Latest updates[?]: JoongAng Ilbo has found out that the recent equipment upgrades at the THAAD site in Seongju, South Korea was to allow its AN/TPY-2 radar to guide PAC-3 interceptors launched remotely. The South Korean government had said the upgrading exercise was merely to replace old THAAD missiles with new ones. With the upgrade, 100 Patriot launchers in South Korea can be directed by the THAAD’s radar. It was reported a few days ago that the United States Forces Korea have shipped a new batch of THAAD interceptors to the site at Seongju on May 28. These missiles are of the same type as existing ones which require replacement as the internal components are expiring soon. The operation took nearly one day and ended on Friday. Usually, parts were flown in but this time, the equipment were too heavy to be airlifted. The THAAD site in South Korea has six launchers with eight interceptors each.
THAAD: In flight
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is a long-range, land-based theater defense weapon that acts as the upper tier of a basic 2-tiered defense against ballistic missiles. It’s designed to intercept missiles during late mid-course or final stage flight, flying at high altitudes within and even outside the atmosphere. This allows it to provide broad area coverage against threats to critical assets such as population centers and industrial resources as well as military forces, hence its previous “theater (of operations) high altitude area defense” designation.
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[?]: British Chinook 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.
Latest updates[?]: 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.
Latest updates[?]: 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.
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.
Latest updates[?]: General Dynamics Electric Boat won a $60.6 million contract to provide US Trident II Strategic Weapon System (SWS) ship alterations and United Kingdom SWS ship alterations for Strategic Systems Program shipboard integration installations. The Trident missile is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) equipped with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV). Originally developed by Lockheed Missiles and Space Corporation, the missile is armed with thermonuclear warheads and is launched from nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). Trident missiles are carried by fourteen United States Navy Ohio-class submarines, with American warheads, as well as four Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarines, with British warheads. The missile is named after the mythological trident of Neptune. Work will take place Washington, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Scotland and England. Estimated completion will be by April 2024.
Trident II D5 Test Launch
Nuclear tipped missiles were first deployed on board US submarines at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s, to deter a Soviet first strike. The deterrence theorists argued that, unlike their land-based cousins, submarine-based nuclear weapons couldn’t be taken out by a surprise first strike, because the submarines were nearly impossible to locate and target. Which meant that Soviet leaders could not hope to destroy all of America’s nuclear weapons before they could be launched against Soviet territory. SLBM/FBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile/ Fleet Ballistic Missile) offered shorter ranges and less accuracy than their land-based ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) counterparts, but the advent of Trident C4 missiles began extending those ranges, and offering other improvements. The C4s were succeeded by larger Trident II D5 missiles, which added precision accuracy and more payload.
The year that the Trident II D5 ballistic missile was first deployed, 1990, saw the beginning of the end of the missile’s primary mission. Even as the Soviet Union began to implode, the D5’s performance improvements were making the Trident submarine force the new backbone of the USA’s nuclear deterrent – and of Britain’s as well. To ensure that this capability was maintained at peak readiness and safety, the US Navy undertook a program in 2002 to replace aging components of the Trident II D5 missile called the D5 Life Extension (LE) Program. This article covers D5 LE, as well as support and production contracts associated with the American and British Trident missile fleets.
Latest updates[?]: Clark Construction Group won a $78.2 million contract modification, which provides for the construction of the VC-25B hangar complex at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. The VC-25B, the next Air Force One, is a program to design, test and deliver two aircraft replacing the current VC-25A. The V-25B is to be retrofitted so that the president of the USA can run the federal government, including commanding and controlling the US military, while in flight. As such, detailed information about the aircraft’s components and capabilities are classified or tightly controlled. The aircraft also is likely to include missile warning systems and defensive technologies, such as chaff dispensing systems and directional infrared countermeasures. Work will be performed in Camp Springs, Maryland, and provides for the construction of a hangar complex, an aircraft access taxiway/parking apron, associated lighting, engine run-up pads and a hydrant refueling system with storage tanks. Additional requirements include, but are not limited to, site preparation, wetland/stream mitigation, storm water management, a parking lot, and a fire detection and suppression system. Expected completion will be by April 2022.
Air Force One
The USA’s fleet of 2 “VC-25” 747-200 derivatives is unique in several respects. It’s more popularly known as the latest incarnation of the “Air Force One” fleet that transports the President of the United States around the world, though the planes themselves only acquire the “Air Force One” call sign when the President is on board. The VC-25 can also serve as a secondary command post, thanks to a suite of advanced communications and electronics gear that’s both highly encrypted, and protected from the Electro-Magnetic Pulse effects of nuclear detonations. The 89th Airlift Wing operates them from Andrews AFB, MD.
During the Cold War, if humanity’s time on earth had been cut short, at least one of the orders would almost certainly have come from a 707-based “VC-137” predecessor. The 747-based VC-25s were ordered in 1985, and added to the fleet in 1990, where they continue to serve in the same roles, flying an average of nearly 200,000 miles per year. Of course, maintenance and upgrades are still required, such as the 2002/2003 upgrades that let the President address the nation from on board, new defensive systems, etc…
Latest updates[?]: CAE USA-Mission Solutions won a $10.6 million modification for the F-15E, F-16 and F-22A contract aircrew training and courseware development contract. The contract modification is for exercising Option Year Three. The Boeing F-15E dual-role fighter is an advanced long-range interdiction fighter and tactical aircraft. The F-15E is the latest version of the Eagle, a Mach 2.5-class twin-engine fighter. The F-16 and the F-15 Eagle were the world’s first aircraft able to withstand higher g-forces than the pilots. The F-16 Fighting Falcon entered service in 1979. The F-22A Raptor is an advanced tactical fighter aircraft developed for the US Air Force. It entered service with the USAF in December 2005 to replace the F-15, with emphasis on agility, stealth and range. Work under the contract modification is expected to be finished by April 1, 2020.
Into that good night
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.
This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.
Latest updates[?]: General Dynamics Bath Iron Works won a $7.7 million contract modification to exercise options for the accomplishment of planning yard efforts such as engineering, technical, planning, ship configuration, data and logistics efforts for DDG 1000 Class destroyers post-delivery and in-service life-cycle support. Zumwalt is the lead ship of the class of modern generation multi-mission destroyers designed to strengthen naval power from the sea. The DDG 1000 ship self-defense combat system, Zumwalt Combat System, consists of several programs including total Ship Computing Environment (TSCE) and Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) with tracker and sensor data fusion and distribution system. DDG 1000 will employ active and passive sensors and a Multi-Function Radar (MFR) capable of conducting area air surveillance, including over-land search and track, throughout the extremely difficult and cluttered sea-land interface. Work will take place in Maine and California and expected completion will be in December 2020.
67% of the fleet
DID’s FOCUS Article for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class “destroyer” program covers the new ships’ capabilities and technologies, key controversies, associated contracts and costs, and related background resources.
The ship’s prime missions are to provide naval gunfire support, and next-generation air defense, in near-shore areas where other large ships hesitate to tread. There has even been talk of using it as an anchor for action groups of stealthy Littoral Combat Ships and submarines, owing to its design for very low radar, infrared, and acoustic signatures. The estimated 14,500t (battlecruiser size) Zumwalt Class will be fully multi-role, however, with undersea warfare, anti-ship, and long-range attack roles. That makes the DDG-1000 suitable for another role – as a “hidden ace card,” using its overall stealth to create uncertainty for enemy forces.
True, or False?
At over $3 billion per ship for construction alone, however, the program faced significant obstacles if it wanted to avoid fulfilling former Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter’s fears for the fleet. From the outset, DID has noted that the Zumwalt Class might face the same fate as the ultra-sophisticated, ultra-expensive SSN-21 Seawolf Class submarines. That appears to have come true, with news of the program’s truncation to just 3 ships. Meanwhile, production continues.