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.
India’s Light Combat Aircraft program is meant to boost its aviation industry, but it must also solve a pressing military problem. The IAF’s fighter strength has been declining as the MiG-21s that form the bulk of its fleet are lost in crashes, or retired due to age and wear. Most of India’s other Cold War vintage aircraft face similar problems.
In response, some MiG-21s have been modernized to MiG-21 ‘Bison’ configuration, and other current fighter types are undergoing modernization programs of their own. The IAF’s hope is that they can maintain an adequate force until the multi-billion dollar 126+ plane MMRCA competition delivers replacements, and more SU-30MKIs arrive from HAL. Which still leaves India without an affordable fighter solution. MMRCA can replace some of India’s mid-range fighters, but what about the MiG-21s? The MiG-21 Bison program adds years of life to those airframes, but even so, they’re likely to be gone by 2020.
That’s why India’s own Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project is so important to the IAF’s future prospects. It’s also why India’s rigid domestic-only policies are gradually being relaxed, in order to field an operational and competitive aircraft. Even with that help, the program’s delays are a growing problem for the IAF. Meanwhile, the west’s near-abandonment of the global lightweight fighter market opens a global opportunity, if India can seize it with a compelling and timely product.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon won a $13.7 million modification to exercise options in support of the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) Design Agent, in-service support and technical engineering support services. The ESSM program is an international effort to design, develop and test missiles to improve ship defense. It forms part of an international defense agreement between the US and nine of its military allies. The Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) (RIM-162) is a medium-range, surface-to-air missile designed and manufactured by Raytheon Missile Systems. The missile is currently in service with the US Navy and some of the 12 NATO Sea Sparrow consortium nations. Work will take place in Arizona, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Australia, West Virginia, Canada, Spain, Turkey and Greece. Expected completion will be by December 2020.
The RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) is used to protect ships from attacking missiles and aircraft, and is designed to counter supersonic maneuvering anti-ship missiles. Compared to the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow, ESSM is effectively a new missile with a larger, more powerful rocket motor for increased range, a different aerodynamic layout for improved agility, and the latest missile guidance technology. Testing has even shown the ESSM to be effective against fast surface craft, an option that greatly expands the missile’s utility. As a further bonus, the RIM-162 ESSM has the ability to be “quad-packed” in the Mk 41 vertical launching system, allowing 4 missiles to be carried per launch cell instead of loading one larger SM-2 Standard missile or similar equipment.
This is DID’s FOCUS article for the program, containing details about the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile family, and contracts placed under this program since 1999. The Sea Sparrow was widely used aboard NATO warships, so it isn’t surprising that the ESSM is an international program. The NATO Sea Sparrow Consortium includes Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the USA – as well as non-NATO Australia. Foreign Military Sales ESSM customers outside this consortium include Japan, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.
Latest updates[?]: The US Air Force contracted United Launch Services with $441.8 million for launch services to deliver the Silent Barker, BIRS GEO-5, and SBIRS GEO-6 missions to their intended orbits. United Launch Services is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing that provides launch services for aircrafts and missiles. Silent Barker is a classified space situational awareness program by the Air Force Space Command and the National Reconnaissance Office. SBIRS (Space Based Infra Red Sensor) GEO is the geostationary component of the SBIRS-High program. The SBIRS-High satellite program is a key component of the USA’s future missile alert system, designed to give maximum warning and monitoring of ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world. The current contract will include launch vehicle production, mission integration, mission launch operations/spaceflight worthiness, and mission unique activities for Silent Barker and SBIRS GEO-5, with an option for an additional SBIRS GEO-6 launch service. Work will be performed at Centennial, Colorado; and Cape Canaveral, Florida. Silent Barker is expected to be completed by March 2022, and SBIRS GEO-5 is expected to be completed by March 2021. The Air Force divided $739 million in launch contracts between United Launch Services and SpaceX for six national security missions slated for 2021-2022.
The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-High satellite program is a key component of the USA’s future missile alert system, designed to give maximum warning and monitoring of ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world. The new satellites will replace the existing Defense Support Program (DSP) fleet. Their infrared sensors have 3x the sensitivity of DSP and 2x the revisit rate, while providing better persistent coverage.
Unfortunately, the program has been beset by massive cost overruns on the order of 400%, technical challenges that continue to present problems, and uncertainties about performance. Despite these problems, the U.S. Air Force is proceeding with the program, and has terminated potential alternatives and supplements. However, as part of a January 2015 effort to institute cost reforms, the Air Force will weaken requirements for the program, and at least three other major procurement programs.
In the 1970s, fighter aircraft began to appear with Head-Up Displays (HUD) that projected key information, targeting crosshairs etc. onto a seemingly clear piece of glass. HUDs allowed pilots to keep their eyes in the sky, instead of looking down at their instruments. In the 1990s, another innovation appeared: helmet-mounted displays (HMDs) put the HUD inside the pilot’s helmet, providing this information even when the pilot wasn’t looking straight ahead. The Israelis were already pioneering a system called DASH (Display And Sight Helmet) when a set of former East German MiG-29s, equipped with Soviet HMDs, slaughtered USAF F-16s in NATO exercises. Suddenly, helmet-mounted displays became must-haves for modern fighters – and a key partnership positioned Elbit to take DASH to the next level.
This DID Spotlight article offers insights into the rocky past, successful present, and competitive future of a program that has experienced its share of snags and controversy – but went on to become the #1 helmet-mounted sight in the world. It also details the game-changing effects of Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems on air combat, its production sets and known customers, and all contracts since full-rate production began.
The Pentagon’s Defense Business Bureau, an advisory group designed to give private sector expertise to senior leaders, announced its global analysis of DoD practices found potential savings of about $25 billion per year, to be squeezed mostly out of logistics, procurement, property management, HR, and healthcare, in that order.
The savings presume a capacity for the military to create ongoing and cumulative productivity increases – as does the private sector, generally. While the rather top-down analysis is likely to seem far fetched to military professionals, it does starkly compare behaviors in the private sector that differ, and that have resulted in vast, cumulative efficiencies.
When it comes to specifics, speaks generally about four areas of recommendations: renegotiating contracts; cutting the workforce; IT modernization and the catch-all business process re-engineering.
DoD contractors will be interested to see the nature of the target painted on their piece of budget pie. The DDB hopes to realize $9 to $18 billion in savings per year by saving 10-25 percent of contract spending. How they hope to do that? “More rigorous” negotiations; contract aggregation for economies of scale; a push for greater productivity in labor contracts; and the elimination of gold plating requirements.
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work charged the DDB with producing the report back in October in an effort to gauge the scope of changes that would help modernize the whole of the defense enterprise.
The report doesn’t break too much ground in terms of tactics recommended, as previous reports have largely enumerated the various savings the DDB hopes the military will recognize.
The USCG wants to buy 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRC), and these Sentinel Class boats are sorely needed by an overstretched US Coast Guard. An attempt to extend the lives of their aged Island Class cutters ended as an expensive failure in 2005, and string of blunders has delayed replacements. In February 2006, the Coast Guard’s Deepwater system-of-systems program ‘temporarily’ suspended design work on the FRC-A program due to technical risk. FRC-A was eventually canceled in favor of an off-the-shelf buy (FRC-B), and on March 14/07, the ICGS contractor consortium lost responsibility for the Deepwater FRC-B program as well. By then, even an off-the-shelf buy couldn’t get the Coast Guard any delivered replacements before April 2012.
When the Island Class refurbishment program was terminated in June 2005, 41 Island Class vessels like the USCGC Sanibel, above, still plied US and international waters. DID discusses the programs, their outcomes and controversies, the fate of the Island Class and FRC-A programs, and the work underway to replace them. The Island Class’ safe lifetime is running out fast, but by the end of 2013 FRC Sentinel Class deliveries were set to ramp up to full production pace. Will that be fast enough?
The National Polar-orbiting Observing Satellite System (NPOESS) was a joint program of the Department of Defense, Department of Commerce and NASA to replace less sophisticated weather satellites that are expected to fail over the next several years. It would help develop 3-7 day weather forecasts for civilian and military purposes, including weather like hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Unfortunately, the program ended up billions over budget, and 6 or more years late. Some gaps in coverage are possible during that time, if enough older satellites fail.
In November 2005 testimony given at a House of Congress Science Committee hearing, the Administrator of NOAA and the Undersecretary of the Air Force promised new cost and schedule estimates and policy options, as well as fuller and more rapid information. NPOESS was openly described as “a program in crisis.” Just under 5 years later, that crisis came to an end with a program split into civilian (JPSS) and military (DWSS) systems, and a 5-year NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite that will test key instruments and serve as a capability bridge.
In November 2005, the Australian Government, Tenix Defence and Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace (AA) have signed the P3 Accord Master Agreement to provide capability upgrades and Through Life Support (TLS) for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The three parties have established a Joint Management Office (JMO) to supervise all Accord activities under a unique risk-sharing contractual arrangement. The JMO will develop and implement all RAAF AP-3C capability upgrades and TLS solutions through to the aircraft’s planned withdrawal date – at which point it will likely be replaced by the 737-based AP-8A MMA.
The combined value of the TLS and block upgrades to the aircraft is expected to be more than A$ 1 billion, and the project is moving on to a new phase – even as some of the efforts that led to the most recent announcement win Australian awards…
The F-35 Lightning II is a major multinational program intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role strike fighter that will have three 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. System development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3). Now the challenge is agreeing on production phase buys, with initial purchase commitments expected around 2008-2009. Export interest is also beginning to stir in a number of quarters, even though full testing will not be complete until 2014.