Latest updates[?]: Cracks have been found on the tails of Canada’s CH-148 fleet, the problem affects 19 out of the 23 helicopters. The issue surfaced on November 26 when one of the helicopter underwent scheduled maintenance and the cracks were discovered. Subsequent checks on three more rotorcraft also found cracks on those aircraft. So far only two were unaffected and two more are yet to be inspected.
Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Replacement Program has been a textbook military procurement program over its long history. Unfortunately, it has been a textbook example of what not to do. While Canada’s 50-year old Sea King fleet aged and deteriorated to potentially dangerous levels, political pettiness and lack of concern turned a straightforward off-the-shelf buy into a 25+ year long odyssey of cancellations, lawsuits, rebids, and more. Eventually, the Canadian military settled on Sikorsky’s H-92 Superhawk as the basis of its new CH-148 Cyclone Maritime Helicopter, which will serve from the decks of Canada’s naval ships and bases.
The civilian S-92 has gone on to some commercial success. To date, however, Canada has been the H-92’s only military customer – with all of the associated systems integration and naval conversion burdens that one would expect. After a long series of badly missed milestones and delivery delays, there are also deeper questions being raised concerning both the machines’ fitness, and DND’s conduct of the program as a whole. This article covers the rationale for, history of, and developments within Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Program.
Latest updates[?]: Local media reports that Japanese defense officials are considering the option of installing new long-range standoff attack missiles on the two new Aegis warships to be built. Yomuiri Shimbun says the range of the new indigenous missiles will be around 1,000 km. The government may install such missiles on the two ships equipped with Aegis missile interceptor systems in response to increasing naval activities by Beijing in the East China Sea amid tensions over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyu. The Cabinet approved Friday the building of the two vessels to enhance its defense capabilities in the face of the North Korean missile threat.
The JMSDF (Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force) is working closely with the USA on missile defense activities. Air Force cooperation has also improved by leaps and bounds, allowing for much closer coordination with the USA in all aspects of operations – including missile tracking.
Japanese involvement includes modification and improvements to the SM-3 long-range anti-air/ABM missile. This weapon will form the outer layer of Japan’s ABM system, deployed from its current fleet of 4 Kongo Class AEGIS destroyers and their 2 larger Atago Class successors. The inner layer will consist of land-based Japan Self Defense Forces PAC-3 Patriot missiles, and together they will form the initial ballistic missile defense architecture for mainland Japan.
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.
Latest updates[?]: The US Navy contracted Data Link Solutions with a $75 million modification for the Block Upgrade II retrofit of Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) low volume terminals (LVTs). The MIDS LVT is a low-cost fighter terminal with flexible, open-architecture designs. It provides the critical airborne, ground, and maritime link that allows for simultaneous coordination of forces and situational awareness in battlefield operations. The MIDS program was inaugurated via a Memorandum of Understanding amongst the founding MIDS nations, namely Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and the United States. The terminals provide secure, high-capacity, jam-resistant, digital data and voice communications capability for Navy, Air Force and Army platforms, and for Foreign Military Sales customers. Work will take place in Wayne, New Jersey and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Estimated completion date is in December 2026.
Link 16 Display
(click to see situation)
What one sees, all see. Jam-resistant Link-16 radios automatically exchange battlefield information – particularly locations of friendly and enemy aircraft, ships and ground forces – among themselves in a long-range, line-of-sight network. For example, air surveillance tracking data from an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft can be instantly shared with fighter aircraft and air defense units. More than a dozen countries have installed Link 16 terminals on over 19 different land, sea, and air platforms, making it an interoperability success story.
While recent advancements may make AESA radars the future transmitters of choice, Link 16 is the current standard. The Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals (MIDS LVTs) were developed by a multinational consortium to provide Link 16 capability at a lower weight, volume, and cost than the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS). This free-to-view DID Spotlight article throws a spotlight on the program, explaining Link 16, and covering associated contracts around the world.
Latest updates[?]: South Korea’s second Dokdo Class helicopter carrier started Sea Trials, Jane’s reports. The Dokdo Class Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) ships of the Korean Navy act as a command and control platform for the maritime mobile fleet and supports three-dimensional landing operations as well as maritime air operations. The Navy launched the lead ship, the ROKS Dokdo, in July 2005 and commissioned it two years later. Dokdo is the largest vessel in the South Korean Navy. The hull is divided into four decks to accommodate helicopters, assault amphibious vehicles, landing craft air cushion, tanks and trucks. The second ship will be named ROKS Marado once commissioned. Marado is a 199 meter long LPH ship that displaces 14,500 tonnes and features a through-deck flight operations area with five landing spots. It is able to carry up to 10 UH-60 helicopters, about 700 embarked troops, and 10 main battle tanks and associated support vehicles.
Australia isn’t the only Pacific Rim country looking to modernize its Navy these days. China’s rapid shipbuilding program and work on its aircraft carrier project gets a lot of attention – but just to the east, South Korea is fielding its own AEGIS-equipped “air warfare destroyer,” while picking up new capabilities via a new class of amphibious assault LHD ship. Sound familiar? Hobart and Canberra Class, meet the KDX-III King Sejong Class AEGIS destroyer (launched May 2007) and the new “LPH” Dokdo Class LHD (commissioned July 2007).
The 199-meter, 18,860-ton Dokdo Class officially has the less aggressive designation of LPH (landing platform, helicopter), but its well deck and amphibious assault capabilities place it within the LHD category…
Latest updates[?]: The Naval Air Warfare Center is awarding a contract to Airborne Tactical Advantage Co. (ATAC). The modification is valued at $54,5 million and provides for support activities to the Navy’s Contracted Air Services (CAS) program. The CAS Program provides contractor owned and operated Type III high subsonic and Type IV supersonic aircraft to Navy Fleet customers for a wide variety of airborne threat simulation capabilities. The Type III high subsonic and Type IV supersonic aircraft are designed to simulate incoming threats for testing and training defensive capabilities. ATAC jets are certified to carry a wide range of stores. TACTS/ACMI (P4/5) pods or LATR GPS tracking pods, provide air combat tracking. For electronic warfare training, AST-6 and AST-9 threat simulators can be combined with multiple AN/ALQ-167 and AN/ALG-188 pods. Key competitors include Top Aces, Draken International, L-3 Flight International Phoenix Air and Tactical Air Support, Inc. Work will be performed in various locations inside and outside the continental US, including Newport News, Virginia and Point Mugu, California. It is expected to be completed on May 2019.
Kfir C2 w. ALQ-167
Over the last 13 years ATAC has performed a wide range of flight training operations for the US Navy, US Air Force and Air National Guard, including participation in US Navy fleet training, acting as adversary fighters for the “TOPGUN” program, Red Flag exercises and F-22 Raptor training; participating in JTAC/ FAC-A/ CAS ground controller training; and even serving American research & development programs like the Ship Self Defense System and ALE-50 towed decoy. Under their agreement with US Navy, their services have also been used to train militaries in the UK, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, et. al., and the company is placing a renewed focus on exports.
Unlike many other contractors, who operate Learjets and similar business aircraft, ATAC operates fighters and attack jets…
In May 2006, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Japan of four sets of Airborne Early Warning (AEW) and Command, Control and Communications (C3) mission equipment/Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) Group A and B kits, plus spares and services to ensure complete AWACS mission equipment supportability, for subsequent installation and checkout in 4 previously procured E-767 Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft.
Boeing delivered the 4 AWACS E-767s to Japan between 1998-1999; they have been in service since 2000.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin has secured legal permission to explore the potential use of exoskeleton technology for the military market. The firm secured licensing of bionic augmentation technology from B-Temia and will incorporate it to supplement its FORTIS industrial exoskeleton project. Designed to make labor easier by transferring pressure through the exoskeleton to the ground in a process that makes heavy tools "weightless," the system requires no external power to operate, and can boost military capabilities by enabling soldiers to carry more equipment over longer distances. The product can be used in standing or kneeling positions, and uses a tool arm to reduce muscle fatigue and boost productivity.
Most military programs don’t coordinate news releases with major motion pictures. With Iron Man in theaters and getting reviews that may get DID’s staff to go see it, Raytheon is taking the time to promote its US Army-funded exoskeleton suit. Originally funded under a 7-year, $75 million DARPA program, the suite has now gone on to the next stage under a 2-year, $10 million follow-on Army grant:
The problem they’re trying to address is no stunt. The weight of a soldier’s equipment easily approaches 80-100 pounds, far higher than the 30 pounds recommended for maximum mobility. As we load our soldiers down with more technical gadgets, that weight tends to go up, not down. The USA and Japan are only a couple of the countries working on aspects of a mechanical exoskeleton that would give its wearers vastly improved strength and endurance. While Japanese demographic and cultural trends in particular are giving concepts like individual soldier augmentation a push, we can still expect a very long wait before we see exoskeletons that can deliver the required performance to justify their cost, can handle military conditions, and can be maintained in the field at reasonable cost. It’s far more likely that first fielding, if there is one, will involve more limited use by disabled soldiers, or be used like Cyberdyne Japan’s HAL-5 in private, para-public, and first responder roles. Raytheon release | Raytheon feature | Popular Science [PDF].
April 13/17: Lockheed Martin has secured legal permission to explore the potential use of exoskeleton technology for the military market. The firm secured licensing of bionic augmentation technology from B-Temia and will incorporate it to supplement its FORTIS industrial exoskeleton project. Designed to make labor easier by transferring pressure through the exoskeleton to the ground in a process that makes heavy tools “weightless,” the system requires no external power to operate, and can boost military capabilities by enabling soldiers to carry more equipment over longer distances. The product can be used in standing or kneeling positions, and uses a tool arm to reduce muscle fatigue and boost productivity.
Latest updates[?]: Boeing has revealed some of the potential upgrades offered to Japan's F-15Js. The company's defense head in Japan announced that AESA radars, a new mission computer, a new electronic warfare suite, conformal fuel tanks, and additional missiles would all be included as part of any deal. A model on display at Boeing’s stand at this week's Japan Aerospace show depicts an F-15 loaded with 16 Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles: double the load now available.
RF-4EJ, heading out…
Once upon a time, nations produced dedicated reconnaissance aircraft variants of front like fighters, or even dedicated reconnaissance fighter designs. These usually involved airframe modifications to place bulky camera equipment in the aircraft’s nose and/or centerline, and the sacrifice of guns and some stores stations. Anyone who has ever watched the movie “Terminator” and marveled at the bulky devices that used to be called “portable music players” will understand why this sort of thing isn’t necessary any more. Small pods like the RecceLITE, SHARP, LITENING et. al. can be fitted to any fighter, instantly turning it into a reconnaissance and/or targeting platform.
The JASDF(Japanese Air Self Defence Force) 501 Hikotai at Hyakuri AB flies the Japanese contingent of 27 RF-4EJs. Some were originally RF-4E reconnaissance planes, while others are converted F-4EJ fighters. They are scheduled to be decommissioned soon, and to replace them…
Latest updates[?]: Leondardo Helicopters is in talks with the Japanese government over the potential sale of a further 12 AW101 helicopters for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Tokyo already operates seven of an eventual 11-strong fleet of the heavy helicopters configured for minesweeping missions, designated as the MCH-101, plus two of an eventual three CH-101 utility transports. Giovanni Soccodato, Leonardo’s executive vice-president for strategies, markets, and business development, said the company was “close to finalizing” a new contract with the Japanese.
MCH-101 AMCM concept
Japan is a trading and shipping power, so it isn’t unreasonable for them to be very concerned about mines. Helicopters are an important adjunct to Japan’s large fleet of 25+ minesweeping ships, and can even serve as a substitute in some situations. Japan’s fleet of 11 MCH-101 airborne mine counter-measures helicopters are closely derived from AgustaWestland’s 3-engined AW101 heavy maritime helicopter, and most are being built in Japan under license by Kawasaki. Mission equipment will include the AN/AQS-24A mine hunting side scan sonar, the AN/AES-1 airborne laser mine detection system, and the MK-104 acoustic minesweeping system.
ECH-101s have good range, and can operate from shore. As an alternative, they can be embarked aboard Japanese ships, especially the JMSDF’s 19,000 ton Hyuga Class “helicopter destroyers” (LPH anywhere else).
2010 – 2016
DDH-181 Hyuga & USN’s LHD-2, post-tsunami (click to view entire)
June 27/16: Leondardo Helicopters is in talks with the Japanese government over the potential sale of a further 12 AW101 helicopters for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Tokyo already operates seven of an eventual 11-strong fleet of the heavy helicopters configured for minesweeping missions, designated as the MCH-101, plus two of an eventual three CH-101 utility transports. Giovanni Soccodato, Leonardo’s executive vice-president for strategies, markets, and business development, said the company was “close to finalizing” a new contract with the Japanese.
June 18/13: Northrop Grumman announces that they’ve has delivered the 1st of 4 AQS-24A airborne mine-hunting sonars to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (q.v. July 11/12). The 1st ALMDS wide-area laser mine detection system is slated for delivery “later this summer.”
There’s always a follow-on period of training and tactics development, so it will be a little while before Japan can make full use of these new capabilities. NGC.
Nov 6/12: MEDAL. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) announces that Japan has picked its Mine Warfare and Environmental Decision Aids Library (MEDAL) counter-mine software control system, for installation into the corresponding ground system for the JMSDF’s MCH-101 helicopters. MEDAL has played a similar role in the US Navy since the mid-1990s, and the USN’s compatible MEDAL system performs the same mission planning, evaluation, and command and control functions.
SAIC will be assisting with engineering and training services as MEDAL is integrated within NEC Corporation’s broader MCH-101 ground support system.
July 11/12: AQS-24. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces follow-on contracts by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to supply 3 more AQS-24A airborne mine hunting systems, plus ground-based support equipment. The AN/AQS-24 is a towed sonar with an accompanying laser line scanner for optical identification, and the sonar and laser both operate at the same time. It’s deployed from the rear ramp of helicopters like the US Navy’s MH-53s, and the JMSDF will use all 4 systems ordered to date on its new MCH-101 helicopters.
The award of the airborne electronics work marks the culmination of a technology transition that allows some local manufacturing in Japan, and will eventually enable the JMSDF to provide full logistics support for the AQS-24A systems. Additional follow-on efforts for more systems, electronics and support equipment are anticipated in 2013, and will continue until the JMSDF reaches its full operational inventory objective. NGC.
AQS-24 detection sonars
Feb 2/12: ALMDS. Japan becomes the AN/AES-1 ALMDS’ first export customer, buying 4 of the laser mine detection pods to equip its MCH-101 (AW101) medium-heavy naval helicopters. Northrop Grumman will work with Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., and Fujitsu Ltd. on delivery and installation.
ALMDS uses a fan-shaped beam of laser light detection and ranging (LIDAR) to detect, classify and localize near-surface moored sea mines. The forward motion of the helicopter sweeps the light over the water in a “push broom” manner, and 4 cameras are arranged to cover the same swath illuminated by the laser fan beam. As images are received by the system, an automatic target recognition algorithm picks out potential mine-like objects and stores their images for later classification by fleet operators, using computer-aided post-mission analysis tools. The new system has had some trouble in American tests with false positives, but Japan has worked with Northrop Grumman for a long time, and seems willing to go ahead anyway. Northrop Grumman | Read more in “LCS & MH-60S Mine Counter-Measures Continue Development“.
ALMDS laser mine detection pods
Oct 24/11: AQS-24. Northrop Grumman announces that its AN/AQS-24 towed mine-hunting sonar has been “competitively selected” by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Under the initial contract, Northrop Grumman’s Undersea Systems business unit will deliver 1 system to Kawasaki Heavy Industries, for integration into Japan’s new Airborne Mine Countermeasures MCH-101 helicopter.
The AQS-24 is currently deployed aboard the US Navy’s even larger MH-53E mine hunting helicopters.
1994 – 2009
From initial teaming through 1st delivery; 1st assembled in Japan MCH-101.
MCH-101 click for video
June 17/09: Local spares.AgustaWestland announces an agreement with Marubeni Aerospace Corporation of Tokyo, Japan to establish a local MCH-101/ CH-101 Spare Parts Depot. That will certainly cut turnaround time for spares.
The Spare Parts Depot has been privately funded and will operate initially for a period of 5 years.
March 26/07: Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) has delivered the JMSDF’s 1st licence-built MCH-101. It’s the first EH101/AW101 to be assembled outside AgustaWestland’s production facilities in Italy and the UK, and has 35% local content. Flight International.
March 2006: Japan takes delivery of its 1st MCH-101. It was assembled at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil, UK plan before undergoing conversion at Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ Gifu works. Source.
1st MCH-101 delivery
2003: The first of 14 MCH-101 (Airborne Mine Counter Measures, 11) and CH-101 (Antarctic Support, 3) helicopters was delivered to the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force. Subsequent releases indicate that it was a CH-101. Source.
1st AW101 delivery
2002: The ECH-101 partners enter into a general consultancy and distributorship agreement for the promotion and sales of the AW101. Source.
1994: Teaming agreement signed by AgustaWestland, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Marubeni to compete for Japan’s mine warfare helicopter needs. Source.