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.
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Feb 05, 2016 00:18 UTC
Finland's former prime minister has given his backing
to the Saab Gripen as the jet of choice to replace the Finnish Air Force's F/A-18 Super Hornet fleet. Matti Vanhanen stated his support for the Swedish aircraft in a book published this week mentioning the deepening defense cooperation between the two countries. While the government has yet to state any preference between the Gripen, Dassault's Rafale, Boeing's Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin's F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon, Vanhanen acts as a close advisor to current Prime Minister Juha Sipila. With a final decision not to be chosen until the 2020s, the Gripen looks to be gaining the early lead in a procurement that could range between $5-11 billion. While both Sweden and Finland are non-aligned nations, increased cooperation between them, Baltic, and other Nordic states are bringing them into closer cooperation with NATO.
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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Feb 04, 2016 00:19 UTC
Following Michael Gilmore's thoughts on the F-35 program, his report has also shed some light
on the hotly contested Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV
) competition. His report goes into detail on how the three offerings for the USMC Humvee replacement faired in tests. While Lockheed Martin and competition winner Oshkosh met protection requirements, Humvee producer AM General fell short. The shortfall resulted in AM General losing out on a contract potentially worth $30 billion, one of the biggest Army contracts in recent times. Lockheed Martin went on to begin a legal proceeding against the award to Oshkosh; however, these were thrown out before the new year.
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?
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Feb 02, 2016 00:19 UTC
Initial plans to have the US Navy's latest unmanned jet weaponized seems less likely, as plans seem to have shifted
towards a tanker role. The long deferred Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS
) program was recently provided enthusiastically with $350 million by Congress. However, this was given on the understanding that the jet would be developed for full integration into carrier air wing operations – including strike operations – and possess the range, payload, and survivability attributes as necessary to complement such integration. No mention had been made about the need for unmanned aerial tanking capability. Instead the jet could be developed under the little known Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS) aimed at producing an unmanned carrier-based aerial tanker, able to refuel other planes low on gas without risking a pilot. Strike capabilities would feature in a future variant of the aircraft.
UCAS-D/ N-UCAS concept
The idea of UAVs with full stealth and combat capabilities has come a long way, quickly. Air forces around the world are pursuing R&D programs, but in the USA, progress is being led by the US Navy.
Their interest is well-founded. A May 2007 non-partisan report discussed the lengthening reach of ship-killers. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s carrier fleet sees its strike range shrinking to 1950s distances, and prepares for a future with fewer carrier air wings than operational carriers. Could UCAV/UCAS vehicles with longer ranges, and indefinite flight time limits via aerial refueling, solve these problems? Some people in the Navy seem to think that they might. Hence UCAS-D/ N-UCAS, which received a major push in the FY 2010 defense review. Now, Northrop Grumman is improving its X-47 UCAS-D under contract, even as emerging privately-developed options expand the Navy’s future choices as it works on its new RFP.
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Jan 25, 2016 00:19 UTC
South Korea's KF-X fighter program has kicked off
as officials from KAI, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), Lockheed Martin, the Indonesian Defense Ministry and PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) met in Sacheon, South Korea for the first time. Six prototypes of the fighter will be produced by 2021 with completion of the development due for 2026. 120 fighters will be produced by 2032 to replace the F-4 and F-5 jets in service. Collaboration in the program sees Lockheed Martin provide twenty-one key technologies used in the US F-35 fighter and the government of Indonesia is to provide $1.4 billion toward research and development in the project. Seoul will spend $7.1 billion in the project's development.
KODEF ’11 slide
South Korea has been thinking seriously about designing its own fighter jet since 2008. The ROK defense sector has made impressive progress, and has become a notable exporter of aerospace, land, and naval equipment. The idea of a plane that helps advance their aerospace industry, while making it easy to add new Korean-designed weapons, is very appealing. On the flip side, a new jet fighter is a massive endeavor at the best of times, and wildly unrealistic technical expectations didn’t help the project. KF-X has progressed in fits and starts, and became a multinational program when Indonesia joined in June 2010. As of March 2013, however, South Korea has decided to put the KF-X program on hold for 18 months, while the government and Parliament decide whether it’s worth continuing.
Indonesia has reportedly contributed IDR 1.6 trillion since they joined in July 2010 – but that’s just $165 million of the DAPA’s estimated WON 6 billion (about $5.5 billion) development cost, and there’s good reason to believe that even this development budget is too low. This article discusses the KFX/IFX fighter’s proposed designs and features, and chronicles the project’s progress and setbacks since 2008…
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Jan 22, 2016 00:20 UTC
The USMC has declared
that the RQ-21A Blackjack UAV has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) with deployment of the system to commence this summer. Formerly known as the Integrator, the Blackjack has been developed by Boeing as part of a low rate production of a small tactical unmanned air system (STUAS) for the US Navy, and uses the same same launcher and recovery system as the Scan Eagle
system. One hundred systems of five vehicles each are planned for the USMC by 2017.
ScanEagle’s base Insight UAV platform was originally developed by Washington state’s Insitu, Inc. to track dolphins and tuna from fishing boats, in order to ensure that the fish you buy in supermarkets is “dolphin-safe”. It turns out that the same characteristics needed by fishing boats (able to handle salt water environments, low infrastructure launch and recovery, small size, 20-hour long endurance, automated flight patterns) are equally important for naval operations from larger vessels, and for battlefield surveillance. A partnership with Boeing took ScanEagle to market in those fields, and the USMC’s initial buy in 2004 was the beginning of a market-leading position in its niche.
This article covers recent developments with the ScanEagle UAV system, which is quickly evolving into a mainstay with the US Navy and its allies. Incumbency doesn’t last long in the fast-changing world of UAVs, though. Insitu’s own RQ-21 Integrator is looking to push the ScanEagle aside, and new multiple-award contracts in the USA are creating opportunities for other competitors. Can Insitu’s original stay strong?
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Jan 22, 2016 00:18 UTC
France and Australia may look to collaborate
on investing in a special forces variant of the NH90 attack helicopter. A common version and shared financial expenditure for the limited amounts of the helicopter required would help slash development costs for both countries. Both France and Australia have made substantial orders of the NH90 with seventy-four and forty-seven to be delivered respectively. A small portion of these orders will be developed to carry out special missions with requirements likely to encompass a central trapdoor for fast roping, a rear door gun, and changes to the communications suite.
NH90: TTH & NFH
The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NH Industries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.
The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60 Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.
As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at around 500 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.
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Jan 21, 2016 00:19 UTC
A second MQ-9 Reaper UAV system will be delivered to France by October 2017 after the US DoD announced
contracts on Tuesday. Work and delivery of the system is set to cost $47.7 million and will be carried out by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The awarding of the contract follows the December order of a third batch
of Reaper systems by France set for delivery in 2019. France has been operating the UAVs on missions on the African continent, primarily in the Sahel-Saharan region. The MQ-9s will most likely continue to be operated until a pan-European UAV development project is completed which will see a drone developed jointly by France, Germany and Italy.
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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Jan 08, 2016 00:18 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
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…
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