Latest updates[?]: Fairchild Air Force Base, located in Washington state, has taken a significant step in enhancing its training capabilities with the creation of the KC-46 Weapons Instructor Course (WIC). This initiative involves the recruitment of experienced KC-46 Pegasus pilots to shape the course and curriculum for future graduates. The 509th Weapons Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base has spearheaded this effort by enlisting six skilled KC-46 instructor pilots from different units across the Air Force. These pilots are working collaboratively to develop a comprehensive syllabus and curriculum that will define the skills and knowledge required of future KC-46 WIC graduates.
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.
Latest updates[?]: Avioss won a $15.7 million deal, which procures organizational and intermediate level peculiar and common support equipment for the V-22 program in support of the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work will be performed in Miami, Florida, and is expected to be completed in August 2028. No funds will be obligated at the time of award; funds will be obligated on individual orders as they are issued.
In March 2008, the Bell Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, TX received a $10.4 billion modification that converted the previous N00019-07-C-0001 advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-fee, multi-year contract. The new contract rose to $10.92 billion, and was used to buy 143 MV-22 (for USMC) and 31 CV-22 (Air Force Special Operations) Osprey aircraft, plus associated manufacturing tooling to move the aircraft into full production. A follow-on MYP-II contract covered another 99 Ospreys (92 MV-22, 7 CV-22) for $6.524 billion. Totals: $17.444 billion for 235 MV-22s and 38 CV-22s, an average of $63.9 million each.
The V-22 tilt-rotor program has been beset by controversy throughout its 20-year development period. Despite these issues, and the emergence of competitive but more conventional compound helicopter technologies like Piasecki’s X-49 Speedhawk and Sikorsky’s X2, the V-22 program continues to move forward. This DID Spotlight article looks at the V-22’s multi-year purchase contract from 2008-12 and 2013-2017, plus associated contracts for key V-22 systems, program developments, and research sources.
Latest updates[?]: Airbus revealed for the first time the upgrade of the Tiger Mk III upgrade it plans to roll out to France, Germany, and Spain. France is expected to finalize a deal for up to 180 H160M helicopters for its army, navy and air force by the end of the year. Beyond that, Airbus expects to sell as many as 400 helicopters through 2030, according to Matthieu Louvot, executive vice president of Airbus Helicopters programs.
Tiger HAP & HAC
Eurocopter’s Tiger had always had a very odd setup in that it came in two seemingly incomplete versions (HAP scout and HAC/UHT anti-tank), whose respective deficiencies severely limited multi-role flexibility and hence exports. The new Tiger HAD (Helicoptere Appui Destruction) variant fixes those deficiencies, and looks set to become the default version for new-build EC665 Tiger exports.
The HAD project began in December 2005, as the EU’s OCCAR organization for armament cooperation signed a formal contract in Bonn, Germany and set out initial procurement numbers for Spain. This was followed by the French DGA’s announcing the restructuring of its own 80-helicopter order, and each customer has made its own choices as the new variant has gone from concept to initial delivery.
The Armed Forces of Malta has signed a contract for the provision of a 2nd Hawker Beechcraft King Air B200 maritime patrol aircraft, under a EUR 9.7 million program that ordered the 1st plane in October 2009. Aerodata at Braunschweig airport in Germany will be the prime contractor for the conversion process, which will install a belly-mounted Telephonics RDR-1700B radar with 360 degree coverage, L-3 Wescam’s MX-15i day/night surveillance turret, a Search And Rescue direction finder, plus a number of other sensors and communication equipment, including satellite communication and data transmission. The 1st B200 maritime patrol aircraft had its airframe rolled out in May 2010, and the AFM expects it in February 2011. This 2nd aircraft is expected in Mach 2012.
Malta’s location at the center of the Mediterranean Sea has made it a key strategic waypoint for many hundreds of years, from the Knights of Malta’s struggles against Islamic invaders to Britain’s razor-edge defense of Malta during World War 2. Now it’s turning the tiny island into an immigration flashpoint…
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin's Space Fence system has passed an Air Force Critical Design Review, according to a company press release. Passing the CDR now means that the full-scale Space Fence System radar and facilities can be constructed on Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands. Designed to serve as a second-generation space surveillance radar system, the Space Fence will allow the Air Force to track satellites and space debris.
Space Fence concept
Space is big. Objects in space are very dangerous to each other. Countries that intend to launch objects into space need to know what’s out there, in order to avoid disasters like the 2009 collision of 2 orbital satellites. All they need to do is track many thousands of man-made space objects, traveling at about 9 times the speed of a bullet, and residing in a search area that’s 220,000 times the volume of Earth’s oceans.
The US Air Force Materiel Command’s Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts leads the USA’s Space Fence project. It’s intended to improve space situational awareness by tracking more and smaller objects, while replacing legacy systems in the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) as they retire. With a total anticipated value of around $6.1 billion over its lifetime, Space Fence will deliver a system of 2-3 geographically dispersed ground-based radars to provide timely assessment of space objects, events, and debris. International cooperation will supplement it, as part of overall Space Situational Awareness efforts. Failure is not an option. Or is it?
As the Netherlands struggled over proposed defense cuts in 2007, its Ministerie van Defensie signed an agreement with Germany, France and Belgium to create “European Air Transport Command” (EATC) as a coordination pool for their own military transports. The EU EDA also has a parallel program with much wider participation, the European Air Transport fleet (EATF). EATF offers a step short of EADC level integration, while laying the foundation for wider EADC membership in future. They’re farther away than they’d like to be, but probably closer than you think.
The USA’s Global Positioning System service remains free, but the European Union is spending billions to create an alternative under their own control. In addition to civilian GPS (the Open Service), services to be offered include a Safety of Life Service (SoL) for civil aviation and search and rescue, a paid Commercial Service with accuracy greater than 1 meter, plus a Public Regulated Service (PRS) for use by security authorities and governments. PRS/SoL aims to offer Open Service quality, with added robustness against jamming and the reliable detection of problems within 10 seconds.
Organizational issues and shortfalls in expected progress pushed the “Galileo” project back from its originally intended operational date of 2007 to 2014/15. After a public-private partnership model failed, the EU gained initial-stage approval for its plan to finance the program with tax dollars instead of the expected private investments. Political issues were overcome in 2007 by raiding other EU accounts for the billions required, but by 2011, it became clear that requests for billions more in public funds were on the way. Meanwhile, doubts persist in several quarters about Galileo’s touted economic model. Security concerns regarding China’s early involvement, and its potential Beidou-2/Compass projects, have been equally persistent, and there is good reason to expect that the constellation has a military purpose. On a European political and contractual level, however, Galileo is now irreversible.
This article offers background, players, developments, contracts, and in-depth research links for Galileo, as well as linked EU programs like GIOVE and EGNOS.
At the end of May 2013, the German and Polish defense ministers signed a Letter of Intent on naval cooperation. What does that mean for Polish submarine plans?
Poland’s current submarine fleet includes 1 Russian Kilo Class boat, ORP Orzel, which was commissioned in 1986. Another 4 modernized U207 Kobben Class pocket submarines of German design were given to Poland by Norway, who added 1 Type 207 used for spares/ training. The tiny 435t Type 207s were commissioned in Norway from 1964 – 1967, which doesn’t leave them much of a safe lifespan.
The Czech Republic’s armed forces aren’t large enough to make large foreign commitments, but the country is a frequent participant in NATO missions abroad, and needs airlift capacity for use during domestic emergencies. It currently depends on Soviet-era AN-26 “Curl” aircraft, which are wearing out quickly, and will need to be replaced soon.
“Czech L-159s: Cheap to Good Home” explored one possibility, which involved a trade of the Czechs’ fine light trainer and attack aircraft, in exchange for EADS-CASA C-295M light transports to replace the AN-26s. That turned out to be the Czechs’ preferred option, and a contract for 3 planes was signed in 2009. The EU couldn’t be content to leave well enough alone, of course, and they began legal action around the deal. That went nowhere, but their efforts may not be the only legal action. Technical problems, and allegations of overpricing, have triggered an investigation within the Czech Republic. Even as the C-295Ms themselves remain undeployable.