May 25, 2016 00:50 UTC
Huntington Ingalls has been awarded
a $152 million US Navy contact for advance planning for the construction of the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN 80). The third aircraft carrier in the Gerald R. Ford class was named in honor of the Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Work to be carried out
includes engineering, design, planning, and procurement of long-lead-time material, and will be performed at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division through March 2018. Construction is to commence in 2018 and be delivered to the Navy in 2027.
USA’s Nimitz Class &
UK’s Invincible Class
Some nations have aircraft carriers. The USA has super-carriers. The French Charles De Gaulle Class nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India’s new Vikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t, while the British Invincible Class carriers that participated in the Falklands War weigh in at just 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy’s excellent new Cavour Class (27,000t), and Spain’s Principe de Asturias Class (17,000t). The USA’s Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000+ tonne range. Hence their unofficial designation: “super-carriers”. Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.
Nimitz Class cutaway
As the successor to the 102,000 ton Nimitz Class super-carriers, the CVN-21 program aimed to increase aircraft sortie generation rates by 20%, increase survivability to better handle future threats, require fewer sailors, and have depot maintenance requirements that could support an increase of up to 25% in operational availability. The combination of a new design nuclear propulsion plant and an improved electric plant are expected to provide 2-3 times the electrical generation capacity of previous carriers, which in turn enables systems like an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS, replacing steam-driven catapults), Advanced Arresting Gear, and integrated combat electronics that will leverage advances in open systems architecture. Other CVN-21 features include an enhanced flight deck, improved weapons handling and aircraft servicing efficiency, and a flexible island arrangement allowing for future technology insertion. This graphic points out many of the key improvements.
DID’s CVN-21 FOCUS Article offers a detailed look at a number of the program’s key innovations, as well as a list of relevant contract awards and events.
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May 19, 2016 00:45 UTC
The Navy's V-22 Osprey program
has set 2018 for the deployment
of the aerial tanker variant of the USMC's MV-22B. Once the new capability is installed, it will be possible for the air combat element of a Marine Expeditionary Unit to refuel in air its F-35 Lightning II strike fighters and CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters, and eventually even other V-22s may be a possibility. This capability will extend the reach of the amphibious ready groups for strike and assault missions.
In March 2008, the Bell Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, TX received a $10.4 billion modification that converted the previous N00019-07-C-0001 advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-fee, multi-year contract. The new contract rose to $10.92 billion, and was used to buy 143 MV-22 (for USMC) and 31 CV-22 (Air Force Special Operations) Osprey aircraft, plus associated manufacturing tooling to move the aircraft into full production. A follow-on MYP-II contract covered another 99 Ospreys (92 MV-22, 7 CV-22) for $6.524 billion. Totals: $17.444 billion for 235 MV-22s and 38 CV-22s, an average of $63.9 million each.
The V-22 tilt-rotor program has been beset by controversy throughout its 20-year development period. Despite these issues, and the emergence of competitive but more conventional compound helicopter technologies like Piasecki’s X-49 Speedhawk and Sikorsky’s X2, the V-22 program continues to move forward. This DID Spotlight article looks at the V-22’s multi-year purchase contract from 2008-12 and 2013-2017, plus associated contracts for key V-22 systems, program developments, and research sources.
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May 19, 2016 00:40 UTC
Raytheon's SeaRam anti-ship defense system has undergone its most rigorous testing
in recent US Navy testing. Targets successfully engaged involved two supersonic missiles flying in complex, evasive maneuvers which the system successfully took down with the Rolling Airframe Missile
(RAM) Block 2 missiles. The SeaRAM is an upgrade of Phalanx Block 1B and it swaps out the gatling gun with an 11-round Rolling Airframe Missile guide.
Mk-44 firing RAM
The Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) MK-31 guided missile weapon system is co-developed and co-produced under a NATO cooperative program between the United States and German governments to provide a small, all-weather, low-cost self-defense system against aircraft and cruise missiles. The RIM-116 was later called RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), because it spins during flight. To save costs, Designation Systems notes that the RAM was designed to use several existing components, including the rocket motor of the MIM-72 Chaparral, the warhead of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, and the Infrared seeker of the FIM-92 Stinger. Cueing is provided by the ship’s radar, or by its ESM signal tracing suite.
RAM is currently installed, or planned for installation, on 78 U.S. Navy and 30 German Navy ships, including American LSD, LHD, LPD and CVN ship types. This number will grow as vessels of the LPD-17 San Antonio Class and Littoral Combat Ships enter the US Navy, and the LCS will sport an upgraded SeaRAM system that will include its own integrated radar and IR sensors. Abroad, the South Korean Navy has adopted RAM for its KDX-II and KDX-III destroyers, and its LPX Dokdo Class amphibious assault ships; other navies using or buying RAM include Egypt, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and the UAE/Dubai.
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May 18, 2016 00:48 UTC
Pricing and availability for the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion
helicopters is being sought by Germany
to meet its heavy vertical lift requirement. Other options include Boeing's CH-47 Chinook
, however the US Marine Corps is keen to take advantage of the better pricing that could be achieved by adding a sizable King Stallion order at the front-end of the production ramp. The latest K-model has twice the max gross take-off weight of the legacy CH-53G operated by the Luftwaffe at 40t (88,000lb) with external loads compared to 19t (42,000lb).
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 18, 2016 00:45 UTC
The US Navy has disclosed
that AIM-9X Block II
missiles have a "beyond-visual-range" capability. Announcing the capability was Capt. Jim Stoneman, chief of the US Navy’s Air-to-Air Missiles Program Office at the 2016 Sea-Air-Space Exposition. Plans for a Block III version of the newest member of the Sidewinder family are also in place; the program however, remains unfunded.
AIM-9X test, F-18C
(click for close-up)
Raytheon’s AIM-9X Block II would have made Top Gun a very short movie. It’s the USA’s most advanced short range air-air missile, capable of using its datalink, thrust vectoring maneuverability, and advanced imaging infrared seeker to hit targets behind the launching fighter. Unlike previous AIM-9 models, the AIM-9X can even be used against targets on the ground.
These changes will help keep it competitive against foreign missiles like MBDA UK’s AIM-132 ASRAAM, RAFAEL of Israel’s Python 5, the multinational German-led IRIS-T, and Russia’s R73/ AA-11 Archer. So far, only American fighter types can use AIM-9X missiles, but that hasn’t stopped a slew of export requests and sales, especially in the Middle East.
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May 17, 2016 00:50 UTC
Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $321.8 million contract
by the US Navy to conduct further research and development in support of the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM
) integration and test phase. Work to be carried out
includes the completion of the detailed design of all remaining hardware and software, methodically retiring any open risks, constructing and testing missile test objects to assure compliance with capacity requirements, and preparing for manufacture and/or deployment.
The US Navy is beginning to acknowledge a growing problem that threatens its freedom of the seas: its strike reach is shrinking and aging, while potential opponents’ attack reach is expanding and modernizing. As new designs replace older planes, US carrier aircraft range is shrinking to 1950s levels. Meanwhile, its anti-ship and land attack missiles are generally older, medium-range subsonic designs like the Harpoon Block I, which are vulnerable to air defenses. In contrast, China is deploying supersonic SS-N-22 “Sunburn” missiles bought from Russia, and working on a DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile. The Sunburn is just one of Russia’s supersonic anti-ship missile options for sale, and a joint venture with India has added the supersonic PJ-10 BrahMos.
The math is stark: enemies with longer reach, and better weapons, may be able to create large “no go” zones for the Navy in key conflict areas. In response, think-tanks like CSBA are proposing ideas like AirSea Battle, which emphasizes a combination of advance hardening, more stealth and long-range strike options, and a progressive “blinding and grinding” campaign of strikes and interdiction. Success will require some changes to America’s array, beginning with the missiles that arm its ships and aircraft. Hence LRASM: the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, with a secondary land-strike role.
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May 16, 2016 00:40 UTC
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has come out against the idea
of restarting the F-22 Raptor
production line during a press conference at the Air Force Academy. Warning that restarting production would take away from other defense programs, Carter said “We’re busy upgrading them and making sure that their avionics and so forth are state of the art. But we don’t need to restart the F-22 line.” With only 187 F-22s produced, Russian and Chinese modernization has resulted in lawmakers asking the USAF to take a look at restarting the aircraft's production in order to beef up its inventory.
Into that good night
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.
This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.
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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.
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May 13, 2016 00:42 UTC
Raytheon Missile Systems has been awarded a $76 million contract
from the US Navy for long lead support for the production of the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) Block I. The procurement will last for fiscal years 2016, 2017 and 2018. The ESSM program is an international cooperative effort to design, develop, test, and procure ESSM missiles for the US Navy and the governments of Australia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, and Norway as part of the NATO Sea Sparrow Consortium.
The RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) is used to protect ships from attacking missiles and aircraft, and is designed to counter supersonic maneuvering anti-ship missiles. Compared to the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow, ESSM is effectively a new missile with a larger, more powerful rocket motor for increased range, a different aerodynamic layout for improved agility, and the latest missile guidance technology. Testing has even shown the ESSM to be effective against fast surface craft, an option that greatly expands the missile’s utility. As a further bonus, the RIM-162 ESSM has the ability to be “quad-packed” in the Mk 41 vertical launching system, allowing 4 missiles to be carried per launch cell instead of loading one larger SM-2 Standard missile or similar equipment.
This is DID’s FOCUS article for the program, containing details about the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile family, and contracts placed under this program since 1999. The Sea Sparrow was widely used aboard NATO warships, so it isn’t surprising that the ESSM is an international program. The NATO Sea Sparrow Consortium includes Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the USA – as well as non-NATO Australia. Foreign Military Sales ESSM customers outside this consortium include Japan, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.
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May 12, 2016 00:45 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Software updates for the FA-18 and EA-18G have been validated by the US Navy
after a series of flight tests between April 18-29. The first set of software: 27C, is designed for use in F/A-18A-D Hornets; H12 is for F/A-18F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. Testing took place at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division-managed Point Mugu Sea Range which contains 36,000 square miles of controlled sea and airspace, allowing for testing in a real-world environment.
CF-18: which way?
(click to see clearly)
The F/A-18 Hornet is the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet‘s predecessor, with the first models introduced in the late 1970s as a spinoff of the USAF’s YF-17 lightweight fighter competitor. Hornets are currently flown by the US Marine Corps as their front-line fighter, by the US Navy as a second-tier fighter behind its larger F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, and by 7 international customers: Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, and Switzerland. The USA’s aircraft were expected to have a service life of 20 years, but that was based on 100 carrier landings per year. The US Navy and Marines have been rather busy during the Hornets’ service life, and so the planes are wearing out faster.
This is forcing the USA to take a number of steps in order to keep their Hornets airworthy: replacing center barrel sections, re-opening production lines, and more. Some of these efforts will also be offered to allied air forces, who have their own refurbishment and upgrade programs.
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