Latest updates[?]: A Canadian board of inquiry has released its report into the crash of a CH-148 off Greece in April 2020. Six onboard the helicopter died. The pilot was performing a turning maneuver called “return to target” when the helicopter’s autopilot took control of the aircraft at the end of the turn. The pilot realized too late that the autopilot was flying the aircraft into the sea and pulled back the cyclic. He had overridden the autopilot for an extended period of time while executing the maneuver. The board of inquiry found that the autopilot software accumulates commands when it is not turn off. This could reduce pilot’s control of the helicopter in special cases. During the certification of the CH-148, this scenario whereby the autopilot was overridden for extended time was not tested.
Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Replacement Program has been a textbook military procurement program over its long history. Unfortunately, it has been a textbook example of what not to do. While Canada’s 50-year old Sea King fleet aged and deteriorated to potentially dangerous levels, political pettiness and lack of concern turned a straightforward off-the-shelf buy into a 25+ year long odyssey of cancellations, lawsuits, rebids, and more. Eventually, the Canadian military settled on Sikorsky’s H-92 Superhawk as the basis of its new CH-148 Cyclone Maritime Helicopter, which will serve from the decks of Canada’s naval ships and bases.
The civilian S-92 has gone on to some commercial success. To date, however, Canada has been the H-92’s only military customer – with all of the associated systems integration and naval conversion burdens that one would expect. After a long series of badly missed milestones and delivery delays, there are also deeper questions being raised concerning both the machines’ fitness, and DND’s conduct of the program as a whole. This article covers the rationale for, history of, and developments within Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Program.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon won a $136.4 million deal for MK 15 close-in weapon system upgrades and conversions, system overhauls and associated hardware. MK 15 Phalanx CIWS provides ships of the US Navy with an inner layer point defense capability against anti-ship missiles, aircraft and littoral warfare threats that have penetrated other fleet defenses. Phalanx automatically detects, evaluates, tracks, engages and performs kill assessment against ASM and high-speed aircraft threats. This contract combines purchases for the Navy (85%); and the government of South Korea (15%), under the foreign military sales program. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September 2026.
The radar-guided, rapid-firing MK 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS, pron. “see-whiz”) can fire between 3,000-4,500 20mm cannon rounds per minute, either autonomously or under manual command, as a last-ditch defense against incoming missiles and other targets. Phalanx uses closed-loop spotting with advanced radar and computer technology to locate, identify and direct a stream of armor piercing projectiles toward the target. These capabilities have made the Phalanx CIWS a critical bolt-on sub-system for naval vessels around the world, and led to the C-RAM/Centurion, a land-based system designed to defend against incoming artillery and mortars.
This DID Spotlight article offers updated, in-depth coverage that describes ongoing deployment and research projects within the Phalanx family of weapons, the new land-based system’s new technologies and roles, and international contracts from FY 2005 onward. As of Feb 28/07, more than 895 Phalanx systems had been built and deployed in the navies of 22 nations.
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[?]: The Advanced Electronics won a contract modification for the F-15 Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) Electronic System Test Set (ESTS). Services acquired under this effort are to provide the RSAF with an upgraded ESTS. The RSAF currently uses an A31U18240-2 ESTS configuration, and this shall provide the scope to upgrade and install the A31U18240-3 and A31U18240-4 configuration (frequently referred to as -3 and -4, respectively), as well as familiarization training, regression testing, and travel. Work will be performed at the RSAF Central Maintenance Facilities within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Science and Engineering facility in Huntsville, Alabama; and Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, and is expected to be completed April 16, 2021.
F-15S & weapons
In October 2010, talks that Saudi Arabia was negotiating a $30-60 billion arms package with the USA were made official with a full multi-billion request that included 84 F-15 Strike Eagles to replace the Kingdom’s Tornado strike aircraft and/or F-15A-D fighters, upgrades for another 70 planes, about 132 UH-60 Black Hawk utility and AH-64 attack helicopters, and armaments to equip them.
This article looks at those requests, their tie-ins, the issues that are part of these potential deals, and related follow-on requests. As is often the case with DSCA announcements, years can pass between the requests and the signed contracts, but these contracts have started to roll in, alongside other significant buys.
Latest updates[?]: Two F-5Es had a mid-air collision off Taiwan’s Pingtung County at around 15:06 local time on March 22. The crash on Monday was the third such incident in the past half-year, at a time when the island’s armed forces are having to intercept Chinese aircraft on an almost daily basis. One of the pilots was found unconscious in the sea but could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Rescuers were still searching for the remaining pilot.
Top Gun, redux
In the 1980s movie Top Gun, the revolutionary “MiG-28s” operated by the enemy air force were actually painted F-5E Tiger IIs, derived from a family of fighters whose design concept dates back to the mid 1950s. The F-5 family of aircraft were produced in large numbers, as they were an extremely popular export item. Many are still operated by countries around the world, and the US Air Force used them for many years as “aggressor” aircraft in Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT). They remain excellent for simulating similarly small, low profile adversaries like the MiG-21s and MiG-19s that gave American pilots such trouble over Vietnam. Or the IAF MiG-21s that caused trouble in the 2004 – 2005 COPE India exercises, for that matter.
“F-5Ns” are still routinely flown by American Navy and Marines adversary squadrons in training exercises, where they simulate small, low-cross-section (and hence hard to spot) enemies. Keeping them in service requires maintenance contracts – and some timely help from the Swiss also came in handy. This article covers a multi-year maintenance & support contract from 2008 – 2014, as a representative time period.
Latest updates[?]: Belgium’s first A400M has been delivered and flown to the 15th Wing Air Transport in Melsbroek. The second A400M for Belgium will be delivered in early 2021. The country has ordered seven aircraft. This A400M, known as MSN106, will be operated within a binational unit composed of a total of eight aircraft, seven from the Belgian Air Force and one from the Luxembourg Armed Forces. The second A400M for Belgium will be delivered in early 2021.
A400M rollout, Seville
Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition.
Airbus’ biggest program issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as a combination of A400M delays and Lockheed’s strong push for its C-130J Super Hercules narrow the field for future exports. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into the delivery phase. Will Airbus’ 3rd big issue become its own customers?
Latest updates[?]: Northrop Grumman, doing business as Alliant Techsystems Inc. was tapped for a $15.2 million modification for contractor logistic support for the Iraqi Air Force’s Cessna 208 and 172 fleet. The Cessna 208 and 172 are utility aircraft. An Iraqi Air Force Cessna 172 Skyhawk training aircraft crashed during a training mission in Salah ad Din Governorate in central Iraq on October 31 killing the pilot and co-pilot. Work will take place in Balad Airbase, Iraq and estimated completion date is June 30, 2021.
note ISR turret
Iraq’s air force has been very slow in getting to its feet. A handful of Seeker light observation aircraft with their distinctive bubble-shaped fronts, a few Comp Air light propeller aircraft, a couple of old, refurbished C-130E transports, and a slowly growing fleet of helicopters. A few Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350s have been ordered for transport and surveillance duties, and an RFP for armed counterinsurgency aircraft has only given Iraq a set of unarmed T-6B trainers. Even subsequent orders for F-16C/D fighters and L-159 advanced trainer and attack jets leave the Iraqi air force a long way from being able to secure Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. While it continues to grow<, the IqAF’s primary duties remain troop/medical transport, light supply duties, and surveillance of roads and infrastructure.
That kind of surveillance doesn’t require high tech, high-end aircraft. The USAF was using F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft at $15,000 per flight hour, plus recapitalization amortization. Iraq’s solution takes a page from the US military’s own past, and offers a significant contrast to the American approach.
Latest updates[?]: International Enterprises won a $12.5 million requirements contract requirements contract for F-16 modular low power radio frequency (MLPRF) and dual mode transmitter (DMT) repairs. This contract provides for the repair of both MLPRF and DMT, which function as part of the radar systems of each F-16 C/D aircraft. The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the USAF. One of the most versatile aircraft in the US Air Force inventory, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has been the mainstay of the Air Force aerial combat fleet. With over 1,000 F-16s in service, the platform has been adapted to complete a number of missions, including air-to-air fighting, ground attack and electronic warfare. Work will take place in Alabama. Estimated completion date is December 6, 2025.
F-16F “Desert Falcon”
The most advanced F-16s in the world aren’t American. That distinction belongs to the UAE, whose F-16 E/F Block 60s are a half-generation ahead of the F-16 C/D Block 50/52+ aircraft that form the backbone of the US Air Force, and of many other fleets around the world. The Block 60 has been described as a lower-budget alternative to the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, and there’s a solid argument to be made that their performance figures and broad sensor array will even keep them ahead of pending F-16 modernizations in countries like Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore.
The UAE invested in the “Desert Falcon’s” development, and the contract reportedly includes royalty fees if other countries buy it. Investment doesn’t end when the fighters are delivered, either. Money is still needed for ongoing training, fielding, and equipment needs – and the UAE has decided that they need more planes, too. This DID article showcases the F-16 Block 60/61, and offers a window into its associated costs and life cycle, including dedicated equipment purchases for this fighter fleet.
Latest updates[?]: The US government donated 100 TOW-2A guided anti-tank missiles to the Philippines on November 23. US National Security Advisor (NSA) Robert C. O’Brien participated in the ceremonial handover of the weapons. The missiles will support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ efforts to defeat ISIS-East Asia in the Southern Philippines. Following the recent typhoons that ravaged the Philippines and forced thousands of people from their homes, NSA O’Brien announced an additional $3.5 million in US humanitarian assistance to disaster-stricken communities.
Despite modernization that has led to advanced anti-armor weapons like the Javelin and Hellfire fire and forget guided missiles, the wire-guided, operator-controlled BGM-71 TOW missile family remains a mainstay thanks to modernization, specialization, improved sighting systems, and pre-existing compatibility with a wide range of ground vehicles. TOW remains the US Army and Marine Corps’ primary heavy anti-tank/ precision assault weapon deployed on more than 4,000 TOW launch platforms including HMMWV jeeps, the Army’s M1134 Stryker ATGM variant and M2/M3 Bradley IFVs; the Marines’ LAV-AT wheeled APC and SuperCobra attack helicopters; and numerous foreign vehicles. Designation Systems notes that more than 620,000 BGM-71 missiles of all versions had been built for all customers by 2001.
Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ was recently awarded a pair of contracts that illustrate its continued production and maintenance work on these missiles.
Latest updates[?]: M1 Support won a $25.6 million contract modification for the T-38 aircraft maintenance program. The modification will provide intermediate and organizational maintenance of T?38 aircraft for Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command and Air Force Global Strike Command. The Northrop T-38 Talon is a two-seat, twinjet supersonic jet trainer. It was the world's first supersonic trainer and is also the most produced. The T-38 remains in service as of 2020 in several air forces. Work will take place in California, New Mexico, Virginia, Florida, Missouri and is expected to be completed by September 30, 2021.
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.
September 1/20: Maintenance Program M1 Support won a $25.6 million contract modification for the T-38 aircraft maintenance program. The modification will provide intermediate and organizational maintenance of T?38 aircraft for Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command and Air Force Global Strike Command. The Northrop T-38 Talon is a two-seat, twinjet supersonic jet trainer. It was the world’s first supersonic trainer and is also the most produced. The T-38 remains in service as of 2020 in several air forces. Work will take place in California, New Mexico, Virginia, Florida, Missouri and is expected to be completed by September 30, 2021.
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.