May 24, 2016 00:40 UTC
US President Barack Obama has announced the lifting of a decades long arms embargo
on Vietnam. Speaking in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and under a looming bust of Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, Obama said that the move will end a “lingering vestige of the Cold War” and pave the way for more-normal relations between the two countries. The move comes as Vietnam looks to recenter allies amid a growing spat with China over ownership of islands
in the South China Sea, while also looking to lessen their reliance on Russian weapons manufacturers, factors that may make Hanoi one of Washington's new best friends in the region.
Kilo Class cutaway
In April 2009, reports surfaced that Vietnam had agreed in principle to a deal with Russia for 6 of its diesel-electric Kilo/ Project 636 Class fast attack submarines. By December 2009, it was an inflection-point deal for a capability that Vietnam has never had before. By November 2013, the new submarines had begun to arrive.
Nor is that the only change in Vietnam’s military capabilities these days, courtesy of their long-standing relationship with Russia. There have been some outside deals for items like maritime surveillance floatplanes, and a Dutch deal will provide high-end frigates. For the most part, however, Vietnam’s new combat power in the air, at sea, and on land is coming from Russia. China’s displays of naval might are only part of the mosaic influencing Vietnam’s decisions in these matters.
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May 16, 2016 00:50 UTC
Testing of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter
's tailhook has commenced
at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The JSF Integrated Test Force has been undertaking the tests, with stress tests being conducted on aircraft AF-04 at speeds up to 180 knots. On Air Force planes, tailhooks are only used to help the jet stop when landing distance is insufficient or if the jet has a brake malfunction or directional control issue. They are designed as a one-time use device, whereas Navy tailhooks like on the F-35C can deploy, retract and stow.
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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May 16, 2016 00:40 UTC
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has come out against the idea
of restarting the F-22 Raptor
production line during a press conference at the Air Force Academy. Warning that restarting production would take away from other defense programs, Carter said “We’re busy upgrading them and making sure that their avionics and so forth are state of the art. But we don’t need to restart the F-22 line.” With only 187 F-22s produced, Russian and Chinese modernization has resulted in lawmakers asking the USAF to take a look at restarting the aircraft's production in order to beef up its inventory.
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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May 13, 2016 00:42 UTC
Raytheon Missile Systems has been awarded a $76 million contract
from the US Navy for long lead support for the production of the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) Block I. The procurement will last for fiscal years 2016, 2017 and 2018. The ESSM program is an international cooperative effort to design, develop, test, and procure ESSM missiles for the US Navy and the governments of Australia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, and Norway as part of the NATO Sea Sparrow Consortium.
The RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) is used to protect ships from attacking missiles and aircraft, and is designed to counter supersonic maneuvering anti-ship missiles. Compared to the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow, ESSM is effectively a new missile with a larger, more powerful rocket motor for increased range, a different aerodynamic layout for improved agility, and the latest missile guidance technology. Testing has even shown the ESSM to be effective against fast surface craft, an option that greatly expands the missile’s utility. As a further bonus, the RIM-162 ESSM has the ability to be “quad-packed” in the Mk 41 vertical launching system, allowing 4 missiles to be carried per launch cell instead of loading one larger SM-2 Standard missile or similar equipment.
This is DID’s FOCUS article for the program, containing details about the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile family, and contracts placed under this program since 1999. The Sea Sparrow was widely used aboard NATO warships, so it isn’t surprising that the ESSM is an international program. The NATO Sea Sparrow Consortium includes Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the USA – as well as non-NATO Australia. Foreign Military Sales ESSM customers outside this consortium include Japan, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.
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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 10, 2016 00:45 UTC
With the company currently rolling out its Leonardo re-brand, Finmeccanica has reported a strong financial first quarter
thanks to its recent $9.1 billion Eurofighter deal with Kuwait
. However, a drop in helicopter sales is negatively affecting the company. Helicopter orders dropped a massive €964 million in the first quarter from €1.35 billion last year to €384 million, which managers are attributing to turmoil in the oil and gas sector, resulting in companies buying fewer helicopters to access oil rigs.
The multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon has been described as the aerodynamic apotheosis of lessons learned from the twin engine “teen series” fighters that began with the F-14 and F-15, continued with the emergence of the F/A-18 Hornet, and extended through to the most recent F/A-18 Super Hornet variants. Aerodynamically, it’s a half generation ahead of all of these examples, and planned evolutions will place the Eurofighter near or beyond parity in electronic systems and weapons.
The 1998 production agreement among its 4 member countries involved 620 aircraft, built with progressively improved capabilities over 3 contract “tranches”. By the end of Tranche 2, however, welfare state programs and debt burdens had made it difficult to afford the 236 fighters remaining in the 4-nation Eurofighter agreement. A 2009 compromise was found in the EUR 9 billion “Tranche 3A” buy, and the program has renewed its efforts to secure serious export sales. Their success will affect the platform’s production line in the near term, and its modernization plans beyond that.
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Apr 21, 2016 00:30 UTC
South Korea looks set to decide
on which engine provider will be selected for its KAI KF-X fighter
as early as the end of the month. Suppliers looking to win the contract are European firm Eurojet Turbo GmbH and the US's General Electric. Seoul is seeking to locally produce 120 twin-engine combat jets under the KF-X program that is estimated to cost some $16 billion. Deployment of the new planes is hoped to start in mid-2020 to replace its aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s.
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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Apr 19, 2016 00:45 UTC
Irkut Corporation is to provide
30 more Yak-130 advanced jet trainers
to the Russian Aerospace Forces. Contracts were signed by Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov and Irkut Corporation President Oleg Demchenko with all aircraft to be delivered by the end of 2018. The Yak-130 is the world's only training aircraft with the aerodynamic configuration and subsonic flight performance characteristics of modern jet fighters.
Russia’s air force (VVS) aged badly in the wake of the Cold War, and the recapitalization drought soon made itself felt in all areas. One of those areas involved advanced jet trainers, which form the last rung on the ladder before assignment to fighters. Russia’s Czech-made L-29 and L-39 trainers were left with questionable access to spare parts, and a competition that began in the 1990s finally saw Yakolev’s Yak-130 collaboration with Italy’s Finmeccanica beat the MiG-AT in 2002. Unfortunately, Russian budget realities allowed orders for just a dozen early production Yak-130s, even as the VVS’s L-39 fleet dwindled drastically.
The Yak-130’s multi-mission capabilities in training, air policing, and counterinsurgency make it an attractive option for some customers beyond Russia. Initial export successes helped keep Yak-130 production going in those early years, mostly via a confirmed order from Algeria (16). In December 2011, however, Russia finally placed a significant order that got production started in earnest. Russia continues to promote the aircraft abroad, and now that the plane’s future is secure, interest and orders are picking up…
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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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