Latest updates[?]: Ghana has acquired a third C-295 from Airbus, following delivery of the first two aircraft also referred to as the C-27J Spartan. The country received the first aircraft in November 2011, the second following in April 2012, with the country's president John Dramani announcing in November last year that the government would acquire a third C-295.
In September 2009, a US DSCA request for 4 C-27J aircraft plus ancillaries and support, at a price of up to $680 million, sparked considerable controversy in Ghana. As we noted at the time, a DSCA request is not a contract. It’s a legal notice under American export laws, and if Congress does not block the sale within 30 days, negotiations may begin.
Ghana is a West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea. Its parliament was chosen to host President Obama’s 2009 Africa speech, and the DSCA describes the country and the sale as “…a U.S. Government partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and democracy in Africa.” As of 2011, however, Ghana is not listed or cited among the C-27J’s buyers or operators. On the other hand, it has become a confirmed buyer of Airbus Military’s rival C-295.
Latest updates[?]: Australia has received the country's seventh C-17A transporter, the first of two aircraft ordered in April to complement the six already in service. The second of the pair is expected by the end of the year, with the aircraft all operated by the Royal Australian Air Force's 36 Squadron in Queensland.
C-17 #1 Arrives
In March 2006, the Australian government announced that the Australian Defence Forces would acquire up to 4 new Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlift planes and associated equipment for A$ 2 billion ($1.49 billion then conversion). Since that first contract, RAAF C-17As have been rolling off the assembly line, arriving on or ahead of schedule, and flying the (un)friendly skies to support Australia’s military and humanitarian efforts around the globe. The first plane arrived in Australia in December 2006, and the 4th plane arrived in March 2008.
Even that didn’t mean C-17 expenses were done. Ongoing maintenance, training facilities, and more must still be paid for, and Australia liked the Globemasters so much that it decided to buy more. In April 2011, Australia upped their order to 5 aircraft, a June 2012 order made it 6, and an order announced in October 2014 will make 8. The fleet may even rise to 10, tying Australia with India as the globe’s 2nd largest C-17 fleet. DID chronicles the entire process, and its associated contracts…
The Egyptian government wants to buy another 24 F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft, associated parts, weapons, and equipment to modernize its air force. The October 2009 request, made through the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) to Congress, could be worth as much as $3.2 billion to Lockheed Martin and the other contractors involved. The formal request came a few months after the Obama administration conveyed its support for Egypt’s long-standing request to buy the Block 50/52 aircraft, but the request has been a long-standing source of controversy. Eventually, events in Egypt stalled the contract.
The Egyptian Air Force is the 4th largest F-16 operator in the world, mustering about 195 F-16s of 220 ordered. Their overall fighter fleet is a mix of high-end F-16s and Mirage 2000s, low-end Chinese F-7s (MiG-21 copy) bought from the Chinese, a few F-4 Phantom II jets, and upgraded but very aged Soviet MiG-21s and French Mirage 5s.
In the 1970s, fighter aircraft began to appear with Head-Up Displays (HUD) that projected key information, targeting crosshairs etc. onto a seemingly clear piece of glass. HUDs allowed pilots to keep their eyes in the sky, instead of looking down at their instruments. In the 1990s, another innovation appeared: helmet-mounted displays (HMDs) put the HUD inside the pilot’s helmet, providing this information even when the pilot wasn’t looking straight ahead. The Israelis were already pioneering a system called DASH (Display And Sight Helmet) when a set of former East German MiG-29s, equipped with Soviet HMDs, slaughtered USAF F-16s in NATO exercises. Suddenly, helmet-mounted displays became must-haves for modern fighters – and a key partnership positioned Elbit to take DASH to the next level.
This DID Spotlight article offers insights into the rocky past, successful present, and competitive future of a program that has experienced its share of snags and controversy – but went on to become the #1 helmet-mounted sight in the world. It also details the game-changing effects of Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems on air combat, its production sets and known customers, and all contracts since full-rate production began.
In 2005, Greece terminated its $6 billion Eurofighter contract in favor of F-16s. Now that sale has taken the next step, as Greece has submitted its order for the aircraft and ancillary electronics, spares, and weapons, to match rival Turkey’s recent F-16 purchases and upgrades.
On October 25/05, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) formally notified Congress [PDF] of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Greece of 40 F-16C/D Block 52+ aircraft as well as associated equipment and services. That sale continues to move forward, item by item; the total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $3.1 billion. Greece’s full “Peace Xenia IV” order request now features:
In December 2005, the U.S. Air Force awarded Boeing a contract as Product Support Integrator (PSI) for the USAF’s E-4 National Airborne Operations Center fleet. These 4 modified 747-200s were introduced in 1974, and serve as complete flying command posts for national and military authorities. As one might imagine, they are hardened to resist the side-effects of nuclear attack, such as electro-magnetic pulse effects.
The 2005 contract was a 5-year, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract vehicle, with one 5-year option and a $2 billion cost cap. That’s a lot of money for a small fleet, but the E-4’s plays a military and civil role that gives the program enough leverage to justify it. A long history of support from Boeing includes a number of modernizations, and those continue for various systems within the fleet. DID looks at the aircraft, the program, and ongoing awards.
African countries need counter-insurgency and surveillance aircraft, but they aren’t about to buy top-end gear like an AC-130. Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano turboprop trainer and light attack aircraft is about the upper end – a few African countries have purchased them, and the USA’s LAS program offers them through an intermediary. Lower-end alternatives involve widely-used and easy to maintain light planes like the Textron Cessna C-208Bs fielded by Iraq and Lebanon, AirTractor’s AT-802Us, etc. A recent Pentagon contract shows that the low-end idea is catching on.
The Ship to Shore Connector (SSC) hovercraft program aims to build on the USA’s LCAC hovercraft experience, and retain the US Navy’s unparalleled transport options from ship to shore and beyond. LCACs launch from inside the well deck of an amphibious warship, then travel the waves at high speed, run right through the surf zone near the beach, and stop at a suitable place on land. Their cargo walks or rolls off. The LCAC(Landing Craft, Air Cushion) returns to the surf to pick up more. Rinse. Agitate. Repeat.
These air-cushioned landing craft are much more capable than the conventional flat-bottomed landing boats used by other countries, but that capability comes at a price. LCACs were expensive to buy, suffered from corrosion and maintenance issues, and remain quite expensive to operate and maintain after many years in service. The other problem is that tanks and other vehicles have gotten heavier, so carrying equipment like the Marines’ latest M1 Abrams can push current LCACs to their capacity limits.
Countries like France are designing fast catamaran landing craft for over-the-horizon delivery at a lower price point, and modern hovercraft offer new options of their own. The US Navy looked at the possibilities, then decided to ask for an upgraded version of the current LCACs. SSC was born, and in 2012 it finally moved into system development.
The CP-140 Aurora is a ‘Canadianized’ variant of the P-3 Orion aircraft used in the maritime surveillance role by the USA and many other countries. Like their fellow P-3s around the world, however, the Auroras have flown very long hours under very tough conditions. How to keep them flying at an affordable cost?
The question became even more urgent after Canada looked at the expected price tag to replace their 18-plane Aurora fleet with the 737-based P-8A Poseidon. Canada has the world’s longest coastline, and persistent issues with both economic zone enforcement and human smuggling by sea. Clearly, something had to be done…
British naval theorist Sir Julian Corbett saw the navy’s proper role as “directly or indirectly either to secure the command of the sea or to prevent the enemy from securing it.” Airpower plays a prominent role in both of those missions. In 1996, Britain began a program to rebuild their existing Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol planes to the MRA4 standard with new wings, new engines, and new internal technologies and mission systems.
Unfortunately, that program has faced a series of budget cuts, stalls, and conditions that have reduced the program from 21 aircraft, to 12, to 9 – and then to 0. In 2010, Britain decided to give up fixed-wing maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft entirely, then scrapped all of its Nimrod MR2s. Its MR1 electronic eavesdropping planes followed, in June 2011. Leaving the burning question: now what? Periodic “reminders” from Russia and other entities have kept that question very current, indeed.