Jul 25, 2016 00:50 UTC
Two new close air support aircraft to complement and eventually replace the A-10 are being sought
by the USAF. Beechcraft’s AT-6
and Embraer’s A-29
Super Tucano are being looked at for an off the shelf procurement while an initial order of 20 light attack OA-X
aircraft could deliver as early as next year. For the OA-X, the service is looking for a medium-altitude aircraft with some level of precision strike capability, such as the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided rocket.
A-10A over Germany
The Precision Engagement modification is the largest single upgrade effort ever undertaken for the USA’s unique A-10 “Warthog” close air support aircraft fleet. While existing A/OA-10 aircraft continue to outperform technology-packed rivals on the battlefield, this set of upgrades is expected to make them more flexible, and help keep the aircraft current until the fleet’s planned phase-out in 2028. When complete, A-10C PE will give USAF A-10s precision strike capability sooner than planned, combining multiple upgrades into 1 time and money-saving program, rather than executing them as standalone projects. Indeed, the USAF accelerated the PE program by 9 months as a result of its experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for the PE program, and for other modifications to the A-10 fleet. It covers the A-10’s battlefield performance and advantages, the elements of the PE program, other planned modifications, related refurbishment efforts to keep the fleet in the air, and the contracts that have been issued each step of the way.
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Jul 21, 2016 00:42 UTC
French aerospace laboratory Onera has released details
on their test of the A400M
transporter. The company had been contacted by manufacturer Airbus to conduct the studies of a new hose and drogue configuration designed to permit helicopter refueling from the airlifter. Customers involved in the A400 program's development have experienced frustration over the lack of helicopter refueling capabilities, with France having already bought two Lockheed Martin KC-130J tankers to perform the task, and Germany considering a similar acquisition.
A400M rollout, Seville
Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition.
Airbus’ biggest program issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as a combination of A400M delays and Lockheed’s strong push for its C-130J Super Hercules narrow the field for future exports. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into the delivery phase. Will Airbus’ 3rd big issue become its own customers?
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Jul 18, 2016 00:50 UTC
Maritime surveillance capabilities of the British Royal Navy are to experience a setback in 2017
due to budget constraints. It's been reported that the service will lose its ScanEagle
capability and Type 23 warships will not have any UAVs on board. It had been hoped that UAVs could have been procured under the Flexible Deployable Unmanned Air System (FDUAS) program but failed to secure funding in this year’s budget cycle.
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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Jul 07, 2016 00:46 UTC
Austria is to join France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK in operating BAE System's BvS10
Beowulf military vehicle after signing contracts with the Swedish government
for the delivery of 32 vehicles. While the value of the contract is unknown, deliveries are expected to begin in the second half of 2017 and conclude in 2019. Designed to operate in rugged terrain to deliver personnel or cargo in combat and disaster relief situations, the BvS10 will play a role in Austria's European Union Mountain Training Warfare Initiative where it will host schools, training and support to enhance military effectiveness in mountain terrain.
A Viking comes ashore
The BvS10 is the successor to the wildly popular Bv206, 11,000 of which have been sold to 40 countries around the world – including the USA (M978). Readers may have seen these vehicles elsewhere, too, as a number of Bv206s have post-military careers at ski resorts, in industries like mining and logging, etc. The new BvS-10 is larger and more heavily armored; it’s in use in Britain, France and the Netherlands as a key armored vehicle for their respective Marines, has been bought by Sweden, and is under evaluation elsewhere. International interest includes imitators: Singapore’s Bronco ATTC is a BVS10 competitor, and Finland and Norway have their own local Bv206 variants.
What makes this unusual-looking vehicle family and design so popular? They aren’t like Humvees or similar wheeled mainstays. They aren’t full armored personnel carriers, either – they’re armored, but Bv family vehicles can’t take the kind of punishment that a Bradley or LAV can absorb. Instead, the secret to their success lies in a remarkable all-terrain capability, and their ability to fill a rare and critical role: air-portable and amphibious infantry enhancement. These success factors are discussed below, along with contracts and key developments related to this vehicle family.
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Jun 28, 2016 00:45 UTC
India's defense procurement agency has cleared a proposal
to purchase 145 M777
Ultra Lightweight Howitzer artillery guns from BAE Systems. As part of the $750 million deal, some 120 of the 145 guns will be assembled
in India in line with Indian foreign procurement policy and will see BAE cooperate with Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group to build a plant for the assembly of the artillery.
M777: dragon’s breath
The M777 ultra-lightweight towed 155mm howitzer has an integrated digital fire control system, and can fire all existing 155mm projectiles. Nothing new there. What is new is the fact that this 9,700 pound howitzer saves over 6,000 pounds of weight by making extensive use of titanium and advanced aluminum alloys, allowing it to be carried by Marine Corps MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft or medium helicopters, and/or airdropped by C-130 aircraft. The new gun is a joint program between the US Army and Marine Corps to replace existing 155mm M198s, and will perform fire support for U.S. Marine Air Ground Task Forces and U.S. Army Stryker Brigade Combat Teams.
Britain is the USA’s M777 LWH co-development partner, but Canada became the first country to field it in combat, thanks to an emergency buy before their 2006 “Operation Archer” deployment to Afghanistan. Customers now include the US Army & USMC, Australia, and Canada – but not Britain.
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Jun 24, 2016 00:50 UTC
Boeing has thrown in a sweetener for Canada if it were to select the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters as the replacement for its CF-18 fleet by including civil aviation work opportunities for Canadian firms
. Justin Trudeau's Liberal government promised during last year's election that it would launch an open CF-18 replacement competition, and pledged not to buy Lockheed Martin's F-35 jets as the previous Conservative government had planned to do. In response to the F-35 slight, Lockheed Martin warned that they may shift work on the F-35 away from Canadian firms amid the uncertainty.
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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Jun 23, 2016 00:45 UTC
Raytheon has been awarded a $28 million contract
to ensure that the firm’s AIM-120 AMRAAM
can be integrated onto various Air Force and Navy aircraft. Platforms on which the munition will be integrated include the F-16 Block 30, F-35, F-15 Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System; F-16 Active Electronically Scanned Array; AMRAAM Real Time Integration Simulator; and multiple F/A-18 configurations. Work is expected to be completed by January 30, 2020.
AIM-120C from F-22A
(click for test missile zoom)
Raytheon’s AIM-120 Advanced, Medium-Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) has become the world market leader for medium range air-to-air missiles, and is also beginning to make inroads within land-based defense systems. It was designed with the lessons of Vietnam in mind, and of local air combat exercises like ACEVAL and Red Flag. This DID FOCUS article covers successive generations of AMRAAM missiles, international contracts and key events from 2006 onward, and even some of its emerging competitors.
One of the key lessons learned from Vietnam was that a fighter would be likely to encounter multiple enemies, and would need to launch and guide several missiles at once in order to ensure its survival. This had not been possible with the AIM-7 Sparrow, a “semi-active radar homing” missile that required a constant radar lock on one target. To make matters worse, enemy fighters were capable of launching missiles of their own. Pilots who weren’t free to maneuver after launch would often be forced to “break lock,” or be killed – sometimes even by a short-range missile fired during the last phases of their enemy’s approach. Since fighters that could carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 tended to be larger and more expensive, and the Soviets were known to have far more fighters overall, this was not a good trade.
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Jun 20, 2016 00:45 UTC
Next month will see Hanwha Thales commence work on developing
the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for South Korea’s KF-X program. In April, the defense section of the Hanwha conglomerate was selected to participate in building the AESA radar to be installed on about 120 fighters that South Korea plans to have developed by the mid-2020s. A working prototype is expected for next June and if it is successful, an upgraded version will be made available in 2018.
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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Jun 17, 2016 00:42 UTC
A series of British Army sponsored live-firings
of the Lockheed Martin & Raytheon Javelin missile
have scored 100%. The missiles were fired from a Kongsberg M151 Remote Weapon Station
mounted on a Spartan armored fighting vehicle in Salisbury Plain Training Area in Wiltshire, England. Traveling distances of between 1.2 and 4.3 kilometers, the tests were conducted following a growing demand to fire Javelins from infantry fighting vehicles and the need by soldiers to have a flexibility to fire the missile from either a vehicle or in the dismounted mode.
The FGM-148 Javelin missile system aimed to solve 2 key problems experienced by American forces. One was a series of disastrous experiences in Vietnam, trying to use 66mm M72 LAW rockets against old Soviet tanks. A number of replacement options like the Mk 153 SMAW and the AT4/M136 spun out of that effort in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until electronics had miniaturized for several more cycles that it became possible to solve the next big problem: the need for soldiers to remain exposed to enemy fire while guiding anti-tank missiles to their targets.
Javelin solves both of those problems at once, offering a heavy fire-and-forget missile that will reliably destroy any enemy armored vehicle, and many fortifications as well. While armored threats are less pressing these days, the need to destroy fortified outposts and rooms in buildings remains. Indeed, one of the lessons from both sides of the 2006 war in Lebanon has been the infantry’s use of guided missiles as a form of precision artillery fire. Javelin isn’t an ideal candidate for that latter role, due to its high cost-per-unit; nevertheless, it has often been used this way. Its performance in Iraq has revealed a clear niche on both low and high intensity battlefields, and led to rising popularity with American and international clients.
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May 25, 2016 00:50 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Huntington Ingalls has been awarded
a $152 million US Navy contact for advance planning for the construction of the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN 80). The third aircraft carrier in the Gerald R. Ford class was named in honor of the Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Work to be carried out
includes engineering, design, planning, and procurement of long-lead-time material, and will be performed at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division through March 2018. Construction is to commence in 2018 and be delivered to the Navy in 2027.
USA’s Nimitz Class &
UK’s Invincible Class
Some nations have aircraft carriers. The USA has super-carriers. The French Charles De Gaulle Class nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India’s new Vikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t, while the British Invincible Class carriers that participated in the Falklands War weigh in at just 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy’s excellent new Cavour Class (27,000t), and Spain’s Principe de Asturias Class (17,000t). The USA’s Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000+ tonne range. Hence their unofficial designation: “super-carriers”. Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.
Nimitz Class cutaway
As the successor to the 102,000 ton Nimitz Class super-carriers, the CVN-21 program aimed to increase aircraft sortie generation rates by 20%, increase survivability to better handle future threats, require fewer sailors, and have depot maintenance requirements that could support an increase of up to 25% in operational availability. The combination of a new design nuclear propulsion plant and an improved electric plant are expected to provide 2-3 times the electrical generation capacity of previous carriers, which in turn enables systems like an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS, replacing steam-driven catapults), Advanced Arresting Gear, and integrated combat electronics that will leverage advances in open systems architecture. Other CVN-21 features include an enhanced flight deck, improved weapons handling and aircraft servicing efficiency, and a flexible island arrangement allowing for future technology insertion. This graphic points out many of the key improvements.
DID’s CVN-21 FOCUS Article offers a detailed look at a number of the program’s key innovations, as well as a list of relevant contract awards and events.
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