May 26, 2016 00:35 UTC
It may have been coming for some time, but the Pentagon has finally admitted that the F-35
will not be cleared for full rate production until 2018
. Frank Kendell, the program's chief weapons tester, had been warning of delays for some time; however, it had been maintained by some that the jet's initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) would occur as planned in August or September 2017. Now that reality has hit home, the extra six months will be spent retrofitting the 23 aircraft required for IOT&E with the full 3F software and hardware patches.
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.
Continue Reading… »
May 20, 2016 00:50 UTC
The UK has sent a RAF Voyager tanker
to NAS Patuxent River to participate in air-to-air aerial refueling trials of the F-35B. Since arriving on April 18, the British tanker has participated in five flights out of a scheduled 20, which are due to be completed in mid-June. It remains unclear whether the Voyager's deployment to the US was caused by refueling issues that arose from the B variant being unable to take fuel from the wing pods of KC-10 and KC-135 tankers.
Voyager & friends
Back in 2005, Great Britain was considering a public-private partnership to buy, equip, and operate the RAF’s future aerial tanker fleet. The RAF would fly the 14 Airbus A330-MRTT aircraft on operational missions, and receive absolute preferential access to the planes. A private contractor would handle maintenance, receive payment from the RAF on a per-use basis – and operate them as passenger charter or transport aircraft when the RAF didn’t need them.
The deal became politically controversial, and negotiations on the 27-year, multi-billion pound deal charted new territory for both the government, and for private industry. Which may help to explain why a contract to move ahead on a “Private Financing Initiative” basis had yet to be issued, and procurement had yet to begin, over 7 years after the program began. In March 2008, however, Britain issued the world’s largest-ever Defence Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract. This FOCUS Article describes the current British fleet, the aircraft they chose to replace them, how the new fleet will compare, the innovative deal structure they’ve chosen, and ongoing FSTA developments.
Continue Reading… »
May 16, 2016 00:45 UTC
Airbus is to swap out parts and components of its troubled A400M
aircraft during regular maintenance and upgrades after cracks were discovered
in a French aircraft. German lawmakers were notified of the updates after being addressed by Germany's Defense Ministry. With three of Germany's 53 ordered A400s delivered, the government has demanded retrofits of the three aircraft which did not meet requirements, such as air dropping of paratroopers and equipment, and medical evacuations. Feared delays to delivery may send Berlin looking elsewhere to meet its transport aircraft gap with Lockheed Martins C-130J and Boeing's C-17 potential options.
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?
Continue Reading… »
May 13, 2016 00:45 UTC
A scheduled to be retired KC-130R Hercules has been transferred
to the Chilean Air Force. The plane was delivered on May 2 after being sold to Chile via the foreign military sales (FMS) route. Prior to its transfer, the plane was part of the Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20, at Patuxent River, Maryland as a test evaluation/range support platform.
An ambitious plan is being proposed
by the USMC to convert all of its 79 KC-130J aerial refueling aircraft into gunships, equipped with the Harvest Hawk weapons system. The package will also be added to the service's MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor fleets and will allow both aircraft multi-mission capabilities. For the V-22, the most obvious “Osprey Hawk” benefit is the much-improved strike capability, while the C-130J, would become a multi-mission craft, with a sensor ball allowing for route reconnaissance missions when needed.
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.
Continue Reading… »
May 11, 2016 00:45 UTC
Raytheon Missile Systems has been awarded
a $104.5 million USAF contract for the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) program. The company will provide form, fit, function, and refresh of the AMRAAM Guidance Section with work expected to be completed by February 27, 2017. Under the contract, work involved will include foreign military sales to Korea, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Romania.
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.
Continue Reading… »
May 10, 2016 00:45 UTC
With the company currently rolling out its Leonardo re-brand, Finmeccanica has reported a strong financial first quarter
thanks to its recent $9.1 billion Eurofighter deal with Kuwait
. However, a drop in helicopter sales is negatively affecting the company. Helicopter orders dropped a massive €964 million in the first quarter from €1.35 billion last year to €384 million, which managers are attributing to turmoil in the oil and gas sector, resulting in companies buying fewer helicopters to access oil rigs.
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.
Continue Reading… »
May 09, 2016 00:45 UTC
Boeing has announced that they have developed a hardware and software fix
for the KC-46A
aerial tanker, allowing it to pass fuel to C-17 aircraft. The company encountered problems regarding a boom axial load issue during an earlier test to refuel the C-17, causing a setback to the already delayed flight test program. A "milestone C" decision on low rate production by the Pentagon is now expected in June after initially planned for April and now May.
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.
Continue Reading… »
Apr 28, 2016 00:35 UTC
An upgrade to automate takeoff and landing of MQ-9 Reaper
UAVs is being pursued by the USAF
, making training Reaper pilots easier and allowing access to more runways. A similar upgrade already exists on US Army MQ-1C Grey Eagles
. According to General Atomics’ senior director of strategic development, Chris Pehrson, the air force tried last year to shift money from other accounts to begin implementing the automatic takeoff and landing system, but the request was denied by Congress.
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…
Continue Reading… »
Apr 15, 2016 00:25 UTC
Thanks to the legal disruption caused by Lockheed Martin over the US Army's selection of Oshkosh for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV
) program, it is likely that the vehicle won’t reach its initial operational capability
(IOC) on time. Oshkosh came out the victor over Humvee-maker AM General and Lockheed for the $6.7 billion low-rate initial production contract award to build 16,901 vehicles. However, the program had been put on a 97 day halt due to the lawsuit, with work only continuing in December. The Army is now anticipating a six-month delay in reaching its IOC milestone now expected for late 2019.
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?
Continue Reading… »
Mar 25, 2016 00:53 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Jane's has reported that the Philippines have decided on the purchase
of two AW159 Lynx Wildcat naval helicopters for their navy. At $114 million, the helicopters will give the Philippine Navy a long sought after anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability, carrying active dipping sonar (ADS), sonobuoys, and torpedoes, while for the anti-surface warfare role it can be armed with anti-ship missiles, rockets, and guns. Manilla had been searching for a helicopter to fill an ASW hole since 2014, with Augusta Westland beating off offers from Airbus, Bell, Sikorsky and NHIndustries.
Future Lynx naval
In 2006, Finmeccanica subsidiary AgustaWestland received a GBP 1 billion (about $1.9 billion at 02/07 rates) contract from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) for 70 Future Lynx helicopters, and began a new chapter in a long-running success story. The Lynx is an extremely fast helicopter that entered service in the 1970s, and quickly carved out a niche for itself in the global land and naval markets. The base design has evolved into a number of upgrades and versions, which have been been widely exported around the world.
In Britain, Lynx helicopters are used in a number of British Army (AH7 & AH9) and Fleet Air Arm (Mk 8) roles: reconnaissance, attack, casualty evacuation & troop transport, ferrying supplies, anti-submarine operations, and even command post functions. The Future Lynx program reflects that, and British government and industry are both hoping that its versatility will help it keep or improve the Lynx family’s global market share. This is DID’s FOCUS Article for the AW159 Lynx Wildcat Program, describing its technical and industrial features, schedules, related contracts, and exports.
Continue Reading… »