Latest updates[?]: Raytheon won a $235.6 million deal for the production and delivery of the Silent Knight Radar in support of US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) requirements. The Silent Knight radar is designed to be outfitted on the MH-47G Chinook and MH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, MC-130 transports and CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The Silent Knight is built for safe navigation through low altitudes at night or in bad weather. In June 2019 Raytheon was awarded a $96.6 million contract for the initial production of the Silent Knight system for Special Operations Command. Work will take place in McKinney and Forest, Mississippi. Estimated completion will be by July 2025.
In March 2008, the Bell Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, TX received a $10.4 billion modification that converted the previous N00019-07-C-0001 advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-fee, multi-year contract. The new contract rose to $10.92 billion, and was used to buy 143 MV-22 (for USMC) and 31 CV-22 (Air Force Special Operations) Osprey aircraft, plus associated manufacturing tooling to move the aircraft into full production. A follow-on MYP-II contract covered another 99 Ospreys (92 MV-22, 7 CV-22) for $6.524 billion. Totals: $17.444 billion for 235 MV-22s and 38 CV-22s, an average of $63.9 million each.
The V-22 tilt-rotor program has been beset by controversy throughout its 20-year development period. Despite these issues, and the emergence of competitive but more conventional compound helicopter technologies like Piasecki’s X-49 Speedhawk and Sikorsky’s X2, the V-22 program continues to move forward. This DID Spotlight article looks at the V-22’s multi-year purchase contract from 2008-12 and 2013-2017, plus associated contracts for key V-22 systems, program developments, and research sources.
Latest updates[?]: The first two of fifty new Apache AH-64E attack helicopters have been delivered to the British Army. The British Army expects to operate 50 AH-64E aircraft. Approval for the upgrade of fifty of the UK’s WAH-64 fleet to AH-64E Apache Guardian standard was given by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in August 2015 however in July 2016, the UK placed an order for 50 AH-64Es through the US Foreign Military Sales program instead of upgrading their Westland-built WAH-64s. To date, more than 500 AH-64E model Apaches have been delivered worldwide. “The arrival of the first Apache E model attack helicopter to be delivered to the British Army over the next two years marks the beginning of a significant uplift in capability to enhance the army’s contribution across the spectrum of military operations,” Major General Jez Bennett, Director Capability, was quoted as saying.
Latest updates: Total rises to 68.
War takes its toll on equipment, as well as men. In some cases, it wears out. In other cases, enemy fire or accidents destroy equipment. The USA has recognized this fact by funding wartime replacement expenditures as supplemental funding, which is outside the normal budgetary process. The intent is that this money will be spent on replacing equipment that has been worn out, damaged or destroyed, or will be used to provide specialized capabilities like MRAP mine-resistant vehicles that are directly related to front-line demands.
Admittedly, this hasn’t always been true. Politicians are what they are, and so are large organizations like the military. One area where this ethic has undoubtedly been honored, however, has been the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter fleet. This article covers US Army Wartime Replacement Aircraft (WRA) AH-64D Longbow buys, which are the only truly new attack helicopters in the America’s inventory. That will change with the new Block III model, which is more advanced than the WRAs.
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[?]: The budget committee of the Bundestag, the German parliament, has approved funding for the German Navy's new NH90 Sea Tiger frigate helicopter and tank ammunition, as well as for the upgrade of DM2A4 torpedoes and the Bundeswehr's IT wide area network (WAN). The German Ministry of Defense announced on its website that it had approved $3.2 billion in funding for 31 Sea Tigers, accessories, spare parts, and training. Starting in 2025, the helicopters will replace the German Navy's Sea Lynx Mk88A frigate helicopters dating from the 1980s. The German MoD said the Sea Tiger would be the Bundeswehr's only multirole helicopter, providing close protection for frigates, armed with torpedoes and missiles for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare and conducting transport and search and rescue (SAR) missions.
NH90: TTH & NFH
The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NH Industries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.
The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.
As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at around 500 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.
Latest updates[?]: Lithuania signed for four Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk transport and utility helicopters, the country’s Ministry of National Defence announced. The $213 million procurement, which will be paid off over five years, includes additional equipment, spares, and a training, repair, and logistical support package. The US government is providing $30 million to support the purchase, and has cleared the sale of a further two helicopters should the Lithuanian Armed Forces request them. News of the contract came four months after the US State Department approved the sale to Lithuania of six Black Hawks for $380 million.
US Army HH-60Ms
In July 2012, the US military signed another huge contract with Sikorsky. With production of the Army’s HH/UH-60M, and the Navy’s MH-60S and MH-60R helicopters, all in full swing, there’s no question about the need for future orders. In that environment, multi-year contracts allow efficiencies in purchasing, and security of staffing, throughout Sikorsky’s supply chain. These new helicopter types are also available to Foreign Military Sales class customers, under the American contract’s advantageous pricing and terms. The UH-60M, MH-60S and MH-60R models have already inked export deals, and official requests indicate that more deals are in the pipeline.
The new multi-year 2013-2017 contract could be worth up to $11.7 billion, and follows a 5-year, multi-service “MYP-VII” contract in December 2007. Like its predecessor, it covers UH-60M Black Hawk troop transport and light cargo helicopters, Army HH-60M SAR (Search And Rescue) / MEDEVAC (MEDical EVACuation) helicopters, and the US Navy’s MH-60S and MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.
Latest updates[?]: Boeing won a $9.8 billion deal for F-15 support for Saudi Arabia. This contract provides for modernization and sustainment of the F-15 Saudi fleet to include such efforts as hardware, software, and interface design, development, integration, test, subsystem and structural component production and installation of future modifications and enhancements to the F-15 Saudi weapon system as well as product support. Per the contract, the ordering period for this contract is five years from the date of contract award plus an option for an additional five year ordering period. Saudi Arabia’s most modern F-15s are 88 new-build F-15SAs, with an average age of just 5.1 years. In addition to fly-by wire controls, the F-15SA has a digital electronic warfare suite, an infrared search and track system and a Raytheon APG-63(V)3 active electronically scanned array radar. The aircraft’s forward and aft cockpits feature advanced displays and joint helmet-mounted cueing systems. The new F-15 variant also has two additional wing weapons stations to boost its payload. Work will take place in St. Louis. Estimated completion will be by November 2025.
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[?]: According to a statement by the US Pacific Fleet, the US participant in the Malabar exercise this year hosted by Indian Navy is the Arleigh Burke Class guided missile destroyer USS John S. MacCain. The Malabar exercise is a quadrilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan , Australia, and India as permanent partners. The exercise began in 1992 to advance planning, integration and employment of advanced warfare tactics between participating nations and this year will feature the return of the Royal Australian Navy, according to Navy officials. According to officials, the exercise will include a variety of tactical training, including specific interactions designed to strengthen interoperability between Royal Australian Navy, Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and US maritime forces.
In April 2009 Bath and Ingalls agreed to the Navy’s surface combatant plans, thus heralding a significant restructuring within the American naval shipbuilding community. Under the agreements, the USA would end production at 3 Graf Spee sized DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class “destroyers,” but shift all production from the Congressionally-mandated joint arrangements to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine, which had already made program-related investments in advanced shipbuilding technologies.
Northrop Grumman (now Huntington Ingalls Industries) would retain its DDG-1000 deckhouse work, but their main exchange was additional orders for DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers. Their Ingalls yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi would continue building the DDG-51 destroyers, beginning with 2 ordered in FY 2010-2011.
As the U.S. decides who will be president for the next four years a review of procurement spending indicates that the Trump Administration has shown little difference in appropriations versus previous administrations, despite claims to have radically increased spending.
The upshot is that the last four years saw about $2.9 in spending appropriated in inflation-adjusted dollars, which was larger than Barak Obama’s second term, but less than the Obama Administration’s first term.
President Trump’s campaign speech claims of spending during his term relative to previous terms are incorrect. President Trump claimed this year that military spending in the 90s “used to be ‘million.’ And then, about 10 years ago, you started hearing ‘billion.’ And now you’re starting to hear ‘trillion,’ right?” Of course, U.S. defense spending hit the billions in the late 1940s, and recent spending has been on pace with spending from the decade previous.
The Trump Administration has done little to change the often-criticized Pentagon trend of investing more money in fewer pieces of equipment, such as fighter jets that cost a quarter billion dollars each when fully kitted out. The navy is running fewer ships that each cost more. Previous administrations did no better in reversing this trend, of course.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden stated multiple times that he has no plans to reduce military spending, but indicated a desire to refocus military budgets and planning on “near-peer” powers Russia and China, while attempting to recover some of the goodwill of allies tested by the Trump Administration’s active skepticism in cooperation with allies, especially the NATO alliance.
Latest updates[?]: The DoS not only approved a potential F-35 sale, but also the sale of the F/A-18EF Super Hornet. The Super Hornet package, which is worth an estimated $14.7 billion, includes 50 single-seat F/A-18E jets, eight double-seated F/A-18Fs and 14 EA-18G Growlers, which is the electronic attack variant. The package also includes 166 F414-GE-400 engines for the dual-engine fighter, Sniper targeting pods, AN/APG-79 radars, AN/ALR-67(V)3 electric warfare countermeasures receiving sets, and Next Generation Jammer Midband and advanced electronic attack kits for the EA-18G. The potential sales paved the way for the nation to purchase American jets should either Boeing or Lockheed Martin win its ongoing fighter competition.
The US Navy flies the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighters, and has begun operating the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare & strike aircraft. Many of these buys have been managed out of common multi-year procurement (MYP) contracts, which aim to reduce overall costs by offering longer-term production commitments, so contractors can negotiate better deals with their suppliers.
The MYP-II contract ran from 2005-2009, and was not renewed because the Pentagon intended to focus on the F-35 fighter program. When it became clear that the F-35 program was going to be late, and had serious program and budgetary issues, pressure built to abandon year-by-year contracting, and negotiate another multi-year deal for the current Super Hornet family. That deal is now final. This entry covers the program as a whole, with a focus on 2010-2015 Super Hornet family purchases. It has been updated to include all announced contracts and events connected with MYP-III, including engines and other separate “government-furnished equipment” that figures prominently in the final price.
Latest updates[?]: General Atomics won a $131.6 million contract modification for Gray Eagle aircraft, satellite communications air data terminals, program management and government-furnished equipment maintenance and repair. MQ-1C Gray Eagle is an extended range / multipurpose (ER/MP) UAS developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the US Army. It performs reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, command and control, communications relay, signals intelligence (SIGINT), electronic warfare (EW), attack, improvised explosive device (IED) and battle damage assessment missions. Work will take place in California. Estimated completion date is December 31, 2022.
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.