The US Aerospace industry remains one of America’s strong export successes, and serves as an important core of the nation’s high-tech manufacturing workforce. An improved set of aerospace industry tax incentives in 2005 was a start, but AIA and others have been pressing for more. In late December 2007, NASA announced a National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastructure under Presidential Executive Order (EO) 13419. That’s wouldn’t be a big event in Britain or Europe, but it’s a first for America. The plan will be updated every 2 years, and stretches over a 10-year horizon with near (<5 year) and longer term (5-10 year) goals. A supplemental report with additional technical content, a preliminary assessment of relevant Federal aeronautics R&D activities to identify areas of increased emphasis and of redundancy, and an infrastructure plan that will include an identification of RDT&E capabilities considered critical to satisfying the national aeronautics R&D goals and objectives are all under construction in 2008 as supplements to the basic plan.
A number of the plan’s goals are civilian, of course and relate to airspace traffic and safety. Others are more obviously military…
In January 2006, “$8B ACS Spy Plane Program Shot Down By Pentagon” described the demise of the joint Army/Navy Aerial Common Sensor program. ACS intended to replace the King Air derived RC-12N Guardrail, Dash-7 derived RC-7B “Crazy Hawk”/ARL, and P-3 Orion derived EP-3E Aries aircraft, with a new multi-role reconnaissance platform based on a small regional jet airframe. The original Embraer ERJ-145 platform proposed by Lockheed Martin proved too small, and even an attempted move to the same Bombardier Global Express jet used in the UK’s new ASTOR Sentinel R1 reconnaissance platform did not avail them. The US Army expressed no confidence, and put the project back to square one as it revised both its specs and its approach.
Now the Army has also rethought its approach, and begun the process of revisiting the ACS project. A $460+ million program will refurbish and upgrade the RC-12N Guardrail fleet to extend their service life, UAVs have emerged to fill some of the short-range reconnaissance gap, and SIGINT(SIGnals INTelligence, i.e. electronic eavesdropping) capabilities are being added to the USAF’s RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs reconnaissance sensors from Block 20 onward. The Guardrails will still have a limited lifespan, however, and this coverage set still leaves holes. Hence the new approach to ACS…
MacGREGOR USA Inc. in Cedar Knolls, N.J., is being awarded a $19.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for the detail design, fabrication, installation, and documentation of the Test Article Vehicle Transfer System (TAVTS). The TAVTS will demonstrate the transfer of vehicles between a Large Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off (LMSR or Ro-Ro) ship, and a surrogate for the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) ship, which will be designed and bought for the US Navy as a key Seabasing component. The 2 primary components of the TAVTS are a self-deploying ramp system that will be installed on a surrogate MLP that can move around, and a self-deploying sideport platform that will be mounted to an existing LMSR ship – either a T-AKR 300 Bob Hope Class, or T-AKR Watson Class.
Work will be performed by Hagglunds subsidiary MacGREGOR in Chesapeake, VA and Cedar Knolls, NJ; and with MacGREGOR USA affiliates in Poland, Sweden, and Norway, and is expected to be complete by November 2009. This contract was competitively procured with proposals solicited via Federal Business Opportunities, with 2 offers received by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in Washington, DC (N00024-08-C-2222).
Reader and US MSC veteran Lee Wahler comments that they have serious challenges ahead of them:
The USA’s F-16 fleet is an aging fleet that is exceeding its “design life” of 8,000 Total Accumulated Cycles by an average 485 TACs. While most of the original F-16s were fitted with the Same Pratt & Whitney F100 engine that’s in the F-15 Eagle fleet, many of the F-16C/Ds were fitted with GE’s more powerful F110 instead.
Now General Electric Aircraft Engines of Cincinnati, OH has received a firm-fixed price contract modification for $15.6 million, to buy redesigned mixing ducts and 2 flame-holder segments. This is a sole source, 4 plus-year requirements type contract, with a basic period of 15 months and 3 one-year options. In combination with the F110 Services Life Extension Program (see $61.2M FY07 contract | $69.7M FY08 contract), this contract is designed to help extend the life of the F110-GE-100/129 engines to 2025. 748 CBSG/PKP at Tinker Air Force Base, OK issued the contract (FA8104-05-D-0042-P00006).
The redesigned hardware is meant to address the fact that…
Sweden’s SEP (Spitterskyddad Enhets Platform, a.k.a. THOR/ Alligator) is a truly innovative land vehicle design. Wheeled or rubber band-track versions offer strong commonality benefits, provide short term tactical options via mix-and-match, and add long term procurement options for a force that buys SEP and later decides they need to complement a wheeled fleet with tracks (vid. Canada and Britain in Afghanistan) or add wheeled vehicles to a tracked fleet (vid. UAE recently). The vehicle consists of three units: (1) a basic platform, either tracked or wheeled; (2) a forward-mounted crew module; and (3) a rear role-specific module which can be exchanged depending on the mission. These removable, interchangeable mission modules allow the SEP to be configured for 24 different roles. An electric transmission system replaces mechanical drive shafts with cables, offering tactical quietness, more internal space, fuel efficiency, reduced life cycle costs, and the ability to place the engines in different places within the vehicle – or even install a second engine. Less weight gives it C-130 transportability, which is unusual for vehicles of its class.
The Swedish FMV gave BAE Hagglunds a development contract in November 2001. In 2003, they took delivery of a wheeled prototype demonstrator, and placed a risk reduction contract to develop a 2nd tracked test vehicle. That vehicle was rolled out in November 2005, and January 2006 saw BAE Hagglunds receive a Chassis Concept (CC) Technology Demonstration Programme contract from Britain’s huge FRES program. July 2006 saw a contract for final development from Sweden, which included delivery of 2 vehicles of each type.
But SEP had a problem. Several problems, actually. A Feb 6/06 report from Sweden indicates that SEP is not dead within BAE itself – but it is on thin ice as a competitive platform.