Nov 17, 2017 04:59 UTC
The US State Department has notified Congress
that is has cleared Norway to purchase AIM-120 C-7
air-to-air missiles, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said Wednesday. Valued at an estimated $170 million, the package includes up to sixty AIM-120 C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and four AMRAAM guidance section spares, as well as missile containers, weapon system support, support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training, training equipment, US Government and contractor engineering, logistics, technical and support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The contract is a follow-on buy from an earlier Norwegian AIM-120 order and Raytheon will act as lead contractor. The AIM-120 C7 will be one of several munitions equipped on Norway's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet
AIM-120C from F-22A
(click for test missile zoom)
Raytheon’s AIM-120 Advanced, Medium-Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) has become the world market leader for medium range air-to-air missiles, and is also beginning to make inroads within land-based defense systems. It was designed with the lessons of Vietnam in mind, and of local air combat exercises like ACEVAL and Red Flag. This DID FOCUS article covers successive generations of AMRAAM missiles, international contracts and key events from 2006 onward, and even some of its emerging competitors.
One of the key lessons learned from Vietnam was that a fighter would be likely to encounter multiple enemies, and would need to launch and guide several missiles at once in order to ensure its survival. This had not been possible with the AIM-7 Sparrow, a “semi-active radar homing” missile that required a constant radar lock on one target. To make matters worse, enemy fighters were capable of launching missiles of their own. Pilots who weren’t free to maneuver after launch would often be forced to “break lock,” or be killed – sometimes even by a short-range missile fired during the last phases of their enemy’s approach. Since fighters that could carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 tended to be larger and more expensive, and the Soviets were known to have far more fighters overall, this was not a good trade.
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Nov 17, 2017 04:57 UTC
Approval for a permanent propeller gearbox (PGB) fix onboard Airbus' A400M Atlas
transport aircraft will slide into next year
, according to propulsion system supplier Europrop International (EPI). EPI had hoped to secure European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification for a "Pack 2" series of modifications to the TP400-D6 engine's Avio Aero-supplied PGB in the third quarter of this year. These modifications intended to reduce vibration and "reinforce endurance and reliability," however, as EPI want to supply a fully mature PGB solution, certification will not take place until 2018. In the meantime, an EASA certified “truncated plug solution” has been retrofitted to all in-service A400Ms and installed with new engines since the start of this year. EPI said this solution has given “strong relief to the operators” by removing the need to conduct on-wing inspections of the gearbox after every 20 flying hours.
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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Nov 16, 2017 04:58 UTC
Despite testing issues and delivery delays, Boeing has been aggressively marketing
its new KC-46A
tanker aircraft to Middle East governments at this year's Dubai Airshow. There is a high demand for aerial tankers in the region as the US Air Force's (USAF) tanker fleet supports the Saudi Arabian-led aerial campaign in Yemen with air refuelling, and the airshow is being used by Boeing as an opportunity to get government's to augment their tanker capabilities or switch allegiances. But the US airframer will have its work cut out for them—rival Airbus has recently delivered its A330
tanker to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
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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Nov 16, 2017 04:57 UTC
A US Department of Defense (DoD)contract
has tapped Bell-Boeing for "field representative and logistic support services" in support of Japanese V-22 Osprey
tiltrotor aircraft. Valued at just of $10 million, the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract will be mostly carried out at Camp Kisarazu, Japan, with other work taking place in Pennsylvania and Florida. Scheduled completion is set for December 2019. Japan received the first of its 19 ordered Ospreys in August.
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.
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Nov 15, 2017 04:59 UTC
Northrop Grumman announced Friday that it has delivered
the first operational MQ-4C Trition
UAV to the US Navy at its facility at Point Mugu. It will be joined by a second operational Tritonlater this year and both aircraft will be prepared by the maintenance detachment of Unmanned Patrol Squadron based at Point Mugu before deployment to Guam in 2018. In additional to Guam, the Navy's first MQ-4C squadron is based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, with the service planning to deploy Triton squadrons to NAS Mayport, Florida, NAS Sigonella, Italy and the Middle East in the future.
BAMS Operation Concept
The world’s P-3 Orion fleets have served for a long time, and many are reaching the end of their lifespans. In the USA, and possibly beyond, the new P-8 Poseidon Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft will take up the P-3’s role. While the P-8’s base 737-based airframe offers strong service & maintenance arguments in its favor, the airframe is expensive enough that the P-3s cannot be replaced on a 1:1 basis.
In order to extend the P-8 fleet’s reach, and provide additional capabilities, the Poseidon was expected to work with at least one companion UAV platform. This DID FOCUS Article explains the winning BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) concept, the program’s key requirements, and its international angle. We’ll also cover ongoing contracts and key events related to the program, which chose Northrop Grumman’s navalized MQ-4C Triton Global Hawk variant.
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Nov 15, 2017 04:58 UTC
The first flight of Bell Helicopters V-280 Valor tiltrotor will take place
before "the end of the autumn," according to Vince Tobin, vice-president military business at Bell. In preparation for the sortie, Bell have conducted ground trails of the tiltrotor's GE Aviation T64 powerplants over the last two months, with recent testing see the Valor rotate its engines between 75°-95°. Tobin added that initial flights will involve low hover manoeuvres, moving to transitions into airplane mode, before an eventual expansion of its flight envelope in spring 2018. The Valor is being developed initially as part of the US Army's joint multirole technology (JMR
) demonstrator program, and Bell hopes the aircraft will then be selected for the multi-service future vertical lift (FVL) initiative, initially as a replacement for the army's fleet of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks.
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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Nov 15, 2017 04:56 UTC
Japan is likely to delay plans to develop
its next advanced stealth jet, the F-3, despite having tested its $350 million ATD-X demonstrator aircraft—a forerunner for the F-3—in 2016. Funding for a F-3 program
, which is expected to reach $40 billion over its lifetime, is likely to be diverted instead into to purchasing additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, as well as new ballistic missile interceptors for its Patriot and planned Aegis Ashore systems. Also stalling the F-3 program is bureaucratic indecision on whether to pursue a solely indigenous development or to seek international collaboration. A decision is expected in 2018, meaning that the program is unlikely to feature in 2019's five-year defense equipment plan.
Japan already produces F-15J Eagle aircraft under license from Boeing, and in 1987 they selected Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jet as the basis for a “local” design that would replace its 1970s era F-1s. The aim was to produce a less expensive fighter that would complement its F-15s, provide a bridge for key aerospace technology transfers, and give Japan’s aerospace industry experience with cutting-edge manufacturing and component technologies.
The F-2’s increased range is very useful to Japan, given their need to cover large land and maritime areas. Nevertheless, a combination of design decisions and meddling from Washington ensured that these fighters ended up costing almost as much as a twin-engine F-15J Eagle, without delivering the same performance. As a result, production ended early, and the 2011 tsunami made Japan’s fleet even smaller. The remaining fleet will continue to receive upgrades, in order to keep them combat capable for many years to come.
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Nov 15, 2017 04:55 UTC
Latest updates[?]: AH-64E Apache Guardian
helicopters from South Korea participated in their first live-firing
of AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles during exercises on Monday. Located at a range off the western coastal city of Gunsan, all helicopters completed a 60Km flight before launching their munitions from different distances and in different manners so that pilots can better familiarize themselves with the missile, and all Hellfires made their target. Four additional Apaches also joined the exercise as command and back-up planes. Seoul has been operating 36 E-model Apaches since January
of this year, with US Force Korea also operating 48 Apaches on the peninsula.
AH-64 in Afghanistan
The AH-64 Apache will remain the US Army’s primary armed helicopter for several more decades, thanks to the collapse of the RAH-66 Comanche program, and the retirement sans replacement of the US Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). Apaches also serve with a number of American allies, some of whom have already expressed interest in upgrading or expanding their fleets.
The AH-64E Guardian Block III (AB3) is the helicopter’s next big step forward. It incorporates 26 key new-technology insertions that cover flight performance, maintenance costs, sensors & electronics, and even the ability to control UAVs as part of manned-unmanned teaming (MUT). In July 2006, Boeing and U.S. Army officials signed the initial development contract for Block III upgrades to the current and future Apache fleet, via a virtual signing ceremony. By November 2011, the 1st production helicopter had been delivered. So… how many helicopters will be modified under the AH-64 Block III program, what do these modifications include, how is the program structured, and what has been happening since that 2006 award? The short answer is: a lot, including export interest and sales.
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Nov 14, 2017 04:59 UTC
aircraft—the Fighter Attack variant of the Advanced Jet Trainer—has made its first appearance at the Dubai Airshow
. Designed to carry out multi-mission tactical strike and reconnaissance missions, the jet comes equipped with a Grifo fire control radar and has seven hardpoints for external fuel tanks and weapons, including a range of precision-guided bombs, as well as AIM-9L air-to-air missiles and an external gun. Several parties have expressed interest in the new variant. The firm is also looking to offer a new trainer version, the T-100, to the USAF's ongoing trainer competition, and has promised to build a new facility in Alabama to handle production if selected. This week, a delegation from Alabama will visit
Leonardo executives for a tour of its M-346 manufacturing facility in Venegono, near Milan, to help advance preparations already under way in Alabama for the development of the manufacturing facility at Moton Field and its 750-strong workforce.
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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Nov 14, 2017 04:56 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
prototype is scheduled to resume flight testing
after receiving minor repairs following a stall speed incident in October. The Brazilian firm said the model, 001, “experienced an event beyond the planned limit” during a simulated icing test, which took the tanker beyond its airspeed and load factor operating limitations and required crew to return immediately to base. The aircraft has not flown since. A detailed inspection carried out by Embraer found that the incident caused no damage to the primary aircraft structure, although some external fairings and access hatches will be replaced before the aircraft returns to the sky. It added that deliveries to the Brazilian air force will not be effected.
KC-390 refuels AMXs
Global competition in the 20-ton air transport segment continues to intensify, with Brazil’s launch of its KC-390 program. Embraer figures reportedly place the global C-130 replacement market at around 700 aircraft. In response, it will develop a jet-powered rival to compete with Lockheed Martin’s C-130J, the larger Airbus A400M, Russia’s AN-12 and its Chinese copy the Yun-8/9, and the bi-national Irkut/HAL MRTA project. Smaller aircraft like the EADS-CASA C-295M, and Alenia’s C-27J, represent indirect competition.
Embraer is extending its efforts and markets by crafting a jet-powered medium transport with a cargo capacity of around 23 tons, that can be refueled in the air, and can provide refueling services to other aircraft by adding dedicated pods. The KC-390 has now become a multinational program, and may be shaping up as the C-130’s most formidable future competitor. A tie-up with Boeing underscores the seriousness of Embraer’s effort, which is now a production program…
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