Jul 22, 2016 00:45 UTC
Saab has sent a proposal
to Indonesian authorities to sell Gripen C/D fighters to their air force (TNI-AU). If selected, the Gripens would replace a well-seasoned fleet of Northrop F-5E Tiger II fighters, in service since 1980. The government's replacement program initially seeks to procure 16 aircraft at a cost of $1.5 billion, but this could be expected to increase if territorial disputes in the region require Indonesia to beef up its capabilities further.
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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Jul 20, 2016 00:48 UTC
Following the refueling of an A-10 Thunderbolt, the KC-46
has completed the last in a series
of in-flight refueling tests necessary before its Milestone C production decision. A selection of Navy, USAF and USMC aircraft were chosen including the C-17, F-16, F/A-18 and AV-8B. The Milestone C decision to begin low-rate initial production is expected in August.
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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Jul 19, 2016 00:50 UTC
While speculation over its name has been floated for some time, the US Navy's first carrier unmanned aerial vehicle has been officially named
. Known as the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS
) program, the service's Material Command has now designated the aircraft MQ-25A with the name "Stingray." Initially conceived as a low observable lethal, and deep penetrating strike platform, the MQ-25A will now focus on refueling with some ISR capabilities and followed up with later weapons installation.
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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Jul 18, 2016 00:45 UTC
While protests over the US bringing a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD
) battery to South Korea were to be expected from China and North Korea, domestic disturbances
south of the DMZ have sprung up from the residents of Seonju. Those living in the famous melon farming region are up in arms over not being consulted about the THAAD system's placement. Footage showed protesters
throwing eggs and plastic water bottles at Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn as he spoke on the steps of the county office to apologize for not briefing residents earlier.
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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Jul 12, 2016 00:50 UTC
Raytheon has secured a $34.8 million USAF contract to modify
its ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD
) for carriage on the Navy’s F/A-18E/F. Used currently on USAF F-16 and B-52s, the MALD deceives adversaries by replicating the signature of friendly aircraft, and the new development will see it receive an improved electronic warfare payload, the ability to carry out low-altitude flight, and an enhanced net-enabled datalink. The development will last for 24 months and see two demonstrations of the system.
The Bosnian “Nighthawk Down” incident in 1999 showed that even old air defense systems could still be dangerous, and that smart tactics and selective use could keep those systems alive against heavy opposition. The challenge is finding them and targeting them. Against truly advanced air defense systems like the Russian SA-20 family, however, the challenge is survival. Advanced stealth technologies, advanced anti-radar weapons, and successful electronic jamming are required.
Air-launched decoys can help, and they are not a new concept by any means. The same technologies used in cruise missiles allow construction of “stealth in reverse” decoys that fly long distances along pre-planned flight patterns, carrying radar reflectors that simulate the radar return of fighter or bomber aircraft. Enemy air defenses see them as incoming aircraft, and must decide to either shut down and hide, or activate and reveal their position. If American aircraft are flying behind a wave a decoys, either option can be dangerous. The USAF’s ADM-160B/C Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) program began as a DARPA effort in 1996, but made it all the way into production, and is branching out into new fields. The US Navy already has their own ITALD, but they liked one of the new MALD variants enough to add it, too.
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Jun 27, 2016 00:45 UTC
India has issued a Letter of Request (LoR)
to the US government over the potential purchase of 22 General Atomics Guardians
, a maritime patrol variant of the MQ-9 Predator B
. A letter of acceptance from the US will follow later in the year which will trigger the commencement of price negotiations over the UAVs with a final contract to be signed sometime in 2017-18. It is unclear, however, whether the Indian Navy will acquire the non-weaponized Guardian variant - featuring intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities - the weaponized one, or both.
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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