Aug 03, 2015 00:05 UTC
The Marines May
. The IOC was announced despite reports that the latter tests uncovered significant reliability issues
with the aircraft.
The six Marine Corps' F-35Bs which underwent testing on USS Wasp in May
reportedly showed poor reliability performance
, with the aircraft reportedly only achieving availability of around 50%. This is undoubtedly a factor Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joe Dunford has considered as he finalizes the jet's paperwork for achieving Initial Operating Capability. A decision on whether the F-35B is ready for limited combat operations is expected imminently
, with the USMC deciding in March
to push on to a timetabled IOC target of fourth quarter 2015, despite issues with the fighter's 2B software.
F-35B: off probation
The $382 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE) Lightning jet. Lightning II system development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3), with Singapore and Israel as “Security Cooperation Partners,” and Japan as the 1st export customer.
The big question for Lockheed Martin is whether, and when, many of these partner countries will begin placing purchase orders. This updated article has expanded to feature more detail regarding the F-35 program, including contracts, sub-contracts, and notable events and reports during 2012-2013.
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Jul 27, 2015 00:40 UTC
Taiwan is expected to soon place an order for eight to ten Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk
helicopters, according to reports
this weekend. The helicopters are thought to be destined for the country's Navy, with a contract announcement expected later this year. The Taiwanese Navy currently operates the Sikorsky S-70C
helicopter, with the new helicopters set to bolster the force's anti-submarine warfare capability.
USN Heli Plan
The US Army’s UH-60 Black Hawks have always had a naval counterpart. SH-60B/F Seahawk/ LAMPS helicopters were outfitted with maritime radar, sonobuoys, and other specialized equipment that let them perform a wide variety of roles, from supply and transport, to anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, medical evacuation, and even surface attack with torpedoes or Kongsberg’s AGM-119 Penguin missiles. Like their land-based counterparts, however, the Seahawks are getting older. The Reagan defense build-up is receding into history, and its products are wearing out.
European countries chose to build new designs like the medium-heavy EH101 and the NH90 medium helicopter. They’re larger than the H-60s, make heavy use of corrosion-proof composites, and add new features like rear ramps. The USA, in contrast, decided to upgrade existing H-60 designs for the Army and Navy. Hence the MH-60R Multi-Mission Helicopter (aka. “Romeo”) and MH-60S (aka. “Sierra”) Seahawks. MH-60Rs and MH-60Ss will eventually replace all SH-60B/F & HH-60H Seahawks, HH-1N Hueys, UH-3H Sea Kings, and CH-46D Sea Knight helicopters currently in the US Navy’s inventory. Both programs are underway, and will be covered in this DID FOCUS Article.
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Jul 27, 2015 00:06 UTC
The Air Force has quashed
Boeing's hopes of selling refurbished A-10s to international customers, following the floating of the idea in May
. With the House protecting
from comprehensive retirement for another year, the Air Force is planning to mothball outgoing A-10s, thereby saving a reported $4.2 billion in sustainment over a five year period.
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, 2015 01:00 UTC
Lockheed Martin and Alenia Aermacchi have both responded to a Request for Information for Taiwan's advanced jet trainer, according to Taiwanese media
[Chinese]. The US company is expected to offer the T-50 Golden Eagle
aircraft, in conjunction with South Korea's Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), whilst the Italian firm will likely push the M-346 AJT
. Taiwan's defense ministry is expected to make a decision regarding the purchase of new trainers to replace the current fleet of F-5E/F and AT-3 aircraft next year, with the winning aircraft design likely to be assembled in Taiwan
by Aerospace Industrial Development Corp.
Despite China’s ominous military buildup across the strait, key weapons sales of P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, Patriot PAC-3 missiles, and diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan had been sabotaged by Taiwanese politics for years – in some cases, since 1997. The KMT party’s flip-flops and determined stalling tactics eventually created a crisis in US-Taiwan relations, which finally soured to the point that the USA refused a Taiwanese request for F-16C/D aircraft.
That seems to have brought things to a head. Most of the budget and political issues were eventually sorted out, and after a long delay, some major elements of Taiwan’s requested modernization program appear to be moving forward: P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, UH-60M helicopters, Patriot missile upgrades; and requests for AH-64D attack helicopters, E-2 Hawkeye AWACS planes, minehunting ships, and missiles for defense against aircraft, ships, and tanks. These are must-have capabilities when facing a Chinese government that has vowed to take the country by force, and which is building an extensive submarine fleet, a large array of ballistic missiles, an upgraded fighter fleet, and a number of amphibious-capable divisions. Chinese pressure continues to stall some of Taiwan’s most important upgrades, including diesel-electric submarines, and new American fighter jets. Meanwhile, other purchases from abroad continue.
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Jul 21, 2015 00:45 UTC
Lockheed Martin has launched
the ninth Littoral Combat Ship
(LCS), the Freedom-class USS Little Rock (LCS 9). Austal christened LCS 8 (the USS Montgomery) in November 2014
, with LCS 9 the fifth of eight LCS timetabled for construction by Lockheed Martin. The ship will now undergo testing and equipment fitting before being delivered to the Navy later this year.
Trimaran LCS Design
(click to enlarge)
Exploit simplicity, numbers, the pace of technology development in electronics and robotics, and fast reconfiguration. That was the US Navy’s idea for the low-end backbone of its future surface combatant fleet. Inspired by successful experiments like Denmark’s Standard Flex ships, the US Navy’s $35+ billion “Littoral Combat Ship” program was intended to create a new generation of affordable surface combatants that could operate in dangerous shallow and near-shore environments, while remaining affordable and capable throughout their lifetimes.
It hasn’t worked that way. In practice, the Navy hasn’t been able to reconcile what they wanted with the capabilities needed to perform primary naval missions, or with what could be delivered for the sums available. The LCS program has changed its fundamental acquisition plan 4 times since 2005, and canceled contracts with both competing teams during this period, without escaping any of its fundamental issues. Now, the program looks set to end early. This public-access FOCUS article offer a wealth of research material, alongside looks at the LCS program’s designs, industry teams procurement plans, military controversies, budgets and contracts.
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Jul 09, 2015 01:00 UTC
India is reportedly engaged in talks
with Russia over a possible nuclear submarine leasing agreement. The topic is scheduled to be included on a list of topics to be discussed between India's Modi and Vladimir Putin when the Indian PM visits Moscow next week. It is likely that instead of leasing a third Akula-class attack sub from the Russians to complement the existing leased subs
, the Modi government will look to lease a more modern Yasen-class sub
, or a customized variant of a different class. Russia recently announced that it will upgrade
its own Akula-class
fleet, also recently laying-down
a fifth Yasen-class boat.
India’s submarine fleet currently consists of 16 boats: 10 Russian SSK Kilo (Sindhugosh) Class, 4 locally built SSK U209 (Shishumar) Class, a leased nuclear-powered Improved Akula Class SSN from Russia (INS Chakra), and its own INS Arihant SSBN. Most of the Kilos have been modernized, but readiness rates for India’s existing submarine fleet sits below 40%, and the U209s will have trouble lasting much beyond 2015. With Pakistan acquiring modern submarines, and Chinese submarine building exploding, expanding India’s submarine fleet became an obvious national priority.
In 2005, India confirmed that it would buy 6 Franco-Spanish Scorpene diesel submarines, with an option for 6 more and extensive technology transfer agreements. Unfortunately, 7 years after that deal was signed, “Project 75″ has yet to field a single submarine. A poor Indian procurement approach, and state-run inefficiency, are pushing the country’s entire submarine force toward an aging crisis. This DID FOCUS article covers the Scorpene deal and its structure, adds key contracts and new developments, and offers insights into the larger naval picture within and beyond India.
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Jul 07, 2015 00:45 UTC
The F-22 Raptor
is reportedly improving
its maintenance and servicing record through the ongoing Reliability and Maintainability Maturation Program (RAMMP
). However, efforts to retrofit the Air Force's Raptors with upgrades (through the Structural Retrofit Program
) are now timetabled to slip by a year, owing to competing depot line work priorities.
Into that good night
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.
This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.
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Jun 29, 2015 01:00 UTC
The Royal Navy's future carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth
, saw its propulsion system powered up
for the first time at the back-end of last week. Powered by two Rolls-Royce Marine 36MW MT30 gas turbine alternators and four diesel engines, the total power reaches approximately 110 megawatts. The carrier will be equipped with F-35B fighters
, with a joint US-UK team testing the jet on a replica of the Elizabeth-class carrier's ski-jump last week
RN CVF Concept
Britain’s 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) announced a big leap forward for the Royal Navy: plans to replace the current set of 3 Invincible Class 22,000t escort carriers with 2 larger, more capable Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) ships that could operate a more powerful force. These new carriers would be joint-service platforms, operating F-35B aircraft, plus helicopters and UAVs from all 3 services. Roles could include ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance), force projection and logistics support, close air support, anti-submarine/ anti-surface naval warfare, and land attack.
The scale of the CVF effort relative to Britain’s past experiences means that the program structure is rather complex. It has passed through several stages already, and is being run and conducted within an industrial alliance framework. There is also a parallel international framework, involving cooperation with France on its PA2 carrier as a derivative of the CVF design. This DID FOCUS article covers that structure and framework, ongoing developments, and the ships themselves as they move slowly through construction, and eventual fielding.
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Jun 26, 2015 00:00 UTC
The first of twelve Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50
fighter aircraft sold to the Philippines through a government-to-government deal with South Korea in 2013 has successfully completed
its first test flight, with the first deliveries expected by December, when the Philippines will receive its first two FA-50s ahead of schedule
. The full dozen should be delivered by 2017, with the Korean fighter/trainers a strategic interim as the Philippines looks ahead to acquiring more capable multi-role aircraft.
T-50 Golden Eagle
South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle family offers the global marketplace a set of high-end supersonic trainer and lightweight fighter aircraft. They’re hitting the international market at a good time: just as many of the world’s jet training fleets are reaching ages of 30 years or more, and high-end fighters are pricing themselves out of reach for many countries.
Most recently, Thailand is increasing its defense budget and the speed of its procurement process to, among other things, procure a replacement for its aging L-39. The T-50 is one of three candidates.
The ROK’s defense industry is advancing on all fronts these days. Its shipbuilding industry, one of the world’s busiest, is beginning to turn out its own LHDs, and even high-end KDX-III AEGIS destroyers. On the armored vehicle front, Korea’s XK2 tank and K9/K10 self propelled howitzer are beginning to win export orders, and its XK-21/KNIFV amphibious infantry fighting vehicle may not be too far behind. All fill key market niches, promising performance at a comparatively inexpensive price. Now its aerospace industry is in flight abroad with the KT-1 turboprop basic trainer, complemented by the T-50 jet trainer, TA-50 LIFT advanced trainer & attack variant, and FA-50 lightweight fighter.
The TA-50 and FA-50 are especially attractive as lightweight export fighters, and the ROKAF’s own F-5E/F Tiger II and F-4 Phantom fighters are more than due for replacement. The key question for the platform is whether it can find corresponding export sales.
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Jun 24, 2015 00:40 UTC
The Army has successfully conducted Manned Unmanned Teaming
(MUM-T) involving an AH-64 Apache
and a MQ-1C Gray Eagle
UAV. The Gray Eagle was used to designate a target for the Apache, with the latter then firing a Hellfire missile
using data from the UAV. The test has allowed the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade to certify
the Fort Stewart complex for live Hellfire tests, an important tool as access to training ranges in Afghanistan and Iraq has diminished.
In related news, the Army awarded a $121.4 million contract
to General Atomics on Tuesday for nineteen MQ-1C Gray Eagle
UAVs, with these set for delivery by 2018. This follows a comparable contract in March
, also for nineteen Gray Eagles, with that contract valued at $133 million. The company was also awarded a $84.8 million contract
in May for performance-based logistics to support the UAV.
Its initial battles were fought within the Pentagon, but the US Army’s high-end UAV has made its transition to the battlefield.
The ER/MP program was part of the US Army’s reinvestment of dollars from the canceled RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program, and directly supports the Army’s Aviation Modernization Plan. The US Air Force saw this Predator derivative as a threat and tried to destroy it, but the program survived the first big “Key West” battle of the 21st century. Now, the MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” is in production as the US Army’s high-end UAV. As CENTCOM’s wars end, however, the Gray Eagle may find that staying in the fleet is as hard as getting there.
This FOCUS article offers a program history, key statistics and budget figures, and ongoing coverage of the program’s contracts and milestones.
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