Latest updates[?]: British Chinook helicopters have now completed 2000 hours of flying in support of the French military counter insurgency operation in Mali, West Africa. Chinooks began operating in Mali with the French military during July 2018 and since then have moved over one-thousand tonnes of freight and over twelve-thousand passengers. The Chinook helicopters bring a unique logistical capability to the operation, allowing French ground forces to operate more effectively across the region. Currently the helicopters are being flown by aircrew drain from 18(B) Squadron.
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.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon Missiles and Defense won a $17.4 million modification for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile program. This modification provides for procurement of two new final assembly test sets and upgrade of two existing final assembly test sets. The AMRAAM system is designed to function as a baseline weapon for the NASAMS missile launcher and engage in air-to-air as well as surface-launch combat. Thirty-seven countries have adopted the weapon to date. Work will take place in Tucson, Arizona. Expected completion date is May 21, 2023.
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.
Latest updates[?]: According to a statement by the navy, aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford completed readiness projects to board 1,000 personnel for an upcoming assignment, which will include integrating with a carrier air wing and carrier strike group. The ship underwent required maintenance and new construction tasks in its "window of opportunity" in Norfolk, Virginia, to prepare it for an at-sea period, Independent Steaming Event, or ISE, 10. The action will involve personnel and aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 8 and Carrier Strike Group 12, meaning that more fixed-wing and rotary aircraft will be aboard the ship than usual.
USA’s Nimitz Class &
UK’s Invincible Class
Some nations have aircraft carriers. The USA has super-carriers. The French Charles De Gaulle Class nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India’s new Vikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t, while the British Invincible Class carriers that participated in the Falklands War weigh in at just 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy’s excellent new Cavour Class (27,000t), and Spain’s Principe de Asturias Class (17,000t). The USA’s Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000+ tonne range. Hence their unofficial designation: “super-carriers”. Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.
Nimitz Class cutaway
As the successor to the 102,000 ton Nimitz Class super-carriers, the CVN-21 program aimed to increase aircraft sortie generation rates by 20%, increase survivability to better handle future threats, require fewer sailors, and have depot maintenance requirements that could support an increase of up to 25% in operational availability. The combination of a new design nuclear propulsion plant and an improved electric plant are expected to provide 2-3 times the electrical generation capacity of previous carriers, which in turn enables systems like an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS, replacing steam-driven catapults), Advanced Arresting Gear, and integrated combat electronics that will leverage advances in open systems architecture. Other CVN-21 features include an enhanced flight deck, improved weapons handling and aircraft servicing efficiency, and a flexible island arrangement allowing for future technology insertion. This graphic points out many of the key improvements.
DID’s CVN-21 FOCUS Article offers a detailed look at a number of the program’s key innovations, as well as a list of relevant contract awards and events.
Latest updates[?]: The Idaho Air National Guard’s 190th Fighter Squadron deployed to the Middle East on May 11. The personnel left on that day and the A-10s departed one day later. More than 400 members of the 124th Fighter Wing, based at Gowen Field, will continue to deploy throughout the spring and summer in support of Operations FREEDOM’S SENTINEL, INHERENT RESOLVE and NEW NORMAL. The deployment is the wing’s second largest deployment and includes multiple aircraft, pilots, security forces, maintenance and medical personnel, and various other support staff.
A-10A over Germany
The Precision Engagement modification is the largest single upgrade effort ever undertaken for the USA’s unique A-10 “Warthog” close air support aircraft fleet. While existing A/OA-10 aircraft continue to outperform technology-packed rivals on the battlefield, this set of upgrades is expected to make them more flexible, and help keep the aircraft current until the fleet’s planned phase-out in 2028. When complete, A-10C PE will give USAF A-10s precision strike capability sooner than planned, combining multiple upgrades into 1 time and money-saving program, rather than executing them as standalone projects. Indeed, the USAF accelerated the PE program by 9 months as a result of its experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for the PE program, and for other modifications to the A-10 fleet. It covers the A-10’s battlefield performance and advantages, the elements of the PE program, other planned modifications, related refurbishment efforts to keep the fleet in the air, and the contracts that have been issued each step of the way.
Latest updates[?]: BAE Systems Land $42.8 million for MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) canister production and ancillary hardware. The company will make Mk 41 Vertical Launching System canisters, renew Mk 13 Mod 0 canisters and produce Mk 13 Mod 0, Mk 21 Mods 1 through 3 and Mk 29 Mod 0 canisters under the modification. The Navy initially awarded a potential $954.5M contract to update and repair Mk 41 VLS canisters for the service branch and FMS customers from Denmark, Japan and South Korea. Work will take place in Minnesota and South Dakota. Estimated completion will be by July 2023.
MK 41s in action
The naval MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) hides missiles below decks in vertical slots, with key electronics and venting systems built in. A deck and hatch assembly at the top of the module protects the missile canisters from the elements, and from other hazards during storage. Once the firing sequence begins, the hatches open to permit missile launches of various types. It is also being adapted for land use, as part of the USA’s plan to forward-deploy ballistic missile defense in allied countries.
The Mk.41 is the most widely-used naval VLS in the world, in service with the US Navy and with many countries outside the United States. Lockheed Martin is the system’s prime contractor, with components and canisters provided by BAE Systems Land & Armaments. In September 2011, however, the US Navy assumed the final integrator role.
Latest updates[?]: General Dynamics won a $14.7 million contract modification for Abrams systems technical support. The M1 Abrams is a third-generation american main battle tank.Abrams M1A2 SEPV3 (System Enhanced Package) is a modernized configuration of the Abrams main battle tank (MBT) in service with the US Army. The new version offers enhanced protection and survivability, as well as higher lethality than its predecessors. Work will take place in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Scheduled completion date is September 30, 2023.
America’s M1 Abrams tanks come in a number of versions. In addition to the M1A1 that is now standard, the US Army is beginning to field its M1 TUSK for urban warfare. It also operates the M1A2 System Enhancement Program (SEP), currently the most advanced standard variant.
This Spotlight article covers the M1A2 Abrams SEP upgrade program, and will be updated and backfilled as new contracts are issued and key events take place.
Latest updates[?]: Bell Boeing won a $10.2 million contract modification, which provides for additional repairs in support of the V-22 Common Configuration Readiness and Modernization program. Additionally, this modification provides non-recurring engineering for a drive tube engineering change proposal in support of V-22 Osprey multirole combat aircraft production. The V-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor military aircraft with both vertical takeoff and landing as well as short takeoff and landing capabilities. It has been in use by the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps and Japan's Self-Defense Force, since 2007. There are currently about 200 Ospreys in service. Work on the contract will be performed at a variety of locations, including Fort Worth, Texas, Ridley Park, Penn., and Amarillo Texas. The expected completion date for the contract is in September 2022.
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[?]: Physical Optics won a $17.8 million order, which provides non-recurring engineering for the production, test, integration and delivery of the T-45 Head-Up Display (HUD) and its associated internal software. The T-45A/C Goshawk is the US Navy’s two-seat advanced jet trainer. The aircraft is jointly manufactured by Boeing and BAE Systems. The T-45A was selected to meet the US Navy requirement for an undergraduate jet pilot trainer to replace the TA-4J Skyhawk and T-2C Buckeye. The TA-4J was retired in 2003 and the T-2C in August 2008. Work will take place in Torrance, California. Estimated completion date is in April 2022.
Do you feel lucky…?
The T-45 Training System includes T-45 Goshawk aircraft, advanced flight simulators, computer-assisted instructional programs, a computerized training integration system, and a contractor logistics support package. The integration of all 5 elements is designed to produce a superior pilot in less time and at lower cost than previous training systems.
The US Navy uses the Hawk-based T-45TS system to train its pilots for the transition from T-6A Texan II/ JPATS aircraft to modern jet fighters – and carrier landings. This is not a risk-free assignment, by any means. Nevertheless, it is a critical link in the naval aviation chain. This DID FOCUS article covers the T-45TS, and associated contracts to buy and maintain these systems, from 2006 to the end of FY 2014.
Latest updates[?]: Boeing won a $9.7 million contract modification provides engineering, manufacturing and development support to integrate BRR3.1 software to the Next Generation Jammer on Boeing EA-18G Growler carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft, resulting in BRR3.1 software initial operating capability. EA-18G Growler is an airborne electronic attack (AEA) aircraft, which operates from either an aircraft carrier or from land-bases. The Growler was developed as a replacement for the United States Navy EA-6B Prowler aircraft that entered service in 1971 and is approaching the end of operational life. Work will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, and is expected to be complete by December 2020.
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.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon won a $10.1 million delivery order for the repair of the ALE-50 towed decoy system used in support of the F/A-18 Super Hornet warfare air craft. The AN/ALE-50 towed decoy system was developed by Raytheon to protect multiple US military aircraft from radar-guided-missiles. The ALE-50 consists of a launch controller, launcher and towed decoy. It can be used on a variety of platforms without modification. When deployed, the ALE-50's expendable aerial decoy is towed behind the aircraft. The decoy protects the host aircraft providing a more attractive target and steering the radar-guided missile away from the aircraft and right to the decoy. ALE-50 has countered both surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. Work will take place in Forest, Mississippi. Expected completion will be by October 2022.
ALE-50 “Little Buddy”
The entire ALE-50 system consists of a launcher and launch controller attached to one of the aircraft’s weapon pylons, containing one or more expendable towed decoys. These trail behind the aircraft when deployed, attracting radar-guided missiles to themselves instead. Each decoy and payout reel is delivered in a sealed canister, and has a 10-year shelf life.
In both flight tests and actual combat, the ALE-50 has successfully countered numerous live firings of both surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. Deagel.com estimates the ALE-50 expendable decoys’ estimated value at $22,000 each – which is certainly a lot cheaper than a B-1 bomber. At least one US pilot who came home safe referred to the ALE-50 as “my little buddy” in a letter to Raytheon…