Latest updates[?]: F-15s assigned to the 144th Fighter Wing, California, carried out Alaska Dissimilar Aircraft Combat Training exercise with F-22s from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson last month. There were two objectives in this exercise: one is to free up F-22s to allow them to be deployed in the Pacific and the second is to improve interoperability between the two different generations of fighters.
Into that good night
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
Meanwhile, close American allies like Australia, Japan and Israel, and other allies like Korea, were pressing the USA to abandon its “no export” policy. Most already fly F-15s, but several were interested in an export version of the F-22 in order to help them deal with advanced – and advancing – Russian-designed aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missile systems. That would have broadened the F-22 fleet in several important ways, but the US political system would not or could not respond.
This DID FOCUS Article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news. A separate public-access feature offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor program’s controversies.
Latest updates[?]: MBDA announced it will for the first time pair a CAMM (Common Anti-Air Modular Missile) missile with an upgraded Sea Viper command and control (C2) system on board the Royal Nay’s Type 45 destroyers. CAMM offers both close-in and local-area air defence, and will complement Aster 30, strengthening the anti-air defence capability of the Royal Navy.
The 5,200t Type 42 Sheffield Class destroyers were designed in the late 1960s to provide fleet area air-defense for Britain’s Royal Navy, after the proposed Type 82 air defense cruisers were canceled by the Labour Government in 1966. Britain built 14 of the Type 42s, but these old ships are reaching the limits of their operational lives and effectiveness.
To replace them, the Royal Navy planned to induct 12 Type 45 Daring Class destroyers. The Daring class would be built to deal with a new age of threats. Saturation attacks with supersonic ship-killing missiles, that fly from the ship’s radar horizon to ship impact in under 45 seconds. The reality of future threats from ballistic missiles, and WMD proliferation. Plus a proliferation of possible threats involving smaller, hard to detect enemies like UAVs. Overall, the Type 45s promise to be one of the world’s most capable air defense ships – but design choices have left the cost-to-value ratio uncertain, and limited the Type 45s in other key roles. A reduced 6-ship program moved forward.
Latest updates[?]: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) completed a series of successful live-fire tests of the Barak air defense system. The tests were carried out to evaluate the system’s capability to deal with a range of scenarios and threats, including the interception of a ballistic target by the Barak ER (extended range) interceptor. The Barak ER missile, part of the Barak family of interceptors developed by IAI, is capable of intercepting ballistic and non-ballistic threats at a range of 150 kilometers. The extended range is made possible in part by adjusting the interceptor and the missile system's MMR radar to a 150 km range, according to the company.
Over a development timeline measured in decades, India’s indigenous “Akash” and “Trishul” programs for surface to air missiles have failed to inspire full confidence. Trishul was eventually canceled entirely. Akash had a a long, difficult development period, but seems to have found customer acceptance and a solid niche in the rugged terrain of the northeast. India still needed longer-range advanced SAMs to equip its navy and army, however, and decided to try to duplicate the success of the partnership model that had fielded the excellent Indo-Russian PJ-10 BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.
In February 2006, therefore, Israel and India signed a joint development agreement to create a new Barak-NG medium shipborne air defense missile, as an evolution of the Barak-1 system in service with both navies. In July 2007 the counterpart MR-SAM project began moving forward, aiming to develop a medium range SAM for use with India’s land forces. Both missiles would now be called Barak-8. In between, “India to Buy Israeli “SPYDER” Mobile Air Defense System” covered India’s move to begin buying mobile, short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems for its army, based on the Python and Derby air-to-air missiles in service with its air force and naval aircraft. These projects offer India a way forward to address its critical air defense weaknesses, and upgrade “protection of vital and strategic ground assets and area air defence.” This DID FOCUS article will cover the Barak-8 and closely related programs in India, Israel, and beyond.
Latest updates[?]: According to Lockheed Martin, the US Army’s new extended-range version of its Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) had a successful 80-kilometer flight demonstration at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on March 4. Lockheed Martin is the manufacturer of the GMLRS munition and has worked with the Army to double the rocket’s reach through extended-range capability development. The 80-kilometer shot fired from the Army’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket System met the test objectives, Lockheed said in its news release. The release added that the demo “confirmed the missile’s flight trajectory performance, range and validated interfaces with the HIMARS launcher and system software performance.”
American maritime patrol aircraft currently carry torpedoes as part of their armament, which serve as key weapons against enemy submarines. As any high-diver of cliff-jumper knows first hand, however, water can feel surprisingly solid after a long fall. Torpedoes still have to be released from low altitude, typically 100 feet or less above the waves. Two recent developments, however, are making this approach less practical for the US military. One is tests of sub-launched anti-air missile systems, using modified short-range air-air missiles that do not require radar guidance. The other is its selection of the 737-based P-8A Poseidon as its next maritime patrol and surface surveillance aircraft. The P-8A can perform low swoops if necessary, but its airframe is really optimized for cruising at altitude.
As these trends developed, someone in the US military asked the logical next question:
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[?]: Lockheed Martin announced that the AEHF-5 protected communication satellite is now in transfer orbit. The launch on August 8 was successful and the AEHF-5 is now responding to the US Air Force's 4th Space Operations Squadron’s commands. According to Lockheed, the squadron began "flying" the satellite shortly after it separated from its United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket approximately 5 hours and 40 minutes after the rocket's successful 6:13 am ET liftoff. The Advanced Extremely High Frequency 5 or AEHF-5 satellite is the fifth addition to the Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency constellation. The satellites are built by Lockheed Martin and are used to relay secure communications for the Armed Forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands. The first AEHF satellite was launched in 2006 and the most recent, the AEHF-4 in October 2018. The sixth and final AEHF satellite is expected to launch later this year.
The USA’s new Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites will support twice as many tactical networks as the current Milstar II satellites, while providing 10-12 times the bandwidth capacity and 6 times the data rate transfer speed. With the cancellation of the higher-capacity TSAT program, AEHF will form the secure, hardened backbone of the Pentagon’s future Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) architecture, with a mission set that includes nuclear command and control. Its companion Family of Advanced Beyond-line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T) program will give the US military more modern, higher-bandwidth receiving capabilities, and add more flexibility on the front lines. The program has international components, and partners currently include Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands.
This article offers a look at the AEHF system’s rationale and capabilities, while offering insight into some of the program’s problems, and an updated timeline covering over $5 billion worth of contracts since the program’s inception.
Latest updates[?]: NATO’s Multinational MRTT Fleet will take delivery of its first two A330 MRTT aircraft next month. The handover is at the Main Operating Base in Eindhoven. The third and fourth aircraft are currently under conversion at the Airbus Defense facilities in Getafe, Madrid. The fifth A330 was flown from Toulouse to Getafe earlier this month. Six countries have signed up for the program to operate 8 aircraft. The contract includes options for 3 more tankers.
Voyager & friends
Back in 2005, Great Britain was considering a public-private partnership to buy, equip, and operate the RAF’s future aerial tanker fleet. The RAF would fly the 14 Airbus A330-MRTT aircraft on operational missions, and receive absolute preferential access to the planes. A private contractor would handle maintenance, receive payment from the RAF on a per-use basis – and operate them as passenger charter or transport aircraft when the RAF didn’t need them.
The deal became politically controversial, and negotiations on the 27-year, multi-billion pound deal charted new territory for both the government, and for private industry. Which may help to explain why a contract to move ahead on a “Private Financing Initiative” basis had yet to be issued, and procurement had yet to begin, over 7 years after the program began. In March 2008, however, Britain issued the world’s largest-ever Defence Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract. This FOCUS Article describes the current British fleet, the aircraft they chose to replace them, how the new fleet will compare, the innovative deal structure they’ve chosen, and ongoing FSTA developments.
Latest updates[?]: Colonna Shipyards won an $8.9 million deal for an 80-day shipyard availability for the emergency dry-docking of Navy Ship Spearhead (T-EPF 1). The Spearhead Class Expeditionary Fast Transport shipbuilding program to provide "a platform intended to support users in the Department of the Navy and Department of the Army. The Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) program is a cooperative effort for a high-speed, shallow draft vessel intended for rapid intratheater transport of medium-sized cargo payloads. The Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) is a shallow draft, all aluminum, commercial-based catamaran capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo lift, providing combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility with inherent cargo handling capability and agility to achieve positional advantage over operational distances. Work will take place in Norfolk, Virginia and is expected to be finished 2020.
Austal MRV/JHSV concept
When moving whole units, shipping is always the cheaper, higher-capacity option. Slow speed and port access are the big issues, but what if ship transit times could be cut sharply, and full-service ports weren’t necessary? After Australia led the way by using what amounted to fast car ferries for military operations, the US Army and Navy decided to give it a go. Both services leased Incat TSV/HSV wave-piercing catamaran ship designs, while the Marines’ charged ahead with very successful use of Austal’s Westpac Express high-speed catamaran. These Australian-designed ships all give commanders the ability to roll on a company with full gear and equipment (or roll on a full infantry battalion if used only as a troop transport), haul it intra-theater distances at 38 knots, then move their shallow draft safely into austere ports to roll them off.
Their successful use, and continued success on operations, attracted favorable comment and notice from all services. So favorable that the experiments have led to a $3+ billion program called the Joint High Speed Vessel. These designs may even have uses beyond simple ferrying and transport.
Latest updates[?]: German company Rheinmetall announced that it will soon be supplying the German Bundeswehr with simulation technology that will enable highly realistic training of mechanized infantry units equipped with the Puma IFV. The deal is valued at $156.7 million. At the end of 2019, Rheinmetall received order to this effect from the consortium responsible for the Puma for the AGDUS duel simulator, which had in turn been awarded the contract by the Bundeswehr on December 20. Once the system is ready for full-scale serial production, an option exists for equipping 252 infantry fighting vehicles. Each AGDUS set consists of laser detectors arrayed around the vehicle as well as eye-safe lasers capable of simulating the effects of the Puma’s principal weapon systems, machinegun and MELLS antitank guided missile.
Germany has always been known for producing excellent armored vehicles. A combination of features that arguably make it the world’s best tank, and fire sale prices stemming from Germany’s rapid disarmament, have made the Leopard 2 the standard main battle tank in Europe and beyond. The same level of innovation and execution was shown in the late 1960s, when Germany’s Marder became the west’s first Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). Designs like the American M2/M3 Bradley, Sweden’s CV90 family and new SEP, Singapore’s Bionix-II, and Korea’s new XK-21 have stepped far beyond that legacy, however, and even the Russian region has continued to update their BMP designs. Meanwhile, the nature of military operations has changed to emphasize modularity, out of country missions, advanced electronic communications, and strong protection against threats like land mines.
The Marders need to be replaced, and this became a priority even within Germany’s limited defense budget. In response, German armored vehicle leaders Rheinmetall & KMW formed a 50/50 joint venture to design and produce a solution that would address these issues, and return Germany to a leadership position in the tracked IFV field. Enter the new Puma IFV – which has just received a EUR 3 billion production order from Germany.
Latest updates[?]: International Marine and Industrial Applicators LLC was tapped with $8.5 million for the accomplishment of preservation and non-SUBSAFE structural repairs and maintenance on USS Michigan or SSGN 727. The deal will provide preservation, structural repairs, anode removal and safety track repair requirements and include all necessary management, material support services, labor, supplies and equipment deemed necessary to perform this work. Non-SUBSAFE means the structural repairs and maintenance are not part of the Submarine Safety Program, a quality assurance program of the US Navy designed to maintain the safety of the submarine fleet. The USS Michigan is the second sub of the Ohio Class of ballistic missile submarines and guided missile submarines. The Michigan was launched on April 26, 1980. It was built to carry the Navy's third generation submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the Trident C-4. Work under the contract will take place in Bremerton, Washington and is scheduled to be complete by June next year.
In the aftermath of the START-II arms control treaty, some of the USA’s nuclear-powered Ohio Class SSBN nuclear missile submarines were converted to become long range conventional strike and special operations SSGN “Tactical Tridents.” Four ultra-stealthy Ohio-class SSBNs had their 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear ballistic missiles removed. They were replaced with up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, plus space in the sub for 66-102 special forces troops, special attachments for new Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) or older Seal Delivery Vehicle (SDV) “mini-subs,” and a mission control center. Unmanned Underwater Vehicles, and even UAVs for aerial operations, are expected to become equally important options over the SSGN fleet’s career.
These modifications provide the USA with an impressive and impressively flexible set of conventional firepower, in a survivable and virtually undetectable platform, which can remain on station for very long periods of time. As surveillance-strike complexes make the near-shore more and more hazardous for conventional ships, and the potential dangers posed by small groups continue to rise, America’s converted SSGN submarines will become more and more valuable. This updated, free-to-view article covers their origins and timeline, the key technologies involved, contracts from the program’s inception to the present day, with all 4 submarines back in service.