- The Navy is awarding a contract modification in support of the F-35 Lightning II program. Pratt & Whitney Military Engines will produce more propulsion systems for the fighter jet under this $2 billion contract. This includes the production of 10 engines for the Navy, 51 for the Air Force and 25 for the Marine Corps. In addition, 50 engines will be procured for non-US DoD participants and foreign military sales customers. The F-35 was set to offer interchangeable engine options. That has been an important feature for global F-16 and F-15 customers, improving both costs and performance, and providing added readiness insurance for dual-engine fleets. Pratt & Whitney’s lobbying eventually forced GE & Rolls-Royce’s F136 out of the F-35 program and made their F135-PW-100 engine the only choice for global F-35 fleets. A special F-135-PW-600 version with Rolls Royce’s LiftFan add-on, and a nozzle that can rotate to point down, will power the vertical-landing F-35B. The F135 engine’s size and power are unprecedented in a fighter, but that has a corollary. Environmental impact studies in Florida showed that the F-35A is approximately twice as noisy as the larger, twin-engine F-15 fighter, and over 3.5 times as noisy as the F-16s they’re scheduled to replace. Work will be performed in East Hartford, Connecticut; Indianapolis, Indiana and Bristol, United Kingdom.
- Roll-Royce Corp. is being tapped for the provision of engines in support of the V-22 Osprey platform. The contract, which is valued at $28.25 million provides for the procurement of 15 engines in total. The Marine Corps will receive 7, 6 will be delivered to the Navy and the remaining 2 are reserved for the Air Force. The AE1107C engines weight 971 pounds each and deliver 7,000 shaft horsepower. Rolls Royce has so far produced more than 860 V-22 engines. The V-22 tilt-rotor program has been beset by controversy throughout its 20-year development period. V-22 Initial Operational Capability didn’t begin until 2007, about 24 years after the initial design contract. A long series of design issues and mass-fatality crashes almost got the program canceled, but Congressional industrial lobbying preserved it. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is expected to be completed in May 2019.
- The Air Force is boosting its inventory of AMRAAMs. Raytheon Missile Co. will produce 18 additional AIM-120D missiles at a cost of $14,1 million. Raytheon’s AIM-120 Advanced, Medium-Range Air to Air Missile has become the world market leader for medium range air-to-air missiles and is also beginning to make inroads within land-based defense systems. The US-only AIM-120D missiles feature the C7 improvements, but the D version adds a very strong set of upgrades. Pentagon documents confirm the use of smaller system components; with an upgraded radar antenna, receiver & signal processor; GPS-aided mid-course navigation; an improved datalink; and new software algorithms. The new hardware and software offers improved jamming resistance, better operation in conjunction with modern AESA radars, and an improved high-angle off-boresight “seeker cone,” in order to give the missile a larger no-escape zone. Less-publicized improvements reportedly include a dual-pulse rocket motor, for up to 50% more range and better near-target maneuvering. Work will be performed at the company’s location in Tucson, Arizona and is scheduled for completion by January 2021.
Middle East & Africa
- The Lebanese Army (LAF) recently received four more light-attack and reconnaissance aircraft. Lebanon has thus received all of its six ordered Embraer EMB 313/A-29 Super Tucano’s. Originally built by Brazilian manufacturer Embraer to survey Amazonian territory, the aircraft was later weaponized. There are now over 200 Super Tucanos operated by 10 countries, many in Latin America and Africa. The planes represent an upgrade from the few other fixed-wing aircraft used by the Lebanese Air Force in recent years. The all-glass cockpit is fully compatible with night-vision goggles. The pilot is protected with Kevlar armor and provided with a zero/zero ejection seat. The aircraft is fitted with two central mission computers. The integrated weapon system includes software for weapon aiming, weapon management, mission planning and mission rehearsal. Onboard recording is used for post mission analysis. The first two aircraft arrived in October 2017. The US State Department said in March that the Super Tucanos are part of a $340 million assistance package to improve the LAF’s capabilities. This also includes 32 surplus M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, the delivery of which is expected to be completed this year.
- The Dutch Army has taken delivery of new armored engineering vehicles. The Netherlands is co-operating with Sweden on the procurement of 10 Dutch and six Swedish Kodiaks. The AEV was developed by Rheinmetall Landsysteme and RUAG. Built on a Leopard 2 chassis, the 62-ton Kodiak is equipped with a high performance hinged-arm excavator with a quick-release coupling for deploying additional combat engineering tools. Thanks to a quick-release coupling, the excavator bucket can be exchanged for a number of other devices, including a hydraulic hammer and a universal-gripper. All of these tools are electro-hydraulically controlled and can be operated by the driver with two joysticks, giving the Kodiak a wide range of military and civilian/disaster related uses. As an alternative, the dozer blade can be swapped for a full-width mine plough, and the vehicle can be fitted with a signature-duplicator and lane-marking units. This turns the Kodiak/Geniepanzer into a high-performance minefield-breaching system. Back in 2008 the Dutch acquisition has had an investment budget of €75.5 million, roughly $88.1 million. The Kodiak will be available for the NATO Response Force Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2019, the Dutch MoD said.
- Jane’s reports that ‘Team 31’, a group led by defense manufacturer Babcock is currently bidding for the UK Royal Navy’s Type 31 general-purpose light frigate program. Its proposal, the ‘Arrowhead 140’ is based on be based on Danish ship design consultancy Odense Maritime Technology’s Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate, which is in service with the Royal Danish Navy. The Type 31e program envisages the fast-track acquisition of a class of five globally deployable frigates geared towards forward-deployed maritime security, presence, and defense engagement. The ships would be manufactured at Babcock’s yards in Rosyth and Appledore in Devon, as well as at Ferguson Marine on the Clyde and Harland and Wolff in Belfast. At almost 140m the platform will optimize operational flexibility. This ‘wide beam’ ship is easier to design, easier to build and easier to maintain due to its slightly larger size. And with embedded iFrigate™ technology able to deliver digitally enabled through life support. $1.75 billion has been set for the procurement of the five ships, which are intended to enter RN service from 2023 to replace five general purpose-role Type 23 frigates.
- South Korea’s AESA radar system development program in support of its KF-X fighter is gaining traction. The South Korean Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has confirmed that the radar system has completed a two-year preliminary design phase and will now move to the critical design stage before a design review in May 2019. Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars offer dramatic increases in fighter performance, and an equally dramatic drop in maintenance costs, thanks to their large array of independently excitable and steerable transmit/receive modules. Advantages over mechanical phased array radars like the KF-16s’ APG-68 include 2x-3x range or performance, simultaneous ground and air scans, and near-zero maintenance over the fighter’s lifetime. After a successful design review, DAPA aims to produce a pilot prototype by 2020, with a first installation on KF-X prototypes by 2022. The radar is a product of cooperation between Hanwha Systems, the Agency for Defense Development and Korea Aerospace Industries. After the $334 million radar project is completed, Korean Aerospace Industries aims to produce about 250 twin-engine KFX fighter aircraft.
- Taiwan kicks of assembly of advanced jet trainer!