Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in San Diego, CA received an $8.2 million contract to provide Phase II data rate communications upgrades for the Aircraft Structural Integrity Program (ASIP).
The US Air Force initiated the ASIP because of catastrophic, unanticipated, in-flight fatigue failures of in-service aircraft. ASIP is the management tool for the USAF to safely manage the fleet from initial operating capability through the design service goal and beyond.
The program focuses on monitoring the structural integrity of USAF aircraft, including:
In June 2009, the US Air Force is replaced Boeing’s existing fleet support contract for the USA’s B-52 heavy bomber fleet, with a 10-year, $750 million firm-fixed-price Engineering Sustainment Program (ESP) contract. All of the USAF’s 94 remaining B-52Hs were built at and delivered from Boeing’s Wichita, KS facility, and the ESP contract will support about 150 Boeing jobs.
Under the ESP contract, Boeing employees in Wichita, KS; Oklahoma City, OK; and at Barksdale AFB in Shreveport, LA will maintain the fleet’s readiness, handle and maintain the aircrafts’ engineering data, conduct related analyses and tests, investigate deficiencies or field issues, provide in-flight emergency response support, and perform required hardware and software modernization and upgrade work. Unfortunately, key upgrades like fleet replacing the ancient JT3D/TF33 turbofans to improve fuel consumption, maintenance, and efficiency have failed to materialize over the years. Nevertheless…
AGM-129A loaded on a B-52 at Minot Air Force Base, ND
In 2007, a B-52 carried 6 unsecured nuclear-tipped AGM-129 ACM cruise missiles from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. The nuclear warheads were supposed to have been removed before the aircraft took off, but they remained on the aircraft unsecured at both Minot and Barksdale for 36 hours.
As a result of the incident, 4 USAF commanders were relieved of their commands; it also contributed to the resignation of top USAF officials. A Blue Ribbon Panel chaired by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger recommended that the USAF and the US Department of Defense (DoD) overhaul its handling of nuclear weapons security. In response, the USAF set up an Air Force Global Strike Command to oversee all bomber- and missile-based nuclear weapons.
The incident also prompted the US Navy to beef up its nuclear weapons security, which is overseen by the Strategic Systems Program…
Boeing received an $84 million order from the US Air Force for upgrades to the B-1B heavy bomber fleet’s avionics software that will enhance the aircraft’s color cockpit displays, data link, radar and navigation systems.
The award (F33657-01-D-2050, SD-21) continues a software-sustainment program that has updated the B-1B’s operational capabilities since the aircraft entered service in 1989. This new contract authorizes Boeing to start work on Sustainment Block 16.
Boeing will update the following B-1B avionics systems:
Boeing Co. in Wichita, KS received a $70.6 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (FA8107-05-C-0001) to enhance the in-theater combat communications of the B-52H bomber. This contract is part of the CONECT program.
At this time, $4.4 million has been obligated. 651 AESS/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio is the contracting activity. The B-52H, which went into service in 1961, is the only remaining B-52 model in use by the US Air Force…
On April 6/09, US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates did something unusual: he convened a press conference to announce key budget recommendations in advance. That’s a substantial departure from normal procedure, in which the Office of the President’s submitted budget is the first official public notification of key funding decisions. Gates’ departure was done with full official approval, however, as the Pentagon and White House begin their efforts to convince Congress.
That’s likely to be a difficult task. Congress (the US House of Representatives and Senate) has full budgetary authority within the American system, subject only to the threat of Presidential veto. In the past, this has kept a number of programs alive despite the Pentagon’s best efforts to kill them. Sometimes, that stubbornness has improved America’s defense posture. Sometimes, it has done the opposite. For good or ill, that process has now begun. Again.
Gates’ announcement, made in the presence of Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright, USMC, aims to make significant changes to America’s defense programs. Several would be ended or terminated. Others would be stretched out over a longer period. Still others will gain resources.
America’s 21 B-2A Spirit stealth bombers have been leaders in stealth technology and weapon support arrangements. Now, they’re a leader in a less desirable category. DTI’s Bill Sweetman reports that during a 2008 bandwidth auction, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission inadvertently sold the operating frequency band of the B-2 bomber’s Raytheon AN/APQ-181 radar to an obscure firm headed by a Russian-educated citizen of Mali. Installing new radar arrays on the 20 surviving jets will reportedly cost “well over $1 billion.”
Sweetman notes that this is just one side effect of spectrum allocation problems, and greater civilian appetites for its use. Patriot PAC-3 missiles that are critical to Japan’s missile defense system have problems there, because the radios used to link all the scattered firing units use frequencies assigned to the Japanese cell phone industry. The JTIDS predecessor to modern Link-16 MIDS-LVTs is currently the only way to get AWACS targeting data to an F-22, but it has “limited supportability outside the continental U.S.” because it was developed in an occupied band. Even flight testing and telemetry is beginning to have these problems.
General Electric Aircraft Engines of Cincinnati, OH recently received an estimated $214.9 million modification to a firm-fixed price contract. The contract will take care of GE sole source spares for its F101, F110, and F118 engines from FY 2009 through FY 2017. At this time, no money has been committed; orders will be placed as needs arise. The 448 SCMG/PKBC at Tinker Air Force Base, OK manages this contract (FA8122-09-D-0001).
GE’s F101 engines are installed in the B-1B Lancer bomber. These 30,000 pound thrust turbofans are mounted 4 to a plane, and they were the firm’s first turbofan with an augmentor. The F118 and F110 engine derivatives were created by adding new low pressure systems that tailor engine performance to the desired aircraft application. Its F118 derivative dials back into the 17,000 – 19,000 pound thrust range, and equips both the B-2A Spirit stealth bomber, and the U-2S Dragon Lady high-altitude reconnaissance plane. Both engines are participating in US DoD R-TOC (Reduction of total Ownership Costs) programs.
The number of those engines in service pales in comparison to the F110 engine, however, an F101 derivative that generates 28,000 – 29,000 pounds of thrust on afterburner, and flies in 86% of the USA’s F-16C/D fighter fleet. A number of Service Life Extension Program components have been developed for this engine, with the goal of extending the engine’s usable lifetime once they’re inserted.
Perhaps you’ve had this experience with your car. A warning light goes on intermittently, or another system doesn’t seem to operate reliably. The car goes in to the mechanic, where it may or may not display any symptoms. Repeat as required. Eventually, the dreaded diagnosis is given: electrical issues. The problem may or may not be consequential. The fix will be uncertain. The experience will be maddening.
For a military pilot and their maintenance crew, electrical issues are inherently more serious – but no less maddening. Few of us can afford to pay a mechanic for 24 hours of work in order to diagnose an electrical fault, but militaries often do so. Now consider the long-term effects on wiring from the constant airframe vibrations produced by high-energy turbines, and the buffeting produced by travel at several hundred miles per hour. Especially in a machine that may be 30 years old or more, while still possessing some of its original wiring.
As military aircraft fleets continue to age, wiring diagnosis and product improvements will be critical. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is beginning to introduce production innovations involving self-diagnostic wiring, but what about existing aircraft without a full wiring refit? Enter a US NAVAIR project, and a product made by Eclypse International.
Militaries around the world are moving to modernize and transform themselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Our mission is to deliver a regular cross-section of relevant, on-target stories, news, and analysis that will help experts and interested laypeople alike stay up to speed on key military developments and issues. Stories are broken down by military category and presented as fast bullet points that orient you quickly, with accompanying links if you wish to pursue more in-depth treatments.
Some of This Month’s Targets of Opportunity Include: Aging aircraft; F-22; F-35; India’s big fighter contest; 2018 bomber; Next-gen gunships; Japan’s stealth aircraft; JCA – just confusing; Poseidon down under; Boeing’s invisibility man; Odd new satellite; unmanned fighters & swarms; Cell phones & Patriots; Huge IT contracts; DARPA’s Deep Green; Lots of MRAP; FCS spinouts; Fire Ball; Better body armor; Australia’s new fleet; Korea: us too!; Britain’s new carriers; US Navy’s new bills; Russia’s stealthy Stereguschiy; Remote firefighting; Coast Guard cutters; ADVENT of breakthrough jet engines; $1M wearable power prize; Sub-finding ‘shark’; UK’s Grand Challenge & flying saucers; Boeing’s new plane design; DARPA’s robot dog; New Russian nukes; Britain’s new maintenance concept works; Israel prepares; Counter-insurgency air needs; Export controls and their blowback; CSAR-X: rescue me!; And much, much more: