Apr 28, 2017 00:56 UTC
Bulgaria's interim government has selected
Saab's JAS-39 Gripen
as the replacement for their aging fleet of MiG-29 fighters. The Swedish jet won out against an offering of second-hand F-16s from Portugal and an Italian offer for the Eurofighter Typhoon. Further discussions with Saab on contract details are scheduled to take place once the new government takes office next month, but it is expected that at least eight aircraft will be procured at a cost of $850 million. This new government will oversee a large military modernisation effort, with plans already approved to purchase new warships as well as a new collection of armored vehicles.
South African JAS-39D
As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defense against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken (“Dragon,” 1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt,” 1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. This record of consistent project success is nothing short of amazing, especially for a country whose population over this period has ranged from 7-9 million people.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for background, news, and contract awards related to the JAS-39 Gripen (“Griffon”), a canard-winged successor to the Viggen and one of the world’s first 4+ generation fighters. Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter? In 2013 a win in Brazil started to answer that question.
Continue Reading… »
Apr 27, 2017 00:54 UTC
Two US F-35As have landed in Estonia
for the first time, in what is being described as a show of NATO solidarity and reinforcement of US commitments to protecting NATO members along Russia's borders. The visit of the Joint Strike Fighters, which flew from UK and spent several hours in Estonia, is part of broader US jet pilot training program across Europe as the NATO alliance seeks to deter Moscow from any possible incursion in the Baltics. Training with the fifth-generation fighters is expected to last several weeks and the F-35 pilots will undergo exercises with other NATO aircraft as well as showcase the fighter's capabilities to allies that are also acquiring F-35 fleets.
F-35B: off probation
The $382 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE) Lightning jet. Lightning II system development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3), with Singapore and Israel as “Security Cooperation Partners,” and Japan as the 1st export customer.
The big question for Lockheed Martin is whether, and when, many of these partner countries will begin placing purchase orders. This updated article has expanded to feature more detail regarding the F-35 program, including contracts, sub-contracts, and notable events and reports during 2012-2013.
Continue Reading… »
Apr 13, 2017 00:55 UTC
An MQ-8C Fire Scout
UAV has been tested onboard
a littoral combat ship (LCS
) for the first time. 37 recovery evolutions were conducted onboard the USS Montgomery over the course of seven days in order to verify the MQ-8C launch and recovery procedures and test interoperability between the unmanned helicopter and the ship. A larger version of the MQ-8B, the "C" variant was given Milestone C status by the Navy earlier this month and will begin initial operational test and evaluation this fall.
MQ-8B Fire Scout
A helicopter UAV is very handy for naval ships, and for armies who can’t always depend on runways. The USA’s RQ/MQ-8 Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Vehicle has blazed a trail of firsts in this area, but its history is best described as “colorful.” The program was begun by the US Navy, canceled, adopted by the US Army, revived by the Navy, then canceled by the Army. Leaving it back in the hands of the US Navy. Though the Army is thinking about joining again, and the base platform is changing.
The question is, can the MQ-8 leverage its size, first-mover contract opportunity, and “good enough” performance into a secure future with the US Navy – and beyond? DID describes these new VTUAV platforms, clarifies the program’s structure and colorful history, lists all related contracts and events, and offers related research materials.
Continue Reading… »
Apr 11, 2017 00:00 UTC
The Navy's USS America has successfully shot down
a UAV with the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM
), during live-fire exercises designed to verify the new amphibious assault ship's defense capabilities. During the test, the UAV posed as an anti-ship missile threat while the RAM utilized its quick-reaction fire-and-forget capabilities to down the drone. The USS America is the first vessel of its class
and is designed to accommodate modern fighters such as the F-35B, alongside other vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) aircraft and helicopters. It will support US Marine Corps aviation requirements, from small-scale contingency operations of an expeditionary strike group, to forcible entry missions in major theaters of war.
Modern U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ships project power and maintain presence by serving as the cornerstone of the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) / Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). LHA/LHD are a key element of the Seapower 21 doctrine pillars of Sea Strike and Sea Basing, transporting, launching, and landing elements of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) via a combination of LCAC hovercraft, amphibious transports and vehicles, helicopters, and aircraft.
Designed to project power and maintain presence, LHA-Replacement (LHA-R, aka. LH-X, and now the New Amphibious Assault Ship or NAAS) large deck amphibious assault ships were slated to replace the US Navy’s 6 LHA-1 Tarawa Class vessels. They are based on the more modern LHD Wasp Class design, with the LHD’s landing craft and well deck removed in favor of more planes and hangar space. While its LHA/LHD predecessors were amphibious assault ships with a secondary aviation element, it’s fair to describe the America Class as escort carriers with a secondary amphibious assault role.
Continue Reading… »
Apr 10, 2017 00:55 UTC
Bell Helicopters is scheduled to deliver
the first three of 12 AH-1Zs
to Pakistan this summer, with the remainder to be delivered next year after being handed over to the US government. Approval for the deal was granted by Washington last April. The sale comes as the company expects the signing of a second export order for the H-1 series UH-1Y Venom utility and AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters in the coming months.
UH-1Y and AH-1Z
by Neville Dawson
The US Marines’ helicopter force is aging at all levels, from banana-shaped CH-46 Sea Knight transports that are far older than their pilots, to the 1980s-era UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters that make up the Corps’ helicopter assault force. While the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey program has staggered along for almost 2 decades under accidents, technical delays, and cost issues, replacement of the USMC’s backbone helicopter assets has languished. Given the high-demand scenarios inherent in the current war, other efforts are clearly required.
Enter the H-1 program, the USMC’s plan to remanufacture older helicopters into new and improved UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopters. The new versions would discard the signature 2-bladed rotors for modern 4-bladed improvements, redo the aircraft’s electronics, and add improved engines and weapons to offer a new level of performance. It seemed simple, but hasn’t quite worked out that way. The H-1 program has encountered its share of delays and issues, but the program survived its review, and continued on into production and deployment.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article covers the H-1 helicopter programs’ rationales and changes, the upgrades involved in each model, program developments and annual budgets, the full timeline of contracts and key program developments, and related research sources.
Continue Reading… »
Apr 07, 2017 00:23 UTC
Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky will proceed with low-rate production of the CH-53K King Stallion
since the helicopter has received a Milestone C status
by a US Defense Acquisition Board review. A total of 200 CH-53Ks are to be acquired by the US Marine Corps. The first six aircraft are under contract and are expected to be delivered starting next year. Long-lead procurement of parts and materials for the first two low-rate initial production helicopters is underway. The King Stallion is capable of lifting three times as much as its predecessor, the CH-53E, and can carry as many as three external loads at the same time.
The U.S. Marines have a problem. They rely on their CH-53E Super Stallion medium-heavy lift helicopters to move troops, vehicles, and supplies off of their ships. But the helicopters are wearing out. Fast. The pace demanded by the Global War on Terror is relentless, and usage rates are 3 times normal. Attrition is taking its toll. Over the past few years, CH-53s have been recalled from “boneyard” storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ, in order to maintain fleet numbers in the face of recent losses and forced retirements. Now, there are no flyable spares left.
Enter the Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program, now known as the CH-53K. It aims to offer notable performance improvements over the CH-53E, in a similar airframe. The question is whether its service entry delay to 2018-2019 will come too late to offset a serious decline in Marine aviation.
Continue Reading… »
Apr 03, 2017 00:57 UTC
Boeing has been awarded a $2.1 billion US Navy contract
to produce 17 P-8A Poseidon
aircraft. Under the agreement, the company will deliver 11 units to the Navy, and five for cooperative partners and as foreign military sales, with completion expected for December 2020. The sale also includes manufacturing orders for long lead parts, obsolescence monitoring, and integrated baseline program management reviews. While the destination of the foreign orders were not included, India and Australia are both primary operators of the aircraft.
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?
Continue Reading… »
Mar 30, 2017 00:56 UTC
Boeing has received a $59 million contract modification
to continue production for the USAF's KC-46
tanker aircraft. The deal will see the company provide interim contracting support, a temporary service conducted in lieu of organic capability for a predetermined time. The deal allows Boeing to defer investment in all or part of required support resources. Work is expected to be complete by March, 2018.
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.
Continue Reading… »
Mar 27, 2017 00:28 UTC
New British Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will not have V-22
tiltrotor aircraft onboard, according to a written parliamentary reply
to Lord West. Lord West, a retired Royal Navy officer and former government minister, had asked if the government was considering the Osprey for use by the state's special forces. In response, the government stated that the aircraft was not part of plans to deliver the UK Carrier Strike capability. However, the MoD will continue to explore a variety of options to augment the capabilities of the carriers.
In March 2008, the Bell Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, TX received a $10.4 billion modification that converted the previous N00019-07-C-0001 advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-fee, multi-year contract. The new contract rose to $10.92 billion, and was used to buy 143 MV-22 (for USMC) and 31 CV-22 (Air Force Special Operations) Osprey aircraft, plus associated manufacturing tooling to move the aircraft into full production. A follow-on MYP-II contract covered another 99 Ospreys (92 MV-22, 7 CV-22) for $6.524 billion. Totals: $17.444 billion for 235 MV-22s and 38 CV-22s, an average of $63.9 million each.
The V-22 tilt-rotor program has been beset by controversy throughout its 20-year development period. Despite these issues, and the emergence of competitive but more conventional compound helicopter technologies like Piasecki’s X-49 Speedhawk and Sikorsky’s X2, the V-22 program continues to move forward. This DID Spotlight article looks at the V-22’s multi-year purchase contract from 2008-12 and 2013-2017, plus associated contracts for key V-22 systems, program developments, and research sources.
Continue Reading… »
Mar 24, 2017 00:55 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
The US Navy’s MQ-25A Stingray
unmanned aerial tanker is likely to have a wing-body-tail design
after Lockheed Martin's Skunk Work division found that a flying wing design is not the best aerodynamic shape for the service's latest requirements. While the Navy had initially intended a surveillance and possible strike capability for the aircraft, the current requirements suggest a strong emphasis on a tanking role and less on ISR. As a result, competing firms Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Boeing are likely to redesign their bids for the competition.
UCAS-D/ N-UCAS concept
The idea of UAVs with full stealth and combat capabilities has come a long way, quickly. Air forces around the world are pursuing R&D programs, but in the USA, progress is being led by the US Navy.
Their interest is well-founded. A May 2007 non-partisan report discussed the lengthening reach of ship-killers. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s carrier fleet sees its strike range shrinking to 1950s distances, and prepares for a future with fewer carrier air wings than operational carriers. Could UCAV/UCAS vehicles with longer ranges, and indefinite flight time limits via aerial refueling, solve these problems? Some people in the Navy seem to think that they might. Hence UCAS-D/ N-UCAS, which received a major push in the FY 2010 defense review. Now, Northrop Grumman is improving its X-47 UCAS-D under contract, even as emerging privately-developed options expand the Navy’s future choices as it works on its new RFP.
Continue Reading… »