Mar 16, 2017 00:56 UTC
The British Royal Air Forces and BAE Systems have completed a series of trials
as part of the Phase 3 Enhancement package that the company is developing for the Eurofighter Typhoon
aircraft under the Centurian program
. RAF pilots in conjunction with support from BAE's engineers flew over 40 flights with the aircraft which set out to test its high precision MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface weapon. Each flight carried two launchers; each containing three Brimstone missiles alongside four AMRAAM, two ASRAAM, and two Paveway IV laser-guided bombs. The Centurian program aims to upgrade the Typhoon to sufficient multi-role standards in order to effectively replace the Tornado GR4 currently in service, by 2018.
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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Mar 14, 2017 00:55 UTC
Lockheed Martin has won a $64 million contract
to perform work on the integrated core processor used by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
. The DoD order includes services for the USAF, US Navy, USMC and international partners and the work aims to alleviate diminishing manufacturing source constraints projected under F-35 production Lot 15 by March 2019. Developed during the early stages of the F-35's development, the integrated core processor is referred to as the "brain" of the next-gen fighter.
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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Mar 03, 2017 00:28 UTC
Sikorsky has delivered
an S-70i Black Hawk helicopter to be used as a prototype for the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP
). The delivery coincides with the signing of a “cooperation agreement” with Turkish Aerospace Industries
(TAI), aimed at enhancing business between the two companies in the next 10 years. Sikorsky is collaborating with Turkish industry on developing its new T-70 utility helicopter, and later into Turkish-built Black Hawks, in a program that is worth approximately $3.5 billion. The delivered Black Hawk will now be equipped with a new avionics suite jointly developed with Sikorsky and TAI, with work to be carried out by Turkish arms manufacturer Aselsan. Ankara is initially planning to produce 109 T-70s but this could later reach a production total of 300 if the helicopter is rolled out to meet future Turkish requirements.
In 2011, the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program picked Sikorsky to continue providing its S-70 Black Hawk & Seahawk helicopters over the next 10 years. Turkey’s attack helicopter program wasn’t exactly a model procurement approach, and it should be no surprise that its TUHP contract would also come years after the initially-promised date.
The contract was finalized in February 2014, and its impact will be far-reaching. These “T-70” helicopters will equip every branch of Turkey’s armed forces, and some civilian organizations. As an added bonus, Turkish Aerospace Industries’ experience manufacturing components and assembling the S-70s will help them pursue a new light helicopter design of their own…
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Mar 01, 2017 00:55 UTC
China has received their largest foreign order
for the indigenous next-generation Wing Loong II UAV. However, the report did not disclose the identity of the buyer or the size of the order. Beijing has been driving to increase their market share of the military drone market at the expense of US and Israeli products, by offering lower-cost technology to customers and a willingness to sell to governments to which Western states will not sell. The Wing Loong II's predecessor
is marketed for $1 million, while the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper
, to which it has sometimes been compared, is priced at around $30 million.
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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Feb 27, 2017 00:46 UTC
Airbus has announced that there have been no signs of further cracks or damage
in the combustion chambers of A400M
transport aircraft. Safety regulators from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had to conduct investigations and safety checks into all aircraft after unexplained cracks were discovered in the combustion chamber of an A400M engine owned by Malaysia last year. The EASA airworthiness directive called for inspections of all engines similar to the Malaysian one, and follow-on checks after 500 hours, and then every 250 hours after that. Airbus has also called for fresh talks
with European defense ministers in order to discuss the latest issues concerning the transporter and to agree on future steps to ensure the best interests of the program.
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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Feb 24, 2017 00:59 UTC
Boeing is taking some suppliers to court
after they sold mislabeled chemicals that caused the maiden flight of the KC-46
tanker to be delayed by a month. Able Aerospace Adhesives and AlfaKleen Chemical Labs, both from California, are being sued in the sum of $10 million or more for the mix up, whose incorrect chemical damaged components in the jet’s refueling system, and time was lost by Boeing in order to to replace those damaged parts. The liquid provided was certified to meet MIL-PRF-680 Type III certification; it was, however, actually more acidic than required.
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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Feb 15, 2017 00:55 UTC
German initiatives to deepen defensive ties with its neighbors continues as it moves forward with a plan set up a joint fleet
of Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J
transport planes with France and join a Netherlands-led fleet of Airbus A330 tanker planes. The plans join other collaborative agreements with Norway, Romania and the Czech Republic, and come at a time when NATO members face increasing pressure from the United States to spend more for their own military and reach NATO's target of devoting 2 percent of gross domestic product to defense spending.
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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Feb 07, 2017 00:55 UTC
Tatra Defense Vehicles will provide additional Steyr Pandur II trucks to the Czech Republic
, adding to the 107 Pandurs already operated by Prague
. The $82 million contract will see the provision of 20 vehicles, six of which will be fitted as command-and-control trucks and another 14 vehicles configured as communications platforms.The Pandur II 8x8 armored vehicle is an updated all-wheel drive version of the Pandur 6x6 armored personnel carrier.
In January 2006, the Czech Republic selected General Dynamics’ European Land Combat Systems subsidiary Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug GmbH of Austria to supply its army with 199 new eight-wheeled Pandur II armored personnel carriers (APCs) between 2007-2012. The KBVP vehicles would replace Soviet-era OT-64 SKOT APCs, and would be produced in Austria and the Czech Republic.
In 2005 the contract included an option for 35 additional vehicles for a total of 234, and had a potential value of Koruna 23.6 billion ($1-1.4 billion). Steyr’s Pandur II was a finalist, and eventually won the competition. But questions arose, the deal became a political football, and delivery issues jeopardized the deal into oblivion. Or so it seemed. Despite the economic crisis gripping Eastern Europe, the Czechs reinstated a scaled-down version of the deal in late February 2009.
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Feb 02, 2017 00:55 UTC
A new signal processor for the AIM-120
air-to-air missile is being developed by Raytheon
. Carried out under the Form Fit Function Refresh program (F3R), the work is aimed at ensuring the continuation of AMRAAM production well into the 2020s. While little else is currently known about the signal processor's development work, the missile is capable of tracking targets in electronic warfare environments. Already carried on F-16, F-15, F/A-18, F-22, Typhoon, Gripen, Tornado and Harrier fighters, the AIM-120 is also cleared for use on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, making it the munition that has flown on more aircraft worldwide than any other air-to-air missile.
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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Jan 31, 2017 00:48 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has completed their first swap out of foreign-made equipment
on their Hawk MK132
advanced trainer aircraft. Designated as Hawk-i, the jet had imported mission computer and data transfer units upgraded with Indian-made components and includes additional capabilities such as digital map generation. Other additions include a secured voice communication and data link capability by integration of Softnet Radio.
IAF Hawk Mk.132
The induction of advanced jet trainers into India’s Air Force has been a long and difficult process. After a number of false starts, and indigenous efforts like HAL’s Ajeet that didn’t quite live up to expectations, a 20-year procurement process came to an end in 2004, when India selected BAE’s Hawk as its future advanced jet trainer. The 66-plane order was worth about $1.2 billion, and included options for another 40 aircraft. The first 24 Hawk Mk.132 AJTs have already been delivered by BAE; the other 42 are being license-built by Hindustan Aeronautics, Ltd. in India, who have been behind on the delivery schedule.
Those difficulties had consequences. In March 2009, the Press Trust of India reported that India’s Air Force had elected not to pick up the Hawk’s follow-on option. In and of itself, that wasn’t unusual. What was unusual, was a follow-on competition for advanced jet trainers that was thrown open to international firms, via a February 2009 RFP. In the end, BAE’s Hawk won again, adding the Indian Navy to its customer list. Is a 3rd, aerobatic win in the cards?
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