May 27, 2016 00:40 UTC
"Not a wild idea" is outgoing USAF's chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh's thoughts
on restarting the F-22 production line as industry officials and the air force have repeatedly dubbed the concept a nonstarter. In an era of declining military budgets and streamlining of services, Walsh's comments will bolster lawmakers
supporting the superiority fighter's reintroduction, and may see an F-22 revival gaining traction, after the full House passed legislation that would, if approved by the Senate and signed into law, direct the service to study the possibility.
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 26, 2016 00:35 UTC
It may have been coming for some time, but the Pentagon has finally admitted that the F-35
will not be cleared for full rate production until 2018
. Frank Kendell, the program's chief weapons tester, had been warning of delays for some time; however, it had been maintained by some that the jet's initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) would occur as planned in August or September 2017. Now that reality has hit home, the extra six months will be spent retrofitting the 23 aircraft required for IOT&E with the full 3F software and hardware patches.
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 00:45 UTC
Airbus is to swap out parts and components of its troubled A400M
aircraft during regular maintenance and upgrades after cracks were discovered
in a French aircraft. German lawmakers were notified of the updates after being addressed by Germany's Defense Ministry. With three of Germany's 53 ordered A400s delivered, the government has demanded retrofits of the three aircraft which did not meet requirements, such as air dropping of paratroopers and equipment, and medical evacuations. Feared delays to delivery may send Berlin looking elsewhere to meet its transport aircraft gap with Lockheed Martins C-130J and Boeing's C-17 potential options.
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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May 13, 2016 00:45 UTC
A scheduled to be retired KC-130R Hercules has been transferred
to the Chilean Air Force. The plane was delivered on May 2 after being sold to Chile via the foreign military sales (FMS) route. Prior to its transfer, the plane was part of the Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20, at Patuxent River, Maryland as a test evaluation/range support platform.
An ambitious plan is being proposed
by the USMC to convert all of its 79 KC-130J aerial refueling aircraft into gunships, equipped with the Harvest Hawk weapons system. The package will also be added to the service's MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor fleets and will allow both aircraft multi-mission capabilities. For the V-22, the most obvious “Osprey Hawk” benefit is the much-improved strike capability, while the C-130J, would become a multi-mission craft, with a sensor ball allowing for route reconnaissance missions when needed.
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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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 11, 2016 00:45 UTC
Raytheon Missile Systems has been awarded
a $104.5 million USAF contract for the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) program. The company will provide form, fit, function, and refresh of the AMRAAM Guidance Section with work expected to be completed by February 27, 2017. Under the contract, work involved will include foreign military sales to Korea, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Romania.
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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Apr 28, 2016 00:45 UTC
France's DCNS has been announced as the winner
of the $38.7 billion Australian Future Submarine contract. The hotly contested tender for the 12 new subs also saw offers from Germany's Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems and the Government of Japan to carry out the build. The new design will be based on DCNS's Shortfin Barracuda A1
submarine design, a conventionally-powered derivative of the nuclear-powered Suffren-class submarine now under construction for the French Navy. US made combat systems integrator and weapons systems will be installed by either Lockheed Martin or Raytheon in contracts expected to be announced shortly.
Bridge to the future?
In its 2009 White Paper, Australia’s Department of Defence and Labor Party government looked at the progress being made in ship killing surveillance-strike complexes, and at their need to defend large sea lanes, as key drivers shaping future navies. These premises are well accepted, but the White Paper’s conclusion was a surprise. It recommended a doubling of Australia’s submarine fleet to 12 boats by 2030-2040, all of which would be a new successor design that would replace the RAN’s Collins Class submarines.
The surprise, and controversy, stem from Australia’s recent experiences. The Collins Class was designed with the strong cooperation of ThyssenKrupp’s Swedish Kockums subsidiary, and built in Australia by state-owned ASC. The class has had a checkered career, including significant difficulties with its combat systems, issues with acoustic signature and propulsion, major cost growth to A$ 5+ billion, and schedule slippage. Worse still, reports indicated that the RAN can only staff 2 of its 6 submarines. High-level attention led to a report and recommendations to improve the force, but whether they will work remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the nature of Australia’s SEA 1000 future submarine project – and its eventual cost – remain unclear, with estimated costs in the A$ 36-44 billion range. This FOCUS article covers Australia’s options, decisions, and plans, as their future submarine program slowly gets underway.
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Apr 15, 2016 00:25 UTC
Thanks to the legal disruption caused by Lockheed Martin over the US Army's selection of Oshkosh for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV
) program, it is likely that the vehicle won’t reach its initial operational capability
(IOC) on time. Oshkosh came out the victor over Humvee-maker AM General and Lockheed for the $6.7 billion low-rate initial production contract award to build 16,901 vehicles. However, the program had been put on a 97 day halt due to the lawsuit, with work only continuing in December. The Army is now anticipating a six-month delay in reaching its IOC milestone now expected for late 2019.
Ultra APV demonstrator
In an age of non-linear warfare, where front lines are nebulous at best and non-existent at worst, one of the biggest casualties is… the concept of unprotected rear echelon vehicles, designed with the idea that they’d never see serious combat. That imperative is being driven home on 2 fronts. One front is operational. The other front is buying trends.
These trends, and their design imperatives, found their way into the USA’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program, which aims to replace many of the US military’s 120,000 or so Humvees. The US military’s goal is a 7-10 ton vehicle that’s lighter than its MRAPs and easier to transport aboard ship, while offering substantially better protection ad durability than existing up-armored Humvees. They’d also like a vehicle that can address front-line issues like power generation, in order to recharge all of the batteries troops require for electronic gadgets like night sights, GPS devices, etc.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. JLTV certainly qualifies, and recent budget planning endorsements have solidifed a future that was looking shaky. Now, can the Army’s program deliver?
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Mar 10, 2016 00:18 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Britain's Ministry of Defense has confirmed that it is to invest
£642 million (US $908 million) in preparation for the production of its new fleet of Trident missile-armed nuclear submarines. The funding had initially been set out in the government's 2015 strategic defense and security review (SDSR), and will be spent on upgrading production facilities at BAE Systems' Barrow-in-Furness nuclear submarine yard, essential long lead items for the submarines, and the nuclear propulsion program being led by Rolls-Royce. In total, the Successor submarine program is estimated to cost around $44 billion, with a contingency fund of $13 billion set aside for any emergencies that arise.
“We are committed to working towards a safer world in which there is no requirement for nuclear weapons… However, the continuing risk from the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the certainty that a number of other countries will retain substantial nuclear arsenals, mean that our minimum nuclear deterrent capability, currently represented by Trident, is likely to remain a necessary element of our security.” — UK SDSR, 1998
Britain has a big decision to make: do they remain a nuclear weapons power, or not? In an age of collapsing public finances and an uncertain long-term economic future, the money needed to design new nuclear missile submarines is a huge cost commitment that could crowd out other needs. Then again, in an age of collapsing non-proliferation frameworks, clear hostility from ideologies that want nuclear weapons, and allies who are less capable and dependable, the downside of renouncing nuclear weapons is a huge risk commitment. Pick one, or the other. There is no free lunch.
This article covers that momentous decision for Britain, and the contracts and debates associated with it.
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