The Egyptian government wants to buy another 24 F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft, associated parts, weapons, and equipment to modernize its air force. The October 2009 request, made through the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) to Congress, could be worth as much as $3.2 billion to Lockheed Martin and the other contractors involved. The formal request came a few months after the Obama administration conveyed its support for Egypt’s long-standing request to buy the Block 50/52 aircraft, but the request has been a long-standing source of controversy. Eventually, events in Egypt stalled the contract.
The Egyptian Air Force is the 4th largest F-16 operator in the world, mustering about 195 F-16s of 220 ordered. Their overall fighter fleet is a mix of high-end F-16s and Mirage 2000s, low-end Chinese F-7s (MiG-21 copy) bought from the Chinese, a few F-4 Phantom II jets, and upgraded but very aged Soviet MiG-21s and French Mirage 5s.
Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin's Space Fence system has passed an Air Force Critical Design Review, according to a company press release. Passing the CDR now means that the full-scale Space Fence System radar and facilities can be constructed on Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands. Designed to serve as a second-generation space surveillance radar system, the Space Fence will allow the Air Force to track satellites and space debris.
Space Fence concept
Space is big. Objects in space are very dangerous to each other. Countries that intend to launch objects into space need to know what’s out there, in order to avoid disasters like the 2009 collision of 2 orbital satellites. All they need to do is track many thousands of man-made space objects, traveling at about 9 times the speed of a bullet, and residing in a search area that’s 220,000 times the volume of Earth’s oceans.
The US Air Force Materiel Command’s Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts leads the USA’s Space Fence project. It’s intended to improve space situational awareness by tracking more and smaller objects, while replacing legacy systems in the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) as they retire. With a total anticipated value of around $6.1 billion over its lifetime, Space Fence will deliver a system of 2-3 geographically dispersed ground-based radars to provide timely assessment of space objects, events, and debris. International cooperation will supplement it, as part of overall Space Situational Awareness efforts. Failure is not an option. Or is it?
Latest updates[?]: Airbus is urging the UK's Defence Ministry to fast-track a replacement for the Skynet 5 communications satellites currently leased from the company. With internal wrangling within the MoD over specifications for the Skynet 6 constellation holding up progress, Airbus Defence's boss has reportedly stated that a contract needs to be in place by 2018. The four satellites currently used by the British Armed Forces are the result of a multi-billion pound Private Finance Initiative (PFI) signed in 2003, with the contract set to conclude in 2022. One of the four Skynet 5 satellites was repositioned above the Asia-Pacific region in March to offer spare bandwidth to allied nations.
Skynet 5 satellite model
When militaries around the world have wanted to expand their satellite communication (SATCOM) capacity, they traditionally have had 2 choices – either pay a satellite manufacturer billions of dollars to build a satellite constellation and then own and operate the constellation themselves or lease capacity on commercial satellites, with all the attendant concerns about availability and security.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) came up with an innovative approach to expanding its SATCOM capacity called Skynet 5.
Through a GBP 3.6 billion UK MoD private finance initiative (PFI), EADS Astrium manufactures the Skynet 5 satellites and Paradigm owns, manages, and operates the Skynet constellation. The satellites are built to UK military specifications and the UK is committed to purchasing satellite capacity from Paradigm, an EADS Astrium subsidiary.
Back in May 2005, DID discussed Boeing & Lockheed’s plans to merge their space launch units into a single joint venture company. That effort has been on hold for quite some time now, but the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just granted anti-trust clearance to proceed toward closure of the United Launch Alliance (ULA), subject to compliance with a consent order that both parties have already approved. See full FTC release, including consent order details.
The FTC action is the final step in the government’s regulatory process. Boeing “expects that the remaining requirements will be successfully resolved to enable the transaction to be completed and ULA operations to begin.” If so, future launches of Boeing’s Delta and Lockheed’s Atlas rockets would all fall under ULA’s umbrella. The companies said they expect the joint venture to generate $1.5 – $2.0 billion in revenue per year, while saving the government $100 – $150 million a year. Some observers are skeptical concerning the latter claim, though it should be noted that the firms have a similar joint venture to manage the day-to-day operations of NASA’s Space Shuttle program.
September 27/15: Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings is reportedly considering raising its unsolicited bid price for the United Launch Alliance joint venture, despite a very public rejection of its first $2 billion bid, made earlier this month, by both Lockheed Martin and Boeing. A further setback for the company occurred last week when ULA signed an agreement with Orbital ATK as the company’s exclusive provider of solid fuel boosters, side-lining Aerojet Rocketdyne in the process.
September 10/15: Aerojet Rocketdyne submitted a bid on Wednesday to buy United Launch Alliance. The Boeing/Lockheed Martin joint venture is competing with SpaceX for US Air Force launch contracts, following the latter’s certification in May. The $2 billion bid comes amid concern from ULA’s two patrons over the use of the firm’s Russian-manufactured RD-180 rockets for military and intelligence satellite launches, with Congress ordering a stop to their use from 2019. The Air Force released an RFP in July for a replacement engine, with Aerojet Rocketdyne previously offering its AR-1 engine to ULA as a replacement for the RD-180s; however, ULA opted for a Blue Origin design in September 2014.
The path toward a hypersonic space plane has been a slow one, filled with twists and turns one would expect given the technological leap involved. Speeds of Mach 8+ place tremendous heat and resistance stresses on a craft. Building a vehicle that is both light enough to achieve the speeds desired at reasonable cost, and robust enough to survive those speeds, is no easy task.
Despite the considerable engineering challenges ahead, the potential of a truly hypersonic aircraft for reconnaissance, global strike/ transport, and low-cost access to near-space and space is a compelling goal on both engineering and military grounds. The question, as always, will be balancing the need for funding to prove out new designs and concepts, with risk management that ensures limited exposure if it becomes clear that the challenge is still too great. In October 2008, the US Congress decided that FALCON/Blackswift had reached those limits. That decision led to the program’s cancellation, though some activities will continue.
With competition coming at last to American military satellite launches, civilian developments take on new importance. A NASA program called Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) is a major source of potential funds for key players in space launch and space vehicles, which could solve a civilian problem while improving the military’s options.
With the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, American manned missions to the International Space Station have mostly involved Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, which costs about $63 million per seat. The lone exception has involved the commercial space innovator SpaceX, whose unmanned Dragon v1.0 capsule docked at the ISS in May 2012. NASA continues to pursue its own Space Launch System heavy rocket and Orion capsule for manned spaceflight, but in the mean time, its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program aims to spur development of lower-cost American options that could supplant or supplement Soyuz.
These “space taxis” will rely on heavy-lift rockets to make it into space. Their purpose isn’t military, but their configurations are very good news for the USA’s space industrial base…
The USA’s Global Positioning System service remains free, but the European Union is spending billions to create an alternative under their own control. In addition to civilian GPS (the Open Service), services to be offered include a Safety of Life Service (SoL) for civil aviation and search and rescue, a paid Commercial Service with accuracy greater than 1 meter, plus a Public Regulated Service (PRS) for use by security authorities and governments. PRS/SoL aims to offer Open Service quality, with added robustness against jamming and the reliable detection of problems within 10 seconds.
Organizational issues and shortfalls in expected progress pushed the “Galileo” project back from its originally intended operational date of 2007 to 2014/15. After a public-private partnership model failed, the EU gained initial-stage approval for its plan to finance the program with tax dollars instead of the expected private investments. Political issues were overcome in 2007 by raiding other EU accounts for the billions required, but by 2011, it became clear that requests for billions more in public funds were on the way. Meanwhile, doubts persist in several quarters about Galileo’s touted economic model. Security concerns regarding China’s early involvement, and its potential Beidou-2/Compass projects, have been equally persistent, and there is good reason to expect that the constellation has a military purpose. On a European political and contractual level, however, Galileo is now irreversible.
This article offers background, players, developments, contracts, and in-depth research links for Galileo, as well as linked EU programs like GIOVE and EGNOS.
On April 25/14, aerospace innovator SpaceX filed suit in US Federal District Court against the US government and the firm’s ULA competitor. Their legal challenge centers around the USAF’s multi-year sole-source, 36-core EELV contract with ULA, which was finalized on Dec 16/13. SpaceX claims that the USAF changed the rules for eligibility mid-stride, bent its own rules to remove planned competitive launches, locked in a contract with secret terms that further restrict competition, and made commitments that will cost the USA more than $6 billion.
The suit is significant enough that upon review, DID has expanded our coverage, and decided to dedicate a specific article to the suit as a single point of reference.
The United Arab Emirates’ AED 3.4 billion (EUR 703 million/ $925 million) “Falcon Eye” optical observation satellites are meant to provide a wholly new capability to their military by 2018, and represented the most advanced optics France had ever sold to another country. France’s CNES cites 0.7m / 2′ 4″ spatial resolution for the Pleiades Class at nadir, and a field of view of 20 km. EADS DS/ Astrium touts up to 100 km x 100 km in strip mapping mode.
The deal has had a rough road lately, and is currently hung up in re-negotiations…
In February 2010, a EUR 280 million contract launched the Athena-Fidus (Access on THeatres for European allied forces NAtions-French Italian Dual Use Satellite) satellite program. The program is similar to the concept behind the US/Australian WGS, aiming to complement hardened satellite systems with a non-hardened broadband system. The satellite was launched in 2014.
France’s recent scramble to find the satellite bandwidth required to operate its Heron/Harfang UAVs in Afghanistan illustrates the project’s immediate military relevance. Once operational, the Athena-Fidus system will be used by the French, Belgian and Italian armed forces, as well as the civil protection services of France and Italy.