more will be delivered by the end of the year.
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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Oct 06, 2016 00:45 UTC
Raytheon and Kongsberg have successfully test-fired an extended range version
of Raytheon’s Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM
) from the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS
). By simply pairing the sensor from the AMRAAM to an Evolved Sea Sparrow missile (ESSM
) the new variant gives a 50% in maximum range and 70% in maximum altitude. Modifications undertaken to accommodate the new missile include extending the top row of three canisters by a foot, and Raytheon is targeting first deliveries of the missile in the 2020 timeframe.
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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Oct 05, 2016 00:52 UTC
A second batch of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles have been delivered to Egypt
under the US Excess Defense Articles grant program. While the exact number of vehicles delivered remains unknown, the original shipment contained 762 MRAPs. First used for US operations in Afghanistan, the vehicles will give enhanced levels of protection to Egyptian soldiers tackling Islamist militants in the Sinai desert.
With the acquisition of Force Protection by General Dynamics in November 2011, future purchases will be covered under “General Dynamics MRAPs: Partners and Purchases.”
The Cougar family of medium-sized blast-protected vehicles is produced in both 4-wheel (formerly Cougar H) and 6-wheel (formerly Cougar HE) layouts. Eventually, the wisdom of using survivable vehicles in a theater where land mines were the #1 threat became clearer, and these vehicles have gradually shifted from dedicated engineer and Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) roles to patrol and route-proving/ convoy lead functions as well. Related variants and blast-resistant designs are also produced in response to country-specific requirements (Wolfhound, Mastiff, Ridgeback, ILAV Badger) and other designs cover different operational needs (Buffalo mine-clearance, Cheetah, Ocelot, and JAMMA patrol vehicles). To date, the firm has received orders from Britain, Canada, France, Hungary, Italy, Iraq, and Yemen; and Poland operates some on loan from the USA. Front line testimonials offer evidence of their effectiveness.
Cougar orders predate the USA’s MRAP program to rush mine-resistant vehicles to the front lines; indeed, the performance of Force Protection’s vehicles on the front lines was probably the #1 trigger for the MRAP program’s existence. This FOCUS article describes Force Protection’s vehicles and corporate performance, which became an issue in recent years. It also covers key events and procurements around the world related to Force Protection’s Cougar (MRAP CAT I & II), Buffalo (MRAP CAT III), and related blast-resistant vehicle families.
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Sep 30, 2016 00:42 UTC
Delivery of the Malaysian Air Force's fourth and final A400M
transport aircraft will happen early next year
. The first aircraft was delivered in March 2015, the second came early this year while the third was received in the middle of this year. Gen Tan Sri Roslan Saad told reporters that the latest A400M will come with a software upgrade.
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 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 01, 2016 00:55 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
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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