Jan 23, 2018 04:59 UTC
Will Roper, the current nominee to head the Air Force Acquisition Office, has warned of serious cost overruns
sustainment costs are not properly tackled. Roper, an Obama Administration appointment who has headed the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) since its foundation in 2012, told lawmakers of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing last Thursday, that he intends to embark on a F-35 deep dive that will focus on how emerging technologies can help decrease sustainment costs over the life of the program. “I am deeply concerned about the sustainment issues of the F-35. If I get confirmed, one of the first things I want to look at is the sustainment plan to make sure that there are not optimistic assumptions for this confluence of events that all happen together to get the price down,” Roper told the committee while acknowledging that sustainment and maintenance are not the “sexiest thing to talk about in the world of technology,” and are the “ugly sister” compared to technologies meant to greatly enhance the performance of a platform, like stealth or supersonic speed.
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.
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Jan 19, 2018 04:58 UTC
Airbus made its first A400M Atlas
transporter delivery of 2018 with the number of deliveries of the Atlas made by the firm now standing at 56. The aircraft was delivered to the German Air Force
, bringing to 15 the total number now operated by Berlin out of a total order of 53 units ordered. Airbus also confirmed that a total of 19 A400Ms were delivered in 2017, the highest annual output since the program commenced deliveries in 2013, with the firm now holding a backlog of 118 aircraft to current European operators plus fellow program partners Belgium and Luxembourg. It also continues to market the type to a range of potential export customers.
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?
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Jan 19, 2018 04:55 UTC
The first upgraded C-130H
arrived at Eglin Air Force Base on January 11 to begin testing
. Operated by the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing, testing will continue for the next several months, with the evaluations aimed at collecting data to confirm the increased fuel efficiency, reliability and overall performance improvements gained from the new propellers and upgraded engines. According to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, the upgrades will give the C-130H's a shorter take-off roll, improved climb, quieter operations, and lower operating and support costs. The Wyoming Air National Guard was chosen specifically to receive the C-130H because of its involvement in the initial testing with the new systems in 2008, when the Air Force explored the idea of upgrading the H-model.
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.
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Jan 08, 2018 04:59 UTC
The US Army began a process on Thursday
to award Airbus a contract for 35 additional UH-72 Lakota
helicopters. In a “sources sought” notice published by the Army’s utility helicopter project management office, the service did mention that as Airbus owns the technical data to the helicopter, any potential competitor would have to acquire the data from the OEM to build the twin-engined aircraft. 400 UH-72s have been delivered by Airbus to the Army since 2006, with units assembled at a factory in Columbus, Mississippi, after major components are built in Europe. The army’s approved budget in Fiscal 2017 contains funds to buy 23 UH-72As, so up to another 12 could be purchased later, thus guaranteeing jobs at the factory for the time being.
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…
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Dec 29, 2017 04:57 UTC
The US Air Force (USAF)has awarded
General Atomics a $328.8 million contract for MQ?1 Predator
and MQ?9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft support and services. Under the terms of the agreement, GA will be tasked with "core management, logistics support, configuration management, technical manual and software maintenance, contractor field service representative support, inventory control point management, flight operations support, depot repair, and depot field maintenance," according to the notice published on December 22. Work will take place at Poway, Calif., and is expected to be completed by December 2018.
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.
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Dec 28, 2017 04:56 UTC
Boeing is to carry out repair and support services for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) following the award of a US Air Force contract
last Thursday. The $480.4 million fixed-price-incentive-firm contract comes as a 100 percent foreign military sale (FMS) to the Gulf kingdom, and includes a 24-month base period, with five 12-month option periods and one six-month option period to continue repair services and support between Boeing and the Royal Saudi Air Force. The deal includes the logistical in-Kingdom repair and return of parts for F-15C/D/S/SA fleets and repair of aerospace ground equipment, hush house/open air test cell equipment for the RSAF F-15
program. Work will take place up until June 25, 2025 at various locations across the US and in Saudi Arabia.
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.
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Dec 27, 2017 04:58 UTC
Lockheed Martin landed a $7 billion contract
to provide F-22 Raptor
sustainment services. The agreement has a five-year base ordering period calling for comprehensive F-22 air vehicle sustainment—to be completed by December 31 2027—with work to be carried out at five operational US Air Force (USAF) and joint service bases and five US military installation support bases across the USA, as well as some undisclosed overseas locations. The deal follows last week's $6.7 billion award to United Technologies for sustainment activities on the Raptor's Pratt and Whitney F-119 engine.
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.
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Dec 27, 2017 04:56 UTC
Work is to begin on producing Japan's first KC-46
tanker aircraft, following the $289 million USAF firm-fixed-price contract
awarded to Boeing to deliver one unit to Tokyo. The contract provides for non-recurring engineering, integrated logistics support and one KC-46A aircraft and is a 100 percent foreign military sale (FMS) to the Japanese government. Work will take place in Seattle, Washington with delivery to the JASDF to take place by February 28, 2021. Once delivered, the KC-46 will add a significant boost
to Japan's aerial refueling capabilities, adding to the current fleet of four KC-767J tankers.
KC-135: Old as the hills…
DID’s FOCUS articles cover major weapons acquisition programs – and no program is more important to the USAF than its aerial tanker fleet renewal. In January 2007, the big question was whether there would be a competition for the USA’s KC-X proposal, covering 175 production aircraft and 4 test platforms. The total cost is now estimated at $52 billion, but America’s aerial tanker fleet demands new planes to replace its KC-135s, whose most recent new delivery was in 1965. Otherwise, unpredictable age or fatigue issues, like the ones that grounded its F-15A-D fighters in 2008, could ground its aerial tankers – and with them, a substantial slice of the USA’s total airpower.
KC-Y and KC-Z buys are supposed to follow in subsequent decades, in order to replace 530 (195 active; ANG 251; Reserve 84) active tankers, as well as the USAF’s 59 heavy KC-10 tankers that were delivered from 1979-1987. Then again, fiscal and demographic realities may mean that the 179 plane KC-X buy is “it” for the USAF. Either way, the KC-X stakes were huge for all concerned.
In the end, it was Team Boeing’s KC-767 NexGen/ KC-46A (767 derivative) vs. EADS North America’s KC-45A (Airbus KC-30/A330-200 derivative), both within the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress. The financial and employment stakes guaranteed a huge political fight no matter which side won. After Airbus won in 2008, that fight ended up sinking and restarting the entire program. Three years later, Boeing won the recompete. Now, they have to deliver their KC-46A.
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Dec 19, 2017 04:57 UTC
Next » Latest updates[?]:
Sweden's procurement agency, the Defence and Material Administration (FMV), has signed a multi-million dollar order with Saab
for equipment for existing and new E-model JAS-39 Gripen
fighter aircraft. The contract is supplemental to an earlier 2013 agreement for the development and modernization of the Gripen and is worth more than $46.9 million. While specific equipment requested was not disclosed, Saab did say that the order is a first step in changing the structure of the Gripen E production for the Swedish air force. “Saab, FMV and the Swedish Armed Forces have agreed on the terms of the contract based on the relevant needs and deliveries,” says Jonas Hjelm, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Area Aeronautics. “This joint approach is intended to secure availability so that the Swedish Armed Forces can keep the Gripen C/D fleet in operational service while Gripen E is being delivered and put into operational service in the Swedish Air Force.”
South African JAS-39D
As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defense against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken (“Dragon,” 1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt,” 1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. This record of consistent project success is nothing short of amazing, especially for a country whose population over this period has ranged from 7-9 million people.
This is DID’s FOCUS Article for background, news, and contract awards related to the JAS-39 Gripen (“Griffon”), a canard-winged successor to the Viggen and one of the world’s first 4+ generation fighters. Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter? In 2013 a win in Brazil started to answer that question.
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