May 25, 2017 04:58 UTC
Sikorsky has been awarded a $55 million contract modification
to a previously awarded contract for the long-lead support of low-rate production of four Lot II CH-53K King Stallion
helicopters. An upgrade of the Sea Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, work on the King Stallion contract will be conducted at the Sikorsky plant in Stratford, Conn and is expected to be completed by March 2022. The helicopter is capable carrying up of 27,000 pounds of external sling load. It can carry artillery pieces and Humvee utility vehicles and it's cabin is capable of carrying 463 pallets for cargo transportation.
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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May 24, 2017 14:28 UTC
Latest updates[?]: M-346
advanced jet trainers operated by the Israeli Air Force are scheduled for a set of upgrades
that includes the integration of inert training bombs and external fuel tanks. Tel Aviv possesses 30 M-346 trainers—the last of which arrived in 2016—and the upgrades are expected to enable the air force to further streamline its training process. The air force's flight test centre is currently collaborating with manufacturer Leonardo and will oversee the modifications, as well as opening the trainer's full flight envelope, to match the service's operational requirements.
Tornado refuels M346
Alenia’s Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer began life in 1993, as a collaboration with Russia. It was also something of a breakthrough for Alenia Aermacchi, confirming that the Finmeccanica subsidiary could design and manufacture advanced aircraft with full authority quadriplex fly-by-wire controls. Those controls, the aircraft’s design for vortex lift aerodynamics, and a thrust:weight ratio of nearly 1:1, allow it to remain fully controllable even at angles of attack over 35 degrees. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Not to mention Sukhoi’s SU-30 family, which has made a name for itself at international air shows with remarkable nose-high maneuvers.
The Russian collaboration did not last. For a while, it looked like the Italian jet might not last, either. It did though, and has become a regular contender for advanced jet trainer trainer contracts around the world. Its biggest potential opportunity is in the USA. For now, however, its biggest customer is Israel.
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May 24, 2017 04:59 UTC
Lockheed Martin has won a $137.8 million contract modification
for cost-reduction programs for the initial low-rate production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
. Fiscal 2016 aircraft procurement funds from the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps of $137.8 million will be allocated to the program, none of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year. Eighty percent of the modification will go to the Air Force, with the rest split between the Navy and Marine Corps. Scheduled to be completed by December 2020, work will take place at Waco, Texas, El Segundo, Calif. and Warton, England, with other work being completed across the United States.
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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May 19, 2017 04:58 UTC
The USAF has awarded a $400 million contract
to General Atomics for the production and delivery of 36 MQ-9 Reaper
UAVs. The contract comes from acquisition funds already appropriated sole-source acquisition funds from Fiscal 2016. Work will take place at Poway, California, and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2020. The Reaper, the larger and more heavily successor to the MQ-1 Predator, the UAV boasts a cruise speed of 230 mph, a flight ceiling up to 50,000 feet, and a range of 1150 miles, and can carry a payload of up to 3750 lbs. Munitions integrated include the Hellfire laser-guided missiles, GBU-12 Paveway bombs, and GPS-guided GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
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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May 17, 2017 04:55 UTC
BAE Systems has rolled out the lead example
of its Eurofighter Typhoons
destined for delivery to Oman later this year. Muscat's Typhoon order, signed in December 2012, is for nine single-seat aircraft and three two-seat examples to support training activities. A ceremony to mark the occasion was hosted at the firm's final assembly in Lancashire, UK, with the Typhoon joined by Oman's first new-generation Hawk advanced jet trainer, of which eight Mk 166 examples are on order by the Gulf sultanate.
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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May 15, 2017 04:55 UTC
The Japanese government has completed its study
into the possible procurement of the land-based Aegis Ashore
system, concluding that developing a new missile defense layer with the system is more cost-effective than purchasing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD
) system. At present, Tokyo operates a two-tier missile defense system with the first being SM-3 interceptors onboard Aegis-equipped destroyers, while the surviving missiles will then face a Patriot
battery firing Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air guided missiles. Discussions on the procurement are expected to last into the summer and will likely take several years to implement. It is expected that two fixed Aegis Ashore sites equipped with the SM-3 Block 2A missile would be sufficient to cover the country, at a cost of $705 million.
Land-based SM-3 concept
SM-3 Standard missiles have been the backbone of the US Navy’s ballistic missile defense plans for many years now, and are beginning to see service in the navies of allies like Japan. Their test successes and long range against aerial threats have spawned a land-based version, which end up being even more important to the USA’s allies.
In July 2008 the US Missile Defense Agency began considering a land-based variant of the SM-3, largely due to specific requests from Israel. Israel currently fields the medium range Arrow-2 land-based ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) system, and eventually elected to pursue the Arrow-3 instead of SM-3s. Once the prospect had been raised, however, the US government decided that basing SM-3 missiles on land was a really good idea. The European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense is being built around this concept, and other regions could see similar deployments.
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May 12, 2017 04:59 UTC
The US Navy has awarded Rolls Royce a $78.7 million contract
to provide logistical and engineering support for originally manufactured engines on the KC-130J
tanker aircraft. Under the contract, aircraft in use by the US Marine Corp as well as the government of Kuwait will be affected. The work will primarily be completed in Indianapolis, with smaller contracts spread through other states, as well as Japan and Kuwait. The project is expected to be completed by May 2022.
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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May 12, 2017 04:58 UTC
Sweden's Saab is looking to finalize
a number of near-term sales of the C and D variants of its JAS-39 Gripen
fighter. Upcoming competitions in Botswana, Slovakia, and Bulgaria, have all been targeted as potential clients for the C/D models, which if agreements are reached, will boost sales and ensure the continuation of the Gripen's production line into the future. Of the three countries, Bulgaria is the closest to moving forward with a deal, after its government announced Saab as the preferred option for its MiG-29 replacement program. Slovakia have been in negotiations with Saab since 2015, while in Botswana, a Gripen package is facing off against an offering from Korea Aerospace Industries' (KAI) FA-50
—the fighter version of its T-50 trainer.
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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May 10, 2017 04:56 UTC
A report by the German Defense Ministry has raised concerns
over the military readiness of the A400M
due to contractual wrangling with manufacturer Airbus as well as ongoing technical issues. First ordered in 2003, the A400M aimed to give European nations an independent transport capability but costs have since spiraled and Airbus has warned of "risks ahead" for the continent's largest defense project. The report warns that Airbus may request delays ranging between 12 and 18 months in order to fix the issues, which could lead to a German capability gap when it retires its fleet of C-160 Transall aircraft in 2021. In response to this gap, Germany and France have decided on a plan
to jointly procure and operate a number of C-130J
aircraft from Lockheed Martin in order to augment their A400M fleets.
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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May 05, 2017 00:57 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Boeing has reached an important milestone
in bringing its KC-46 tanker program
closer to serial production, announcing that it now has has a total of six units ready for its testing program. The newest, of the planes, which is the second to be produced under a low-rate production order, conducted its first test flight on April 26, and future testing will be largely focus on ensuring that the tanker can stand up to electromagnetic fields—radars and powerful radio towers are capable of scrambling aircraft electronic systems if they are not carefully shielded. Boeing intends to eventually produce as many as 179 KC-46 tankers for the USAF.
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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