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[?]: 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[?]: 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.
Will Dassault’s fighter become a fashionably late fighter platform that builds on its parent company’s past successes – or just “the late Rafale”? It all began as a 1985 break-away from the multinational consortium that went on to create EADS’ Eurofighter. The French needed a lighter aircraft that was suitable for carrier use, and were reportedly unwilling to cede design authority over the project. As is so often true of French defense procurement policy, the choice came down to paying additional costs for full independence and exact needs, or losing key industrial capabilities by partnering or buying abroad. France has generally opted for expensive but independent defense choices, and the Rafale was no exception.
Those costs, and associated delays triggered by the end of the Cold War and reduced funding, proved to be very costly indeed. Unlike previous French fighters, which relied on exports to lower their costs and keep production lines humming, the Rafale has yet to secure a single export contract – in part because initial versions were hampered by impaired capabilities in key roles. The Rafale may, at last, be ready to be what its vendors say: a true omnirole aircraft, ready for prime time on the global export stage. The question is whether it’s too late. Rivals like EADS’ Eurofighter, Russia’s Su-27/30 family, and the American “teen series” of F-15/16/18 variants are all well established. Meanwhile, Saab’s versatile and cheaper JAS-39 Gripen remains a stubborn foe in key export competitions, and the multinational F-35 juggernaut is bearing down on it.
Latest updates[?]: Netherlands has been given the green light to buy 16 AIM-120C-8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) for $39 million. The deal includes containers, weapon systems support and support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, US Government and contractor engineering, logistics, and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The proposed sale will improve the Netherlands’ capability to meet current and future threats by deterring regional threats, strengthen its homeland defense, and enable interoperability and standardization between the armed forces of the Netherlands and the United States. The Netherlands, which already maintains AMRAAM missiles, will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment and support into its armed forces.
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.
Latest updates[?]: AHI, Grand Prairie won a $74 million contract modification for 15 UH-72 D-2 production aircraft and options to procure three additional D-2 production aircraft, 18 jettisonable cockpit doors, 14 engine inlet barrier filters and 14 environmental control units. The UH-72A Lakota is the US Army's multi-mission helicopter. Selected in June 2006 following a rigorous evaluation, it combines operational capability, reliability and affordability, fulfilling all of the Army's requirements for speed, range, endurance and overall performance. Work will take place in Grand Prairie, Texas. Estimated completion date is August 31, 2022.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This is DID’s FOCUS Article regarding the US Army’s Light Utility Helicopter program, covering the program and its objectives, the winning bid team and industrial arrangements, and contracts.
The US Army’s LUH program will finish as a 325 helicopter acquisition program that will be worth about $2.3 billion when all is said and done. It aimed to replace existing UH-1 Hueys and OH-58 Kiowa utility variants in non-combat roles, freeing up larger and more expensive UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for front-line duty. In June 2006, a variant of Eurocopter’s EC145 beat AgustaWestland’s AB139, Bell-Textron’s 412EP Twin Huey, and MD Helicopters’ 902 Explorer NOTAR (No Tail Rotor) design. The win marked EADS’ 1st serious military win in the American market, and their “UH-145” became the “UH-72A Lakota” at an official December 2006 naming ceremony.
Eurocopter has continued to field new mission kits and deliver helicopters from its Mississippi production line, while trying to build on their LUH breakthrough. A training helicopter win will keep the line going for a couple more years…
Latest updates[?]: Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) is under pressure from the military to complete the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation of its Hai Chien 2 anti-air missile by this year. The Navy wants to start limited production of the missile from March next year so that the Tuo Chiang Class corvettes can have an anti-air capability. Unfortunately for NCSIST, the institute has run into problems integrating the missile with air defense radar. To meet the deadline by next year, it has to start shipborne testing in the next few months. So far, the missile has only been fired at sea once in 2014. Another effort to have the missile fired from the Mk 41 VLS is also delayed as the indigenous Hsun Lien naval combat systems is behind schedule.
Despite China’s ominous military buildup across the strait, key weapons sales of P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, Patriot PAC-3 missiles, and diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan had been sabotaged by Taiwanese politics for years – in some cases, since 1997. The KMT party’s flip-flops and determined stalling tactics eventually created a crisis in US-Taiwan relations, which finally soured to the point that the USA refused a Taiwanese request for F-16C/D aircraft.
That seems to have brought things to a head. Most of the budget and political issues were eventually sorted out, and after a long delay, some major elements of Taiwan’s requested modernization program appear to be moving forward: P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, UH-60M helicopters, Patriot missile upgrades; and requests for AH-64D attack helicopters, E-2 Hawkeye AWACS planes, minehunting ships, and missiles for defense against aircraft, ships, and tanks. These are must-have capabilities when facing a Chinese government that has vowed to take the country by force, and which is building an extensive submarine fleet, a large array of ballistic missiles, an upgraded fighter fleet, and a number of amphibious-capable divisions. Chinese pressure continues to stall some of Taiwan’s most important upgrades, including diesel-electric submarines, and new American fighter jets. Meanwhile, other purchases from abroad continue.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon Missiles and Defense won a $15.3 million contract modification to exercise options for engineering and technical services and obsolescence solution in support of Standard Missile-2/6. The designation refers to the SM-2, or RIM-166 missile, and its new and upgraded version, designated SM-6 or RIM-174. Each is a surface-to-air missile designed to intercept both hostile aircraft and high-performance anti-ship missiles. The SM-6 variant can be used against fixed and rotary wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, land attack cruise missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles. Each is vertically launched and compatible with the Aegis Weapon System. Work will take place in Tucson, Arizona. Estimates completion date will be inJune 2021.
SM-2 Launch, DDG-77
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Variants of the SM-2 Standard missile are the USA’s primary fleet defense anti-air weapon, and serve with 13 navies worldwide. The most common variant is the RIM-66K-L/ SM-2 Standard Block IIIB, which entered service in 1998. The Standard family extends far beyond the SM-2 missile, however; several nations still use the SM-1, the SM-3 is rising to international prominence as a missile defense weapon, and the SM-6 program is on track to supplement the SM-2. These missiles are designed to be paired with the AEGIS radar and combat system, but can be employed independently by ships with older or newer radar systems.
This article covers each variant in the Standard missile family, plus several years worth of American and Foreign Military Sales requests and contracts and key events; and offers the budgetary, technical, and geopolitical background that can help put all that in context.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin won a $15 billion deal for C-130J development, integration, retrofit and production activities for all C-130J variants. The contract provides flexibility to accommodate the broad enterprise of activities associated with the C-130J program. The C-130J can carry tons of supplies more than 3,000 miles, according to the company, and can operate with only two pilots and a loadmaster for most missions. Military operations the aircraft is suited for include weather reconnaissance, electronic warfare, medical evacuation, search and rescue, paradrop, maritime mission, special operations, personnel support, as well as both in-flight and ground fueling. Work will take place in Marietta, Georgia and is expected to be finished on July 16, 2030.
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[?]: Northrop Grumman won a $35.9 million deal for repair of 174 B-52 Engine Nose Cowls for the B-52 Stratofortress Bomber jet. The B-52H is the US Air Force’s (USAF) long-range, large-payload multirole bomber and is known as the Stratofortress or the Buff (big ugly fat fellow). It is the USAF’s principal strategic nuclear and conventional weapons platform that supports the US Navy in anti-surface and submarine warfare missions. Work will take place in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Expected completion date will be in July 2021.
B-52H: flyin’ low,
Officially, it’s the B-52H Stratofortress. Unofficially, it’s the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat F–cker). Either way, this subsonic heavy bomber remains the mainstay of the U.S. strategic fleet after more than 50 years of service. A total of 102 B-52H bombers were delivered from FY 1961-1963, and 94 were still on the books as of May 2009, flying mostly from Barksdale AFB, LA and Minot AFB, ND. Of these, 18 are slated for retirement, leaving a planned fleet of 76. By the time that fleet retires in the 2030s, many will be around 70 years old.
The B-52H can’t be flown against heavy enemy air defenses, but a steady array of upgrades have kept the aircraft relevant to follow-on strikes and current wars, where its long time on station and precision weapons have made the BUFF beautiful. Those changes have included advanced communications, GPS guided weapons, advanced targeting pods, and more. The USAF isn’t done yet adding new features, and maintenance remains a challenge for an aircraft fleet that’s always older than its pilots. All of these things require contracts, and the B-52H fleet has several of them underway. So, how does 2010’s 8-year, $11.9 billion umbrella contract fit in…?