Latest updates[?]: The Royal Navy currently has two aircraft carriers at sea, both flying F-35 jets. This is something that only one other navy in the world is capable of. Separated by 7,000 miles, HMS Prince of Wales in the North Sea and HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Pacific have been launching and recovering the stealth strike fighter on round-the-clock sorties.
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.
Latest updates[?]: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is integrating Barak MX interceptors on the Navy's Sa'ar 6 corvettes. IAI's Barak MX interceptors along with IAI's complete naval combat suite will provide advanced defense systems to the Sa’ar 6 corvettes. The systems will be used to protect Israel's exclusive economic zone and strategic facilities that face diversified threats in the marine arena. The Barak MX system was chosen after it was demonstrated to meet the operational requirements and future challenges faced by the Israeli Navy.
Saar 5: INS Hanit
The 1,227t/ 1,350 ton Sa’ar 5 Eilat Class corvettes were built by Northrop Grumman in the 1990s for about $260 million each. It’s a decent performer in a number of roles, from air defense to anti-submarine work, to coastal patrol and special forces support. In 2006, the Israelis went looking for a next-generation vessel with better high-end capabilities. Six years later, Israel had nothing to show for its search. In the meantime, massive natural gas deposits have been discovered within Israel’s coastal waters, adding considerable urgency to their search.
The USA is Israel’s logical supplier, but given Israel’s size and cost requirements, the only American option was the Littoral Combat Ship. Israel pursued that option for several years, conducting studies and trying to get a better sense of feasibility and costs. Their approach would have been very different from the American Freedom Class LCS, removing the swappable “mission modules” and replacing them with a fixed and fully capable set of air defense, anti-ship, and anti-submarine weapons. In the end, however, the project was deemed to be unaffordable. Instead, Israel began negotiating with Germany, and reports now include discussions involving both South Korea, and a local shipyard.
Latest updates[?]: The UK Ministry of Defense awarded BAE Systems contracts valued at more than $305 million to deliver advanced synthetic training for pilots training to fly the Typhoon jet. Under the Typhoon Future Synthetic Training (TFST) contracts, BAE Systems is leading work to deliver ten simulators, together with training facilities at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and RAF Lossiemouth in Moray. The new training environments will be linked together providing an integrated environment for pilots to train and carry out complex combined training exercises using real world mission software and tactics.
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.
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…
Latest updates[?]: Hindustan Aeronautics has completed the spin and night flight testing portion for the HTT-40 basic trainer and the light aircraft will head for certification clearance. Intended to replace the HPT-32 (Hindustan Piston Trainer), the HTT-40 is a basic training aircraft developed for the first stage of the training of rookie pilots in the Indian Air Force.
India’s stalled defense procurements have become an international joke, but they’re not funny to front-line participants. The country’s attempts to buy simple artillery pieces have become infamous, but their current problem with trainer aircraft is arguably a more significant wound.
You can’t produce pilots properly without appropriate training, but the IAF’s fleet of 114 locally-designed HPT-32 Deepak basic trainers has been grounded since August 2009, because they aren’t seen as reliable enough or safe enough to fly. Since then, equally aged HJT-16 Kiran jets are being used for both Stage-I and Stage-II fighter training. That yawning gap has added urgency to a replacement buy, but progress has been predictably slow. With its high-end Hawk AJT jet trainer deals behind them after 20+ years of effort, can the IAF take the next step, and plug the hole in the middle of its training? In May 2012, it did.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon won a $7 million modification in support of the evolved Seasparrow Missile Block II life of type buy of parts for the NATO Seasparrow Consortium. The Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) (RIM-162) is a medium-range, surface-to-air missile designed and manufactured by Raytheon Missile Systems. It offers naval combatants reliable self-defense and high fire-power. Work will take place in California and Arizona. Estimated completion date is in October 2021.
The RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) is used to protect ships from attacking missiles and aircraft, and is designed to counter supersonic maneuvering anti-ship missiles. Compared to the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow, ESSM is effectively a new missile with a larger, more powerful rocket motor for increased range, a different aerodynamic layout for improved agility, and the latest missile guidance technology. Testing has even shown the ESSM to be effective against fast surface craft, an option that greatly expands the missile’s utility. As a further bonus, the RIM-162 ESSM has the ability to be “quad-packed” in the Mk 41 vertical launching system, allowing 4 missiles to be carried per launch cell instead of loading one larger SM-2 Standard missile or similar equipment.
This is DID’s FOCUS article for the program, containing details about the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile family, and contracts placed under this program since 1999. The Sea Sparrow was widely used aboard NATO warships, so it isn’t surprising that the ESSM is an international program. The NATO Sea Sparrow Consortium includes Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the USA – as well as non-NATO Australia. Foreign Military Sales ESSM customers outside this consortium include Japan, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.
Latest updates[?]: The US Navy announced a successful live-fire exercise of its Rolling Airframe Missile from the littoral combat ship USS Charleston on Monday. The launching of the SeaRAM missiles from the San Diego-based vessel was a part of exercises involving all of the ship's weaponry, and occurred on Thursday, the Navy said. SeaRAM missiles, also known as RIM-116 RAM missiles, are lightweight, quick-reaction missiles designed to defeat cruise missiles and asymmetric air and surface threats. Equipped with Phalanx search-and-track radar and Electro Optic sensor, 11-missile pods are carried within launchers aboard the ship.
Mk-44 firing RAM
The Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) MK-31 guided missile weapon system is co-developed and co-produced under a NATO cooperative program between the United States and German governments to provide a small, all-weather, low-cost self-defense system against aircraft and cruise missiles. The RIM-116 was later called RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), because it spins during flight. To save costs, Designation Systems notes that the RAM was designed to use several existing components, including the rocket motor of the MIM-72 Chaparral, the warhead of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, and the Infrared seeker of the FIM-92 Stinger. Cueing is provided by the ship’s radar, or by its ESM signal tracing suite.
RAM is currently installed, or planned for installation, on 78 U.S. Navy and 30 German Navy ships, including American LSD, LHD, LPD and CVN ship types. This number will grow as vessels of the LPD-17 San Antonio Class and Littoral Combat Ships enter the US Navy, and the LCS will sport an upgraded SeaRAM system that will include its own integrated radar and IR sensors. Abroad, the South Korean Navy has adopted RAM for its KDX-II and KDX-III destroyers, and its LPX Dokdo Class amphibious assault ships; other navies using or buying RAM include Egypt, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and the UAE/Dubai.
Latest updates[?]: NHIndustries has flown the first of 22 new NH90 helicopters for Qatar, with the consortium announcing in late December 2020 that both variants ordered by the Gulf state had made their maiden flights. According to NHI, the flights of the first NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH) and Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) variant NH90 for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) included take-off, general handling, functional checks, and landing operations. The QEAF is due to receive 12 maritime NFH and 16 land-based TTH variant NH90s under a USD2.8 billion deal signed in March 2018.
NH90: TTH & NFH
The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NH Industries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.
The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.
As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at around 500 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.
Latest updates[?]: Belgium’s first A400M has been delivered and flown to the 15th Wing Air Transport in Melsbroek. The second A400M for Belgium will be delivered in early 2021. The country has ordered seven aircraft. This A400M, known as MSN106, will be operated within a binational unit composed of a total of eight aircraft, seven from the Belgian Air Force and one from the Luxembourg Armed Forces. The second A400M for Belgium will be delivered in early 2021.
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?
Latest updates[?]: France selected MBDA’s MHT/MLP missile as its Future Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile (MAST-F) for the Tiger attack helicopter. The MHT/MLP (Missile Haut de Trame / Missile Longue Portée – high tier missile / long-range mobile missile) itself is based on the Missile Moyenne Portée, a man-portable anti-tank guided missile. The MHT/MLP is characterized by its high operational effectiveness. Weighing 20% less than other missiles in its category provides a weight saving of nearly 100 kg for the Tiger helicopter, which can carry up to eight missiles in combat configuration. Exploiting this weight saving increases the Tiger’s fuel capacity and so its combat endurance, with a significant gain in “playtime”.
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.