Latest updates[?]: General Atomics won a $25.2 million delivery order, which procures Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) Depot Planning Phase II efforts, including depot level logistics support analysis, engineering support for logistics, supportability analysis, maintenance planning, reliability maintenance, technical manual development and engineering support as it directly correlates to depot planning for the USS Gerald Ford (CVN 78) and USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79). More than 99 percent of the work on this contract will be performed in San Diego, with one-tenth of one percent of work on the contract taking place in Tupelo, Mississippi. Expected completion date is February 2022.
As the US Navy continues to build its new CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class carriers, few technologies are as important to their success as the next-generation EMALS (Electro-MAgnetic Launch System) catapult. The question is whether that technology will be ready in time, in order to avoid either costly delays to the program – or an even more costly redesign of the first ship of class.
Current steam catapult technology is very entertaining when it launches cars more than 100 feet off of a ship, or gives naval fighters the extra boost they need to achieve flight speed within a launch footprint of a few hundred feet. It’s also stressful for the aircraft involved, very maintenance intensive, and not really compatible with modern gas turbine propulsion systems. At present, however, steam is the only option for launching supersonic jet fighters from carrier decks. EMALS aims to leap beyond steam’s limitations, delivering significant efficiency savings, a more survivable system, and improved effectiveness. This free-to-view spotlight article covers the technology, the program, and its progress to date.
Latest updates[?]: 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.
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.
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[?]: Vedomosti is reporting that Vietnam has placed an order for at least 12 Yak-130 jet trainers. The contract is reportedly worth $350 million. The article added that the jets will be assigned to the 915th aviation training regiment. Previously, at the International Air and Marine Exhibition (LIMA-2017), the Vietnamese high-level military delegation had visited the site of the Yak-130 combat training ground. This is the type of aircraft that has been rumored by the Russian and international media that Vietnam is planning to buy. The Yak-130 combat trainer was selected as the winner of the trainer competition of the Voyenno Vozdushnyye Sily, Russian Federation Air Force, in April 2002. The aircraft is also actively marketed for export by Yakovlev, the Irkut company, and by Rosoboronexport. The Yak-130 is of classical swept-wing and empennage monoplane design and light alloy construction with carbon-fibre control surfaces. Kevlar armour protection is fitted to the engines, cockpit and avionics compartment.
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…
Latest updates[?]: Northrop Grumman won a $217.2 million modification, which provides for Battlefield Airborne Communications Node payload operation and support for payload equipment and services. Under the contract, Northrup Grumman will support payload equipment and services for the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, a US Air Force relay and gateway system carried by the EQ-48 and Bombardier E-11A aircraft. The node enables real-time information flow across the battlespace in line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight operations. Work will take place in San Diego and at undisclosed overseas locations, with an expected completion date of January 23, 2021.
In late June 2009, the USAF awarded Northrop Grumman Defense Mission Systems Inc., of San Diego, CA an urgent requirement contract for its Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) System. Under current plans, Northrop Grumman will help the USAF deploy BACN in up to 4 “E-11” Bombardier BD-700 Global Express (see also BACN-modified photo) ultra-long-range business jets, and in up to 4 EQ-4B Global Hawk Block 20 UAVs, for sustained deployment through 2015.
BACN is an airborne communications relay that extends communications ranges, bridges between radio frequencies, and “translates” among incompatible communications systems. That may sound trivial, but on a tactical level, it definitely isn’t.
Latest updates[?]: South Korea is participating in Exercise Sea Dragon for the first time, it dispatched a P-3C to Guam. South Korea had previously sent observers to the exercise. The Exercise Sea Dragon began on Monday and will last through the end January. Sea Dragon also involves Australia and New Zealand. It was designed to enhance the countries' maritime patrol relationship and build anti-submarine warfare proficiency, according to the officials. It is the first time that South Korea partook in this exercise, a Navy official said, adding the Navy sent its P-3C patrol aircraft. The exercise comes amid concern that North Korea could launch an advanced type of submarine-launched ballistic missile. The communist country fired a Pukguksong-3 SLBM in October 2019 as the latest such test and pledged earlier this year to show off a "new strategic weapon" in the near future.
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[?]: Raytheon won a $442.3 million deal for the force element terminal (FET) development effort. The contract provides for the design, development, testing, integration, and logistical support of a FET system that will transition the B-52 and RC-135 hardened communication terminals from the Military Strategic Tactical Relay satellite communications satellite constellation to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite constellation. According to the US Air Force’s latest strategic bomber guidance document, the B-52H Stratofortress are no longer approved to carry nuclear gravity bombs. There have long been concerns that the B-52 lacks the capability to penetrate modern air defenses to deliver a nuclear strike with gravity bombs. The B-52 Stratofortress entered into service in the 1950s. With the Cold War in full swing, the bomber became an integral part of the US’ nuclear deterrent as a part of the Nuclear Triad, alongside intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-armed submarines. Decades later the aircraft is still integral in this role. Boeing RC-135 is a four engine, medium weight reconnaissance aircraft designed and manufactured by Boeing Defence and Integrated Systems for the USAF. Work will take place at Raytheon's facilities in Marlborough, Massachusetts; and Largo, Florida, and is expected to be completed by August 2023.
Nimrod R1 & E-3D AWACS
Land and sea surveillance, and electronic surveillance, are missions no government can ignore. To keep its capabilities, Great Britain launched a parallel set of efforts to update its Nimrod fleet. One multi-billion pound program sought to upgrade 12 of its unique Nimrod Mk2 maritime patrol aircraft to Nimrod MRA4 status. The other effort, named Project HELIX, sought to keep its related Nimrod R1 electronic and signals intelligence/ relay aircraft fleet flying until 2025.
Both failed. The Nimrod MR2 fleet was retired in 2010, with several almost-complete MRA4s scrapped, leaving Britain with no long-range maritime surveillance aircraft. The first sign of trouble for the Nimrod R1s was an October 2008 DSCA request, conveying Britain’s official $1+ billion request to field 3 RC-135V/W Rivet Joint ELINT/SIGINT aircraft. That, too, became final, and the R1s will now leave service in 2011 – to be replaced by a joint RAF/USAF “Airseeker” program centered on the RC-135W Rivet Joint.
Latest updates[?]: Jane’s reports that Iraq received its final Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50IQ Fighting Eagle light fighter and trainer aircraft. This delivery of the 24th T-50IQ marks the end of the six-year procurement process that was launched in December 2013. The Iraq Air Force fields the twin-seat T-50IQ primarily as a lead-in fighter trainer for its 36 Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters. The aircraft can be armed with air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, machine guns and precision-guided bombs.
TA-50 drops tank
Iraq may be on track to become the first export customer for South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle family of supersonic jet trainers and lightweight fighters. But the KAI/Lockheed Martin plane ran into a familiar set of international competitors, plus one dark horse contender. In the end, the dark horse won. Iraq will begin flying Czech L-159s in 2013, and begin receiving the main body of the order in 2014.
Iraq’s basic trainer purchase was Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6 Texan II, but a jet trainer is required as an interim step between the T-6 and more advanced planes like the F-16s that Iraq is buying. DJ Elliott of ISF Order of Battle says that South Korea’s TA-50 was suggested in fall 2007 to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, by MNSTC-I’s Coalition Air Force Transition Team. Other contenders can also be equipped as light attack jets, albeit without the same loaded supersonic capabilities. Iraq evidently decided that was good enough.
Latest updates[?]: Taiwan will be upgrading the avionics of its C-130H fleet and it is likely that the Rockwell Collins Flight2 system will form the core of the upgrade. National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology will be the project manager and Air Asia plus Canada’s Cascade will be carrying out the upgrades. Taiwan’s Republic of China Air Force has purchased 20 C-130Hs from the United States Air Force. Flight2 is built on architecture compliant with Communications, Navigation, Surveillance and Air Traffic Management Systems (CNS/ATM), supportable and sustainable to meet existing and future aviation mandate requirements.
Despite China’s ominous military buildup across the strait, key weapons sales of P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, Patriot PAC-3 missiles, and diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan had been sabotaged by Taiwanese politics for years – in some cases, since 1997. The KMT party’s flip-flops and determined stalling tactics eventually created a crisis in US-Taiwan relations, which finally soured to the point that the USA refused a Taiwanese request for F-16C/D aircraft.
That seems to have brought things to a head. Most of the budget and political issues were eventually sorted out, and after a long delay, some major elements of Taiwan’s requested modernization program appear to be moving forward: P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, UH-60M helicopters, Patriot missile upgrades; and requests for AH-64D attack helicopters, E-2 Hawkeye AWACS planes, minehunting ships, and missiles for defense against aircraft, ships, and tanks. These are must-have capabilities when facing a Chinese government that has vowed to take the country by force, and which is building an extensive submarine fleet, a large array of ballistic missiles, an upgraded fighter fleet, and a number of amphibious-capable divisions. Chinese pressure continues to stall some of Taiwan’s most important upgrades, including diesel-electric submarines, and new American fighter jets. Meanwhile, other purchases from abroad continue.
Latest updates[?]: The US Navy awarded IAP Worldwide a $84.6 million contract modification, which exercises an option to provide logistics services in support of the E-6B aircraft and the requirement for parts industry management and support equipment maintenance for the E-6B aircraft. The Navy's E-6B Mercury is based on a Boeing 707 commercial plane. The aircraft is part of the Navy's "Take Charge and Move Out" community. The USA’s E-6 Mercury “survivable airborne communication system” airplanes support their Navy’s SSBN ballistic missile submarine force and overall strategic forces. Work will take place in Oklahoma, Nebraska, California and Maryland and is scheduled to be finished 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[?]: Northrop Grumman Systems won a $495 million contract for the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft. This contract provides for modernization and sustainment of 16 mission and one trainer aircraft. The deal will support the current JSTARS Program Office and Air Combat Command projections of improvements to increase or maintain E-8C performance, capability, reliability, and maintainability. The JSTARS is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with situational awareness to support military operations. In 2015, team JSTARS set a major milestone when they surpassed 100,000-combat flying hours in support of the US Central Command while flying the E-8C Joint STARS out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Northrop will perform work at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia; and Melbourne, Florida, and is expected to be completed by Sept. 26, 2024.
E-8C JSTARS: Before
The USA’s E-8 JSTARS is a Boeing 707-300 derivative that provides a picture of the ground situation analogous to the E-3 AWACS’ picture of the air situation. JSTARS aircraft use their radars to determine the direction, speed and patterns of military activity of ground vehicles, helicopters, and even groups of people. They then send this information via secure data links with air force command posts, army mobile ground stations and centers of military analysis around the world.
These surveillance and communications relay capabilities are somewhat unique, and have proven extremely useful in a series of conflicts from Desert Storm in 1991 to the present day. Europe originally intended to field a similar, smaller AGS aircraft based on the Airbus A321, but that project has now been cut to a small fleet of RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs. With the Global Hawk limited by its payload capacity, and the USA’s E-10A program canceled, the USA’s 17-aircraft operational JSTARS fleet is likely to remain very popular for some time to come. The question is how to keep that fleet relevant, flying, and allocated among all of the units clamoring for their attention.