Aug 25, 2015 00:50 UTC
Belgium's four NH90 NFH
naval helicopter fleet have achieved Initial Operating Capability
, eight years after they were ordered in May 2007
through a mixed order for ten NH90 helicopters. Three of the country's four helicopters have now entered service, with a fourth scheduled to join them in early 2016.
NH90: TTH & NFH
The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NH Industries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.
The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60 Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.
As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at around 500 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.
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Aug 19, 2015 00:11 UTC
The mistake earlier this month
involving the accidental insertion of chemicals into the fuel system of the KC-46A
tanker has officially delayed
the aircraft's first flight by a month. The tanker will now see its first flight in late-September or early October, with the program's original timetable calling for this flight to have taken place last year, with this pushed back to April and then again to late August, before this latest setback.
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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Aug 06, 2015 00:15 UTC
With the delivery of a third Airbus A400M
transporter to the Royal Air Force in July
, the UK's Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has begun construction
of a new maintenance facility for the fleet. The $65.7 million project at RAF Brize Norton is slated for completion next year, with the RAF expecting the delivery of nineteen more A400Ms.
A400M rollout, Seville
Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition.
Airbus’ biggest program issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as a combination of A400M delays and Lockheed’s strong push for its C-130J Super Hercules narrow the field for future exports. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into the delivery phase. Will Airbus’ 3rd big issue become its own customers?
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Jul 30, 2015 01:30 UTC
Boeing has ended its contract with state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, citing
shoddy production quality of HAL-manufactured components for India's P-8I Poseidon
maritime patrol aircraft under construction by Boeing, as well as components for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
. The $4.7 million contract in question was signed in February 2010
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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Jul 22, 2015 00:55 UTC
In a characteristic set-back, India's Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)
will see its Final Operating Clearance delayed
until next year. The schedule has slipped consistently for the indigenous fighter, with FOC previously pushed back to December this year. The Indian Defense Ministry has blamed the delays on late delivery of components from foreign manufacturers
; however the program also came under severe criticism from the Indian government's principal oversight body in May
, with the aircraft's performance in question after over three decades of development. The new FOC for the aircraft is now reported to be timetabled for March 2016
India’s Light Combat Aircraft program is meant to boost its aviation industry, but it must also solve a pressing military problem. The IAF’s fighter strength has been declining as the MiG-21s that form the bulk of its fleet are lost in crashes, or retired due to age and wear. Most of India’s other Cold War vintage aircraft face similar problems.
In response, some MiG-21s have been modernized to MiG-21 ‘Bison’ configuration, and other current fighter types are undergoing modernization programs of their own. The IAF’s hope is that they can maintain an adequate force until the multi-billion dollar 126+ plane MMRCA competition delivers replacements, and more SU-30MKIs arrive from HAL. Which still leaves India without an affordable fighter solution. MMRCA can replace some of India’s mid-range fighters, but what about the MiG-21s? The MiG-21 Bison program adds years of life to those airframes, but even so, they’re likely to be gone by 2020.
That’s why India’s own Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project is so important to the IAF’s future prospects. It’s also why India’s rigid domestic-only policies are gradually being relaxed, in order to field an operational and competitive aircraft. Even with that help, the program’s delays are a growing problem for the IAF. Meanwhile, the west’s near-abandonment of the global lightweight fighter market opens a global opportunity, if India can seize it with a compelling and timely product.
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Jul 09, 2015 01:00 UTC
India is reportedly engaged in talks
with Russia over a possible nuclear submarine leasing agreement. The topic is scheduled to be included on a list of topics to be discussed between India's Modi and Vladimir Putin when the Indian PM visits Moscow next week. It is likely that instead of leasing a third Akula-class attack sub from the Russians to complement the existing leased subs
, the Modi government will look to lease a more modern Yasen-class sub
, or a customized variant of a different class. Russia recently announced that it will upgrade
its own Akula-class
fleet, also recently laying-down
a fifth Yasen-class boat.
India’s submarine fleet currently consists of 16 boats: 10 Russian SSK Kilo (Sindhugosh) Class, 4 locally built SSK U209 (Shishumar) Class, a leased nuclear-powered Improved Akula Class SSN from Russia (INS Chakra), and its own INS Arihant SSBN. Most of the Kilos have been modernized, but readiness rates for India’s existing submarine fleet sits below 40%, and the U209s will have trouble lasting much beyond 2015. With Pakistan acquiring modern submarines, and Chinese submarine building exploding, expanding India’s submarine fleet became an obvious national priority.
In 2005, India confirmed that it would buy 6 Franco-Spanish Scorpene diesel submarines, with an option for 6 more and extensive technology transfer agreements. Unfortunately, 7 years after that deal was signed, “Project 75″ has yet to field a single submarine. A poor Indian procurement approach, and state-run inefficiency, are pushing the country’s entire submarine force toward an aging crisis. This DID FOCUS article covers the Scorpene deal and its structure, adds key contracts and new developments, and offers insights into the larger naval picture within and beyond India.
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