KC-46 completes Phase II receiver certification | New C-27J makes maiden flight | Japan upgrades two F-15J/DJ interceptors
The US Air Force is contracting L-3 Technologies for sustainment work on its fleet of E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft. The firm-fixed price requirements contract provides for repair and overhaul of electron tubes installed on the E-3 at a cost of $7.8 million. L-3 started to supply Wide Band Klystron Power Amplifiers for the E-3 in 2005. Those electron tubes replaced older narrow chain klystron tubes installed on the E-3. The WBKAs have a better reliability, system redundancy and simplified logistics. The WBKPA is integral to the radar subsystem, which provides all-weather surveillance and command, control and communications (C3) functions needed by commanders. Work will be performed at L-3’s factory in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and is scheduled for completion by June 5, 2024.
Boeing achieves another milestone in its KC-46 tanker program and sets the stage for the start of Initial Operational Test & Evaluation testing next year. The Pegasus successfully achieved its Phase II receiver certification, and proved that it can refuel F-16, KC-135, C-17, A-10, KC-46, B-52, and F/A-18 aircraft. Phase II consisted of three weeks of flights with F-15E fighter jets stationed at Edwards AFB in California. Boeing says in a press statement, that during the tests a KC-46 and receiver aircraft flew at different airspeeds, altitudes and configurations to ensure compatibility and performance throughout the refueling envelope of each receiver. “The Air Force crews were with us every step of the way during this critical testing,” said Jake Kwasnik, KC-46 test program manager. “It was awesome to see everyone working together as we conducted flights out of Boeing Field and also at Edwards and Minot Air Force bases.” Phase III receiver testing will start in 2019, and includes training with additional receiver aircraft. Boeing is currently on contract for the first 52 of an expected 179 tankers for the US Air Force.
Middle East & Africa
Jane’s reports that the Iranian Navy is taking two more Ghadir submarines into service. The launch ceremony was held at Bandar Abbas naval base on November 29. The Ghadir-class mini submarines allow the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) to operate in shallow waters such as the Persian Gulf. The IRIN claims that the submarines have sonar-evading technology and can launch missiles from under water, as well as fire torpedoes and drop marine mines. Those small subs weigh less than 150 metric tons and are used for short missions, with no living accommodations for a crew of up to nine. Iran does not disclose the total number of submarines in its fleet, however, it is believed to have some 12 light and three Russian-made submarines.
General Atomics is being contracted to support France’s fleet of MQ-9 UAVs. Priced at $26.7 million, the contract provides for contractor logistics support phase three and involves 100% Foreign Military Sales to France. France bought six MQ-9 Reaper Block 1 UAVs in a roughly $600 million deal back in 2014. In August 2018 General Atomics was awarded a $123 million procurement contract for six additional MQ-9 Reapers in their latest Block 5 version. They should be delivered to the French Air Force by May 1, 2020. France’s MQ-9s are currently just able to perform surveillance missions, however the air force plans to weaponize the platforms sometime between 2019 and 2020. The Reaper is a single-engine, turbo-prop, remotely piloted armed reconnaissance aircraft designed to operate over-the-horizon at medium altitude for long endurance. Work will be performed at GAASI’s factory in Poway, California and is expected to be completed in December 31, 2019.
Leonardo’s new C-27J Spartan baseline configuration performs its first flight at the company’s Aircraft Division Turin plant. Launched in 1997, the C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft incorporates the same propulsion system and advanced avionics as the C-130J Hercules Transporter, giving it the name “Baby Herc”. The aircraft design is based on the proven G-222 airframe from Alenia, with turboprop engines from Allison and advanced systems from Lockheed Martin. The new base configuration comprises a new avionics system, new cockpit control panels and LED aircraft lights. Lucio Valerio Cioffi, Leonardo’s Aircraft Division Managing Director, said: “New operators will enjoy modern avionics and improved operational cost and performance within the aircraft flyaway price. The main benefits of the new C-27J baseline configuration are compliance with new civil aviation regulations and military requirements obsolescence risk reduction.” A total of 85 C-27Js are currently in service with 14 countries around the globe ranging from Greece to Chad.
AAI Corporation is receiving additional funding to maintain logistics services in support of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The $152.7 million contract modification provides for contractor logistics sustainment services for the Shadow RQ-7B unmanned aerial system. Australia bought several RQ-7B Shadow 200 UAVs in 2011 as part of its Joint Project 129 Phase 2. The aircraft can see targets up to 125 kilometers away from the brigade tactical operations center, and recognize tactical vehicles up to 8,000 feet above the ground at more than 3.5 kilometers slant range, day or night. The drone can fly for 9 hours and carries pa¥loads of up-to 95 lbs. Work will be performed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and is set to run through May 29, 2020.
Japan’s planned upgrade of its Boeing F-15 Eagle fighter jets will likely be supported by the US government and Boeing under the Foreign Military Sales process. Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries delivered some 213 license-built F-15 variants the country’s air force between 1981 and 1999. Some 200 remain in service, of which about 88 were continuously upgraded over the past decade, gradually incorporating additional improvements like Link 16. Tokyo now plans to upgrade two of its F-15J/DJ interceptors at a cost of $89 million. According to Defense News, the upcoming upgrades include new electronic warfare equipment, and larger weapon load out – increasing the number of missiles the aircraft can carry – and the integration of the AGM-158 JASSM. Shigeyuki Uno, the principal deputy director of the defense planning and programming division of Japan’s Ministry of Defense, also told Defense News that the F-15s radar will also be upgraded, which will likely involve the AN/APG-63(V)3 or the AN/APG-63(V)1, both are AESA radars produced by Raytheon. Japan’s midterm defense program guidelines, to be released by the end of 2018, are expected to provide more details on this program, including the number of F-15s Japan plans to upgrade.
Watch: Strike Fighter Ball 2018 [East Coast]