May 08, 2017 04:55 UTC
USAF F-22 Raptors have completed a series of operational tests
as part of massive upgrades to the fighters. During the tests, the aircraft fired inert AIM-9 and AIM-120 missiles against multiple BQM-167A sub-scale aerial targets, a "significant effort" along the 3.2B initial operational test and evaluation upgrade timeline, the Air Force said, adding that the added capability enhances the service's air superiority but did not offer specifics. The F-22s are due for a weapons systems upgrade in Summer 2019, which will include enhanced target location capabilities and new antennas for the aircraft's stealth abilities, among other developments.
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.
Continue Reading… »
May 01, 2017 00:34 UTC
Raytheon's Standard Missile-6 (SM-6
) is expected to be declared fully operational in the near future, after the missile was successfully put through
a series of rigorous Navy testing. Four missiles were fired from surface ships using the MK 41
Vertical Launch System—deployed on Ticonderoga-class
cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class
destroyers—at a variety of land-launched targets, including supersonic and subsonic missiles, with all four test fires successfully intercepting their targets. Furthermore, the missile has been approved for international sales to select countries as of January this year.
SM-2 Launch, DDG-77
(click to view larger)
Variants of the SM-2 Standard missile are the USA’s primary fleet defense anti-air weapon, and serve with 13 navies worldwide. The most common variant is the RIM-66K-L/ SM-2 Standard Block IIIB, which entered service in 1998. The Standard family extends far beyond the SM-2 missile, however; several nations still use the SM-1, the SM-3 is rising to international prominence as a missile defense weapon, and the SM-6 program is on track to supplement the SM-2. These missiles are designed to be paired with the AEGIS radar and combat system, but can be employed independently by ships with older or newer radar systems.
This article covers each variant in the Standard missile family, plus several years worth of American and Foreign Military Sales requests and contracts and key events; and offers the budgetary, technical, and geopolitical background that can help put all that in context.
Continue Reading… »
May 01, 2017 00:33 UTC
New Zealand has been cleared
by the US State Department for the $1.46 billion purchase of four Boeing P-8A
maritime patrol aircraft alongside associated equipment and support. The sale will go toward the maintenance of Wellington's Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) capability, following the retirement of the P-3K maritime patrol aircraft. Japan had also tried to sell the Kawasaki P-1 to New Zealand, a rival platform being marketed agains Boeing's P-8A.
Maritime surveillance and patrol is becoming more and more important, but the USA’s P-3 Orion turboprop fleet is falling apart. The P-7 Long Range Air ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) Capable Aircraft program to create an improved P-3 began in 1988, but cost overruns, slow progress, and interest in opening the competition to commercial designs led to the P-7’s cancellation for default in 1990. The successor MMA program was begun in March 2000, and Boeing beat Lockheed’s “Orion 21” with a P-8 design based on their ubiquitous 737 passenger jet. US Navy squadrons finally began taking P-8A Poseidon deliveries in 2012, but the long delays haven’t done their existing P-3 fleet any favors.
Filling the P-3 Orion’s shoes is no easy task. What missions will the new P-8A Poseidon face? What do we know about the platform, the project team, and ongoing developments? Will the P-3’s wide global adoption give its successor a comparable level of export opportunities? Australia and India have already signed on, but has the larger market shifted in the interim?
Continue Reading… »
Apr 19, 2017 00:45 UTC
A US Navy ban on T-45 flights has been lifted, although lower altitude restrictions have been put in place
. The trainers were barred from flying late last month after instructor pilots reported incidents of physiological problems by pilots while in the cockpit. The pilot trainer will now fly below 10,000 feet to avoid the use of the aircraft's On Board Oxygen Generator System as authorities continue to investigate the causes of physiological episodes experienced in the cockpit by aircrew. Air crew will also wear a modified mask that circumvents the OBOGS system.
Do you feel lucky…?
The T-45 Training System includes T-45 Goshawk aircraft, advanced flight simulators, computer-assisted instructional programs, a computerized training integration system, and a contractor logistics support package. The integration of all 5 elements is designed to produce a superior pilot in less time and at lower cost than previous training systems.
The US Navy uses the Hawk-based T-45TS system to train its pilots for the transition from T-6A Texan II/ JPATS aircraft to modern jet fighters – and carrier landings. This is not a risk-free assignment, by any means. Nevertheless, it is a critical link in the naval aviation chain. This DID FOCUS article covers the T-45TS, and associated contracts to buy and maintain these systems, from 2006 to the end of FY 2014.
Continue Reading… »
Mar 02, 2017 00:58 UTC
Boeing has won a $678 million DoD contract
to supply seven Lot 40 EA-18G Growlers
and five F/A-18E Super Hornets
to the US Navy. Delivery of the aircraft is expected to be completed by February 2019 after production and assembly at various US locations. The EA-18s will come with airborne electronic attack kits which support the Growler's communication jamming capabilities.
EA-18G at Pax
The USA’s electronic attack fighters are a unique, overworked, and nearly obsolete capability. With the retirement of the US Air Force’s long-range EF-111 Raven “Spark ‘Vark,” the aging 4-seat EA-6B Prowlers became the USA’s only remaining fighter for radar jamming, communications jamming and information operations like signals interception . Despite their age and performance limits, they’ve been predictably busy on the front lines, used for everything from escorting strike aircraft against heavily defended targets, to disrupting enemy IED land mine attacks by jamming all radio signals in an area.
All airframes have lifespan limits, however, and the EA-6B is no exception. The USA’s new electronic warfare aircraft will be based on Boeing’s 2-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet multi-role fighter, and has 90% commonality with its counterpart. That will give it decent self-defense capabilities, as well as electronic attack potential. At present, however, the EA-18G is slated to be the only dedicated electronic warfare aircraft in the USA’s future force. Since the USA is currently the only western country with such aircraft, the US Navy’s EA-18G fleet would become the sole source of tactical jamming support for NATO and allied air forces as well.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article describes the EA-18G aircraft and its key systems, outlining the program, and keeping track of ongoing developments, contracts, etc. that affect the program.
Continue Reading… »
Feb 27, 2017 00:48 UTC
After 21 years of service, the MQ-1 Predator
UAV will be retired in 2018
. The USAF will instead opt for a full MQ-9 Reaper
fleet citing better equipment and overall operational capabilities such as bigger payloads, higher flight ceilings, and top speeds. As a result, the USAF will no longer have to maintain a training pipeline or equipment on two separate aircraft, which eliminates the cost of operating two different airframes. Speaking on the Reaper, 432nd Operations Group commander Col. Joseph said in a statement "I think when we look at the legacy of the MQ-1 we're going to be scratching our heads wondering how we did so much with so little."
Its initial battles were fought within the Pentagon, but the US Army’s high-end UAV has made its transition to the battlefield.
The ER/MP program was part of the US Army’s reinvestment of dollars from the canceled RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program, and directly supports the Army’s Aviation Modernization Plan. The US Air Force saw this Predator derivative as a threat and tried to destroy it, but the program survived the first big “Key West” battle of the 21st century. Now, the MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” is in production as the US Army’s high-end UAV. As CENTCOM’s wars end, however, the Gray Eagle may find that staying in the fleet is as hard as getting there.
This FOCUS article offers a program history, key statistics and budget figures, and ongoing coverage of the program’s contracts and milestones.
Continue Reading… »