Latest updates[?]: The first C-130H with eight-bladed propellors assigned to the 133rd Airlift Wing has returned home after modifications. The aircraft arrived home on May 11 at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. Another seven C-130Hs are undergoing the modifications with a completion date by the end of September 2023. After which the cargo planes will get new T56 3.5 turboprop engines.
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[?]: Sikorsky Aircraft won a $12.3 million modification, which exercises an option to provide production system engineering and program management support in support of CH-53K low-rate initial production. Work will take place in Connecticut. Expected completion will be in May 2023. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.
The U.S. Marines have a problem. They rely on their CH-53E Super Stallion medium-heavy lift helicopters to move troops, vehicles, and supplies off of their ships. But the helicopters are wearing out. Fast. The pace demanded by the Global War on Terror is relentless, and usage rates are 3 times normal. Attrition is taking its toll. Over the past few years, CH-53s have been recalled from “boneyard” storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ, in order to maintain fleet numbers in the face of recent losses and forced retirements. Now, there are no flyable spares left.
Enter the Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program, now known as the CH-53K. It aims to offer notable performance improvements over the CH-53E, in a similar airframe. The question is whether its service entry delay to 2018-2019 will come too late to offset a serious decline in Marine aviation.
The US Marines’ helicopter force is aging at all levels, from banana-shaped CH-46 Sea Knight transports that are far older than their pilots, to the 1980s-era UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters that make up the Corps’ helicopter assault force. While the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey program has staggered along for almost 2 decades under accidents, technical delays, and cost issues, replacement of the USMC’s backbone helicopter assets has languished. Given the high-demand scenarios inherent in the current war, other efforts are clearly required.
Enter the H-1 program, the USMC’s plan to remanufacture older helicopters into new and improved UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopters. The new versions would discard the signature 2-bladed rotors for modern 4-bladed improvements, redo the aircraft’s electronics, and add improved engines and weapons to offer a new level of performance. It seemed simple, but hasn’t quite worked out that way. The H-1 program has encountered its share of delays and issues, but the program survived its review, and continued on into production and deployment.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article covers the H-1 helicopter programs’ rationales and changes, the upgrades involved in each model, program developments and annual budgets, the full timeline of contracts and key program developments, and related research sources.
LPD-17 San Antonio class amphibious assault support vessels are just entering service with the US Navy, and 11 ships of this class are eventually slated to replace up to 41 previous ships. Much like their smaller predecessors, their mission is to embark, transport, land, and support elements of a US Marine Corps Landing Force. The difference is found in these ships’ size, their cost, and the capabilities and technologies used to perform those missions. Among other additions, this new ship is designed to operate the Marines’ new MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, alongside the standard well decks for hovercraft and amphibious armored personnel carriers.
While its design incorporates notable advances, the number of serious issues encountered in this ship class have been much higher than usual, and more extensive. The New Orleans shipyard to which most of this contract was assigned appears to be part of the problem. Initial ships have been criticized, often, for sub-standard workmanship, and it took 2 1/2 years after the initial ship of class was delivered before any of them could be sent on an operational cruise. Whereupon the USS San Antonio promptly found itself laid up Bahrain, due to oil leaks. It hasn’t been the only ship of its class hurt by serious mechanical issues. Meanwhile, costs are almost twice the originally promised amounts, reaching over $1.6 billion per ship – 2 to 3 times as much as many foreign LPDs like the Rotterdam Class, and more than 10 times as much as Singapore’s 6,600 ton Endurance Class LPD. This article covers the LPD-17 San Antonio Class program, including its technologies, its problems, and ongoing contracts and events.
Latest updates[?]: The US government has given four ScanEagle unmanned air vehicles to the Philippine Air Force on October 13. The ceremony was attended by Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim (CDA) Heather Variava and Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command Adm. John Aquilino. Representing the Philippine government at Clark airbase was Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana and Philippine Air Force Commanding General Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes.
ScanEagle’s base Insight UAV platform was originally developed by Washington state’s Insitu, Inc. to track dolphins and tuna from fishing boats, in order to ensure that the fish you buy in supermarkets is “dolphin-safe”. It turns out that the same characteristics needed by fishing boats (able to handle salt water environments, low infrastructure launch and recovery, small size, 20-hour long endurance, automated flight patterns) are equally important for naval operations from larger vessels, and for battlefield surveillance. A partnership with Boeing took ScanEagle to market in those fields, and the USMC’s initial buy in 2004 was the beginning of a market-leading position in its niche.
This article covers recent developments with the ScanEagle UAV system, which is quickly evolving into a mainstay with the US Navy and its allies. Incumbency doesn’t last long in the fast-changing world of UAVs, though. Insitu’s own RQ-21 Integrator is looking to push the ScanEagle aside, and new multiple-award contracts in the USA are creating opportunities for other competitors. Can Insitu’s original stay strong?
Latest updates[?]: The Navy awarded Rolls-Royce an $8.6 million contract modification in order to procure 10 MT7 marin turbine installation parts kit shipsets for the Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) 100 class craft. The LCAC 100 will enhance the US amphibious force’s ship-to-shore capacity with a rated load capacity per craft of 74 short tonnes. LCAC-1s have a 60-short tonne-rated payload. The landing craft was originally designated the Ship-to-Shore Connector and is intended to support the rapid movement of Marine expeditionary forces from naval vessels to shore and will be able to tactically deliver personnel and heavy equipment. The LCAC 100 craft consists of four MT7 turbines. The Rolls-Royce MT7 delivers between 4 to 5 MW and shares common core architecture with the AE1107C-Liberty aero engine. The procurement is in support of the Ship-to-Shore Connector Program. An MT7 installation parts kit is one “shipset” consisting of four engine intakes, two right-hand engine exhausts and two left-hand engine exhausts. Work will take place in Indiana and is expected to be finished by January 2021.
The US military calls them Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC). They’re high-speed, fully amphibious hovercraft capable of carrying a 60-ton payload (75 tons in overload) over water and land at speeds in excess of 40 knots and a nominal range of up to 200 nautical miles. Carrying equipment, troops, and/or supplies, the LCAC launches from inside the well deck of an amphibious warship, then travels the waves at high speed, runs right through the surf zone near the beach, and stops at a suitable place on land. Its cargo walks or rolls off. The LCAC returns to the surf to pick up more. Rinse. Agitate. Repeat.
A total of 91 LCACs were built between 1984-2001, and their design itself dates back to the 1970s. They require regular maintenance, refurbishment, upgrades, and even life extension programs to keep them operational into the future. This free-to-view Spotlight article will covers the program from 2005 forward, tracking contracts and key events.
Latest updates[?]: BAE Systems delivered the first four BvS10 all-terrain vehicles to Austria. The delivery is part of a contract signed in 2016 for 32 armored personnel carriers. The vehicles were handed over during two ceremonies last week in the Austrian states Tyrol and Salzburg. Austrian Defense Minister Mario Kunasek attended the celebrations alongside representatives of the Swedish government and BAE Systems Hägglunds, the Sweden-based manufacturer of the BvS10. The first set of vehicles will be fielded by the Austrian Armed Forces’ 24th Infantry Battalion, a battalion of the 6th Mountain Infantry Brigade, which plays a leading role in the European Union Mountain Training Warfare Initiative as well as the 2nd Engineer Battalion, which can provide combat support in mountainous terrain. The BvS10 is an All Terrain Armored Vehicle. The Austrian APC variant of the BvS10 is fitted with a number of specific features including a 360 degree Observation Camera System with six Day/Infrared cameras and displays in the front and rear of the cabin for greater situational awareness. Also featured is the latest Remote Controlled Weapon Station, which can be operated by both the Gunner and the Commander. It is foldable to allow for swift transportation in the field. BAE Systems expects final deliveries to conclude later this year.
A Viking comes ashore
The BvS10 is the successor to the wildly popular Bv206, 11,000 of which have been sold to 40 countries around the world – including the USA (M978). Readers may have seen these vehicles elsewhere, too, as a number of Bv206s have post-military careers at ski resorts, in industries like mining and logging, etc. The new BvS-10 is larger and more heavily armored; it’s in use in Britain, France and the Netherlands as a key armored vehicle for their respective Marines, has been bought by Sweden, and is under evaluation elsewhere. International interest includes imitators: Singapore’s Bronco ATTC is a BVS10 competitor, and Finland and Norway have their own local Bv206 variants.
What makes this unusual-looking vehicle family and design so popular? They aren’t like Humvees or similar wheeled mainstays. They aren’t full armored personnel carriers, either – they’re armored, but Bv family vehicles can’t take the kind of punishment that a Bradley or LAV can absorb. Instead, the secret to their success lies in a remarkable all-terrain capability, and their ability to fill a rare and critical role: air-portable and amphibious infantry enhancement. These success factors are discussed below, along with contracts and key developments related to this vehicle family.
Latest updates[?]: The US Army is buying more Joint-Air-to-Ground missiles. Lockheed Martin is receiving a contract modification valued at $91 million that extends JAGM procurement as part of LRIP 3. The JAGM is an air-to-ground missile that provides advanced line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight capabilities and will eventually replace the Army's inventory of Hellfire missiles. The missile is designed to engage a variety of targets, including heavy vehicles, patrol craft, bunkers and buildings. The Army expects to achieve JAGM's IOC in early 2019. Work will be performed at Lockheed's factory in Orlando, Florida and is expected to be completed by February 2022.
The AGM-114 Hellfire missile remains a mainstay for the US military and its allies around the world, and efforts to replace it have repeatedly stalled. The Joint Common Missile (JCM) was meant to offer new guidance options, and use on fast jets as well as helicopters and UAVs. It performed well, but was canceled. It returned from the procurement dead as JAGM, a program that has undergone several major changes within itself. While other air forces field fast-jet solutions like MBDA’s Brimstone, JAGM will initially be limited to helicopters and UAVs, as a dual-mode guidance upgrade to current model Hellfire missiles.
Latest updates[?]: The US Marine Corps is buying new Amphibious Combat Vehicles for its troops. BAE is receiving an additional $140 million to build 30 Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACVs) and covers associated production efforts, fielding and support costs. The Corps' will eventually replace its fleet of ageing AAVP7 Amtracs with 204 new ACVs at a cost of $1.2 billion. According to Naval Technology the ACV is a modern eight-wheeled amphibious armored personell carrier that can carry a crew of three with 13 embarked Marines. The vehicles feature has a blast-resistant V-shaped hull to withstand IED blasts. Its six-cylinder 700HP Cursor engine propel it to speeds of up to 10km/h at sea and up to 106 km/h at land. The ACV’s armament is yet unclear. The ACV's armament will likely include a 40 mm grenade launcher and a .50 cal machine gun. The contract is payed for with FY 2019 Marine Corps procurement funds. Work will be performed at BAE's factories in York, Pennsylvania and Aiken, South Carolina. Production of the new vehicles is expected to be completed in August 2020.
AAAV/ EFV, swim mode
The US Marine Corps’ AAVP7 Amtracs have been their primary ship to shore amphibious armored personnel carrier for a long time; the AAV7A1 was initially fielded in 1972, and underwent a major service life extension program and product improvement program from 1983-1993. The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was the USMC’s plan to replace the aging AMTRACS (lit. AMphibious TRACtorS), which saw extensive service deep inland during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The personnel version of the new EFVs would carry a crew of 3, plus a reinforced rifle squad of 17 combat-loaded Marines. A high-tech weapons station would provide firepower, via a stabilized ATK 30mm MK 44 Bushmaster cannon with advanced sights to replace the AAV’s unstabilized .50 caliber machine gun. A command variant would carry an array of communications and computer systems and staff personnel. The EFV remained the U.S. Marine Corps’ top land acquisition priority, even as its price tag and development issues cut its buy sharply. Push finally came to shove in 2010, however, as the USMC realized that it simply couldn’t afford the vehicle, or its performance.
That begat a new program called the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), designed to be a more realistic version of the EFV. A Marines version designed for only light water use was called the MPC, which was iced in June 2013. That program was resurrected under increased capabilities pressures as the APC 1.1, which had its coming out party during an industry day in July 2014. A draft RFP was released in November, with hopes that a final RFP would be issued in spring 2015.
$105.7 million was requested for ACV 1.1 research, testing and evaluation.
The APC 1.1 has been examined by the Congressional Research Service, producing this report, which – in a nutshell – says that the program has a few issues, the primary one being the strategic lack of “connectors” allowing equipment onshore. Current options (LCAC, JHSV and LCU 1600) are relatively unprotected.
Latest updates[?]: The US Army is contracting Oshkosh Defense for technical support. The $13.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract provides for a number of support activities on the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle family of vehicles. The Oshkosh M-ATV has an empty “curb weight” of 25,000 pounds, and a Gross Vehicle Weight of 32,500 pounds, including the M-ATV objective maximum of 4,000 pounds of payload. The core of the vehicle is the US Marines’ MTVR medium truck chassis, and its TAK-4 suspension, giving it a 70% off-road mobility profile. M-ATV’s Super Multi-Hit Armor Technology (SMART) armor is used in theater by NATO and has since been augmented by “Underbody Improvement Kits” to improve mine protection. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of July, 2021.
“The Government plans to acquire an MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). The M-ATV is a lighter, off-road, and more maneuverable vehicle that incorporates current MRAP level [bullet and mine blast] protection. The M-ATV will require effectiveness in an off-road mission profile. The vehicle will include EFP (Explosively Formed Projectile land mine) and RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade panzerfaust) protection (integral or removable kit). The M-ATV will maximize both protection levels and off-road mobility & maneuverability attributes, and must balance the effects of size and weight while attempting to achieve the stated requirements.”
— US government FedBizOpps, November 2008
Oshkosh Defense’s M-ATV candidate secured a long-denied MRAP win, and the firm continues to remain ahead of production targets. The initial plan expected to spend up to $3.3 billion to order 5,244 M-ATVs for the US Army (2,598), Marine Corps (1,565), Special Operations Command (643), US Air Force (280) and the Navy (65), plus 93 test vehicles. FY 2010 budgets and subsequent purchases have pushed this total even higher, and orders now stand at over 8,800 for the USA, plus another 800 for the UAE.