Latest updates[?]: Taiwan’s Oceanic Affairs Council has proposed to the government that the Coast Guard Administration set up a aviation unit. The proposal was to buy four C-130Js and eight Beechcraft King Air 350ER aircraft along with eight helicopters, Up Media reports. The news report said that the proposal was opposed by the executive yuan, the National Airborne Service Corps and Ministry of Transportation and Communications. All parties then decided to postpone the discussions for three months. It is expected to cost Taiwanese taxpayers $900 million to purchase and modify the fixed-wing and rotor-wing aircraft.
RAAF C-130J-30, flares
The C-130 Hercules remains one of the longest-running aerospace manufacturing programs of all time. Since 1956, over 40 models and variants have served as the tactical airlift backbone for over 50 nations. The C-130J looks similar, but the number of changes almost makes it a new aircraft. Those changes also created issues; the program has been the focus of a great deal of controversy in America – and even of a full program restructuring in 2006. Some early concerns from critics were put to rest when the C-130J demonstrated in-theater performance on the front lines that was a major improvement over its C-130E/H predecessors. A valid follow-on question might be: does it break the bottleneck limitations that have hobbled a number of multi-billion dollar US Army vehicle development programs?
C-130J customers now include Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States. American C-130J purchases are taking place under both annual budgets and supplemental wartime funding, in order to replace tactical transport and special forces fleets that are flying old aircraft and in dire need of major repairs. This DID FOCUS Article describes the C-130J, examines the bottleneck issue, covers global developments for the C-130J program, and looks at present and emerging competitors.
Latest updates[?]: Naval Air Force Atlantic tested a long-range aerial drone last weekend, the Navy announced. The long-range cargo transport, dubbed Blue Water UAS, is designed to operate with Naval Forces that typically operate in heavy winds over open water and require aircraft to land on vessels that are moving rapidly at sea. The proof-of-concept test was conducted last Sunday by transporting lightweight logistical equipment from the mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center at Naval Station Norfolk on board USS Gerald R. Ford while the carrier was in-port.
USA’s Nimitz Class &
UK’s Invincible Class
Some nations have aircraft carriers. The USA has super-carriers. The French Charles De Gaulle Class nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India’s new Vikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t, while the British Invincible Class carriers that participated in the Falklands War weigh in at just 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy’s excellent new Cavour Class (27,000t), and Spain’s Principe de Asturias Class (17,000t). The USA’s Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000+ tonne range. Hence their unofficial designation: “super-carriers”. Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.
Nimitz Class cutaway
As the successor to the 102,000 ton Nimitz Class super-carriers, the CVN-21 program aimed to increase aircraft sortie generation rates by 20%, increase survivability to better handle future threats, require fewer sailors, and have depot maintenance requirements that could support an increase of up to 25% in operational availability. The combination of a new design nuclear propulsion plant and an improved electric plant are expected to provide 2-3 times the electrical generation capacity of previous carriers, which in turn enables systems like an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS, replacing steam-driven catapults), Advanced Arresting Gear, and integrated combat electronics that will leverage advances in open systems architecture. Other CVN-21 features include an enhanced flight deck, improved weapons handling and aircraft servicing efficiency, and a flexible island arrangement allowing for future technology insertion. This graphic points out many of the key improvements.
DID’s CVN-21 FOCUS Article offers a detailed look at a number of the program’s key innovations, as well as a list of relevant contract awards and events.
Latest updates[?]: General Atomics won an $11.2 million contract modification, which exercises options to procure Group 5 Unmanned Air System (UAS) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance support for outside the continental US (OCONUS) Task Force Southwest and Marine Corps operations using contractor-owned/contractor-operated MQ-9 Reaper UAS. The MQ-9 Reaper has an operational ceiling of 50,000ft, a maximum internal payload of 800lb and external payload exceeding 3,000lb. It can carry up to four Hellfire II anti-armor missiles and two laser-guided bombs (GBU-12 or EGBU-12) and 500lb GBU-38 JDAM (joint direct attack munition). Work will take place in Arizona and California. Estimated completion will be in May 2021.
The MQ-9 Reaper UAV, once called “Predator B,” is somewhat similar to the famous Predator. Until you look at the tail. Or its size. Or its weapons. It’s called “Reaper” for a reason: while it packs the same surveillance gear, it’s much more of a hunter-killer design. Some have called it the first fielded Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV).
The Reaper UCAV will play a significant role in the future USAF, even though its capability set makes the MQ-9 considerably more expensive than MQ-1 Predators. Given these high-end capabilities and expenses, one may not have expected the MQ-9 to enjoy better export success than its famous cousin. Nevertheless, that’s what appears to be happening. MQ-9 operators currently include the USA and Britain, who use it in hunter-killer mode, and Italy. Several other countries are expressing interest, and the steady addition of new payloads are expanding the Reaper’s advantage over competitors…
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon won a $74.2 million deal, which provides 23.4 APY-10 radar system production kits and related support for the P-8A Poseidon aircraft for Navy and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers. The AN/APY-10 RADAR system is a multi-mission maritime and overland surveillance RADAR. It is capable of performing long-range surface search and target tracking, periscope detection, ship imaging and classification using synthetic aperture radar and inverse synthetic aperture radar. Work will take place in Texas, Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ontario, Florida and Connecticut. Estimated completion will be in August 2025.
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?
The USA’s MIM-104 Phased Array Tracking Radar Intercept On Target (PATRIOT) anti-air missile system offers an advanced backbone for medium-range air defense, and short-range ballistic missile defense, to America and its allies. This article covers domestic and foreign purchase requests and contracts for Patriot systems. It also compiles information about the engineering service contracts that upgrade these systems, ensure that they continue to work, and integrate them with wider command and defense systems.
The Patriot missile franchise’s future appears assured. At present, 12 nations have chosen it as a key component of their air and missile defense systems: the USA, Germany, Greece, Japan, Israel, Kuwait, The Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and the UAE. Poland, Qatar, and Turkey have all indicated varying levels of interest, and some existing customers are looking to upgrade their systems.
Latest updates[?]: General Dynamics Land Systems won a $20.7 million contract modification for Abrams systems technical support. Abrams is an American Main Battle Tank. The first M1 Abrams battle tanks were delivered to the US Army in 1980. A total of 3,273 M1 tanks were produced for the US Army, 4,796 M1A1 tanks were built for the US Army, 221 for the US Marines and 880 co-produced with Egypt. In 2016, the DoS approved a foreign military sale to Kuwait for the recapitalization of that country’s 218 M1A2 main battle tanks. Work under the contract modification will take place in Michigan. Estimated completion date is June 22, 2022.
America’s M1 Abrams tanks come in a number of versions. In addition to the M1A1 that is now standard, the US Army is beginning to field its M1 TUSK for urban warfare. It also operates the M1A2 System Enhancement Program (SEP), currently the most advanced standard variant.
This Spotlight article covers the M1A2 Abrams SEP upgrade program, and will be updated and backfilled as new contracts are issued and key events take place.
Latest updates[?]: The US Air Force is to contract Sikorsky to upgrade its HH-60W Jolly Green II combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopter to improve on the 2012 requirements baseline. According to the service, the manufacturer is to bring the capabilities of the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) up to today’s specifications, ahead of the commencement of full rate production in fiscal year 2022. Under the potential five-year deal for rolling capability upgrades to both the helicopter’s hardware and software systems, Sikorsky stands to receive up to $980 million.
In 2006 the US Air Force awarded Boeing a contract worth north of $10 billion for 141 HH-47 combat search-and-rescue helicopters, but by mid-2009 the CSAR-X program was cancelled during its System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase by the Pentagon. At the time Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote that this program had “a troubled acquisition history and raises the fundamental question of whether this important mission can only be accomplished by yet another single-service solution.”
That cancellation may have been warranted, but the underlying operational constraints are increasing as years go by, with a tentative replacement for aging helicopters that keeps slipping. In 2012, the Air Force got the green light to take another crack at it. The competition narrowed to a single bidder, and after wobbly budgetary announcements, the program was greenlighted. By the end of 2014 it was officially designated as HH-60W.
Variants of the SM-2 Standard missile are the USA’s primary fleet defense anti-air weapon, and serve with 13 navies worldwide. The most common variant is the RIM-66K-L/ SM-2 Standard Block IIIB, which entered service in 1998. The Standard family extends far beyond the SM-2 missile, however; several nations still use the SM-1, the SM-3 is rising to international prominence as a missile defense weapon, and the SM-6 program is on track to supplement the SM-2. These missiles are designed to be paired with the AEGIS radar and combat system, but can be employed independently by ships with older or newer radar systems.
This article covers each variant in the Standard missile family, plus several years worth of American and Foreign Military Sales requests and contracts and key events; and offers the budgetary, technical, and geopolitical background that can help put all that in context.
Latest updates[?]: Sikorsky won a $478.6 million contract modification, which exercises options for the procurement of five Lot Three low rate initial production Presidential Helicopters Replacement Program (VH-92A) aircraft, and associated interim contractor support, two cabin interior reconfiguration kits, support equipment, initial spares, and system parts replenishment. The new Marine One, also referred to as VH-92A, is the next-generation presidential transport helicopter being developed for the US Marine Corps (USMC). It will replace the ageing VH-3D presidential helicopter in service with the USMC. Work will take place in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Arizona and Virginia. Estimated completion will be in December 2023.
In January 2005, the U.S. Navy selected the US101 as the new “Marine One” baseline helicopter, for use by the President of the United States. The US101 is an American variant of AgustaWestland’s successful AW101 multi-mission medium helicopter; it beat out Sikorsky’s S-92 Superhawk, which is already in use as a government VIP transport in countries like South Korea.
That $1.7 billion victory was first endangered, and then destroyed, by ongoing changes from the White House staff. In 2008, the program’s ballooning costs and requirements got a temporary reprieve when US Navy agreed to proceed with the VH-71, despite a cost per aircraft equal or greater than the President’s Air Force One 747s. By June 2009, however, the VH-71 program had shot itself down.
Another round of competition is on the way, and back in 2009 the Pentagon said it was considering buying 2 different helicopters in the VXX follow-on program. Faced with an initial Analysis of Alternatives deemed too expensive, the OSD accepted the Navy’s revised approach in May 2012, setting things in motion for a new program of record.
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.
This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.