Latest updates[?]: The US State Department is moving forward with the sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and MQ-9 drones to the United Arab Emirates, a decision which will now face a legal challenge from a nonprofit seeking to halt the weapons agreement. At stake is an arms package approved in the waning days of the Trump administration, which includes 50 F-35s,18 MQ–9B Reapers, as well as thousands of munitions and hundreds of missiles. The total sale comes with an estimated $23 billion price tag.
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[?]: Poland inked an agreement to procure five C-130H transport aircraft from the US under the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program, the country’s defense minister announced. The aircraft will join the existing C-130E fleet at 33rd Transport Aviation Base in Powidz.
RAAF C-130J-30, flares
The C-130 Hercules remains one of the longest-running aerospace manufacturing programs of all time. Since 1956, over 40 models and variants have served as the tactical airlift backbone for over 50 nations. The C-130J looks similar, but the number of changes almost makes it a new aircraft. Those changes also created issues; the program has been the focus of a great deal of controversy in America – and even of a full program restructuring in 2006. Some early concerns from critics were put to rest when the C-130J demonstrated in-theater performance on the front lines that was a major improvement over its C-130E/H predecessors. A valid follow-on question might be: does it break the bottleneck limitations that have hobbled a number of multi-billion dollar US Army vehicle development programs?
C-130J customers now include Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States. American C-130J purchases are taking place under both annual budgets and supplemental wartime funding, in order to replace tactical transport and special forces fleets that are flying old aircraft and in dire need of major repairs. This DID FOCUS Article describes the C-130J, examines the bottleneck issue, covers global developments for the C-130J program, and looks at present and emerging competitors.
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[?]: Korea Times quoted anonymous sources as saying the KAI FA-50 and Pakistan’s JF-17 are the finalists in Malaysia’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) competition. The report added that the JF-17 is in the lead as it “possesses a better mid-range weapons capacity.”
FC-1/ JF-17, armed
The FC-1/ JF-17 Thunder is a joint Chinese-Pakistani project that aimed to reduce Pakistan’s dependence on western firms for advanced fighters, by fielding a low-cost multi-role lightweight fighter that can host modern electronics and precision-guided weapons. It isn’t a top-tier competitor, but it represents a clear step up from Pakistan’s Chinese MiG-19/21 derivatives and French Mirage III/V fighters. This positioning addresses a budget-conscious, “good enough” performance market segment that the West once dominated, but has nearly abandoned in recent decades.
Pakistan has fielded JF-17s in squadron strength, with more on order and a Block II R&D program nearing completion. India’s competing Tejas fighter is overcoming project delays by looking to foreign component sources, but Pakistan and China remain out front with their offering, even though they began their project much later than India did. Pakistan and China have even set up a joint JF-17 marketing agency to promote export sales, which hasn’t paid off as quickly as they had hoped, but it would be unwise to count them out just yet…
Latest updates[?]: The UK has confirmed it is to establish a joint operating unit with Qatar for the BAE Systems Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT) aircraft as part of a wider military co-operation agreement signed by the two countries on April 1. The unit, which will be based at Royal Air Force (RAF) Leeming in England, will operate the Mk 167 (T2 in RAF nomenclature) variant of the Hawk recently acquired by the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) in support of its Eurofighter Typhoon procurement. The updated defense agreement will also see the RAF deploy a Voyager aircraft to Qatar to periodically provide air-to-air refuelling training for the Qatari Emiri Air Force.
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.
Latest updates[?]: The USS Dwight. D Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is participating in Operation Inherent Resolve with new airstrikes, the Navy said on Wednesday. Missiles were launched by Carrier Air Wing 3 against Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria from the strike group's position in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, the Navy statement said. The air launches came after IS took responsibility for an attack this week at Palma, Mozambique. "Our Strike Group is ready and capable of providing direct, long-range combat operational air support from the Eastern Mediterranean Sea," Rear Adm. Scott F. Robertson, commander of Carrier Strike Group 2, said in a statement.
Trimaran LCS Design
(click to enlarge)
Exploit simplicity, numbers, the pace of technology development in electronics and robotics, and fast reconfiguration. That was the US Navy’s idea for the low-end backbone of its future surface combatant fleet. Inspired by successful experiments like Denmark’s Standard Flex ships, the US Navy’s $35+ billion “Littoral Combat Ship” program was intended to create a new generation of affordable surface combatants that could operate in dangerous shallow and near-shore environments, while remaining affordable and capable throughout their lifetimes.
It hasn’t worked that way. In practice, the Navy hasn’t been able to reconcile what they wanted with the capabilities needed to perform primary naval missions, or with what could be delivered for the sums available. The LCS program has changed its fundamental acquisition plan 4 times since 2005, and canceled contracts with both competing teams during this period, without escaping any of its fundamental issues. Now, the program looks set to end early. This public-access FOCUS article offer a wealth of research material, alongside looks at the LCS program’s designs, industry teams procurement plans, military controversies, budgets and contracts.
Latest updates[?]: Boeing won a $1.6 billion modification that provides for the production and delivery of 11 P-8A Lot 12 production aircraft; nine for the Navy and two for the government of Australia. The P-8 has two variants: The P-8I, flown by the Indian Navy, and the P-8A Poseidon, flown by the U.S. Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. The RAAF has acquired the Boeing aircraft through the Foreign Military Sales process and will receive a variant designed and produced for the U.S. Navy called the P-8A Poseidon. Work will take place in Washington and California. Estimated completion date is in September 2024.
Maritime surveillance and patrol is becoming more and more important, but the USA’s P-3 Orion turboprop fleet is falling apart. The P-7 Long Range Air ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) Capable Aircraft program to create an improved P-3 began in 1988, but cost overruns, slow progress, and interest in opening the competition to commercial designs led to the P-7’s cancellation for default in 1990. The successor MMA program was begun in March 2000, and Boeing beat Lockheed’s “Orion 21” with a P-8 design based on their ubiquitous 737 passenger jet. US Navy squadrons finally began taking P-8A Poseidon deliveries in 2012, but the long delays haven’t done their existing P-3 fleet any favors.
Filling the P-3 Orion’s shoes is no easy task. What missions will the new P-8A Poseidon face? What do we know about the platform, the project team, and ongoing developments? Will the P-3’s wide global adoption give its successor a comparable level of export opportunities? Australia and India have already signed on, but has the larger market shifted in the interim?
Latest updates[?]: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) completed a series of successful live-fire tests of the Barak air defense system. The tests were carried out to evaluate the system’s capability to deal with a range of scenarios and threats, including the interception of a ballistic target by the Barak ER (extended range) interceptor. The Barak ER missile, part of the Barak family of interceptors developed by IAI, is capable of intercepting ballistic and non-ballistic threats at a range of 150 kilometers. The extended range is made possible in part by adjusting the interceptor and the missile system's MMR radar to a 150 km range, according to the company.
Over a development timeline measured in decades, India’s indigenous “Akash” and “Trishul” programs for surface to air missiles have failed to inspire full confidence. Trishul was eventually canceled entirely. Akash had a a long, difficult development period, but seems to have found customer acceptance and a solid niche in the rugged terrain of the northeast. India still needed longer-range advanced SAMs to equip its navy and army, however, and decided to try to duplicate the success of the partnership model that had fielded the excellent Indo-Russian PJ-10 BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.
In February 2006, therefore, Israel and India signed a joint development agreement to create a new Barak-NG medium shipborne air defense missile, as an evolution of the Barak-1 system in service with both navies. In July 2007 the counterpart MR-SAM project began moving forward, aiming to develop a medium range SAM for use with India’s land forces. Both missiles would now be called Barak-8. In between, “India to Buy Israeli “SPYDER” Mobile Air Defense System” covered India’s move to begin buying mobile, short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems for its army, based on the Python and Derby air-to-air missiles in service with its air force and naval aircraft. These projects offer India a way forward to address its critical air defense weaknesses, and upgrade “protection of vital and strategic ground assets and area air defence.” This DID FOCUS article will cover the Barak-8 and closely related programs in India, Israel, and beyond.
On August 16, 2011, Rafael and Raytheon announced a partnership to market the Iron Dome system in the United States. This rocket interception system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has an all-weather range of up to 70 km (43.5 miles). To make the system mobile, the detection/tracking radar and battle management/control parts of the system are carried on trucks, while the missile firing unit is mounted on a trailer.
Latest updates[?]: Boeing won an $11.6 million contract modification, which adds scope for engineering services in support of Next Generation Jammer software development. Next Generation Jammer, an external jamming pod, will address advanced and emerging threats alike, as well as the growing numbers of threats. NGJ uses the latest digital, software-based and Active Electronically Scanned Array technologies and will provide enhanced airborne electronic attack capabilities to disrupt and degrade enemy air defense and ground communication systems. Work will take place in St. Louis, Missouri. Expected completion will be in December 2021.
The US Navy owns the only operational tactical jamming fighters in the world, but the AN/ALQ-99 pods they depend on use analog technologies, are hard to maintain, and have reliability issues. All-digital technologies and modern transmit/receive electronics offer huge leaps ahead in capability and availability, which is why the US military is working on a Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) replacement for the pods on its tactical strike aircraft.
The EA-18G Growler will be the NGJ’s first platform, but the flexibility of modern technologies mean that it may not be the last.