Latest updates[?]: The United Kingdom has received its ninth and final Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 maritime multimission aircraft (MMA), with ZP809 arriving at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lossiemouth in Scotland on January 11. This brings a two-year delivery run that began with the arrival of ZP801 Pride of Moray in February 2020 to an end. Since then, ZP802 City of Elgin, ZP803 Terence Bulloch DSO DFC, ZP804 Spirit of Reykjavik, ZP805 Fulmar, ZP806 Guernsey's Reply, ZP807 William Barker VC, and ZP808 have all been received.
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?
Latest updates[?]: The Qatar Air Force took delivery of the first NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) recently, manufacturer Leonardo has announced. The first TTH version helicopter for land-based tasks was delivered on 11 December, in line with contractual commitments, and will be followed in the coming months by the first NFH, dedicated to naval operations, after qualifications. Deliveries will continue until 2025.
NH90: TTH & NFH
The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NH Industries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.
The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.
As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at around 500 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.
DII FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record; this FOCUS Article covers the CH-47F/MH-47G Chinook helicopter programs, in the USA and abroad. These helicopters’ distinctive “flying banana” twin-rotor design stems from the brilliant work of aviation pioneer Frank Piasecki. It gives Chinooks the ability to adjust their positioning very precisely, while carrying a large airframe whose load capacity has made it the world’s most popular heavy-lift helicopter. The USA expects to be operating Chinooks in their heavy-lift role past 2030.
The CH-47F looks similar to earlier models, but offers a wide range of improvements in almost every aspect of design and performance. While the related HH-47’s $10-15 billion CSAR-X program win was terminated, delivery orders continue for CH-47Fs and for MH-47G Special Forces configuration helicopters. International orders or formal requests have also come in from Australia, Britain, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the UAE, with India and other countries expected to follow.
The US military’s long run of unquestioned air superiority has led to shortcuts in mobile land-based air defenses, and the US Marines are no exception. A December 2005 release from Sen. Schumer’s office [D-NY] said that:
“Current radar performance does not meet operational forces requirements… consequences could potentially allow opposing forces to gain air and ground superiority in future operational areas.”
One of the programs in the works to address this gap is the AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR mobile radar system. It’s actually the result of fusing 2 programs: the Multi-Role Radar System (MRRS), and Ground Weapons Locator Radar (GWLR) requirements. When the last G/ATOR software upgrade becomes operational, it will replace and consolidate numerous legacy radars, including the AN/TPS-63 air surveillance, AN/MPQ-62 force control, AN/TPS-73 air traffic control, AN/UPS-3 air defense, and AN/TPQ-36/37 artillery tracking & locating radar systems.
Latest updates[?]: Northrop Grumman won a $353.6 million contract modification, which provides for the production and delivery of three E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft for the government of France. The E-2D is the US Navy’s premier airborne command and control aircraft for all targets and all environments. The French Navy has been operating the E-2C Hawkeye since 1998 and is the only country other than the United States to operate its E-2 Hawkeyes from an aircraft carrier. France’s plan to acquire three E-2Ds to replace the Navy’s old E-2C Hawkeyes was first revealed more than a year ago. The U.S. approved this sale for $2 billion in July 2020. The French Navy will be second only to Japan, to own these jets. Work will take place in New York, Florida, Indiana, California, Illinois and Connecticut. Estimates completion will be in April 2027.
Northrop Grumman’s E-2C Hawkeye is a carrier-capable “mini-AWACS” aircraft, designed to give long-range warning of incoming aerial threats. Secondary roles include strike command and control, land and maritime surveillance, search and rescue, communications relay, and even civil air traffic control during emergencies. E-2C Hawkeyes began replacing previous Hawkeye versions in 1973. They fly from USN and French carriers, from land bases in the militaries of Egypt, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan; and in a drug interdiction role for the US Naval Reserve. Over 200 Hawkeyes have been produced.
The $17.5 billion E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program aims to build 75 new aircraft with significant radar, engine, and electronics upgrades in order to deal with a world of stealthier cruise missiles, saturation attacks, and a growing need for ground surveillance as well as aerial scans. It looks a lot like the last generation E-2C Hawkeye 2000 upgrade on the outside – but inside, and even outside to some extent, it’s a whole new aircraft.
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.
The Mk-48 is the standard heavyweight torpedo used by the US military, and is mounted primarily on submarines. Surface ships use the smaller Mk46 or Mk50. The Mk-54, in contrast, stemmed from the need for a smaller, lighter, and cost effective advanced torpedo – one that could be dropped from helicopters, planes, and smaller ships. In recent years, the US has moved to modernize and maintain its Mk-48 inventory; the Mk-54 also requires servicing and spares.
Many of these contracts were issued under a total enterprise partnership between Raytheon and the US Navy called Team Torpedo, dedicated to meeting the needs of U.S. and allied naval fleets. Team Torpedo combines Raytheon’s manufacturing, design engineering, and support services expertise with the systems engineering and testing capabilities of Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) operations in Newport, RI, and Keyport, WA. Now, a new provider has entered the picture. DID has the complete set of contracts below… plus more details regarding the torpedoes involved, and the answer to the question “what the heck is CBASS standard”?
Latest updates[?]: The US government has given four ScanEagle unmanned air vehicles to the Philippine Air Force on October 13. The ceremony was attended by Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim (CDA) Heather Variava and Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command Adm. John Aquilino. Representing the Philippine government at Clark airbase was Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana and Philippine Air Force Commanding General Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes.
ScanEagle’s base Insight UAV platform was originally developed by Washington state’s Insitu, Inc. to track dolphins and tuna from fishing boats, in order to ensure that the fish you buy in supermarkets is “dolphin-safe”. It turns out that the same characteristics needed by fishing boats (able to handle salt water environments, low infrastructure launch and recovery, small size, 20-hour long endurance, automated flight patterns) are equally important for naval operations from larger vessels, and for battlefield surveillance. A partnership with Boeing took ScanEagle to market in those fields, and the USMC’s initial buy in 2004 was the beginning of a market-leading position in its niche.
This article covers recent developments with the ScanEagle UAV system, which is quickly evolving into a mainstay with the US Navy and its allies. Incumbency doesn’t last long in the fast-changing world of UAVs, though. Insitu’s own RQ-21 Integrator is looking to push the ScanEagle aside, and new multiple-award contracts in the USA are creating opportunities for other competitors. Can Insitu’s original stay strong?
Latest updates[?]: Hindustan Aeronautics has completed the spin and night flight testing portion for the HTT-40 basic trainer and the light aircraft will head for certification clearance. Intended to replace the HPT-32 (Hindustan Piston Trainer), the HTT-40 is a basic training aircraft developed for the first stage of the training of rookie pilots in the Indian Air Force.
India’s stalled defense procurements have become an international joke, but they’re not funny to front-line participants. The country’s attempts to buy simple artillery pieces have become infamous, but their current problem with trainer aircraft is arguably a more significant wound.
You can’t produce pilots properly without appropriate training, but the IAF’s fleet of 114 locally-designed HPT-32 Deepak basic trainers has been grounded since August 2009, because they aren’t seen as reliable enough or safe enough to fly. Since then, equally aged HJT-16 Kiran jets are being used for both Stage-I and Stage-II fighter training. That yawning gap has added urgency to a replacement buy, but progress has been predictably slow. With its high-end Hawk AJT jet trainer deals behind them after 20+ years of effort, can the IAF take the next step, and plug the hole in the middle of its training? In May 2012, it did.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin announced that the AEHF-5 protected communication satellite is now in transfer orbit. The launch on August 8 was successful and the AEHF-5 is now responding to the US Air Force's 4th Space Operations Squadron’s commands. According to Lockheed, the squadron began "flying" the satellite shortly after it separated from its United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket approximately 5 hours and 40 minutes after the rocket's successful 6:13 am ET liftoff. The Advanced Extremely High Frequency 5 or AEHF-5 satellite is the fifth addition to the Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency constellation. The satellites are built by Lockheed Martin and are used to relay secure communications for the Armed Forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands. The first AEHF satellite was launched in 2006 and the most recent, the AEHF-4 in October 2018. The sixth and final AEHF satellite is expected to launch later this year.
The USA’s new Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites will support twice as many tactical networks as the current Milstar II satellites, while providing 10-12 times the bandwidth capacity and 6 times the data rate transfer speed. With the cancellation of the higher-capacity TSAT program, AEHF will form the secure, hardened backbone of the Pentagon’s future Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) architecture, with a mission set that includes nuclear command and control. Its companion Family of Advanced Beyond-line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T) program will give the US military more modern, higher-bandwidth receiving capabilities, and add more flexibility on the front lines. The program has international components, and partners currently include Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands.
This article offers a look at the AEHF system’s rationale and capabilities, while offering insight into some of the program’s problems, and an updated timeline covering over $5 billion worth of contracts since the program’s inception.