Jan 22, 2018 04:58 UTC
A joint Qatari-UK operational squadron will be formed
to help police the skies during the Gulf state's hosting of World Cup 2022. The announcement was made by Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah during his speech at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London last week, with the agreement made last month as part of the UK's support and training package within Qatar’s Eurofighter
procurement program. Qatar's World Cup bid and preparations have been shrouded in criticism, which have been made worse by its neighbors enforcing a blockade and cutting off ties which included earlier offers of providing hotels and training facilities—Iran is now believed to be in talks tofill this void
—while some allege
that governing body FIFA, received bribes from the Qataris to help bring the competition to a state with little soccer culture.
The multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon has been described as the aerodynamic apotheosis of lessons learned from the twin engine “teen series” fighters that began with the F-14 and F-15, continued with the emergence of the F/A-18 Hornet, and extended through to the most recent F/A-18 Super Hornet variants. Aerodynamically, it’s a half generation ahead of all of these examples, and planned evolutions will place the Eurofighter near or beyond parity in electronic systems and weapons.
The 1998 production agreement among its 4 member countries involved 620 aircraft, built with progressively improved capabilities over 3 contract “tranches”. By the end of Tranche 2, however, welfare state programs and debt burdens had made it difficult to afford the 236 fighters remaining in the 4-nation Eurofighter agreement. A 2009 compromise was found in the EUR 9 billion “Tranche 3A” buy, and the program has renewed its efforts to secure serious export sales. Their success will affect the platform’s production line in the near term, and its modernization plans beyond that.
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Jan 19, 2018 04:58 UTC
Airbus made its first A400M Atlas
transporter delivery of 2018 with the number of deliveries of the Atlas made by the firm now standing at 56. The aircraft was delivered to the German Air Force
, bringing to 15 the total number now operated by Berlin out of a total order of 53 units ordered. Airbus also confirmed that a total of 19 A400Ms were delivered in 2017, the highest annual output since the program commenced deliveries in 2013, with the firm now holding a backlog of 118 aircraft to current European operators plus fellow program partners Belgium and Luxembourg. It also continues to market the type to a range of potential export customers.
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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Jan 18, 2018 04:58 UTC
Poland has invited Italian aerospace giant Leonardo to participate in negotiations for a further delivery of M-346 Master
advanced jet trainers, Jane's has reported
. Eight Masters were originally ordered by Warsaw under a 2014 contract, and it is expected the next batch will have a firm order for 4 trainers—to be delivered by 2020—with options for a further four by 2022. Deliveries of the first batch of Masters commenced in November 2016, after a lengthy preparatory phase
which saw Polish pilots trained at Lecce-Galatina airbase, where the Italian Air Force's flight school is based, as well as delays caused by problems with the aircraft'sEmbedded Tactical Training System.
Tornado refuels M346
Alenia’s Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer began life in 1993, as a collaboration with Russia. It was also something of a breakthrough for Alenia Aermacchi, confirming that the Finmeccanica subsidiary could design and manufacture advanced aircraft with full authority quadriplex fly-by-wire controls. Those controls, the aircraft’s design for vortex lift aerodynamics, and a thrust:weight ratio of nearly 1:1, allow it to remain fully controllable even at angles of attack over 35 degrees. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Not to mention Sukhoi’s SU-30 family, which has made a name for itself at international air shows with remarkable nose-high maneuvers.
The Russian collaboration did not last. For a while, it looked like the Italian jet might not last, either. It did though, and has become a regular contender for advanced jet trainer trainer contracts around the world. Its biggest potential opportunity is in the USA. For now, however, its biggest customer is Israel.
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Jan 16, 2018 04:59 UTC
Three of the four NH90
NATO frigate helicopter (NFH) delivered to Belgium have reported defective radars
, the Belgian Air Force has revealed. Purchased in 2015 at a cost of €35 million each, the helicopters were scheduled to replace the older Sea King helicopters for sea-rescue operations once the Sea Kings went out of service in 2019. The replacement of the defective radars is expected to take between three and six months, however, some reports suggest that each helicopter could be out for as long as 18 months, leaving only one model operational for four helicopter teams.
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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Jan 12, 2018 04:59 UTC
South Korea's Marine Corps has received delivery
of its first two MUH-1 multi-role utility helicopters. Based on KAI's KUH-1 Surion
, the new variant has been cleverly/lazily dubbed the Marineon—Marine, Surion, Marineon, get it?—and features an external fuel tank, specialized radio equipment, flotation devices, as well as a folding main rotor that will allow the helicopter to operate from Dokdo-class amphibious assault ships. 32 units have been ordered as part of efforts to create an independent aviation unit for the marines, while an additional eight will go to the South Korea's navy. Deliveries are expected to continue to until 2023, at least.
South Korea currently owns around 700 helicopters, but more than half are considered outdated, and they need to be replaced. December 2005 marked the endgame for a South Korean competition to produce about 245 utility transport helicopters, which would be developed and produced as a semi-indigenous program. The KHP/ Surion is in the 8-tonne class, and is designed to carry 11 troops. Industrial offsets were also important, as the program is designed to boost Korea’s ability to design and build its own rotary-wing aircraft. EADS Eurocopter was chosen as the cooperating partner.
The Korean government gave its final approval of the contract in June 2006, and the project is underway. Note that while company releases place the program’s value at $6-8 billion, the program hasn’t reached that level yet. The initial contract was for KRW 1.3 trillion ($1.3 billion), and is for research and development only. That development finished in April 2013, and the main production contract is next. It will proceed in parallel with additional contracts to develop Surion specialty versions for Korea’s federal police and Marine Corps, and all of these models will be offered for export through a joint venture with Eurocopter.
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Jan 11, 2018 12:58 UTC
US Navy and Australian government P-8A Poseidon
maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) will have integrated logistics services and site activation support provided by the aircraft's manufacturer Boeing, following the award of a $115.2 million contract modification
issued by the Naval Air Systems Command. The majority of the work will take place in Seattle, Washington and at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with some work being carried out in Brisbane, Australia. Scheduled completion is set for September 2021. Under a joint agreement, the new modified contract combines purchases for the US Navy and Australia. The Pentagon is expected to pay out more than $103.3 million, or what amounts to 90 percent of the total contract value, under a cooperative engagement agreement.
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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Jan 08, 2018 04:59 UTC
The US Army began a process on Thursday
to award Airbus a contract for 35 additional UH-72 Lakota
helicopters. In a “sources sought” notice published by the Army’s utility helicopter project management office, the service did mention that as Airbus owns the technical data to the helicopter, any potential competitor would have to acquire the data from the OEM to build the twin-engined aircraft. 400 UH-72s have been delivered by Airbus to the Army since 2006, with units assembled at a factory in Columbus, Mississippi, after major components are built in Europe. The army’s approved budget in Fiscal 2017 contains funds to buy 23 UH-72As, so up to another 12 could be purchased later, thus guaranteeing jobs at the factory for the time being.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This is DID’s FOCUS Article regarding the US Army’s Light Utility Helicopter program, covering the program and its objectives, the winning bid team and industrial arrangements, and contracts.
The US Army’s LUH program will finish as a 325 helicopter acquisition program that will be worth about $2.3 billion when all is said and done. It aimed to replace existing UH-1 Hueys and OH-58 Kiowa utility variants in non-combat roles, freeing up larger and more expensive UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for front-line duty. In June 2006, a variant of Eurocopter’s EC145 beat AgustaWestland’s AB139, Bell-Textron’s 412EP Twin Huey, and MD Helicopters’ 902 Explorer NOTAR (No Tail Rotor) design. The win marked EADS’ 1st serious military win in the American market, and their “UH-145” became the “UH-72A Lakota” at an official December 2006 naming ceremony.
Eurocopter has continued to field new mission kits and deliver helicopters from its Mississippi production line, while trying to build on their LUH breakthrough. A training helicopter win will keep the line going for a couple more years…
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Dec 28, 2017 04:55 UTC
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) has received
a request for proposals (RFP) for 83 Tejas Mk-1A light combat aircraft (LCA
)for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The RFP comes following the November 2016 clearance for funds for the program by India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), with firm orders expected to be placed in late 2018. The Mk-1A variant offers a significantly modified version of the initial Tejas Mk-1 aircraft, and will come equipped with the Israeli Elta 2052 AESA radar, podded Electronic Warfare (EW) suite and Cobham in-flight refuelling probe. Also in the mix are the addition of new air-to-air missiles and precision munitions, in addition to the R-73 and Rafael Derby BVRAAM, already integrated on Tejas Mk-1 aircraft.
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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Dec 27, 2017 04:56 UTC
Work is to begin on producing Japan's first KC-46
tanker aircraft, following the $289 million USAF firm-fixed-price contract
awarded to Boeing to deliver one unit to Tokyo. The contract provides for non-recurring engineering, integrated logistics support and one KC-46A aircraft and is a 100 percent foreign military sale (FMS) to the Japanese government. Work will take place in Seattle, Washington with delivery to the JASDF to take place by February 28, 2021. Once delivered, the KC-46 will add a significant boost
to Japan's aerial refueling capabilities, adding to the current fleet of four KC-767J tankers.
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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Dec 20, 2017 04:59 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Bell Helicopter's V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft flew for the first time
on December 18, at a Bell facility in Amarillo, Texas. Monday's test saw the helicopter perform a low hover for up to 20 minutes, and follows a series of ground trials conducted since the the completion of the prototype build in September. The Valor prototype has been developed as one of two different demonstrator aircraft—the other being the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant coaxial helicopter—as part of the US Army's Joint Multi-Role demonstrator program
, and will pave the way for informing and shaping the design of a Future Vertical Lift helicopter fleet expected to hit the skies in the 2030s. The Defiant, which has experienced manufacturing issues with the complex rotor blades that make up the helicopter’s coaxial design, is expected to fly in the fist half of 2018.
The future is now
The JMR-TD program is the science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense’s estimated $100 billion Future Vertical Lift program, which is expected to replace between 2,000-4,000 medium class UH-60 utility and AH-64 attack helicopters after 2030.
In reality, FVL will fall far short of that number if it ever goes ahead, but those figures are the current official fantasy. While they’re at it, the Pentagon wants breakthrough performance that includes the same hovering capability as smaller armed scout helicopters, and a 100+ knot improvement in cruising speed to 230+ knots. That’s almost certainly achievable, thanks to new developments that involve very different helicopter designs.
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