May 28, 2020 04:56 UTC
A US Navy P-8A flying in the Eastern Mediterranean on May 26 was intercepted
by two Russian Su-35 fighters. The intercept was deemed unsafe by the Americans as the two fighters were flying close underneath the wings of the maritime patrol aircraft. Russian pilots flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner while intercepting a US Navy P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea, US 6th Fleet said. The intercept the third such incident in two months, Navy officials said. The US Navy P-8A
was flying over international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea when it was intercepted by two armed Russian Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft. For 65 minutes, the Russian pilots simultaneously flew close to each wing of the P-8A, restricting the P-8A’s ability to safely maneuver, according to a Navy statement.
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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May 26, 2020 04:58 UTC
The US Navy completed
its investigation into the fatal crash of a VFA-151 F/A-18E
which killed the pilot on July 31, 2019. Lt. Cmdr. Charles Z. Walker was navigating through the Star Wars canyon in California’s Death Valley National Park when his jet slammed into a wall not far from seven French tourists. The report stated that the “flight profile created conditions where the processing time and subsequent reaction time required of the pilot made it difficult for the aircraft to exit the canyon safely.” Walker was not current in low altitude training and he was required to fly at least 500 feet above ground level. Investigators also did not find evidence that Walker was flying at a low altitude for thrills. All seven French tourists suffered burns from the fire started by the crash.
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.
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May 25, 2020 04:56 UTC
Three US senators called on the Government Accountability Office on May 22 to investigate delays keeping the KC-46
military aircraft from use in missions. In a letter
James Lankford, Janne Shaheen, and Maggie Hassan demanded "periodic assessments" of the progress made by builder Boeing to fix longstanding problems of the cargo and refueling plane, notably its refueling boom and its rearward-facing remote vision system. In addition, the plane was prone to cargo locks becoming unlocked while mid-flight. Also, inspections have found tools, rubbish, leftover parts and loose fittings in planes delivered by Boeing since January 2019.
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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May 22, 2020 04:56 UTC
Austal USA won an $8.2 million contract
modification for Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)
industrial post-delivery support for LCS 26. Austal USA will provide shipboard support to implement approved engineering change proposals, approved government-responsible deficiencies identified during test and trials, crew-related activities and preventative maintenance. Austal will also provide program management support and logistics support for technical documentation affected by the work performed. LCS 26 will be an Independence Class LCS. Work will take place in Mobile, Alabama and Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Estimated completion will be by March 2021.
Trimaran LCS Design
(click to enlarge)
Exploit simplicity, numbers, the pace of technology development in electronics and robotics, and fast reconfiguration. That was the US Navy’s idea for the low-end backbone of its future surface combatant fleet. Inspired by successful experiments like Denmark’s Standard Flex ships, the US Navy’s $35+ billion “Littoral Combat Ship” program was intended to create a new generation of affordable surface combatants that could operate in dangerous shallow and near-shore environments, while remaining affordable and capable throughout their lifetimes.
It hasn’t worked that way. In practice, the Navy hasn’t been able to reconcile what they wanted with the capabilities needed to perform primary naval missions, or with what could be delivered for the sums available. The LCS program has changed its fundamental acquisition plan 4 times since 2005, and canceled contracts with both competing teams during this period, without escaping any of its fundamental issues. Now, the program looks set to end early. This public-access FOCUS article offer a wealth of research material, alongside looks at the LCS program’s designs, industry teams procurement plans, military controversies, budgets and contracts.
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May 21, 2020 04:56 UTC
The Air Force announced
that its Nuclear Weapons Center is breaking up the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Systems Directorate into two new directorate teams: the Minuteman III
Systems Directorate and the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD, Systems Directorate. "This restructuring is a natural progression of the Air Force's increasing focus on the modernization of the ICBM, the third leg of our strategic nuclear triad," said Maj. Gen. Shaun Morris, AFNWC commander and Air Force program executive officer for strategic systems. The NWC synchronizes all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command in support of Air Force Global Strike Command, with more than 1,300 personnel assigned to 18 locations around the world. The Minuteman III Systems Directorate will be led by Col. Luke Cropsey, currently the ICBM Systems director. The GBSD Systems Directorate will be led by Col. Jason Bartolomei, who is currently the system program manager for GBSD and will continue to serve in that role.
LGM-30G Minuteman III
For 50 years, land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) have been part of the US primary strategic deterrence capability, the nuclear-armed triad that also includes submarine-launched ballistic missiles and long range heavy bombers.
Although the main target for the US deterrent – the Soviet Union – imploded in 1991, other threats – such as nuclear-armed rogue states and non-state actors – have emerged. To address these new threats, the US Air Force undertook a major ICBM modernization program.
To carry out this program, the USAF awarded a 15-year ICBM Prime Integration Contract (F42610-98-C-0001) in 1997 to a team led by Northrop Grumman. Since then, the team, which includes Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and ATK, has been carrying out a major modernization of the ICBM system to ensure its readiness.
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May 20, 2020 04:56 UTC
helicopters have now completed
2000 hours of flying in support of the French military counter insurgency operation in Mali, West Africa. Chinooks began operating in Mali with the French military during July 2018 and since then have moved over one-thousand tonnes of freight and over twelve-thousand passengers. The Chinook helicopters bring a unique logistical capability to the operation, allowing French ground forces to operate more effectively across the region. Currently the helicopters are being flown by aircrew drain from 18(B) Squadron.
CH-47Fs take off
DII FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record; this FOCUS Article covers the CH-47F/MH-47G Chinook helicopter programs, in the USA and abroad. These helicopters’ distinctive “flying banana” twin-rotor design stems from the brilliant work of aviation pioneer Frank Piasecki. It gives Chinooks the ability to adjust their positioning very precisely, while carrying a large airframe whose load capacity has made it the world’s most popular heavy-lift helicopter. The USA expects to be operating Chinooks in their heavy-lift role past 2030.
The CH-47F looks similar to earlier models, but offers a wide range of improvements in almost every aspect of design and performance. While the related HH-47’s $10-15 billion CSAR-X program win was terminated, delivery orders continue for CH-47Fs and for MH-47G Special Forces configuration helicopters. International orders or formal requests have also come in from Australia, Britain, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the UAE, with India and other countries expected to follow.
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May 19, 2020 04:54 UTC
NATO’s Multinational MRTT Fleet will take delivery
of its first two A330
MRTT aircraft next month. The handover is at the Main Operating Base in Eindhoven. The third and fourth aircraft are currently under conversion at the Airbus Defense facilities in Getafe, Madrid. The fifth A330 was flown from Toulouse to Getafe earlier this month. Six countries have signed up for the program to operate 8 aircraft. The contract includes options for 3 more tankers.
Voyager & friends
Back in 2005, Great Britain was considering a public-private partnership to buy, equip, and operate the RAF’s future aerial tanker fleet. The RAF would fly the 14 Airbus A330-MRTT aircraft on operational missions, and receive absolute preferential access to the planes. A private contractor would handle maintenance, receive payment from the RAF on a per-use basis – and operate them as passenger charter or transport aircraft when the RAF didn’t need them.
The deal became politically controversial, and negotiations on the 27-year, multi-billion pound deal charted new territory for both the government, and for private industry. Which may help to explain why a contract to move ahead on a “Private Financing Initiative” basis had yet to be issued, and procurement had yet to begin, over 7 years after the program began. In March 2008, however, Britain issued the world’s largest-ever Defence Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract. This FOCUS Article describes the current British fleet, the aircraft they chose to replace them, how the new fleet will compare, the innovative deal structure they’ve chosen, and ongoing FSTA developments.
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May 19, 2020 04:50 UTC
Raytheon Missiles and Defense won a $17.4 million modification
for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile program. This modification provides for procurement of two new final assembly test sets and upgrade of two existing final assembly test sets. The AMRAAM
system is designed to function as a baseline weapon for the NASAMS missile launcher and engage in air-to-air as well as surface-launch combat. Thirty-seven countries have adopted the weapon to date. Work will take place in Tucson, Arizona. Expected completion date is May 21, 2023.
AIM-120C from F-22A
(click for test missile zoom)
Raytheon’s AIM-120 Advanced, Medium-Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) has become the world market leader for medium range air-to-air missiles, and is also beginning to make inroads within land-based defense systems. It was designed with the lessons of Vietnam in mind, and of local air combat exercises like ACEVAL and Red Flag. This DID FOCUS article covers successive generations of AMRAAM missiles, international contracts and key events from 2006 onward, and even some of its emerging competitors.
One of the key lessons learned from Vietnam was that a fighter would be likely to encounter multiple enemies, and would need to launch and guide several missiles at once in order to ensure its survival. This had not been possible with the AIM-7 Sparrow, a “semi-active radar homing” missile that required a constant radar lock on one target. To make matters worse, enemy fighters were capable of launching missiles of their own. Pilots who weren’t free to maneuver after launch would often be forced to “break lock,” or be killed – sometimes even by a short-range missile fired during the last phases of their enemy’s approach. Since fighters that could carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 tended to be larger and more expensive, and the Soviets were known to have far more fighters overall, this was not a good trade.
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May 15, 2020 04:58 UTC
Sikorsky Aircraft won an $9 million contract modification
, which provides support for the integration and transition of Windows 10 and Server 16 into various VH-92A
training devices. The Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin VH-92 will replace the US Marine Corps VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters that transport the US president, while operating under the name of Marine One. The VH-92 presidential helicopter has an executive interior and military mission support avionics, including triple electrical power and redundant cockpit flight controls. The Navy awarded a $542 million order to Sikorsky last June for six Lot I VH-92A presidential helicopters. Sikorsky will begin deliveries of the first six VH-92A helicopters in 2021. Work will take place Quantico, Virginia and its expected to be finished by October 2022.
In January 2005, the U.S. Navy selected the US101 as the new “Marine One” baseline helicopter, for use by the President of the United States. The US101 is an American variant of AgustaWestland’s successful AW101 multi-mission medium helicopter; it beat out Sikorsky’s S-92 Superhawk, which is already in use as a government VIP transport in countries like South Korea.
That $1.7 billion victory was first endangered, and then destroyed, by ongoing changes from the White House staff. In 2008, the program’s ballooning costs and requirements got a temporary reprieve when US Navy agreed to proceed with the VH-71, despite a cost per aircraft equal or greater than the President’s Air Force One 747s. By June 2009, however, the VH-71 program had shot itself down.
Another round of competition is on the way, and back in 2009 the Pentagon said it was considering buying 2 different helicopters in the VXX follow-on program. Faced with an initial Analysis of Alternatives deemed too expensive, the OSD accepted the Navy’s revised approach in May 2012, setting things in motion for a new program of record.
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May 14, 2020 04:54 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
The Idaho Air National Guard’s 190th Fighter Squadron deployed
to the Middle East on May 11. The personnel left on that day and the A-10s
departed one day later. More than 400 members of the 124th Fighter Wing, based at Gowen Field, will continue to deploy throughout the spring and summer in support of Operations FREEDOM’S SENTINEL, INHERENT RESOLVE and NEW NORMAL. The deployment is the wing’s second largest deployment and includes multiple aircraft, pilots, security forces, maintenance and medical personnel, and various other support staff.
A-10A over Germany
The Precision Engagement modification is the largest single upgrade effort ever undertaken for the USA’s unique A-10 “Warthog” close air support aircraft fleet. While existing A/OA-10 aircraft continue to outperform technology-packed rivals on the battlefield, this set of upgrades is expected to make them more flexible, and help keep the aircraft current until the fleet’s planned phase-out in 2028. When complete, A-10C PE will give USAF A-10s precision strike capability sooner than planned, combining multiple upgrades into 1 time and money-saving program, rather than executing them as standalone projects. Indeed, the USAF accelerated the PE program by 9 months as a result of its experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for the PE program, and for other modifications to the A-10 fleet. It covers the A-10’s battlefield performance and advantages, the elements of the PE program, other planned modifications, related refurbishment efforts to keep the fleet in the air, and the contracts that have been issued each step of the way.
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