Feb 25, 2015 00:01 UTC
An RAAF officer spoke to media
about the two real-world taskings the Wedgetail pulled: the marshaling of disparate aircraft in the search for Malaysia Airlines MH370 and in recent operations against ISIS. Wing Commander Paul Carpenter said the reliability rate was 90 percent or higher. He also said that since the platform is based on the Boeing 737, when it operated away from Australia, it benefited from high availability of the 737 support chain.
over New South Wales
The island continent of Australia faces a number of unique security challenges that stem from its geography. The continent may be separated from its neighbors by large expanses of ocean, but it also resides within a potential arc of instability, and has a number of important offshore resource sites to protect. Full awareness of what is going on around them, and the ability to push that awareness well offshore, are critical security requirements.
“Project Wedgetail” had 3 finalists, and the winner was a new variant of Boeing’s 737-700, fitted with an MESA (multirole electronically scanned array) radar from Northrop Grumman. That radar exchanges the traditional AWACS rotating dome for the E-7A’s “top hat” stationary antenna. That design, and the project as a whole, have run into severe turbulence, creating problems for Boeing earnings, the ADF, and other export orders for the type. DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This one covers contracts, events, and key milestones within Australia’s E-7A program, from inception to the current day.
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Feb 24, 2015 00:04 UTC
Oshkosh Defense announced a new version of its ambulance variant
of its M-ATV. The first ambulance version appeared in 2010.
“The Government plans to acquire an MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). The M-ATV is a lighter, off-road, and more maneuverable vehicle that incorporates current MRAP level [bullet and mine blast] protection. The M-ATV will require effectiveness in an off-road mission profile. The vehicle will include EFP (Explosively Formed Projectile land mine) and RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade panzerfaust) protection (integral or removable kit). The M-ATV will maximize both protection levels and off-road mobility & maneuverability attributes, and must balance the effects of size and weight while attempting to achieve the stated requirements.”
— US government FedBizOpps, November 2008
Oshkosh Defense’s M-ATV candidate secured a long-denied MRAP win, and the firm continues to remain ahead of production targets. The initial plan expected to spend up to $3.3 billion to order 5,244 M-ATVs for the US Army (2,598), Marine Corps (1,565), Special Operations Command (643), US Air Force (280) and the Navy (65), plus 93 test vehicles. FY 2010 budgets and subsequent purchases have pushed this total even higher, and orders now stand at over 8,800 for the USA, plus another 800 for the UAE.
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Feb 23, 2015 03:12 UTC
Middle East / Africa
- Israel will order another 14 F-35s for $110 million a piece, including logistical support, training, parts and maintenance, which appears to be a much better price than the U.S. itself has been able to manage. The 14 fighters will join an earlier order of 19 jets. An option to acquire 17 more has been secured, bringing the total to 50, which has been Israel’s goal in fielding two squadrons of 25 fighters each.
- Germany has rejected a request for Boxer tanks from Lithuania, according to Die Welt (German). The paper cited concerns for Germany’s own preparedness (recently called into question with “rapid reaction” troops found to be operating without rifle barrels during a NATO exercise.)
- The Eurofighter Typhoon will get the latest Brimstone 2 surface attack missiles in a $228 million deal with Eurofighter Jagdflugzeung GmbH to integrate the missiles as has been done with the British Tornados in Afghanistan.
- The recently announced approval of UH-60M exports to Slovakia may be for naught, as Slovokia is reportedly balking at the price. Likely unrelated to that, news reports appear to be erroneously tagging the entire buy’s cost as a cost-per-helicopter.
- Russia has begun construction on two new stealth corvettes.
- Now that the U.S. has agreed to allow UAV exports, the Philippines is seriously considering the various U.S. options, likely for an unarmed reconnaissance version.
- In addition to the known 6-submarine procurement sought by India for a domestically-produced undersea platform, seven new stealth frigates are to be produced, Four at the will be produced in Mumbai at Mazagon Docks, with the other three being built in Kokata. This, on top of three recently completed.
- Raytheon announced its newest AMRAAM-ER air-to-air missile will have extended range and more maneuverability. It plans tests before the year is out.
- The chief of Lockheed’s Skunkworks, Rob Weiss, has been unapologetic and fairly vocal in the past week regarding U.S. military aviation needs, acting as the source of several news stories; generally indicating that new programs are needed, and that those programs need to be done large. The comments have come after the latest Administration budget was released, causing some military officials to make noise about being more cost conscious, such as lowering new trainer requirements and discussing the taboo of possibly ignoring stealth in the F/A-XX program. That Weiss’s comments keep rolling in indicates that neither Lockheed nor the Air Force has been proactive in asking Weiss to pursue a lower key approach. The latest: an insistence that a new spy plane program is needed to supplant both the U-2 and the Global Hawk that was supposed to – at least at one point – replace it.
- DynCorp has characterized as a response to several potential threats, ranging from Russia’s recent belligerence and the growing ISIS threat.
- Austal USA laid the keel for the USS Omaha (LCS 12), the latest and sixth littoral combat ship in the Independence class.
- Lockheed Martin announced it has tweaked the Fury UAV to have longer endurance.
- With two new Russian stealth corvettes under construction (see above), here is the
shipyard’s promotional video showing their most interesting features…
Feb 19, 2015 07:00 UTC
The F-35 needs some code rewrites before it can be released as initially combat ready, according to the head of Lockheed’s aeronautics division. The radar tracking parts of the mission systems software had problems, but the Lockheed executive said the problem was manageable before the July due date. That said, when asked by Reuters if it could mean another delay, he said a decision could be expected in weeks whether a separate update would be required. On the good news side of the ledger, Lockheed indicated it was on track to save about one quarter of one percent of the cost per F-35 via improved manufacturing techniques. They hope to bring costs down a total of one percent of the cost with the next low rate initial production contract (LRIP 9). Lockheed expressed the ambition of lowering the incremental cost per fighter with engines to $80 million by 2019. Those figures do not count weapons and other systems that can cost more than the fighter, nor do they include the overhead costs of program development.
- The U.K. released photos via Twitter showing Pantsir-1/SA-22 anti-aircraft systems rolling through rebel-controlled Ukraine. The SA-22 was never fielded by Ukraine and almost certainly came compliments of the Russian government. The Foreign Office calling out Russia via Twitter may indicate that the alternative to diplomacy isn’t force after all. To do harm to Zhou Enlai’s famous quotation: “All social media is a continuation of diplomacy by other means.”
- North Korea reportedly made its first flight test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The country reputedly has as many as 70 submarines, although most are merely mini-subs, capable of providing guerrilla ingress.
- Iran, too, is announcing its new submarine – a 1,300-ton 60-meter boat made in-country – will have cruise missile launching capacity. Iran currently runs three Russian Kilo-class subs, none of which could be adapted to launch missiles. They had previously built the capacity into surface ships.
- The new strategic bomber program, an RFP for which is expected in the spring, is expected to cost about half a billion dollars per copy. Key industry players already have broad requirements documents, which have not yet been made public. It is expected they should be stealthy, although there is debate on that requirement with the future F/A-XX fighter. Some in the Air Force worry that stealth is enormously expensive and a transient benefit with advancing detection technologies. But the chief of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, the primary purveyor of stealth technology today, thinks that is hogwash. There may also be a requirement for the bomber to be flown by wire. The Air Force has an abiding ambivalence on having its main airframes go unmanned, and that can be seen with Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson last month indicating it isn’t a requirement now, but may become one later.
- The Government Accountability Office chastened the Defense Health Agency for not having mechanisms in place to find or prevent improper medical payments for the DHA’s TRICARE system. The Medicare system, famous for having been loose with payment controls, has better systems.
- Lockheed Martin’s CEO Marillyn Hewsonnoted that they saw a fifth of their revenue come from non-U.S. sources in 2014 and hope and expect that to reach a quarter of revenues in the next few years. The backlog of orders is already more than 25 percent international.
- DARPA, at it again, is hiring designers and comic book illustrators among others to address novel cyber defense issues. Currently, defenders do not have good visual interfaces allowing them to see attacks, nor do they often have a vocabulary of pre-tested methods for addressing many types of attacks. This CS Monitor report shows their journey, slated to cost $125 million over four years.
- Lockheed felt need to announce publicly that it too has a “clean sheet” option in the competition to provide 350 replacements for the T-50 trainer. With Northrop bragging about it throwing out old designs in the past weeks, Lockheed noted that while it is offering a T-50 variant along with Korea’s KAI, it also started a clean sheet process in 2010 at the Skunk Works, but that this is not its preference. Lockheed’s Rob Weiss said that a clean sheet project would not be “in alignment with what the Air Force has said they’d like to do,” indicating that it would likely be more expensive and carry much higher risk. Mr. Weiss may not have had much opportunity to meet Air Force personnel. Northrop Grumman will eschew the BAE Hawk training system for a completely new design. That puts them up against a Boeing/Saab effort, also with a new design; the Lockheed/KAI push for a T-50 and T-100- based model; General Dynamic’s use of the M-346 of Alenia Aermacchi and a Textron Airland effort using their Scorpion. In Mid-January the Air Force did brag a bit about their lowering the T-X requirements for cost reasons in an effort to show their flinty bonafides.
- Iran’s domestic submarine ambitions grow. Their 1,300-ton sub (above) is in part possible due to their scrappy development of domestic capacity, as is shown in the Iran state TV item from a couple years ago, upon the launching of a domestically-refit Kilo-class boat…