May 24, 2017 04:59 UTC
Lockheed Martin has won a $137.8 million contract modification
for cost-reduction programs for the initial low-rate production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
. Fiscal 2016 aircraft procurement funds from the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps of $137.8 million will be allocated to the program, none of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year. Eighty percent of the modification will go to the Air Force, with the rest split between the Navy and Marine Corps. Scheduled to be completed by December 2020, work will take place at Waco, Texas, El Segundo, Calif. and Warton, England, with other work being completed across the United States.
F-35B: off probation
The $382 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE) Lightning jet. Lightning II system development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3), with Singapore and Israel as “Security Cooperation Partners,” and Japan as the 1st export customer.
The big question for Lockheed Martin is whether, and when, many of these partner countries will begin placing purchase orders. This updated article has expanded to feature more detail regarding the F-35 program, including contracts, sub-contracts, and notable events and reports during 2012-2013.
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May 19, 2017 04:58 UTC
The USAF has awarded a $400 million contract
to General Atomics for the production and delivery of 36 MQ-9 Reaper
UAVs. The contract comes from acquisition funds already appropriated sole-source acquisition funds from Fiscal 2016. Work will take place at Poway, California, and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2020. The Reaper, the larger and more heavily successor to the MQ-1 Predator, the UAV boasts a cruise speed of 230 mph, a flight ceiling up to 50,000 feet, and a range of 1150 miles, and can carry a payload of up to 3750 lbs. Munitions integrated include the Hellfire laser-guided missiles, GBU-12 Paveway bombs, and GPS-guided GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
The MQ-9 Reaper UAV, once called “Predator B,” is somewhat similar to the famous Predator. Until you look at the tail. Or its size. Or its weapons. It’s called “Reaper” for a reason: while it packs the same surveillance gear, it’s much more of a hunter-killer design. Some have called it the first fielded Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV).
The Reaper UCAV will play a significant role in the future USAF, even though its capability set makes the MQ-9 considerably more expensive than MQ-1 Predators. Given these high-end capabilities and expenses, one may not have expected the MQ-9 to enjoy better export success than its famous cousin. Nevertheless, that’s what appears to be happening. MQ-9 operators currently include the USA and Britain, who use it in hunter-killer mode, and Italy. Several other countries are expressing interest, and the steady addition of new payloads are expanding the Reaper’s advantage over competitors…
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May 17, 2017 04:55 UTC
BAE Systems has rolled out the lead example
of its Eurofighter Typhoons
destined for delivery to Oman later this year. Muscat's Typhoon order, signed in December 2012, is for nine single-seat aircraft and three two-seat examples to support training activities. A ceremony to mark the occasion was hosted at the firm's final assembly in Lancashire, UK, with the Typhoon joined by Oman's first new-generation Hawk advanced jet trainer, of which eight Mk 166 examples are on order by the Gulf sultanate.
The multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon has been described as the aerodynamic apotheosis of lessons learned from the twin engine “teen series” fighters that began with the F-14 and F-15, continued with the emergence of the F/A-18 Hornet, and extended through to the most recent F/A-18 Super Hornet variants. Aerodynamically, it’s a half generation ahead of all of these examples, and planned evolutions will place the Eurofighter near or beyond parity in electronic systems and weapons.
The 1998 production agreement among its 4 member countries involved 620 aircraft, built with progressively improved capabilities over 3 contract “tranches”. By the end of Tranche 2, however, welfare state programs and debt burdens had made it difficult to afford the 236 fighters remaining in the 4-nation Eurofighter agreement. A 2009 compromise was found in the EUR 9 billion “Tranche 3A” buy, and the program has renewed its efforts to secure serious export sales. Their success will affect the platform’s production line in the near term, and its modernization plans beyond that.
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May 12, 2017 04:59 UTC
The US Navy has awarded Rolls Royce a $78.7 million contract
to provide logistical and engineering support for originally manufactured engines on the KC-130J
tanker aircraft. Under the contract, aircraft in use by the US Marine Corp as well as the government of Kuwait will be affected. The work will primarily be completed in Indianapolis, with smaller contracts spread through other states, as well as Japan and Kuwait. The project is expected to be completed by May 2022.
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.
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May 12, 2017 04:57 UTC
In a world first, Airbus has successfully completed
the first test of its automatic air-to-air refueling (AAR) contact system. During the flight, the company’s A330 MRTT
demonstrator was successfully steered into the receptacle of a Portuguese air force F-16 using image processing software that the company has been developing for more than a year. As many as six contacts were made over a 75 minute period, at 25,000 feet and 270 knots. The AAR system requires no additional equipment on the receiver and could be introduced on current production A330MRTTs as soon as 2019.
Voyager & friends
Back in 2005, Great Britain was considering a public-private partnership to buy, equip, and operate the RAF’s future aerial tanker fleet. The RAF would fly the 14 Airbus A330-MRTT aircraft on operational missions, and receive absolute preferential access to the planes. A private contractor would handle maintenance, receive payment from the RAF on a per-use basis – and operate them as passenger charter or transport aircraft when the RAF didn’t need them.
The deal became politically controversial, and negotiations on the 27-year, multi-billion pound deal charted new territory for both the government, and for private industry. Which may help to explain why a contract to move ahead on a “Private Financing Initiative” basis had yet to be issued, and procurement had yet to begin, over 7 years after the program began. In March 2008, however, Britain issued the world’s largest-ever Defence Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract. This FOCUS Article describes the current British fleet, the aircraft they chose to replace them, how the new fleet will compare, the innovative deal structure they’ve chosen, and ongoing FSTA developments.
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May 10, 2017 04:56 UTC
A report by the German Defense Ministry has raised concerns
over the military readiness of the A400M
due to contractual wrangling with manufacturer Airbus as well as ongoing technical issues. First ordered in 2003, the A400M aimed to give European nations an independent transport capability but costs have since spiraled and Airbus has warned of "risks ahead" for the continent's largest defense project. The report warns that Airbus may request delays ranging between 12 and 18 months in order to fix the issues, which could lead to a German capability gap when it retires its fleet of C-160 Transall aircraft in 2021. In response to this gap, Germany and France have decided on a plan
to jointly procure and operate a number of C-130J
aircraft from Lockheed Martin in order to augment their A400M fleets.
A400M rollout, Seville
Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition.
Airbus’ biggest program issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as a combination of A400M delays and Lockheed’s strong push for its C-130J Super Hercules narrow the field for future exports. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into the delivery phase. Will Airbus’ 3rd big issue become its own customers?
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May 05, 2017 00:57 UTC
Boeing has reached an important milestone
in bringing its KC-46 tanker program
closer to serial production, announcing that it now has has a total of six units ready for its testing program. The newest, of the planes, which is the second to be produced under a low-rate production order, conducted its first test flight on April 26, and future testing will be largely focus on ensuring that the tanker can stand up to electromagnetic fields—radars and powerful radio towers are capable of scrambling aircraft electronic systems if they are not carefully shielded. Boeing intends to eventually produce as many as 179 KC-46 tankers for the USAF.
KC-135: Old as the hills…
DID’s FOCUS articles cover major weapons acquisition programs – and no program is more important to the USAF than its aerial tanker fleet renewal. In January 2007, the big question was whether there would be a competition for the USA’s KC-X proposal, covering 175 production aircraft and 4 test platforms. The total cost is now estimated at $52 billion, but America’s aerial tanker fleet demands new planes to replace its KC-135s, whose most recent new delivery was in 1965. Otherwise, unpredictable age or fatigue issues, like the ones that grounded its F-15A-D fighters in 2008, could ground its aerial tankers – and with them, a substantial slice of the USA’s total airpower.
KC-Y and KC-Z buys are supposed to follow in subsequent decades, in order to replace 530 (195 active; ANG 251; Reserve 84) active tankers, as well as the USAF’s 59 heavy KC-10 tankers that were delivered from 1979-1987. Then again, fiscal and demographic realities may mean that the 179 plane KC-X buy is “it” for the USAF. Either way, the KC-X stakes were huge for all concerned.
In the end, it was Team Boeing’s KC-767 NexGen/ KC-46A (767 derivative) vs. EADS North America’s KC-45A (Airbus KC-30/A330-200 derivative), both within the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress. The financial and employment stakes guaranteed a huge political fight no matter which side won. After Airbus won in 2008, that fight ended up sinking and restarting the entire program. Three years later, Boeing won the recompete. Now, they have to deliver their KC-46A.
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May 05, 2017 00:56 UTC
Boeing has pulled its Harpoon
anti-ship missile out of a US Navy contract
aimed at procuring an over-the-horizon (OTH) cruise missile for its Littoral Combat Ships (LCS
) and frigates. Proposed upgrades to the current Harpoon Block II would have initially extended its range to 150 miles, along with providing a new, more powerful warhead. However, the company stated that changing service requirements "would have to take a lot of capability out of this existing system and really deliver a less-capable weapons system." Boeing added that they would continue to deliver upgrades for the missile. This leaves the Raytheon/Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM
) and Lockheed Martin Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM
) as the likely candidates in the OTH effort.
Harpoon in flight
The sub-sonic, wave-skimming GM-84 Harpoon is the US Navy’s sole anti-shipping missile, with the minor exception of small helicopter-borne AGM-119B Penguin missiles. The Harpoon has been adapted into several variants, and exported to many navies around the world. At present, the Harpoon family includes AGM-84 air, RGM-84 sea/land, and UGM-84 submarine-launched versions. Variants such as the Joint Standoff Land Attack Missiles and the upgraded AGM-84K SLAM – Expanded Response will also be covered in this DID FOCUS Article. It describes the missiles themselves, and covers global contracts involving this family.
The Harpoon family’s best known competitor is the French/MBDA M38/39/40 Exocet, but recent years have witnessed a growing competitive roster at both the subsonic (Israel’s >Gabriel family, Russia’s SS-N-27 Klub family, Saab’s RBS15, Kongsberg’s stealthy NSM, China’s YJ-82/C-802 used by Hezbollah in Lebanon), and supersonic (Russia’s SS-N-22 Sunburn/Moskit, SS-N-26 Yakhont, and some SS-N-27 Klub variants, India’s SS-N-26 derived PJ-10 BrahMos) tiers.
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Apr 21, 2017 00:51 UTC
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BAE Systems will build a sixth Astute-class
nuclear-powered submarine for the British Royal Navy following the award of a $1.77 billion MoD contract
. Dubbed the Agamemnon, the sub will be about 318 feet long, have a submerged speed of 30 knots and an endurance of 90 days. It can carry Tomahawk missiles as well as torpedoes. The first three Astute class submarines HMS Astute, HMS Ambush and HMS Artful are currently in service with the Royal Navy with a further four in various stages of construction at the company's site in Barrow, Cumbria.
Britain retired its nuclear-powered 4,900t SSN Swiftsure Class fast attack boats in 2010, and has begun phasing out its follow-on 5,300t SSN Trafalgar Class, before the effects of the ocean’s constant squeezing and release start making them dangerous to use. The last Trafalgar Class boat is expected to retire by 2022, and replacements were required. Submarines are considered to be a strategic industry in Britain, which remains committed to nuclear-powered submarines for their entire fleet. As such, there was never any question of whether they’d design their own. The new SSN Astute Class were designed to be stealthier than the Trafalgars, despite having 39% more displacement at 7,400t submerged.
Britain’s 6 Swiftsure and 7 Trafalgar Class boats will eventually find themselves replaced by 7 of the new Astute Class. The new submarine class has had its share of delays and difficulties, but the program continues to move forward with GBP 2.75 billion in contracts over the past week.
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