Feb 27, 2017 00:48 UTC
After 21 years of service, the MQ-1 Predator
UAV will be retired in 2018
. The USAF will instead opt for a full MQ-9 Reaper
fleet citing better equipment and overall operational capabilities such as bigger payloads, higher flight ceilings, and top speeds. As a result, the USAF will no longer have to maintain a training pipeline or equipment on two separate aircraft, which eliminates the cost of operating two different airframes. Speaking on the Reaper, 432nd Operations Group commander Col. Joseph said in a statement "I think when we look at the legacy of the MQ-1 we're going to be scratching our heads wondering how we did so much with so little."
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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Feb 24, 2017 00:59 UTC
Boeing is taking some suppliers to court
after they sold mislabeled chemicals that caused the maiden flight of the KC-46
tanker to be delayed by a month. Able Aerospace Adhesives and AlfaKleen Chemical Labs, both from California, are being sued in the sum of $10 million or more for the mix up, whose incorrect chemical damaged components in the jet’s refueling system, and time was lost by Boeing in order to to replace those damaged parts. The liquid provided was certified to meet MIL-PRF-680 Type III certification; it was, however, actually more acidic than required.
KC-135: Old as the hills…
DID’s FOCUS articles cover major weapons acquisition programs – and no program is more important to the USAF than its aerial tanker fleet renewal. In January 2007, the big question was whether there would be a competition for the USA’s KC-X proposal, covering 175 production aircraft and 4 test platforms. The total cost is now estimated at $52 billion, but America’s aerial tanker fleet demands new planes to replace its KC-135s, whose most recent new delivery was in 1965. Otherwise, unpredictable age or fatigue issues, like the ones that grounded its F-15A-D fighters in 2008, could ground its aerial tankers – and with them, a substantial slice of the USA’s total airpower.
KC-Y and KC-Z buys are supposed to follow in subsequent decades, in order to replace 530 (195 active; ANG 251; Reserve 84) active tankers, as well as the USAF’s 59 heavy KC-10 tankers that were delivered from 1979-1987. Then again, fiscal and demographic realities may mean that the 179 plane KC-X buy is “it” for the USAF. Either way, the KC-X stakes were huge for all concerned.
In the end, it was Team Boeing’s KC-767 NexGen/ KC-46A (767 derivative) vs. EADS North America’s KC-45A (Airbus KC-30/A330-200 derivative), both within the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress. The financial and employment stakes guaranteed a huge political fight no matter which side won. After Airbus won in 2008, that fight ended up sinking and restarting the entire program. Three years later, Boeing won the recompete. Now, they have to deliver their KC-46A.
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Feb 21, 2017 00:50 UTC
Northrop Grumman and the British RAF have successfully demonstrated
communication system interoperability between an F-35
and Eurofighter Typhoon
jets. The test was carried out during an MoD-funded two week trial, called Babel Fish III, and saw a Lockheed Martin F-35B communicate with a Typhoon fighter by translating its Multifunction Advanced Data Link messages into a Link 16 format. It was the first time a non-U.S. 5th- and 4th-generation aircraft shared MADL-delivered data. Northrop claimed that the test integrated its Freedom 550 technology into the F-35's Airborne Gateway, which translates information from various sources to enhance situational awareness and interoperability.
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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Feb 20, 2017 00:50 UTC
The US Navy is to test a potential fix
for an issue regarding the F-35C’s nose wheel in order to see if the jet still suffers from excessive vertical oscillations during a catapult launch. Testing will begin tomorrow, Tuesday February 21, at the service’s land-base test facility at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. However, if the early fixes don't work, the Navy will be required to do more extensive fixes to the nose gear and the helmet display, or even redesign the entire nose gear for the F-35C
(which could take years and further delay the program).
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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Feb 17, 2017 00:56 UTC
Saab is continuing a defense partnership with Indian industry, offering a sensor package
for India's s LCA Tejas
fighter. Included in the technology transfer is the company's Airborne Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) fighter radar integrated with a compact electronic warfare suite. The package will also have synergies with the systems developed for the Gripen
fighter, currently being pitched to New Delhi to fill their Navy requirement for carrier-based fighters
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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Feb 16, 2017 00:55 UTC
Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) has awarded TUSAŞ Engine Industries (TEI) a contract to develop and manufacture a new indigenous turboshaft engine
. The engine will be used in Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) new clean-sheet T-625
utility helicopter, as well as the TAI T-129 ATAK
attack helicopter and TAI Hürkuş turboprop-powered trainer and light combat aircraft. At present, Ankara depends on foreign turboshaft designs, such as the General Electric T700, which require them to secure licenses and approval for exports.
Turkey has been looking to modernize its attack helicopter fleet since the mid-1990s, but the process has mostly served as an object lesson in how not to buy defense equipment. This competition faced many difficulties; after numerous snafus, technology transfer and production issues, and canceled competitions, all 3 invited American manufacturers had abandoned the competition entirely.
Even the “final” round seemed imperiled, following reports of the Turkish military’s deep dissatisfaction with the choices. Nevertheless, the competition survived long enough to pick a winner, and signed contracts with AgustaWestland. But Turkey didn’t just buy helicopters. They bought the A129 model – lock, stock, and rotor.
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Feb 15, 2017 00:55 UTC
German initiatives to deepen defensive ties with its neighbors continues as it moves forward with a plan set up a joint fleet
of Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J
transport planes with France and join a Netherlands-led fleet of Airbus A330 tanker planes. The plans join other collaborative agreements with Norway, Romania and the Czech Republic, and come at a time when NATO members face increasing pressure from the United States to spend more for their own military and reach NATO's target of devoting 2 percent of gross domestic product to defense spending.
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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Feb 13, 2017 00:45 UTC
Saab has offered to build the world's most modern fighter aircraft factory in India
if New Delhi selects the JAS-39 Gripen E
to fill an upcoming 200-250 unit fighter requirement. The company has already been in talks with nearly 100 aerospace and defense firms in India to provide components for the production of the plane which would lay the industrial base for India to design, develop and build future fighters. Rival competitor Lockheed Martin has offered to transfer the production line of their F-16 Block 70 fighter to India if selected, even though President Donald Trump's protectionist administration may want to take a fresh look at such plans.
South African JAS-39D
As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defense against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken (“Dragon,” 1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt,” 1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. This record of consistent project success is nothing short of amazing, especially for a country whose population over this period has ranged from 7-9 million people.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for background, news, and contract awards related to the JAS-39 Gripen (“Griffon”), a canard-winged successor to the Viggen and one of the world’s first 4+ generation fighters. Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter? In 2013 a win in Brazil started to answer that question.
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Feb 10, 2017 00:45 UTC
Indonesia and South Korea have opened a joint program office
in Sacheon, South Korea, in order to collaborate on the KF-X/IF-X fighter program. 74 personnel from PT Dirgantara Indonesia have made the move to work on the program, and will work with staff from the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The opening of the office comes just a year after both governments signed a $7.1 billion agreement to jointly develop the KF-X/IF-X 4.5-generation fighter. In exchange for their capital, Jakarta will receive 50 IF-X fighters as well as a certain amount of knowledge and technological transfer.
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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Feb 09, 2017 00:55 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
The USMC has given March 2019 as the date for declaring initial operational capability
for the V-22
Aerial Refuelling System (VARS). Four V-22 Osprey's will be part of the initial program and will be able to refuel all fixed-wing USMC fighters and the CH-53 helicopter. The V-22 joint program office is looking at the feasibility of adding a chin-mounted gun and crew-served door guns for the Osprey, the latter being of particular interest to the service.
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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