Latest updates[?]: Three US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers returned to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri after a deployment to Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, that included a dozen multinational missions over the past month. The bombers, from the 509th Bomb Wing, left Iceland on Saturday, the Air Force announced.
All together now…
Britain’s practice of “contracting for availability” for key equipment, rather than paying for spare parts and maintenance hours, may be its most significant defense procurement reform. In a world where older air, sea, and ground vehicle fleets are growing maintenance demands beyond countries’ available budgets, it’s an approach whose success could have global significance.
Across the pond, the USA is significantly behind in this area. Fortunately, they have not ignored the model entirely. Recent changes to the contracts covering their B-2 Spirit stealth bomber fleet demonstrate that some progress is being made, via a $9+ billion commitment from 1999-2014, and 2 parallel development programs that are changing key sub-systems.
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[?]: Northrop Grumman won a $12.9 million contract modification, which provides for the retrofit of Airborne Electronic Attack Weapons Replacement Assembly with 100 production kits required for the modification of ALQ-218 avionics in support of EA-18G upgrades, to include 64 kits for the Navy, and 36 kits for the government of Australia. Work will take place in Connecticut and New York. Estimated completion will be in November 2023.
EA-18G at Pax
The USA’s electronic attack fighters are a unique, overworked, and nearly obsolete capability. With the retirement of the US Air Force’s long-range EF-111 Raven “Spark ‘Vark,” the aging 4-seat EA-6B Prowlers became the USA’s only remaining fighter for radar jamming, communications jamming and information operations like signals interception . Despite their age and performance limits, they’ve been predictably busy on the front lines, used for everything from escorting strike aircraft against heavily defended targets, to disrupting enemy IED land mine attacks by jamming all radio signals in an area.
All airframes have lifespan limits, however, and the EA-6B is no exception. The USA’s new electronic warfare aircraft will be based on Boeing’s 2-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet multi-role fighter, and has 90% commonality with its counterpart. That will give it decent self-defense capabilities, as well as electronic attack potential. At present, however, the EA-18G is slated to be the only dedicated electronic warfare aircraft in the USA’s future force.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article describes the EA-18G aircraft and its key systems, outlining the program, and keeping track of ongoing developments, contracts, etc. that affect the program.
The USA’s MIM-104 Phased Array Tracking Radar Intercept On Target (PATRIOT) anti-air missile system offers an advanced backbone for medium-range air defense, and short-range ballistic missile defense, to America and its allies. This article covers domestic and foreign purchase requests and contracts for Patriot systems. It also compiles information about the engineering service contracts that upgrade these systems, ensure that they continue to work, and integrate them with wider command and defense systems.
The Patriot missile franchise’s future appears assured. At present, 12 nations have chosen it as a key component of their air and missile defense systems: the USA, Germany, Greece, Japan, Israel, Kuwait, The Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and the UAE. Poland, Qatar, and Turkey have all indicated varying levels of interest, and some existing customers are looking to upgrade their systems.
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[?]: The US Navy has awarded BAE Systems a $26 million contract for Identification Friend-or-Foe (IFF) spares for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft. Under the contract, BAE Systems will provide Beamforming Networks (BFNs), an integral part of antenna control for the AN/APX-122A IFF Interrogator system, onboard the carrier-capable tactical aircraft.
Northrop Grumman’s E-2C Hawkeye is a carrier-capable “mini-AWACS” aircraft, designed to give long-range warning of incoming aerial threats. Secondary roles include strike command and control, land and maritime surveillance, search and rescue, communications relay, and even civil air traffic control during emergencies. E-2C Hawkeyes began replacing previous Hawkeye versions in 1973. They fly from USN and French carriers, from land bases in the militaries of Egypt, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan; and in a drug interdiction role for the US Naval Reserve. Over 200 Hawkeyes have been produced.
The $17.5 billion E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program aims to build 75 new aircraft with significant radar, engine, and electronics upgrades in order to deal with a world of stealthier cruise missiles, saturation attacks, and a growing need for ground surveillance as well as aerial scans. It looks a lot like the last generation E-2C Hawkeye 2000 upgrade on the outside – but inside, and even outside to some extent, it’s a whole new aircraft.
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.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin Missiles won a $101.3 million contract modification for procurement of Hellfire missiles and containers. Hellfire is an air-to-ground, laser guided, subsonic missile with significant anti-tank capacity. It can also be used as an air-to-air weapon against helicopters or slow-moving fixed-wing aircraft. It has also been fielded on surface platforms in the surface-to-surface and surface-to-air roles. Work will take place in Florida. Estimated completion date is September 30, 2024.
USN MH-60S test
Hellfire I/II missiles are the USA’s preferred aerial anti-armor missile, and are widely deployed with America’s allies. They equip America’s helicopter fleets (AH-64, AH-1, OH-58D, MH-60S/R), AH-64 and S-70 helicopters flown by its allies, and even Australia and France’s Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters. Range is officially listed as 9 km/ 5.6 miles.
While Hellfires lack the fast-jet launch capabilities – and correspondingly extended maximum range – of the UK’s MBDA Brimstone missiles, Lockheed Martin’s missile has made big inroads as the world’s high-end helicopter-launched missile. It has also carved out unique niches as tripod-launched coastal defense assets, as the guided missile integrated into American UAVs like the MQ-1 Predator family, and even as a missile option for transport aircraft like the AC-208B Combat Caravan and C-130J/W Hercules.