Latest updates[?]: The first C-130H with eight-bladed propellors assigned to the 133rd Airlift Wing has returned home after modifications. The aircraft arrived home on May 11 at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. Another seven C-130Hs are undergoing the modifications with a completion date by the end of September 2023. After which the cargo planes will get new T56 3.5 turboprop engines.
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[?]: Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin JV won a $71.4 million contract modification for the Javelin Missile System. Javelin is a man-portable anti-tank guided weapon. The F-Model of the Javelin missile first entered production in 2020 and includes improvements to the missile’s warhead to defeat reactive armor as well as improved case fragmentation that enables the user to strike lightly armored or unarmored targets. Work will take. Place in Arizona. Estimated completion date is February 28, 2025. Fiscal 2022 missile procurement, Army funds; and Foreign Military Sales (Thailand, Norway, Albania and Latvia) funds in the full amount were obligated at the time of the award.
The FGM-148 Javelin missile system aimed to solve 2 key problems experienced by American forces. One was a series of disastrous experiences in Vietnam, trying to use 66mm M72 LAW rockets against old Soviet tanks. A number of replacement options like the Mk 153 SMAW and the AT4/M136 spun out of that effort in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until electronics had miniaturized for several more cycles that it became possible to solve the next big problem: the need for soldiers to remain exposed to enemy fire while guiding anti-tank missiles to their targets.
Javelin solves both of those problems at once, offering a heavy fire-and-forget missile that will reliably destroy any enemy armored vehicle, and many fortifications as well. While armored threats are less pressing these days, the need to destroy fortified outposts and rooms in buildings remains. Indeed, one of the lessons from both sides of the 2006 war in Lebanon has been the infantry’s use of guided missiles as a form of precision artillery fire. Javelin isn’t an ideal candidate for that latter role, due to its high cost-per-unit; nevertheless, it has often been used this way. Its performance in Iraq has revealed a clear niche on both low and high intensity battlefields, and led to rising popularity with American and international clients.
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[?]: Australia has announced plans to acquire 12 more MH-60R naval helicopters and 29 AH-64E attack helicopters. The MH-60R contract will include a 13th aircraft to replace one that was lost in 2021. All will be based at HMAS Albatross. Boeing says it welcomes Australia’s decision as the AH-64E Apache provides Australia with a low-risk, fully-integrated, battle-proven capability.
MH-60Rs fire Hellfire
Australia’s AIR 9000, Phase 8 project aimed to buy 24 modern naval helicopters to 16 existing S-70B-2 Seahawks, along with the disastrous A$1.1 billion, 11-helicopter SH-2G “Super Seasprite” acquisition attempt. With a total sales and support value of over A$ 3 billion, it was a highly coveted award.
The finalists were familiar, and both had roots in Australia. Sikorsky’s MH-60R is a modernized descendant of the RAN’s existing S-70B anti-submarine helicopters, and Australia’s army operates the S-70A utility helicopter. On the other hand, a multi-billion dollar 2006 order made the European NH90-TTH (“MRH-90”) the Army’s future helicopter, and some MRH-90s will even serve as Navy utility helicopters. NHI/Eurocopter’s NH90-NFH naval variant builds on that base. So why did the MH-60R make Australia its 1st export win?
Latest updates[?]: F-15s assigned to the 144th Fighter Wing, California, carried out Alaska Dissimilar Aircraft Combat Training exercise with F-22s from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson last month. There were two objectives in this exercise: one is to free up F-22s to allow them to be deployed in the Pacific and the second is to improve interoperability between the two different generations of fighters.
Into that good night
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.
Latest updates[?]: The US Air Force announced on April 26 that it had selected the Boeing E-7 Wedgetail to replace its Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft. The USAF plans to award a contract in fiscal year 2023 and requested $227 million in research, development, test, and evaluation funds for the programme starting in its FY 2023 budget.
over New South Wales
The island continent of Australia faces a number of unique security challenges that stem from its geography. The continent may be separated from its neighbors by large expanses of ocean, but it also resides within a potential arc of instability, and has a number of important offshore resource sites to protect. Full awareness of what is going on around them, and the ability to push that awareness well offshore, are critical security requirements.
“Project Wedgetail” had 3 finalists, and the winner was a new variant of Boeing’s 737-700, fitted with an MESA (multirole electronically scanned array) radar from Northrop Grumman. That radar exchanges the traditional AWACS rotating dome for the E-7A’s “top hat” stationary antenna. That design, and the project as a whole, have run into severe turbulence, creating problems for Boeing earnings, the ADF, and other export orders for the type. DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This one covers contracts, events, and key milestones within Australia’s E-7A program, from inception to the current day.
Latest updates[?]: Northrop Grumman won a $38 million contract modification, which increases the contract ceiling to procure an additional 173 Tech Refresh Mission Computers (TRMC) and an additional 173 TRMC trays in support of the Army’s domestic production UH-60V aircraft. The UH-60V is an upgraded version of the current UH-60L aircraft. Instead of the UH-60L’s legacy cockpit, the newer version features a fully open, digital and integrated avionics suite. The changes increase the life and mission capabilities of the UH-60 platform. Work will take place in Utah and California. Expected completion date is December 2023.
US Army HH-60Ms
In July 2012, the US military signed another huge contract with Sikorsky. With production of the Army’s HH/UH-60M, and the Navy’s MH-60S and MH-60R helicopters, all in full swing, there’s no question about the need for future orders. In that environment, multi-year contracts allow efficiencies in purchasing, and security of staffing, throughout Sikorsky’s supply chain. These new helicopter types are also available to Foreign Military Sales class customers, under the American contract’s advantageous pricing and terms. The UH-60M, MH-60S and MH-60R models have already inked export deals, and official requests indicate that more deals are in the pipeline.
The new multi-year 2013-2017 contract could be worth up to $11.7 billion, and follows a 5-year, multi-service “MYP-VII” contract in December 2007. Like its predecessor, it covers UH-60M Black Hawk troop transport and light cargo helicopters, Army HH-60M SAR (Search And Rescue) / MEDEVAC (MEDical EVACuation) helicopters, and the US Navy’s MH-60S and MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.
Latest updates[?]: The Indian Navy commissioned the Indian Naval Air Squadron 316 (INAS 316), the service’s second P-8I aircraft squadron. A ceremony was held at INS Hansa, Goa on 29 March 2022. INAS 316 has been christened ‘Condors’ which are one of the largest flying land birds with a massive wingspan. The insignia of the squadron depicts a 'Condor' searching over the vast blue expanse of the sea.
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[?]: Lockheed Martin won a $128.2 million contract modification by the US Air Force for the exercise of an option for hardware spares and the partial exercise of an option for an additional 123 Lot 20 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) – Extended Range missiles with containers. According to the company, JASSM is a long-range, conventional, air-to-ground, precision standoff missile for the US and allied forces. Designed to destroy high-value, well-defended, fixed and relocatable targets, JASSM’s significant standoff range keeps aircrews well out of danger from hostile air defense systems. Work will take place in Florida and Alabama. Expected completion date is January 30, 2026.
JASSM-ER from B-1B
The 2,000 pound AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) is intended to be a stealthy, inexpensive GPS/IIR (Global Positioning system/ Imaging InfraRed) guided cruise missile. It’s designed to attack well-defended targets without putting its carrier aircraft in the crosshairs of new long-range surface to air missile systems. JASSM has experienced a rocky development history, due to long-standing reliability issues. In 2005 it was threatened with cancellation following a series of poor test results. The program went through 2007 on an ongoing roller coaster of ups and downs, and by May 2009 it appeared the program was facing cancellation once again.
A production hiatus did take place between Lot 7 and FY 2010’s Lot 8 in FY 2010, but test results allowed the USAF to move forward, and the missile is beginning to win export orders.
In an age of non-linear warfare, where front lines are nebulous at best and non-existent at worst, one of the biggest casualties is… the concept of unprotected rear echelon vehicles, designed with the idea that they’d never see serious combat. That imperative is being driven home on 2 fronts. One front is operational. The other front is buying trends.
These trends, and their design imperatives, found their way into the USA’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program, which aims to replace many of the US military’s 120,000 or so Humvees. The US military’s goal is a 7-10 ton vehicle that’s lighter than its MRAPs and easier to transport aboard ship, while offering substantially better protection ad durability than existing up-armored Humvees. They’d also like a vehicle that can address front-line issues like power generation, in order to recharge all of the batteries troops require for electronic gadgets like night sights, GPS devices, etc.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. JLTV certainly qualifies, and recent budget planning endorsements have solidifed a future that was looking shaky. Now, can the Army’s program deliver?