Latest updates[?]: Great Eastern won a $9.1 modification to exercise and fund the second 12-month option on a firm-fixed-price contract with reimbursable elements for the offshore support vessel Hercules. This vessel will be utilized to support refueling and resupply of the Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX-1). The contract includes a 12-month base period, three 12-month option periods, and one 11-month option period. Work will take place in the US Pacific Command’s area of responsibility. Estimated completion date is July 15, 2024.
SBX-1, Pearl Harbor
As rogue state proliferation by the likes of North Korea made missile defense a growing priority for nations including the USA, Japan, and Israel, the USA began to look at the linchpin of any defense: powerful radars that could both track ballistic missiles, and guide interceptors. The USA has its BMEWS tracking system, but that would not serve. America’s Safeguard ABM system was dismantled long ago – though Russia still maintains its counterpart System A-135 network around Moscow. Something new would be needed.
Enter Raytheon’s new XBR radar, based on an SBX-1 platform that looks a lot like a mobile oil drilling rig. Basing the radar at sea offers numerous advantages. One is the obvious ability to move the radar as threats materialize, allowing much greater coverage with fewer radars. Another is the ability to protect allies, without having to invest in expensive systems whose regional capabilities and value to the USA could be put at risk by the decisions of a single foreign government. In exchange for this freedom from political interference, of course, the designers must contend with nature’s interference in the stormy Pacific.
Boeing SBX system is linked to its land-based GMD (Ground-based Mid-course Defense) missile system but can also operate with other naval and land elements.
Latest updates[?]: The Kuwaiti Army will start to receive the upgraded M1A2 Abrams main battle tank (MBT), known as M1A2K, almost two years behind the initial schedule. In its announcement of the news via social media in late July, the army claimed the M1A2K will enter operational service "soon" and boost the combat efficiency of the Kuwaiti land forces. Kuwait plans to upgrade all 218 of its Abrams MBTs to the M1A2K configuration, but the program's timeframe seems to have been revised after it encountered delays for undisclosed reasons.
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[?]: The US State Department approved a proposed sale of shoulder-fired Javelin missiles to the Republic of Georgia, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said on Tuesday. Georgia had requested to buy eighty-two (82) Javelin FGM-148 Missiles; and forty-six (46) Javelin Command Launch Units (CLU). The estimated total cost is $30 million.
The FGM-148 Javelin missile system aimed to solve 2 key problems experienced by American forces. One was a series of disastrous experiences in Vietnam, trying to use 66mm M72 LAW rockets against old Soviet tanks. A number of replacement options like the Mk 153 SMAW and the AT4/M136 spun out of that effort in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until electronics had miniaturized for several more cycles that it became possible to solve the next big problem: the need for soldiers to remain exposed to enemy fire while guiding anti-tank missiles to their targets.
Javelin solves both of those problems at once, offering a heavy fire-and-forget missile that will reliably destroy any enemy armored vehicle, and many fortifications as well. While armored threats are less pressing these days, the need to destroy fortified outposts and rooms in buildings remains. Indeed, one of the lessons from both sides of the 2006 war in Lebanon has been the infantry’s use of guided missiles as a form of precision artillery fire. Javelin isn’t an ideal candidate for that latter role, due to its high cost-per-unit; nevertheless, it has often been used this way. Its performance in Iraq has revealed a clear niche on both low and high intensity battlefields, and led to rising popularity with American and international clients.
Latest updates[?]: The US State Department signed off on a deal worth $82 million to supply Harpoon Joint Common Test Set (JCTS) and related equipment to the Government of India. The Government of India had requested to buy one Harpoon Joint Common Test Set (JCTS). Also included is one Harpoon Intermediate Level maintenance station; spare and repair parts, support, and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; personnel training; US Government and contractor technical, engineering, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support, a Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) release said.
Harpoon in flight
The sub-sonic, wave-skimming GM-84 Harpoon is the US Navy’s sole anti-shipping missile, with the minor exception of small helicopter-borne AGM-119B Penguin missiles. The Harpoon has been adapted into several variants, and exported to many navies around the world. At present, the Harpoon family includes AGM-84 air, RGM-84 sea/land, and UGM-84 submarine-launched versions. Variants such as the Joint Standoff Land Attack Missiles and the upgraded AGM-84K SLAM – Expanded Response will also be covered in this DID FOCUS Article. It describes the missiles themselves, and covers global contracts involving this family.
The Harpoon family’s best known competitor is the French/MBDA M38/39/40 Exocet, but recent years have witnessed a growing competitive roster at both the subsonic (Israel’s >Gabriel family, Russia’s SS-N-27 Klub family, Saab’s RBS15, Kongsberg’s stealthy NSM, China’s YJ-82/C-802 used by Hezbollah in Lebanon), and supersonic (Russia’s SS-N-22 Sunburn/Moskit, SS-N-26 Yakhont, and some SS-N-27 Klub variants, India’s SS-N-26 derived PJ-10 BrahMos) tiers.
Latest updates[?]: Five defense contractors have been awarded contracts for the second phase of development of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, which is planned to replace the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. Point Blank Enterprises, Oshkosh Defense, BAE Systems and Land Armaments, General Dynamics Land Systems and American Rheinmetall Industries will share a $299.4 million deal to develop digital designs of the new IFV.
M3A3 Bradley CFV: Charge!
In the 1970s, middle eastern wars demonstrated that tanks without infantry screens were vulnerable to infantry with anti-tank missiles. Unfortunately, armored personnel carriers were easy prey for enemy tanks, and sometimes had trouble just keeping up with friendly tanks like America’s 60+ ton, 50+ mph M1 Abrams. In response, the Americans rethought the armored personnel carrier, taking a page from the Soviet book. They created a more heavily armored, faster “Infantry Fighting Vehicle” named after WW2 General Omar “the soldier’s general” Bradley, and gave it an offensive punch of its own. M2/M3 tracked, armored IFVs can carry infantry – but they also have 25mm Bushmaster cannons, networked targeting sensors, and even TOW anti-armor or Stinger anti-aircraft missiles at their disposal.
Bradley puts on wear
Even well-serviced vehicles must suffer the pangs of age and wear, however, and the pace of electronics breakthroughs is far faster than the Army’s vehicle replacement cycle. The US Army plans to keep its Bradley fleet for some time to come, and new technologies have made it wise to upgrade part of that fleet while renewing the vehicles. Hence the remanufacture program, which complements the restore-only RESET programs.
This free-to-view DII Spotlight article explains the differences between the Bradley variants involved, details the re-manufacture process, offers additional research sources, and covers associated contracts from FY 1999 to the present.
Latest updates[?]: The US Missile Defense Agency has carried out its most complex test so far on July 24 by firing four SM-6 Dual II missiles at two short-range ballistic missile targets. While one target was destroyed, the agency was not sure if the other target was intercepted. This is the third flight test of the SM-6 Dual II missile from a Aegis BMD-equipped warship. The firing ship for the test was the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) and it took place off Hawaii.
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.
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[?]: A Canadian board of inquiry has released its report into the crash of a CH-148 off Greece in April 2020. Six onboard the helicopter died. The pilot was performing a turning maneuver called “return to target” when the helicopter’s autopilot took control of the aircraft at the end of the turn. The pilot realized too late that the autopilot was flying the aircraft into the sea and pulled back the cyclic. He had overridden the autopilot for an extended period of time while executing the maneuver. The board of inquiry found that the autopilot software accumulates commands when it is not turn off. This could reduce pilot’s control of the helicopter in special cases. During the certification of the CH-148, this scenario whereby the autopilot was overridden for extended time was not tested.
Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Replacement Program has been a textbook military procurement program over its long history. Unfortunately, it has been a textbook example of what not to do. While Canada’s 50-year old Sea King fleet aged and deteriorated to potentially dangerous levels, political pettiness and lack of concern turned a straightforward off-the-shelf buy into a 25+ year long odyssey of cancellations, lawsuits, rebids, and more. Eventually, the Canadian military settled on Sikorsky’s H-92 Superhawk as the basis of its new CH-148 Cyclone Maritime Helicopter, which will serve from the decks of Canada’s naval ships and bases.
The civilian S-92 has gone on to some commercial success. To date, however, Canada has been the H-92’s only military customer – with all of the associated systems integration and naval conversion burdens that one would expect. After a long series of badly missed milestones and delivery delays, there are also deeper questions being raised concerning both the machines’ fitness, and DND’s conduct of the program as a whole. This article covers the rationale for, history of, and developments within Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Program.
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.
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.