Mar 25, 2015 00:33 UTC
Raytheon received a contract modification totaling $528.8 million
for the production of AMRAAM
air-to-air missiles, a portion of which are earmarked for Foreign Military Sales. The company recently announced
that it has begun development of an extended-range variant of the missile, with tests scheduled for later this year.
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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Mar 16, 2015 00:14 UTC
The Army released a Sources Sought notice (W15QKN-15-X-7820
), looking for one vendor that can bundle together a series of aftermarket improvements to the M4A1 carbine. The package, to be called the M4A1+, includes increased accuracy, rails, mounting surfaces, neutral, non-black, color, coatings, backup sites and a kitchen sink full of other, smaller improvements.
An M4 – or is it?
The 5.56mm M-16 has been the USA’s primary battle rifle since the Vietnam war, undergoing changes into progressive versions like the M16A4 widely fielded by the US Marine Corps, “Commando” carbine versions, etc. The M4 Carbine is the latest member of the M16 family, offering a shorter weapon more suited to close-quarters battle, or to units who would find a full-length rifle too bulky.
In 2006 an Army solicitation for competitive procurement of 5.56mm carbine designs was withdrawn, once sole-source incumbent Colt dropped its prices. The DoD’s Inspector General weighed in with a critical report, but the Army dissented, defending its practices as a sound negotiating approach that saved the taxpayers money. As it turns out, there’s a sequel. A major sequel that has only grown bigger with time.
The M4/M16 family is both praised and criticized for its current performance in the field. In recent years, the M4 finished dead last in a sandstorm reliability test, against 3 competitors that include a convertible M4 variant. Worse, the 4th place M4 had over 3.5x more jams than the 3rd place finisher. Was that a blip in M4 buys, or a breaking point? The Army moved forward with an “Individual Carbine” competition, but as the results started to show the M4 again lagging – even with ammunition changed to a round specially formulated to make the M4 shine – the Army abruptly stopped the process once again, stating that the performance superiority of the competing gun was not better to a degree making it worthwhile. The Army stated after the tests that only a result that was twice as good as the existing gun’s performance would signify an actionable performance difference.
More recently, the Marines have considered adding
various after-market upgrades to the platform in order to increase accuracy, learning from the private sector and competitive shooting circuit what appears to be providing the best bang.
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Mar 12, 2015 00:24 UTC
Former carrier pilot Sen. John McCain told Navy officials
that the new Ford class of carriers is too expensive, coming in between $11 and $13 billion per copy. The first is being tested now before being delivered to the Navy. The second (JFK) and third (Enterprise) are in various states of construction. The Enterprise will be the ninth ship to take on the name. The eighth, CVN-65, was a carrier McCain served on in the 1960s, flying A-1 Skyraiders in a ground support role.
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.
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Mar 06, 2015 00:50 UTC
Despite the spontaneous combustion issue, Germany remains committed to the NH90, signing a deal
for 18 new helicopters for its navy.
NH90: TTH & NFH
The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NH Industries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.
The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60 Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.
As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at around 500 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.
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Mar 02, 2015 00:03 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Australia tests new wing kits called the JDAM ER (standing for extended range), tripling range from 24 miles to 72 miles. They were launched out of F/A-18s. The RAAF will purchase the kits later in 2015 pending additional certification tests.
B-2 drops JDAM
Precision bombing has been a significant military goal since the invention of the Norden bomb sight in the 1920s, but its application remained elusive. Over 30 years later, in Vietnam, the destruction of a single target could require 300 bombs, which meant sending an appropriate number of fighters or bombers into harm’s way to deliver them. Even the 1991 Desert Storm war with Iraq featured unguided munitions for the most part. The USAF some laser and TV-guided weapons like Paveway bombs and Maverick missiles, but they were very expensive, and only effective in good weather. If precision bombing was finally to become a reality throughout the Air Force, a new approach would be needed. The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) became that alternative, an engine of military transformation that was also a model of procurement transformation.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This DID FOCUS Article looks at the transformational history of the JDAM GPS-guided bomb program, the ongoing efforts to bring its capabilities up to and beyond the level of dual-mode guidance kits like Israel’s Spice and Raytheon’s Enhanced Paveway, and the contracts issued under the JDAM program since its inception.[updated]
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Feb 24, 2015 00:04 UTC
Oshkosh Defense announced a new version of its ambulance variant
of its M-ATV. The first ambulance version appeared in 2010.
“The Government plans to acquire an MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). The M-ATV is a lighter, off-road, and more maneuverable vehicle that incorporates current MRAP level [bullet and mine blast] protection. The M-ATV will require effectiveness in an off-road mission profile. The vehicle will include EFP (Explosively Formed Projectile land mine) and RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade panzerfaust) protection (integral or removable kit). The M-ATV will maximize both protection levels and off-road mobility & maneuverability attributes, and must balance the effects of size and weight while attempting to achieve the stated requirements.”
— US government FedBizOpps, November 2008
Oshkosh Defense’s M-ATV candidate secured a long-denied MRAP win, and the firm continues to remain ahead of production targets. The initial plan expected to spend up to $3.3 billion to order 5,244 M-ATVs for the US Army (2,598), Marine Corps (1,565), Special Operations Command (643), US Air Force (280) and the Navy (65), plus 93 test vehicles. FY 2010 budgets and subsequent purchases have pushed this total even higher, and orders now stand at over 8,800 for the USA, plus another 800 for the UAE.
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Feb 10, 2015 03:15 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Proposals are in from Lockheed, AM General and Oshkosh for both the low rate initial production and full rate production for the potentially $30 billion system.
Ultra APV demonstrator
In an age of non-linear warfare, where front lines are nebulous at best and non-existent at worst, one of the biggest casualties is… the concept of unprotected rear echelon vehicles, designed with the idea that they’d never see serious combat. That imperative is being driven home on 2 fronts. One front is operational. The other front is buying trends.
These trends, and their design imperatives, found their way into the USA’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program, which aims to replace many of the US military’s 120,000 or so Humvees. The US military’s goal is a 7-10 ton vehicle that’s lighter than its MRAPs and easier to transport aboard ship, while offering substantially better protection ad durability than existing up-armored Humvees. They’d also like a vehicle that can address front-line issues like power generation, in order to recharge all of the batteries troops require for electronic gadgets like night sights, GPS devices, etc.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. JLTV certainly qualifies, and recent budget planning endorsements have solidifed a future that was looking shaky. Now, can the Army’s program deliver?
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Feb 04, 2015 00:00 UTC
The Peru tender for about $1 billion of fighters is the next target
for South Korea.
T-50 Golden Eagle
South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle family offers the global marketplace a set of high-end supersonic trainer and lightweight fighter aircraft. They’re hitting the international market at a good time: just as many of the world’s jet training fleets are reaching ages of 30 years or more, and high-end fighters are pricing themselves out of reach for many countries.
Most recently, Thailand is increasing its defense budget and the speed of its procurement process to, among other things, procure a replacement for its aging L-39. The T-50 is one of three candidates.
The ROK’s defense industry is advancing on all fronts these days. Its shipbuilding industry, one of the world’s busiest, is beginning to turn out its own LHDs, and even high-end KDX-III AEGIS destroyers. On the armored vehicle front, Korea’s XK2 tank and K9/K10 self propelled howitzer are beginning to win export orders, and its XK-21/KNIFV amphibious infantry fighting vehicle may not be too far behind. All fill key market niches, promising performance at a comparatively inexpensive price. Now its aerospace industry is in flight abroad with the KT-1 turboprop basic trainer, complemented by the T-50 jet trainer, TA-50 LIFT advanced trainer & attack variant, and FA-50 lightweight fighter.
The TA-50 and FA-50 are especially attractive as lightweight export fighters, and the ROKAF’s own F-5E/F Tiger II and F-4 Phantom fighters are more than due for replacement. The key question for the platform is whether it can find corresponding export sales.
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Feb 03, 2015 00:20 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Both losing competitors are protesting the award to Raytheon. The Air Force has opted to re-evaluate all bids.
The US Navy’s Dual-Band Radar that equips its forthcoming Gerald R. Ford class super-carriers replaces several different radars with a single back-end. Merging Raytheon’s X-band SPY-3 with Lockheed Martin’s S-band VSR allows fewer radar antennas, faster response time, faster adaptation to new situations, one-step upgrades to the radar suite as a whole, and better utilization of the ship’s power, electronics, and bandwidth.
Rather than using that existing Dual-Band Radar design in new surface combatant ships, however, the “Air and Missile Defense Radar” (AMDR) aims to fulfill DG-51 Flight III destroyer needs through a new competition for a similar dual-band radar. It could end up being a big deal for the winning radar manufacturer, and for the fleet. If, and only if, the technical, power, and weight challenges can be mastered at an affordable price.
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