Oct 28, 2007 13:16 UTC
DID’s Benelux reader David Vandenberghe tips DID to the original RIA-Novosti report that Iran has signed a contract with China for the delivery of two squadrons (24) of its J-10 fighter planes, which are powered by Russian engines and avionics. Representatives of the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company said China would deliver the jets during the in 2008-2010 time frame. Novosti adds that “Experts, estimating one fighter at $40 million, put the contract’s value at $1 billion.” Iran’s most advanced fighters are currently MiG-29s, many of which once belonged to Saddam Hussein and fled to Iran during the 1991 Desert Storm war, and a handful of F-14 Tomcats that have been ingeniously maintained over the years.
The Chinese J-10 is based on plans sold by the Israelis in the 1980s, after their Lavi fighter program had been canceled. The massacre at Tiananmen Square ended cooperation with western aerospace firms, however, forcing China to install Russian AL-31FN engines instead of American F100/F110s. This in turn forced a slew of alternations owing to changes to the aircraft’s new inlet requirements, weight distribution, center of gravity, et. al. Russian avionics with their own set of space requirements also had to be installed and tested to replace American/Israeli equipment, which led to further design changes. Then there were the indigenous Chinese efforts, including the Type 1473 pulse-Doppler (PD) fire-control radar to replace Israel’s Elta or the American APG-68. The end result entered service in 2003 after well over a decade in development, and is a rather different aircraft than the Lavi. Nonetheless, it retains the aircraft’s canard-delta layout and some of its capabilities, and its aerodynamic layout and known/reported characteristics suggest an aircraft that is equal or slightly superior to American F-16 C/Ds. This could complicate Israeli strikes on targets related to Iran’s nuclear program, though many other variables would also come into play for such scenarios.
If the deal pans out at all… recent reports have thrown it into question.
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Oct 28, 2007 11:24 UTC
Small business qualifier LTM, Inc. in Havelock, NC received a $24.9 million ceiling priced modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00421-01-D-0101) to exercise an option for approximately 353,600 hours of maintenance planning and design interface technical/management support services for the Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) East in Cherry Point, NC. These services include evaluating initial designs and proposed design changes, maintenance planning, and sustaining maintenance plans.
Work will be performed at FRC East, Cherry Point, N.C. (99%), and at various locations across the United States (1%), and is expected to be complete in October 2008. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
Oct 25, 2007 17:11 UTC
Israel’s relationship with the F-35 program has been rocky at times, but its re-admittance restored its Security Cooperative Participant status in the program, and the IAF still plans to buy about 100 F-35s to replace much of its F-16 fleet. Now the Jerusalem Post reports the Pentagon has agreed to supply the F-35A Lightning II variant to Israel as early as 2012, instead of in 2014 or 2015. This would make Israel one of the first nations to receive the aircraft, and very possibly the first foreign nation. Previous objections to Israel’s installation of its own technology in the F-35 (as it has done with every US fighter it has received) were also reportedly overcome; at present, the only Israel technology in the standard version will be the JSF HMDS helmet mounted display system, designed in cooperation with Elbit Systems. Israel also asked to manufacture F-35 aircraft locally at a 1 : 2 ratio, but the reports did not indicate whether that request was granted.
The timing and technology agreements reportedly came in the wake of a Washington meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and may represent an attempt to deflect Israeli calls for an export version of the F-22A Raptor, which has more stealth and capability, and whose production line is currently scheduled to close in 2010. The Jerusalem Post also quotes an Israeli defense official as saying that:
“This plane [the F-35] can fly into downtown Tehran without anyone even knowing about it since it can’t be detected on radar.”
One hopes this statement comes from someone who is not involved with the Israeli Air Force, because it’s delusional. Any aircraft can be detected on radar, as the shoot-down of an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter over Kosovo demonstrated. The questions are at what frequencies, and at what range? The F-35’s rear quarter radar stealth and infrared detection profile compromise its stealth somewhat; the resulting aircraft is stealthier than 4+ generation competitors like the Eurofighter, but less stealthy than the F-22A. Jerusalem Post | Israel Insider | Reuters | January 2008 IDF release re: F-35 [Hebrew].
Oct 25, 2007 15:05 UTC
Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. in Oakbrook, IL won a $61.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for maintenance dredging of the Port Jersey Channel in Jersey City, N.J. Work is expected to be complete by April 30, 2009. There were 15 bids solicited on May 30, 2007 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New York, NY (W912DS-08-C-0001).
No word on whether there’s a bonus fee for finding Jimmy Hoffa.
Dredging contracts are fairly regular features at DefenseLINK, given their importance to shipping and (among other things) the maintenance of low prices for consumer goods. The U.S. Army Engineer District in Philadelphia has a background page about dredging that explains the rationale and the different options.
Oct 25, 2007 14:15 UTC
DID recently covered the JHMCS helmet-mounted display system that equips American “teen series” fighters around the world, and explained its importance to air combat in the 21st century. The Elbit Systems/ Rockwell-Collins joint venture Vision Systems International, LLC (VSI) in San Jose, CA is also designing the Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which kicks the JHMCS concept up several notches. It provides day or night imagery that applies to both air and ground attacks, and features advanced head tracking capability with near-zero latency, in order to provide a virtual heads-up display and imagery screen anywhere the pilot’s head moves. Since the F-35 will be the first tactical fighter jet in over 30 years to fly without a Head Up Display above its instrument panels, this capability is mandatory and HMDS will ship with the F-35s to all domestic and international F-35 customers.
VSI received a significant development contract in February 2006, and their product first flew aboard an F-35 in January 2007. The British will be receiving the F-35B STOVL(Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) variant for use on their new carriers, and so the Royal Air Force Centre for Aviation Medicine at MoD Boscombe Down was good enough to put the F-35 HMDS through its paces. Pilots from the RAF, U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems flew 2 specially modified BAE Hawk T Mk1s in flight regimes ranging from -2g to +9.5g. Their objective was to verify comfort, fit and stability under high G conditions.
Since the F-35B is only designed to +7g, this is beyond the RAF’s planned flight regime; but the carrier-based F-35C is designed to +7.5g loads, and the standard F-35A will be the most maneuverable with a design stressed for +9g maneuvers. Additional RAF flights with the VSI HMD have been underway through September and October 2007. VSI release.
Oct 25, 2007 09:08 UTC
A recent DID article explained the differences between the smaller MQ-1 Predator and MC-1 Sky Warrior UAVs, and their more advanced, higher-altitude cousin the MQ-9 Reaper hunter-killer. The MQ-9 is also the basis for other UAVs, some of which are used for research. One is NASA’s Ikhana unmanned research aircraft (pron. ee-kah-nah, Choctaw language, means “intelligent”). NASA has also been intelligent, running wildfire related exercises and missions since August 2007. Ikhana flew over several of the Southern California wildfires on Oct 24/07, using its payload capacity to carry special thermal-infrared imaging equipment that can look right through smoke and haze, and record high-quality imagery of key hot spots.
Each flight is being coordinated with the US Federal Aviation Administration, in order to allow the remotely piloted aircraft to fly a safe and empty path in national civil airspace. The imagery is processed on board, downlinked, and overlaid on Google Earth maps at NASA Ames Research Center in Northern California. From there, the National Interagency Fire Center makes it available to incident commanders in the field, so they can assign their fire-fighting resources more intelligently. The mission is controlled by pilots operating from a ground control station at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. The above 3-D image was taken at 10:21 a.m. PDT over the Harris Fire in San Diego County, looking west. The hot spots (in yellow) are concentrated on the ridgeline in the left center of the photo.
Nice work. The UAV continued its flights Thursday, and more MQ-9 Ikhana images can be found via this NASA page. You can also look at Ikhana’s page of past photos, which includes one detailing its wildfire sensor package.
This kind of dual civil/military capability will become more common in future, as UAVs are fitted with equipment that lets them operate safely in civil airspace.
Oct 24, 2007 18:29 UTC
“Dogfight at the Casbah: Rafale vs. F-16” noted the dwindling odds of a Rafale fighter sale to Morocco, but reported rumors that Morocco would purchase one of the new 142m, 6,000t Franco-Italian FREMM frigates for about EUR 500 million (about $710 million) during French President Sarkozy’s visit.
True to form, there has been no announcement yet concerning the Rafale in conjunction with French President Sarkozy’s visit. The frigate sale appears to have gone through, however, as France’s military shipbuilder DCNS has now announced that “the Kingdom’s highest authorities confirmed an agreement between the two countries to provide the Royal Moroccan Navy with a FREMM multimission frigate.” Morocco is the design’s first international customer beyond the 2 partner nations, and almost certainly not the last. Current plans call for 27 vessels for France (17) and Italy (10), and FREMM is available in anti-submarine, anti-surface, anti-air and land strike versions in order to meet client navies’ specific needs.
Oct 24, 2007 17:09 UTC
Checking into it
On August 22/07, the Pentagon released its Selected Acquisition Reports for the June 2007 reporting period, and the US Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program was listed:
“The SAR was submitted to report schedules slips of approximately two years since the December 2006 SAR. In February 2007, the program experienced a critical Nunn-McCurdy unit cost breach due primarily to system reliability challenges and a quantity reduction. The department certified a revised program to Congress in June 2007. Program costs increased $4,069.4 million (+34.2 percent) from $11,902.7 million to $15,972.1 million.”
To be sure, the new $3.5 million South Korean XK-21 amphibious IFV hasn’t had these problems; but then, the specifications they were handed were more restrained in key areas like water speed (about 5 kph) and aiming to cross rivers rather than swim in medium ocean sea states. DID went and talked to the EFV Program Office to get some explanations for this latest SAR, and also of the EFV’s overall cost growth history. We also wanted a per-vehicle cost for the EFV, because we’d seen numbers ranging for $16 million to $27 million. What follows is their explanation. DID has removed nothing, but we have spliced together both the original response and their further clarification in order to create a single explanation…
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Oct 23, 2007 18:44 UTC
M236 on Hummer
(click for timed view)
In an age of artillery trackback radars, one of the most important attributes for any artillery system is speedy set-up and take-down. The M109A6 Paladin fixed that problem for the USA’s 155mm self-propelled howitzers, but what about those large 120mm mortars that weigh 300 pounds, and have to be manhandled into and out of place over many minutes?
In this case, the solution was rather less expensive. BAE Systems invented the M326 120mm Mortar Stowage System, a simple and rugged device that can be easily attached to the M1101 Trailer, Hummers, or Trucks. The assembled mortar base plate, tube and bipod are held together as a unit by a steel strut that connects the mortar to the M326’s hydraulic lift arm, which hoists the fully assembled M120 Mortar in and out. During tests, mount and dismount of a fully assembled M120 Mortar have been achieved in less than 20 seconds. Jim Unterseher, BAE Systems’ vice president of Army Programs claims that with the M326, a 120-mm mortar crew can set-up, fire and be on the move again in 3 minutes without having to lift the heavy tube.
BAE Systems has now received a $13.9 million contract from the U.S. Army to procure 588 M236 Mortar Stowage Systems. The contract calls for BAE Systems to begin low-rate initial production (LRIP) immediately and deliver the first 52 M326 systems to the Army by October 2008, then deliver an additional 536 systems through full-rate production, which will begin immediately following LRIP completion. All of systems will be assembled at the Louisville, Kentucky, facility and will be delivered by early 2010. The contract also includes options for funding the delivery of up to 100 additional systems, as well as new equipment training, installation, warehousing and spares. If all options are exercised, the contract could grow to $20.6 million. BAE release.
Oct 23, 2007 16:32 UTC
AMV with RCWS-30
The Finnish firm Patria Oyj has made quite a name for itself in the field of wheeled Armored Personnel Carriers, via its popular Armoured Modular Vehicle (AMV). Patria has won several international competitions a large 690-vehicle contract in Poland, 84 AMV orders so far from Finland that include 24 breech-loading 120mm AMOS twin-mortar variants, plus recent order from Slovenia (135 vehicles in 4 different versions, including one variant with Patria’s new unmanned NEMO 120mm mortar turret), and a Croatian order for 84 vehicles. Its high level of protection from mine blasts got it certified by South African authorities, and it was subsequently made the base platform for South Africa’s “Hoefyster” program to field 264 next-generation infantry fighting vehicles in 5 variants (Infantry Carrier, Command, Mortar, Missile, and Fire Support).
In the second quarter of 2008, the US Marine Corps is expected to issue an RFP to begin replacing its aging LAV amphibious wheeled armored personnel carriers. When they do, they will be hearing from a somewhat unusual competitor…
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