Latest updates[?]: DigiFlight won a $15.3 million contract modification for logistic support services for the Apache Attack Helicopter Project Manager's Office. The Apache Program Office is responsible for all duties and functions associated with being the Army's central point of contact for all materiel system matters pertaining to the AH-64. The Apache attack helicopter was developed by McDonnell Douglas for the US Armed Forces. It entered service with the US Army in 1984. The Apache is a twin-engined army attack helicopter. It was first used in combat in 1989 in the US military action in Panama. Work will take place in Columbia, Maryland an estimated completion date is August 10, 2020.
AH-64 in Afghanistan
The AH-64 Apache will remain the US Army’s primary armed helicopter for several more decades, thanks to the collapse of the RAH-66 Comanche program, and the retirement sans replacement of the US Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). Apaches also serve with a number of American allies, some of whom have already expressed interest in upgrading or expanding their fleets.
The AH-64E Guardian Block III (AB3) is the helicopter’s next big step forward. It incorporates 26 key new-technology insertions that cover flight performance, maintenance costs, sensors & electronics, and even the ability to control UAVs as part of manned-unmanned teaming (MUT). In July 2006, Boeing and U.S. Army officials signed the initial development contract for Block III upgrades to the current and future Apache fleet, via a virtual signing ceremony. By November 2011, the 1st production helicopter had been delivered. So… how many helicopters will be modified under the AH-64 Block III program, what do these modifications include, how is the program structured, and what has been happening since that 2006 award? The short answer is: a lot, including export interest and sales.
Latest updates[?]: The Royal Netherlands Air Force resumed flights with its NH90 helicopters after they were grounded following the crash of one into the Caribbean Sea on July 19, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten told parliament. Meanwhile, the wreck of the crashed RNLAF NH90 has been found. “Based on the first investigation results it seems unlikely that a technical or mechanical failure of the helicopter was the cause of a crash with an NH-90 helicopter on July 19 in the Caribbean Sea whereby two crew members died,” it was stated in a press release.
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-60Seahawk/ 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.
Latest updates[?]: The Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) flew for the first time on August 7 under the right wing of a EA-18G from VX-23. Lt. Jonathan Williams, VX-23 test pilot, says the new pod imposed negligible handling issues with the Growler. The first flight, conducted by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, is a Safety of Flight (SOF) checkout that ensures the pods can be safely flown on the EA-18G aircraft for follow-on test flights.
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.
Latest updates[?]: Thailand will spend $30 million to upgrade 12 C-130H cargo planes instead of purchasing new aircraft. The cabinet approved the project on August 4. Royal Thai Air Force commander ACM Maanat Wongwat explained that the budget to finance the upgrade will come from tie-over funds over the next two fiscal year. Earlier this year, the Royal Thai Air Force published a white paper that calls for the replacement of the C-130H by 2030. It said that the aircraft was commissioned in 1980 with 40 years in service and is nearing the end of its lifespan. It wishes to buy new replacement aircraft from 2022 in three batches of four aircraft.
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.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin won a $65.3 million deal for fiscal 2020 Aegis modernization, new construction of guided missile destroyers and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) production requirements. This contract combines purchases for the Navy; the Kingdom of Spain; and the government of Japan, under the FMS program. The Aegis Weapon System is a centralized, automated, command-and-control and weapons control system that was designed as a total weapon system, from detection to kill. The heart of the system is the AN/SPY-1, an advanced, automatic detect and track, multi-function phased-array radar. This high-powered (four megawatt) radar is able to perform search, track, and missile guidance functions simultaneously, with a track capacity of more than 100 targets. The first Engineering Development Model (EDM-1) was installed in the test ship, USS Norton Sound (AVM 1) in 1973. Work will take place in Moorestown, New Jersey; Clearwater, Florida; and Owego, New York. This procurement covers the production and delivery of multi-mission signal processor equipment sets; Aegis Combat System support equipment; and electronic equipment fluid coolers and kill assessment system 5.1 equipment. This contract action also provides MK 6 Mod 0 equipment for the government of Japan and the Kingdom of Spain FMS requirements. Expected completion will be by November 2024.
The AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System seamlessly integrates the SPY-1 radar, the MK 41 Vertical Launching System for missiles, the SM-3 Standard missile, and the ship’s command and control system, in order to give ships the ability to defend against enemy ballistic missiles. Like its less-capable AEGIS counterpart, AEGIS BMD can also work with other radars on land and sea via Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). That lets it receive cues from other platforms and provide information to them, in order to create a more detailed battle picture than any one radar could produce alone.
AEGIS has become a widely-deployed top-tier air defense system, with customers in the USA, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Norway, and Spain. In a dawning age of rogue states and proliferation of mass-destruction weapons, the US Navy is being pushed toward a “shield of the nation” role as the USA’s most flexible and most numerous option for missile defense. AEGIS BMD modifications are the keystone of that effort – in the USA, and beyond.
Latest updates[?]: Testers from the US Air Force’s 40th Flight Test Squadron and the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron carried out the first four-ship F-16 formation test of the new APG-83 AESA radar on July 2. The mission objective was to determine if the jets experience interference when all four radars are active at the same time and to determine if there is signal improvement or degradation during the flight. According to the press release from Egline Air Force Base, the APG-83 is powerful enough that it allows the pilot to target a corner of a small building or the cockpit of an aircraft from beyond line-of-sight.
AN/APG-79 AESA Radar
The AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar began life as a replacement. Initial F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet production batches installed Raytheon’s all-weather, multimode AN/APG-73, but the APG-79 has intrinsic technical features that offered revolutionary increases in capability, reliability, image resolution, and range.
Unlike the APG-73 that equipped the first Super Hornets, the APG-79’s AESA array is composed of numerous solid-state transmit and receive modules that are fixed in place, eliminating a common cause of breakdowns. To move their beams, they rely on electronic changes in each module’s transmissions, creating useful interference patterns in order to aim, focus and shape their output. Other system components include an advanced receiver/exciter, ruggedized commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) processor, and power supplies. With its open systems architecture and compact COTS parts, it changes what both aircrews and maintenance staff can do with a fighter radar – and does so in a smaller, lighter package.
Latest updates[?]: According to Jane’s, Saab reaffirmed its intention to offer its GlobalEye platform for South Korea’s recently announced program to acquire additional airborne early warning and control aircraft for the Republic of Korea Air Force. Saab reportedly told Jane’s that it expects the procurement to feature an initial two aircraft acquired through either an open tender or a direct acquisition. South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) is expected to confirm the procurement method later this year. GlobalEye is Saab’s new airborne early warning and control solution. It provides air, maritime and ground surveillance in a single solution. GlobalEye combines Saab’s new Erieye Extended Range Radar and a range of additional advanced sensors with the ultra-long range Global 6000 aircraft from Bombardier.
In November 2009, Saab announced a 1.5 billion SEK (about $220 million) contract from the United Arab Emirates for 2 of its Saab 340 regional turboprops, equipped with Erieye active-array radars that can scan large airspace volumes, and with related command and control systems. The Saab 340 AEW contract also includes ground equipment, initial spares, and support services.
The UAE is just the latest buyer of Saab’s Erieye system.
Latest updates[?]: Martin Baker won a maximum $150 million contract for T-6 and T-38 Sustainment. This contract provides for T-6 and T-38 replenishment spares. The T-6A Texan II is a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer designed to train Joint Primary Pilot Training, or JPPT, students in basic flying skills common to US Air Force and Navy pilots.The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record. Work will take place in Uxbridge, UK and is expected to be finished by December 31, 2026.
In mid-September 2011, DynCorp International, LLC in Fort Worth, TX received a $36 million firm-fixed-price contract for aircraft maintenance and related services in support of Euro-NATO joint jet pilot training; maintaining T-38 undergraduate pilot training, T-38 introduction to fighter fundamentals, and T-6A aircraft at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. The 82nd Contracting Squadron/LGCA at Sheppard AFB, TX manages the contract (FA-3002-09-C-0024, Modification Number A00026).
The T-6A is an advanced turboprop trainer, while the T-38 Talon is a supersonic trainer derivative of the widely-exported F-5 fighter. The USAF’s Talons are slated for possible replacement under a competition called T-X, but in the mean time, they’re also flown by foreign pilots, from countries seeking final “lead-in fighter training” before their pilots graduate to operational fighters.
August 6/20: Sustainment Martin Baker won a maximum $150 million contract for T-6 and T-38 Sustainment. This contract provides for T-6 and T-38 replenishment spares. The T-6A Texan II is a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer designed to train Joint Primary Pilot Training, or JPPT, students in basic flying skills common to US Air Force and Navy pilots.The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record. Work will take place in Uxbridge, UK and is expected to be finished by December 31, 2026.
February 3/20: Wing Replacement Israel Aerospace Industries won a $240 million contract to acquire T-38 Wings. The Northrop T-38 Talon was the world’s first supersonic trainer at the time of its introduction. It is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record. Student pilots fly the T-38A to learn supersonic techniques, aerobatics, formation, night and instrument flying and cross-country navigation. In 2015, IAI delivered the first replacement wing for the aircraft. Work under the new contract will take place in Lod, Israel and expected completion is by January, 2033.
July 30/19: Sustainment CPI Aerostructures won a $65.7 million deal for T-38A/B/C sustainment. The contract is for structural and fastener kits. The T-38 Talon is a twinjet supersonic jet trainer. It was the world’s first supersonic trainer and entered service in 1961. Since then, more than 60,000 Air Force pilots have trained on the aircraft. The T-38A is a basic supersonic trainer aircraft and the AT-38B is the lead-in fighter trainer fitted with a centerline weapons station for practice bomb dispenser. A program to upgrade the T-38A and extend the service life of the aircraft until 2020 is underway. The program includes new avionics and propulsion and new structural elements including the wings.The upgraded aircraft is the T-38C. CPI Aerostructures will perform work under the ceiling contract in Edgewood, New York and estimated completion date is July 25, 2030.
Latest updates[?]: Northrop Grumman won a $34.7 million ordering agreement, which provides non-recurring engineering for requirements development and systems engineering technical reviews and certification planning; initial requirements change requests; procurement strategy source selection package; performance based navigation certification plan; initial system safety; cyber; program protection and exportability analysis; integrated master schedule; and other associated technical deliverables in support of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye cockpit redesign. Operating from an altitude more than 25,000ft high, the Hawkeye alerts the naval task force to approaching air threats, while also providing threat identification and positional data to fighter aircraft such as F-14 Tomcats. The next-generation E-2D Advanced Hawkeye has a new radar system, theatre missile defense capabilities, multi-sensor integration and a Northrop Grumman Navigation Systems tactical glass cockpit. Work will take place in Melbourne, Florida and Patuxent River, Maryland. Expected completion will be in January, 2022.
Northrop Grumman’s E-2C Hawkeye is a carrier-capable “mini-AWACS” aircraft, designed to give long-range warning of incoming aerial threats. Secondary roles include strike command and control, land and maritime surveillance, search and rescue, communications relay, and even civil air traffic control during emergencies. E-2C Hawkeyes began replacing previous Hawkeye versions in 1973. They fly from USN and French carriers, from land bases in the militaries of Egypt, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan; and in a drug interdiction role for the US Naval Reserve. Over 200 Hawkeyes have been produced.
The $17.5 billion E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program aims to build 75 new aircraft with significant radar, engine, and electronics upgrades in order to deal with a world of stealthier cruise missiles, saturation attacks, and a growing need for ground surveillance as well as aerial scans. It looks a lot like the last generation E-2C Hawkeye 2000 upgrade on the outside – but inside, and even outside to some extent, it’s a whole new aircraft.
Latest updates[?]: USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) had its first Air Intercept Control (AIC) event on July 30 and the aircraft carrier’s crew directed F/A-18s from VFA-103 and VFA-213 to protect high value asset against enemy threats. Two separate AIC events took place during the exercise and Ford’s Air Intercept Controller, Operations Specialist 1st Class David Geary, controlled two Super Hornets from Jolly Rogers and four F/A-18Fs from Black Lions to “intercept, escort and if necessary kill the inbound threat aircraft.”
CF-18: which way?
(click to see clearly)
The F/A-18 Hornet is the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet‘s predecessor, with the first models introduced in the late 1970s as a spinoff of the USAF’s YF-17 lightweight fighter competitor. Hornets are currently flown by the US Marine Corps as their front-line fighter, by the US Navy as a second-tier fighter behind its larger F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, and by 7 international customers: Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, and Switzerland. The USA’s aircraft were expected to have a service life of 20 years, but that was based on 100 carrier landings per year. The US Navy and Marines have been rather busy during the Hornets’ service life, and so the planes are wearing out faster.
This is forcing the USA to take a number of steps in order to keep their Hornets airworthy: replacing center barrel sections, re-opening production lines, and more. Some of these efforts will also be offered to allied air forces, who have their own refurbishment and upgrade programs.