Apr 29, 2016 00:35 UTC
Latest updates[?]: April 29/16: Legislation being considered by the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) could see the last external link of the USAF’s F-117A Nighthawk fleet sent to the scrap yard. Retired since 2007, a fleet of the pioneering stealth aircraft have been kept in special climate controlled storage hangers in the event they were ever needed again. Now, Congress is considering removing those mothballed aircraft and having them scrapped and gutted for hard-to-find parts.
KC-135: Old as the hills…
DID’s FOCUS articles cover major weapons acquisition programs – and no program is more important to the USAF than its aerial tanker fleet renewal. In January 2007, the big question was whether there would be a competition for the USA’s KC-X proposal, covering 175 production aircraft and 4 test platforms. The total cost is now estimated at $52 billion, but America’s aerial tanker fleet demands new planes to replace its KC-135s, whose most recent new delivery was in 1965. Otherwise, unpredictable age or fatigue issues, like the ones that grounded its F-15A-D fighters in 2008, could ground its aerial tankers – and with them, a substantial slice of the USA’s total airpower.
KC-Y and KC-Z buys are supposed to follow in subsequent decades, in order to replace 530 (195 active; ANG 251; Reserve 84) active tankers, as well as the USAF’s 59 heavy KC-10 tankers that were delivered from 1979-1987. Then again, fiscal and demographic realities may mean that the 179 plane KC-X buy is “it” for the USAF. Either way, the KC-X stakes were huge for all concerned.
In the end, it was Team Boeing’s KC-767 NexGen/ KC-46A (767 derivative) vs. EADS North America’s KC-45A (Airbus KC-30/A330-200 derivative), both within the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress. The financial and employment stakes guaranteed a huge political fight no matter which side won. After Airbus won in 2008, that fight ended up sinking and restarting the entire program. Three years later, Boeing won the recompete. Now, they have to deliver their KC-46A.
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Apr 19, 2016 00:45 UTC
Irkut Corporation is to provide
30 more Yak-130 advanced jet trainers
to the Russian Aerospace Forces. Contracts were signed by Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov and Irkut Corporation President Oleg Demchenko with all aircraft to be delivered by the end of 2018. The Yak-130 is the world's only training aircraft with the aerodynamic configuration and subsonic flight performance characteristics of modern jet fighters.
Russia’s air force (VVS) aged badly in the wake of the Cold War, and the recapitalization drought soon made itself felt in all areas. One of those areas involved advanced jet trainers, which form the last rung on the ladder before assignment to fighters. Russia’s Czech-made L-29 and L-39 trainers were left with questionable access to spare parts, and a competition that began in the 1990s finally saw Yakolev’s Yak-130 collaboration with Italy’s Finmeccanica beat the MiG-AT in 2002. Unfortunately, Russian budget realities allowed orders for just a dozen early production Yak-130s, even as the VVS’s L-39 fleet dwindled drastically.
The Yak-130’s multi-mission capabilities in training, air policing, and counterinsurgency make it an attractive option for some customers beyond Russia. Initial export successes helped keep Yak-130 production going in those early years, mostly via a confirmed order from Algeria (16). In December 2011, however, Russia finally placed a significant order that got production started in earnest. Russia continues to promote the aircraft abroad, and now that the plane’s future is secure, interest and orders are picking up…
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Apr 11, 2016 00:40 UTC
Algeria has upped its orders
of Mi-28NE helicopters from the eight initially reported in January to 42, according to a Russian newspaper. A further 19 of the "Night-Hunter" helicopters will also make their way to Iraq. The helicopters have recently seen action in Syria battling Islamic State militants, and it has been said that the radio-electronic jamming systems on board easily suppressed man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) deployed against them by the insurgents. With interest being expressed from over half a dozen nations spanning from Latin America to South East Asia, the helicopter is certainly selling itself well during its recent military activity.
A February 2006 report noted that a $4 billion arms sale was brewing between Algeria and Russia involving fighter aircraft, tanks, and air defense systems, with the possibility of additional equipment. Those options came through the following month, as a high-level Russian delegation in Algeria closed up to $7.5 billion worth of arms contracts. The Algerian package remains post-Soviet Russia’s largest single arms deal. As an instructive comparison, annual Russian weapons export orders from all customers were just $5-6 billion per year in 2004 and 2005.
Reuters South Africa quoted Rosoboronexport chief Sergei Chemezov as saying that “Practically all types of arms which we have are included, anti-missile systems, aviation, sea and land technology.” The actual contents of that deal were murky, though DID offers triangulation among several sources to help sort out the confusion. A number of these deals have evolved over time, and other public-source information has helped to sharpen the picture a bit. The subsequent crash of Algeria’s MiG-29 deal, and its ripple effects, are also discussed.
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Apr 07, 2016 00:45 UTC
The US Navy has awarded Boeing a $235.2 million modification contract
to obtain long-lead materials and parts required for the P-8A program. The deal will see the company produce and deliver 11 Lot 8 full-rate production IV of the multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft by January 2017. This follows up
on a potential $2.5 billion order for the aircraft
from January for building the aircraft for both the Navy and the government of Australia.
Maritime surveillance and patrol is becoming more and more important, but the USA’s P-3 Orion turboprop fleet is falling apart. The P-7 Long Range Air ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) Capable Aircraft program to create an improved P-3 began in 1988, but cost overruns, slow progress, and interest in opening the competition to commercial designs led to the P-7’s cancellation for default in 1990. The successor MMA program was begun in March 2000, and Boeing beat Lockheed’s “Orion 21” with a P-8 design based on their ubiquitous 737 passenger jet. US Navy squadrons finally began taking P-8A Poseidon deliveries in 2012, but the long delays haven’t done their existing P-3 fleet any favors.
Filling the P-3 Orion’s shoes is no easy task. What missions will the new P-8A Poseidon face? What do we know about the platform, the project team, and ongoing developments? Will the P-3’s wide global adoption give its successor a comparable level of export opportunities? Australia and India have already signed on, but has the larger market shifted in the interim?
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Mar 23, 2016 00:50 UTC
Nine additional Aermacchi M-346 advanced jet trainers have been ordered
by the Italian government, doubling the initial order by the air force. The Honeywell F124-powered aircraft come at a cost of $336 million, with delivery to commence this year and last until 2018. In addition to the trainers, the contract also includes logistics support and a further, unspecified development effort for a wider integrated training system.
Tornado refuels M346
Alenia’s Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer began life in 1993, as a collaboration with Russia. It was also something of a breakthrough for Alenia Aermacchi, confirming that the Finmeccanica subsidiary could design and manufacture advanced aircraft with full authority quadriplex fly-by-wire controls. Those controls, the aircraft’s design for vortex lift aerodynamics, and a thrust:weight ratio of nearly 1:1, allow it to remain fully controllable even at angles of attack over 35 degrees. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Not to mention Sukhoi’s SU-30 family, which has made a name for itself at international air shows with remarkable nose-high maneuvers.
The Russian collaboration did not last. For a while, it looked like the Italian jet might not last, either. It did though, and has become a regular contender for advanced jet trainer trainer contracts around the world. Its biggest potential opportunity is in the USA. For now, however, its biggest customer is Israel.
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