The $2.2 billion dollar B-2 Spirit stealth bomber has long suffered from a significant problem: maintaining its stealth requires a great deal of ground work involving tape and caulking. Given that stealth is the bomber’s only real defense, flying them in compromised status is not an option. The result was predictable: very low “readiness rates” in the 30-45% range, which meant that the 21 bombers in the USA’s fleet really meant about 7-9 in the air after the initial opening phase of any conflict.
The USAF’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate worked with the B-2 Systems Group and material processing experts; and after some initial glitches, they think they may have this problem solved. If so, readiness rates could rise to figures approaching 70-80%. That makes a big difference to a high-value asset.
Raytheon Co. Sensors and Electronic Systems Div. in Goleta, CA is being awarded a $13 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-05-C-0031), exercising an option for the full rate production of 110 integrated multi-platform launch controllers for the ALE-50 Advanced Expendable Airborne Decoy system used by US F-16 Falcon/Viper, F/A-18 Hornet family, and B-1B Lancer heavy bomber aircraft. At least one US pilot who came home safe referred to the ALE-50 as “my little buddy” in a letter to Raytheon.
So, what do you with a “little buddy,” and how does it work?
RAFAEL joint-venture partner Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Rolling Meadows, IL received a maximum $275 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, firm fixed price contract from the USA for LITENING targeting pods, upgrades, support equipment, training, related logistics support, and pod integration support. It will support F-16 Falcon, F-15E Strike Eagle, A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II, and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft belonging to the US Air Force, Air National Guard, USAF Reserve Command, and US Marine Corps. While the version was not specified, all three services have been receiving LITENING AT pods lately. The Air Force can issue delivery orders totaling up to the maximum amount indicated above, although actual requirements may be less than the amount indicated above. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8607-04-D-2751).
Designed to improve both day and night attack capabilities, LITENING pods provide pilots with advanced image processing for target identification and coordinate generation, a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor, charge-coupled device television (CCD-TV) sensors, a laser spot tracker/ range finder, and infrared laser marker/ designators. It is fully operational 24 hours a day and in adverse weather conditions.
RAFAEL’s LITENING pod has become exceptionally popular around the world due to its exceptional performance/cost ratio, and has even begun to spin off dedicated reconnaissance derivatives. See DID’s focus article for more details, including front-line reports and an international customer list.
Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. He spent 31 years on national security issues for US Senators, from both parties, and the GAO. In this series, he begins “Part I: How Big is the Defense Budget?” by explaining the basics of the FY 2006 defense budget (q.v. DID coverage): some aspects of basic composition, the disagreement over its true size, etc.
The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) said it will extend the due date for proposals on its 5+5 year, $13 billion Encore II enterprise services contract. An internal Defense Department review will require revisions to the December 5, 2005 RFP, and DISA expects to release a new deadline within a week.
Encore II is the result of a journey that began during Desert Storm, and is itself a way-station of sorts along the path to another key DISA project, Net-Centric Enterprise Services. What’s all this about?
Textron Systems Corp. in Wilmington, MA received a $108.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 332 Full Rate Production (FRP) Sensor Fuzed Weapons (SFW), in support of the F-16 aircraft. Work will be complete by March 2008, and the Headquarters Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, FL issued the contract (FA8677-06-C-0010). There is no contract modification number at this time.
What’s a “Sensor Fuzed Weapon,” and how does that relate to the title?
DefenseTech notes that a draft plan from the US Air Force plan (“program budget decision 720”) intends to retire the USA’s 33 U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, its 55 F-117 stealth fighters, 38 of its 76 C-21 Learjets, and about 40% of its B-52 bomber fleet between FY 2007-2011, in order to free up around $2.6 billion for the purchase of more F-22 Raptor fighters. The EB-52 SOJ [stand-off jammer] aircraft project would also be cancelled.
Some of these measures will be more controversial than others…
Boeing’s Aerospace Support division in Oklahoma City, OK received an $18.8 million ceiling-priced, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to instruct and train fleet personnel in the installation, operation, and maintenance of the F/A-18 Hornets/ Super Hornets, AV-8B Harrier IIs, KC-135 Stratotankers, B-1B Lancers, C-17 Globemaster IIIs, C-40 Clippers (737 derivative), C-32 Air Force Two (757 derivative), and F-15 Eagle/Strike Eagle aircraft and associated equipment.
These Contractor Engineering Technical Services and Contractor Maintenance Services will be provided for the US Navy (60%), US Air Force (27%), and the Governments of Malaysia (7%) and Kuwait (6%). Services for the US Navy are expected to be completed in December 2006 and the services for the US Air Force and the Governments of Malaysia and Kuwait are expected to be completed in December 2007. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in Pt. Mugu, CA (N68936-06-D-0002).
Lockheed Martin Corp. in Owego, NY received a $28.1 million firm-fixed price contract modification for the B-52 Avionics Midlife Improvement (AMI) Program. That’s a somewhat jaw-dropping term, given that the very last B-52 Stratofortress produced was delivered to the USAF in October 1962 – but the USAF presently intends to upgrade the BUFFs and keep them in service until at least 2030. Work on this contract will be complete by July 2008. The Headquarters Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base, OK issued the contract (FA8107-04-C-0010/P00007).
The US Defense Budget has gone to “reconciliation,” during which the US Congress and Senate attempt to take the different defense budgets passed in each body, and reconcile them into one official document for the President to sign. The Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) is left in limbo during this time, either to be cut almost entirely with a recommendation for termination, or to face a $50 million trim from its $150 million program request.
What would be lost if the program were canceled? And why do members of the House and Senate want the program cut or reined in?