Feb 27, 2017 00:46 UTC
Airbus has announced that there have been no signs of further cracks or damage
in the combustion chambers of A400M
transport aircraft. Safety regulators from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had to conduct investigations and safety checks into all aircraft after unexplained cracks were discovered in the combustion chamber of an A400M engine owned by Malaysia last year. The EASA airworthiness directive called for inspections of all engines similar to the Malaysian one, and follow-on checks after 500 hours, and then every 250 hours after that. Airbus has also called for fresh talks
with European defense ministers in order to discuss the latest issues concerning the transporter and to agree on future steps to ensure the best interests of the program.
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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Feb 24, 2017 00:59 UTC
Boeing is taking some suppliers to court
after they sold mislabeled chemicals that caused the maiden flight of the KC-46
tanker to be delayed by a month. Able Aerospace Adhesives and AlfaKleen Chemical Labs, both from California, are being sued in the sum of $10 million or more for the mix up, whose incorrect chemical damaged components in the jet’s refueling system, and time was lost by Boeing in order to to replace those damaged parts. The liquid provided was certified to meet MIL-PRF-680 Type III certification; it was, however, actually more acidic than required.
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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Feb 21, 2017 00:50 UTC
Northrop Grumman and the British RAF have successfully demonstrated
communication system interoperability between an F-35
and Eurofighter Typhoon
jets. The test was carried out during an MoD-funded two week trial, called Babel Fish III, and saw a Lockheed Martin F-35B communicate with a Typhoon fighter by translating its Multifunction Advanced Data Link messages into a Link 16 format. It was the first time a non-U.S. 5th- and 4th-generation aircraft shared MADL-delivered data. Northrop claimed that the test integrated its Freedom 550 technology into the F-35's Airborne Gateway, which translates information from various sources to enhance situational awareness and interoperability.
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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Feb 20, 2017 00:50 UTC
The US Navy is to test a potential fix
for an issue regarding the F-35C’s nose wheel in order to see if the jet still suffers from excessive vertical oscillations during a catapult launch. Testing will begin tomorrow, Tuesday February 21, at the service’s land-base test facility at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. However, if the early fixes don't work, the Navy will be required to do more extensive fixes to the nose gear and the helmet display, or even redesign the entire nose gear for the F-35C
(which could take years and further delay the program).
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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Feb 15, 2017 00:55 UTC
German initiatives to deepen defensive ties with its neighbors continues as it moves forward with a plan set up a joint fleet
of Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J
transport planes with France and join a Netherlands-led fleet of Airbus A330 tanker planes. The plans join other collaborative agreements with Norway, Romania and the Czech Republic, and come at a time when NATO members face increasing pressure from the United States to spend more for their own military and reach NATO's target of devoting 2 percent of gross domestic product to defense spending.
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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Feb 07, 2017 00:55 UTC
Tatra Defense Vehicles will provide additional Steyr Pandur II trucks to the Czech Republic
, adding to the 107 Pandurs already operated by Prague
. The $82 million contract will see the provision of 20 vehicles, six of which will be fitted as command-and-control trucks and another 14 vehicles configured as communications platforms.The Pandur II 8x8 armored vehicle is an updated all-wheel drive version of the Pandur 6x6 armored personnel carrier.
In January 2006, the Czech Republic selected General Dynamics’ European Land Combat Systems subsidiary Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug GmbH of Austria to supply its army with 199 new eight-wheeled Pandur II armored personnel carriers (APCs) between 2007-2012. The KBVP vehicles would replace Soviet-era OT-64 SKOT APCs, and would be produced in Austria and the Czech Republic.
In 2005 the contract included an option for 35 additional vehicles for a total of 234, and had a potential value of Koruna 23.6 billion ($1-1.4 billion). Steyr’s Pandur II was a finalist, and eventually won the competition. But questions arose, the deal became a political football, and delivery issues jeopardized the deal into oblivion. Or so it seemed. Despite the economic crisis gripping Eastern Europe, the Czechs reinstated a scaled-down version of the deal in late February 2009.
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Feb 02, 2017 00:55 UTC
A new signal processor for the AIM-120
air-to-air missile is being developed by Raytheon
. Carried out under the Form Fit Function Refresh program (F3R), the work is aimed at ensuring the continuation of AMRAAM production well into the 2020s. While little else is currently known about the signal processor's development work, the missile is capable of tracking targets in electronic warfare environments. Already carried on F-16, F-15, F/A-18, F-22, Typhoon, Gripen, Tornado and Harrier fighters, the AIM-120 is also cleared for use on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, making it the munition that has flown on more aircraft worldwide than any other air-to-air missile.
AIM-120C from F-22A
(click for test missile zoom)
Raytheon’s AIM-120 Advanced, Medium-Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) has become the world market leader for medium range air-to-air missiles, and is also beginning to make inroads within land-based defense systems. It was designed with the lessons of Vietnam in mind, and of local air combat exercises like ACEVAL and Red Flag. This DID FOCUS article covers successive generations of AMRAAM missiles, international contracts and key events from 2006 onward, and even some of its emerging competitors.
One of the key lessons learned from Vietnam was that a fighter would be likely to encounter multiple enemies, and would need to launch and guide several missiles at once in order to ensure its survival. This had not been possible with the AIM-7 Sparrow, a “semi-active radar homing” missile that required a constant radar lock on one target. To make matters worse, enemy fighters were capable of launching missiles of their own. Pilots who weren’t free to maneuver after launch would often be forced to “break lock,” or be killed – sometimes even by a short-range missile fired during the last phases of their enemy’s approach. Since fighters that could carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 tended to be larger and more expensive, and the Soviets were known to have far more fighters overall, this was not a good trade.
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Jan 31, 2017 00:48 UTC
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has completed their first swap out of foreign-made equipment
on their Hawk MK132
advanced trainer aircraft. Designated as Hawk-i, the jet had imported mission computer and data transfer units upgraded with Indian-made components and includes additional capabilities such as digital map generation. Other additions include a secured voice communication and data link capability by integration of Softnet Radio.
IAF Hawk Mk.132
The induction of advanced jet trainers into India’s Air Force has been a long and difficult process. After a number of false starts, and indigenous efforts like HAL’s Ajeet that didn’t quite live up to expectations, a 20-year procurement process came to an end in 2004, when India selected BAE’s Hawk as its future advanced jet trainer. The 66-plane order was worth about $1.2 billion, and included options for another 40 aircraft. The first 24 Hawk Mk.132 AJTs have already been delivered by BAE; the other 42 are being license-built by Hindustan Aeronautics, Ltd. in India, who have been behind on the delivery schedule.
Those difficulties had consequences. In March 2009, the Press Trust of India reported that India’s Air Force had elected not to pick up the Hawk’s follow-on option. In and of itself, that wasn’t unusual. What was unusual, was a follow-on competition for advanced jet trainers that was thrown open to international firms, via a February 2009 RFP. In the end, BAE’s Hawk won again, adding the Indian Navy to its customer list. Is a 3rd, aerobatic win in the cards?
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Jan 26, 2017 00:48 UTC
Developments on the new Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) have been given the thumbs up from the US Navy and will be installed on board
the next USS John F. Kennedy
. Designed to stop carrier-borne aircraft, the decision was made following a thorough review by an AAG Resource Requirements Review Board (R3B) last November. The 350th trap of an F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter was completed in December and the AAG team continues multisite test operations with the next type/model/series and the E-2/C-2 platform.
As the US Navy continues to build its new CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class carriers, few technologies are as important to their success as the next-generation EMALS (Electro-MAgnetic Launch System) catapult. The question is whether that technology will be ready in time, in order to avoid either costly delays to the program – or an even more costly redesign of the first ship of class.
Current steam catapult technology is very entertaining when it launches cars more than 100 feet off of a ship, or gives naval fighters the extra boost they need to achieve flight speed within a launch footprint of a few hundred feet. It’s also stressful for the aircraft involved, very maintenance intensive, and not really compatible with modern gas turbine propulsion systems. At present, however, steam is the only option for launching supersonic jet fighters from carrier decks. EMALS aims to leap beyond steam’s limitations, delivering significant efficiency savings, a more survivable system, and improved effectiveness. This free-to-view spotlight article covers the technology, the program, and its progress to date.
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Jan 13, 2017 00:48 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
The US Navy plans to test-fire Boeing's AGM-84 Harpoon
Block II+ER extended range anti-ship missile this year. Upgrades to the missile
can fit inside the existing Block 1C airframe, providing for easier integration as well as a cheaper separation testing process. Navy F/A-18
Increment III aircraft will be fitted with the missile, and will give the platforms a doubling in target range alongside a new warhead.
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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