Feb 11, 2016 00:19 UTC
An Israeli news source has reported
that the US government has cleared the sale for two of Boeing’s newest KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tankers to Israel via the security assistance package. The Pentagon had originally put a pause
on selling new aircraft to Israel, initially offering them older models. However, Israel has been insisting on the latest multi-mission tanker with the deal only approved upon the completion of the nuclear deal with Iran. The tanker sale could have become a point of contention for Tehran as its specs allow for a range of 7,350 miles with in-flight refueling. With an average price tag of $188 million each, the addition of Israeli system modifications will see each aircraft cost a quarter of a billion dollars.
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… »
Feb 09, 2016 00:18 UTC
Another milestone was made last Friday for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA
) Tejas fighter. The Indian jet successfully test fired
a Derby Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) for the first time in a non-intercept mode, as part of a series of weapons trials needed to gain Final Operational Clearance (FOC). The trials will also see the Close Combat Missile (CCM) Python-5 missile tested. The Tejas' weapons system will also include Paveway and Griffin Laser Guided Bombs (LBGs), the Russian made R-73 missile and Gsh-23 gun.
India’s Light Combat Aircraft program is meant to boost its aviation industry, but it must also solve a pressing military problem. The IAF’s fighter strength has been declining as the MiG-21s that form the bulk of its fleet are lost in crashes, or retired due to age and wear. Most of India’s other Cold War vintage aircraft face similar problems.
In response, some MiG-21s have been modernized to MiG-21 ‘Bison’ configuration, and other current fighter types are undergoing modernization programs of their own. The IAF’s hope is that they can maintain an adequate force until the multi-billion dollar 126+ plane MMRCA competition delivers replacements, and more SU-30MKIs arrive from HAL. Which still leaves India without an affordable fighter solution. MMRCA can replace some of India’s mid-range fighters, but what about the MiG-21s? The MiG-21 Bison program adds years of life to those airframes, but even so, they’re likely to be gone by 2020.
That’s why India’s own Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project is so important to the IAF’s future prospects. It’s also why India’s rigid domestic-only policies are gradually being relaxed, in order to field an operational and competitive aircraft. Even with that help, the program’s delays are a growing problem for the IAF. Meanwhile, the west’s near-abandonment of the global lightweight fighter market opens a global opportunity, if India can seize it with a compelling and timely product.
Continue Reading… »
Feb 01, 2016 00:17 UTC
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted a successful non-intercept flight test
of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). A long-range ground-based interceptor was launched to evaluate the performance of alternate divert thrusters for the system’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. A USAF C-17 aircraft was used to to fire a a target representing an intermediate-range ballistic missile over a broad area of ocean near Hawaii. The missile was then detected, tracked and given a fire control solution to engage the target from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The test of the missile has involved cooperation from several parties alongside the MDA including the USAF 30th Space Wing, the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, and the US Northern Command.
GMD launch, 2001
The USA’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program uses land-based missiles to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in the middle of their flight, outside the atmosphere. The missiles are currently based at 2 sites in the USA: 4 at Vandenberg AFB in California, and 20 (eventually 26) at Fort Greely in Alaska.
The well-known Patriot missiles provide what’s known as terminal-phase defense options, while longer-reach options like the land-based THAAD perform terminal or descent-phase interceptions. Even so, their sensors and flight ranges are best suited to defense against shorter range missiles launched from in-theater.
In contrast, GMD is designed to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). It depends on tracking that begins in the boost phase, in order to allow true mid-course interception attempts in space, before descent or terminal phase options like THAAD and then Patriot would be tried. In order to accomplish that task, GMD missiles must use data feeds from an assortment of long-range sensors, including satellites like SBIRS and DSP, some SPSS/BMEWS huge early-warning radars, and even the naval SBX radar.
Continue Reading… »
Jan 22, 2016 00:19 UTC
US Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James has dismissed
ideas that production of F-22 Raptor
would restart after a cap of 187 was made in 2011. Citing the spiraling costs of the development and length of time to produce the aircraft, factors which caused the program's termination, James called a potential reboot "a non-starter". The current fleet, which is currently seeing missions in Syria, will be joined by the F-35, and while very much a different beast, James stated they would compliment the Raptors in use.
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… »
Jan 08, 2016 00:18 UTC
The first of Bangladesh's new Yak-130 fighters, and AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters have been inducted
into the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF). The ceremony took place over the weekend with the Prime Minister as guest of honor. The induction comes after slight delays in the delivery of the aircraft. The BAF have purchased
16 fighters in total in a $1 billion credit agreement with Russia. Initially 24 were planned, but the order had to be decreased due to budget restrictions.
Russia’s air force (VVS) aged badly in the wake of the Cold War, and the recapitalization drought soon made itself felt in all areas. One of those areas involved advanced jet trainers, which form the last rung on the ladder before assignment to fighters. Russia’s Czech-made L-29 and L-39 trainers were left with questionable access to spare parts, and a competition that began in the 1990s finally saw Yakolev’s Yak-130 collaboration with Italy’s Finmeccanica beat the MiG-AT in 2002. Unfortunately, Russian budget realities allowed orders for just a dozen early production Yak-130s, even as the VVS’s L-39 fleet dwindled drastically.
The Yak-130’s multi-mission capabilities in training, air policing, and counterinsurgency make it an attractive option for some customers beyond Russia. Initial export successes helped keep Yak-130 production going in those early years, mostly via a confirmed order from Algeria (16). In December 2011, however, Russia finally placed a significant order that got production started in earnest. Russia continues to promote the aircraft abroad, and now that the plane’s future is secure, interest and orders are picking up…
Continue Reading… »
Nov 20, 2015 00:19 UTC
he Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton UAV has reached a significant stage as it now enters the program's Milestone C review
. Operational tests will involve six test flights and if successful will lead to the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT & E) phase. Successful testing of the UAV will lead to a production contract
(albeit at low levels initially) with the Navy committed to ordering three in 2016 but will increase orders to 68 in 2017. Overseas contracts potentially include seven of the Tritons being procured by Australia with Germany, India and the UK also looking at purchases.
BAMS Operation Concept
The world’s P-3 Orion fleets have served for a long time, and many are reaching the end of their lifespans. In the USA, and possibly beyond, the new P-8 Poseidon Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft will take up the P-3’s role. While the P-8’s base 737-based airframe offers strong service & maintenance arguments in its favor, the airframe is expensive enough that the P-3s cannot be replaced on a 1:1 basis.
In order to extend the P-8 fleet’s reach, and provide additional capabilities, the Poseidon was expected to work with at least one companion UAV platform. This DID FOCUS Article explains the winning BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) concept, the program’s key requirements, and its international angle. We’ll also cover ongoing contracts and key events related to the program, which chose Northrop Grumman’s navalized MQ-4C Triton Global Hawk variant.
Continue Reading… »
Nov 13, 2015 00:18 UTC
The Army's Future Vertical Lift
(FVL) program could be ready for fielding by 2025
, if reports by Bell and Lockheed Martin are to be believed. The V-280 Valor
design - based on the technology of the V-22 Osprey
- is slated for flight testing in 2017. The fuselage of the first aircraft was unveiled in September
, with the team insisting that the V-280 can achieve Initial Operating Capability by 2025.
The future is now
The JMR-TD program is the science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense’s estimated $100 billion Future Vertical Lift program, which is expected to replace between 2,000-4,000 medium class UH-60 utility and AH-64 attack helicopters after 2030.
In reality, FVL will fall far short of that number if it ever goes ahead, but those figures are the current official fantasy. While they’re at it, the Pentagon wants breakthrough performance that includes the same hovering capability as smaller armed scout helicopters, and a 100+ knot improvement in cruising speed to 230+ knots. That’s almost certainly achievable, thanks to new developments that involve very different helicopter designs.
Continue Reading… »
Nov 05, 2015 00:17 UTC
A British Army Watchkeeper
UAV has crashed
while coming in to land at a test and evaluation site in the south west of England. The GBP1.2 billion ($2.4 billion) program has come under fire
for cost overruns, with the majority of the 33 Watchkeepers owned by the British currently in storage. An Initial Operating Capability timetabled for 2017 is unlikely to be achieved, with the Ministry of Defence ultimately planning to procure 54 of the aircraft.
Britain’s Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Program aims to give the Royal Artillery an advanced mid-range UAV for surveillance – and possibly more. Watchkeeper will be an important system, working within a complementary suite of manned (vid. ASTOR Sentinel R1) and unmanned (Buster, Desert Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper) aerial Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition Reconnaissance (ISTAR) systems. This will make it a core element of the UK Ministry of Defence’s Network-Enabled Capability strategy.
The initial August 2005 contract award to Thales UK’s joint venture was worth around GBP 700 million, but that has risen, and the program expected to create or sustain up to 2,100 high-quality manufacturing jobs in the UK. The Watchkeeper platform is based on Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450 UAV platform, which is serving as a contractor-operated interim solution on the front lines of battle.
Continue Reading… »
Nov 04, 2015 00:19 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
The Pentagon is urgently
trying to gain the necessary clearances required for combat aircraft to refuel from Airbus A330 MRTTs, used by coalition partners operating above Syria and Iraq. The Navy is also looking to gain clearances to use hose-and-drogue refueling systems installed on Royal Air Force Voyager
tankers to certify the F-35B for this type of refuelling method. A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A (a modified A330 MRTT) has already been used to conduct trials with a F-35A
, with tests planned on a variety of other platforms.
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… »