Russia’s Type 877 Kilo Class diesel-electric submarines have gained a reputation as extremely quiet boats, and are in service with Russia (24), China (2), India (8), Iran (3), Poland, Romania and Algeria. India’s Type 877EKM Sindhugosh Class submarines [S55-S62] began to travel to Russia for refits in 1997, with S58 INS Sindhuvir as the first candidate. A German-designed, Indian-built main battery has replaced the Russian batteries in all vessels, and India’s submarines have also received either a Russian upgrade package of missiles, sonar, and machinery & weapon control systems, or India’s indigenous Panchendriya package. The goal is to bring them closer to parity with the more advanced Type 636 Improved Kilo Class variant – S65 INS Sindhushastra, and possibly S63 INS Sindhurakshak, are already rumored to be at or close to that level.
Now a serious incident has put a brake on the refit program, as India has returned S62 INS Sindhuvijay to its Russian contractor, citing unacceptable performance with its new sub-launched Klub missiles. With the $1+ billion Admiral Gorshkov carrier refit already in trouble, and Russia making hostile foreign policy moves, the last thing the relationship needs is another problem – but that’s what it has.
“Can the US Army Afford Helicopter Modernization?” covered a CBO report addressing the USA’s future helicopter procurement plans. Meanwhile, the existing fleet must still be maintained, lest rising maintenance costs eat into the procurement budget. The future fleet will also need to improve.
There’s a trend around the world toward HUMS (Health & Usage Monitoring Systems). Initial helicopter HUMS systems were developed twin-engine helicopters flown to offshore oil rigs in the North Sea, whose savage weather and freezing seas can quickly combine to turn even relatively minor mechanical problems into life-threatening events. In time, HUMS are spreading to other commercial platforms, while trying to remain cheap enough to stay economically feasible.
As one might expect, the US Army is very interested. Their current maintenance system largely relies on aviation maintenance and parts replacement based on operating hours, or on a set number of days. In contrast, moving to a HUMS system that can monitor issues (diagnostic), predict likely faults before they occur (prognostic), and schedule maintenance based on need, ought to have several benefits. For starters, it would vastly improve reliability diagnosis of the platform as a whole, and help to identify required areas for improvement. It would also cut down on spare parts usage, save man-hours, and keep more helicopters available to fly. Now, a coalition led by Bell Helicopter has submitted a winning proposal…
by Johan Boeder in The Netherlands. Earlier versions of this article have been published in the Dutch press and Defense-Aerospace. DID has worked with the author to create an edited, updated version with full documentation of sources.
On May 3, 2007, during the 19th test flight of the prototype of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), a serious electrical malfunction occurred in the control of the plane. After an emergency landing the malfunction could be identified as a crucial problem, and it became clear that redesign of critical electronic components was necessary. Producer Lockheed Martin and program officials first announced there was a minor problem, and later on they avoided any further publicity about the problems.
The delay has become serious, however, and rising costs for the JSF program seem to be certain. In Holland, Parliament started a discussion again last week. Understanding the background behind these delays, and the pressures on European governments, is important to any realistic assessment of the F-35’s European strategy – and of the procurement plans in many European defense ministries…
Northrop Grumman Corp. Electronic Systems in Sykesville, MD received a $9.3 million order against a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N68335-02-D-0023) for 10 Valve Actuation and Control (VAC) system production units: 4 systems for CVN 77 George H.W. Bush under construction, 5 systems for CVN 70 USS Carl Vinson which is undergoing a major overhaul, and 1 shore-based system for training. The VAC system is intended to replace the existing control and actuation system of the Mark 7 Aircraft Arresting Gear that stops high-speed aircraft following the controlled crash of a carrier landing. As Navy Matters puts it:
“The current USN standard is the Mark 7 Mod 3, however starting with the USS Ronald Reagan [DID: CVN 76] the USN is moving to a new three-wire Mark 7 Mod 4 arresting gear design (actually four arresting gear engines but with two of them interchangeable as the barricade engine). The new system uses polycore cables designed to withstand more traps than steel cables and extra-large pulleys to reduce maintenance and man-hours, and provides the capability to land potentially larger and heavier aircraft. It is hoped that the new design will reduce maintenance requirements by half by increasing the time interval between inspections and overhauls, in addition, the costs associated with replacing these high-wear components will be reduced. Another benefit of this system will be that the arresting gear engines will be more accessible to flight line crews.”
Work will be performed in Sykesville, MD and is expected to be complete in May 2009. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ issued the contract.
United Technologies subsidiary Pratt and Whitney Incorporated of Hartford, Conn. received a contract for $52.3 million, in exchange for 1,051 Digital Electronic Engine Controls VI for the F100-PW-220/220E engine fleet which powers many of the USAF’s F-15 and F-16 aircraft. OC-ALC at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. issued the contract (F33657-98-D-0018).
So, what is a “Digital Engine Control VI”, anyway?
On July 26/07, Elbit Systems Ltd. announced that it has acquired the entire share capital of the UK company Ferranti Technologies (Group) Limited (“FTL”) for GBP 15 million (about $31 Million). FTL are specialists in the manufacture and design of wide range of electronic power management and control systems for application on air, land and seaborne platforms, with emphasis on the aerospace industry and on reliable operation in harsh climatic and electromagnetic environments. FTL’s comprehensive customer logistic support services cover repair, overhaul, modification, integrated logistic support, and post design services.
Elbit sees the acquisition as a way of enhancing support for its products in Europe, in conjunction with UAV engine company UEL and the U-Tacs joint venture behind the UK’s Watchkeeper UAV system.
FTL is located in Oldham, UK, and was established in 1994. It was formerly part of Ferranti International Group, and owns the former Ferranti name. In 2006, the Company reported annual sales of over Â£16 million/ $33M), with a workforce of 180 employees. The firm was sold by The Fifth Causeway Development Fund (advised by ABN AMRO Capital Ltd.) and by FTL’s management; it will continue its business growth in its Oldham facility in North West England.
Under Jack Welch, General Electric Company became famous for its determination to be #1 or #2 in a field, or get out and focus on areas where it could achieve a commanding position. That aim still drives GE, which is why it’s worth paying attention to GE’s announced purchase of aircraft control & diagnostic systems manufacturer Smiths Aerospace plc for $4.8 billion in cash.
Smiths Aerospace plc was part of the Smiths Group, with more than 11,000 employees in Europe, North America, and Asia; and $2.4 billion in equivalent 2006 revenues. In addition to being a leading supplier of flash-welded rings used in the manufacture of aircraft engines, their key products and services also include flight management systems, airborne platform computing systems, monitoring systems, power generation, conversion and distribution products, actuation products and systems for flight control, thrust reversers and landing gear applications, various engine components, aircraft structural components, land navigation, and a global customer services organization. The company has quietly but firmly built up key positions in these areas, with a significant presence on most commercial aircraft, many military aircraft, and even military land vehicles. See this diagram for a fine overview. More important, Smiths has a firm presence inside new aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380 super-jumbo, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, P-8 MMA maritime aircraft, Britain’s Future Lynx multi-role helicopter, et. al.
There are still a few Is to be dotted and Ts to be crossed, with completion scheduled for Q2 2007; in the meantime, both firms have plans, and approval is moving through key regulatory bodies…
General Electric Co. in Cincinnati, OH received a $12.5 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity with cost-plus-fixed fee contract. The USAF wants GE to demonstrate the resilience of an aircraft’s flight control, electric actuation, and power management and distribution subsystems against high power microwaves and nuclear electromagnetic pulses, with a focus on a near-term solution to make aircraft immune (or at least highly resistant) to electromagnetic environmental effects. At this time, $527,000 has been obligated.
Solicitations began June 2006, negotiations were complete November 2006, and work will be complete November 2011. The US Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8650-07-D-2700 task order 0001).
York International Corp. in York, PA received an $18.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for engineering and technical services in support of various centrifugal air conditioning and refrigeration systems onboard various US Navy ships. Work will be performed in Norfolk, VA (60%); San Diego, CA (30%); and Groton, CT (10%), and is expected to be complete by August 2010. The contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Ship System Engineering Station in Philadelphia, PA (N65540-06-D-0021).
General Dynamics Land Systems in Warren, MI receives a pair of delivery order amounts for M1A1 vehicle material sets, used in the AIM process. They include one order for $63.4 million as part of an $81 million firm-fixed-price contract, and another for $44.4 million as part of a $125.5 million firm-fixed-price contract [TL. = $107.8 million]. Work will be performed in Lima, OH (77%), Scranton, PA (20%), and Muskegon, MI (3%), and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2008. These were sole source contracts initiated on December 29, 2005 (DAAE07-01-G-N001).
A subsequent GDLS release notes that this funding will put 155 M1A1 Abrams tanks through the AIM tear-down and rebuild process, while adding a new “situational awareness” refit set which we describe in-depth here…