May 02, 2016 00:45 UTC
A USMC MV-22 Osprey has given a successful ground refueling
of a Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighter
. The one-hour test consisted of hooking up fuel transfer lines between the two aircraft with the MV-22 fueling the F-35B with an aerial refueling to follow. Both aircraft will be used to allow the Marine Corps to employ assets in austere environments on short notice without having to rely on long-term planning and fixed facilities.
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.
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Apr 28, 2016 00:35 UTC
An upgrade to automate takeoff and landing of MQ-9 Reaper
UAVs is being pursued by the USAF
, making training Reaper pilots easier and allowing access to more runways. A similar upgrade already exists on US Army MQ-1C Grey Eagles
. According to General Atomics’ senior director of strategic development, Chris Pehrson, the air force tried last year to shift money from other accounts to begin implementing the automatic takeoff and landing system, but the request was denied by Congress.
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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Apr 27, 2016 00:50 UTC
Orbital ATK has been awarded a $121.3 million contract
by the US Navy to provide conversion services of old stocks of US government-provided AGM-88B high-speed anti-radiation missiles. The conversion will see the munitions turned into 145 full-rate production Lot 5 advanced anti-radiation guided missile all-up-rounds, and 12 captive air training missiles, including related supplies and services necessary for manufacture, sparing, and fleet deployment of the missiles, for the Navy and the government of Italy. Completion is expected by September 2018.
The AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) is a medium range, supersonic, air-launched tactical missile whose primary job is to attack and kill enemy radars. AARGM is a US Navy major acquisition program, with around 1,750 expected orders from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The Italian Air Force is expected to buy up to 250 of these successors to the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile, and Germany may also join.
So, why is AARGM a big deal? Perhaps the story of how a Serbian unit using an antiquated SA-3 battery managed to survive the 1999 NATO air campaign – and shoot down an F-117 Nighthawk stealth plane – will help put things into perspective. DID recounts those events, explains the new weapon, and offers updates on contracts and key milestones.
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Apr 27, 2016 00:40 UTC
Australia has been cleared
by the US State Department to purchase up to 450 AIM-120D
air-to-air missiles. The $1.22 billion sale will see Australia become the first customer
of the AIM-120D, where the munition will be used on their fleets of F/A-18, E/A-18G, and F-35 aircraft. Included in the sale will be up to 34 AIM-120D Air Vehicles Instrumented (AAVI), up to 6 Instrumented Test Vehicles (ITVs) and up to 10 spare AIM-120 Guidance Sections (GSs).
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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Apr 25, 2016 00:50 UTC
The USMC has borrowed
a number of MQ-8C Fire Scouts
from the US Navy to test how they could be operated from the amphibious assault ships. It is believed that they may want a Group 4 or 5 unmanned aerial system (UAS), which are larger and have longer range and endurance, and that are capable of conducting ISR and fires missions. At present the RQ-21 Blackjack is operated from the corps ships, but that system, a smaller Group 3 system, is launched from a small catapult and recovered by hooking onto a tether, all of which limit the payloads that can be put on the aircraft.
MQ-8B Fire Scout
A helicopter UAV is very handy for naval ships, and for armies who can’t always depend on runways. The USA’s RQ/MQ-8 Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Vehicle has blazed a trail of firsts in this area, but its history is best described as “colorful.” The program was begun by the US Navy, canceled, adopted by the US Army, revived by the Navy, then canceled by the Army. Leaving it back in the hands of the US Navy. Though the Army is thinking about joining again, and the base platform is changing.
The question is, can the MQ-8 leverage its size, first-mover contract opportunity, and “good enough” performance into a secure future with the US Navy – and beyond? DID describes these new VTUAV platforms, clarifies the program’s structure and colorful history, lists all related contracts and events, and offers related research materials.
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Apr 22, 2016 00:48 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Protests have arisen
by some US lawmakers against the USAF's UH-1N Huey helicopter replacement program. The helicopters, which protect US supplies of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), are to be replaced via a sole-source contract due to a new urgency felt by air force brass in fielding the capability favoring Sikorsky’s UH-60 Black Hawk. This in turn has caused a group in Congress to rail back who now want a fair and open competition for the Huey's replacement.
UH-1Y and AH-1Z
by Neville Dawson
The US Marines’ helicopter force is aging at all levels, from banana-shaped CH-46 Sea Knight transports that are far older than their pilots, to the 1980s-era UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters that make up the Corps’ helicopter assault force. While the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey program has staggered along for almost 2 decades under accidents, technical delays, and cost issues, replacement of the USMC’s backbone helicopter assets has languished. Given the high-demand scenarios inherent in the current war, other efforts are clearly required.
Enter the H-1 program, the USMC’s plan to remanufacture older helicopters into new and improved UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopters. The new versions would discard the signature 2-bladed rotors for modern 4-bladed improvements, redo the aircraft’s electronics, and add improved engines and weapons to offer a new level of performance. It seemed simple, but hasn’t quite worked out that way. The H-1 program has encountered its share of delays and issues, but the program survived its review, and continued on into production and deployment.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article covers the H-1 helicopter programs’ rationales and changes, the upgrades involved in each model, program developments and annual budgets, the full timeline of contracts and key program developments, and related research sources.
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Apr 21, 2016 00:40 UTC
A study has been ordered
by US Lawmakers into potentially restarting
the F-22 Raptor
production line. It's been nearly six years since Lockheed Martin ceased manufacturing the jet; however, due to the growing perception that the US military is losing its technological edge to adversaries like Russia and China, Congress has expressed keen interest throughout this year’s budget season in restarting the line. Only 187 jets were ever produced, falling short of the initial production aims of 749.
Into that good night
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.
This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.
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