May 23, 2016 00:50 UTC
Boeing is still holding on to hope that it can sell its Super Hornets to Denmark after claiming that the Danish government had used “incomplete and possibly flawed data” to conclude that the Super Hornet was more expensive to operate than the F-35. The comments were made by a Boeing official speaking to a Danish parliamentary committee
last Thursday following the government's decision to opt
for the next generation F-35
to replace its aging F-16s.
The US Navy flies the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighters, and has begun operating the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare & strike aircraft. Many of these buys have been managed out of common multi-year procurement (MYP) contracts, which aim to reduce overall costs by offering longer-term production commitments, so contractors can negotiate better deals with their suppliers.
The MYP-II contract ran from 2005-2009, and was not renewed because the Pentagon intended to focus on the F-35 fighter program. When it became clear that the F-35 program was going to be late, and had serious program and budgetary issues, pressure built to abandon year-by-year contracting, and negotiate another multi-year deal for the current Super Hornet family. That deal is now final. This entry covers the program as a whole, with a focus on 2010-2015 Super Hornet family purchases. It has been updated to include all announced contracts and events connected with MYP-III, including engines and other separate “government-furnished equipment” that figures prominently in the final price.
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May 19, 2016 00:45 UTC
The Navy's V-22 Osprey program
has set 2018 for the deployment
of the aerial tanker variant of the USMC's MV-22B. Once the new capability is installed, it will be possible for the air combat element of a Marine Expeditionary Unit to refuel in air its F-35 Lightning II strike fighters and CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters, and eventually even other V-22s may be a possibility. This capability will extend the reach of the amphibious ready groups for strike and assault missions.
In March 2008, the Bell Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, TX received a $10.4 billion modification that converted the previous N00019-07-C-0001 advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-fee, multi-year contract. The new contract rose to $10.92 billion, and was used to buy 143 MV-22 (for USMC) and 31 CV-22 (Air Force Special Operations) Osprey aircraft, plus associated manufacturing tooling to move the aircraft into full production. A follow-on MYP-II contract covered another 99 Ospreys (92 MV-22, 7 CV-22) for $6.524 billion. Totals: $17.444 billion for 235 MV-22s and 38 CV-22s, an average of $63.9 million each.
The V-22 tilt-rotor program has been beset by controversy throughout its 20-year development period. Despite these issues, and the emergence of competitive but more conventional compound helicopter technologies like Piasecki’s X-49 Speedhawk and Sikorsky’s X2, the V-22 program continues to move forward. This DID Spotlight article looks at the V-22’s multi-year purchase contract from 2008-12 and 2013-2017, plus associated contracts for key V-22 systems, program developments, and research sources.
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May 19, 2016 00:40 UTC
Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha became the first chief to fly
the indigenous HAL Light Combat Aircraft (LCA
) Tejas fighter in a short sortie on Tuesday. Raha's flight came during a visit to meet team LCA in Bengalaru which involved the inauguration of the Tejas' painting hanger. The only other top IAF officer to have flown the LCA was Deputy chief of Air Staff Air Marshal SBP Sinha, in September 2014.
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.
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May 13, 2016 00:45 UTC
A scheduled to be retired KC-130R Hercules has been transferred
to the Chilean Air Force. The plane was delivered on May 2 after being sold to Chile via the foreign military sales (FMS) route. Prior to its transfer, the plane was part of the Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20, at Patuxent River, Maryland as a test evaluation/range support platform.
An ambitious plan is being proposed
by the USMC to convert all of its 79 KC-130J aerial refueling aircraft into gunships, equipped with the Harvest Hawk weapons system. The package will also be added to the service's MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor fleets and will allow both aircraft multi-mission capabilities. For the V-22, the most obvious “Osprey Hawk” benefit is the much-improved strike capability, while the C-130J, would become a multi-mission craft, with a sensor ball allowing for route reconnaissance missions when needed.
RAAF C-130J-30, flares
The C-130 Hercules remains one of the longest-running aerospace manufacturing programs of all time. Since 1956, over 40 models and variants have served as the tactical airlift backbone for over 50 nations. The C-130J looks similar, but the number of changes almost makes it a new aircraft. Those changes also created issues; the program has been the focus of a great deal of controversy in America – and even of a full program restructuring in 2006. Some early concerns from critics were put to rest when the C-130J demonstrated in-theater performance on the front lines that was a major improvement over its C-130E/H predecessors. A valid follow-on question might be: does it break the bottleneck limitations that have hobbled a number of multi-billion dollar US Army vehicle development programs?
C-130J customers now include Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States. American C-130J purchases are taking place under both annual budgets and supplemental wartime funding, in order to replace tactical transport and special forces fleets that are flying old aircraft and in dire need of major repairs. This DID FOCUS Article describes the C-130J, examines the bottleneck issue, covers global developments for the C-130J program, and looks at present and emerging competitors.
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May 12, 2016 00:38 UTC
Airbus Helicopters is being kept busy with its Australian customers as it rushes to complete specifications
of NH Industries NH90, in which Airbus Helicopters is the largest shareholder. Requirements by the Australian government include a weapons system and fast-roping and rappelling capability, as well as limitations to maritime deployment. Australia is also looking to replace
its fleet of Airbus Tiger helicopters which have not met service standards.
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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May 06, 2016 00:40 UTC
Leonardo-Finmeccanica has launched a new 360 degree airborne radar
using fixed panels distributed around the body of aircraft, which it claims is the first of its kind. Known as the Osprey
, the fixed radar requires less parts than other 360 degree radar, which would normally sit on a gimbel, located on the belly of an aircraft, running the risk of damage when landing in snow or semi-prepared strips. The radar has already been sold to the Norwegian Air Force for use on their new AW101 search and rescue helicopters.
NH90 NFH: Out
In September 2001, the NH90 medium helicopter was chosen as the common helicopter for the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, serving the navies of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Norway’s share was up to 24 machines: 14 NFH naval variants (6 for Norwegian ships and 8 for the coastguard), with an option for 10 more Search & Rescue machines. The follow-on SAR contract would replace Norway’s aging Sea King helicopter fleet.
That plan triggered warnings from people in the rescue service that the mid-range NH90 lacked the range and capacity required. Some Norwegians also pointed to Denmark’s departure from the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, precisely because the Danes needed the larger EH101 for the SAR role. Norway certainly has a lot of territory to cover. Its own long and deep maritime economic zone over the treacherous North Sea includes shipping, fishing, and abundant oil; and the American withdrawal from Keflavik AFB Iceland is stretching Norway’s patrol zones toward that country. Sikorsky’s Norwegian agent “Aircontactgruppen” has even taken the Norwegian government to court twice, demanding an open competition for the SAR helicopter contract. In 2007, they received their wish, and in 2013, Norway revealed their pick… not the S-92, and not its NH90 competitor.
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Apr 28, 2016 00:45 UTC
France's DCNS has been announced as the winner
of the $38.7 billion Australian Future Submarine contract. The hotly contested tender for the 12 new subs also saw offers from Germany's Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems and the Government of Japan to carry out the build. The new design will be based on DCNS's Shortfin Barracuda A1
submarine design, a conventionally-powered derivative of the nuclear-powered Suffren-class submarine now under construction for the French Navy. US made combat systems integrator and weapons systems will be installed by either Lockheed Martin or Raytheon in contracts expected to be announced shortly.
Bridge to the future?
In its 2009 White Paper, Australia’s Department of Defence and Labor Party government looked at the progress being made in ship killing surveillance-strike complexes, and at their need to defend large sea lanes, as key drivers shaping future navies. These premises are well accepted, but the White Paper’s conclusion was a surprise. It recommended a doubling of Australia’s submarine fleet to 12 boats by 2030-2040, all of which would be a new successor design that would replace the RAN’s Collins Class submarines.
The surprise, and controversy, stem from Australia’s recent experiences. The Collins Class was designed with the strong cooperation of ThyssenKrupp’s Swedish Kockums subsidiary, and built in Australia by state-owned ASC. The class has had a checkered career, including significant difficulties with its combat systems, issues with acoustic signature and propulsion, major cost growth to A$ 5+ billion, and schedule slippage. Worse still, reports indicated that the RAN can only staff 2 of its 6 submarines. High-level attention led to a report and recommendations to improve the force, but whether they will work remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the nature of Australia’s SEA 1000 future submarine project – and its eventual cost – remain unclear, with estimated costs in the A$ 36-44 billion range. This FOCUS article covers Australia’s options, decisions, and plans, as their future submarine program slowly gets underway.
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Apr 19, 2016 00:00 UTC
Proposals submitted by BAE Systems, Fincantieri and Navantia have been shortlisted
for the Australian government's program to build nine new frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. France's DCNS of and TKMS of Germany's offering were eliminated from the $27 billion program which will see the ships built in Adelaide, South Australia. The first steel expected to be cut in 2020 and will be fitted with phased array radar systems being developed by Australia’s CEA Technologies. Designs remaining are BAE Systems' Global Combat Ship, based on the Type 26 frigate; Fincantieri’s anti-submarine warfare FREMM (Fregata Europea Multi-Missione) and a redesigned version of Navantia’s Álvaro de Bazán (F100) class vessel.
As Asia-Pacific nations invest in submarines, serious regional players also need to invest in anti-submarine capabilities. Aircraft like the P-8A Poseidon are great, but nothing really replaces dedicated and capable ASW ships. Their opponents’ anti-ship missiles are also experiencing a jump in capability, so a secondary air defense role isn’t optional. Australia’s 4 remaining FFG-7 Adelaide Class frigates have finished an expensive and somewhat rickety systems upgrade, but they fall short of what’s needed, and won’t last all that much longer. The RAN’s 6 ANZAC Class frigates are receiving much smoother ASMD air defense upgrades that will make them quite useful, but their service life will begin ebbing around 2024.
Hence Australia’s SEA 5000 Future Frigate program, which may receive an early push from issues with Australia’s naval industrial base…
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Apr 15, 2016 00:20 UTC
The Redstone Test Center is playing host to the engineering and development phase
of the Joint Air to Ground Missile (JAGM
). So far, the missile completed tests on its guidance section which included captive flight testing, tower testing, and environmental testing. The JAGM will now enter the Product Qualification Test (PQT) phase which will see the weapon carried on the Grey Eagle unmanned aerial system (UAS) and AH-64 Apache helicopter for flight testing.
The AGM-114 Hellfire missile remains a mainstay for the US military and its allies around the world, and efforts to replace it have repeatedly stalled. The Joint Common Missile (JCM) was meant to offer new guidance options, and use on fast jets as well as helicopters and UAVs. It performed well, but was canceled. It returned from the procurement dead as JAGM, a program that has undergone several major changes within itself. While other air forces field fast-jet solutions like MBDA’s Brimstone, JAGM will initially be limited to helicopters and UAVs, as a dual-mode guidance upgrade to current model Hellfire missiles.
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Apr 11, 2016 00:40 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Algeria has upped its orders
of Mi-28NE helicopters from the eight initially reported in January to 42, according to a Russian newspaper. A further 19 of the "Night-Hunter" helicopters will also make their way to Iraq. The helicopters have recently seen action in Syria battling Islamic State militants, and it has been said that the radio-electronic jamming systems on board easily suppressed man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) deployed against them by the insurgents. With interest being expressed from over half a dozen nations spanning from Latin America to South East Asia, the helicopter is certainly selling itself well during its recent military activity.
A February 2006 report noted that a $4 billion arms sale was brewing between Algeria and Russia involving fighter aircraft, tanks, and air defense systems, with the possibility of additional equipment. Those options came through the following month, as a high-level Russian delegation in Algeria closed up to $7.5 billion worth of arms contracts. The Algerian package remains post-Soviet Russia’s largest single arms deal. As an instructive comparison, annual Russian weapons export orders from all customers were just $5-6 billion per year in 2004 and 2005.
Reuters South Africa quoted Rosoboronexport chief Sergei Chemezov as saying that “Practically all types of arms which we have are included, anti-missile systems, aviation, sea and land technology.” The actual contents of that deal were murky, though DID offers triangulation among several sources to help sort out the confusion. A number of these deals have evolved over time, and other public-source information has helped to sharpen the picture a bit. The subsequent crash of Algeria’s MiG-29 deal, and its ripple effects, are also discussed.
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