France reportedly is to start shipping its planned sale of $3 billion worth of Saudi-purchased arms to Lebanon in April. The announcement appears to have taken many media organs by surprise, given the already volatile military situation in the country. Different reports ascribe various Saudi motives for the pressing of the weapons into Lebanese Army hands, ranging from expressing pique at the U.S. (UPI) - whose arms were not purchased - to a direct effort to fund a force to take on Hezbollah (MintPress). It took the French two years to get to this point of readiness. Had the Saudis sought U.S. arms, the approvals would certainly have been much longer in coming, if they ever came. That the Lebanese Army would take on Hezbollah remains unlikely, as precedent shows a long inability to deny Hezbollah anything in Lebanon the group wishes to take. More »
Naval Strike Missile / Joint Strike Missile: The F-35 is a fairly stealthy plane, so long as it is mostly unarmed. About five sixths of its armament capacity must be carried externally, effectively rendering it visible to radars. That has been one of the several good arguments as to why stealth development may have been a low bang-for-buck result. Australia announced that it was going in with Kongsberg to adapt the Joint Strike Missile to fit inside the F-35's armament bay. We helpfully suggest that the new variant be named the JSM-III Sardine. More »
America Class / Amphibious Assault Ship Replacement Program LHA(R): Mindful of the trend of shipyards to consolidate to the point where there is barely the opportunity for real competition, the Navy is deliberately packaging three very different major defense acquisition programs together and selecting two shipyards to bid for each, with the explicit expectation that each will be rewarded at least one. General Dynamics NASSCO and Huntington Ingalls Industries will compete for the redesign of the LHA-8 (which sorely needs its well deck back now that Marines vehicles have plumped up); the T-AO(X) fleet oiler and the LX(R) dock landing ship replacement.
"Each shipyard will be awarded one detail design and construction contract for LHA 8 or one DD&C for T-AO(X) ships 1-6," said a Navy representative. "This approach balances the Navy's commitment to maintaining a viable shipbuilding industrial base while aggressively pursuing competition." The arbitrary connection of three disparate programs and the automatic win that could go to a loser seems reminiscent of a kindergarten awards ceremony, but at least the creation and maintenance of this duopoly appears to be deliberate. It may shed light on the decision-making process as it happens for the Ingalls/BIW duopoly on the Arleigh Burke contracts and the ancient Newport News/Electric Boat rivalry for submarine work. More »
Rapid Fire | Friday, February 27, 2015, 01:19 UTC ()
China’s submarine fleet outnumbers that of the U.S., according to the U.S.’s deputy chief of Navy operations. Numbers aren’t everything, but Pacific based submariners will miss the days when all the Chinese boats could be shadowed.
The F35B’s petite weapons bay is forcing some redesigns so that the Marines (and the U.K.) can enjoy the luxury of carrying SBD-II armaments. Carrying the bombs on the outside would negate the stealth characteristics for which the U.S. has spent a great deal of money and time developing.
The U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) published a pair of studies along the same theme. The second noted a similar set of phenomena in defense logistics. The DOD has set a policy of measuring the time between orders and deliveries, but that leaves much of the logistics chain a big black box. And, worse, the data that the DOD collects is sometimes too fudgy to reliably report actual performance, with delivery dates backfilled at later times and similar slop.
CORRECTION: Yesterday’s piece on the 200th anniversary of the USS Constitution’s most famous sea battle correctly pointed out that about $114,000 was appropriated by the very young U.S. Congress. One of the ship’s official historians, however, wrote in to point out that it actually cost north of $300,000 by the time the ship launched due primarily to the selection of stronger live oak versus white oak as a primary material. DID had pointed out that the ship’s initial appropriation cost about 0.03 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) at the time – and compared that to today’s most expensive ships, which cost about 0.08 percent of GDP. Comparing actual expenditures, however, the Constitution proportionately took just as much of the nation’s treasure as today’s most expensive ships.
A firm in Australia is making the aviation show rounds with a 3-D printed jet engine. It isn’t running, but it is impressing with its combination of different components employing different metals with different properties.
NDTV uncovered a couple details on the ever-longer saga of the Dassault/India negotiations for a long-negotiated Rafale deal. Getting to the sticking points, it was told that certain processes used by the Indian-mandated domestic manufacturing partner – such as manually creating carbon composite materials – were a time liability for which Dassault did not wish to be held responsible. And bringing HAL up to speed on new manufacturing technologies is a tall (and time sucking) order.
Middle East / Africa
The UAE continued its spending spree on defense aviation, including the announcement of a new order of two Boeing C-17s.
Another new technology set to vastly improve design and manufacturing capacity: 3-D printing. See the Aussies’ 3-D printed jet engine…
| 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.
| Germany is to allow its problematical NH90s back into the air after the most recent fire incident. It has a protocol solution that involves adding steps to takeoff that would allow a pilot to anticipate imminent flames if they are about to appear. A longer-term solution is still in the works. More »
| The Hindu reports that the main sticking point (who produces what) is settled between the Russians and the Indians. Up to now, the Indians were producing only 13 percent of the fighter, and none of the interesting technology bits. The agreed-upon split hasn't been made public.
Originally slated for 2015 production, the PAK-FA, now being called the T-50 in press materials, is to be produced in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in 2016, according to company officials. There is no mention of an export market. India had already cut its order from 200 fighters to 144, but bureaucrats have also pushed back certification to 2019, after which production could be authorized. Complaints by the Indian Air Force in early 2014 may indicate some buyer's remorse. More »