Oct 25, 2016 00:50 UTC
Following the butting of horns over who runs the show, Raytheon and Leonardo-Finmeccanica's joint effort as part of the USAF T-X trainer competition is back on track
. Both companies came together in February this year to offer the Italian firm’s T-100 jet trainer; however, Raytheon's role as prime contractor has riled Leonardo since they designed and built the aircraft and had already sold the M-346
, on which the T-100 is based, to Italy, Israel, Poland and Singapore. Other bones of contention include work share roles and assembly as well as the possibility by Raytheon to export the aircraft as an "American" plane to governments who prefer doing business through the US Foreign Military Sales program.
Tornado refuels M346
Alenia’s Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer began life in 1993, as a collaboration with Russia. It was also something of a breakthrough for Alenia Aermacchi, confirming that the Finmeccanica subsidiary could design and manufacture advanced aircraft with full authority quadriplex fly-by-wire controls. Those controls, the aircraft’s design for vortex lift aerodynamics, and a thrust:weight ratio of nearly 1:1, allow it to remain fully controllable even at angles of attack over 35 degrees. This is useful for simulating the capabilities of advanced 4+ generation fighters like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Not to mention Sukhoi’s SU-30 family, which has made a name for itself at international air shows with remarkable nose-high maneuvers.
The Russian collaboration did not last. For a while, it looked like the Italian jet might not last, either. It did though, and has become a regular contender for advanced jet trainer trainer contracts around the world. Its biggest potential opportunity is in the USA. For now, however, its biggest customer is Israel.
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Oct 18, 2016 00:45 UTC
Thales' new-generation TALIOS laser targeting pod has successfully completed
a more than two-hour first flight on a Rafale
fighter. Development of the pod has been carried out as part of a major development program for French Air Force and Navy Rafales. The company reported remarkable performances in pointing and telemetry from the pod with the system collecting high-quality images taken using the "day" channel. Adjustment and performance measurement tests with the pod and fighter will continue throughout 2017.
(click for cutaway view)
Will Dassault’s fighter become a fashionably late fighter platform that builds on its parent company’s past successes – or just “the late Rafale”? It all began as a 1985 break-away from the multinational consortium that went on to create EADS’ Eurofighter. The French needed a lighter aircraft that was suitable for carrier use, and were reportedly unwilling to cede design authority over the project. As is so often true of French defense procurement policy, the choice came down to paying additional costs for full independence and exact needs, or losing key industrial capabilities by partnering or buying abroad. France has generally opted for expensive but independent defense choices, and the Rafale was no exception.
Those costs, and associated delays triggered by the end of the Cold War and reduced funding, proved to be very costly indeed. Unlike previous French fighters, which relied on exports to lower their costs and keep production lines humming, the Rafale has yet to secure a single export contract – in part because initial versions were hampered by impaired capabilities in key roles. The Rafale may, at last, be ready to be what its vendors say: a true omnirole aircraft, ready for prime time on the global export stage. The question is whether it’s too late. Rivals like EADS’ Eurofighter, Russia’s Su-27/30 family, and the American “teen series” of F-15/16/18 variants are all well established. Meanwhile, Saab’s versatile and cheaper JAS-39 Gripen remains a stubborn foe in key export competitions, and the multinational F-35 juggernaut is bearing down on it.
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Oct 14, 2016 00:40 UTC
In order to curry favor with the Indian government, Saab will share their Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar
with Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology with India they if they select the Gripen
fighter. The list of sweeteners also includes the previous offer
of co-developing India's indigenously manufactured fighter aircraft Tejas MK1A
by setting up a production line in India under the "Make in India" scheme. Company officials said that both the LCA and the Gripen are of similar class and also share the same General Electric engine citing commonality in maintenance and operation.
India’s Light Combat Aircraft program is meant to boost its aviation industry, but it must also solve a pressing military problem. The IAF’s fighter strength has been declining as the MiG-21s that form the bulk of its fleet are lost in crashes, or retired due to age and wear. Most of India’s other Cold War vintage aircraft face similar problems.
In response, some MiG-21s have been modernized to MiG-21 ‘Bison’ configuration, and other current fighter types are undergoing modernization programs of their own. The IAF’s hope is that they can maintain an adequate force until the multi-billion dollar 126+ plane MMRCA competition delivers replacements, and more SU-30MKIs arrive from HAL. Which still leaves India without an affordable fighter solution. MMRCA can replace some of India’s mid-range fighters, but what about the MiG-21s? The MiG-21 Bison program adds years of life to those airframes, but even so, they’re likely to be gone by 2020.
That’s why India’s own Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project is so important to the IAF’s future prospects. It’s also why India’s rigid domestic-only policies are gradually being relaxed, in order to field an operational and competitive aircraft. Even with that help, the program’s delays are a growing problem for the IAF. Meanwhile, the west’s near-abandonment of the global lightweight fighter market opens a global opportunity, if India can seize it with a compelling and timely product.
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Oct 11, 2016 00:48 UTC
Honeywell is working on improving
the T55 turboshaft engine found on the CH-47 Chinook
helicopter. Aimed at increasing its power efficiency by 25%, work has begun on developing a new improved compressor that would increase the T55’s engine power - from 4,700shp (3,500kW) to 6,000shp - and reduce fuel usage by 8%. The research coincides with Boeing's Block 2 upgrade on the helicopter, which aims to increase its lost pay-load capability.
CH-47Fs take off
DII FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record; this FOCUS Article covers the CH-47F/MH-47G Chinook helicopter programs, in the USA and abroad. These helicopters’ distinctive “flying banana” twin-rotor design stems from the brilliant work of aviation pioneer Frank Piasecki. It gives Chinooks the ability to adjust their positioning very precisely, while carrying a large airframe whose load capacity has made it the world’s most popular heavy-lift helicopter. The USA expects to be operating Chinooks in their heavy-lift role past 2030.
The CH-47F looks similar to earlier models, but offers a wide range of improvements in almost every aspect of design and performance. While the related HH-47’s $10-15 billion CSAR-X program win was terminated, delivery orders continue for CH-47Fs and for MH-47G Special Forces configuration helicopters. International orders or formal requests have also come in from Australia, Britain, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the UAE, with India and other countries expected to follow.
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Oct 06, 2016 00:45 UTC
Raytheon and Kongsberg have successfully test-fired an extended range version
of Raytheon’s Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM
) from the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS
). By simply pairing the sensor from the AMRAAM to an Evolved Sea Sparrow missile (ESSM
) the new variant gives a 50% in maximum range and 70% in maximum altitude. Modifications undertaken to accommodate the new missile include extending the top row of three canisters by a foot, and Raytheon is targeting first deliveries of the missile in the 2020 timeframe.
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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Oct 05, 2016 00:52 UTC
A second batch of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles have been delivered to Egypt
under the US Excess Defense Articles grant program. While the exact number of vehicles delivered remains unknown, the original shipment contained 762 MRAPs. First used for US operations in Afghanistan, the vehicles will give enhanced levels of protection to Egyptian soldiers tackling Islamist militants in the Sinai desert.
With the acquisition of Force Protection by General Dynamics in November 2011, future purchases will be covered under “General Dynamics MRAPs: Partners and Purchases.”
The Cougar family of medium-sized blast-protected vehicles is produced in both 4-wheel (formerly Cougar H) and 6-wheel (formerly Cougar HE) layouts. Eventually, the wisdom of using survivable vehicles in a theater where land mines were the #1 threat became clearer, and these vehicles have gradually shifted from dedicated engineer and Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) roles to patrol and route-proving/ convoy lead functions as well. Related variants and blast-resistant designs are also produced in response to country-specific requirements (Wolfhound, Mastiff, Ridgeback, ILAV Badger) and other designs cover different operational needs (Buffalo mine-clearance, Cheetah, Ocelot, and JAMMA patrol vehicles). To date, the firm has received orders from Britain, Canada, France, Hungary, Italy, Iraq, and Yemen; and Poland operates some on loan from the USA. Front line testimonials offer evidence of their effectiveness.
Cougar orders predate the USA’s MRAP program to rush mine-resistant vehicles to the front lines; indeed, the performance of Force Protection’s vehicles on the front lines was probably the #1 trigger for the MRAP program’s existence. This FOCUS article describes Force Protection’s vehicles and corporate performance, which became an issue in recent years. It also covers key events and procurements around the world related to Force Protection’s Cougar (MRAP CAT I & II), Buffalo (MRAP CAT III), and related blast-resistant vehicle families.
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Oct 04, 2016 00:45 UTC
Lockheed Martin will provide combat systems
for Australia's new fleet of submarines. The move is said to increase interoperability with fellow Lockheed system-user the US Navy. French firm DCNS won the $38 billion Australian submarine contract back in April defeating Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Since then, the company has been dealing with the aftermath of a 22,000 page data leak of submarines they are building for India, drawing a warning from Australian defense officials.
Bridge to the future?
In its 2009 White Paper, Australia’s Department of Defence and Labor Party government looked at the progress being made in ship killing surveillance-strike complexes, and at their need to defend large sea lanes, as key drivers shaping future navies. These premises are well accepted, but the White Paper’s conclusion was a surprise. It recommended a doubling of Australia’s submarine fleet to 12 boats by 2030-2040, all of which would be a new successor design that would replace the RAN’s Collins Class submarines.
The surprise, and controversy, stem from Australia’s recent experiences. The Collins Class was designed with the strong cooperation of ThyssenKrupp’s Swedish Kockums subsidiary, and built in Australia by state-owned ASC. The class has had a checkered career, including significant difficulties with its combat systems, issues with acoustic signature and propulsion, major cost growth to A$ 5+ billion, and schedule slippage. Worse still, reports indicated that the RAN can only staff 2 of its 6 submarines. High-level attention led to a report and recommendations to improve the force, but whether they will work remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the nature of Australia’s SEA 1000 future submarine project – and its eventual cost – remain unclear, with estimated costs in the A$ 36-44 billion range. This FOCUS article covers Australia’s options, decisions, and plans, as their future submarine program slowly gets underway.
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Oct 03, 2016 00:55 UTC
air defense missile interceptor fired from the USS Princeton has set a new distance record
for an intercept during testing at the Point Mugu Test Range on September 22. Using data from a remote airborne sensor and equipped with the latest Aegis Baseline 9, the missile beat the previous long-distance intercept record held by the USS John Paul Jones' test in January.
SM-2 Launch, DDG-77
(click to view larger)
Variants of the SM-2 Standard missile are the USA’s primary fleet defense anti-air weapon, and serve with 13 navies worldwide. The most common variant is the RIM-66K-L/ SM-2 Standard Block IIIB, which entered service in 1998. The Standard family extends far beyond the SM-2 missile, however; several nations still use the SM-1, the SM-3 is rising to international prominence as a missile defense weapon, and the SM-6 program is on track to supplement the SM-2. These missiles are designed to be paired with the AEGIS radar and combat system, but can be employed independently by ships with older or newer radar systems.
This article covers each variant in the Standard missile family, plus several years worth of American and Foreign Military Sales requests and contracts and key events; and offers the budgetary, technical, and geopolitical background that can help put all that in context.
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Sep 30, 2016 00:45 UTC
Building is underway by the US military of a $100 million facility
for the use of MQ-9
Reaper operations in the region. The news comes less than a year after the announcement was made that Reaper and Predator bases in Ethiopia and Djibouti would be closed
. MQ-9s operated from East African bases are used primarily for missions against Islamic insurgents such as al-Shabaab in Somalia and AQAP in Yemen.
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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Sep 30, 2016 00:42 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Delivery of the Malaysian Air Force's fourth and final A400M
transport aircraft will happen early next year
. The first aircraft was delivered in March 2015, the second came early this year while the third was received in the middle of this year. Gen Tan Sri Roslan Saad told reporters that the latest A400M will come with a software upgrade.
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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