Vision Systems International, LLC recently announced the receipt of several new contracts with a total value of more than $100 million: a request from Boeing for more than 500 additional JHMCS systems under Full Rate Production Lot 2 (FRP-2), and direct contracts from the United States Navy and Air Force for spares and test equipments in support of the JHMCS program. These procurements fills U.S. government domestic requirements for the USAF F-15 and F-16, ANG F-15, USN F/A-18 Single seat and Dual Seat platforms as well as foreign military sales production and spares commitments.
Citing members of the Israeli defense ministry, the Israeli newspaper Yedidot Aharonot reports that pressure from Washington has now forced Israel to freeze a $100 million contract with Venezuela to upgrade its U.S.-manufactured F-16 fighter jets. The Fuerza Aaerea Venezolana (FAV) had originally purchased the F-16A/B aircraft in 1982. Israel replaces most of the original American equipment inside its F-16s with Israeli-designed electronics and other modules, making companies like Israel Aircraft Industries a viable second source project lead and integrator for F-16 maintenance and upgrade deals.
The recent back and forth between the USA and Israel over defense-related exports came to a head over China’s purchase of Israel’s indigenously-developed Harpy anti-radar UAV and subsequent request for maintenance. By suspending Israel’s participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, Washington was recently able to pressure Israel into essentially granting the USA veto rights on all Israeli defense exports.
At the time, concern was expressed in some Israeli defense circles that this power would be used for protectionist purposes. Is that the case here?
Touted as the world’s next-generation stealthy jet fighters and attack aircraft, the F/A-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) may also excel in another area: electronic eavesdropping. The aircrafts’ combination of powerful phased array AESA radars, passive electromagnetic antennas and sensors embedded throughout their frames, powerful onboard computer processing, and secure high-bandwidth communications will give them capabilities once available only to dedicated electronic attack aircraft.
As both of these aircraft programs come under threat of further reductions or cancellation, Pentagon officials are becoming more willing to discuss some of these additional capabilities – and their implications.
Earlier generations of electronic warfare aircraft have taken one of three paths:
Since the late 1980s, the U.S. Air Force has pursued the F/A-22 Raptor supersonic stealth fighter that incorporated numerous breakthrough technologies, while the US Navy developed the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet based on the existing F/A-18. Unsurprisingly, the F/A-22 program has experienced significant cost growth and schedule delays and is still in the testing stage. In contrast, the Super Hornet completed its development on cost and without significant delays, and has already been used in combat.
RAND’s Project Air Force looked at both programs with the intent of understanding how each project’s history turned out the way it did, what underlying factors might be at work, and what lessons might be learned.
The Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) is a joint US Army/ US Navy program that would replace three different reconnaissance planes used for signals interception (SIGINT), ground-looking SAR radars, and imagery intelligence (IMINT). The story of that program’s evolution over the last year is an excellent example of the kinds of issues and development challenges that face many new defense designs, even those that use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology as a starting point.
On Sept 9, 2005, DID covered a major proposed change in the program, and explained the likely dynamics behind it. Now an October 10, 2005 report in Defense News has confirmed much of that analysis and added new information, while the proposed change has become a tug-of-war involving the US Army and Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Ft. Worth, TX received a $6.53 billion modification to re-baseline the cost-plus-award-fee F-35 Joint Strike Fighter System Development and Demonstration contract (N00019-02-C-3002). That contract was originally awarded on Oct. 26, 2001, for $19 billion. Subsequent modifications have included:
Military & Aerospace Electronics reports that General Atomics awarded AAI Corp. a $30 million subcontract to develop the ground control components of the Army’s new Warrior UAV program. The army wants all development work done in four years with deployment capability in 2009.
That may well be possible, as AAI has plans to incorporate this work into an existing project…
The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB awarded a $10 million cost plus fixed fee contract to Enser Corp. of Pinellas Park (FA8650-04-C-5705), FL to create over the next six years a manufactory to produce cobalt disulfide base thermal batteries. Materials like cobalt disulfide have been found to be more attractive in producing thermal batteries – typically installed in munitions, cockpit ejector seats and other such applications – because they have lower melting points. Those lower melting points allow for the material to become liquid electrolyte more rapidly, activating the battery some tens of milliseconds quicker – a fraction of a second that can come in rather handy for short-hop missile launches and, perhaps especially, skidaddling pilots.
Honeywell International in Phoenix, AZ received a $7.3 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide for remanufacture of various F-16 Avionics Components. Solicitations began in July 2005 and one proposal was received; negotiations were complete September 2005, and work will be complete by September 2010. The Headquarters Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base, UT issued the contract (FA8212-05-D-0006).
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has notified Congress that Saudi Arabia wishes to purchase upgrade kits and services for 54 C-130E/H Hercules aircraft, as well as associated equipment and services. The total value of this contract, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $800 million.