Latest updates[?]: Boeing won a $40 million contract modification for KC-46 engineering, manufacturing, and development. This provides for qualification test of the components and full life qualification of the actuator, as well as for conducting lab test, ground test and flight test verifications. The KC-46A Aerial Refuelling Aircraft has a maximum fuel capacity of 212,000lb. The aircraft is fitted with a flush-mounted air-to-air refuelling receptacle capable of accepting fuel at 1,200gal/min. The tanker is capable of carrying 18 cargo pallets, as well as transporting 58 passengers normally and up to 114 passengers during contingency operations. The tanker aircraft also provides urgent aeromedical evacuation by transporting 54 medical patients. The maximum takeoff weight of the tanker aircraft will be 415,000lb (188,241kg). Work will take place in Seattle, and is expected to be completed December 31, 2023
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.
Latest updates[?]: L3Harris Technologies won a $10.5 million contract modification, which exercises Lot 20 option items to procure digital map computers (DMCs) and digital video map computers (DVMCs); 50 DMCs and 77 DVMCs in support of sparing for the Naval Supply Systems Command; 24 DVMCs for the Navy in support of the F/A-18E/F aircraft; 16 DMCs for the government of the Czech Republic; and three DMCs for the government of Bahrain. Additionally, this modification procures 24 extension housings for the DVMC buy for the Navy in support of the F/A-18E/F aircraft program. The Super Hornet is a maritime strike attack aircraft. The first full-rate production aircraft was delivered in September 2001. The aircraft is fitted with new mission computers, fibre-optic network, Raytheon AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR targeting pod, Boeing joint helmet-mounted cueing system and Raytheon AIM-9X next generation Sidewinder air-to-air missile. Work will take place in Florida. Estimated completion will be in December 2022.
The US Navy flies the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighters, and has begun operating the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare & strike aircraft. Many of these buys have been managed out of common multi-year procurement (MYP) contracts, which aim to reduce overall costs by offering longer-term production commitments, so contractors can negotiate better deals with their suppliers.
The MYP-II contract ran from 2005-2009, and was not renewed because the Pentagon intended to focus on the F-35 fighter program. When it became clear that the F-35 program was going to be late, and had serious program and budgetary issues, pressure built to abandon year-by-year contracting, and negotiate another multi-year deal for the current Super Hornet family. That deal is now final. This entry covers the program as a whole, with a focus on 2010-2015 Super Hornet family purchases. It has been updated to include all announced contracts and events connected with MYP-III, including engines and other separate “government-furnished equipment” that figures prominently in the final price.
Latest updates[?]: IAP Worldwide Services won a $17.9 million contract modification, which increases the contract value and provides additional funding for operational and depot spare parts and inventory replenishment in support of the E-6B Take Charge and Move Out and Airborne Command Post aircraft. The Boeing E-6 Mercury is a command post and communications relay aircraft manufactured by Boeing for the US Navy. The aircraft relays communications for ballistic missile submarine forces and provides airborne command and control for strategic forces. Work will take place in Oklahoma, Maryland, Nebraska and California. Estimated completion is in November 2020.
The USA’s E-6 Mercury (aka. TACAMO, as in TAke Charge And Move Out) “survivable airborne communication system” airplanes support their Navy’s SSBN ballistic missile submarine force and overall strategic forces. With the advent of the new “Tactical Trident” converted Ohio Class special operations subs, their unique capabilities become even more useful. The E-6B version also has a secondary role as a “Looking Glass” Airborne National Command Post, and in recent years they have seen use as communications relay stations over the front lines of combat.
Delivery of the first production E-6 aircraft took place in August 1989, with delivery of the 16th and final airplane coming in May 1992. This is DID’s FOCUS Article concerning the E-6 system, which includes details concerning the capabilities and associated contracts. The latest contracts involve important fleet upgrades, as the Navy tries to drag the jet’s systems into the 21st century.
Latest updates[?]: Boeing won a $21.9 million contract modification, which exercises an option for test and evaluation support for Next Generation Jammer integration on the EA-18G aircraft. The Next Generation Jammer is a program to develop an airborne electronic warfare system, as a replacement for the AN/ALQ-99 found on the EA-18G military aircraft. It will reach Initial Operating Capability in 2021. The EA-18G Growler is an airborne electronic attack (AEA) aircraft, capable of operating either from an aircraft carrier or from land-bases. The Growler was developed as a replacement for the US Navy EA-6B Prowler aircraft that entered service in 1971 and retired in March 2019. Work will take place in Missouri and estimated completion will be in September, 2021.
EA-18G at Pax
The USA’s electronic attack fighters are a unique, overworked, and nearly obsolete capability. With the retirement of the US Air Force’s long-range EF-111 Raven “Spark ‘Vark,” the aging 4-seat EA-6B Prowlers became the USA’s only remaining fighter for radar jamming, communications jamming and information operations like signals interception . Despite their age and performance limits, they’ve been predictably busy on the front lines, used for everything from escorting strike aircraft against heavily defended targets, to disrupting enemy IED land mine attacks by jamming all radio signals in an area.
All airframes have lifespan limits, however, and the EA-6B is no exception. The USA’s new electronic warfare aircraft will be based on Boeing’s 2-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet multi-role fighter, and has 90% commonality with its counterpart. That will give it decent self-defense capabilities, as well as electronic attack potential. At present, however, the EA-18G is slated to be the only dedicated electronic warfare aircraft in the USA’s future force.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article describes the EA-18G aircraft and its key systems, outlining the program, and keeping track of ongoing developments, contracts, etc. that affect the program.
Latest updates[?]: L3Harris Technologies won a maximum $21.7 million deal for P-8 aircraft sonobouy rotary launchers. L3Harris designs and manufactures pneumatic powered sonobuoy launching systems for maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare applications. The Boeing-built P-8A has been designed for long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Work will take place in New York. Performance completion date is March 18, 2024.
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?
Latest updates[?]: Germany has decided to drop the Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft from a list of contenders to replace its P-3 Orion. Berlin and Paris are shopping for a new aircraft that will enter service in 2025. This new aircraft will be a stopgap measure until 2035. However, Germany is worried that the P-1 might not be able to obtain a military type certification within five years. This will push the operational date beyond 2025.
P-3 Orion, armed –
The P-3 Orion remains the USA’s main maritime patrol aircraft, and is also finding use in overland surveillance roles despite the fleet’s age. Earlier DID articles have noted the extra effort required to preserve the USA’s P-3C Orion maritime surveillance & patrol aircraft, along with radar and weapons upgrades to improve the fleet. Lockheed has even opened a new production line, to deal with planes whose wings that are so aged and worn that they need a full replacement.
The SMIP (Sustainment, Modification, and Installation Program) is intensive depot-level inspection and repair process that includes P-3 airframe and component inspection, identification of problems, and corrective maintenance. The idea is to ensure safe and reliable P-3 use, while trying to get more hours out of each airframe in order to sustain dwindling global fleets. More intensive “MIP” efforts may be launched once inspection results become clear, such as the USA’s P-3 recovery plan and full “ASLEP” re-winging efforts underway in Norway and Canada.
Latest updates[?]: M1 Support won a $25.6 million contract modification for the T-38 aircraft maintenance program. The modification will provide intermediate and organizational maintenance of T?38 aircraft for Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command and Air Force Global Strike Command. The Northrop T-38 Talon is a two-seat, twinjet supersonic jet trainer. It was the world's first supersonic trainer and is also the most produced. The T-38 remains in service as of 2020 in several air forces. Work will take place in California, New Mexico, Virginia, Florida, Missouri and is expected to be completed by September 30, 2021.
In mid-September 2011, DynCorp International, LLC in Fort Worth, TX received a $36 million firm-fixed-price contract for aircraft maintenance and related services in support of Euro-NATO joint jet pilot training; maintaining T-38 undergraduate pilot training, T-38 introduction to fighter fundamentals, and T-6A aircraft at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. The 82nd Contracting Squadron/LGCA at Sheppard AFB, TX manages the contract (FA-3002-09-C-0024, Modification Number A00026).
The T-6A is an advanced turboprop trainer, while the T-38 Talon is a supersonic trainer derivative of the widely-exported F-5 fighter. The USAF’s Talons are slated for possible replacement under a competition called T-X, but in the mean time, they’re also flown by foreign pilots, from countries seeking final “lead-in fighter training” before their pilots graduate to operational fighters.
September 1/20: Maintenance Program M1 Support won a $25.6 million contract modification for the T-38 aircraft maintenance program. The modification will provide intermediate and organizational maintenance of T?38 aircraft for Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command and Air Force Global Strike Command. The Northrop T-38 Talon is a two-seat, twinjet supersonic jet trainer. It was the world’s first supersonic trainer and is also the most produced. The T-38 remains in service as of 2020 in several air forces. Work will take place in California, New Mexico, Virginia, Florida, Missouri and is expected to be completed by September 30, 2021.
August 6/20: Sustainment Martin Baker won a maximum $150 million contract for T-6 and T-38 Sustainment. This contract provides for T-6 and T-38 replenishment spares. The T-6A Texan II is a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer designed to train Joint Primary Pilot Training, or JPPT, students in basic flying skills common to US Air Force and Navy pilots.The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record. Work will take place in Uxbridge, UK and is expected to be finished by December 31, 2026.
February 3/20: Wing Replacement Israel Aerospace Industries won a $240 million contract to acquire T-38 Wings. The Northrop T-38 Talon was the world’s first supersonic trainer at the time of its introduction. It is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record. Student pilots fly the T-38A to learn supersonic techniques, aerobatics, formation, night and instrument flying and cross-country navigation. In 2015, IAI delivered the first replacement wing for the aircraft. Work under the new contract will take place in Lod, Israel and expected completion is by January, 2033.
July 30/19: Sustainment CPI Aerostructures won a $65.7 million deal for T-38A/B/C sustainment. The contract is for structural and fastener kits. The T-38 Talon is a twinjet supersonic jet trainer. It was the world’s first supersonic trainer and entered service in 1961. Since then, more than 60,000 Air Force pilots have trained on the aircraft. The T-38A is a basic supersonic trainer aircraft and the AT-38B is the lead-in fighter trainer fitted with a centerline weapons station for practice bomb dispenser. A program to upgrade the T-38A and extend the service life of the aircraft until 2020 is underway. The program includes new avionics and propulsion and new structural elements including the wings.The upgraded aircraft is the T-38C. CPI Aerostructures will perform work under the ceiling contract in Edgewood, New York and estimated completion date is July 25, 2030.
Latest updates[?]: The Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) flew for the first time on August 7 under the right wing of a EA-18G from VX-23. Lt. Jonathan Williams, VX-23 test pilot, says the new pod imposed negligible handling issues with the Growler. The first flight, conducted by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, is a Safety of Flight (SOF) checkout that ensures the pods can be safely flown on the EA-18G aircraft for follow-on test flights.
The US Navy owns the only operational tactical jamming fighters in the world, but the AN/ALQ-99 pods they depend on use analog technologies, are hard to maintain, and have reliability issues. All-digital technologies and modern transmit/receive electronics offer huge leaps ahead in capability and availability, which is why the US military is working on a Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) replacement for the pods on its tactical strike aircraft.
The EA-18G Growler will be the NGJ’s first platform, but the flexibility of modern technologies mean that it may not be the last.
Latest updates[?]: According to Jane’s, Saab reaffirmed its intention to offer its GlobalEye platform for South Korea’s recently announced program to acquire additional airborne early warning and control aircraft for the Republic of Korea Air Force. Saab reportedly told Jane’s that it expects the procurement to feature an initial two aircraft acquired through either an open tender or a direct acquisition. South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) is expected to confirm the procurement method later this year. GlobalEye is Saab’s new airborne early warning and control solution. It provides air, maritime and ground surveillance in a single solution. GlobalEye combines Saab’s new Erieye Extended Range Radar and a range of additional advanced sensors with the ultra-long range Global 6000 aircraft from Bombardier.
In November 2009, Saab announced a 1.5 billion SEK (about $220 million) contract from the United Arab Emirates for 2 of its Saab 340 regional turboprops, equipped with Erieye active-array radars that can scan large airspace volumes, and with related command and control systems. The Saab 340 AEW contract also includes ground equipment, initial spares, and support services.
The UAE is just the latest buyer of Saab’s Erieye system.
Latest updates[?]: Northrop Grumman won a $34.7 million ordering agreement, which provides non-recurring engineering for requirements development and systems engineering technical reviews and certification planning; initial requirements change requests; procurement strategy source selection package; performance based navigation certification plan; initial system safety; cyber; program protection and exportability analysis; integrated master schedule; and other associated technical deliverables in support of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye cockpit redesign. Operating from an altitude more than 25,000ft high, the Hawkeye alerts the naval task force to approaching air threats, while also providing threat identification and positional data to fighter aircraft such as F-14 Tomcats. The next-generation E-2D Advanced Hawkeye has a new radar system, theatre missile defense capabilities, multi-sensor integration and a Northrop Grumman Navigation Systems tactical glass cockpit. Work will take place in Melbourne, Florida and Patuxent River, Maryland. Expected completion will be in January, 2022.
Northrop Grumman’s E-2C Hawkeye is a carrier-capable “mini-AWACS” aircraft, designed to give long-range warning of incoming aerial threats. Secondary roles include strike command and control, land and maritime surveillance, search and rescue, communications relay, and even civil air traffic control during emergencies. E-2C Hawkeyes began replacing previous Hawkeye versions in 1973. They fly from USN and French carriers, from land bases in the militaries of Egypt, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan; and in a drug interdiction role for the US Naval Reserve. Over 200 Hawkeyes have been produced.
The $17.5 billion E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program aims to build 75 new aircraft with significant radar, engine, and electronics upgrades in order to deal with a world of stealthier cruise missiles, saturation attacks, and a growing need for ground surveillance as well as aerial scans. It looks a lot like the last generation E-2C Hawkeye 2000 upgrade on the outside – but inside, and even outside to some extent, it’s a whole new aircraft.