In December 2008, Defense News reported that 2 IL-78 “Midas” air refueling tankers were seen landing on Dec 2/08 at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, painted in Pakistani Air Force livery. Pakistan reportedly signed a contract with the Ukraine for 4 aircraft with Russian-designed UPAZ refueling pods, with the possibility of additional third-country equipment. Full operation is expected by 2010.
The IL-78 Midas is the aerial refueling variant of the IL-76 strategic transport; it is operated by Pakistan’s ally China, as well as its rival India. Standard IL-78s use hose-and-drogue refueling, however, which limits their usefulness to Pakistan. The PAF’s top-end F-16s possess USAF-standard dorsal refueling inlets, which require a refueling boom. The PAF’s MiG-19 derivative A-5 Fantan fighters have no aerial refueling capability at all, and neither do its F-7 Skybolts (Chinese MiG-21s). Refueling drogues are present on Pakistan’s old Mirage III/Vs, and on the Sino-Pakistani FC-1/ JF-17 Thunder lightweight fighters that may constitute the bulk of its future fleet. They will also be present on the Chengdu FC-20/J-10 fighters, which Pakistan is buying.
On Dec 20/09, the excellent Pakistani newspaper DAWN reported that the first PAF IL-78 aircraft had arrived, with the other 3 expected by mid-2010. This event follows the delivery of Pakistan’s first Erieye AWACS aircraft, and the 2 purchases combined will substantially change the capabilities of Pakistan’s air force.
In 2005, the US military and NASA announced the kickoff of the Army-led Joint Heavy Lift program, with the award of 5 contracts for the Concept Design and Analysis (CDA) of a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) rotorcraft. This is a futuristic aircraft that’s imagined as having the C-130 Hercules aircraft’s 20 ton cargo capacity, but with the ability to take off and land like a helicopter. No current US military helicopter platform even comes close to that vision, and so the competitors are deploying some radical and different technologies in their attempts to meet these goals.
CH-53E Super Stallion
At the same time, the US Marine Corps’ vital medium-heavy lift CH-53E Super Sea Stallion helicopters are beginning to to wear out their airframes. Hence the HLR Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program, aimed at fielding new-build CH-53K aircraft beginning in 2013-2015. The US Air Force, meanwhile, has its AJACS program, which aims to produce a C-130 replacement beginning around 2020.
All 3 programs may face a rough ride ahead. Runaway cost growth on numerous US defense programs, operational demands, and a looming demographic crisis in social programs all work to create budget squeezes, and hence pressures for program consolidation. The USMC’s affordable CH-53X track upgrade was very nearly sidetracked via a merger with he R&D heavy, schedule-uncertain, JHL, and may not be in the clear yet. The USAF’s AJACS program to replace the C-130 Hercules with a modern 20+ ton transport is also facing scrutiny of this sort, and those pressures, too may increase. Conversely, it is also possible that the JHL program could find itself edged out by a pair of more conventional helicopter and aircraft solutions from the USMC and USAF. DID notes the technologies, the politics, and progress to date.
Recent news includes a report that shows just how far away the US military is from a viable competition and winning design.
In January 2007, the big question was whether there would be a competition for the USA’s KC-X aerial tanker RFP, which will cover 175 production aircraft and 4 test platforms. The cost for this first phase alone is likely to reach $35+ billion, but the USAF believes that adding new plane types to America’s 40-50 year old aerial tanker fleet is its #1 priority, lest unpredictable age or fatigue issues like the ones its F-15A-D fleet is experiencing ground its aerial tankers – and with them, a substantial slice of the USA’s total airpower.
Boeing’s KC-767 Advanced Tanker was matched up against Airbus’ larger A330 MRTT/KC-30 for this competition. Each has a consortium, and each had advantages. After all the studies, the lobbying, and the proposal refinements, however, the USAF has picked a winner on Feb 29/08.
The A330 MRTT/ KC-30B from Northrop Grumman and EADS Airbus will now become the USAF’s next aerial tanker – if the USAF can make its decision stick…
South of the Sahara desert, there are few successful states in Africa – and even fewer with anything resembling a modern military. Even so, the African Union wants 5 regional rapid deployment forces ready for use in 2010. Whether this can be achieved is questionable; Africa is legendary for its difficulties and fragmentation, and NATO’s recent decision to scale back its own Rapid Reaction Force promises graphically illustrates the need to back up words with budgets, action, and political cohesion. If any success is possible in southern Africa, however, it’s likely that South Africa will be the 6,000-10,000 man force’s anchor state. Whether responding to wars, or to disaster relief scenarios like Mozambique’s floods in 2000, these forces would face two critical challenges. One is interoperable communications. The other is logistics.
Given Africa’s poor infrastructure, seabasing options begin to look very attractive. Which may help to explain the FNS Tonnerre’s recent visit to South Africa – and the South African military’s interest in a “strategic support ship” that can land vehicles and support them with helicopters. In other words, an LHD, with a large helicopter deck, roll-off vehicle decks, accommodations for troops, fresh water production, a built-in hospital, et. al. In Africa, it will also want to have a shallow draught that allows it access to Africa’s “unimproved” harbors.
According to Defense News, South African defense analyst Helmoed-RÃ¶mer Heitman sees 3 major contenders if the project goes forward. The first is France’s DCNS and its 21,300t Mistral Class LHD, which visited South Africa recently and performed vehicle loading and helicopter landing tests with South African equipment, before undertaking a stormy sail around the Cape. The second is Spain’s Navantia, which is building a 27,500t BPE (LHD/CV-E) ship for the Spanish government, and recently beat DCNS after submitting a very similar design for Australia’s 2 Canberra Class LHDs. The third is Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) and its Multi-Role Helicopter Dock Ship; TKMS co-built South Africa’s Meko Class frigates and enjoys good relations with the South African military.
Militaries around the world are moving to modernize and transform themselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Our mission is to deliver a regular cross-section of relevant, on-target stories, news, and analysis that will help experts and interested laypeople alike stay up to speed on key military developments and issues. Stories are broken down by military category and presented as fast bullet points that orient you quickly, with accompanying links if you wish to pursue more in-depth treatments.
Some of This Month’s Targets of Opportunity Include: Aging aircraft; F-22; F-35; India’s big fighter contest; 2018 bomber; Next-gen gunships; Japan’s stealth aircraft; JCA – just confusing; Poseidon down under; Boeing’s invisibility man; Odd new satellite; unmanned fighters & swarms; Cell phones & Patriots; Huge IT contracts; DARPA’s Deep Green; Lots of MRAP; FCS spinouts; Fire Ball; Better body armor; Australia’s new fleet; Korea: us too!; Britain’s new carriers; US Navy’s new bills; Russia’s stealthy Stereguschiy; Remote firefighting; Coast Guard cutters; ADVENT of breakthrough jet engines; $1M wearable power prize; Sub-finding ‘shark’; UK’s Grand Challenge & flying saucers; Boeing’s new plane design; DARPA’s robot dog; New Russian nukes; Britain’s new maintenance concept works; Israel prepares; Counter-insurgency air needs; Export controls and their blowback; CSAR-X: rescue me!; And much, much more:
DID usually restricts its coverage to procurements, but issues of doctrine and lessons and innovations from the field also qualify. Drawing conclusions from exercises is always tricky, and can never replace combat experience. Even so, in the absence of state-on-state conflicts, the expansion of multi-national training (where “gaming” is less likely) occasionally offers an interesting window into platform capabilities and national trends. With a number of air forces around the world contemplating their future fighter options, and India emphasizing the value of force multiplier/ force projection platforms in its air force, the matchups at Exercise Indra Dhanush 2007 at Waddington, UK are worth our time.
While SU-30Ks have faced USAF F-15Cs and F-16s at COPE India 2004 and COPE India 2005, Indra Dhanush 2007 featured more advanced combatants on both sides. On one side is Britain’s Eurofighter Typhoon, whose advanced aerodynamics and intuitive controls and avionics have led to studies like the UK DERA rating it as the second-best air superiority aircraft in the world. Its supporting cast includes 1980s era Tornado F3 air defense variants, and upgraded GR9 Harriers from the Royal Navy. On the other side is India’s SU-30MKI, the most evolved variant of Sukhoi’s outstanding Flanker family, with aerodynamics that allow unique maneuvers, and full thrust vectoring besides.
ITT Federal Services International Corp. in Colorado Springs, CO received a $50.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee/ award-fee contract for Base Operations and Security Services at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar. Work is expected to be completed by Nov. 30, 2012. Bids were solicited via the World Wide Web on Aug. 23, 2006, and 5 bids were received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command, Qatar (W912D2-07-C-0004).
While the air base at Al Uedid attracts more attention, Camp As Saliyah’s role as a pre-positioning facility located just outside the capital city of Doha makes it an important piece of the USA’s overall presence in the Persian Gulf. It is reportedly the largest pre-positioning facility outside the USA, and ITT Federal Services International has been involved in associated contracts for some time now.
EADS, in cooperation with the company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) of Munich, has developed a multifunctional container for protected personal transport that can accommodate up to 18 people including equipment. TransProtec has undergone a series of blasting tests at Military Technical Centre WTD in Meppen to verify its ability to resist attacks with explosives, sniper fire, shrapnel, and mines. EADS also claims the units provide some resistance to NBC(Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) attacks. TransProtec can easily be transported on different makes of protected trucks, and a hook loading system makes it possible to load and unload the container quickly.
Containerized systems are an emerging military trend. Our own coverage includes other EADS products (vid. the TransHospital), American counterparts like MMIC, and even renewable energy power stations by SkyBuilt et. al. The best collection we’ve found re: containerized military systems in worldwide use, however, is an outside web piece called Think IN the Battle Box. It explores a number of different uses and scenarios for the containerized forces idea, from transportation, to rapid-setup dwellings/bases, to airmobile integration. It’s interspersed with notes from field use and reports of various countries using containerized systems, some highly subjective editorial commentary concerning a number of defense issues, and the systems’ potential as part of a CONOPS (Concept of Operations) in Iraq that has similarities to the new take-and-hold approach. It alternates between hostility-inducing and thought-provoking, but has quite a few interesting ideas and information nuggets buried within.
In recent developments, the German Bundeswehr is now buying ambulance versions of TransProtec, even as EADS sets up an Arkansas facility to make these “deployable shelter systems” available in the USA for disaster relief in hurricane zones, military applications, et. al.
In 2006 Canada intended to own strategic lift aircraft. The government wanted to offer a supplement to the rental of Russian IL-76s and super-giant AN-124s under NATO’s SALIS partnership et. al., and get themselves out of the international queue. To achieve that, they planned to spend C$ 1.8 billion (USD$ 1.6 billion) for total procurement costs, plus C$ 1.6 billion anticipated for 20 years of in-service support. The contract was conducted as an Advance Contract Award Notice (ACAN), in which the government picks its desired winner (the C-17) and asks contractors to show it something that wows them more. Obviously, unless you’re the preferred choice, the odds are rather poor – even a leased BC-17 solution with “Canada first” priority and basing was rejected as unqualified.
DID has covered developments in the USA’s coming aerial tanker program, which could reach 500 planes and/or $100+ billion before all is said and done, and is now listed as the USAF’s #1 procurement priority. The 707-based KC-135 fleet ranges from 40-50 years old, raising the risk that fatigue or aging-related problems could ground them at some unanticipated time. Since aerial transport, fighter strike missions, bomber missions, combat air patrols et. al. all depend on aerial refueling to some degree, a grounding of the KC-135 fleet could be catastrophic for America’s military posture. The formal RFP for the first tranche of 179 aircraft is due out on Tuesday, January 30, 2007, and the big question is… will there be a competition at all?
Boeing is believed to be offering a tanker version of its 767-200 airliner, which sells to commercial customers for about $120 million. Italy and Japan are already KC-767 customer’s. Northrop Grumman and EADS Airbus are offering a modified A330-200 that sells on the commercial market for about $160 million; Australia and Britain are already A330 MRTT customers. Northrop Grumman says the “KC-30 MRTT” can carry 20% more fuel than the 767, plus more cargo or passengers (26 vs. 19 pallets in the cargo deck). The issue for the firm is that the previous two drafts of the KC-X RFP have set only a low set of minimum requirements for the KC-X’s cargo and passenger capacity, without a higher “objective requirement” that offers extra points in evaluations. According to Flight International, Northrop Grumman says that it “does not see how the capabilities of the two competing aircraft can be measured if there is no adequately defined value scale for capabilities above the threshold requirement… Without a capabilities-based assessment [of the rival aircraft], we are concerned the KC-30 will not be competitive.”