Latest updates[?]: Reuters reports that the United Arab Emirates have signed an agreement with the United States to buy 50 F-35 fighters one hour before President Biden was sworn into office. Anonymous sources said that the agreement made the purchase request official. It was supposed to be signed in December but negotiations dragged on as both sides bargain over the delivery schedule, costs and technology packages. The UAE, one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the stealthy F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin and was promised a chance to buy them in a side deal when it agreed to normalize relations with Israel last August.
F-35B: off probation
The $382 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE)Lightning jet. Lightning II system development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3), with Singapore and Israel as “Security Cooperation Partners,” and Japan as the 1st export customer.
The big question for Lockheed Martin is whether, and when, many of these partner countries will begin placing purchase orders. This updated article has expanded to feature more detail regarding the F-35 program, including contracts, sub-contracts, and notable events and reports during 2012-2013.
Latest updates[?]: Boeing won a $21.7 million contract for F-15S to F-15SA conversion support. This contract provides support for the conversion of the Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S into an F-15SA aircraft, which includes program management, reach-back support for the 48 continental United States and Washington, DC; temporary on-site for outside the continental US assistance; and round robin repairs. An advanced version of the F-15S, the F-15SA is equipped with several capabilities to enable the Royal Saudi Air Force to deter regional threats. The aircraft features a digital electronic warfare suite, fly-by-wire flight control system, Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, an infrared search-and-track system, advanced cockpit displays and Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems. In early December, it was reported that the Royal Saudi Air Force has received the F-15SA advanced fighter aircraft, marking the final delivery of the Boeing-produced aircraft as part of a $29 billion foreign military sales agreement signed in 2010. Work will take place in Missouri and estimated completion date is December 30, 2022.
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[?]: Northrop Grumman Systems won a $185.7 million deal for the A-10 Aircraft Structural Integrity Program (ASIP) Legacy VII. This contract provides for sustaining engineering services of A-10 aircraft. The A-10 Thunderbolt is also known as the Warthog, the 'flying gun' and the Tankbuster. The aircraft was used extensively during Operation Desert Storm, in support of Nato operations in response to the Kosovo crisis, in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Work will take place in Clearfield, Utah. Expected completion date is December 13, 2030.
A-10A over Germany
The Precision Engagement modification is the largest single upgrade effort ever undertaken for the USA’s unique A-10 “Warthog” close air support aircraft fleet. While existing A/OA-10 aircraft continue to outperform technology-packed rivals on the battlefield, this set of upgrades is expected to make them more flexible, and help keep the aircraft current until the fleet’s planned phase-out in 2028. When complete, A-10C PE will give USAF A-10s precision strike capability sooner than planned, combining multiple upgrades into 1 time and money-saving program, rather than executing them as standalone projects. Indeed, the USAF accelerated the PE program by 9 months as a result of its experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for the PE program, and for other modifications to the A-10 fleet. It covers the A-10’s battlefield performance and advantages, the elements of the PE program, other planned modifications, related refurbishment efforts to keep the fleet in the air, and the contracts that have been issued each step of the way.
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[?]: Raytheon Missiles Won a $239.1 million contract modification for StormBreaker (SDBII, GBU-53/B) production Lot 6. Designed to address critical troop needs, the StormBreaker can detect, track, and destroy stationary or moving targets with high-precision and stand-off range during the day and at night in all-weather conditions. The GBU-53/B, originally known as the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II), has a tri-mode guidance system able to find targets using imaging infrared or millimeter-wave radar, or using semi-active laser homing to hit a designated aimpoint. Depending on the altitude of the launching aircraft, the weapon can also glide up to 69 miles on its own using a GPS-assisted inertial navigation system, after which could strike a specific coordinate or begin searching for a target. Just recently it was announced that the Air Force approved the bomb for use on the F-15. This means that the service will now be able to send the weapons downrange for use by F-15E squadrons Work under the modification will take place in Tucson, Arizona. Estimated completion date is November 28, 2023.
GBU-53/B, aka. SDB-II
The 250 pound GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb gives American fighters the ability to carry more high-precision GPS-guided glide bombs, without sacrificing punching power against fortified targets. The initial award to Boeing was controversial, and the Darlene Druyun corruption scandal ultimately forced a re-compete of the Increment II development program. Whereas the initial GBU-39 SDB-I offered GPS-guided accuracy in a small and streamlined package, the goal of the GBU-53 SDB-II competition was a bomb that could hit moving targets in any weather, using a combination of guidance modes.
For the SDB-II competition, Boeing found itself allied with Lockheed Martin, its key opponent for the initial SDB-I contract. Its main competitor this time was Raytheon, whose SDB-II bid team found itself sharing its tri-mode seeker technology with a separate Boeing team, as they compete together for the tri-service JAGM missile award against… Lockheed Martin. So, is Raytheon’s win of the SDB-II competition also good news for its main competitor? It’s certainly good news for Raytheon, who wins a program that could be worth over $5 billion.
Latest updates[?]: Booz Allen Hamilton won a $9.1 million contract to provide technical security team support services in support of the Pakistan F-16 program. On June 28, 2006, the US DSCA notified Congress via a series of releases of its intention to provide Pakistan with a $5.1 billion Foreign Military Sales package to upgrade the F-16s that serve as the PAF’s top of the line fighters. Pakistan has used the F-16 fighter jets against India, the latest being in the aftermath of the Balakot airstrike inside Pakistan by India. The Pakistan Air Force received its first F-16, in the Block 15 F-16A/B configuration, in 1982. Work under the deal will take place in Pakistan and expected completion is on June 18, 2020.
PAF F-16A drops Mk.82s
On June 28/06, the US DSCA notified Congress via a series of releases of its intention to provide Pakistan with a $5.1 billion Foreign Military Sales package to upgrade the F-16s that serve as the PAF’s top of the line fighters. Some of these items had been put on hold following the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan & Kashmir, but the request for 36 new F-16 Block 50/52s is now going ahead, along with new weapons, engine modifications, and upgrade kits for Pakistan’s older F-16 A/Bs. The buy went through, and was accompanied by the supply of 26 older F-16s from USAF surplus stocks. Then, a 2014 sale added 13 machines from from Jordan.
These items are detailed below, along with controversies the proposed sales have created, and some of the conditions attached to the sale by the US government….
Latest updates[?]: Boeing won a $22.5 million contract for Laser Small Diameter Bomb all up rounds and warhead shipping containers. The deal provides 522 all up rounds and 131 warhead shipping containers for use by US Special Operations Detachment 1. The GBU-39 is a 250 pounds precision-guides glide bomb that is intended to provide aircraft with the ability to carry a higher number of more accurate bombs. It uses an advanced anti-jam GPS-aided inertial navigation system to attack fixed or stationary targets, and carries a multipurpose penetrating blast-and-fragmentation warhead with a programmable fuze. Boeing will perform work at St. Louis, Missouri, and is expected to be complete by February 8, 2021.
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Nov 1/10: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $106.4 million contract modification, exercising the Production Lot 7 (FY 2011) option for GBU-39 small diameter bombs, carriages, and technical support. At this time, the entire amount has been committed by the AAC/EBMK at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (FA8672-11-C-0034). Boeing’s Nov 9/10 release states that Lot 7 covers 2,700 GBU-39s and 280 GBU-61 carriages. Production Lots 1-5 delivered approximately 7,000 bombs and 1,200 carriages to the USAF, and Lot 6 production of 2,613 bombs and 472 carriages is more than 3 months ahead of schedule.
Unlike Raytheon’s GBU-53 SDB-II, Boeing’s SDB-I isn’t designed to attack moving targets. Instead, this GPS-guided weapon is more like the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), with a number of key design modifications. This specially shaped 250-pound bomb’s thin and pointed shape gives it extra punch against buildings and hardened targets, even though its warhead is only 50 pounds of explosive. Its pop-out glide wings and guidance set give it extended range, depending on the launching aircraft’s speed and altitude. The bombs are carried on a smart BRU-61/A 4-rack carriage, or in the internal weapon bay of planes like the F-22A Raptor. Either way, the SDB-I’s weight and compact design let aircraft carry far more smart bombs than they could otherwise.
Contracts & Events
November 11/19: All Up Rounds And Warhead Shipping Containers Boeing won a $22.5 million contract for Laser Small Diameter Bomb all up rounds and warhead shipping containers. The deal provides 522 all up rounds and 131 warhead shipping containers for use by US Special Operations Detachment 1. The GBU-39 is a 250 pounds precision-guides glide bomb that is intended to provide aircraft with the ability to carry a higher number of more accurate bombs. It uses an advanced anti-jam GPS-aided inertial navigation system to attack fixed or stationary targets, and carries a multipurpose penetrating blast-and-fragmentation warhead with a programmable fuze. Boeing will perform work at St. Louis, Missouri, and is expected to be complete by February 8, 2021.
January 5/18: Contract-FMS Boeing has been awarded a $193 million US Air Force contract by the Department of Defense (DoD), to provide GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb Increment 1 (SBD-1) to several foreign partner nations. Saudi Arabia, Japan, Israel, the Netherlands, South Korea, and Singapore will all benefit from the deal, and 6,000 SDB 1 all-up-rounds are being produced under the modification to the original Lots 12-14 production order. Production will take place at St. Louis, Mo., and deliveries will be completed by December 2020.
April 8/16: Australia has been cleared to purchase up to 2,950 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs by the US State Department. The $386 million sale will include the provision of up to 50 Guided Test Vehicles (GTV) with GBU-39 (T-1)/B (Inert Fuze) as well as containers, weapons system support equipment, support and test equipment, site survey, transportation, repair and return warranties, spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, maintenance, personnel training, and training equipment. Included additionally are US Government and contractor representative engineering, logistics, and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics support.
November 12/15: Boeing has been awarded an Air Force contract modification covering Foreign Military Sales production of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs. The $130.1 million modification covers deliveries of the weapons to foreign partners, with the contract modification running to 2019. Israel and Italy operate the munition outside of the United States. First initial production of the SDBI began in 2005, after a controversial decision to award Boeing a production order.
Latest updates[?]: Progeny Systems won a $10.7 million modification to exercise Option Year Two for the production of MK54 MOD 1 lightweight torpedo proof of design components, test equipment, associated production support material, spares, and engineering and hardware support services. The MK54 is a standard 324mm torpedo. The MK 54 Mod 1 hardware upgrades the torpedo’s sonar array from 52 to 112 elements, providing higher resolution. Associated software upgrades are designed to exploit these features to improve target detection, enhance false target rejection, and correct previously identified deficiencies. The modification combines purchases for the USN as well as one percent for the government of the UK. Work will take place in Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia and is scheduled to be finished by March 2022.
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:
Latest updates[?]: RWM Italia certified Nitro-Chef Chemical Plant, a subsidiary of the Polish Armaments Group, to produce the Mk 82 bomb. President of the company, Krzysztof Kozlowski, says production has started for delivery to the Polish Air Force. Two hundred bombs have been ordered. The two companies have signed the deal in November 2017. RWM Italia is part of the Rheinmetall Defense Group - a certified world leader in the production of aerial bombs. The Mk-82 aerial bomb is used to arm Polish F-16 multi-task aircraft. The RWM Italia-certified bomb produced in Poland fulfills the quality requirements set by RWM Italia and is fully interchangeable with the Italian-produced Mk-82 bomb. The Polish bomb will be used in modern aerial bomb configurations thanks to its compatibility with systems used by Raytheon and Boeing. Over the last three years, the Polish Air Force has ordered 1,300 bombs of this type.
Mark 82 bombs
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The “Focused Lethality Munition” is a variant of the 250 pound Small Diameter Bomb I that changes its casing and internal fill, in order to produce more devastating effects within a smaller area. A carbon-fiber bomb body disintegrates instead of fragmenting, which adds explosive force nearby, but largely removes sharpnel issues farther away. Inside, metal particles turn the bomb’s explosive material into short-range projectiles. The result is especially useful in urban areas, in situations where friendly elements are close to the impact zone, and in campaigns fought using contemporary American counter-insurgency doctrine.
Now the USA wants a bigger, but still confined, bang. Enter the Precision Lethality MK82 Quick Reaction Capability Program, designed to turn 500 pound bombs into similar but larger weapons.
Latest updates[?]: The US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center in Utah awarded Boeing a five-year-extension to an earlier contract for JDAM guided bomb tailkits, spares, repairs and technical services. This deal increases the contract ceiling by over $6.5 billion. The Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance kit features a GPS-aided inertial navigational system that essentially converts “dumb” gravity bombs into accurate, guided “smart bombs“, improving their accuracy. Once released, the JDAM autonomously navigates to the designated coordinates. In April, Boeing won a $250 million, 10-year contract for Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance kit services. The extension includes Foreign Military Sales funds. Work will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, and will be completed by February 28, 2025.
B-2 drops JDAM
Precision bombing has been a significant military goal since the invention of the Norden bomb sight in the 1920s, but its application remained elusive. Over 30 years later, in Vietnam, the destruction of a single target could require 300 bombs, which meant sending an appropriate number of fighters or bombers into harm’s way to deliver them. Even the 1991 Desert Storm war with Iraq featured unguided munitions for the most part. The USAF some laser and TV-guided weapons like Paveway bombs and Maverick missiles, but they were very expensive, and only effective in good weather. If precision bombing was finally to become a reality throughout the Air Force, a new approach would be needed. The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) became that alternative, an engine of military transformation that was also a model of procurement transformation.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This DID FOCUS Article looks at the transformational history of the JDAM GPS-guided bomb program, the ongoing efforts to bring its capabilities up to and beyond the level of dual-mode guidance kits like Israel’s Spice and Raytheon’s Enhanced Paveway, and the contracts issued under the JDAM program since its inception.[updated]