Dec 06, 2016 00:45 UTC
Contracts have been signed between General Atomics and the UK government to develop new UAVs
. The company will equip existing drone technology into new remotely piloted aircraft for the RAF, in a deal worth $127 million. 20 Protector UAVs will be developed under the program and will replace the current fleet of 10 MQ-9 Reapers
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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Nov 29, 2016 00:45 UTC
The first flight of the Gripen E
will have to wait until 2017 as manufacturer Saab self-imposes a delay of at least six months
. It was initially expected that the latest Gripen model would fly before the end of the year, however Saab has chosen to fully qualify its distributed integrated modular avionics (DIMA) design to commercial standards prior to the first flight. Deliveries of orders to the Swedish and Brazilian air forces, slated for 2019, are not expected.
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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Nov 28, 2016 00:45 UTC
Following in the footsteps of neighboring South Korea, Japan is considering the potential deployment
of the THAAD
system as they look to better protect themselves from North Korean nuclear threats. While no concrete plans are yet in place to deploy THAAD, military officials are looking at the option of beefing up defense capabilities and are “considering what can be done.” At present, Japan's missile defense system involves on ship-based SM-3 interceptors to target missiles in space and land-based PAC-3 batteries to intercept rockets flying closer to the ground. While this had been deemed sufficient measures, Pyongyang's increased ballistic missile testings have moved the procurement of a more long-range system onto the agenda.
THAAD: In flight
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is a long-range, land-based theater defense weapon that acts as the upper tier of a basic 2-tiered defense against ballistic missiles. It’s designed to intercept missiles during late mid-course or final stage flight, flying at high altitudes within and even outside the atmosphere. This allows it to provide broad area coverage against threats to critical assets such as population centers and industrial resources as well as military forces, hence its previous “theater (of operations) high altitude area defense” designation.
This capability makes THAAD different from a Patriot PAC-3 or the future MEADS system, which are point defense options with limited range that are designed to hit a missile or warhead just before impact. The SM-3 Standard missile is a far better comparison, and land-based SM-3 programs will make it a direct THAAD competitor. So far, both programs remain underway.
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Nov 18, 2016 00:48 UTC
Boeing is eager to sell
aerial refueling tanker to India. The Indian Air Force has yet to procure a capability to refuel its C-17 and P-8I aircraft, and New Delhi has eyed up the Pegasus to fill such a role. A laborious search has been underway to fill a six multi-role tanker capability soon to be vacated by their aging IL-76 aircraft. Earlier attempts to procure Airbus A 330 MRTT never came to fruition.
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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Oct 24, 2016 00:50 UTC
Four companies have been awarded contracts by the US Navy to conduct risk reduction work on their designs for the MQ-25 Stingray. Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Lockheed Martin received contracts for $43 million each while Northrop Grumman received $35.8 million. The risk reduction work will see the companies alter previous designs of the MQ-25
as an unmanned strike bomber to fit its new role as an aerial tanker under the carrier-based air refueling system (CBARS
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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