Latest updates[?]: Raytheon won a $442.3 million deal for the force element terminal (FET) development effort. The contract provides for the design, development, testing, integration, and logistical support of a FET system that will transition the B-52 and RC-135 hardened communication terminals from the Military Strategic Tactical Relay satellite communications satellite constellation to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite constellation. According to the US Air Force’s latest strategic bomber guidance document, the B-52H Stratofortress are no longer approved to carry nuclear gravity bombs. There have long been concerns that the B-52 lacks the capability to penetrate modern air defenses to deliver a nuclear strike with gravity bombs. The B-52 Stratofortress entered into service in the 1950s. With the Cold War in full swing, the bomber became an integral part of the US’ nuclear deterrent as a part of the Nuclear Triad, alongside intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-armed submarines. Decades later the aircraft is still integral in this role. Boeing RC-135 is a four engine, medium weight reconnaissance aircraft designed and manufactured by Boeing Defence and Integrated Systems for the USAF. Work will take place at Raytheon's facilities in Marlborough, Massachusetts; and Largo, Florida, and is expected to be completed by August 2023.
Nimrod R1 & E-3D AWACS
Land and sea surveillance, and electronic surveillance, are missions no government can ignore. To keep its capabilities, Great Britain launched a parallel set of efforts to update its Nimrod fleet. One multi-billion pound program sought to upgrade 12 of its unique Nimrod Mk2 maritime patrol aircraft to Nimrod MRA4 status. The other effort, named Project HELIX, sought to keep its related Nimrod R1 electronic and signals intelligence/ relay aircraft fleet flying until 2025.
Both failed. The Nimrod MR2 fleet was retired in 2010, with several almost-complete MRA4s scrapped, leaving Britain with no long-range maritime surveillance aircraft. The first sign of trouble for the Nimrod R1s was an October 2008 DSCA request, conveying Britain’s official $1+ billion request to field 3 RC-135V/W Rivet Joint ELINT/SIGINT aircraft. That, too, became final, and the R1s will now leave service in 2011 – to be replaced by a joint RAF/USAF “Airseeker” program centered on the RC-135W Rivet Joint.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon won a $61.5 million delivery contract for Global Positioning System-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Services (GPNTS) software support. GPNTS is used to receive, process and distribute three-dimensional position, velocity, acceleration, attitude, time and frequency in the formats required by shipboard user systems. The software support will include development, integration and test of improvements, correction of deficiencies, preparation and delivery of engineering interim/final software builds and inputs for the GPNTS software requirements and configuration baseline. The delivery contract includes a base ordering period of five years, with a subsequent three-year option and a final two-year option for a total of 10 years should all options be exercised. Raytheon will perform work in San Diego, California and is expected to be finished by November, 2024.
At the end of June 2010, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in San Diego, CA received a 4-year, $32.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to design, develop, test and deliver the Global Positioning System Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Service (GPNTS). If all options are exercised, work could continue until June 2021, and run the contract to $77.1 million. $4.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (88%), and Fairfax, VA (12%), while the competitively procured contract will be managed by US Space and Naval Warfare Command in San Diego, CA (N00039-11-C-0089).
The DoD description said that “…GPNTS will support mission critical real-time positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) data services for weapons, combat, navigation, and other C4I systems requiring PNT information.” That’s technically true, but misleading. Discussions with Raytheon confirm that GPNTS systems will replace existing NAVSSI integrated navigation systems on board US Navy ships. They receive GPS data from the ship’s receivers, and act as a shipboard navigation data distribution hub. That could mean loading current coordinates from the ship into an aircraft or a GPS/INS-guided weapon, working with an aircraft carrier’s precision GPS landing system, or just handling routine navigation and reporting systems on board.
Contracts & Updates
November 19/19: Software Support Raytheon won a $61.5 million delivery contract for Global Positioning System-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Services (GPNTS) software support. GPNTS is used to receive, process and distribute three-dimensional position, velocity, acceleration, attitude, time and frequency in the formats required by shipboard user systems. The software support will include development, integration and test of improvements, correction of deficiencies, preparation and delivery of engineering interim/final software builds and inputs for the GPNTS software requirements and configuration baseline. The delivery contract includes a base ordering period of five years, with a subsequent three-year option and a final two-year option for a total of 10 years should all options be exercised. Raytheon will perform work in San Diego, California and is expected to be finished by November, 2024.
Its initial battles were fought within the Pentagon, but the US Army’s high-end UAV has made its transition to the battlefield.
The ER/MP program was part of the US Army’s reinvestment of dollars from the canceled RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program, and directly supports the Army’s Aviation Modernization Plan. The US Air Force saw this Predator derivative as a threat and tried to destroy it, but the program survived the first big “Key West” battle of the 21st century. Now, the MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” is in production as the US Army’s high-end UAV. As CENTCOM’s wars end, however, the Gray Eagle may find that staying in the fleet is as hard as getting there.
This FOCUS article offers a program history, key statistics and budget figures, and ongoing coverage of the program’s contracts and milestones.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon announced that the US Air Force used the company’s GPS Next-Generation Operational Control System, known as GPS OCX, to support the launch of its second GPS III satellite into space. The ground system will spend 10 days maneuvering the satellite into its final orbit, demonstrating GPS OCX's ability to simultaneously support multiple GPS III spacecraft on-orbit throughout the checkout and calibration process. GPS III SV02 is the newest generation of GPS satellites designed and built to deliver positioning, navigation and timing information apparently with three times better accuracy, and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capability than its predecessor. Prime contractor is Lockheed Martin. The GPS III satellite, also called Magellan, was launched on August 22 after years of delays. United Launch Alliance used a Delta IV rocket to launch the second Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite for the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.
GPS IIIA concept
GPS-III satellites, in conjunction with their companion OCX ground control, system are the Global Positioning System (GPS) future. They offer big advantages over existing GPS-II satellites and GCS, but most of all, they have to work. Disruption or decay of the critical capabilities provided by the USA’s Navstar satellites would cripple both the US military, and many aspects of the global economy.
The time-based GPS service is the most-used application of Einstein’s Theories of Relativity. GPS has become part of civilian life in ways that go go far beyond those handy driving maps, including crop planting, timing services for stock trades, and a key role in credit card processing. At the same time, military class (M-code) GPS guidance can now be found in everything from cruise missiles and various precision-guided bombs, to battlefield rockets and even artillery shells. Combat search and rescue radios rely on this line of communication, and so does a broadening array of individual soldier equipment.
This DII FOCUS article looks at the existing constellation, GPS-III improvements, the program’s structure, its progress through contracts and key milestones, and extensive PTN (Positioning, Timing & Navigation)/ GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) research links.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin won a $56 million deal for combat system engineering support on the Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS). Under the contract, the SSDS combat system engineering agent and software design agent primary deliverables will be SSDS tactical computer programs, program updates and associated engineering, development and logistics products. The contract will manage the in-service SSDS configurations as well as adapt and integrate new or upgraded war-fighting capabilities. Lockheed will perform work in Moorestown, New Jersey and San Diego, California. Estimated completion date is in December.
Right now, in many American ships beyond its Navy’s top-tier AEGIS destroyers and cruisers, the detect-to-engage sequence against anti-ship missiles requires a lot of manual steps, involving different ship systems that use different displays. When a Mach 3 missile gives you 45 seconds from appearance on ship’s radar to impact, seconds of delay can be fatal. Seconds of unnecessary delay are unacceptable.
Hence Raytheon’s Ship Self Defense System (SSDS), which is currently funded under the US Navy’s Quick Reaction Combat Capability program. It’s widely used as a combat system in America’s carrier and amphibious fleets. That can be challenging for its developers, given the wide array of hardware and systems it needs to work with. Consistent testing reports indicate that this is indeed the case, and SSDS has its share of gaps and issues. It also has a series of upgrade programs underway, in order to add new capabilities. Managing these demands effectively will have a big impact on the survivability of the US Navy’s most important power projection assets.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin announced that the AEHF-5 protected communication satellite is now in transfer orbit. The launch on August 8 was successful and the AEHF-5 is now responding to the US Air Force's 4th Space Operations Squadron’s commands. According to Lockheed, the squadron began "flying" the satellite shortly after it separated from its United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket approximately 5 hours and 40 minutes after the rocket's successful 6:13 am ET liftoff. The Advanced Extremely High Frequency 5 or AEHF-5 satellite is the fifth addition to the Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency constellation. The satellites are built by Lockheed Martin and are used to relay secure communications for the Armed Forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands. The first AEHF satellite was launched in 2006 and the most recent, the AEHF-4 in October 2018. The sixth and final AEHF satellite is expected to launch later this year.
The USA’s new Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites will support twice as many tactical networks as the current Milstar II satellites, while providing 10-12 times the bandwidth capacity and 6 times the data rate transfer speed. With the cancellation of the higher-capacity TSAT program, AEHF will form the secure, hardened backbone of the Pentagon’s future Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) architecture, with a mission set that includes nuclear command and control. Its companion Family of Advanced Beyond-line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T) program will give the US military more modern, higher-bandwidth receiving capabilities, and add more flexibility on the front lines. The program has international components, and partners currently include Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands.
This article offers a look at the AEHF system’s rationale and capabilities, while offering insight into some of the program’s problems, and an updated timeline covering over $5 billion worth of contracts since the program’s inception.
Latest updates[?]: The US Navy contracted Data Link Solutions with a $75 million modification for the Block Upgrade II retrofit of Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) low volume terminals (LVTs). The MIDS LVT is a low-cost fighter terminal with flexible, open-architecture designs. It provides the critical airborne, ground, and maritime link that allows for simultaneous coordination of forces and situational awareness in battlefield operations. The MIDS program was inaugurated via a Memorandum of Understanding amongst the founding MIDS nations, namely Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and the United States. The terminals provide secure, high-capacity, jam-resistant, digital data and voice communications capability for Navy, Air Force and Army platforms, and for Foreign Military Sales customers. Work will take place in Wayne, New Jersey and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Estimated completion date is in December 2026.
Link 16 Display
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What one sees, all see. Jam-resistant Link-16 radios automatically exchange battlefield information – particularly locations of friendly and enemy aircraft, ships and ground forces – among themselves in a long-range, line-of-sight network. For example, air surveillance tracking data from an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft can be instantly shared with fighter aircraft and air defense units. More than a dozen countries have installed Link 16 terminals on over 19 different land, sea, and air platforms, making it an interoperability success story.
While recent advancements may make AESA radars the future transmitters of choice, Link 16 is the current standard. The Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals (MIDS LVTs) were developed by a multinational consortium to provide Link 16 capability at a lower weight, volume, and cost than the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS). This free-to-view DID Spotlight article throws a spotlight on the program, explaining Link 16, and covering associated contracts around the world.
Latest updates[?]: The American State Department approved a possible Sale to the Republic of Korea for Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) for RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPS). The deal is worth $950 million. The contract would enable the Republic of Korea to sustain and operate its fleet of RQ-4 Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft and will significantly advance US interests in standardization with the Republic of Korea’s Armed Forces. In 2014 South Korea signed a deal to purchase Global Hawks with production starting in 2015 and delivery expected to start last year. Due to cyber security concerns, delivery was delayed. Northrop Grumman is the principal contractor on the contract.
Euro Hawk UAV
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Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV has gone from a developmental platform to the next generation of American aerial reconnaissance. Flying at 60,000 feet, the RQ-4’s use their advanced synthetic aperture radar and other sensors to provide high-resolution images, unaffected by clouds or similar impediments. A larger RQ-4B model has been developed, and forms the backbone of current deliveries.
The transatlantic Euro Hawk project aimed to produce an RQ-4B with additional capabilities in signals intelligence collection (SIGINT), to complement its native ground surveillance capabilities. The 4-5 UAVs would provide the ability to detect and collect information from electronic intelligence (ELINT) radar emitters and communications emitters, and would be connected to ground stations that can receive and analyze the data. An MoU was signed in May 2006, followed by a firm system development contract on Jan 31/07. The Euro Hawk flew, and was performing on a technical level, but regulatory barriers killed the program in May 2013.
Latest updates[?]: UK’s Marshall Aerospace signed a contract with Boeing to start work for the E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) program. Marshall is responsible for the conversion and delivery of the new fleet. The program has Marshall turn 737 Next-Generation aircraft into E-7s, including adding the Northrop Grumman multi-role Electronically Scanned Array surveillance radar, communication and mission computer systems. The E-7 is a twin-engine airborne early warning and control aircraft. The aircraft was designed for the Royal Australian Air Force. The Wedgetail can control the tactical battle space, providing direction for fighter aircraft, surface combatants and land based elements, as well as supporting aircraft such as tankers and intelligence platforms.
over New South Wales
The island continent of Australia faces a number of unique security challenges that stem from its geography. The continent may be separated from its neighbors by large expanses of ocean, but it also resides within a potential arc of instability, and has a number of important offshore resource sites to protect. Full awareness of what is going on around them, and the ability to push that awareness well offshore, are critical security requirements.
“Project Wedgetail” had 3 finalists, and the winner was a new variant of Boeing’s 737-700, fitted with an MESA (multirole electronically scanned array) radar from Northrop Grumman. That radar exchanges the traditional AWACS rotating dome for the E-7A’s “top hat” stationary antenna. That design, and the project as a whole, have run into severe turbulence, creating problems for Boeing earnings, the ADF, and other export orders for the type. DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This one covers contracts, events, and key milestones within Australia’s E-7A program, from inception to the current day.
Latest updates[?]: Rafael together with IAI’s Elta Systems will upgrade the Litening 5 and Reccelite XR all-weather stand-off airborne electro-optic targeting pods with a synthetic aperture radar imagery intelligence payload, Jane’s reports. The Litening 5 is a high-resolution multi-sensor targeting pod, incorporating an upgraded 1.2K x 1.2K large aperture forward-looking mid-wave infrared and a short-wave infrared. In addition to more diverse targeting, the pods are said to feature inter-asset communications and sensor sharing capabilities. The fifth generation of the targeting pod is now capable of targeting from long range, enabling strike aircraft to employ guided weapons from standoff range without relying on external support. Litening 5 employs a new sensor package, utilizing an optical assembly and larger aperture tailored specifically for the new sensors, enabling the increased identification and recognition distance. Reccelite XR is a multi-spectral, multi-role, real-time standoff reconnaissance system that consists of an airborne pod, a wide digital datalink and a ground exploitation station. Similar to the Litening 5, Reccelite XR received an enhanced sensor package comprising megapixel-size arrays of near-infrared, mid-wave infrared, color sensors and short-wave infrared.
Sniper on F-16
At the end of September 2010, the USAF dropped something of a bombshell. Under their $2.3 billion Advanced Targeting Pod – Sensor Enhancement (ATP-SE) contract, the service that had begun standardizing on one future surveillance and targeting pod type decided to change course, and split its buys.
This decision is a huge breakthrough for Northrop Grumman, whose LITENING pod had lost the USAF’s initial 2001 Advanced Targeting Pod competition. As a result of that competition, the USAF’s buys had shifted from LITENING to Sniper pods, and Lockheed Martin’s Sniper became the pod of choice for integration onto new USAF platforms. Since then, both of these pods have chalked up procurement wins around the world, and both manufacturers kept improving their products. That continued competition would eventually change the landscape once again.
In January 2015, Rafael announced that their upcoming upgrade that they call G-4 Advanced outside the U.S., and “G-5” for the Americans will have air-to-air targeting capabilities.
In addition to more diverse targeting, the pods are said to feature inter-asset communications and sensor sharing capabilities – in essence some of the whiz-bang features touted in the F-35 platform that is supposed to push the F/A-18 into obsolescence.