Jul 01, 2015 00:45 UTC
Austal has laid the keel
of the fourteenth Littoral Combat Ship
in Alabama, with the future ship destined to become the USS Manchester. Austal shares the construction of the LCS program with Lockheed Martin under a $3.5 billion ten-ship block buy
awarded in December 2010.
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 01, 2015 00:01 UTC
In a damning report obtained by War is Boring
, the F-35A
was out-performed by a F-16D in a mock dogfight in January. The newer jet failed to manoeuvre fast or agile enough to defeat the older fighter, despite the F-16 flying with two external fuel tanks. The unnamed pilot listed off numerous serious problems with the fighter, including a low nose climb rate and a cramped cockpit space, as well as other manoeuvrability issues reducing the ability of the pilot to see and kill the older jet, an issue that has come up before. On Monday Lockheed Martin was handed a $19.6 million contract modification
to provide requirements development and maturation efforts for the Joint Strike Fighter.
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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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 00:06 UTC
The Government Accountability Office slammed the Air Force's body of evidence and cost projections used to make the case for retiring the A-10
. A report published on Thursday
claims that the Air Force did not fully quantify the economic argument for favoring more advanced multi-role aircraft over the time-tested A-10. Manufacturer Boeing recently floated the idea
of selling refurbished US A-10s to international customers.
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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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 00:45 UTC
The Air Force has published
a draft program schedule and requirements list for a Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD) and cuing system to fit out the F-22 Raptor
, with a provisional entry date given of 2020. A four-year development and testing period has been pencilled-in to start in 2017. Sequestration curtailed previous development on an earlier system, with the HMD a requirement for the Raptor program since 2007.
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 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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Jun 08, 2015 00:24 UTC
Huntington Ingalls was awarded $4.3 billion
through two contracts on Friday, with the shipyard handed a $3.35 billion detail design and construction contract for CVN-79, a member of the Navy's new class of super-carriers
. The subsidiary of Newport News Shipyard also received a $941.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract in support of CVN-79, also known as the USS John F. Kennedy. The new class of carriers was recently criticized
for being too expensive, with Huntington Ingalls the sole manufacturer of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The John F. Kennedy is the second ship in the class, under construction with a cost-cap of $11.5 billion
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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Jun 05, 2015 01:10 UTC
General Atomics was awarded a production contract for eight additional MQ-9 Reaper
Block 5 UAVs on Wednesday, with this $72.1 million contract
following a similar $279.1 million order for 24 of the aircraft last month
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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May 18, 2015 01:00 UTC
The German Defense Ministry has reportedly
selected the MEADS system
as a replacement for its existing Patriots. The Defense Ministry has neither confirmed nor denied the reports circulating in German media, with an official decision expected to be announced in June
. MEADS - Medium Extended Air Defense System - has been jointly developed
by Lockheed Martin and MBDA, with funding received from three partner nations; the US, Germany and Italy. If the system has been selected over competitor Raytheon - who are offering upgrades to the in-service Patriots - then this would be a much-needed boost to the MEADS consortium, which urgently needs a buyer having failed to impress the US Army owing to cost and schedule overruns.
MEADS: air view
The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program aimed to replace Patriot missiles in the United States, the older Hawk system in Germany, and Italy’s even older Nike Hercules missiles. MEADS will be designed to kill enemy aircraft, cruise missiles and UAVs within its reach, while providing next-generation point defense capabilities against ballistic missiles. MBDA’s SAMP/T project would be its main competitor, but MEADS aims to offer improved mobility and wider compatibility with other air defense systems, in order to create a linchpin for its customers’ next-generation air defense arrays.
The German government finally gave their clearance in April 2005, and in June 2005 MEADS International (MI) formally signed a contract worth approximately $3.4 billion to design and develop the tri-national MEADS system. In February 2011, however, events began to signal the likely end of the program. Since then, the US Administration has been battling with Congress where there is little support for a continued American participation.
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