Targeting pods are a very affordable way to upgrade existing aircraft with precision strike and surveillance capabilities. As such, their popularity in the modern age is likely to remain very strong for the foreseeable future. At present, the top offerings on the market include the Northrop-Grumman/ RAFAEL LITENING series (vid. the recent Dutch order), Lockheed’s Sniper XR/Pantera, and Raytheon’s ATFLIR. All are 3rd generation offerings, successors to the early 2nd generation LITENING all-in-one pods and the first-generation LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) twin-pod set.
LANTIRN pods may be first-generation technology, but they still fly with a number of air forces and were included as the pods specified for Greece’s new F-16Ds. As such, Lockheed’s announcement that it is selling upgraded LANTIRNs to Denmark offers an interesting look at potential opportunities at the lower end of the global market.
Latest updates[?]: The first flight of India's Rustom-II UAV has been successfully completed. Conducted by India's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the drone accomplished all main objectives during the test, including takeoff, bank, level flight, and landing. While this marks a good milestone for the program, officials maintain that a lot more evaluation and testing needs to be done before operational evaluation and eventual entry into service with India's military branches can take place.
India has not been left out of the global UAV push. The country operates Israeli Searcher tactical UAVs, and Heron Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs, placing an additional Heron order in 2005. It has also undertaken development programs for a smaller UAV, the “Nishant”. With its “Rustom” program, however, India hopes to offer a UAV in the Heron/ Predator/ Watchkeeper class of MALE UAVs.
It had also hoped to begin to change a culture and tradition of wholly state-owned development of military hardware, which has not always performed well, or served India’s needs. A recent award has selected a winner, and moved the project forward. It may also serve as a reminder that bureaucracies are very difficult to change.
Latest updates[?]: South Africa’s Defense Minister announced plans to update the country’s indigenous Rooivalk attack helicopter. Speaking at this year's African Aerospace & Defence Show, Nosiviwe Masipa-Nqakula said the helicopter has "blooded" itself having carried out a series of successful operations as part of the United Nations’ peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Manufacturer Denel is also working on marketing the helicopter to other African governments who are fighting insurgencies, namely Nigeria and Egypt, and further afield governments like India and Brazil.
Base, Bleeding Out?
Back in July 2005 it was apparent India’s sanctions against Denel and possible disqualification from a $2 billion artillery contract could have a major effect on the South African defense firm as a whole. In August 2005, those sanctions came to pass, barring Denel from a contract it was likely to win and accelerating efforts already underway to radically restructure the firm.
CEO Shaun Liebenberg launched that shift in late 2005 with some frank discussion of the global defense market, and the position of small-medium players like Denel in it. At DSEI 2005 in London, UK, the outline of this new strategy was already apparent. Many of the products Denel is known for will no longer define the firm. But could it find a way to stanch the bleeding and survive in a globalized market?
Latest updates[?]: Israeli news outlets have reported the presence of the Elbit Systems' C-MUSIC anti-missile defense system on France's Presidential Jet. Priced at $1 million per unit, the system consists of smart thermal cameras that identify an incoming missile and target the missile with a laser beam. The specialized beam interferes with the missile's targeting system, deflecting it off its trajectory and allowing it to explode at a safe distance from the plane. A French official confirmed the reports.
DIRCM concept (click to view larger)
Early deployment of a system called Flight Guard aboard civilian jet liners came following a November 2002 incident in which shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (MANPADS) were launched unsuccessfully at an Arkia plane in Mombasa, Kenya. That FlightGuard system is a civilian version of IAI/Elta’s popular ELM 2160, and costs about $1 million per plane for sensors and flares. The flares were the sticking point. Even though they were redesigned to be larger (to divert from larger targets), burn for a shorter time (to minimize ground hazard), and almost invisible to human eyes (to prevent panics), many locations were leery about allowing a flare-dispensing system near civilian airports.
In contrast, Elbit Subsidiary El-Op’s MUSIC (Multi-Spectral Infrared Countermeasures) system takes the DIRCM (Directed Infrared Counter-Measures) approach – a wise decision given civilian concerns, and key military trends. Now, the firm has its first large civilian order…
Latest updates[?]: The US Department of Defense has released $309 million toward the construction of a new marine base in Guam. Contracts have yet to be awarded for the initial construction of the base and follows $1 billion already put forward by Japan for the base's development. The funding follows a 2006 agreement between the two nations to relocate 5,000 US Marines and 1,700 of their dependents from Okinawa to Guam. The base and its support facilities are expected to cost $8.7 billion in total, and will see millions injected into the island's local economy.
Past base improvement efforts and other contracts related to the USA’s pacific territory of Guam include construction of an RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV complex for the Pacific Rim, and extensive base improvements/ expansion for Guam’s airfield and harbor. This article will shine a spotlight on contracts related to that territory from the beginning of FY 2007 onward. Military.com offers a broader article detailing the build up; it is useful as a frame for activities to date, and also as a context reference for our ongoing coverage (hyperlink below added to enhance context):
“The 2006 agreement between the United States and Japan to shift 8,000 U.S. Marines from bases in Japan to the island of Guam by 2014 is likely to have more far-reaching implications than just a change of address for some units of the Marine Corps’ III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF). The move is accelerating the return to prominence of Guam in the U.S. defense posture and fostering a higher level of cooperation among the U.S. armed forces in the Pacific region… Congress authorized $193 million in military construction funds for Guam in the fiscal year 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, a $31 million increase over 2006 funding. “Guam is likely to see between $400 million and $1 billion in military construction in military construction each year for a period of six to 10 years,” [Guam’s representative in Congress, Madeleine Z. Bordallo] said.”
The F-4 Phantom II fighter still flies with a number of air forces, including Egypt, Germany, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and possibly Iran. These large 2-seat multi-role fighters were a triumph of thrust over aerodynamics, and formed the mainstay of the USAF and US Navy fleets for many years. QF-4s are former F-4s that currently sit in storage at the AMARC “Boneyard” near Tucson, AZ. They are refurbished for flight at AMARC, then flown to BAE in Mojave, CA and fitted with remote-control equipment in a process that takes about 160 days. Once fitted for the UAV role, they are used as aerial targets and decoys for testing against air-air missiles, radars, surface-air missiles, et. al. As of April 2007, BAE Systems had converted 217 F-4s to the QF-4 configuration.
It’s financially prudent, and fitting in a way for an old warrior to go out in a fireball of glory – but sad, too, somehow. Recent announcements indicate some interesting possibilities ahead, however, even as the very last QF-4 order comes in.
Major purchases that make headline news are few and far between in Peru. How do you top the recent re-opening of the DIFAA UFO investigation department? If you’re the Peruvian Air Force, you buy 2 C-27J light tactical airlifters from Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, in order to shore up a weak area for the FAP. DID looks at the underlying need, the contract, the larger opportunity thjat is coming into focus, and why Alenia won. We also compare successes to date for Finmeccanica’s C-27J and its main rival, Airbus Military’s C295.
The Armed Forces of Malta has signed a contract for the provision of a 2nd Hawker Beechcraft King Air B200 maritime patrol aircraft, under a EUR 9.7 million program that ordered the 1st plane in October 2009. Aerodata at Braunschweig airport in Germany will be the prime contractor for the conversion process, which will install a belly-mounted Telephonics RDR-1700B radar with 360 degree coverage, L-3 Wescam’s MX-15i day/night surveillance turret, a Search And Rescue direction finder, plus a number of other sensors and communication equipment, including satellite communication and data transmission. The 1st B200 maritime patrol aircraft had its airframe rolled out in May 2010, and the AFM expects it in February 2011. This 2nd aircraft is expected in Mach 2012.
Malta’s location at the center of the Mediterranean Sea has made it a key strategic waypoint for many hundreds of years, from the Knights of Malta’s struggles against Islamic invaders to Britain’s razor-edge defense of Malta during World War 2. Now it’s turning the tiny island into an immigration flashpoint…
Latest updates[?]: Defense Department officials have warned against continued consolidation in the US defense industry, with DefSec Carter keen to assert that the clearance of the $9 billion Sikorsky acquisition by Lockheed Martin should not be the start of an emerging trend. Aside from reduced competitive pressure, a smaller number of defense prime contractors could drive up prices and down performance; a view somewhat contested by industry players.
(click to visit)
The US GAO’s 2008 Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs is proving to have a longer tail than usual. Booz Allen Hamilton is a strategic/ I.T/ program assistance consultancy with strong representation in the government and defense sectors. This May Day, we refer readers to the recent Washington Post article “One-Stop Defense Shopping,” wherein Booz Allen Hamilton VPs Dov S. Zakheim and Ronald T. Kadish discuss the state of competition in the American defense industry, and some of its consequences:
“The GAO report lays bare a festering problem in our nation’s military procurement system: Competition barely exists in the defense industry and is growing weaker by the day.
It was a different story just two decades ago. In the 1980s, 20 or more prime contractors competed for most defense contracts. Today, the Pentagon relies primarily on six main contractors to build our nation’s aircraft, missiles, ships and other weapons systems. It is a system that largely forgoes competition on price, delivery and performance and replaces it with a kind of “design bureau” competition, similar to what the Soviet Union used — hardly a recipe for success…”
America is certainly not the only country facing these pressures: Britain is even farther down this road, and Europe is aggressively moving to restructure its own industry into a very few global competitors. Ultimately, the policy implications described here will be played out on a near-global basis, with the possible exception of China.
Still ongoing in 2015…
October 2/15: Defense Department officials have warned against continued consolidation in the US defense industry, with DefSec Carter keen to assert that the clearance of the $9 billion Sikorsky acquisition by Lockheed Martin should not be the start of an emerging trend. Aside from reduced competitive pressure, a smaller number of defense prime contractors could drive up prices and down performance; a view somewhat contested by industry players.
On Sept 30/08, “The USA’s National Cybersecurity Initiative” focused on the belated but growing reaction to recent uses of cyber-attacks as an adjunct to warfare, and by the growing rate of attempted intrusions into American systems from countries like China. “Secure Semiconductors: Sensible, or Sisiphyean?” discussed the growing realization within the US military that massive use of commercial electronics, coupled with the complexity of modern chip designs, made it very difficult to be sure that “backdoors” and other security flaws weren’t being inserted into high-end American defense equipment. It’s a difficult conundrum, because commercial chips offer orders of magnitude improvements in cost and performance. Hence DARPA’s “Trust in IC” program, which hopes to crack the problem and offer the best of both worlds.
On Oct 2/08, Business Week’s in-depth article “Dangerous Fakes” claimed that a key component of the silicon security threat might be even simpler:
“The American military faces a growing threat of potentially fatal equipment failure – and even foreign espionage – because of counterfeit computer components used in warplanes, ships, and communication networks. Fake microchips flow from unruly bazaars in rural China to dubious kitchen-table brokers in the U.S. and into complex weapons. Senior Pentagon officials publicly play down the danger, but government documents, as well as interviews with insiders, suggest possible connections between phony parts and breakdowns… Potentially more alarming than either of the two aircraft episodes are hundreds of counterfeit routers made in China and sold to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines over the past four years. These fakes could facilitate foreign espionage, as well as cause accidents. The U.S. Justice Dept. is prosecuting the operators of an electronics distributor in Texas – and last year obtained guilty pleas from the proprietors of a company in Washington State – for allegedly selling the military dozens of falsely labeled routers… Referring to the seizure of more than 400 fake routers so far, Melissa E. Hathaway, head of cyber security in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, says: “Counterfeit products have been linked to the crash of mission-critical networks, and may also contain hidden ‘back doors’ enabling network security to be bypassed and sensitive data accessed…”
August 19/15: A Chinese company has been accused of selling counterfeit Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar systems, using a design taken from Israel’s Elta Systems. NAV Technology Company is believed to be selling a version of Elta Systems’ EL/M-2052 system, an airborne fire control radar capable of tracking dozens of targets simultaneously. The company also offers other products thought to be taken from US designs, including a copy of the GBU-39 precision munition.