The US Department of Defense is heavily investing in current and future MIDS-JTRS development efforts. Data Link Solutions LLC and ViaSat Inc are each being awarded with contract modifications valued at $386.9 million and $96.2 million, respectively. Both modifications increase the ceiling of existing indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts that provide for the production and engineering efforts related to the MIDS-JTRS program. The Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) program replaces numerous legacy radios, reducing the need for excessive spares and logistics support. The software-defined MIDS-JTRS is a 4-channel radio designed to run the complex Link 16 waveform and up to three additional communication protocols, including the Airborne Networking Waveform (ANW). Because MIDS-JTRS is a software-defined system, new capabilities can be added within the limits of a module’s on-board processing and storage capabilities. Both contracts combine purchases for the Navy, Air Force and the MIDS Program Office, as well as to the governments of Austria, Chile, Finland, Israel, Jordan, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. DataLink Solutions will perform all relevant work at its Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Wayne, New Jersey facilities, whereas ViaSat will perform its work in Carlsbad, California. The ordering periods are expected to be completed by June 15, 2020.
The Navy is contracting General Dynamics Electric Boat for research on future Vertical Launch Payloads (VLP) concepts. The cost-plus-fixed-fee modification is valued at $22.5 million and provides for relevant engineering and technical design efforts needed to develop and formulate concepts on how VLP can be applied to current and future submarine platforms. Vertical launch payloads could be used in the Virginia Payload Module (VPM) once it is installed into Virginia-class submarines. The VPM consists of four large-diameter payload tubes in a new hull section to be inserted in the new class of attack submarines. This system will increase the Virginia’s strike capacity by 230 percent. Work will be performed at Electric Boat facilities in Groton, Connecticut, Kings Bay, Georgia and Bremerton, Washington. The initial efforts are expected to be completed by October 2019.
The Navy is ordering one Freedom-class LCS from Lockheed Martin and two Independence-class LCSs from Austal. Both companies are being awarded with fixed-price-incentive firm target modifications to previously awarded contracts. The DoD press release however does not specify the value of those modifications because the price-tag is considered to be a ‘source selection sensitive information’ as stated under in 42 in US Code 2101 and Federal Acquisition Regulations 2.101 and 3.104. Austal received an initial $584.2 million contract (N00024-17 C-2301) for the construction of one LCS-2 on October 6, 2017. The ships to be built will be the 33rd, 34th and 35th littoral combat ships in the fleet, and will exceed the 32-ship requirement set by the Navy. Appropriators, however are slashing funds for the acquisition of necessary mission modules in the 2019 Defense Department funding bill, raising concerns about future program delays. Work will be performed at various locations, including – but not limited to – Mobile, Alabama; Cincinnati, Ohio; Marinette, Wisconsin and Monrovia, California, and is expected to be completed by September 2024.
Middle East & Africa
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) aims to win a future tender to supply the Royal Air Force (RAF) with new airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. The platform offered by IAI’s subsidiary, Elta systems, would be a Gulfstream G550 long-range business jet with the Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) structural modifications. The aircraft offers L- and S-band antennas, satellite links, 10-hour endurance, a 12,000-kilometer range, and a speed of 0.88 Mach. The plane entered development in 2003 and was delivered to the Israeli Air Force in 2007. Existing international customers include Italy and Singapore. If and when the UK will launch an open tender is yet unclear, because first of all, the RAF needs to decide whether it will upgrade its existing seven Sentry platforms or replace them.
Qatar is marking another milestone in its Eurofighter Typhoon acquisition program. The country made its first payment to BAE Systems on Tuesday, and thus finalises the $6 billion purchase of 24 Eurofighter jets and 9 Hawk trainers. This deal is the first major defense contract between the Emirate and the UK. In October 2017 the deal was hailed by former UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon as “an important moment in our defence relationship and the basis for even closer defence co-operation between our two countries.” The contract also provides for the training of Qatari pilots, facilitated by the British Royal Air Force’s (RAF) No. 12 squadron. This joint UK-Qatari operational squadron will also help to police the skies during he Gulf state’s hosting of World Cup 2022. Deliveries of the fighter aircraft are expected to commence in 2022.
Following a report by the FFI defense research institute, the Norwegian government concludes that it will be able to use its fleet of 14 NH-90 NFHs for both naval and coastguard operations. This decision reverses an initial plan that would have split the fleet, ultimately assigning 6 helicopters to conduct anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions and the remainder for fisheries and border protection missions. The helicopters will need to generate a total of 5,400 flight hours per year. This requirement presumes a good availability of spare parts, a sufficient number of aircraft for maintenance scheduling and a sufficiently large overhaul capacity. The recent FFI analysis suggests, that about 3,900 flight hours will be possible in the first year of operation, albeit at an increased cost of $57 million.
Jane’s reports that MBDA is currently working on mission module concepts to be integrated with the Boxer IFV. MBDA is developing those concepts as answer to the British Army’s future land surface-to-surface fire requirements. MBDA Future Land Indirect Fires concepts include the incorporation of an eight-cell land indirect fire mission module able to fire a 178 mm surface-to-surface missile. An MBDA spokesperson told Jane’s that the “Boxer is effectively designed to accept different mission modules that can be swapped in or out as required. So we are proposing is a modular mission module equipped to conduct a land indirect fires role.” The UK rejoined the Boxer program after a 14-year hiatus in April 2018. The Boxer is supposed to fulfill the Army’s mechanised infantry vehicle requirement by 2023.
The Royal Australian Air Force introduces its first F-35A to its Air Combat Group. The aircraft is part of No.3 Squadron, which will gradually replace its old F/A-18 A/B “Classic” Hornet aircraft with the 5th-generation JSF. Australia currently operates 55 F/A-18As and 16 F/A-18Bs, all of which will be retired by 2022. This is the RAAF’s ninth jet, and the first which will not be used at the Luke AFB International Pilot Training Centre. Australia is a Tier 3 partner in the JSF program and has a total of 72 F-35As on order.
Watch: B-1B Lancer Loads With GBU-31 JDAMs For Combat Mission