With the 2011 Dubai Airshow in full swing, the biggest question on site is: what’s happening to the UAE’s planned fighter deal? The United Arab Emirates’ interest in up to 60 Dassault Rafale fighters has seen years of negotiations, and the 2011 show was expected to be the clincher.
Instead, it has opened the door to Eurofighter GmbH, even as Boeing admits to giving classified technical briefings centered on its F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-15 Strike Eagle families. Unlike Eurofighter, Boeing hasn’t received an RFP, but other reports suggest that the UAE may be about to reduce its planned new jet order and buy more of its unique Lockheed Martin F-16E/F Block 60s, regardless of what happens next. The bombshell hit at Dubai’s 2011 air show.
Canada’s $3 billion frigate modernization program, which specifically aimed to exclude American technologies from key areas, was just one example of a growing problem for American defense firms. Major players in the defense industry have been pushing for years to change US ITAR export controls. Unfortunately, the USA’s use of export controls for protectionist and political purposes has had a predictable effect, and made American defense components toxic to some potential export customers. Even as cumbersome rules, and a slow American bureaucracy, add additional layers of export control across more than 3 different agencies. The end product is significant friction for important international deals, impediments to partnerships with friends and allies, and erosion of global market share for American defense products.
On April 20/10, American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, backed by several other departments, crystallized a reform push that has been underway for years. The proposed “4 singles” approach would make significant changes to American technology export controls. Nor is that the only initiative underway:
Iraq’s air force is growing, slowly. The force still has no fixed-wing combat aircraft, but a handful of helicopters, transports, and surveillance aircraft have created a set of limited core capabilities. Bell Helicopter’s 407 was picked as Iraq’s ARH armed scout helicopter, and they may soon be accompanied by agreements to buy AT-6B light attack turboprops, Czech L-159 trainer/ light attack jets, and eventually even American F-16s.
Meanwhile, helicopters and armed Cessnas form the backbone of Iraq’s combat aviation power. The Bell 407 ARHs would operate beside Iraq’s fleet of Russian-designed Mi-17 medium helicopters (which have been armed), and a handful of Bell Huey-IIs are on hand for utility duties. Now a 4th type is entering service. Iraq is diversifying its options, and its fleet, with the first military order from France since 1990. An order that can serve in light utility, SAR(search-and-rescue), and armed scout roles.
In 1998, Boeing began a revolutionary development program: create an unmanned aircraft that was about the size of the USAF’s F-117 stealth fighter, with similar performance, better stealth, and better range. DARPA’s J-UCAS program launched Boeing’s X-45A and Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs), which went on to perform tests that included multiple UCAV flights, bomb drops, and other aviation firsts.
J-UCAS was effectively killed in 2006, though it went on to spawn the Navy’s UCAS-D competition. NGC’s X-47B Pegasus won, but the Pentagon’s back-and-forth over the USAF’s Next-Generation Bomber program gave Boeing an incentive to remain active. The bomber program will either create a big opening for UCAVs, or allow Boeing to lever any new advances in stealthy UCAV design for its bomber bid. Not so coincidentally, Boeing is using company funds to put its X-45C back on track, as the “Phantom Ray”.
In 2005, the Canadian Department of National Defence awarded a 22-year, $1.77-billion (USD $1.5 billion) contract to an “Allied Wings” team lead by Kelowna Flightcraft Ltd. of Kelowna, British Columbia, who beat out a competing group led by Bombardier’s military training division in Mirabel, Quebec. The long-term contract will provide primary flight training training and support services to the Canadian Forces and international allies. These services will be provided out of the “Canada Wings Aviation Training Centre” in the Southport Aerospace Centre near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
This is not the first time the Canadian government has chosen a public/private approach to aviation training. Bombardier was already managing the Contracted Flying Training and Support (CFTS) program, and the public-private NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) program has been running since 1997. In some ways, however, the new “Allied Wings” contract was a logical next step aimed at solidifying Canada’s traditional advantages, as Canada attempts to make itself an international center of excellence for foreign military aviator training:
NATO Flying Training in Canada
Primary Training: Competition for CFTS [updated]
The Big Picture: International Flight Training in Canada [updated]
DJ Elliott is a retired USN Intelligence Specialist (22 years active duty) who has been analyzing and writing on Iraqi Security Forces developments since 2006. His Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle is an open-source compilation that attempts to map and detail Iraqi units and equipment, as their military branches and internal security forces grow and mature. While “good enough for government use” is not usually uttered as a compliment, US Army TRADOC has maintained permission to use the ISF OOB for their unclassified handouts since 2008.
This compilation is reproduced here with full permission. It offers a set of updates highlighting recent changes in the ISF’s composition and development, followed by the full updated ISF OOBs in PDF format.
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.” Now the challenge is agreeing on production phase membership and arrangements, to be followed by initial purchase commitments in 2009-2010.
This updated article has expanded to feature more detail regarding the F-35 program, including contracts, sub-contracts, and notable events and reports. Recent events and major programs shifts have been added to this article, in order to ensure maximum continuity and context. 2012 developments are covered in this follow-up article.
Latest updates: $20M for fleet engineering support.
KC-135 & RNoAF F-16, Afghanistan
While Boeing and EADS duke it out for the USA’s $20-30 billion KC-X order of about 175 aerial tankers with secondary cargo capacity, the existing KC-135 fleet still needs to be maintained. Based on the 707 airliner’s initial designs, the KC-135s first entered service in 1954, and they were delivered until 1965. Despite their age, they remain the mainstay of the USA’s aerial tanker fleet as it helps fighters make long-distance flights, keeps US and foreign combat air patrols on station, refuels transports on their way to remote destinations, and generally makes long-range force projection possible.
Unforeseen mechanical issues and the accompanying fleet groundings would create a crippling bottleneck in this defining array of American airpower capabilities, which is why KC-X was designated as the USAF’s highest procurement priority. Meanwhile, the KC-135s need to be well and carefully maintained in order to avoid that bottleneck. Which is why Boeing received a $1.1 billion, 10-year contract to maintain the USAF’s KC-135 fleet, after breaking with its former partners at Pemco/AAII. That kicked off a series of competitions, appeals, and reversals that reached all the way to American appeals courts:
One major factor working specifically against the Lockheed Martin F-16’s is that it has been in operation in the Pakistan Air Force for decades. It is clearly an older, single engined platform compared to its competitors and just does not impress the Indian Air Force regardless of the media blitz launched by the Director of Advance Development Programme Mr. Michael R Griswold in New Delhi last week…
In December 2005, the interference of American arms export restrictions within the huge F-35 program became so burdensome that they became a high-level diplomatic problem. Despite the promises of 2 successive American Presidents, the ITAR exemptions that Britain had sought remained blocked in America’s legislature – and European initiatives to resume defense exports to China were not improving the situation in Congress. Meanwhile, MPs in Britain were becoming very insistent on a fix, and there was even talk of abandoning the F-35. The stakes were high.
In time, many of these issues were worked out. In August 2006, the US and UK reached a technology transfer agreement concerning the F-35 fighter, which would serve as a model for other F-35 industrial partners. By December 2007, Tier 1 partner Britain had signed the F-35’s Production, Sustainment & Follow On Development MoU. A broader fix was still on the agenda, however, and in July 2007 it materialized as a a treaty that would change the way the American and British defense firms cooperate on defense programs.
This Spotlight article aims to act as a one-stop briefing that explains the treaty’s motivation, key terms, and outstanding issues. It also links to the key documents, and keeps track of events en route to full implementation nearly 5 years later…