Skip directly to content

Defense Industry Daily

Subscribe to Defense Industry Daily feed
Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 7 min 22 sec ago

LM’s Presidential Heli Passes CDR | Greece’s P-3B Gets $142M Mod Program | China Rails At South Korea for THAAD Deployment

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 23:58

  • The US Navy has cleared Lockheed Martin’s VH-92A program Critical Design Review (CDR). Tasked with transporting the president and vice president of the United States and other officials, the VH-92 will see initial fielding in 2020, and production continuing until 2023. First flight is expected next year.

Middle East North Africa

  • Two years since the commencement of deliveries, Israel has received the last of its M-346 Lavi jets from manufacturer Leonardo-Finmeccanica. The $1 billion deal sees the 30 jet trainers delivered to replace the 1960s-era Douglas TA-4 Skyhawk. Equipped with the Elbit Systems Targo helmet, the Israeli Air Force can provide synthetic on-board training for pilots transitioning onto the full range of the IAF’s frontline combat aircraft fleets which will soon include the F-35.

  • As US and Israeli officials move to finalize talks over the upcoming military aid package, a former IDF general has warned against his government looking to increase the amount sent. Maj. Gen. (Res) Gershon Hacohen called the increased dependence on US financing as suiting and expanding US interests and a reduction in such dependence would be better for all over time. Lamenting what he sees to be an addiction to advanced US platforms, US aid merely institutionalizes IDF reliance on air power, at the expense of innovative and daring ground maneuver warfare.


  • French aerospace laboratory Onera has released details on their test of the A400M transporter. The company had been contacted by manufacturer Airbus to conduct the studies of a new hose and drogue configuration designed to permit helicopter refueling from the airlifter. Customers involved in the A400 program’s development have experienced frustration over the lack of helicopter refueling capabilities, with France having already bought two Lockheed Martin KC-130J tankers to perform the task, and Germany considering a similar acquisition.

  • Greece’s P-3B Orion aircraft are to undergo a $142 million mid-life modernization program. Work to be carried out as highlighted in the deal include the reactivation of one of the navy’s P-3Bs and the procurement of software and hardware kits for the upgrade and modernization of a total of four aircraft. Greece operates six of the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) P-3Bs.

  • Leonardo-Finmeccanica is expecting to deliver the first of its ATR-72 maritime patrol aircraft to the Italian Navy within the next few weeks. A total of four will be delivered and are to conduct missions including aiding navel vessels searching for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. The $397 million deal does not give the Navy any ASW capabilities, with budget shortfalls after the 2008 economic crash causing Rome to ditch plans to look at Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon.

Asia Pacific

  • China has hailed the US deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) batteries to South Korea as harming the “foundation of their trust.” THAAD’s presence on the Korean peninsula as a counter to North Korean nuclear missile testing also caused Chinese officials to warn that the government in South Korea “should think twice about the deployment and value the good momentum of ties between Beijing and Seoul.” Meanwhile, the North moves ahead with the construction of fortified submarine pens for its ballistic missile submarines.

  • Larsen & Toubro (L&T) is to partner with South Korean giant Samsung to produce 100 tracked 155mm howitzer guns at Indian facilities. The contract, at $700 million, constitutes India’s largest ever order for the domestic private sector, and could lead to further orders of wheeled guns for the Indian Army. Offering the K-9 Vajra-T gun, the winning team beat out Rosoboronexport’s MSTA howitzer.

Today’s Video

  • Coming soon the the Indian Army, the K-9 Vajra-T:

Categories: News

Trainer Jets for Israel: From the Skyhawk, to the M-346 Lavi

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 23:56
Israeli A-4Ns
(click to view full)

After more than 40 years operating the A-4 Skyhawk, a maintenance scandal led Israel to conclude that its remaining Skyhawk’s needed to be replaced as advanced trainers. That triggered a $1 billion advanced trainer competition, and a major geo-political decision.

In 2012, Israel made up its mind. The Italian M-346 “Lavi” will be their new trainer.

IAF Replacement Candidates IAF F-16B
(click to view larger)

After a long competition, a 2-way military deal was signed with Italy in July 2012. Israel should begin receiving its M-346 trainers and simulators at Hatzerim Air Base, beginning in mid-2014.

Candidates to replace the Skyhawks reportedly included converted IAF early-model F-16Bs, Boeing’s license-produced T-45TS Goshawk used by the US Navy, Finmeccanica’s M346 variant of the Yak-130, and Korea’s supersonic T-50.

Winner: Alenia’s M-346 Elbit simulators

Militarily, the chosen M346’s performance profile, and theoretical ordnance-carrying capability in a pinch, are probably the closest to the Skyhawk’s. It was also designed with Italy’s F-35A/B purchase in mind, which reportedly gave it an advantage in Israel. Unlike its Russian Yak-130 counterpart, however, the M346 hasn’t been built and tested in a light attack version. Some Israeli systems will be added to the IAF’s trainers, in order to allow full pilot training, but the public-private TOR (IAI/Elbit joint venture) arrangement creates barriers to re-purposing the jets for operational missions.

Beyond the military sphere, Finmeccanica has had to overcome doubts regarding Italy’s long-term political stability as a supplier, and its long-term economic stability as a customer. The latter is especially relevant, as future Italian purchases of Israeli equipment were the key to winning the deal. The Israelis believe that they have negotiated appropriate safeguards for that risk, and the July 2012 deal featured signed contracts for specific offsetting military purchases by the Italian government.

The jets will offer just one part of the training system. The new flight syllabus will use more Ground Based Training System (GBTS) training for both fighter pilots and back-seat Weapon Systems Operators, with a “high” percentage of training done at the GBTS on a “daily” basis up to advanced weapon/mission training. Israel’s Flight Training Center at Hatzerim AB will use a simulator network based on Elbit’s SkyBreakerTM concept and technology, with 2 Full Mission Simulators and 2 Operational Flight Simulators all linked together to provide full multi-participant mission simulations. Similar systems equip Israel’s active fighter squadrons, in line with global trends among advanced militaries.

IAI/Elbit’s joint “TOR – Advanced Flight Training” consortium has picked Elbit Systems to provide GBTS support for the center over 20 years, though they’ll need to call on expertise from their build partners Alenia Aermacchi and Selex ES, and Canada’s CAE simulator firm.

Other Candidates T-45 Goshawks
(click to view full)

The F-16s were reportedly a low-ranking option, because of the difficulty of transitioning pilots from a primary jet trainer like the Fouga Magister or its T-6A turboprop replacement. They did not make the shortlist.

The T-45 Goshawk would have offered a welcome boost for Boeing’s closing production line, and could have been purchased with American military aid dollars. The flip side is that the US Navy hasn’t invested in giving them secondary mission capabilities beyond their training role. This option didn’t make the shortlist, either.

KAI T-50
(click to view full)

South Korea’s supersonic T-50 family came in 2nd, even though it offered the best aerodynamic performance of the available planes, with existing weapons integration that gave it the ability to operate as an “F-16 Lite” beyond its training role.

It also had the apparent advantage of building on a wider base of defense industrial cooperation. Italy may hold aerial exercises with the IDF, but Israeli firms have made notable inroads into the Korean market with their UAVs, missiles, and radars. A TA-50 order could have represented the next step for both countries, initiating deeper cooperation, and mutual trade that might have included Israeli cooperation toward a TA-50 with even broader light attack capabilities. An improved TA-50 trainer & light fighter would has the potential to carve out a strong place in the global arms market, and would have aligned Israel with both KAI and Israel’s close supplier Lockheed Martin. That high potential upside would have come with a corresponding cost, however, as this would have been Israel’s most expensive option.

See Appendix B for more in-depth coverage of Israel’s decision, and its attendant military and geo-political considerations.

Contracts and Key Events 2013 – 2016

1st jets arrive; Ground-based center opens. M-346
(click to view full)

July 27/16: Two years since the commencement of deliveries, Israel has received the last of its M-346 Lavi jets from manufacturer Leonardo-Finmeccanica. The $1 billion deal sees the 30 jet trainers delivered to replace the 1960s-era Douglas TA-4 Skyhawk. Equipped with the Elbit Systems Targo helmet, the Israeli Air Force can provide synthetic on-board training for pilots transitioning onto the full range of the IAF’s frontline combat aircraft fleets which will soon include the F-35.

December 17/15: The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has just retired their fleet of A-4 Skyhawks after 48 years of service. The aircraft have taken part in every single military campaign since 1967. In total, 236 have been in operation over the years and after their replacement as active fighters by the F-15s and F-16s, they remained as trainer jets. Thirty of the jets remained in service until they were retired from service on December 13.

Sept 29/14: A team led by Elbit systems opens Israel’s Flight Training Center at Hatzerim AB, whose simulator network is based on Elbit’s SkyBreakerTM concept and technology that’s used in Israel’s active fighter squadrons. The new flight syllabus will use more Ground Based Training System (GBTS) training for both fighter pilots and back-seat Weapon Systems Operators, with a “high” percentage of training done at the GBTS on a “daily” basis up to advanced weapon/mission training.

The new center includes 2 Full Mission Simulators and 2 Operational Flight Simulators, all linked together in order to provide full multi-participant mission simulations when necessary. Similar systems equip Israel’s active fighter squadrons, in line with global trends among advanced militaries.

IAI/Elbit’s joint “TOR – Advanced Flight Training” consortium has picked Elbit Systems to provide GBTS support for the center over 20 years, though they’ll need to call on expertise from their build partners Alenia Aermacchi and Selex ES, and Canada’s CAE simulator firm. Sources: Elbit Systems, “Israel Air Force Inaugurates Flight Training Center for the M346 Advanced Trainer”.

Ground-based FTC opens

July 9/14: Delivery. The first 2 M-346 Lavis produced for the Israeli Air Force (IAF) arrive at Hatzerim Israeli Air Force Base. Another 6 IAF M-346s are completing final assembly, and 5 are in the process of structural part assembly. All 30 aircraft are expected to be delivered by the end of 2016. Sources: Alenia Aermacchi, “First two M-346 aircraft delivered to the Israeli Air Force”.

Deliveries begin


March 20/14: Rollout. Rollout of the 1st Israeli M-346 Lavi (q.v. July 19/12) at Venegono Superiore, Italy. Official delivery is scheduled for summer 2014. Sources: Finmeccanica, “Roll-Out of first M-346 for Israeli Air & Space Force” | Varese News, “Il traino dell’M346 dopo il RollOut” [YouTube].

Nov 7/13: The IAF’s 1st M-346 aircraft has begun final assembly in Italy. Alenia says that the program is on time and budget so far, and delivery is still scheduled for mid-2014. Sources: Alenia, Nov 7/13 release.

July 2/13: “Lavi”. Flight International reports that the IAF has designated its new M-346s as “Lavi.” That name was last used for an advanced 4+ generation fighter project that was canceled in 1987, but the name is also appropriate to the new platform. Translated, it means “lion cub,” which fits a lead-in fighter trainer jet very well. Sources: Flight International, “Israel’s Lavi reborn as renamed M-346” | IAF Picture Gallery: IAI Lavi (Lion-cub).

IAF M-346 becomes “Lavi”

Jan 7/13: Support. Alenia Aermacchi announces a $140 million sub-contract from Elbit Systems, Ltd./ TOR, covering Alenia’s share of logistics support (CLS) services for Israel’s 30 M-346I advanced trainer aircraft.

The CLS services include supply, maintenance and overhaul of spare parts, and will be performed jointly with Elbit Systems.


M-346 deal. TOR joint venture. Winner.
(click to view full)

Nov 27/12: Skyhawks for sale. The Israeli MoD’s SIBAT department is advertising and promoting the sale of the country’s 44-plane T/A-4 Skyhawk fleet.

Some of those planes have been used in combat recently, though their latest service during the 2010 Gaza skirmish saw them dropping leaflets over the Gaza Strip. Israel will reportedly withdraw them from service in 2013, and if there’s no response by 2018, the aircraft will be scrapped. Israel’s SIBAT, incl. Presentation [PDF] | Israel Defense

Nov 7/12: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman announces that its LISA-200 Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) has been picked by prime contractor Alenia Aermacchi to equip Israel’s M-346 trainers. They’ve been an M-346 supplier for 5 years, but this contract with Northrop Grumman Italia reportedly builds on the existing arrangements.

“The LISA-200 uses fiber-optic gyro technology, with additional features like high-speed data refresh rates and output. Northrop Grumman Italia has delivered more than 4,000 LISA-200 systems worldwide. NGC.

Sept 10/12: TOR. The Israeli Ministry of Defense reaches a $603 million agreement with the IAI/Elbit TOR consortium, which will operate and maintain the Future Trainer Program’s M-346 jets and associated facilities. Overall, the workshare breaks down to about $420 million for Elbit, and (by inference) $183 million for IAI.

Elbit has received an initial $27 million interim purchase order to get things moving, and the full contract will be signed in the next few weeks, once the government finishes lining up the financing. During the program’s Establishment Phase, Elbit Systems will set up the support and maintenance infrastructure, as well as the simulators and the rest of the ground training array. They will also provide the jets’ advanced avionics systems. Total value for this phase is $110 million over 3 years.

During the operational phase, Elbit Systems will provide about $310 million (current dollars) of support services over the agreement’s 20-year lifespan. Elbit Systems.

O&M contract with TOR JV

July 19/12: M-346 Deal Finalized. Italy and Israel sign a set of 2-way defense deals. Israel will get 30 M-346 trainers, for delivery beginning in mid-2014. It’s a $1 billion deal, with Alenia’s share announced at around $600 million. Israel will join Italy and Singapore as M-346 operators.

Going the other way, Israel’s IAI will supply 2 Gulfstream 550 “Eitam” Conformal Airborne Early Early Warning & Control (CAEW) planes, which can monitor airspace and even maritime areas in a wide radius around the aircraft,while performing ESM geo-location of emitters and ELINT communications interception. IAI’s share is 750 million, while Finmeccanica’s SELEX Elsag will supply $41 million worth of NATO standard C4 equipment. Italy is familiar with these aircraft, which have participated in a number of multi-national exercises at Decimommanu AB in Sardinia. Italy will join Israel and Singapore as G550 CAEW operators.

The last component of the deal is a shared IAI/Finmeccanica project for a high-resolution Italian OPTSAT-3000 surveillance satellite. Finmeccanica’s Telespazio is the prime contractor, with a $200 million contract to deliver the high-resolution optical OPTSAT-3000 satellite and ground segment, manage launch services, test the satellite on orbit and then operate it. IAI’s share is $182 million, to supply the core OPTSAT satellite. Read “Italy & Israel: A Billion-Dollar Offer They Didn’t Refuse” for full coverage and details.

Deals signed: M-346, G550 CAEW, Satellite.

July 1/12: Ministers approve. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman visits Alenia Aermacchi in Varese, Italy, ahead of this week’s expected signing of a deal for 30 M-346, and sees a demonstration of the aircraft. Meanwhile, an Israeli ministerial committee has reportedly approved the deal. Arutz Sheva | China’s Xinhua.

Feb 16/12: M-346 picked. Technically, Alenia is just the preferred bidder to IAI & Elbit’s TOR joint venture, with governmental approval required, and a contract award for 30 planes scheduled for later in 2012. If the expected billion-dollar contract is signed, deliveries would be expected to begin in the middle of 2014.

Globes sums up the situation:

“[Israeli MoD] director general Uri Shani made the decision to buy the M-346, and that Minister of Defense Ehud Barak still has to approve it… The Air Force found that the M-346 cost less, and a defense official said that it better meets the Air Force’s needs. The defense establishment said that the officials responsible for the deal were well aware of Italy’s shaky economic conditions, and that measures for dealing with this have already been coordinated with the Ministry of Finance to prepare a package of guarantees for reciprocal procurements.”

With respect to those “reciprocal procurements”, Italy is rumored to have pledged to buy IAI’s CAEW 550 AEW&C jets, and to jointly develop a new reconnaissance satellite with Israel. The IAF adds its own comments:

“I flew the Korean plane and it’s a lot like the F-16. In that aspect it has many advantages, seeing as it is easy to get used to the plane and… [move] directly to the F-16… The Italian plane is a combination. It integrates the F-16, the F-15 and the Eurofighter. It’s a dual-engine aircraft while the Korean plane has one engine, which is an important security aspect, but has less experience than the Korean aircraft… the conclusion that in spite of the lack of experience, the Italian plane… already looks on to the F-35 and can be compatible with training for it. It prepares us better for the future… We’re planning on adapting the plane to our needs, as well as adding Israeli systems that the cadets can get to know and practice on before they are acquainted with operational combat planes”.

There never was a formal RFP, and South Korea is reportedly quite unhappy. IAF in Hebrew | English || Finmeccanica release | Arutz Sheva | Israel’s Globes | Italy’s AGI | Chosun Ilbo || Flight International | Reuters.

M-346 picked

Feb 10/12: South Korea. Flight International reports that South Korea is upset at the process being used for the Israeli trainer deal – or rather, the lack of same:

“Speaking on 9 February, a South Korean source said officials from the country will use the meeting to express their anger at what they have defined as an “unfair” competition between the Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 and Alenia Aermacchi M-346. The South Korean government will demand that Israel’s defence ministry issue a formal request for proposals before making a selection, and that the latter is made according to the “known and fair practice”, the source said.”

Jan 19/12: Competition. Flight International:

“The South Korean government has been given until 28 January to update its industrial cooperation package… A South Korean source said on 17 January that Israel had received a “very generous” offer from Italy and that his country would make an effort to match it.”

Jan 17/12: Competition. UPI is cautious about relaying a report that Italy has won the deal:

“Israel’s air force has reportedly recommended buying Italy’s M-246 Master advanced jet trainer, rather than South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle… The Israeli Defense Ministry is expected to announce which aircraft it has chosen “within a few weeks,” the Haaretz daily reported… The contest has taken bizarre twists, so it might be premature to consider that the Italians will win the contract.”

The article correctly notes that just a couple of weeks ago, the T-50 was being talked about in similar terms. To the mix of geopolitical calculations underway, Israel must now add economic and financing prospects for Italy and the Eurozone, which could put a large dent in future cooperative deals.

2010 – 2011

TOR JV. Delayed RFP. KAI’s TA-50
(click to view larger)

Oct 10/11: T-50. The Jerusalem Post reports that KAI has formally partnered with Lockheed Martin in its bid to sell T-50 trainers to Israel, citing the advantage of being able to use American military aid funds. That possibility has been a live option since September (vid. Sept 15/11 entry), but this makes it official.

Oct 7/11: Italy. The Jerusalem Post reports that the Italian government is making an interesting offer of its own: 23-35 M-346 trainers, in exchange for 2 Israeli AWACS aircraft. The exact type of AWACS plane is not clear. IAI makes the Gulfstream 550 Nachshon CAEW jet, currently in service with Israel and Singapore. They can also convert existing passenger jets into Phalcon AWACS planes, as they’ve done for Chile (Boeing 707) and India (IL-76).

The Post quotes South Korea’s Ambassador to Israel Isloo Kim, who denied reports that South Korea would end a wide range of military deals with Israel if its planes loses:

“This is a commercial deal and the companies involved are negotiating. It will not affect the relations between our countries.”

Sept 19/11: Late RFP. The expected RFP is late, as it was expected in August. Flight International:

“Sources said on 19 September that the delay is “of a few weeks”, but added that a bigger delay may follow. This could be a result of pressure to shrink Israel’s defence budget and allocate money to solve social issues, the sources said.”

Sept 15/11: T-50. The Korea Herald reports that Lockheed Martin is setting up a T-50 final assembly plant in the USA. That makes perfect sense as it competes for the USA’s pending T-X trainer competition, and it also affects Israel’s buy. If the T-50 series can be considered an American product, that means Israel could buy it with American foreign aid dollars. The M-346 is unlikely to be able to offer that, which would give the Korean jet a significant edge.

The existing T-50 Golden Eagle contract reportedly states that KAI takes 70% percent of the production work, while Lockheed takes the rest.The firms would not address speculation that this ratio might be adjusted for the US T-X and /or Israeli competitions.

March 16/11: TOR JV. Elbit Systems Ltd. and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. sign a founder’s agreement, establishing a 50/50 joint venture called TOR to buy and maintain advanced training aircraft for the Israeli Ministry of Defense. The joint firm would:

“…supply the MoD with the products and services required for the Project’s execution… in accordance with a work sharing plan determined by the two sides. To the best of Elbit Systems’ knowledge, the MoD is currently reviewing contractual possibilities with regards to the Project, and in this context has provided to Elbit Systems and IAI a request for information (RFI). It is the intention of the two companies to submit a response to the RFI in the coming days through the Joint Entity.”

IAI is 100% state owned, so while it’s fair to call TOR a public-private partnership, there’s more state ownership here than meets the casual eye. See Elbit Systems.


Nov 24/10: Finalists. Flight International reports that Israel’s shortlist is down to the KAI/Lockheed T-50 and Alenia’s M-346. Both firms have received RFIs, but the planes would be bought and operated by an IAI/Elbit joint venture that would sell flight hours on the type to the IAF. The companies “also want to assemble parts of the chosen type in Israel and equip it with some locally made systems.”

2008 – 2009

Skyhawks will be retired. M-346 “Master”
(click to view full)

Sept 21/09: Flight International reports that Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 Master and the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 have emerged as the leading candidates to replace the Israeli Cheyl Ha’avir’s TA-4 Skyhawk advanced jet trainers.

Aug 2/09: T-50. As reports of Israeli radar cooperation to equip KAI’s TA-50 and F/A-50s swirl around the media, Israel has sent a formal delegation to evaluate and test-fly the T-50 as a potential replacement for its Skyhawks. During their 5-day stay, the delegation will test-fly the advanced trainer at the KAI headquarters in Sacheon, and visit an air force base in Gwangju to check a ground-based flight training system.

The 20-30 plane Lead-In Fighter Trainer order marks the first time in 40 years that Israel is considering purchasing a fighter jet not made either locally, or in the United States. Ha’aretz | Korea Times | Korea’s Dong-a Ilbo | China’s Xinhua.

Dec 10/08: Skyhawk. The Jerusalem Post reports that the Israeli Air Force has finally decided to retire its Skyhawks. It quotes a “top IAF officer”:

“The plane is old and we are discovering problems… Because of its age we are finding ourselves investing a lot of attention and resources and therefore we have started the process of searching for a new plane to replace the Skyhawk.”

Skyhawks to go

Oct 5/08: Scandal. Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reportes that:

TheMarker found that the contractor failed to conduct checks on the system responsible for maintaining the aircraft’s altitude, as well as its exhaust and brakes systems. Moreover, when technicians found tire and wheel fractures, they were instructed to cover them with lubricant rather than mend the rifts.”

It is, perhaps, a testament to the aircraft’s ruggedness that no Skyhawk has yet been grounded, or suffered an accident, due to a safety malfunction. Nevertheless, the IAF isn’t about to push its luck. The service conducted a surprise inspection of the maintenance facility following the media reports, and in early October 2008 IAF chief Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan grounded the Skyhawk fleet based on what they had found.

IAI says they have offered complete cooperation with the government since the matter was brought to their attention. The situation remains in limbo, with no reports as yet of charges laid, other punitive action, or the lifting of the flight ban.

Appendix A: On Wings of Skyhawks – Service in Israel IAF A-4N – note
extended tailpipe
(click to view full)

McDonnell Douglas’ A-4 Skyhawk, aka. “Scooter” (Navy) or “Dog” (Top Gun school) is best known for its long and storied career as a carrier-based attack aircraft; Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] was flying one when he was shot down over North Vietnam.

It also had a storied land-based career with the Israeli Air Force. Beginning in late 1967, the IAF used this simple, pilot-friendly aircraft as a versatile attack aircraft with surprising air-air teeth. In one engagement during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, an Israeli A-4 Skyhawk found itself facing 3 MiG-21s. The maneuverable little Skyhawk turned on them and brought 2 of them down, and was reportedly on the 3rd Fishbed’s tail when an IAF Mirage IIIC zipped through and blasted the MiG out of the sky.

The little A-4’s surprising maneuverability was coupled with an equally surprising ability to take battle damage, which made it a popular and reliable choice through several wars. The type’s last frontline role was the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the Israeli fleet took correspondingly heavy loses: of 102 aircraft lost, 53 were Skyhawks. Per mission losses in 1973 were actually just 0.6%, which was lower than the previous 1970 War of Attrition with Egypt. Nevertheless, the writing was on the wall.

Israel’s induction of F-16s was a turning point for the Skyhawk, which declined in importance, but never vanished entirely from service. Some A-4s participated in the 1982 Lebanon War, and one even scored a MiG-17 kill. By that time, however, squadron migrations to the F-16 had already begun, and 33 of the Skyhawks had been sold to Indonesia. By the mid 1990s, almost all of Israel’s fighter squadrons had migrated, and 2000-2001 saw a handful of Israeli Skyhawks sold to corporate operators like BAE and ATSI.

M-346 in Singapore
(click to view full)

A number of Israeli A-4E/H/N aircraft are currently stored at Ovda Air Base, some planes have been used as electronic warfare support aircraft, and others have been sold or leased to contractors like ATAC.

Meanwhile, the “Flying Tigers” of 102 Squadron at Hatzerim Air Base still use their A-4Ns and 2-seat TA-4Js for advanced IAF pilot training. Those planes needed maintenance, which was being provided by the contractor Kanfei Tahzuka, via Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Unfortunately, the little plane that could appears to have finally met its match. A combination of time’s wear and questionable maintenance performance grounded Israel’s Skyhawk fleet – and forced a replacement buy.

Appendix B: A Geo-Political Decision IAF Mirage IIIC:
A cautionary tale?
(click to view full)

Israel’s finalist list narrowed its jet trainer options, but expanded the political considerations involved in the deal.

On the one hand, there’s South Korea. Israeli firms are cooperating with South Korea on a wide range of defense projects, from mini-UAVs to ballistic missile defense radars. The ROK is quietly emerging as a significant military export market for Israeli firms, and that cooperation has the potential to grow further, via South Korean interest in Iron Dome rocket interceptors and other products. Unlike Europe, South Korea has good prospects for economic growth, and the country is steadily building a very credible defense industry of its own.

Israel needs military exports to keep its military industries strong, and to lower prices for Israeli equipment through volume production. That means acquiring at least 1 new client per decade who looks… well, a lot like South Korea.

On the other side of the deal, the T-50 Golden Eagle is an important national project for the Koreans. Their initial export sale to Indonesia took some of the pressure off, but they’re still very keen on exporting their jet to gain credibility abroad, and want to pick up momentum in America ahead of the USAF’s possible T-X decision. An Israeli “yes” would add credibility to their American ambitions, and would also help in places like Europe (vid. Poland). Israel is known as a careful buyer who insists on quality, and Israeli jets with offensive capabilities have good odds of gaining the coveted “combat proven” label. That, too, has value in the global market, especially when one of your jet’s key selling points is its high-end capabilities.

The ROK ambassador has said that this relationship would survive an Israeli “no”. The arms it buys from Israel are needed, and there’s an unexpected cultural connection in South Korea through the Jewish Talmud, of all things. The question is whether the relationship would remain as strong. Or, whether other relationships might grow to supplant it.

There is no shortage of candidates. Turkey is South Korea’s biggest arms export customer, and its Ottomanist Islamic government is hostile to Israel. Indonesia became the first export buyer for the T-50, and followed that purchase by buying Daewoo-built U209 submarines. The United Arab Emirates is still seen as a possible destination for the T-50. Etc. If the bilateral relationship with Israel doesn’t keep growing, and defense relationships with countries hostile to Israel do keep growing, that’s likely to begin affecting South Korea’s foreign policies, as well as its defense ties.

That prospect must concern Israel, as it contemplates both potential partners.

Even if Israel does buy Korean, their experiences with France in the 1960s taught them that the risk of partner flips needs to be taken seriously. France went from Israel’s top weapon supplier to an arms embargo, as the country decided to seek favor and contracts with hostile Arab regimes instead. Lockheed Martin’s role as a co-bidder means that Israel needn’t worry about a T-50 embargo, as was the case with their Mirages – but Israel could conclude that a T-50 buy wouldn’t really change their future with South Korea.

Hydrocarbon rights
(click to view full)

On the other hand, there’s Italy. Under former Prime Minister Berlusconi, relations were friendly, and Italy has been a supportive ally. Israel needs allies in Europe, which is not a great future defense market, but is their main market for general economic exports. Europe becomes even more important following Israel’s discovery of huge gas fields off its Mediterranean coast. That gas must be exported, and Europe would be the prime destination. Currently, Russia and Turkey are key supply chokepoints for natural gas pipelines to Europe, though Italy’s pipeline to Algeria and Libya has some offsetting value. A pipeline through Turkey doesn’t make much sense for Israel, and even its plans to cooperate with Cyprus/Greece still leave Italy and Germany as next-step distribution hubs.

Berlusconi has stepped down, but even out of office, he will retain significant influence through Italy’s media. Israel will want long-term relations with Berlusconi, and Italy, to remain good. That could become tricky, given the European Left’s growing hostility toward Israel and Jews, but it’s not impossible.

Berlusconi’s exit removed some of that pressure, because it weakens the case for, and expectation of, a reward for long-standing ties. On the other hand, Italy has reportedly taken steps to expand the potential deal. A reported swap of M-346 trainers for Israeli AWACS jets is one way to strengthen those long-term ties, by making Israel both a high-profile export client, and the supplier of strategically important military hardware. The agreement reportedly included joint development of satellite projects, and the sale of Israeli UAVs. In the end, the AWACS and satellite rumors proved to be true.

Reports in Ha’aretz suggested that Israeli MoD Director-General Udi Shani inked a preliminary deal with his Italian counterpart in May 2011. That upset the Koreans, as did the lack of a formal RFP process before the Israelis announced the M-346 as their choice in February 2012. There were consultations, bids, and deadlines to improve offsetting industrial packages, but never a formal RFP.

Before the decision, DID wrote that:

“If Israel decides that their South Korean relationship is worth fighting for, the question may come down to whether or not they can find a way to keep the Italians close, and retain Berlusconi as a friend, while keeping the Koreans closer. If not, a hard choice lies ahead.”

Israel has made that hard choice, and must now wait to see if it was a wise choice. For all anyone outside the process knows, the decision may have been made on straight economics, based on the countries’ respective industrial commitments. There are early indications, however, that the decision is not being seen that way in South Korea. What happens next will bear close scrutiny, extending far beyond the confines of a single jet deal.

Additional Readings

Thanks to Mark Chen for his authorization to use his M-346’s Singapore photo.

Background: The Deal

Background: Other Aircraft

News & Views

Categories: News

Israel Announces F-16 Variant Upgrades

Mon, 07/25/2016 - 23:58
F-15s: Note Kill Stickers
(click to view larger)

F-15s and F-16s make up the backbone of Israel’s potent fighter force. The IDF’s main fighter is the F-16 Fighting Falcon, including aging F-16 A/B Netz (“Falcon”), plus F-16C Barak (“Lightning”) and 2-seat F-16D Brakeets (“Thunderbolt”), and now the heavily customized two-seat F-16I Block 52+ Soufa (“Storm”). The Israelis fly the largest contingent of F-16s outside the United States, alongside longer range, higher performance F-15s. F-15A-D Baz (“Eagle”) models have greatly distinguished themselves in IDF service, and the customized two-seat F-15I Ra’ahm (“Thunder”) Strike Eagle is optimized for advanced ground attack and long range interception. All of these aircraft are heavily modified from the US versions, with Israeli avionics, self-protection systems, weapons, and sometimes radars as well.

While Israel’s F-16A/B Netz inventory may well be sold on the international market, their F-16 C/D and F-15 A-D planes were expected to serve the Air Force Corps until at least 2020. Unfortunately, Israel’s new F-35As won’t even start arriving until 2016 or 2017. To keep their edge, Israel began spending money in 2006 to improve and upgrade its legacy fighter fleet…

Cheyl Ha’Avir: Upgrading the Fleet F-16C Barak, Sardinia
(click to view full)

Announced improvement for the “Barak 2020” F-16 C/Ds will include an command and control upgrades to match the systems in the newer F-16I Soufas, replacement of the screens in the cockpit with more advanced color displays and head up displays, and other undisclosed upgrades. A follow-on program is expected to add improved flight control systems, high resolution displays, and Elbit’s DASH helmet-mounted display.

Announced improvement of the F-15 A-D Eagles will include a “replacement of electronic war systems” and an “improvement in the ability to carry advanced bombs” via integration of new weapons. Israeli F-15s had already been modified to carry smart bombs, unlike their American counterparts, but new weapons require new efforts. While the release wasn’t specific, JDAM compatibility is likely to be a priority for Israeli planes. Tamir Eshel of Defense Update writes us to add that integration of RAFAEL’s “Spice”, a kit similar to JDAM but improved via a combination of electro-optical and GPS guidance, will also be included.

DASH Gen-III display
(click to view full)

This is actually the second modernization wave for the F-15 A-Ds, following close on the heels of the 1995-2001 Baz Meshopar (“Improved Eagle”) program. notes that the Baz Meshopar package resembles the US Air Force (USAF) F-15 Multi-Stage Improvement Program, although it was implemented with a significant element of Israeli-built electronics and avionics integrated around the MIL-STD 1553 and MIL-STD 1760 data buses. The latter are required in order to add compatibility with GPS-guided weapons, and key elements of the F-15I Ra’am Strike Eagle variant include a modernized cockpit with Elbit multifunction displays, Elbit’s DASH (Display And Sight Helmet), a GPS-INS navigation system, AIM-120 AMRAAM and Python 4 missile capability, plus software upgrades delivered via the USAF’s Warner Robins Air Logistics Center avionics management directorate software division. The upgraded aircraft are known as Baz Meshopar (Improved Eagle) but are also referred to as the F-15 AUP (Avionics Upgrade Program).

Meanwhile, back in North America, US budget crunches and procurement cutbacks around the F-22 and F-35 JSF programs will intensify the need to keep its TacAir fleet up to acceptable strength via supplemental measures. As such, Israel’s upgrades could hold future interest as a template for upgrades that would turn the USA’s F-15C dedicated air superiority fighters into modernized multi-role aircraft at a reasonable cost.

Contracts & Key Events Israeli F-15s

July 26/16: Rafael’s SPICE 1000 EO/GPS-guided munitions are to be adopted by the Israeli Air Force as the weapon enters into its final development stage. Integration will take place on all fighter squadrons with F-16C/D “Barak” aircraft first in line. Features of Spice include being camera operated with real time maneuver and response abilities when facing fixed and mobile targets.

September 4/15: Israel announced that it is upgrading its F-16 variants to be able to handle the vaunted Russian S-300 anti-aircraft system. Iran is perennially about to receive shipments of the system.

March 6/13: F-15s. Israel Defense:

“In several months, the project for upgrading all Israeli F-15I “Ra’am”, considered to be the IAF’s strategic fighter aircraft, is meant to come to a conclusion. Lt. Col. Tzahi Alia, head of the systems and armaments field in the maintenance squadron at the Israeli Hatzerim airbase….”

Dec 26/11: The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel is looking for ways to bolster its fleet before the F-35s arrive. Phased elections in Egypt, which are beginning to hand significant power to Taliban-style Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, are creating a new strategic situation. Meanwhile, the possibility of slowdowns to the F-35 program or further cost increases leaves their affordability and timeliness in question.

Beyond upgrades to existing platforms, the Israelis are reportedly considering scenarios in which used planes might be available for a bargain price, as American budget cuts lead to retirement of serving F-15s and F-16s. The question after that would be whether to operate them as-is, or upgrade them to a common Israeli configuration.

Dec 12/11: Delays to the F-35 program appear to be pushing Israel toward further F-16C/D upgrades, and may even trigger new aircraft buys if the multi-national program’s delivery dates slip beyond 2017.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the IAF has now decided to extend their F-16C/D “Barak” (Lightning; oddly, also the American name for the F-35) to add flight-control system upgrades, high-resolution displays, and Elbit’s DASH helmet-mounted displays. Of the 3 upgrades mentioned, the DASH will make the biggest difference to the fighters’ long-term effectiveness. Helmet-mounted displays are quickly becoming standard equipment in modern fighters, because they allow the pilot to take full advantage of new datalinked, wide-angle seeker aerial and ground weapons.

Feb 19/11: F-15s. Flight International reports that Israel’s F-15 Eagle upgrades are expanding to add its oldest F-15 A/B aircraft. Reports vary, with estimated totals of in-service F-15 A/Bs ranging between 26-45. One prototype has already been completed.

The upgrade will give all of Israel’s F-15s some level of long-range strike capability, and reportedly includes fuselage strengthening (which may be informed by the USAF’s recent fleet grounding), MIL-STD-1760, and unelaborated “improvements to the aircraft’s radar,” among others.

Israel’s F-15A/Bs carry the APG-63 mechanically scanned radar, which was introduced in the 1970s. Its first set of 25 F-15A/Bs were reportedly early production USAF airframes, and would definitely have been delivered without the APG-63’s key 1979 upgrade: a software programmable signal processor. Note that the AN/APG-63v1 is actually a major redesign introduced in the early 1990s, which currently serves on a number of USAF aircraft, and on South Korea’s F-15K Slam Eagles. The v1 does not have an AESA front end like its v2 and v3 counterparts, but is compatible with adding one later. Switching APG-63s for their APG-63v1 counterpart, or for an Israeli radar like the EL-M/2032, would be a big change.

Feb 16/11: Retired IAF Brig-Gen. Assaf Agmon of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, says Israel is likely to re-assess the importance of its air force, in the wake of Egypt’s unrest and uncertainty surrounding the future of their peace treaty with Egypt. He sees the reassessment as broader than just the air force, but that has been Israel’s traditional bulwark against conventional threats. Agmon is suggesting additional buys of F-35A medium stealth fighters, but delivery timing and program issues could also push the IAF to focus on quickly-delivered fleet upgrades instead. Flight International.

Jan 24/11: F-16s. After the first “F-16 Barak 2020” prototypes pass initial inspections, a ceremony takes place at the IAF’s Hatzor AB. It marks the decision to start upgrading all Barak (F-16C/D) planes to Barak 2020 configuration, giving them avionics commonality with the Sufa (F-16I) fleet. Sources: IAF, “Barak 2020″ Takes Off”.

F-15 Baz Meshopar
(click to view larger)

Nov 30/10: F-16s. Flight International reports that the Israeli air force has upgraded its first F-16C/D to the “Barak 2020” configuration. Modifications are being performed at the squadron level, under the supervision of the air force’s central maintenance depot (technical unit number 22).

May 12/09: F-16s. Flightglobal reports that the Israeli air force plans to upgrade its F-16C/D aircraft to the ‘Barak 2020’ upgrade package so this portion of fleet can serve till 2020. Sources:, “IDFAF launches F-16C/D upgrade program”.

April 20/06: USAF F-15s. David Axe of DefenseTech notes that the USAF is preparing its own modernization roadmap for its single-seat F-15C Eagle air superiority fighters, and that conversion to multi-role status is part of that roadmap. Up to 200 F-15Cs may eventually be involved, and a new AN/APG-63v3 AESA radar is the 1st step. Defense Tech, “Eagles Forever”.

Jan 25/06: The F-16C/D Barak and F-15A-I upgrade programs are announced, with few details. The IDF news release did not mention what the further-upgraded F-15s would be called. Perhaps “Baz Meshopar Me’oht” (Very Improved Eagle)? IDF | DefenseTalk copy.

Upgrades announced

Oct 1/03: F-16 ACE. IAI is still trying to convince Israel to upgrade its F-16A/B “Netz” fighters with their F-16 ACE package. ACE would swap the old APG-66 radar for IAI Elta’s ELM-2032, replace the core avionics and mission computer, and add features like a wide-angle HUD, LCD displays, GPS navigation with moving maps, electronic warfare upgrades, LITENING targeting pod capability, etc.

“There has been concern in Israeli industry that without the home air force ordering the ACE package, it will be difficult to market the upgrade to overseas air forces. IAI heads a consortium of ACE participant companies, which includes Astronautics, Elop and Elta. The upgrade is based around an open architecture mission system to allow carriage of a wide variety of weapon systems and sensors without hardware changes.”

Sources: IAI, “Military Aircraft Upgrades: F-16” (ACE) | F-16.NET, “IAI bids to upgrade Israeli F-16s”.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

MNVR Panned by Pentagon Chief | Afghan Army Cashing in on Ammo Scrap | Largest Amphibious Aircraft (AG600) Rolled Out in China

Mon, 07/25/2016 - 23:51

  • The Pentagon’s chief weapons tester Michael Gilmore has blasted the Army’s Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio (MNVR) just as the service prepares to make a production decision for the system. Gilmore described the MNVR, saying the radio “did not meet commanders’ operational needs for a mid-tier network solution.” and “provided no value added in mitigating the significant impacts to communications and mission execution experienced in a satellite communications (SATCOM)-denied environment.” Only time will tell if the report affects the Army’s production decision.

  • Lockheed Martin projects slow but steady growth in the international sale of its missile- and air-defense systems. Products such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) and Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) interceptor have all been garnering interest from European and Middle East governments and the company expects to win various competitions over the next few years. Missile and fire control division is responsible for about 50 percent of their international purchases.

Middle East North Africa

  • The Algerian Navy has commissioned their third C28A-class corvette after delivery from China. Featuring a displacement of 3,000 metric tons, the 360-foot-long stealth-guided missile ship can conduct offshore defense operations and long-distance combat missions. The three vessels, ordered in 2011, come as part of a wider naval modernization by Algeria which includes orders for two Meko A-200AN frigates, and two Project 636 Varshavyanka (Kilo class) diesel electric submarines from Russia, which are due in 2018.

  • Rafael’s SPICE 1000 EO/GPS-guided munitions are to be adopted by the Israeli Air Force as the weapon enters into its final development stage. Integration will take place on all fighter squadrons with F-16C/D “Barak” aircraft first in line. Features of Spice include being camera operated with real time maneuver and response abilities when facing fixed and mobile targets.


  • Thales Deutschland has been contracted to upgrade German Army training simulators. The work, due for completion in 2017, includes all small arms/handheld anti-tank weapons shooting simulator training devices in use with the German army. A total of 185 AGSHP shooting simulators are covered under the $5.5 million contract.

Asia Pacific

  • A series of human errors has been blamed for the torpedoing of a fishing vessel by the Taiwanese Navy. A draft report of the investigation seen by media sources found that the patrol vessel was loaded with live missiles, and to enable drills to be carried out, a simulator box was supposed to be installed between the missile control and launch tube. Only two of the four missiles, however, were installed with the simulators. Petty Officer 2nd Class Kao Chia-chun, unsupervised, had selected salvo fire of two missiles and one of those missiles was not connected to a simulator. As a result, the missile fired when activated.

  • Policemen and soldiers in the Afghan Army are said to be cashing in spent ammunition to scrap dealers amid corruption, poor pay and conditions experienced. With average pay at around $200 per month, a kilo of scrap can be sold for $2.55 with soldiers happy to spend 5-10 minutes firing until merchants have what they need. Other reports found troops in Helmand and Kunduz provinces firing 7,000 artillery shells in May alone. Commenting on the issue, an Afghan official said “We asked army commanders about it and said if each shell killed only one person, we should have 3,500 Taliban dead in each province….It’s very clear they fire aimlessly and collect the shell casings for copper and sell them.” $300 million worth of ammunition was given by the US to Afghan security forces last year.

  • The world’s largest amphibious aircraft has rolled off the production line in China. Developed by state aircraft maker Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the AG600 is about the same size as a Boeing 737, and plans are to use it to perform marine rescue missions and fight forest fires. The aircraft has a maximum flight range of 4,500 km and can collect 12 tons of water in 20 seconds.

Today’s Video

  • Rafael’s SPICE munitions:

Categories: News

LM Plans F-35 Production for Turkey Despite Coup Attempt | Germany Leases Israeli Drones for Mali Ops | Dassault Racks Up $662M in New Defense Orders

Sun, 07/24/2016 - 23:59

  • In just six months, Saab has spent almost all of its investment funding for the upcoming USAF T-X trainer program. Partnered with Boeing, little is known about the aircraft’s design except that it is based on a clean sheet design. The team face off against a Lockheed Martin/KAI proposal based on the latter’s T-50, a Raytheon/Leonardo offer of the M-346-derived T-100 and a new platform being developed by Northrop in association with BAE Systems. Formal requirements for the program will be released by the USAF either by year’s end or early 2017.

  • Two new close air support aircraft to complement and eventually replace the A-10 are being sought by the USAF. Beechcraft’s AT-6 and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano are being looked at for an off the shelf procurement while an initial order of 20 light attack OA-X aircraft could deliver as early as next year. For the OA-X, the service is looking for a medium-altitude aircraft with some level of precision strike capability, such as the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided rocket.

  • Boeing has announced the latest in an ongoing saga of cost overruns with the company taking a $393 million hit on the KC-46 tanker program. Well published issues such as the fault with the aircraft’s refueling boom have resulted in delays to the aircraft reaching an important program milestone prior to initial production. The charges are to be formally announced on July 27 and brings the total value of penalties to almost $1.9 billion. Don’t worry Boeing, the next round of drinks are on us.

Middle East North Africa

  • Never mind the coup, it’s the F-35! Despite the recent attempt at political overthrow by certain cadres of Turkey’s military, Lockheed Martin is forging ahead with its planned production of the first two F-35As for Turkey. Assembly of the aircraft is expected to commence within the next six to twelve months and delivery scheduled for 2018. But could further political instability in an already volatile region put the deal into doubt, only time will tell.


  • Germany is to lease three Heron 1 UAVs for upcoming operations in Mali. Operated by Airbus, with military missions flown solely by military personnel, the Israeli-built surveillance drones will see operations commence in November and last until February 2018. The deal is worth $100 million.


  • Dassault’s six-month financial review has revealed new defense orders worth $662 million. Of that, almost $500 million has come from the French military’s contract for the Mirage 2000D upgrade with the remainder from international business. The company also announced the delivery of six Rafale fighters and a production backlog of 76 aircraft.

Asia Pacific

  • Lockheed Martin and Swiss firm Pilatus have successfully completed the initial production test flight of the first PC-21 aircraft destined for the Australian Defence Force under the AIR 5428 Pilot Training System program. The first of the ordered aircraft is expected to be delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in June 2017 upon the completion of testing. 49 of the turbo-prop trainers were ordered back in September 2015 as part of the RAAF’s new pilot training program.

  • Bye-bye Viraat. India’s second aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, left harbor on its last voyage on Saturday under escort from Indian Navy Sea King Helicopters. The “Grand Old Lady” is en route to Kochi for essential repairs and dry docking. Due for decommissioning later this year, Viraat holds the esteemed honor of being the Guinness World record for the oldest serving warship after spending 29 years sailing under the flag of India and 27 years in the British Royal Navy.

Today’s Video

  • F-35s at Red Flag for the first time:

Categories: News

A Higher-Tech Hog: USAF A-10C Upgraded, Refurbished, Unloved – But More in Demand

Sun, 07/24/2016 - 23:50
A-10A over Germany
(click to view full)

The Precision Engagement modification is the largest single upgrade effort ever undertaken for the USA’s unique A-10 “Warthog” close air support aircraft fleet. While existing A/OA-10 aircraft continue to outperform technology-packed rivals on the battlefield, this set of upgrades is expected to make them more flexible, and help keep the aircraft current until the fleet’s planned phase-out in 2028. When complete, A-10C PE will give USAF A-10s precision strike capability sooner than planned, combining multiple upgrades into 1 time and money-saving program, rather than executing them as standalone projects. Indeed, the USAF accelerated the PE program by 9 months as a result of its experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This is DID’s FOCUS Article for the PE program, and for other modifications to the A-10 fleet. It covers the A-10’s battlefield performance and advantages, the elements of the PE program, other planned modifications, related refurbishment efforts to keep the fleet in the air, and the contracts that have been issued each step of the way.

A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II: Experiences on the Ground A/OA-10 at Bagram, AF
(click to view full)

The Major’s Email: British Harrier Support in Afghanistan, Revisited” examined the statements of a British officer who had criticized British close air support, and openly stated a preference for USAF A-10s over any aircraft the British could deploy in theater.

As we explained at the time, this comes as no surprise. The O/A-10 “Warthog” has the advantage of armored protection, along with a purpose-built design that allows slower speed forward flight and longer loiter time over the battlefield. Not to mention its infamous GAU-8 Avenger 30mm gatling gun that can take apart a tank – or just about anything else in its field of fire. This is what allowed it to do a substantially better job in Desert Storm than fast-moving fighters like the quickly-abandoned “A-16” F-16 experiment, and it’s currently keeping them very busy in Afghanistan.

It kept them busy in Iraq, too. A July 2003 report in Air Force News quoted Lt. Col. Dave Kennedy:

“Kennedy said during a Pentagon interview that in the first week of the war, close-air support requests went to the Combined Air Operations Center “open-ended” — meaning no specific aircraft type was requested. After the first week, he said, 80 to 90 percent of the requests for close-air support were A-10-specific.”

As one can see, the British Major is hardly alone in his preferences. Why is this?

As this National Defense magazine article notes, fast jets simply aren’t an ideal choice for close air support, and the British aren’t alone in having this issue. US Army Sgt. First Class Frank Antenori discuss his recent experiences in Iraq:

“The aircraft that we have are awesome, but they are too awesome, they are too fast, too high speed. The older technology, the A-10, is far better than the new technology, Antenori said. “The A-10s never missed, and with the F/A-18s we had to do two or three bomb runs to get them on the target,” he said, recalling his recent experiences in combat.”

Dispatches from Afghanistan add an additional edge, and reinforce the point:

The A-10 combines some of the best of today’s high-technology Air Force with a solid, low-tech foundation. The addition of a targeting and laser-designation pod was a huge boost to the plane’s capabilities, but still no substitute for the pilot’s eyeballs.

“Most other aircraft rely heavily on (electronic) sensors to find and target the enemy,” said Capt. Rick Mitchell, deployed here from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 442nd Fighter Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. “In the A-10, it’s not unusual for a pilot to use binoculars.”

“Killer Chick”
flew it home
(click to view full)

Which is not to say that technology is useless. A/OA-10s have made effective and frequent use of LITENING AT surveillance and targeting pods, for instance. Integrating them directly into the aircraft’s systems is a fine idea that lowers pilot workload, and adds scanning range and improved night/bad weather capabilities. While a second crewman would be ideal, and was part of a 1980s “A-10 Night/Adverse Weather” model that was never produced, the sensor pods are clear improvements. Likewise, adding the ability to drop additional precision weapons like JDAM or its WCMD cluster bomb counterpart can only be a plus. On the flip side, A-10s have also been involved in several notable friendly fire incidents, which makes datalink improvements a critical fix.

The difference is that conventional fast jet fighters are forced to depend on these enhancements for effectiveness, because of their aerodynamic design a vulnerability to damage. With the new Precision Engagement additions, the A-10C adds many of the newer fighters’ tricks and weapons, but its cheaper, purpose-built design and stronger protection give its pilots additional options. Those additional options contribute directly to effectiveness in combat, and can still be used if hostile fire or simple technical failure render those technological enhancements useless.

The net result is an A/OA-10A Thunderbolt II/ “Warthog” platform that is a worthy successor to its P-47 Thunderbolt/”Jug” namesake, whose top 10 aces all survived World War II.

The “Hog” is the best western close air support aircraft by a very wide margin, and the A-10C upgrades make it the best close-support aircraft in the world. It’s likely to remain so well into the future, despite competition from the upgraded Sukhoi SU-25/28 “Frogfoot”/”Scorpion”, or boasts from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program that their aircraft will be able to replace it.

The A/OA-10 Precision Engagement Modification Program A-10 cockpit, before
(click to view alternate)

To date, A-10 fleet upgrades have been somewhat patchwork and piecemeal. The A-10C PE program changes all that. The entire A-10 fleet will be modified over 4-5 years, and an April 2/07 GAO report estimates the A-10 Precision Engagement program’s total overall cost at around $420 million.

Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Owego is the A-10C Precision Engagement program’s prime contractor and systems integrator under the direction of the A-10 program office (508th Attack Sustainment Squadron), leading a team that includes Northrop Grumman of St. Augustine, FL; BAE Systems of Johnson City, NY; and Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) of San Antonio, TX. The Air Force awarded the Precision Engagement development contract to Lockheed Martin in 2001, and as the prime contractor Lockheed is expected to deliver a total of 356 kits over 5 years, at an estimated cost of $168 million. Lockheed Martin received the production contract in February 2005, with the first production kits delivered to Hill AFB in March 2006.

While the program was originally supposed to consist of several spirals, these plans were modified in light of USAF requests and needs. The program now consists of 2 increments, with JTRS fielding left as an open item to be addressed once the JTRS AMF equipment is available.

A-10 PE, Increment 3.2 A-10C, partly upgraded
(click to view full)

The Maryland ANG(Air National Guard) 175th Wing at Warfield ANG Base in Baltimore, MD was be the first unit to convert to the modified aircraft and integrate them into normal operations, beginning in September 2007. They received Increment 3.2, which will include the PE kit described below plus datalink capability (14 months early), basic JDAM and WCMD compatibility (9 months early), the Spiral 1 PE kit described below, and targeting pod compatibility.

Each Spiral 1 Precision Engagement kit consists of a new cockpit instrument panel. A new computer called the Central Interface Control Unit (CICU) adds new cockpit controls and displays, including a pair of 5×5 inch multi-function color displays that include moving digital map functions. The new integrated Digital Stores Management System (DSMS), meanwhile, keeps track of weapons and launches them; it will be linked into applications as diverse as video from the targeting pod, weapons status reports, and the data link. These upgrades require a major change to the aircraft’s wiring, and consume a lot more power. Not to worry, though; a second DC generator will double the A-10’s generator capacity.

For the pilot, a new stick grip and right throttle provide true hands-on-throttle and-stick (HOTAS) fingertip control of aircraft systems and targeting pod functionality. Using the HOTAS, the pilot can designate the targeting pod to monitor an area of interest, confirm target identification, and provide laser guidance to weapons from his A-10 or from another platform – all without taking his hands from the controls. Upgrading 6 of the A-10C’s 11 pylons to ‘smart’ weapons capability via MIL-STD-1760 is the final piece of the basic infrastructure upgrades.

(click to view full)

Key add-ons build upon these initial steps, and targeting pod integration is touted as the final piece of spiral 1. PE Program modifications will allow the A-10 to carry either the Northrop-Grumman/ Rafael LITENING AT or the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR targeting pod on an underwing pylon as fully integrated devices, with connections to all of the aircraft’s other systems. The pods, which include long-range TV and infrared cameras with zoom capabilities and a laser target designator, will enable the pilot to identify targets from medium altitudes on the order of 20,000 to 30,000 feet day or night, then illuminate them for homing, laser-guided or GPS guided bombs. During the initial deployments in Iraq, their heat-sensing capability has even proved useful for finding buried land mines, which tend to retain a differential heat signature because they’re made of different materials than the earth around them.

The targeting pods will help reduce mistaken attacks on friendly forces and noncombatants by giving the pilot a closer look at potential targets, and experience with other jets indicates that their stabilized, “point and stare” capabilities are likely to prove especially important in urban operations. Eventually, they will allow A-10 aircraft to engage targets from a higher altitude using advanced sensors and targeting pods and precision guided weapons, including the JDAM and their companion WCMD kits for cluster bombs.

Integration with ROVER devices carried by ground troops also becomes possible, allowing front line forces to communicate using annotated map displays and specific positional data.

SADL screen
(click to view full)

Another very significant Increment 3.2 upgrade involves Raytheon’s SADL data link. SADL was added after the A-10 Precision Engagement program requirements were finalized, which is usually a predictor of trouble. Instead, it went from requirements to delivery in just 17 months, thanks to a general sense of urgency and extraordinary contractor efforts. Those efforts included hardware purchases by Lockheed Martin before they had a government contract to do so, putting their funds at risk but ultimately shortening project completion by 6 months. Back in February 207, Major Drew English, the USAF program manager for A-10C Precision Engagement, told Military Aerospace Technology that:

“I would say the biggest [change] we have coming impact wise is the data link. It will shape our tactics and it bring us into a new era, probably as much as night vision goggles did when we got those in the mid-’90s”

SADL automatically sends and receive data from the Army Enhanced Position Locating and Reporting System (ePLRS) that is part of FBCB2, a.k.a. “Blue Force Tracker.” This means that friendly troops on the ground receive the plane’s position and altitude, while the 5 closest “friendlies” will show up on the aircraft’s heads-up display and/or multi-function cockpit displays at the beginning of an attack. SADL also offers Link 16 integration with other fighters and air defense systems, allowing the A-10C to automatically known receive position data for enemy aircraft, air defenses, and other targets – including targets beyond its range of sight. Link 16 and SADL share information via gateways, which are land-based or airborne portals that permit the transfer of information between different formats.

A-10C pilot Capt. Rich Hunt of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing said from Al-Asad AFB, Iraq:

“Previously, for me to keep track of all the other airplanes that are around me or to help us perform the mission, I would literally have to write those down with a grease pencil inside my canopy or write them down on a white piece of paper on my knee board in order to keep track of all that… Now I have a color display that has all of the other airplanes that are up supporting the same mission across all of Iraq right now. And they are all digitally displayed through that data link on my map. So now, especially at night when awareness is a little bit lower, I can look at that beautiful map display and know exactly what other airplanes are around me.”

He also praised the ROVER downlink capability, allowing the aircraft to transmit the live video feed to a joint terminal attack controller on the ground, and the new JDAM capabilities:

“In Iraq that is especially important because it’s a very difficult situation when we provide close-air support in such a densely urban environment. By the controller being able to look through my targeting pod real time, we can compare exactly what we are looking at and make sure we have an absolutely 100 percent positive identification of the target… Sometimes we find ourselves where we have to destroy a terrorist stronghold location. But in the house across the street are friendly Iraqi civilians. We know we have to destroy the stronghold, but we don’t want to cause any collateral damage whatsoever. So the JDAM has been outstanding for us. Between the situational awareness data link, the targeting pod with the ROVER down link to the controller on the ground and the JDAM, the A-10C on this deployment has been an amazing success for us.”

The USAF adds that:

“A command and control platform — such as the 12th Air Force Air Operations Center here — can send digital communication via SADL to the A-10C for a variety of purposes. Tasking messages, targeting information, threat warnings, and friendly locations can all be sent and received by the A-10C. Additionally, the A-10C is the only platform with the ability to task other fighter platforms to attack targets.”

Given past A-10-related friendly fire incidents, the appeal of a system like SADL is obvious.

Together, these Increment 3.1 and 3.2 additions create an A-10C aircraft that looks the same on the outside, but offers a very different set of capabilities and can be used in very different ways.

The Air Force has been conducting flight-testing of the A-10C at Eglin Air Force Base, FL, and at Nellis Air Force Base, NV, since early 2005. Operational Testing Certification (OT Cert) begins in July 2007, with Air Force operational test and evaluation center Operational User Evaluation (AFOTEC OUE) in August 2007 that includes a final look at JDAM integration and the SADL datalink. If everything continues to go well, operational fielding begins in early September 2007 and The AFOTEC report will follow in October 2007.

A-10 PE, Increment 3.3 A-10C fires cannon
(click to view full)

A second fielded Precision Engagement release will provide for CNS/ATM, full smart weapon integration, more software upgrades, additional improvements as a result of feedback from earlier flight tests, and some maintainer functional improvements.

Releases to test were scheduled for August 2007 and December 2007, with fielding expected around May 2008.

Overall PE kit production ran to 2008. Squadrons released their jets for modification at Hill AFB, UT for upgrades, and they returned about 90 days later as A-10Cs. Installation work was scheduled to run until 2009.

A-10 Fleet: Other Planned Improvements In service to 2028

The A-10C PE program is only part of the effort required to keep the Reagan-era fleet of A-10s battle-worthy out to 2028. A separate $2.02 billion dollar wing replacement program is underway, a multiple-award $1.72 billion contract covered overall fleet maintenance and some upgrades from 2009-2019, and more technology inserts and structural modifications were planned. The GAO’s April 2007 report placed the potential total cost of upgrades, refurbishment, and service life extension plans for the A/OA-10 force at up to $4.4 billion.

The Pentagon began pushing to retire the entire fleet early in the FY 2015 budget. If that effort fails, possible upgrades could include electronics and engines, as well as structural work.

The USAF planned to replace the “thin skin” wings on 242 aircraft with new wings, and that effort is now underway. The cost was originally estimated at $1.3 billion, but the June 2007 contract was for $2 billion. This effort will help to extend A-10 service lives to 16,000 flying hours.

At some point, the A-10s would need to install Joint Tactical Radio System-based (JTRS) radios. As of April 2007, JTRS AMF was only in the bid phase, and as of 2014 it was not a required USAF standard.

To improve the A-10’s overall power and maintainability, the USAF hoped to eventually upgrade the existing General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines. Components of the existing engine will be replaced; in particular, a more efficient fan section with wider blades would be installed by General Electric along with digital engine controls. Flight testing of the revamped engine was slated to begin in FY 2008, and production in 2009-2010. Instead, this effort was downgraded in priority and deferred.

An April 2/07 GAO report places the potential total cost of upgrades, refurbishment, and service life extension plans for the A/OA-10 force at up to $4.4 billion.

Contracts & Key Events

Unless otherwise specified, all contracts are awarded to Lockheed Martin in Owego, NY as leader of the A-10 Prime Team; and they are issued by the Headquarters Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base, UT.

FY 2016

A-10 firing run

July 25/16: Two new close air support aircraft to complement and eventually replace the A-10 are being sought by the USAF. Beechcraft’s AT-6 and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano are being looked at for an off the shelf procurement while an initial order of 20 light attack OA-X aircraft could deliver as early as next year. For the OA-X, the service is looking for a medium-altitude aircraft with some level of precision strike capability, such as the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided rocket.

March 14/16: The USAF is to look at a variety of options to replace the A-10 Warthog for its Close Air Support (CAS) requirements. A study will investigate whether a new clean-sheet design is required, or if existing aircraft such as the AT-6 or A-29 would be best for continued low-intensity “permissive conflict” like counter-terrorism and regional stability operations. An alternative option could involve a derivative of the T-X Advance Trainer, however with the T-X program not due until 2024, it would miss the A-10’s retirement in 2022.

February 4/16: The life of the A-10 attack jet will be extended until 2022 after it was announced in Secretary for Defense Ash Carter’s 2017 defense budget preview on Tuesday. Lawmakers including former A-10 pilot Rep. Martha McSally and Sen. John McCain who supported the plane’s continuation were pleased with the announcement. The close-air support aircraft will continue to see service in the operations against the Islamic State in the Middle East where it has been supporting ground troops. The deferral of the A-10’s retirement comes as continued delays seem likely for the F-35, which is due to replace the A-10 once it comes into active service. The A-10’s ability to swoop in to heights of 50 feet above ground and engage enemies has been held up as an advantage against the F-35 by supporters.

February 1/16: Rep. March McSally has written to the White House in defense of the A-10 ahead of Obama’s budget rollout this week. The former USAF pilot has been one of the biggest political supporters of keeping the close air support aircraft in service until full plans for its legacy replacement are in motion. McSally’s efforts to keep the plane have so far resulted in the USAF reportedly shelving the A-10’s retirement plan indefinitely, due to increased demand for the attack plane in military operations in the Middle East. The letter also urged the president and defense secretary to fund depot support, maintenance, and upgrades to extend the life of the A-10 fleet, such as finishing the wing replacement effort.

November 12/15: The Air Force is considering pushing back the retirement schedule for the A-10, following a spike in demand from US forces operating in the Middle East. The venerable Close Air Support platform has been on the service’s chopping block for years, with recent efforts to retire the aircraft early blocked by lawmakers in September. The Air Force also recently released a RFI to identify sources for a new A-10 re-winging program, with the Thunderbolt Lifecycle Program Support effort intended to extend a portion of the Air Force’s A-10 fleet out to 2028.

October 23/15: The US Air Force deployed a dozen A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft to the south of Turkey last week in anticipation of the aircraft seeing more combat against ISIS in Syria, according to reports Thursday. The first Warthogs were first deployed to the Middle East in November 2014, with the Air Force remaining adamant that the fleet should be retired. The aircraft have been deployed to Incirlik Air Force Base, having relocated from their home base at Moody AFB, Georgia.

FY 2015

Election results make retirement tougher.

September 21/15: The Air Force released a Request for Information on Friday to identify potential industry sources for the re-winging of an unspecified number of A/OA-10A close air support aircraft. Over half of the A-10 Warthog fleet is already undergoing a re-winging program, with Boeing acting as prime contractor for 173 of the aircraft, with options for an additional 69. The RFI comes despite repeated calls by the Air Force’s top brass to retire the fleet early in order to free up money and resources. These calls have been blocked, with this latest RFI part of the A-10’s Thunderbolt Lifecycle Program Support (TLPS) program, intended to keep the aircraft flying until at least 2028.

September 4/15: The Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told Congress that their rejection of her branch’s decision to retire the A-10 – a cut projected to save about a couple billion dollars per year – could cause major problems and delays for programs such as the F-35, the new long-range bomber and the KC-46 refueler – programs that together constitute unprecedented expenditures for any nation in history.

September 1/15: The on-again, off-again Air Force comparison test between the F-35 and the A-10 for close air support is back on again, according to the Washington Times. The F-35 doesn’t carry – and isn’t anticipated to carry – the sorts of weapons that have proven useful in the typical CAS mission. It has but a few seconds of canon ammunition and its weapons bay was once compared to a purse after the F-35C variant further infringed on internal storage. A test between the platforms would likely hinge on the scenario imagined by the Air Force brass, so a cynic might expect a profusion of bogeys best handled by stealth fighters.

August 26/15: In what is perhaps the biggest reality perception difference between the Air Force and the rest of the military and civilian government, the Air Force has been working hard to shut down the A-10 program, maintaining that the close air support stalwart isn’t earning its keep. The several billion dollars saved would go to more F-35 work, as that platform has been tipped to be the replacement, although some senior Air Force officers have suggested that perhaps a completely new craft would be in order. So it was newsworthy that a senior officer for testing had suggested a shoot-out between the A-10 and F-35. That test is now taking fire from the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, who called such a test “silly.” Still, Welsh said that the F-35 was never intended as an A-10 replacement, so that leaves observers scratching heads as to which parts of the Air Force desire what outcome, especially as few believe an A-X replacement would be cheaper.

July 27/15: The Air Force has quashed Boeing’s hopes of selling refurbished A-10s to international customers, following the floating of the idea in May. With the House protecting the A-10 from comprehensive retirement for another year, the Air Force is planning to mothball outgoing A-10s, thereby saving a reported $4.2 billion in sustainment over a five year period.

June 26/15: The Government Accountability Office slammed the Air Force’s body of evidence and cost projections used to make the case for retiring the A-10. A report published on Thursday claims that the Air Force did not fully quantify the economic argument for favoring more advanced multi-role aircraft over the time-tested A-10. Manufacturer Boeing recently floated the idea of selling refurbished US A-10s to international customers.

May 22/15: Boeing wants to sell refurbished A-10s to international customers. The US is the only operator of the Warthog, with the House recently voting to fund the fleet for another year, despite the Air Force chiefs’ efforts to cut down numbers. Boeing is currently engaged in an extensive re-winging program for the aircraft, following a $2 billion 2007 contract.

May 1/15: On Thursdaythe House Armed Services Committee voted to keep the A-10 operational for another year, with the 2016 defense policy bill including an amendment to prohibit the Air Force from retiring the plane. The amendment – proposed by Rep. McSally – passed while a “middle ground” amendment proposed by Rep. Moulton failed. That amendment would have allowed the Air Force to retain a hundred of the aircraft while retiring up to 164.

April 28/15: The House is seeking to block the A-10 from being retired, with Rep. Martha McSally reportedly planning to introduce an amendment to prevent the Air Force from pushing the aircraft aside. This amendment will be attached to Thornberry’s version of the defense budget, with the A-10 fleet fully-funded. An A-10 recently had to conduct an emergency landing while deployed to Iraq, with the aircraft’s engine reportedly suffering “catastrophic damage.”

Nov 11/14: Politics. The USAF has a new angle in the A-10 fight, proposing to retire 72 A-10s in order to switch their maintenance workers over to the F-35. It’s being sold as part of having the F-35A reach Initial Operational Capability, but A-10 proponents like Sen. McCain and Kelly Ayotte say the USAF has other choices. The USAF says that their previous plan B has been blown apart by renewed needs in Iraq and Syria. Sources: Defense News, “USAF Discussing A-10 Compromise With Congress”.

Nov 4/14: Elections. American mid-term elections leave the Republican Party with a bigger House Majority, and recapture the Senate from the Democrats. That result leaves John McCain [R-AZ] as the new chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. There are 80 A-10s at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ in Tucson, and McCain is very much a proponent of engagement in places like Iraq, Syria, and other places where the A-10’s unique capabilities make a big difference. He’s going to be a staunch opponent of any retirement plans.

The election also features A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Martha McSally [AZ-2], who was the first woman to command an American fighter squadron, and has been described as one of the Republicans’ top House recruits. McSally is narrowly ahead in a traditionally-Democratic district, but the vote count and recount process is going to take a little while. If she is elected, it will have obvious implications for A-10 lobbying in Congress. Sources: AP, “Sen. John McCain vows to save A-10 from retirement” | McSally for Congress, “McSally Campaign Statement on Challenge to Uncertified Ballots” | Politico, “The House GOP’s top recruit”.

FY 2014

Attempted retirement of the fleet. A-10Cs
(click to view full)

Sept 19/14: Ki Ho Military Acquisition Consulting, Inc. in Layton, UT wins a $31.4 million firm-fixed-price, engineering support, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to identify new and developing technologies that can “support the accomplishment of A-10 missions, and either eliminate or minimize operational and/or sustainability gaps.” $5.3 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 USAF O&M funds.

Is this operational consulting, or payment to make more arguments for retiring the A-10? Poor results so far against in Iraq and Syria aren’t making fantastic arguments for other systems.

Work will be performed at Hill AFB, UT, and is expected to be complete by Sept 15/19. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, with 3 offers received by the USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Hill AFB, UT (FA8202-14-D-0002).

Sept 9/14: Support. Korean Air Lines’ Aerospace Division in Seoul, South Korea receives an estimated $46 million firm-fixed-price maintenance and repair contract for depot level support to A-10 aircraft stationed in the Asia/Pacific region. Funds will be committed as needed.

Work will be performed at KAL’s facility in Seoul, South Korea, with an expected completion date of Sept. 30/20. This contract was a competitive acquisition, with 2 offers received by USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Hill AFB, UT (FA8202-14-D-0001).

Week of June 20/14: Politics. Things continue to move at a brisk pace in the House, with floor action starting for HR 4870 then leading to a vote within days. The White House issued its usual set of “strong” disagreements [PDF], with C-130 AMP, E-3s, and AH-64 transfers among the points of contention. At least the executive appreciated that someone in Congress sided with them to retire A-10s. But it was not meant to be, as an amendment against divesting A-10s easily passed with a 300-114 roll call. This was expected given the fact A-10 retirement was at odds with the already approved authorization bill.

The Administration will now have to find Senatorial opponents to the A-10, among other cuts the House doesn’t want, that are convinced enough to push the issue all the way through reconciliation. The odds are not in their favor.

On June 20 the bill was wrapped up with a 340-73 roll call, showing even broader bipartisan support than the authorization bill: amendments [PDF] | Bill report [PDF].

June 10/14: Politics. The House Appropriations Committee votes 13-23 against Rep. Jack Kingston’s [R-GA-1] amendment to transfer $339 million from the Pentagon’s operations and maintenance account to sustain the A-10 fleet. Former USAF pilot Chris Stewart [R-UT-2] was one of the speakers in favor from both parties, and he outlined the inherent issues with the close-air support mission, but it was to no avail.

What really matters is what the House ends up approving by final vote, but these kinds of losses can hurt politically. Sources: DoD Buzz, “House Panel Votes to Scrap the A-10 Warthog”.

May 23/14: Political. The Senate Armed Services Committee has completed the mark-up of the annual defense bill, which passed by a 25-1 vote. The section relevant to the A-10 is explained this way:

“Prohibits the Air Force from retiring or preparing to retire any A-10 or Airborne Warning and Control Aircraft (AWACS), or making any significant changes in manning levels in FY15.”

That isn’t as comprehensive or as long-term as Sen. Ayotte’s S.1764 bill (q.v. Nov 21-Dec 5/14), but it fulfills the same purpose in the immediate term. If the measure remains in the Senate’s FY 2015 NDAA bill, it will have to be reconciled with similar but different provisions in the House bill (q.v. May 8/14). Bottom line? Unless these measures are stripped from the final bill in either the House or the Senate, the A-10C fleet isn’t going anywhere just yet. Sources: US Senate Armed Services Committee, “Senate Committee on Armed Services Completes Markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015”.

May 8/14: Political. A 41-20 voice vote in the House Armed Services Committee changes the language of Rep. McKeon’s A-10 compromise, and institutes terms that are similar to HR.3657. Ron Barber [D-AZ-2] and Vicky Hartzler [R-MO-4] and Austin Scott [R-GA-8] from HR.3657 are the amendment’s sponsors, and they’ve added interesting requirements. One example would have the Comptroller General’s Office assess the cost per-plane for close air support missions, as part of the set of activities necessary before retiring the A-10s. The F-35’s high operating costs, and heavy depreciation due to its high initial cost, would cripple it in any comparison with the A-10. The F-35’s figures per mission would probably be at least 100% higher, and could easily be worse than that.

May 5/14: Political. House Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon [R-MO] proposes a compromise measure that would require “Type 1000 storage” for the retired A-10C fleet. Planes kept in that condition can be recalled to duty and fly again within 30-120 days, because after the initial removal and proper storage of key items like engines and weapons, no parts can be pulled without the express permission of the program office at Wright-Patterson AFB. That’s significantly better than Type 2000/4000 storage, but a step below Type 3000 “temporary storage” planes that receive engine runs, tow-outs to lubricate their bearings, and fluids servicing every 30 days.

Defense News estimates the cost for the 283-plane fleet at $25.7 million over 5 years ($12.17M initial storage + $283k/year + $12.17M refurb every 4 years). Sources: Air Force Magazine, “Living Boneyard” | Defense News Intercepts, “The Price of Storing the A-10 in “Type-1000″ Storage” | House Armed Services Committee, “McKeon Releases Full Committee Mark”.

Feb 24/14: Scrap the A-10Cs. The announcement isn’t a surprise (q.v. Sept 15/13), but Chuck Hagel’s FY 2015 pre-budget briefing explains the official justification for removing the A-10 fleet:

“For the Air Force, an emphasis on capability over capacity meant that we protected its key modernization programs, including the new bomber, the Joint Strike Fighter, and the new refueling tanker. We also recommended investing $1 billion in a promising next-generation jet engine technology, which we expect to produce sizeable cost-savings through reduced fuel consumption and lower maintenance needs. This new funding will also help ensure a robust industrial base – itself a national strategic asset.

To fund these investments, the Air Force will reduce the number of tactical air squadrons including the entire A-10 fleet. Retiring the A-10 fleet saves $3.5 billion over five years and accelerates the Air Force’s long-standing modernization plan [to replace it with the F-35]…. the A-10… cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses. And as we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, the advent of precision munitions means that many more types of aircraft can now provide effective close air support, from B-1 bombers to remotely piloted aircraft. And these aircraft can execute more than one mission.

Moreover, the A-10’s age is also making it much more difficult and costly to maintain. Significant savings are only possible through eliminating the entire fleet, because of the fixed cost of maintaining the support apparatus associated with the aircraft. Keeping a smaller number of A-10s would only delay the inevitable while forcing worse trade-offs elsewhere.”

The A-10’s original concept did, in fact, aim to survive and operate in the face of advanced fighters and air defense, which makes Hagel’s statement questionable. Expect to see others question Hagel’s use of the term “effective” as well. The A-10 remains peerless in the close support role, and the use of fighter guns for close-in attacks on the front lines remains reality. That isn’t possible for drones, and it’s problematic for the vulnerable F-35A, which carries only 14% as much ammunition (only 180 rounds) in a lesser caliber. It would be possible to defend the decision by saying that the USAF is downgrading Close Air Support in order to build up other capabilities, but that isn’t how the Pentagon is selling this. Sources: US DoD, “Remarks By Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel FY 2015 Budget Preview Pentagon Press Briefing Room Monday, February 24, 2014”.

FY 2015 Budget: Retire the fleet

Nov 21-Dec 5/13: Politics. House and Senate members introduce bills in each chamber that would restrict the USAF’s ability to retire its A-10Cs. The Senate’s S.1764 is introduced by Kelly Ayotte [R-NH], While the House’s HR.3657 is introduced by Vicky Hartzler [R-MO-4]. Both have cosponsors from each party, but they’ll need more cosponsors to improve the chances of getting to a vote and being passed into law.

The core condition in both bills is that the USAF must have a fleet of F-35As with Block 4A software, including integration with the GBU-53 Small Diamater Bomb II or equivalent capability, all certified by an audit by the Comptroller General that also says that there are enough F-35s to replace the A-10s. In practice, that would defer A-10C retirement to 2025 at least, and might even push all the way to the A-10’s planned 2028 retirement.

FY 2013

APKWS laser-guided rockets added; A-10s out of Europe. BAE/GD APKWS
(click to view full)

Sept 26/13: TLPS. Northrop Grumman Technical Services in Herndon, VA receives an estimated maximum $11.3 million task order under a combined firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee engineering support contract. They’ll provide evaluations, analysis, repair designs, and/or testing to support the requirements for the A-10 aircraft structural integrity program and maintenance of operational safety, suitability, and effectiveness. All funds are committed immediately.

This award is a result of a competitive acquisition under the Thunderbolt Life Cycle Program Support contract, but only 1 bid was received.

Work will be performed at Hill AFB, UT, although various portions of the work will take place at subcontractor facilities, and work is expected to be completed by Sept 18/16. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WWAK at Hill AFB, UT manages the contract (FA8202-09-D-0003, 0012).

Sept 25/13: Political. Sen. Kelly Ayotte [R-NH], whose husband Joe was an A-10 pilot, puts a hold on the nomination of Deborah Lee James to be Secretary of the Air Force, until she gets clear and acceptable answers regarding the USAF’s proposal to kill the platform. Sources: Defense News, “Ayotte Blocks Air Force Secretary Nominee Over Possible A-10 Cuts”.

Sept 20/13: Political. House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Ron Barber [R-AZ-02] initiates a letter signed by 8 colleagues, calling the A-10:

“…a critical capability…. In Operation Desert Storm, the A-10 was responsible for the destruction of 4,000 military vehicles and artillery pieces. In Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the A-10 has performed nearly one third of the combat sorties…. The Department of Defense must maintain its ability to wage ground combat and support those at the tip of the spear.”

The letter is co-signed by Reps. Rob Bishop [R-UT-01, HASC on leave to Rules]; Paul Gosar [R-AZ-04]; Vicky Hartzler [R-MO-04 HASC]; Jack Kingston [R-GA-01, Ways & Means]; Candice S. Miller [R-MI-10]; C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger [D-MD-02, Intel.]; Austin Scott [R-GA-08, HASC]; and Mike Simpson [R-ID-02, Budget/ Approp.]. Sources: Rep. Ron Barber Release | Full letter [PDF].

Sept 17/13: Political. Gen. Mike Hostage reiterates to reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference that the A-10 may be on the chopping block, and repeats the point about savings only becoming substantial when you remove entire fleets. He adds:

“You can’t get your money out of installations because they won’t support [base realignment and closure]. You can’t get money out of people fast enough. It takes about a year to get savings out of people.”

Gen. Welsh’s address
click for video

Sept 15/13: End of the A-10? USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force chief of staff, is quoted as saying that “You can cut aircraft from a fleet, but you save a lot more money if you cut all the infrastructure that supports the fleet.”

That’s a step beyond initial reports about the Strategic Choices and Management Review, and current reports have the USAF considering the removal of all 343 A-10Cs, all 59 KC-10 tankers, and more of the 249 or so F-15C/Ds. The CRH successor to the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters is also up for review.

The KC-10 option seems to make zero sense as a “single-role” retirement, as it’s far more capable and multi-role than the smaller KC-135s, giving it especial value in the huge Pacific theater. It’s also the USAF’s key insurance against a grounding of its 1950s-era KC-135 aerial tanker fleet – which may explain the decision. If the USAF is trying to protect its KC-46 program, removing any operational insurance for the aged KC-135s makes the KC-46 program that much harder to mess with, or even to delay.

The F-15Cs, on the other hand, have had serious aging out problems, including maneuvering restrictions, and even a months-long grounding after one of the planes broke in 2 in mid-air. The F-22 Raptor fleet’s small size means that retiring the F-15Cs would be a big hit to US air superiority assets, but the multi-role F-15E Strike Eagles can perform the air superiority role almost as well. It’s just a continuing data point in the long-term downsizing of American TacAir. Sources: Defense News, “USAF Weighs Scrapping KC-10, A-10 Fleets” and “USAF General: A-10 Fleet Likely Done if Sequestration Continues”.

Sept 4/13: Wings. Boeing announces a $212 million follow-on order for 56 A-10C replacement wings, bringing total orders so far under the $2 billion program (q.v. June 29/07 entry) to 173 of a maximum 242.

Work will be performed at Boeing’s plant in Macon, GA. Sources: Boeing, Sept 4/13 release.

Aug 12-13/13: Cut the USAF? Prof. Robert Farley makes a condensed argument for abolishing the USAF as a separate service, in advance of his book “Grounded! The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.” Farley argues that the USA needs air power, but not a service that’s divorced from the ground and naval forces they support. A misguided focus on strategic effect, which he argues hasn’t panned out in wartime experience, will interfere and has interfered with effective contributions to a land/ sea/ air team.

Michael Auslin of the neoconservative AEI think tank responds, arguing that the USAF’s space role and global fast-reaction capabilities make it a unique asset that can reach areas far inland where the Navy cannot go, and go overseas in a way the Army is unable to. An independent Air Force, he says, will wring every advantage out of the air and space domains, just as the Navy does at sea.

Here’s the thing. What if the USAF is seen as a non-team player, one who consistently short-changes the needs of other services? It then becomes very hard to argue that the USAF is in fact wringing every advantage out of the aerial domain for the USA. At a time of significant budget cuts, cutting an entire service offers much bigger administrative savings than removing aircraft fleets, and removing fleets the other services see as their top priorities could create a level of friction that will place that kind of radical option on the table. Sources: War Is Boring, “America Does Not Need the Air Force” | Breaking Defense, “Why America Needs The Air Force: Rebuttal To Prof. Farley”.

Aug 6/13: Combat. An engagement in Afghanistan illustrates the A-10’s strengths, and underscores why high-altitude bombing simply isn’t going to replace what it does on the front lines:

“Even with all our (top-of-the-line) tools today, we still rely on visual references,” said the lead pilot, who is on his first deployment from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. “Once we received general location of the enemy’s position, I rolled in as lead aircraft and fired two rockets to mark the area with smoke. Then my wingman rolled in to shoot the enemy with his 30 millimeter rounds.”…. “We train for this, but shooting danger-close is uncomfortable, because now the friendlies are at risk,” the second A-10 pilot said. “We came in for a low-angle strafe, 75 feet above the enemy’s position and used the 30-mm gun — 50 meters parallel to ground forces — ensuring our fire was accurate so we didn’t hurt the friendlies.

The engagement lasted two hours that day, and in that time, the A-10s completed 15 gun passes, fired nearly all their 2,300, 30-mm rounds, and dropped three 500-pound bombs on the enemy force.”

As a reference point, the F-35s the USAF wants to use as replacements can’t fly as slowly for visual references, are highly vulnerable to battle damage, and carry just 180 25mm cannon rounds. Sources: USAF, “Bagram pilots save 60 Soldiers during convoy ambush”.

Front-line reality

Aug 5/13: Political. Defense News reports that the 4-month Strategic Choices Management Review will report that the USAF could eliminate most of its older C-130E/H transports, and 5 of 55 tactical A-10, F-15, or F-16 squadrons (up to 120 jets, based on 24-plane squadrons).

The USAF’s problem is that Congress wants to cut money, but won’t countenance closing bases. They’re also not receptive to aircraft retirements, which has left the USAF with several squadrons’ worth of unflyable planes that can’t be retired. FY 2013 budget proposals to retire 22 C-130Hs and shut down two A-10 squadrons were blocked by Congress. Sources: Air Force Times, “AF considers scrapping A-10s, KC-10s, F-15Cs, CSAR helos”

June 18/13: Basing. As part of budget cuts (q.v. Feb 1/12 entry), a ceremony at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany inactivates the 81st Fighter Squadron and its A-10Cs. The ceremony marks the end of A-10 operations in Europe.

The A-10 was originally designed for combat in Europe, and was seen as a crucial fast-reaction asset that could stop heavy armored thrusts through NATO’s defenses. Now, the 52nd Fighter Wing is left with only F-16 fighters on its roster. Considering the situation in Europe, and likely threats, wouldn’t it have made more sense to remove and retire F-16s? That would have left the A-10s as an inexpensive but uniquely reassuring deterrent for NATO’s eastern flank, with fast deployability to the CENTCOM AOR if needed. Pentagon DVIDS.

Europe, Adieu

April 2/13: APKWS guided rockets. Eglin AFB announces successful tests of the APKWS laser-guided 70mm rocket from an A-10C, marking the 2nd test from a fixed-wing aircraft (a Beechcraft AT-6B was the 1st). For the final A-10C test sortie, 2 APKWS rockets were fired at a surface target at altitudes of 10,000 and 15,000 feet. The first rocket hit within inches, and the 15,000 foot shot hit within 2 meters despite a 70-knot headwind.

The USAF used a US Navy rocket launcher, because the guidance section adds 18″ to the Hydra rocket. If the USAF continues to move forward with APKWS on the A-10C and F-16, they’ll buy the Navy’s modified launchers to replace their 7-rocket LAU-131s. The US Navy is preparing to qualify APKWS on the MQ-8C VTUAV, USMC AV-8B Harrier II V/STOL jets, and F/A-18 family fighters. Pentagon DVIDS.

FY 2012

A-10C fleet cut; 1st re-winged A-10C rolls out; A-10C flies on biofuel; Thales acquires Scorpion HMD. Alcohol-to-Jet
(click to view full)

Nov 5/12: Thales buys Scorpion HMD. Thales announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Gentex Corp.’s Visionix subsidiary for Helmet Mounted Displays (HMD) and motion tracking. Products include “Intersense” motion tracking, and the Scorpion HMD that equips American A-10Cs. Thales has a strong position in helicopter HMDs with its TopOwl, but it hasn’t had quite as much luck with fighter HMDs. Visionix has good technologies, which can help Thales improve that position against the Elbit/Rockwell joint venture VSI, and secondary competitors BAE systems and Saab Group.

Visionix will operate as a subsidiary of radio supplier Thales Communications, Inc., a Thales USA company that operates independently under a proxy agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense. Its management team will remain, and they’ll continue to operates from Aurora, IL and Billerica, MA. Thales Group.

July 12/12: Sub-contractors. Boeing calls South Korea’s KAI “a key supplier on the A-10 Wing Replacement Program,” while discussing the Korean company’s role in delivering AH-64D Block III attack helicopter fuselages. Boeing is a huge customer for KAI, who supplies parts for commercial jets and F-15s, as well as helicopter fuselages, A-10 wings, etc.

July 10/12: Lockheed Martin Corp. in Owego, NY receives a $7.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for repair service for the A-10 central interface control unit (CICU), and related Circuit Card Assemblies. This computer is also knows as a Signal Data Processor, and the idea is to provide a support bridge, while the USAF gets ready to perform maintenance in-house.

Work will be performed in Owego, NY, and will be complete by Sept 9/12. The USAF GLSC at Hill AFB, UT manages the contract (FA8251-12-D-0005). See also announcement.

June 29/12: Liquored up. An A-10C from Eglin AFB, FL flies using a cellulosic alcohol derivative, called “Alcohol-to-Jet.” That trick works better for the jets than it does for the pilots, apparently. The fuel comes from Colorado’s Gevo, Inc., and can be had for the bargain price of just $56 per gallon.

The $700,000 flight was just a test, obviously. The A-10 is a good test platform for this sort of thing, because its fuel system was segregated in order to help the plane survive hits. The system allows the 2 engines to run off of different fuel supplies, allowing simple performance comparisons. If a test fuel creates failures, the plane can still make it back on one engine. Daily Mail |

Alcohol flight

May 16/12: Flight International:

“The US Air Force has concluded that the short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) Lockheed Martin F-35B- model aircraft cannot generate enough sorties to meet its needs; therefore the service will not consider replacing the Fairchild Republic A-10 Warthog close air support jet with that variant.”

The short take-off F-35B’s ability to base near the battle does multiply the number of flight sorties from each plane, and improves total time over the battlefield. On the other hand, that’s multiplied relative to the F-35A. The A-10 has excellent endurance, whereas the F-35B has to sacrifice fuel capacity in exchange for its short-takeoff and vertical landing capabilities. Beyond that, F-35s of any vintage lack the armoring or gun for in-close support, remove most of their stealth protection if they carry the same array of weapons as an A-10, suffer from the usual problem identifying targets at fast jet speeds, and don’t offer significantly better battlefield sensors than the LITENING-SE or Sniper-SE pods on current A-10s. No matter what the sortie rates may be, replacement of the A-10 with any F-35 is a poor idea.

Feb 15/12: Boeing and the USAF officially roll out of the 1st re-winged A-10C Thunderbolt II in a ceremony at Hill AFB, UT. Boeing is under contract with the Air Force to deliver 233 wing sets through 2018, and delivered the 1st set in March 2011. In the intervening year, the new wings had to be installed, verified, and conduct initial test flights. Boeing.

1st re-winged A-10C

Feb 1/12: US Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz released a short white paper [PDF] outlining its priorities and choices within forthcoming budget constraints. The A-10 fleet bears the largest cuts by far, even though it has been the most consistently requested plane by troops on the ground in recent wars, and offers high value in both counterinsurgency and full-war scenarios:

“More than 280 aircraft have been identified… for elimination… over the next five years. This includes 123 fighters (102 A-10s [emphasis DID’s] and 21 older F-16s), 133 mobility aircraft (27 C-5As, 65 C-130s, 20 KC-135s, and 21 C-27s), and 30 select ISR systems (18 RQ-4 Block 30s, 11 RC-26s, and one E-8 damaged beyond repair)”

That’s 102 of 345 total A-10s flown, leaving 243 in service. It remains to be seen whether Boeing’s re-winging contract will be cut, but if not, 233/243 A-10Cs left will be re-winged planes. Unconfirmed reports point to the elimination of 2 regular USAF units, plus 3 Guard units: the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base (ANGB), MI; the 163rd Fighter Squadron at Fort Wayne ANGB, IN; and the 184th Fighter Squadron at Ebbing ANGB, AK. See | Salt Lake Tribune | Neoconservative AEI think-tank’s Weekly Standard.

A-10 fleet cuts

FY 2011

A-10Cs to South Korea; TLPS support contracts. A-10 wing work
(click to view full)

Sept 6/11: TLPS. Boeing announces a 1-year, $2.9 million contract to develop and validate a modification of the A-10’s Digital Video Audio Data Recorder (DVADR), which was becoming difficult to support. That’s not uncommon with electronics, which become obsolete much faster than their fighter jets do.

This contract is the 6th Boeing task order under the A-10 Thunderbolt Life-Cycle Program Support (TLPS) program.

Dec 7/10: TLPS. Northrop Grumman announces a set of 3 small task orders under the A-10 Thunderbolt Life-cycle Program Support (TLPS) indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contract, worth almost $2 million. Under the terms of the 2-year Aircraft Structural Integrity Program Modernization II task order, Northrop Grumman and its teammate Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, TX will develop and document non-destructive inspection (NDI) procedures and source data, and report discrepancies found between current technical data program requirements.

The Critical Safety Item (CSI) Technical Deficiency Improvement task order has 1 base year with 3 option years. Along with Wyle Laboratories in El Segundo, CA, and Rowan Catalyst Inc. in Libertyville, IL, the team will identify the engineering and technical correct CSI technical and acquisition data deficiencies.

Northrop Grumman is also teamed with Wyle Laboratories and Rowan Catalyst Inc., for the Critical Systems Component Analysis task, which has 1 base year with 2 option years. The team will perform component analysis of critical systems and provide solutions for increasing system reliability, safety, and aircraft availability; and reducing maintenance requirements and man-hours.

Nov 16/10: To Korea. Brahmand relays reports that the USAF 25th Fighter Squadron has deployed A-10Cs on the Korean peninsula at Osan AB, near Seoul. Subsequent USAF reports indicate that the last A-10A left the base on Dec 4/10, marking the 25th fighter squadron’s transition to an all A-10C force.

FY 2010

A-10C getting a Scorpion HMD, but not Hellfire missiles. A-10A fires Maverick
(click to view full)

Sept 27/10: OFP Suite 7, no Hellfire. A $48 million contract modification which will allow for the “completion of the full A-10 Suite 7 Operational Flight Program.”

Asked about this, Lockheed Martin confirmed that this is part of the A-10C program, adding that the government had reached its ceiling on this contract for mission software, also called Operational Flight Programs (OFPs) or Suites. Like the current modification, the original Oct 19/07 sole source contract ceiling for Suites 6, 7 and 8 was not an award, just a maximum. The government awards funds suite by suite, and based on additional things they wanted to add to the A-10C fleet, they requested this ceiling extension to $123 million total. The USAF has since separated Suite 7 into Suite 7A and Suite 7B, and Lockheed Martin recently received a contract for the remainder of OFP Suite 7A work.

The 2007 award also mentioned Hellfire II missiles, which are not normally fired from jets. Lockheed Martin says that the high cost of developing and purchasing a special missile launch rail for the A-10 caused the USAF to change its mind. The AGM-65 Maverick missile can perform the same role at a higher cost per missile, and Hellfire’s forthcoming JAGM missile successor is expected to work with fast jets (FA8635-07-D-6000, PO0012).

July 19/10: Scorpion HMD. Raytheon announces a $12.6 million USAF contract for Phase 1 integration and qualification of the Helmet Mounted Integrated Targeting (HMIT) system for USAF and Air National Guard A-10C and F-16C Block 30/32 aircraft. Raytheon Technical Services Company LLC (RTSC), the prime contractor, is teamed with Gentex Corp. in Simpson, PA to produce the system, based on Gentex’s Visionix Scorpion(TM) Helmet Mounted Cueing System.

HMIT will be a night-vision compatible helmet-mounted display that shows crucial information in high-resolution color imagery directly in the pilot’s field of vision. The color imagery is a step forward, and information displayed will include weapons-cueing, targeting and situational data from on-board and remote sensors. Like other HMDs, the system will track helmet movement to display accurate imagery, regardless of the direction the pilot’s head is turned. The program includes 5 one-year production options, with a potential total value up to $50 million.

April 13/10: Sub-contractors. CPI Aerostructures, Inc. of Edgwood, NY announces an additional $10 million in orders from Boeing in support of the A-10 fleet’s $2 billion re-winging effort. The original contract with Boeing was for $70 million (see July 1/08 entry).

Boeing has added additional structural assemblies and subsystem installations to the CPI Aero contract. These additions include pylon covers, center trailing edge wedge fittings, lower outer trailing edge panels, wingtip covers, wingtip light installations and aileron light installations.

Nov 20/09: OFP. Lockheed Martin announces a $17.8 million contract from the US Air Force to upgrade software that integrates communications and situational awareness capabilities on the A-10C close air support aircraft. The software upgrade is the 3rd in an annual series planned for the A-10 and is scheduled for release in May 2011. The earlier two upgrades were also performed by Lockheed Martin; the first was fielded on schedule in May 2009 and the second is on target for release in May 2010.

The software upgrade will provide improved pilot vehicle interface (PVI) and weapons delivery. Also included with the upgrade are software baselines for the helmet-mounted cueing system that provides situational awareness through improved visual cues for the pilot and for the lightweight airborne recovery system that integrates search and rescue capability. The upgrades will be integrated in Lockheed Martin’s A-10 Systems Integration Lab in Owego, NY. Lockheed Martin A-10 industry team includes Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, TX and Northrop Grumman in St. Augustine, FL.

Nov 11/09: TLPS. Northrop Grumman announces an 18-month, $3.3 million A-10 TLPS contract to develop and test an anti-jam embedded GPS and an inertial navigation unit (EGI) for the A-10C. Northrop Grumman Technical Services will perform an integrated architecture and life cycle costs analysis and install a temporary modification. The company will then develop a system safety program, and provide program and engineering management support in order to conduct an operational assessment of the EGI capability during flight test. Northrop Grumman’s team includes subcontractors BAE Systems Control Inc., Johnson City, N.Y., and Borsight Aerospace, Farmington, Utah.

FY 2009

$1.72 billion TLPS multi-award maintenance contract; A-10C adds Laser JDAM; Wing cracking in 130 planes. LJDAM test from A-10C
(click to view full)

Sept 24/09: Boeing announces that it received 2 separate contracts from the US Air Force to support modernization of its 365 A-10A+ and A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft. The contracts, which have a total value of $4.2 million, consists of several tasks ranging in duration from 3 to 18 months as part of the A-10 Thunderbolt Life-Cycle Program Support (TLPS) contract. For details on the TLPS contract, see the June 11/09 entry.

Under the 1st contract, Boeing and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) will provide engineering services for the A-10 Aircraft Structural Integrity Program (ASIP), which involves updating and aligning modern structural analysis tools, processes and standards for the A-10 fleet. Under the 2nd contract, Boeing, Raytheon Technical Services, and BAE Systems Platform Solutions will conduct a trade study analysis and operational assessment/proof of concept for the A-10 Upgraded Data Transfer Unit (UDTU). The goal of this contract is to update the aircraft’s avionics architecture to improve memory and data capability.

Other A-10 contracts Boeing has received include a contract to provide on-site engineering support and 3-D models of the A-10 wing, and a contract for fuselage lofting – the transfer of a scaled-down plan to full size. The $2 billion A-10 Wing Replacement Program, which Boeing received in June 2007 (see June 29/07 entry), plans to manufacture up to 242 enhanced wing assemblies. The 3-D models allow the Air Force to resolve wing-crack issues that temporarily grounded the A-10 fleet in 2008 (see Oct 3/08 entry).

June 11/09: TLPS. The A-10 Thunderbolt Life-Cycle Program Support (TLPS) “provides a multiple-award indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contract vehicle to sustain and modernize all A-10 weapon system configuration.” It’s a follow-on to the A-10 Prime Contract, which was competitively awarded to Lockheed Martin in 1997. A-10 TLPS could run for up to 10 years, with an initial 4-year award that can be followed by up to 3 more 2-year option periods. All funds have been obligated, and the A-10 TLPS is managed by the 538 ACSG/PK at Hill Air Force Base, UT.

The Aug 29/08 entry explains the key rule change from the USA’s 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which requires DoD task & delivery order contracts exceeding $100 million to be awarded to multiple contractors. The USAF will select up to 3 contractors to compete for individual A-10 TLPS orders over the life of the contract, which will include avionics, mechanical, structural, and propulsion system upgrade work and a program integration support. The 3 winners of the $1.72 billion total contract are:

  • Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY (FA8202-09-D-0002). Current incumbents. Partnered with Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio TX; and Northrop Grumman in St. Augustine, FL.

  • Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Saint Louis, MO (FA8202-09-D-0001). Also on contract for the $2.015 billion A-10 re-winging program (q.v. June 29/07 entry).

  • Northrop Grumman Technical Services, Inc. in Herndon, VA (FA8202-09-D-0003). NGC will manage the program from Clearfield, UT. Work will also be performed at Warner Robins, GA; Bethpage, NY; El Segundo, CA; and Rolling Meadows, IL.

See also: Lockheed Martin | Boeing | Northrop Grumman.

TLPS support contract

June 11/09: TLPS. Boeing’s A-10 TLPS release adds information concerning the separate $2.015 billion A-10 Wing Replacement Program:

“The work remains on schedule as Boeing develops the 3-D models that provide the engineering foundation for production of the new wings. The models also allowed Boeing to help the Air Force quickly resolve wing-crack issues that temporarily grounded the A-10 fleet last year.”

June 11/09: A-10PE Update. Lockheed Martin’s A-10 TLPS release adds some details concerning the separate A-10C Precision Engagement program:

“Lockheed Martin will remain under contract to complete efforts that are underway including work to provide Precision Engagement modification kits through 2011… To date, the Air Force has converted more than 200 of the 356 aircraft fleet. The A-10C was declared combat ready in August, 2007… In 2007, Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Owego and the Air Force were co-recipients of a Top 5 DoD Program Award from the National Defense Industrial Association and the Department of Defense for A-10 systems engineering and program management excellence.”

Feb 4/09: TLPS. Boeing announces that it has submitted a proposal to the to the USAF for the $1.6 billion A-10 Thunderbolt Life-Cycle Program Support (TLPS) contract. This is a separate endeavor from the A-10C PE program, but it will have connections to ongoing modernization work.

Boeing is looking to leverage its work creating 3-D models of the plane under the $2 billion A-10 Wing Replacement Program. The A-10 was designed in the 1970s, and 3-D modeling was not used at the time. Lockheed Martin currently handles a large share of A-10 work, and competition is also expected from BAE Systems and L-3 Communications. Boeing release.

Jan 12/09: Cracking up. DoD Buzz quotes 12th Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, who says the USAF has inspected 200 of 244 aircraft with thin wings. Of those, 40% remain grounded, 41% have been inspected and returned to flight and the remainder are considered “flyable and awaiting inspection.” June 2009 remains the target date for a fix. Among the “thick winged” A-10s, 30% are still grounded, 23% will keep flying and the rest should be ready by June 2009.

The USAF’s challenge has been to keep all of the pilots current in their required flight hours for pilot certification, while providing enough aircraft to meet front-line combat needs.

Nov 14/08: LJDAM. The USAF announces that an upgraded USAF A-10C has dropped the GBU-54 LJDAM in a successful test. The next step is operational testing to develop tactics and techniques for employing the 500 pound dual laser/GPS guidance bombs from A-10s, who can use them to hit moving targets or drop bombs through clouds.

If those tests continue to go well, Eglin AFB’s test team may have their feedback as early as January. The goal is to have the LJDAM/A-10C combination deployed on the front lines by early 2009.

Nov 12/08: Cracking up. USAF release: Approximately 5 members of a depot maintenance team from Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base, UT arrive at Moody AFB. They will provide hands-on training to perform major crack repairs on A-10 aircraft to Moody maintainers and another 40 active duty, Reserve and Guard maintainers from bases including Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, Nellis AFB, NV, Whiteman AFB, MO, and Willow Grove Air Reserve Station, PA. Master Sgt. Steve Grimes, Air Combat Command Headquarters A-10 maintenance liaison:

“It would cost too much to fly all the aircraft to Hill. It would also take longer to repair all since three could only be sent at a time. This method is more cost-effective and it would be a faster way to repair the A-10s.”

Oct 3/08: Cracking up. The USAF announces “a time compliance technical order requiring immediate inspection and repair of wing cracks” for approximately 130 A-10 aircraft that were originally built with thin-skin wings.

“Such action has become necessary due to an increase in fatigue-related wing cracks currently occurring in aircraft assigned to Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Forces, the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command and Air Force Materiel Command… The inspections, however, will not impact on-going or future operational combat missions.”

The USAF explicitly notes this as one of the issues associated with its aging aircraft fleet. The US military currently has about 400 active A-10s. See USAF release | Reuters.

Wing cracking grounds 130 A-10s

FY 2008

USAF prepared to compete future support; A-10C #100 delivered; Creating a 3-D model of the A-10. A-10C at Davis-Monthan
(click to view full)

Aug 29/08: New Rules. Aviation Week reports that the A-10C program is likely to be an early test case for a dramatic rule change inserted in the USA’s 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which requires DoD task & delivery order contracts exceeding $100 million to be awarded to multiple contractors.

The kits that upgrade the A-10A to an A-10C are still sole-sourced to Lockheed Martin, but that’s about to change. A final RFP is expected soon, and the current plan is for 3 associate prime contractors to win a “multiple award” contract that lets them compete for individual task orders. The Air Force will reportedly oversee all modifications above and beyond the A-10 Precision Engagement aircraft under the Thunderbolt Lifecycle Program Support (TLPS) contract, with a $1.6 billion ceiling over 5 years and an additional 5-year option.

Boeing, who has extensive fighter experience and makes new A-10 wings under the $2 billion re-winging program, is likely to add itself to the mix. L-3 Communications also has strong experience with aircraft refurbishment and upgrades, and BAE Systems is heavily involved in the A-10A+ program.

July 1/08: Sub-contractors. CPI Aerostructures, Inc. of Edgwood, NY announces a long-term, $70 million requirements from Boeing in support of the A-10 fleet’s $2 billion re-winging effort.

The first ordering period is to run until Sept 30/11, with an additional option period that runs from Oct 1/11 through Sept 30/16. CPI expects to receive the initial order under this contract within the next 30 days.

June 19/08: Model me. Integrating new weapons and systems onto new aircraft involved aerodynamic and mechanical considerations, in addition to electronic compatibility. Modern engineering practices offer comprehensive 3-D design drawings that account for every part, and can be used to create models that reduce the trial-and-error associated with new work. An aircraft designed in the 1970s wouldn’t have those 3-D CAD/CAM models to work from, however, which is where Eglin AFB’s 46th Test Wing’s SEEK EAGLE office enters the picture.

Visibility Size and Shape Targeting Accuracy Room Scale (V-STARS) uses a photogrammetry system of triangulation to collect thousands of data points involving every external surface of an aircraft. These data points are then used to create a model that’s accurate to within 0.03 inches of the aircraft measured. The B-52H bomber has already been through this process, and now the SEEK EAGLE office is measuring an A-10C on loan from the Maryland National Guard. The 1000,000 data points that result will build an A-10C model that can be used when integrating future weapons. USAF.

Jan 22/08: Wings. Boeing announces a $14.9 million U.S. Air Force contract for systems engineering and modeling services under the A-10 Wing Replacement program (see April 2/07 and June 29/07). William Moorefield, Boeing A-10 Wing Replacement program manager, said that the contract will provide the engineering foundation for the program; the goal is “a true paperless engineering package.”

Boeing will perform the majority of the work in St. Louis, MO, with the remaining work done in Salt Lake City, UT. The contract runs through September 2010.

Jan 18/08: #100. The USAF announces that the 100th A-10C has taken off and flown from Hill AFB, UT to Moody AFB, GA. Aircraft 80-0172 was based at Pope AFB, NC before the modification, but transfers to Moody AFB as part of the base realignment and closure (BRAC 2005) recommendations.

On average, the 571st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron technicians at Hill AFB are upgrading each A-10 aircraft to the new A-10C configuration in less than 90 days. The A-10C Precision Engagement program started in the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group in July 2006.

100th A-10C delivered

Oct 19/07: OFP. Lockheed Martin Systems Integration of Owego, NY receives a $75 million contract modification to fund the A-10C’s Operational Flight Program (OFP) Hardware Improvement Program for the plane’s mission computers, and Development and Integration of mission software Suites 6, 7, and 8, including Hellfire II Missile Development and Integration. This is just an umbrella contract and ceiling, no funds have been obligated by the 642th AESS/PK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8635-07-D-6000).

The USAF eventually decided to abandon Hellfire II missiles on the A-10C.

FY 2007

$2.015 billion contract for new wings; 25 more kits; Work on SADL datalink; A-10C arrives and reaches IOC. IOC ceremony
(click to view full)

Aug 22/07: Basing. The USAF announces that an associate group of about 215 reservists will support the active duty 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, GA, while a smaller associate detachment of 14 reservists will augment the A-10 Formal Training Unit at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. The arrangement means the reservists and active-duty personnel have opportunities to train and deploy as a unit; development of fighter associate units began in March 1997 with the launching of the Fighter Reserve Associate Test program. The success of that program led to the signing of an agreement in April 2003 by the commanders of ACC (Air Combat Command) and AFRC (Air Force Reserve Command) to establish fighter associate units at ACC F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-15 Eagle locations.

“Reservists in the Moody group will fly and maintain the A-10s with the regular component under the classic associate unit structure. The first A-10C Thunderbolt II arrived at Moody Aug. 7. About 50 of the upgraded aircraft will move to the Georgia base as a part of force realignment.”

Aug 21/07: IOC. The precision engagement modified A-10C Thunderbolt II receives its Initial Operational Capability certification at a Langley AFB, VA ceremony. The USAF report says that around 75 A-10s have already been upgraded as of IOC receipt.

Aug 7/07: A-10C #1. The first A-10C arrives at Moody AFB, GA.

1st arrival & IOC

July 18/07: AFSOC A-10s? Jane’s Defense Weekly mentions that USAF Chief of Staff General Michael Moseley has told Jane’s he is considering the creation of a new counterinsurgency (COIN) squadron of A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft for the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). Gen Moseley said he is mulling the possibility of putting a squadron of A-10A close-support aircraft inside AFSOC to serve US Special Operations Command, which has the lead engagement role in the US-declared global war on terrorism.

The A-10C would certainly be useful in this role as it comes into service; a 2-seater all-weather version like the canceled A/OA-10B would have been even more useful in situations like this.

July 10/07: Sub-contractors. Rockwell Collins Government Systems, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA received a $24.85 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-priced contract, exercising an option for AN/ARC-210(V) Electronic Protection Radio Systems. The AN/ARC-210 Multimode Integrated Communications System provides 2 way multimode voice and data communications over the 30-512 MHz frequency range in either normal, secure or jam-resistant modes via LOS or satellite communications (SATCOM) links.

The ARC-210 family of equipment is made up of several variants of the receiver-transmitter, each providing a specific combination of functionality. This modification consists of 329 each RT-1851 ARC-210 Receiver-Transmitter Radios; 323 each C-12561 Radio Control Sets, and 294 each MT-4935 Mounting Bases for the USAF’s A-10 aircraft. Work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, IA, and is expected to be complete in July 2008. The Naval Air Systems Command, at Patuxent River, MD issued the contract (N00019-05-C-0050).

June 29/07: New wings. Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St Louis, MO received an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for $2.015 billion for Engineering Services plus 242 enhanced A-10 Wing sets. The new wings will extend the planes’ life to 16,000 flight hours, and the program calls for the replacement wing sets to be delivered in parts and kits for easy installation. See also our April 2/07 item, which mentions the USAF’s original estimate of $1.3 billion for this program.

Solicitations began November 2006, negotiations were completed May 2007, and $74.2 million has been committed as of the award announcement. Work on the contract could run from 2007-2018, with a base ordering period from June 2007 – September 2011, plus an option period that runs from Oct 2011 – September 2016. The Headquarters Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base, UT issued the contract (FA8202-07-D-0004). Boeing release

Re-winging contract

April 11/07: +25 kits. A $17.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to produce and deliver A/OA-10 Aircraft Precision Engagement production kits and associated items. This will include: 25 Precision Engagement Modification Kits, 30 Portable Automated Test Sets, 5 Throttle Quadrant Tester Upgrades, 25 Third SP103 Single Board Computers, 30 Stick Grip Attachment, and 357 Throttle Grip Covers. At this time, $8.8 million have been obligated, and work will be complete January 2009 (FA8202-05-C-0004/P00022).

April 11/07: SADL. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Owego, NY received a $70 million indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity, firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee and time-and-materials contract. This action covers continuing development, integration, and production of Raytheon’s Situation Awareness Data Link (SADL), and Improved Date Modem (IDM) efforts in support of on-going A-10C Precision Engagement (PE) fleet modernization and upgrade efforts. At this time, $4.1 million have been obligated, and work will be complete December 2009. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8635-07-D-6015).

April 9/07: SADL. The A-10 Prime Team announces successful delivery of the full-function Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL) capability to the U.S. Air Force for developmental flight testing. The U.S. Air Force is expected to conduct developmental flight test of the SADL capability through May 2007 at Eglin Air Force Base, FL. SADL is expected to be fielded to operational A-10 units by September 2007. Lockheed Martin release.

April 2/07: GAO Report – Costs. The US Government Accountability Office releases #GAO-07-415 – ‘Tactical Aircraft: DOD Needs a Joint and Integrated Investment Strategy’. A key excerpt:

“The Air Force will retain the A-10 “Warthog” fleet in its inventory much longer than planned because of its relevant combat capabilities– demonstrated first during Desert Storm and now in the ongoing Global War on Terror. However, because of post-Cold War plans to retire the fleet in the early 1990s, the Air Force had spent little money on major upgrades and depot maintenance for at least 10 years. As a result, the Air Force faces a large backlog of structural repairs and modifications – much of it unfunded – and will likely identify more unplanned work as older aircraft are inspected and opened up for maintenance. Major efforts to upgrade avionics, modernize cockpit controls, and replace wings are funded and underway. Program officials identified a current unfunded requirement of $2.7 billion, including $2.1 billion for engine upgrades, which some Air Force officials say is not needed. A comprehensive service life extension program (if required) could cost billions more.”

…A major re-winging effort is planned for 2007 through 2016 that will replace the “thin skin” wings on 242 aircraft at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion. This effort will help to extend the A-10’s service life to 16,000 hours… Total cost to complete the [Precision Engagement] modification is estimated to be $420 million.”

GAO on costs

March 27/07: EMD. Lockheed Martin announces a $40.4 million contract modification to complete the A-10C Precision Engagement program’s engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase. Work will continue through May 2008 to conclude development of the Precision Engagement software suite and to support flight testing conducted by U.S. Air Force. Lockheed Martin release.

Oct 17/06: Update. The USAF reports that as of October 2006, 21 A-10C aircraft have been modified at Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah; the entire fleet of 356 active aircraft are to receive the upgrades, including active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard Warthogs.

FY 2005 – 2006

179 upgrade kit orders (or is it 239?); DSMS delivered. The Warthog in Winter
(click to view full)

Sept 27/06: +107 Kits. A $49 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-incentive fee and time and material contract. Lockheed Martin’s release cites 107 PE kits, representing the 2nd production lot following the initial award for 72 kits in March 2005:

“The contractor shall provide total systems performance responsibility for A-10 aircraft integration by managing all system problems to a final solution. Interfaces are maintained between the performance work systems primary areas of modifications, system test/evaluation, project management, system engineering, and facilities.”

DID’s own records show 2005 orders for 132 kits, but we’ll go with the manufacturer’s numbers. At this time, $1.3 million have been obligated, and work will be complete September 2010. The 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group at Hill AFB, UT began installing the first award production kits in March 2006 (FA8202-06-D-0001)

March 21/06: DSMS. Lockheed Martin announces that the A-10 Prime Team has delivered the Digital Stores Management System (DSMS) to the U.S. Air Force’s A-10C flight-test program as scheduled. The new system is integrated with the Sniper ATP and LITENING surveillance and targeting pods, and automates many of the weapons control functions that A-10 pilots today perform manually.

Integration of the targeting pods and DSMS took place in Lockheed Martin’s A-10 Systems Integration Lab (SIL) in Owego, NY, where A-10 pilots validated and refined the mechanization of the upgrade before official release of the software to ground and flight test. “The pilot reviews saved significant ground and flight test time,” said Roger Il Grande, A-10 program director at Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Owego. Built by Lockheed Martin in 2003, the SIL duplicates the aircraft’s wiring and cabling infrastructure, and is outfitted with actual weapon hardware, missile seekers, suspension racks and rocket launchers to emulate an A-10 aircraft on the flight line.

July 25/05: Kits. A $9.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide for 72 A-10 aircraft precision engagement spiral 1 modification kits with 3 option years and associated test equipment. Looks like an adjustment to a previous order.

At this time, the total amount of funds has been obligated. Work will be complete at a rate of 6 per month beginning 13 months after receipt of order. Solicitation began July 2004 (FA8202-05-C-0004, PZ001).

June 28/05: Sub-contractors. Enertec America in Alpharetta, GA received a $15.3 million firm-fixed-price modification to provide for A-10 digital video and data recorders. Total funds have been obligated, negotiations were completed June 2005, and work will be complete by November 2006 (FA8202-04-C-0023, P00005).

Feb 22/05: +60 Kits? A $28.5 million, firm fixed price, time and materials contract modification for 60 A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter precision engagement Spiral 1 modification kits, along with associated parts and test equipment.

Solicitations began July 2004, negotiations were complete in July 2005, and work will begin 13 months after the exercising option and will refit 6 aircraft per month after that (FA8202-05-C-0004/P00002).

Feb 17/05: +72 Kits. A $37.8 million contract to provide the U.S. Air Force with 72 Precision Engagement Spiral 1 production kits to modify A/OA-10 “Warthog” close air support aircraft, plus associated test equipment. At this time, $28.3 million of the funds have been obligated. Solicitation began July 2004 (FA8202-05-C-0004). Lockheed Martin release.

The production kits, a result of work by Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Southwest Research Institute, are one component of the Precision Engagement program.

FY 2004 and earlier

Main upgrade contract; Sniper pods for A-10Cs. Sniper XR

Feb 12/04: Sniper. Lockheed Martin announces a contract to integrate the Sniper XR targeting pod on the A-10 aircraft in support of the A-10 Precision Engagement (PE) Program. The contract award follows a successful demonstration of the Sniper system during the A/OA-10 Precision Engagement upgrade program’s critical design review.

Some existing A-10s do fly with targeting pods, but they’re earlier models of Northrop Grumman’s LITENING pod. The USAF picked Sniper as its future targeting pod in 2001 (though they’d shift to a dual-pod approach again in 2010), and the current contract will ensure that Sniper pods work seamlessly with the A-10’s upgraded stores management systems, pilot displays, weapon targeting, etc.

As part of the integration effort, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control will develop the Pilot Vehicle Interface (PVI), pod Operational Flight Program (OFP) software, and pod interface adapter hardware for the A-10. Upon completion of this effort, the Sniper XR pod will self-detect and automatically load the appropriate Operational Flight Program when installed on either the A-10, F-16 or F-15E airframes.

Feb 15/01: Lockheed Martin announces the contract win, stating that:

“The A/OA-10 Prime contract modification has an estimated value of $226 million, $74 million for the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase through 2004 with follow-on production at $152 million.

This innovative government and industry teamwork approach cost-effectively combines multiple A-10 upgrade requirements into one program that fits within current available funding and saves the U.S. Air Force approximately $150 million over the cost of executing the requirements as standalone projects. The Precision Engagement modification also provides the A-10 fleet with enhanced close-air support and precision strike capability earlier than originally planned.

During the EMD phase, the company’s Aerospace Systems business unit will design, manufacture and test the Precision Engagement system. This effort involves the installation of a digital stores management system for cockpit interface with its weapon systems; new cockpit displays; a Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL) to provide accurate information about friendly forces and potential threats; a Direct-Current (DC) generator upgrade; and the integration of guided weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD) along with future targeting pod integration. Follow-on efforts will then outfit the entire A-10 fleet.”

A-10C upgrade contract

Additional Research Background: A-10 Platform & Enhancements

News & Views

Categories: News

Pakistan Looks for 2nd Hand F-16s | SK’s KAI Breaks into African Market | Saab Courts Indonesia with Gripen C/D Fighters to Replace F-5E’s

Thu, 07/21/2016 - 23:58

  • A B-52 has dropped the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) precision-guided bomb from its internal bomb bay for the first time. The test was carried out to certify the new Conventional Rotary Launcher being developed for the legacy bomber. Following the successful drop, testers will now continue with dropping the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Miniature Air Launched Decoy, and the MALD Jammer from the launcher.

  • Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $241 million US Navy contract modification for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Under the deal, Lockheed will provide replacement electronic components for the aircraft with work to be completed by December 2018. The contract combines purchases for the USAF, USMC, Navy, foreign military sales customers and international partners.

Middle East North Africa

  • Pakistan is looking to secure second-hand F-16 fighters from both Jordan and European nations via the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) route. The renewed searching comes as the deal to secure the planes from the US collapsed after members of Congress opposed to the fighters being procured under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program to subsidize the deal. Instead, Islamabad is now looking for a Third Party Transfer of the F-16s, if someone is willing.


  • South Korea’s KAI has just broken into the African market with contracts signed to provide four KT-1 trainers to Senegal. The West African nation is the forth export customer for the basic trainer following Turkey, Peru, and Indonesia in adopting the aircraft. A spokesperson for KAI has claimed that the Senegal sale will help make further inroads for the company in the African market.


  • Speculations have arisen over who has ordered a number of MiG-35 jets following an earlier story that 46 turbofan engines were being ordered for the fighter. The contract is worth at least $2 billion. While the customer is being kept a secret, Egypt is being touted as the most likely customer following a string of defense buys from Russia. Further down the list includes Syria, whom Moscow has been aiding in the ongoing civil war, and Iran, although any offensive weapons sold to Iran can be vetoed by the UN Security Council for the next five years.

Asia Pacific

  • Saab has sent a proposal to Indonesian authorities to sell Gripen C/D fighters to their air force (TNI-AU). If selected, the Gripens would replace a well-seasoned fleet of Northrop F-5E Tiger II fighters, in service since 1980. The government’s replacement program initially seeks to procure 16 aircraft at a cost of $1.5 billion, but this could be expected to increase if territorial disputes in the region require Indonesia to beef up its capabilities further.

  • It’s been reported that restrictions placed on Japan’s RQ-4 by the US is limiting Tokyo’s capabilities. Ideally, Japan wanted the RQ-4 to provide round-the-clock surveillance against neighboring North Korea and China. Now the Defense Ministry has discovered that the drone can only loiter for at most three times a week. Washington is only willing to supply optical sensors for Japanese Global Hawks, AIS tracking of ships and electronic emissions gathering sensors will not be provided at the outset. As a result, Japan may look to Israeli industry to supplement its UAV requirements with the IAI Heron.

  • Boeing is to deliver four P-8 Poseidon aircraft to the Australian government. A US Navy contract modification awarded Boeing a $100 million order to produce and deliver the aircraft by June 2017. Once delivered, the P-8s will engage in long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Today’s Video

  • The KT-1 Basic Trainer.:

Categories: News

Up to $11.9B for B-52H Maintenance & Modernization

Thu, 07/21/2016 - 23:50
B-52H: flyin’ low,
dyin’ slow…
(click to view full)

Officially, it’s the B-52H Stratofortress. Unofficially, it’s the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat F–cker). Either way, this subsonic heavy bomber remains the mainstay of the U.S. strategic fleet after more than 50 years of service. A total of 102 B-52H bombers were delivered from FY 1961-1963, and 94 were still on the books as of May 2009, flying mostly from Barksdale AFB, LA and Minot AFB, ND. Of these, 18 are slated for retirement, leaving a planned fleet of 76. By the time that fleet retires in the 2030s, many will be around 70 years old.

The B-52H can’t be flown against heavy enemy air defenses, but a steady array of upgrades have kept the aircraft relevant to follow-on strikes and current wars, where its long time on station and precision weapons have made the BUFF beautiful. Those changes have included advanced communications, GPS guided weapons, advanced targeting pods, and more. The USAF isn’t done yet adding new features, and maintenance remains a challenge for an aircraft fleet that’s always older than its pilots. All of these things require contracts, and the B-52H fleet has several of them underway. So, how does 2010’s 8-year, $11.9 billion umbrella contract fit in…?

CONECT, ESP, SWING: How Does This One Fit In?

USAF bombers:
B-52H, B-1B & B-2A
(click to view full)

At the moment, there are at least 3 major contracts underway for the B-52H fleet.

The CONECT (Combat NEtwork Communications Technology) contract was issued in April 2005, and could be worth up to $500 million. CONECT offers a series of upgrades that tie the B-52s into the USAF’s current communications networks. Its most significant combat improvement is the ability to receive new missions in flight, and re-target weapons in the middle of a mission. Ultimately, however, CONECT is an interim contract en route to deeper modernizations. First flight of a refurbished B-52 took place in May 2009. The program accomplished its first test flight on Jan 17/10, and plans further tests in 2011.

Execution of CONECT’s development would remain under the current contract until it’s done, but full production, or any future communications upgrades would apparently fall under the $11.9 billion September 2010 IDIQ.

B-52H: choices, choices…
(click to view full)

The 12-year, $150 million SWING (Smart Weapons Integration Next Generation) contract came into force in June 2006. Under this contract, Boeing performs work to integrate new ordnance on the B-52 fleet, from MALD unmanned decoys, to Sniper ATP surveillance and targeting pods, to AGM-158 JASSM missiles and beyond. Most of this work is software related, and the most important aspect of SWING was adding the Universal Armament Interface as a sort of weapons Application Programming Interface, in order to make integration of future weapons much easier.

Work under the SWING contract will continue in parallel with the new September 2010 contract.

In June 2009, the US Air Force issued the latest B-52 Engineering Sustainment Program (ESP) contract for the fleet, with a 10-year, $750 million ceiling.

There are some important things missing from ESP, however, such as spare parts, modernizations or fleet-wide changes outside of CONECT or SWING, etc. All of those things will fall under the September 2010 contract instead, and so will some previous ESP efforts.

The Sept 2010 contract’s initial spending surprisingly modest – the $600,000 minimum order, as the 1st payment for a $2.3 million order of 16 Evolutionary Data Link (EDL) Phase III kits, plus some basic engineering support through the end of February 2012. As noted above, the $11.9 billion is really a ceiling amount for a lot of other efforts, which may or may not go forward. If they do go forward, however, there’s an umbrella contract ready with all the terms worked out.

B-52H: gas guzzler
(click to view full)

Several well-known upgrades are under consideration for the B-52 fleet, but haven’t been approved and funded yet. USAF spokesman Lt. Col. Jack Miller has told DoD Buzz that it could cover things like:

“Combat Networks Communication Technology (CONECT) production, Extremely High Frequency (EHF) engineering development and production, Strategic Radar Replacement development and production, Tactical Data Link engineering studies, MIL-STD-1760 Internal Weapons Bay production, trade studies, and other programs critical to maintaining B-52 mission capability out to the year 2040.”

The Strategic Radar Replacement Program he mentions would install advanced new radars that could greatly improve the B-52’s ground and aerial surveillance capabilities, identifying targets at long ranges. New radar technologies could also assist with low-level flight, and reduce long-term maintenance costs.

Another oft-discussed upgrade is the on-again, off-again Stand Off Jammer program, which would turn some B-52s into very powerful, very long range, very long endurance electronic warfare aircraft that could blind even sophisticated enemy air defenses; locate, classify, analyze, or jam radar or radio signals; or even prevent remote detonation of IED land mines in a given area. B-52 SOJ has been started twice, and suspended twice for lack of funding.

While the USAF has done some necessary re-wiring work, a deep re-wiring akin to the C-5 AMP program is logical at some point, especially in conjunction with upgraded power generation on board to handle all of the new electronics. Any B-52 SOJ program would almost have to do this, and a radar improvement contract may require it as well, but it’s certain that the whole fleet will need this sooner or later. It’s very time-consuming work, but the good news is that some modern ultra-high capacity wiring has also become self-diagnosing, removing one of the biggest maintenance headaches in any airplane.

In a similar vein, but with even more immediate benefits, there has long been talk of re-engining the B-52H fleet, swapping out the ancient and hard to maintain JT3D/TF33 engines with modern turbofans that would dramatically improve performance, fuel efficiency, strike range, and maintainability. The USAF has experience with the benefits and pitfalls of these conversions, having made these kinds of upgrades to its KC-135 tanker fleet to produce the KC-135R, moved forward with re-engining the related E-8C JSTARS fleet of land battle surveillance and control aircraft, and endured the challenges of the C-5M RERP Super Galaxy program for some of its huge aerial transports.

Of course, before major steps like these can be taken, the USAF will need engineering studies. ESP doesn’t cover that, but as Lt. Col. Miller noted, the September 2010 contract does. It would also cover integration and installation of these upgrades into the B-52 fleet, as decisions are made to go forward with specific items.

Contracts & Key Events

B-52H and B-17:
only as old as I feel…
(click to view full)

July 22/16: A B-52 has dropped the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) precision-guided bomb from its internal bomb bay for the first time. The test was carried out to certify the new Conventional Rotary Launcher being developed for the legacy bomber. Following the successful drop, testers will now continue with dropping the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Miniature Air Launched Decoy, and the MALD Jammer from the launcher.

April 20/16: Pratt & Whitney has maintained that they can develop a TF33 upgrade package that will keep Boeing’s B-52 bomber flying until the 2040s. The eight engine bomber has kept the same TF33 engine since its induction in 1952, but high fuel consumption had the USAF looking at potential re-engine options. With oil prices dropping dramatically, the program was dropped; but P&W are still looking at improvements for the TF33 that will keep it on-wing, and allow the air force to reduce their maintenance costs.

February 22/16: The USAF has earmarked $491 million over five years for the upgrade of B-52H radars. The modernization plan will replace the outdated Northrop Grumman AN/APQ-166 mechanically scanned array radar with further funds to be made available post-2021. The USAF strategy for the program has yet to be released, but it is likely that the plan will be to modify existing radar technologies and components to suit the B-52H, instead of developing something new, to increase reliability and durability of the radar.

January 15/16: Six B-52s have now been equipped with JDAM capabilities after a series of modifications by Boeing for the USAF. Installation of upgraded internal weapons bay launchers will allow for the bomber to launch eight Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) at one time from the internal bay. Furthermore, the launchers can be easily transferred between aircraft, and will allow the planes to also carry Joint Air-to-Surface Stand Off Missiles (JASSMs) and Miniature Air Launched Decoys (MALDs), increasing their operational capabilities.

September 22/15: The US Air Force has begun removing nuclear weapons capability from 42 B-52H Stratofortresses, in line with regulations set out under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), signed in April 2010. Thirty operational and a dozen mothballed Stratofortresses will be converted to solely conventional bombers, with work having already begun to this effect and due for completion by 2017. Both Russia and the US have until February 2018 to comply with the treaty’s terms. Despite the conversion, planned work to upgrade the fleet of B-52H bombers will form part of a modernization effort to keep nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52s flying into the 2030s and 2040s respectively, with this forecast by the GAO [p. 11] back in July to value $24.4 billion over the FY2015-2024 period.

Sept 29/10: Boeing in Wichita, KS receives a sole-source indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to support the USAF’s B-52H fleet, including modernization work. It could be worth up to $11.9 billion over an 8-year period, but no funds have been committed yet by the ASC/WWVK at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, OH. “Individual delivery orders will be issued through three contracting activities” (FA8628-10-D-1000). See also: Boeing.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Bell-Boeing Wins $545M for MV-22s to Japan | US State Dept: Sale of $785M in Bombs to UAE a Go | MiG-35 Trials Late Summer Says UAC

Wed, 07/20/2016 - 23:53

  • Bell-Boeing has been awarded a $545 million deal to manufacture and deliver four MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The July 19 Navy contract will see the USMC variant of the aircraft delivered to the government of Japan, adding to a number of V-22s ordered in 2014. Delivery of the systems is expected for May 2020.

Middle East North Africa

  • The US State Department has approved the sale of $785 million in bombs to the United Arab Emirates. Under the proposed sale, the deal will see the provision of 7,700 GBU-10 guidance kits with 7,700 Mk-84/BLU-117 bombs; 5,940 GBU-12 guidance kits with 5,940 Mk-82/BLU-111 bombs; 500 GBU-31V1 guidance kits with 500 Mk-84/BLU- 117 bombs; 500 GBU-31V3 guidance kits with 500 BLU-109 bombs; and 14,640 FMU-152 fuzes. The sale is being sanctioned as the UAE is seen as an important Sunni Arab ally in the fight against the Islamic State.

  • Last Friday’s attempted coup in Turkey may have rattled US military and defense interests, but Lockheed Martin is not afraid that the incident will affect ongoing business interests there. The coup by certain elements of the military had caused shock across the world rendering much protestation and worry from Turkey’s allies and neighbors. But while President Erdogan may now be dealing with failed plotters, LM have assured that existing deals will not be in danger.


  • Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh attended their Air Force’s induction ceremony of two Harbin Y-12 transport aircraft into the service. Four Dauphin helicopters were also inspected by Guelleh, which had been acquired with help from Saudi Arabia. The delivery of the Y-12s continue the ongoing support between Chinese industry and the small African nation with the Xian Aircraft Corporation (XAC) delivering a MA60 transport aircraft in 2014 in support of its peacekeepers in Somalia and for VIP transport.


  • Four more A400M cargo aircraft will be delivered to Germany from Airbus by the end of the year. Issues involving the aircraft’s gearbox have resulted in a reduction of unit delivery, with the company now capable of delivering a total of five in 2016 rather than the originally agreed nine. With 53 A400s ordered by Germany, the defense ministry convened a new working group on June 29 to look at the country’s transport needs, including how to bridge the capacity gap caused by delays in the A400M program.

  • The MiG-35 is to be tested in trials due to commence by the end of this summer. Manufacturer United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) made the disclosure to press saying that the trialing of the 4th++ generation fighter will last all year. The aircraft is a further development of the MiG-29K/KUB and MiG-29M/M2 combat aircraft with improved combat effectiveness and versatility, as well as improved performance.

Asia Pacific

  • Japan has been cleared for the $821 million sale for SM-2 Block IIIB Standard missiles, equipment, and support. The deal will see Tokyo receive up to 246 Standard Missile (SM-2), Block IIIB Vertical Launching Tactical All-Up Rounds, RIM-66M-09. This request also includes MK 13 MOD 0 Vertical Launching System Canisters, operator manuals and technical documentation, US Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services. Japan will use the missiles as part of their anti-air sea defense on four Kongo-class and two Atago-class destroyers which have all been fitted with the Aegis Combat system and SM-2 Block IIIA/IIIB missiles.

  • Industry partners already lining up for the Japanese F-3 program include US giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The new program is set to replace the existing F-2 fighter with a next generation stealth fighter based on the X-2 Shinshin experimental aircraft. With the F-3 planned for 2027, any partners taken into the development program stand to earn from a $20 billion project.

Today’s Video

  • Israeli attempts to intercept a Syrian UAV on the Golan Heights:

Categories: News

Russia’s Ka-52 Alligator Scout-Attack Helicopters

Tue, 07/19/2016 - 23:58
Alligator, feet wet
(click to view full)

When Russia committed to a multi-year buy of Mi-28 attack helicopters in 2006, it appeared that the Mil design bureau’s Mi-28 (NATO code: Havoc) had eclipsed Kamov’s more radical Ka-50 (NATO code: Hokum) as Russia’s future attack helicopter. A critical loss in Turkey’s attack helicopter competition, and conflicting promises concerning the Kamov machine’s future in Russia, left the platform’s very future in doubt. Russia’s 2005 defense budget, for instance, was supposed to include 12 Ka-50 helicopters – until that funding was cut.

Fortunately for the VVS, growing Russian natural resource revenues, and the accompanying growth in Russian defense budgets, are creating new options. So, too, is a major investment in modernizing its manufacturers, which has put the Ka-52 into production.

The Ka-52 Alligator Ka-50 “Black Shark”
(click to view larger)

By 2009, just a handful of coaxial, single-seat Ka-50’s had been delivered to the Army Aviation Training and Conversion Unit at Torzhok. Some even saw action in Chechnya, where their high cruising speed (300 km/h), protection, and ability to carry either armaments or fuel tanks gained them respect as scout/ attack/ command helicopters.

Many countries would consider that an odd combination, but it works quite well with Russian doctrines that emphasize durable combat punch for scouts, and central on-site direction of all combat aviation.

The Ka-52 “Alligator” is a 2-seat version of the Ka-50, using a side by side layout common to transport helicopters instead of the front-and-rear layout common in attack helicopters. This changes the helicopter’s aerodynamics somewhat, reducing maximum speed from 310 km/h to 300 km/h (192 – 186 mph), and increasing fuel consumption slightly. On the other hand, this change is expected to make it easier for the helicopter crew to perform battlefield observation and coordination roles. The extra crewman in the Ka-52 forced some reductions in fuel, armoring, and gun ammunition; it carries 240 rounds for its fuselage-mounted 2A42 30mm cannon, instead of 470 in the Ka-50.

Even so, the Alligator’s main rival isn’t the Ka-50, it’s the more conventional Mi-28N attack helicopter that Russia is also buying. Based on published materials, photos, and several Russian sources, we’ve compiled a side-by-side comparison that also includes Boeing’s current AH-64D Apache Longbow as a reference point, and normalizes measurements to the same units:

(click to view full)

Note that the Ka-52’s operational sensor fit is somewhat unclear, and a range of options have been tried that are not always present in photos. A nose turret can hold a laser range-finder and infrared sights, a small ball under the fuselage can hold optical sights, a FLIR system can supposedly be integrated with Zenit’s Shkval electro-optical sighting system in a ball mounted on top of the fuselage aft of the canopy, and mast-mounted sights have been reported. What is certain is that an effective modern scout helicopter requires a combination of zoom and infrared/FLIR cameras, and lasers capable of rangefinding or target designation. The most advanced helicopters add millimeter-wave radars, creating additional options in uncooperative weather, improving their awareness of what’s going on in the airspace around them, and providing targeting options for some missiles. A 2013 deal with French optronics leader Sagem (q.v. Aug 28/13 entry, below) may begin to add more clarity on this front.

The Ka-52K is a naval variant that will operate from Russia’s Vladivostok Class amphibious/air assault LHD ships. It adds folding rotors and folding stub wings, but not the folding tail found in some naval helicopters. A maritime radar in the nose has been mentioned, possibly a “mirror” radar that combines 2 bands for surface scanning and long-range search. So has the ability to carry Kh-35 medium-range anti-ship missiles, or even supersonic Kh-31s. Improved corrosion resistance is also a standard feature for naval helicopter variants, and the question is how far the Russians will go.

A Turkish-specific, NATO-compatible variant of the Ka-52 called the Erdogan was developed in cooperation with Israel’s IAI to compete in Turkey’s attack helicopter competition, but lost to Italy’s AW129T Mongoose.

Contracts and Key Events 2015 – 2016

Export Contract Paris Air Show

July 20/16: Russia’s latest KA-52K Katran helicopters are to be tested in the field during upcoming military action in Syria. The helicopters will be on board the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and will join the Syrian campaign from October 2016 to January 2017. Reasoning behind the deployment, according to Viktor Murakhovsky of Arsenal Otechestva magazine, is that it “is a test of the operational and technical capacity and ability of our air carrier strike group, since previously Russia has never used air carriers in real combat conditions.”

January 4/16: A deal has been reached which will see Egypt acquire forty-six of a navalized variant of the Ka-52 Alligator helicopter. The Ka-52K was developed to operate on the French manufactured Mistral class helicopter carrier that had been initially ordered for the Russian Navy. The $1.28 billion order went south amid sanctions placed on Russia over Ukraine in 2014. Egypt became the alternative purchaser of the warships after signing contracts in October so the acquisition of the helicopters originally developed for it is not surprising.

December 29/15: Egypt is to receive the President-S missile Approach warning system according to an official from the Russian Radioelectronic Technologies Group (KRET). Contracts for the purchase are currently being drafted with delivery of the system due to commence in the near future. The President-S system will provide protection to both military and civilian aircraft and helicopters from airborne missile threats, as well as those launched from ground and sea based defense systems. It can destroy and suppress the optical homing warheads of air and anti-aircraft missiles, including the homing warheads of man-portable air defense missile systems. The purchase of the system coincides with the procurement 50 Ka-52 reconnaissance and attack helicopters, with deliveries to be carried out between 2016-2018.

September 25/15: Egypt has signed an agreement for fifty Russian attack helicopters, seemingly confirming reports from August which indicated that the country would receive around fifty helicopters by 2019. The Egyptians are thought to be buying the navalized Ka-52K version of the Alligator scout/attack helicopter, most likely those intended to equip the Russian Mistral LHDs now also destined for Egypt following a contract earlier this week.

September 1/15: The Ka-52 helicopter export contract mentioned back in June at the Paris Air Show appears to involve Egypt’s acquisition of 50 of the attack helicopters.

2013 – 2014

Production and delivery; French optronics coming. Ka-52 “Alligator”
(click to view full)

Aug 5/14: +32. IHS Jane’s reports that Russia has ordered its 32 Ka-52K helicopters for use with its Vladivostok Class LHDs. The order isn’t a surprise (q.v. Oct 9/13, June 24/14), it was just a question of when the contract would be placed:

“Speaking to IHS Jane’s, a Russian defence industry source stated that the order included 32 Ka-52K helicopters. These will be built by Progress Aresenyev Aviation Company ‘Nikolai Sazykin’, a subsidiary of Russian Helicopters.”

Sources: IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Russia orders Ka-52K helicopters for Mistral-class LHDs”.

32 Ka-52Ks

Aug 4-5/14: Rostec subsidiary Russian Helicopters showcases its new military helicopter models at the Defence Ministry’s Innovation Day exhibition in the suburbs of Moscow. Displayed helicopters include the Ka-52K naval scout/attack helicopter, Mi-8AMTSh-VA armed transport helicopter optimized for polar regions, the upgraded Mi-26T2 super heavy-lift helicopter, and the Mi-38 successor to existing Mi-8/Mi-17 models. Sources: Russian Helicopters JSC, “Russian Helicopters presents new military helicopters at the Defence Ministry’s Innovation Day exhibition”.

June 24/14: During an inspection tour at Progress aircraft manufacturing company in Arsenyevsk, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov offers a production update:

“The plant is in a stable position and has a long-term contract on the delivery of 146 Ka-52 Alligator helicopters for the period up to 2020. Further plans include [the sale of] 32 ship-based helicopters…. Navy is expecting Ka-52 helicopters, which will be placed on board the Mistral-type ships currently under construction…. We paid great attention to import replacement issues, including as far as components received from Ukraine as concerned. These issues are not critical. They can be resolved quite painlessly.”

That last bit is especially important after Russia cut off its Ukranian supply chain by invading and annexing Crimea, then militarily supporting guerrilla movements that are trying to annex Eastern Ukraine as well. Sources: Voice of Russia, “Russian Defense Ministry plans to buy 32 Ka-52K helicopters for Mistral ships.

Dec 25/13: 2013 production. During a visit to Russian Helicopters’ Progress Arsenyev Aviation Company production plant, Lt. Gen. Victor Bondarev thanks them for producing 14 Ka-52s on schedule in 2013, as part of overall Russian deliveries of over 100 helicopters. Sources: Interfax/AVN, “Russian Air Force took delivery of over 100 new rotorcraft in 2013”.

Oct 9/13: Ka-52K. RIA Novosti quotes “a Deputy Defense Minister” as saying that Russia plans to order 32 Ka-52Ks, conditional on successful final helicopter testing in 2014.

That could become a tight schedule, since the Russian Navy is expected to take delivery of its 1st LHD in November 2015, and the Ka-52 will need some flying and testing time before it’s ready for service. Even if Russian Helicopters’ Progress Arsenyev division delivers 6 helicopters just a year after the order, the Vladivostok wouldn’t have anything like an operational Ka-52K wing for many months after delivery at least. It would appear that the new ship design and its key helicopters will be conducting their break-in period together, which has a way of making everything more difficult. Sources: RIA Novosti, “Russian Defense Ministry to Order 32 Shipborne Helicopters in 2014 – Official”.

Aug 28/13: Partnership. At MAKS 2013, Kamov and France’s Sagem Defense announce a partnership to add Sagem’s optronics and [the Franco-Russian] LINS 100 inertial navigation systems to the Ka-52, “which will address a requirement expressed by several countries… [the partners] plan to start integration of a new optronic system in early 2014.” The release specifically mentions leveraging Sagem’s experience as the supplier of the roof-mounted Strix surveillance and targeting turret on Airbus Helicopter’s EC655 Tiger HAP/ARH/HAD scout and attack helicopters.

So much for the direct information. What this release says indirectly, is that the Ka-52’s surveillance and targeting systems have been a hindrance to international sales, and need improvement. Otherwise, the outstanding requirement(s) would be addressed already. Sources: Sagem re: Strix | Sagem DS Aug 28/13 release.

Feb 22/13: RIA Novosti reports that the Southern Military District has received its 1st batch of Ka-52s, and is scheduled to start operations in March. [in Russian].

2011 – 2012

Full-rate production contract; Navalized Ka-52K confirmed; Crash. Ka-52 “Alligator”
(click to view full)

Aug 9/12: Ka-52K changes. Oboronprom confirms that Russia will build the navalized Ka-52K Alligator helicopter for its new Vladivostok Class amphibious ships, which also prompts speculation about the design changes involved. Past displays have shown folding rotor blades, folding wings, and the standard anti-corrosion treatments.

Navy Recognition says that the Ka-52K will also include a modified version of the MiG-35 fighter’s Zhuk-A AESA radar in the nose section, and will be able to carry Kh-31 Krypton or Kh-35 Kayak anti-ship missiles. Those missiles weigh in at over 600 kg/ 1,300 pounds each, however, which could make them challenging weapons for the helicopter to carry. It’s within the limits, but testing will tell. The level of Russian interest of these missiles was regarded as unconfirmed by the people we talked to.

Subsequent research indicates that the AESA radar was a contractor offer from Phazotron, not a military requirement. It would be useful, but it would also be expensive. The importance of Russia’s Vladivostok Class ships may justify that, but word is that Phazotron has a cheaper back-up upgrade offer: a more conventional dual-band phased array radar, with frequencies optimized for closer ground scans and long-range surface (naval) scans. Sources: Navy Recognition, “Special version of Ka-52K Helicopter with advanced radar and antiship missiles for Russian Mistral” | Voice of Russia, Russia to build helicopters for Mistral carriers” | DID interviews and discussions.

June 2012: Take-off magazine covers the Ka-52, and offers some production and deployment information:

“In May 2011, the delivery started to Chernigovka air base in the Russian Far East, where the Russian Air Force had activated its first full-ledged 12-ship Ka-52 air squadron by the end of the year. In 2012, Chernigovka air base took delivery at least five more Ka-52s. In addition, five new Ka-52s built by Progress by late 2011 were fielded with CTCC in Torzhok early in 2012.

Overall, over 20 production-standard Ka-52s were manufactured in the town of Arsenyev during 2012. 16 of them were fielded earlier this year with a second RusAF airbase, the one in Korenovsk, Krasnodar Territory. Their final assembly and check flights prior to the delivery to the air base had been handled by Rostvertol JSC, to which premises they had been brought in semi-assembled from Aresenyev-based manufacturing plant by RusAF airlifters.”

March 14/12: A Lenta report implies that the September 2011 contract reports may have referred to a multi-year contract aimed specifically at Ka-52 helicopters. From the Rus Navy translation:

“In 2011, Russian defense ministry tied a number of long-term aircraft procurement contracts; under one of them, the ministry purchased 140 attack helicopters Ka-52 Alligator, director of Oboronprom corporation Andrei Reus told Kommersant. Reus did not specify details of the contract only saying that “conditions were acceptable”.”

March 13/12: A Ka-52 crash, during a training exercise in the Tver region NW of Moscow, kills both pilots. It seems that the type’s unique ejection seats either didn’t save them, or weren’t triggered. While this is the 1st Ka-52 crash, there had been 2 crashes of the related Ka-50. Pravda | RTT News.


Sept 7/11: RIA Novosti offers a video tour of the Ka-52 factory, and says:

“In the next ten years, Russia’s Air Force will adopt 140 Ka-52 helicopters, a model better known as the Alligator. Dmitry Petrov, general director of the holding company Russian Helicopters, commented on a major contract that the aircraft manufacturer signed with the Ministry of Defense. Petrov spoke during a guided tour of Progress, the helicopter factory at Arsenyev, Primorye Territory, where the Alligators are assembled.”

While the report implies that the recent contract is entirely focused on Ka-52s, it should be taken with some caution. Russian Helicopters produces a wide variety of types. It is possible that the attribution could be a reporter error, or even a translation issue.

Sept 3/11: While discussing a $4+ billion Russian contract with state-controlled Oboronprom for 140 military helicopters by 2020 (no type breakdown), General Director Andrey Reus confirms that the 1st navalized Ka-52K Alligator attack/scout helicopter shipment for use on Russia’s new Mistral LHDs will finish by the end of 2012. RIA Novosti | Voice of Russia.

Ka-52 contract?

Feb 9/11: Itar-Tass reports that Russia will use 2 of the pending Mistral amphibious landing ships in the Pacific Fleet, including protecting the South Kurile Islands, which are disputed territory with Japan. As for the ships’ complement and design, Helicopters of Russia Holding Company Deputy Director-General Andrei Shibitov says that:

“Ship versions of the Ka-27K, Ka-29K and Ka-52K helicopters will be used. Their number on each ship will be determined by the Defence Ministry.”

Another Russian official states that using those coaxial rotor helicopters will require a slight elevation of the ship’s deck, to ensure enough clearance height in the hangars.

Jan 2/11: Buy in. Russian Defense Ministry official spokesman Col. Vladimir Drik says that they plan to start buying Ka-52 Alligator helicopters for the VVS (Air Force) in 2011. RIA Novosti.

2008 – 2010

(click to view full)

Dec 7/09: Industrial. Russian Helicopters JSC, which includes the Kamov, Mil, and Kazan design bureaus, announces a combined public and private investment of RUB 6 billion (about $200 million) to modernize manufacturing at the Arsenyev Aviation Company Progress plant, which makes the Ka-52. The “full scale technical overhaul” will take place from 2009-2015, and will improve production of the Ka-50 Black Shark and Ka-52 Alligator scout/attack helicopters, the new Ka-60/62 medium helicopter, and the new Mi-34C2 Peregrine light helicopter.

The first stage will overhaul foundry operations at Progress, beginning with a foundry production competence centre that is expected to open in early 2010. It will be followed by reconstruction and re-equipment of the composite and mechanical engineering sections with advanced control machinery that will reduce required space and personnel, an energy efficiency program, a “machine-working competence centre,” and the “introduction of modern digital and information technologies”. When discussing Phase 2 benefits, the firm points to the September 2008 introduction of the TruLaser 3530 laser cutting machine, which led to a saving of RUB 14.7 million (around $500,000) over 12 months with an 8-fold drop in labor intensity. The total economic impact of introducing new production machinery is expected to be as high as RUB 160 million ($5.3 million) initially, alongside RUB 40 million ($1.3 million) from installing cold solidifying mixture lines and low-pressure casting machines.

More investments may follow. These investments are being made pursuant to a wider Russian federal program titled “The development of the defense industrial complex of the Russian Federation in the years 2011-2020,” and Russian Helicopters COO Andrei Shibitov says that up to 70% of the Russian helicopter industry’s equipment is worn out.

Nov 27/09: During the FS Mistral’s visit to St. Petersburg, Russia, the amphibious assault ship holds a “cross deck” exercise with Russian Navy helicopters. They include landings by a Ka-29 utility helicopter with a French officer on board, as well as landings using a Ka-27 Helix anti submarine warfare helicopter and the first deck landing for the Ka-52 scout/attack helicopter, which also simulates a refueling on the flight deck. French Navy [in French] | DID: “Russia to Order French Mistral LHDs?.”

FS Mistral landings

Dec 26/08: RIA Novosti reports that the Russian government has approved the production of Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters. They will be built at the Arsenyevsk plant, in the country’s Far East. Deliveries of the first 12 Ka-52s to the Russian Air Force will reportedly begin in 2009.


Nov 9/08: Various media reports now quote Russian Air Force chief Colonel-General Alexander Zelin, who says they will place a 2009 order for 12 Ka-52 “Alligator” helicopters, subject to successful completion of mandated testing. Col.-Gen. Zelin stresses that this is not a substitute for the Mi-28s, which are expected to begin arriving in 2009.

Meanwhile, Kamov indicates that they have been given the go-ahead for “full production,” and hope to complete 30 helicopters for Russia by 2012 while pursuing export orders. Avio News | Frontier India | RIA Novosti

Nov 10/08: Moscow News’ “Russian choppers on top” reports that the industry is being restructured, much as Russia has centralized the fixed-wing aircraft industry into the state-owned United Aircraft Corp.:

“But the industry has its specifics, Mikhail Kazachkov from the Helicopter Industry Association told RIA Novosti in an interview. Its bane is the lengthy production time: an idea to finished product takes, on average, 12 years. The authorities have decided to restructure the helicopter industry, to optimize its cash flows and make it more competitive. For that purpose they brought its separate branches under one umbrella, called Helicopters of Russia.”

Additional Readings The Ka-52

Related Items

Categories: News

AIM-9X Block II Missiles Get Capability Upgrade | Russia’s KA-52K Katran To Be Field Tested in Fall | Brits Overwhelmingly Favor Trident Renewal

Tue, 07/19/2016 - 23:52

  • AIM-9X Block II missiles are getting an air-to-surface mode. Manufacturer Raytheon is currently working on porting the software necessary for the transition following the award of a $291.7 million contract by the US Navy. The deal is for the provision of 660 Lot 16 AIM-9X missiles as well as AIM-9X Block II Captive Air Training Missiles, containers, and spare components for the Navy, USAF, and a number of foreign militaries.

  • Following the refueling of an A-10 Thunderbolt, the KC-46 has completed the last in a series of in-flight refueling tests necessary before its Milestone C production decision. A selection of Navy, USAF and USMC aircraft were chosen including the C-17, F-16, F/A-18 and AV-8B. The Milestone C decision to begin low-rate initial production is expected in August.

  • The US Army’s Rapid Equipping Force has ordered CyPhy Works’ Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) system. A tethered UAS, PARC provides a continuous eye-in-the-sky capability by flying for days at a time engaging in long-endurance flights, with the tether providing power while also allowing communications and video to flow via the Kevlar-strengthened microfilament tether.

Middle East North Africa

  • Russia’s latest KA-52K Katran helicopters are to be tested in the field during upcoming military action in Syria. The helicopters will be on board the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and will join the Syrian campaign from October 2016 to January 2017. Reasoning behind the deployment, according to Viktor Murakhovsky of Arsenal Otechestva magazine, is that it “is a test of the operational and technical capacity and ability of our air carrier strike group, since previously Russia has never used air carriers in real combat conditions.”


  • British MPs voted overwhelmingly in favor of renewing their aging nuclear submarine fleet by 471 to 117. Opponents to the renewal of the Scottish-based nuclear-armed Trident submarines came from the Scottish National Party (SNP) and parts of the Labour Party, however new PM Theresa May stressed lawmakers to back Trident, not only to protect Britain from growing threats from Russia and North Korea, but also to protect thousands of jobs in Scotland and elsewhere. Critics say that May is using the Trident vote to help unify the Conservative Party after a rather bruising “Brexit” from the European Union.

Asia Pacific

  • India is looking into a major purchase of Russian naval, air, and anti-air weaponry. The shopping list includes 12 S-400 “Triumpf” anti-air systems, four Tu-22M3 strategic bombers, 80 Mi-17 helicopters and six IL-76 aircraft which are suitable for the Israeli Phalcon radar. Russia is already in the process of of a $900 million modernization program of India’s MiG-29 fleet.

  • North Korea has fired three ballistic missiles in retaliation to the upcoming deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea. Believed to be two Scud missiles and one Rodong, the missiles flew between 500 and 600 km (300-360 miles) into the sea off its east coast. The provocations come as a political show of force from Pyongyang rather than as a test aimed at improving missile capability.

  • Hyundai is to provide a new naval tanker to New Zealand to replace the replenishment tanker that is nearly three decades old. Powered by diesel engines driving twin props, and capable of refueling two ships at a time while underway, carry and refuel Defense Force helicopters, produce and store water, and store and transport bulk goods. For self-defense, the tanker will operate two mini-typhoons and a Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS).

Today’s Video

  • CyPhy Work’s PARC UAV:

Categories: News

USN Gives Moniker “Stingray” to MQ-25A | KC-390 Tanker/Transport Embarks on WW Demo Tour | BAE Wins $2.8B Contract for RAF Eurofighter Typhoon Support

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 23:58

  • While speculation over its name has been floated for some time, the US Navy’s first carrier unmanned aerial vehicle has been officially named. Known as the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS) program, the service’s Material Command has now designated the aircraft MQ-25A with the name “Stingray.” Initially conceived as a low observable lethal, and deep penetrating strike platform, the MQ-25A will now focus on refueling with some ISR capabilities and followed up with later weapons installation.

  • Following its debut at the Farnborough Air Show last week, Embraer’s KC-390 tanker/transport aircraft is to embark on a worldwide demonstration tour. The specifics of the tour stop offs have not been revealed, although interested parties include the Czech Republic and three stops in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Brazilian Air Force will induct the KC-390 in 2018.

  • Lockheed Martin has won a $21 million US Navy contract to provide Trident II D5 missiles to the service. The latest submarine-launched fleet of ballistic missiles, Trident II follows the Polaris, Poseidon and Trident I C4 programs. Trident was first deployed in 1990 and is currently deployed on board US Ohio-class and British Vanguard-class submarines.

Middle East North Africa

  • Last week Raytheon announced the success of Saudi-operated Patriot batteries in intercepting missiles coming from Yemen, however the system failed to take down a Syrian UAV that ended up in Israeli air space. The intrusion took place over airspace on the Golan Heights, which has been in Israeli possession since its annexation in 1967. While the IDF have often responded to stray rocket fire from the neighboring Syrian Civil War with tank and mortar shells, this marks the first time that Patriot missiles have been brought into play.


  • New UK Prime Minister Theresa May has overseen a vote on the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons program. The renewal will cost the British taxpayers some $41.1 billion, and has been met with opposition from the Scottish National Party (SNP) and has split the Labour Party on the issue. With four Trident submarines in operation, at any one time the UK has one armed and at sea, one undergoing maintenance and two either at port or on exercises.

  • BAE Systems has been awarded a support contract for the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon fleet. Over the ten years of the deal, BAE is set to earn some $2.8 billion, and it is being referred to as the Typhoon Total Availability Enterprise (TyTAN) agreement. Italy’s Leonardo has also been enlisted under the Joint Avionics Solution (JAS) initiative, which will leverage a similar support package that it already provides for the Italian air force’s Typhoons. Leonardo estimates it will be worth some $666 million to the company.

Asia Pacific

  • Experts have urged the Taiwanese government to commence development of their indigenous jet trainer as many of the engineers behind the IDF fighter are retiring. The advice was given at a forum organized by Taiwan’s MoD on the trainer’s development on July 15. It’s possible that Taiwan will lose the knowledge to build its own indigenous jet aircraft in ten years if nothing is done.

  • Iran has received the missile part of the S-300 missile defense system from Russia. The delivery keeps on track Moscow’s aim to have all parts of the system transferred to Iran by the end of the year following earlier shipments of missile tubes and radar equipment. A sale of the system was initially cancelled in 2010 following pressure from Western governments, but was renewed by Vladimir Putin in April 2015 sparking concern from Israel.

Today’s Video

  • Sinking of the Perry-class frigate USS Thach during the Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise:

Categories: News

Trident II D5 Missile: Keeping Up with Changing Times

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 23:50
Trident II D5 Test Launch
(click to view full)

Nuclear tipped missiles were first deployed on board US submarines at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s, to deter a Soviet first strike. The deterrence theorists argued that, unlike their land-based cousins, submarine-based nuclear weapons couldn’t be taken out by a surprise first strike, because the submarines were nearly impossible to locate and target. Which meant that Soviet leaders could not hope to destroy all of America’s nuclear weapons before they could be launched against Soviet territory. SLBM/FBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile/ Fleet Ballistic Missile) offered shorter ranges and less accuracy than their land-based ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) counterparts, but the advent of Trident C4 missiles began extending those ranges, and offering other improvements. The C4s were succeeded by larger Trident II D5 missiles, which added precision accuracy and more payload.

The year that the Trident II D5 ballistic missile was first deployed, 1990, saw the beginning of the end of the missile’s primary mission. Even as the Soviet Union began to implode, the D5’s performance improvements were making the Trident submarine force the new backbone of the USA’s nuclear deterrent – and of Britain’s as well. To ensure that this capability was maintained at peak readiness and safety, the US Navy undertook a program in 2002 to replace aging components of the Trident II D5 missile called the D5 Life Extension (LE) Program. This article covers D5 LE, as well as support and production contracts associated with the American and British Trident missile fleets.

D5 Life Extension Program

By the time the latest D5 version was deployed, the existence of the Soviet Union itself was in doubt. The previous year, the Soviet’s Eastern European client states began to fall, symbolized by the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Then the Soviet Union itself began to crumble, with various Soviet republics rebelling against the central government in 1990. In 1991, a failed coup attempt against Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev brought Boris Yeltsin to power, who promptly dissolved the Soviet Union.

The end of the Soviet Union and the easing of the Soviet first strike threat did not end the need for a nuclear deterrent. States like Russia and China still have them, North Korea is the first nuclear-armed rogue state but will not be the last, and non-state actors remain a potential threat, given instability in key countries like Pakistan. The US nuclear deterrent got smaller, but it did not go away – and as it became smaller, the importance of the Trident fleet rose. Especially given Britain’s use of the same missiles as its sole nuclear deterrent.

The Trident C-4 has been in service since 1979, but the D-5 Trident II is more recent. Its 1st firing on March 21/89, from the USS Tennessee, almost ended the program. Fortunately, fixes were made in an environment of “tell the truth, only the truth, tell it quickly…” A set of 7 successful test-launches from 1989-1990 saved the program, bringing its funds back from escrow. As of January 2013, it has had a remarkable 143 consecutive flight test successes since that initial launch.

Trident II D5

First deployed in 1990 and scheduled for operational deployment until 2042, 12 of the USA’s 14 SSBNs have been outfitted with Trident II D-5 missiles, and the other 2 were scheduled to be back-fitted as opportunity permits.

The Trident II D5 LE Program is intended to extend the service life of the weapon system until 2042, to match the hull life of the Ohio-class submarine. Under the program, 108 additional missiles [PDF] are being purchased, in order to meet long-term inventory requirements.

The LE program involves updating the missile’s electronics, guidance and reentry systems. In particular, the Mk6 LE guidance system is a replacement for the aging Mk6 guidance system, which used 1980s technology that isn’t in production any more. The Next Generation Guidance (NGG) program aims to develop the Mk6 LE as a modern replacement that can achieve the same or better performance as the guidance systems that are breaking down. This requires development of precision instruments, sensors, and radiation hardened architectures, in order to adapt the underlying commercial technologies for use in a must-not-malfunction nuclear weapons system.

The prime contractor [PDF] for the Trident II D5 program is Lockheed Martin, who has managed all of the US submarine-launched ballistic missile/ fleet ballistic missile (SLBM/FBM) programs since the first generation Polaris. Charles Stark Draper Labs is the inventor of the guidance system.

Contracts and Key Events 1989-03-21: Avoid this.

These entries cover overall support and surveys of the American and British Trident fleets, Trident LE efforts, associated testing, and production of new materials and missiles. It does not cover work on the launcher systems rather than the missiles themselves, unless it’s a multiple-items contract that also includes missile work. Unless otherwise noted, the US Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs in Arlington, VA issued the contracts. As one might expect with such secretive work, many of the contracts are sole-source or non-competed.

Note that despite the recent article improvements, materials before FY 2007 may not be fully up to date.

FY 2014 – 2016

SSBN design 101
click for video

July 19/16: Lockheed Martin has won a $21 million US Navy contract to provide Trident II D5 missiles to the service. The latest submarine-launched fleet of ballistic missiles, Trident II follows the Polaris, Poseidon and Trident I C4 programs. Trident was first deployed in 1990 and is currently deployed on board US Ohio-class and British Vanguard-class submarines.

Sept 19/14: Production. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $146.3 million fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-incentive-fee, and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for new Trident II (D5) missile production, D5 Life Extension development and production, and D5 Deployed Systems Support. $128.1 million is committed immediately, including $48.5 million from Britain. Options could raise the contract to $828.4 million if exercised.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (35.12%); Magna, UT (16.55%); Kings Bay, GA (8.26%); Cape Canaveral, FL (7.57%); Culpeper, VA (4.51%); Silverdale, WA (4.43%); Bloomington, Minnesota (4.32%); Kingsport, TN (2.51%); El Segundo, CA (1.59%); Lancaster, PA (1.57%); Oakridge, TN (1.44%); and other various locations less than 1% each (12.13%). Work is expected to be complete by Nov 30/19. US Strategic Systems Programs in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contract (N00030-14-C-0100, PZ0001).

D5 & LE missile production

Sept 19/14: Infrastructure. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $34.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for all facilities, equipment, and processes required for successful activation and support of a Trident II (D5) missile storage facility at Camp Navajo, AZ, plus design and delivery of specialized support equipment for D5 missile movement and storage. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 US Navy weapons budgets.

Work will be performed at the following locations: Cape Canaveral, FL (38.29%); Oakridge, TN (30.13%); Magna, Utah (10.48%); Sunnyvale, CA (10.02%); Merritt Island, FL (4.45%); Rensselaer, Indiana (1.85%); Arlington, WA (1.26%); Bangor, WA (1.01%); St. Mary’s, GA (0.60%); Tullahoma, TN (0.51%); St. Augustine, FL (0.42%); Jacksonville, FL (0.37%); Poway, CA (0.31%); and other various locations (less than 0.10% each, 0.3% total); work is expected to be completed by Sept 30/19. US Strategic Systems Programs in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contract (N00030-13-C-0100, PO 0012).

July 1/14: FY15 Long-lead. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, CA received a $20 million unpriced-letter contract for long-lead materials, labor, planning and scheduling necessary to support FY 2015 Trident II D5 missile production.

Work will be performed at Sunnyvale, CA, with an expected completion date of Sept 30/19. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy weapons budgets. This contract was a sole source acquisition pursuant to 10 USC. 2304(c)(1) by US Strategic Systems Programs in Washington Navy Yard, DC (N00030-14-C-0100).

April 25/14: Navigation. The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. in Cambridge, MA receives a maximum $283.1 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive, and cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the ongoing Trident (D5) MK 6 Guidance System Repair Program. This includes failure verification, test, repair and recertification of inertial measurement units, electronic assemblies, and electronic modules.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy funds and funds from Britain ($40 million). Work will be performed in Pittsfield, MA (42%); Minneapolis, Minn. (29%); Clearwater, FL (22%); Cambridge, MA (6%); and Terrytown, NY (1%), with an expected completion date of April 30/17. This contract is a sole source acquisition pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1). Strategic Systems Program, Washington, D.C. manages the contract (N00030-14-C-0001).

April 1/14: UK Support. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $21.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, level of effort, completion type contract to provide the United Kingdom (UK) with Trident II engineering and technical support services and deliverable materials.

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (76.4%); Cape Canaveral, FL (12.5%); Coulport, Scotland. (4.4%); Aldermaston, England (3.3%); St. Mary’s, GA (2%); Silverdale, WA (less than 1%), Campbell, CA (less than 1%), Denver, CO (less than 1%), other US cities (less than 1%); and Italy (various cities less than 1%), with an expected level-of-effort completion date of March 31/15 and deliverable items completion date of June 30/16. This contract was a sole-source acquisition pursuant to 10 USC. 2304(c)(4). The US Department of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs Office manages the contract (N00030-14-C-0028).

Dec 19/13: Support. BAE Systems receives a 3-year, $171 million contract to continue providing engineering and integration support to the US Navy’s Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic Missiles. The company has supported the US Navy’s program for more than 50 years, through the Polaris, Poseidon, and Trident lifecycles. They’re also involved to some degree in the US/UK Common Missile Compartment program.

BAE Systems’ support for the Fleet Ballistic Missile program is performed in Kings Bay, GA; Bangor, WA; Mechanicsburg, PA; Norfolk, VA; and the Washington, DC area. Sources: BAE, “Maintaining the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Missile Program under a $171 Million Contract”.

Dec 12/13: Support. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Sunnyvale, CA receives an $112.9 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. They’ll perform Trident II Underwater Launcher System and Advanced Launcher Development Program Support, technical engineering services to support the CMC Development and Prototyping effort, and other specialized technical support. The maximum dollar value, including the base period and one option year, is $220.3 million.

ULS/ AL: Includes ongoing support for the TRIDENT II D-5 and the SSGN underwater launcher subsystem, Engineering Refueling Overhaul shipyard support, spares procurement, US and UK launcher trainer support, Vertical Support Group E-mount and shim procurement, Nuclear Weapons Safety and Security Review, Missile hoist overhaul, underwater launch technology support, US and UK SSP Alterations and non-compliance report projects, gas generator refurbishment, and case hardware production.

CMC: Assess and analyze technologies and concepts to support the selection of a preferred system concept, which includes the identification of critical cost and risk impacts as a result of immature launcher technologies and/or immature requirements.

Specialized: Technical support of TRIDENT II D-5 Missile tube closure production, technical engineering services, and tactical hardware production efforts for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

All funds are committed immediately, using a combination of US Navy FY 2014 procurement, R&D, and O&M budgets, and British funds ($11.5 million). Work will be performed at Sunnyvale, CA (78%); Kings Bay, GA (7%); Bangor, WA (6%); St. Charles, MO (5%); Gardena, CA (2%); Camarillo, CA (1%); and Los Angeles, CA (1%); with an expected completion date of Sept 30/18. This contract was a sole source acquisition in accordance with 10 U.SC 2304(c)(1), managed by the US Strategic Systems Programs in Washington, DC (N00030-14-C-0011).

Dec 11/13: Interstate Electronics Corp., Anaheim, CA receives a $47,401,675 cost-plus-incentive fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee, level of effort, completion type contract for specialized technical support for Trident II flight test operations and data acquisition, systems engineering, post-mission processing and analysis, instrumentation refreshes, and strategic weapons system training program support. The maximum dollar value, including the base period and 2 option years, is $177.3 million.

Funds from a number of different budget lines are committed, ranging from FY 2012 – 2014. Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA (55.5%); Cape Canaveral, FL (25%); Newark, CA (3.2%); Bremerton, WA (3%); Kings Bay, GA (3%); Norfolk, VA (3%); Washington, DC (3%); Silverdale, WA (2%); Austin, (1.3%); San Jose, CA (less than 1%); Huntsville, AL (less than 1%); Sunnyvale, CA (less than 1%); and El Segundo, CA (less than 1%); with an expected completion date of Sept 30/16. This contract was a sole-source acquisition pursuant to 10 U.SC 2304(c) (5). The Department of the Navy, Strategic Systems Programs Office, Washington, DC manages the contract (N00030-14-C-0006).

Dec 6/13: Navigation. Lockheed Martin, Mission Systems & Training in Mitchel Field, NY receives a $58.8 million cost-plus-incentive fee, cost-plus-fixed fee contract for United States and United Kingdom D-5 navigation subsystem engineering support services. This contract provides for US and UK fleet support, US and UK trainer systems support, OH-class SSBN engineered refueling overhauls, US and UK SSI4 trainer system, SSBN-R strategic weapon training system and training system development, UK successor support, software modernization and Linked Autonomous Programmed Navigational Operational Trainer modernization. The maximum dollar value, including the base period and 1 option-year, is $114.2 million.

Funds are committed from a number of FY 2014 budget lines, and from the UK ($6.9 million). Work will be performed in Mitchel Field, NY (97%), Clearwater/Oldsmar, FL (2%) and Manassas, VA (1%), with an expecteDCmpletion date of April 2017. This contract was a sole-source acquisition in accordance with 10 U.SC 2304(c)(1), managed by the US Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs in Washington, DC (N00030-14-C-0002).

March 29/13: UK Support. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives an $18.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide engineering/technical support for the UK’s Trident II Missile Systems. This includes: UK FBM Program efforts; deliverable materials; and on-site technical support in Britain.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale CA (72.9%); Cape Canaveral, FL (12.3%); Coulport, Scotland and Aldermaston, England (10.3%); St. Mary’s, GA (2.7%); other US sites (0.8%); Silverdale, WA (0.7%), and Poway, CA (0.3%), and is expected to be complete by by March 2015. All funds are committed immediately, and the UK’s FMS agent will be the US Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs in Washington, DC (N00030-13-C-0034).

Nov 5/13: Production. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives an initial $8.4 million fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-incentive-fee, and cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to a previously awarded un-priced letter contract. Options could push it as high as $803.2 million for new Trident II D5 missile production, D5 life extension development and production, and D5 deployed systems support. The funding breakdown, subject to availability, is:

  • $673.4 million FY 2014 Navy procurement
  • $60.8 million FY 2014 Navy O&M, all of which expires on Sept 30/14
  • $23.1 million FY 2014 RDT&E
  • $6.5 million FY 2014 Navy other procurement
  • $35.7 million British government

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (34.31%); Brigham City, UT (21.55%); St. Mary’s, GA (9.49%); Cape Canaveral, FL (5.59%); Silverdale, WA (5.25%); Pittsfield, MA (3.23%); Kingsport, TN (2.81%); Gainesville, VA (2.09%); El Segundo, CA (1.84%); Clearwater, FL (1.74%); Lancaster, PA (1.67%); Inglewood, CA (1.57%); Camarillo, CA (0.75%); Santa Fe Springs, CA (0.62%); Oakridge, TN (0.57%); Arlington, WA (0.5%); St. Charles, MO (0.36%); Joplin, MO (0.36%); Defew, NY (0.34%); Hollister, CA (0.33%); Diamond Springs, CA (0.33%); Santa Ana, CA (0.28%); Miamisburg, OH (0.27%); Bethel, CT (0.24%); Orlando, FL (0.24%); Colorado Springs, CO (0.22%); Torrance, CA (0.20%); Wenatchee, WA (0.19%); Santa Clara, CA (0.14%); Englewood, CO (0.14%); San Diego, CA (0.12%); San Jose, CA (0.12%); Santa Cruz, CA (0.12%); Simi Valley, CA (0.11%); Simsbury, CT (0.10%); and other various locations of less than 0.10% each (2.21%), and work is expected to be complete in December 2014. If options are exercised, all work will continue to November 2018. The US Strategic Systems Programs in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00030-13-C-0100, PZ0001).

D5 & LE missile production

FY 2013

Missile contract; Reentry body contract; Guidance systems contract. Launch!
click for video

Sept 13/13: FY 2014 long-lead. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., is being awarded a $15.2 million un-priced letter contract for FY 2014 long lead Trident D5 materials and associated labor, planning, and scheduling. All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA, and the contract is expected to be complete by Sept 30/18. This contract is a sole source acquisition in accordance with FAR 6.302-1 and 10 U.S.C.2304c1 (N00030-13-C-0100).

March 7/13: Navigation. Charles Stark Draper Laboratories, Inc. in Cambridge, MA receives a sole-source $257.8 million to provide Trident II (D5) Guidance System Strategic Program Alteration (SPALT) materials including: labor and consumable material to meet requirements for the guidance system on-going SPALT of MK6 MOD 1; test and procure data package assemblies; and circuit card assembly materials with electronic components.

All contract funds are committed immediately, with $15 million expiring on Sept 30/13, at the end of FY 2013. Work will be performed in Pittsfield MA (84%); Cambridge, MA (7%); Clearwater, FL (5%); Terrytown, NY (2%); El Segundo, CA (1%) and other (1%); and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/16 (N00030-13-C-0007).

March 7/13: Program Support. Aero Thermo Technology, Inc. in Huntsville, AL receives a $6.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide guidance systems, technical, analytical and program services to support the TRIDENT II SLBM. This contract contains options, which could bring the contract total to $20.7 million.

The US Navy and Air Force will conduct closely coordinated strategic ballistic missile technology development and application programs based on recommendations of the U.S. Strategic Command, Defense Planning Guidance, and Nuclear Posture Reviews. Work will be performed in Huntsville, AL, and is expected to be completed Dec 3/13, or Dec 31/15 if all options are exercised. $1.4 million is committed immediately, and $3.9 million will expire on Sept 30/13, at the end of the current fiscal year. (N00030-13-C-0013).

Dec 21/12: Production. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. (LMSSC), Sunnyvale, CA receives a $592.2 million fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to perform additional work such as Trident II D5 Deployed Systems Support, D5 Life Extension Development and D5 Life Extension Production. $550 million is committed immediately, leaving $42.2 million to be spent as needed, plus another $1.082 billion in options to cover D5 Missile Production and additional support for deployed missiles. That creates a maximum contract total of $1.675 billion, if all options are exercised.

Work will be performed in Chandler, AZ (0.151%); Sunnyvale, CA (39.075%); El Segundo, CA (0.672%); Torrance, CA (0.322%); Camarillo, CA (0.245%); Santa Fe Springs, CA (0.240); San Jose, CA (0.174%); Modesto, CA (0.077%); Huntington Beach, CA (0.071%); Simi Valley, CA (0.041%); San Diego, CA (0.035%); Poway, CA (0.018%); Santa Ana, CA (0.014%); Santa Maria, CA (0.013%); North Hollywood, CA (0.013%); Santa Clara, CA (0.011%); Milpitas, CA (0.011%); Campbell, CA (0.009%); Upland, CA (0.004%); Pawcatuck, CT (0.117%); Simsbury, CT (0.049%); Cape Canaveral, FL (14.915%); Clearwater, FL (0.987%); Merritt Island, FL (0.044%); Titusville, FL (0.013%); Cocoa, FL (0.008%); St Mary’s, GA (12.246%); Atlanta, GA (0.049%); Rockford, IL (0.095%); Pittsfield, MA (2.466%); Elkton, MD (0.407%); Jackson, MI (0.148%); Joplin, MO (0.150%); St. Charles, MO (0.120%); Las Vegas, NV (0.334%); East Aurora, NY (0.079%); Miamisburg, OH (0.188%); Lancaster, PA (0.802%); Harrisburg, PA (0.082%); Bristol, PA (0.020%); Valencia, PA (0.015%); West Warwick, RI (0.002%); Kingsport, TN (1.247%); Oakridge, TN (0.247%); Round Rock, TX (0.022%); Brigham City, UT (11.356%); Salt Lake City, UT (0.093%); Gainesville, VA (3.544%); Fairfax, VA (1.381%); Silverdale, WA (7.242%); Poulsbo, WA (0.169%); Wenatchee, WA (0.103%); and Arlington, WA (0.064%), and is expected to be complete by Dec 30/17 – or April 30/18 if all options are exercised.

Technically, $291.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/13, but more than that is already committed for payment. The contract was not competitively procured in accordance with FAR 6.302-1 and 10 U.S.C. 2304c1 (N00030-12-C-0101, PZ0001).

D5 LE & Missile Production

Dec 17/12: Support. Excelis Inc., Colorado Springs, Colo., is being awarded a $15.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide professional, technical, programmatic, and operational engineering services to September 2016. $4,371,011 will be obligated at the time of award, and this contract contains options which could extend performance to March 31/16, and raise its value to $44.4 million. Their work will support of Navy Reentry Systems programs, including:

  • Reentry Body (RB) systems assessment, vulnerability, and nuclear safety and surety support
  • RB Life extension studies and analysis
  • Support for the development of refurbished reentry systems
  • Support for Strategic Systems Program’s declassification review program
  • support for Nuclear Weapons System Safety
  • Support to weapons facilities manager

Work will be performed in Colorado Springs, CO (95%); College Park, MD (2%); and various locations throughout the continental USA (3%). This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2304c1 by the Strategic Systems Program, in Washington, DC (N00030-13-C-0016).

FY 2012

Missile orders; SHIPALT kits; Mk6 LE work; Support contracts; Common Missile Compartment integration British firing
click for video

Sept 28/12: Support. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $76.8 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to support the Trident II fleet, which could rise as high as $111 million with options. This will include:

1) Ongoing SSBN/SSGN fleet support including engineering refueling overhaul shipyard support, spares (SSP), SSP alterations and non-compliance report projects for the USA & UK, launcher trainer support for the USA & UK, vertical support group e-mount and shims, nuclear weapons safety and security review, missile hoist overhaul, underwater launch technology support, gas generator refurbishment, and case hardware.

2) Specialized technical support includes missile tube closure production, technical engineering services, and tactical hardware production efforts for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

3) New designs. Technical engineering services and analysis to support the USA & UK’s Advanced Launcher Development Program and Common Missile Compartment concept development and prototyping. This work will support the military’s efforts to pick a preferred system concept, including both critical costs, and clear awareness of risks from immature launcher technologies and/or immature requirements. The technology development phase for the next-generation launcher will be based on those conclusions.

The contract was not competitively procured. Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (79%); Kings Bay, GA (10%); Silverdale, WA (10%); and Camarillo, CA (1%), and will run to Sept 30/15. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procure in accordance with l0 U.S.C. 2304c1, and 10 U.S.C. 2304c4. The Strategic Systems Programs, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00030-13-C-0010).

Sept 27/12: CMC integration. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a sole-source $51.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for engineering efforts to support next-generation SSBN programs. The firm was deemed to be the only company that could integrate the TRIDENT II Missile and Reentry Strategic Weapon System subsystems into the CMC, and design an updated missile service unit that will be compatible with both current and new submarine fleets. With options, this contract could rise to $52.2 million.

Work will be performed in Cape Canaveral, FL (50%); Sunnyvale, CA (34%); Syracuse, NY (10%); Magna, UT (2%); Washington, DC (1%); yet to be determined locations (2%); and other locations of less than 1% (1% TL); and will run until Dec 31/17. Strategic Systems Programs, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00030-12-C-0058).

Sept 27/12: D5 LE. Charles Stark Draper Laboratories, Inc. in Cambridge, MA receives a $113.1 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for a wide variety of engineering and R&D services, which could grow to $304.6 million if all options are exercised. Work can include:

1) Trident II support. That includes specialized tactical engineering services, logistics services, fleet support services, test equipment, and guidance SSP alteration services to test, guidance subsystems maintenance and fixes; test equipment, and related support equipment.

2) Trident D5 MK6 MOD 1. Test and evaluate engineering development units and preproduction units systems to verify performance, and document items for flight tests, qualification, and production support.

3) R&D related to TRIDENT II D-5 guidance and reentry systems, including specialized technical knowledge and support for hypersonic guidance (ballistic missiles fly at well over Mach 5), navigation and control applications utilizing an integrated avionics computer and Global Positioning System.

Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA (69%); Pittsfield, MA (19%); El Segundo, CA (10%), and Clearwater, FL (2%), and the contract run through FY 2015 to Sept 30/15. The contract was not competitively procured. Strategic Systems Programs, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00030-13-C-0005).

July 3/12: Long-lead. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA received a $12.2 million unfinalized contract to provide the long lead time material for FY 2013 Trident II D5 missile production, as well as the required labor, planning, and scheduling.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA., and is expected to be complete by Sept 30/17. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302.1 and l0 U.S.C. 2304c1 (N00030-12-C-0101).

June 5/12: Navigation. Boeing in Huntington Beach, CA received a $10.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide TRIDENT II (D5) navigation test equipment upgrades. They’ll upgrade test equipment for theodolites; offer drift test station binnacle overhaul kits and necessary contingency replenishment items and program plans; perform electrostatically supported gyro container power supply strategic systems programs alteration (SPALT); and work on resolver replacement, network board SPALT, and TR-C5 A/C 1/6 software SPALT. Options could bring the contract’s total value to $15.6 million.

Work will be performed in Huntington Beach, CA (96.4%), and Heath, OH (3.6%), and is expected to be complete by June 30/15. This contract was not competitively procured by US Strategic Systems Programs in Washington, DC (N00030-12-C-0026).

May 31/12: Testing. Lockheed Martin reminds us that the US Navy’s 4 successful Trident D5 test flights from April 14-16/12, from the submerged USS Maryland in the Atlantic Ocean, bring the total number of successful Trident flight tests to 142 since design completion in 1989.

Thankfully, there have been no operational flights to provide data.

April 25/12: D5 LE. Charles Stark Draper Laboratories, Inc. in Cambridge, MA receives a $236.7 million firm-fixed-priced, fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to produce modified Trident II (D5) Missile guidance systems.

Work will be performed in Pittsfield MA (42.2%); Cambridge, MA (26.7%); Clearwater, FL (22.3%); El Segundo, CA (7.2%); and Tarrytown, NY (1.6%). Work will run to Sept 30/16, the end of FY 2016. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-12-C-0005).

April 2/12: UK support. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives an $18.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide engineering and technical support for the UK’s Trident D5 Missile Systems.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (70.8%); St. Mary’s, GA (13.3%); Coulport, Scotland & Aldermaston, England (9.3%); Cape Canaveral, FL (2.8%); Cocoa, FL (2%); Silverdale, WA (0.5%); and other various location in the United States (1.3%), and will run to March 31/13. The contract was not competitively procured (N00030-12-C-0024).

Dec 15/11: Multi-year contracts. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, CA receives almost $1.2 billion in cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee, fixed-price-incentive contract modifications, associated with the support and production of Trident II D5 missiles. $321.4 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12, but work will run to April 30/17.

The $427.4 million deployed systems support (DSS) contract involves various forms of engineering and operational support, including trainers and training, spares and repairs, flight test analysis and range support, safety assurance including Nuclear Weapon Security; and development, production and installation of special projects.

The unfinalized but not-to-exceed $772.2 million award for TRIDENT II D5 production includes missile bodies, re-entry bodies, D5 instrumentation systems and support equipment, components and requalification activities as part of D5 life extension requirements, and alternate release assembly production.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (65.92%); Cape Canaveral, FL (10.33%); St. Mary’s, GA (7.18%); Bangor, Silverdale, WA (7.15%); Brigham City, UT (2.20%); Torrance, CA (1.01%); Pittsfield, MA (0.76%); Poulsbo, WA (0.75%); Clearwater, FL (0.26%); San Jose, CA (0.24%); Elkton, MD (0.10%); Chandler, AZ (0.08%); East Aurora, NY (0.07%); Gainesville, VA (0.07%); Lancaster, PA (0.06%); Rockford, IL (0.02%); and various other locations (3.79%). These contracts were not competitively procured (N00030-12-C-0100, PO 0001).

Multi-year production & support contracts

Dec 9/11: Support. BAE Systems in Rockville, MD receives a $58.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to provide Systems Engineering Integration support for the TRIDENT II D5 Strategic Weapon System (SWS) Program, the SSGN Attack Weapon System (AWS) Program, and the Common Missile Compartment (CMC) Program. Options could bring the contract’s total value to $123.3 million.

Work will be performed in Rockville, MD (70%); Washington, DC (20%); St. Mary’s, GA (5%); Bangor, WA (4%); and Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, United Kingdom (1%), and is expected to be completed Sept 30/12, or Sept 30/13 if the options are exercised. $38.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was not competitively procured (N00012-C-0009).

Dec 2/11: D5 LE. Charles Stark Draper Laboratories, Inc. in Cambridge, MA receives a $120.8 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification. They’ll provide Trident II D5 Guidance System micro circuit wafers, and Strategic Systems Programs alterations materials.

Work will be performed in Pittsfield, MA (83.5%); Cambridge, MA (7%); by Honeywell, Inc. in Clearwater, Fla. (5%); Terrytown, NY (2.4%); El Segundo, CA (1.1%); and other places yet to be determined (less than 1%), and is expected to be complete on Dec 31/15. This contract was not competitively procured, and contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00030-11-C-0014, PE0003).

Dec 2/11: Support. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems – Marine Systems in Sunnyvale, CA, received an $83.2 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide FY 2012 support for the TRIDENT II D-5 launchers, submarines, and next-generation development efforts. This contract contains options, which could bring its total value to $123.1 million.

Northrop Grumman will provide services to help with existing SSBN/SSGN Underwater Launcher Systems; Engineering Refueling Overhaul shipyard support; spares procurement; United States and United Kingdom launcher trainer support; Vertical Support Group E-mount and shim procurement; TRIDENT II D-5 missile tube closure production; Launcher Initiation System (LIS) Critical Design Review and Nuclear Weapons Safety and Security Review; TRIDENT II D-5 missile hoist overhauls; underwater launch technology support; U.S. and U.K. Strategic Systems Programs alterations and non-compliance report projects; gas generator refurbishment and case hardware production; LIS Trainer Shipboard Systems Integration Increment 11 conversion; and ancillary hardware and spares.

Technical engineering services and container production restart efforts for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty will also be included, as will technical engineering services to support the Advanced Launcher Development Program and Common Missile Compartment concept development and prototyping efforts for the U.S. and U.K.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (80%); Bangor, WA (10%); and Kings Bay, GA (10%); and will end with the fiscal year on Sept 30/12, whereupon $45.3 million of these funds will expire; or it will end on Sept 30/14 if all options are exercised. The contract was not competitively procured (N00030-12-C-0015).

Dec 2/11: Support. Interstate Electronics Corp. in Anaheim, CA receives a $43 million cost-plus-incentive fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide FY 2012 and 2013 United States and United Kingdom Lead System Integrator support. An option would add a year, and bring the contract value to $85.8 million.

Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA (77.2%), and Cape Canaveral, FL (22.8%), and will end on Sept 30/12, whereupon $37 million in contract funding expires; or on Sept 30/13 if the option is picked up. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-12-C-0003).

Nov 25/11: Fire control. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Inc. in Pittsfield, MA receives a $96 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee, fixed-price incentive contract to provide FY 2012 and FY 2013 engineering support to United States and United Kingdom Trident II SSBN Fire Control Subsystems, Ohio Class SSGN Attack Weapons Control Subsystem, and the Common Missile Compartment for the USA and UK’s next-generation nuclear missile submarines. This contract contains options which could bring its total value to $225 million over almost 4.5 years.

Work will be performed in Pittsfield, MA, and could run to April 14/16 with all options exercised. $35.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was not competitively procured by the US Strategic Systems Programs in Washington, DC (N00030-12-C-0006).

Oct 26/11: Components. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a not-to-exceed $64.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee completion contract modification. It exercises Trident II LE contract line item number 0030 for: 12 flight control electronic assemblies; 2 active inert missile (AIM) flight control electronic assemblies; 12 command sequencer assemblies; 12 interlocks package assemblies; 2 AIM interlocks package assemblies; and 12 missile inverters.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (53.5%); Bloomington, MN (15.2%); El Segundo, CA (12.4%); Albuquerque, NM (11.5%); Clearwater, FL (3.7%); Camarillo, CA (2.5%); and Middletown, PA (1.2%). Work is expected to be complete by Sept 30/14 (N00030-11-C-0100).

Oct 17/11: Support. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Mitchel Field, NY receives a $40 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide FY 2012-13 U.S. and U.K. TRIDENT II (D5) Navigation Subsystem Engineering Support Services. This contract contains options which could bring it to $94.6 million, if they’re all exercised.

Specific work includes U.S. and U.K. Fleet Support, U.S. and U.K. Trainer Systems Support, next-generation Ohio Replacement Program Support, Engineering Refueling Overhaul Support, and Navigation Subsystem studies.

Work will be performed in Mitchel Field, NY, (99.8%) and Manassas, VA (0.2%), and is expected to be complete by March 31/14. $30.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. The contract was not competitively procured by the Strategic Systems Programs in Washington, DC (N00030-12-C-0002).

FY 2011

Missile orders; SHIPALT kits; Mk6 LE work; Support contracts; 3D Design software.

Sept 21/11: D5 LE. Cadence Design Systems, Inc. in San Jose, CA receives a $7.4 million firm-fixed price, 5-year software license and support for their commercial electronic design automation software tools. Cadence’s electronics design tools will be used as part of the D5 MK6 Life Extension Guidance System program.

This contract was sole-sourced, and the Pentagon describes the suite as “compatible with collected historical data and utilized for present efforts.” Work will be performed in San Jose, CA, and is expected to be completed by September 2016. The US Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, IN (N00164-11-G-GM23).

March 28/11: Support. Boeing in Huntington Beach, CA received a $31.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus incentive contract to maintain, repair, and rebuild TRIDENT II D5 navigation equipment. This contract contains options which could bring its total value to $64.1 million.

Work will be performed in Huntington Beach, CA (89%), and Heath, OH (11%), and is expected to be complete Sept 30/14. $16.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-11-C-0002).

March 1/11: Testing. USS Nevada (SSBN 733) successfully launches an unarmed Trident II D5 missile off the coast of southern California, completing a 3.5 year long submarine refueling and overhaul certification process. The launch certifies the readiness of both the SSBN crew and the operational performance of the submarine’s strategic weapons system, before it becomes available for operations again. Nevada was commissioned in 1986 as the eighth Ohio-class fleet ballistic missile submarine.

US Navy Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) oversees the demonstration and shakedown operation (DASO) certification process, and more than 150 SSP employees and special guests were invited aboard US Military Sealift Command’s test range ship USNS Waters (T-AGS 45). This test marked the 135th consecutive successful test flight of the D5 missile since 1989. USN SW Region Navy Compass | Lockheed Martin.

Feb 15/11: UK Support. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA received a $7.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to the United Kingdom technical services contract in support of the TRIDENT Strategic Weapons System, providing for “Collaborative Replacement Material Experiment Two.” We have no idea what that means, and don’t expect to be enlightened.

Work will be performed primarily in Sunnyvale, CA, and is expected to be complete by March 31/14 (N00030-10-C-0026, P00003)

Feb 14/11: Budgets. The Pentagon releases their FY 2012 budget request, and Pentagon documents indicate that the Trident D5 LE program may increase its budget in 2012. The FY 2012 request is for $1.398 billion ($88.9 million RDT&E and $1.309 billion procurement), a 17.8% jump compared to a FY 2011 request of $1.188 billion, which rose slightly from a FY 2010 request of $1.115 billion. The funds will go to:

“Funds the D5 Missile Life Extension Program replacing missile motors and other critical components, and production support (including flight test instrumentation and additional re-entry system hardware).”

Feb 10/11: D5 LE. Charles Stark Draper Laboratories, Inc. in Cambridge, MA receives a $57.7 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive contract for Trident II (D5) Guidance System micro circuit wafers and “strategic systems programs alteration repair equivalent units”.

Work will be performed in Clearwater, FL (44.9%); Pittsfield, MA (29.9%); El Segundo, CA (13.6%); and Cambridge, MA (11.6%); and is expected to be complete by June 30/13. This contact was not competitively procured (N00030-11-C-0014).

Dec 27/10: D5 LE. Charles Stark Draper Laboratories, Inc. in Cambridge, MA, is being awarded a $494.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Trident II D5 work: guidance system tactical engineering support, guidance applications program, and life extension development.

Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA (82%); Pittsfield, MA (11%); Clearwater, FL (2%); and El Segundo, CA (5%). Work is expected to be complete by Sept 20/16, and $84 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured by US Strategic Systems Programs in Arlington, VA (N00030-11-C-0005).

Dec 10/10: Lockheed Space Systems Company in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $920.8 million fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide Trident II (D5) missile production and deployed system support.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA; Bangor, WA; Kings Bays, GA; and Cocoa Beach, FL, and is expected to be complete by April 30/16. The contract funds will be drawn from multiple fiscal years – $44 million in FY 2009 weapon funds, and $304.7 million in FY 2011 O&NM funding, all of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-11-C-0100).

Missile production

Dec 9/10: Support. L3/ Interstate Electronics Corp. in Anaheim, CA receives a $28.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for specialized technical engineering services to operate, maintain and repair the TRIDENT II D5 test instrumentation subsystems, plus spares and related support equipment in support of the U.S. TRIDENT II D5 weapon systems.

Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA (80%); Cape Canaveral, FL (13%); Arlington, VA (5%); Austin, TX (1%); Los Angeles, CA (0.5%); and Sunnyvale, CA (0.5%), and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-10-C-0009, P00012).

FY 2010

Missile orders; SHIPALT kits; Mk6 LE work; Support contracts.

Aug 3/10: Support. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Mitchel Field, NY won a $11.8 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide: Trident II D5 strategic systems programs shipboard systems integration; Strategic weapon system navigation subsystem; Systems design and development; and Electrostatically supported gyro navigator refresh. This contract contains options which could bring the total contract value to $230.1 million.

Work will be performed in Mitchel Field, NY (35.4%); Huntington Beach, CA (27.9%); Oldsmar, FL (14.8%); Phoenix, AZ (14.2%); Cambridge, MA (7.2%); and Eagan, MN (0.5%). The contract is expected to end on July 30/15. This contract was competitively procured, with 2 offers received (N00030-10-C-0018).

July 7/10: Long-lead. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA received an $11.3 million fixed-price incentive, cost-reimbursable, incentive contract to provide long-lead materials for the FY 2011 follow-on production of the Trident II D5 missile system.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA, and is expected to be complete Sept 30/15. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-10-C-0101).

April 9/10: Testing. Teradyne in North Reading, MA received a $10.6 million, 5-year firm-fixed-price commercial basic ordering agreement for procurement of Teradyne Spectrum 9100 testers, which are used for the development of test program sets (TPSs) for Trident fire control, missile, and guidance electronic modules that are being redesigned as part of the D5 Life Extension program.

The TPSs will also be used for production testing of modules and for service life evaluation. The proposed acquisition is for additional testers, spare equipment, instrument calibration, training, and maintenance contracts that are required to maintain the necessary tester availability.

Work will be performed in North Reading, MA and is expected to be completed by April 2015. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, in Crane, IN manages the contract (N00024-09-C-6317).

March 29/10: UK Support. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $17.7 million cost plus fixed fee contract to provide technical services that support Britain’s TRIDENT Strategic Weapons System.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (70.69%); Cape Canaveral, FL (12.54%); St. Marys, GA (2.58%); Bremerton, WA (0.81%); and other locations inside and outside the United States (13.38%). Work is expected to be complete by March 31/11. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-10-C-0026).

March 22/10: D5 LE. Lockheed Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA received a $24.1 million modification under a previously awarded contract (N00030-07-C-0100) for the procurement and testing of Trident II D5 missile commonality parts needed for the life extension program. The total contract value after this award is $1.2 billion (see March 28/07 entry).

Lockheed Martin will perform the work in Bloomington, MN (93.24%); Sunnyvale, CA (4.15%); Fairview, NC (2.46%); Marionville, MO (0.10%); and Clearwater, FL (0.05%), and expects to complete the work by May 31/12. Contract funds in the amount of $11 million expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Feb 2/10: D5 LE. Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, MA received a $131.1 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the Trident II D5 MK6 life extension guidance system. This contract is to procure long lead materials and circuit card assemblies to support the delivery of 20 MK6LE guidance systems.

Draper Lab will perform the work in Bloomington, MN (59%); Clearwater, FL (22%); Cambridge, MA (15%); and Pittsfield, MA (4%), and expects to complete it by June 30/15. This contract is a sole source acquisition by the US Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs in Arlington, VA (N00030-10-C-0015).

Dec 28/09: Testing. Lockheed Martin announces that the US Navy conducted a test flight of a Trident II D5 missile from the USS Alaska (SSBN 732) in the Atlantic Ocean. The test, conducted Dec 19/09, marks the 130th successful test flight of the Trident II D5 missile since 1989.

The Navy launched the missile as part of a Demonstration and Shakedown Operation (DASO) to certify USS Alaska for deployment, following a shipyard overhaul period. For the test, a missile was converted into a test configuration using a test missile kit produced by Lockheed Martin that contained range safety devices and flight telemetry instrumentation.

Dec 14/09: Chips. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems received a contract from Charles Stark Draper Laboratory to produce integrated circuits for the Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile program. This is a 3-year contract with a total potential value of $110 million including the pre-priced options.

The contract is part of the Trident II D5 LE program. General Dynamics is also providing circuit card assemblies for the Trident II D5 missile and guidance systems. The principle subcontractor to General Dynamics for the wafer foundry services is Honeywell International and work will be performed at its Plymouth, MN facility.

Dec 8/09: Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, CA received a not-to-exceed $851 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/ cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide support for production of Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles as well as maintenance of deployed D-5 and C-4 missiles.

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin is providing D5 missile hardware production support and reentry system hardware, as well as operations and maintenance to support the readiness and reliability of missile systems deployed aboard the US Navy’s Trident II Ohio-class SSBNs. The contract also continues the D5 LE effort, which updates electronic components to support the extended service life of the Ohio-class SSBNs

Mature D5 production efforts will transition to a fixed-price-incentive contract in fiscal year 2011. Lockheed Martin expects to complete the work by Dec 30/13. Contract funds in the amount of $284,965 will expire at the end the current fiscal year. The contract was not competitively procured (N00030-10-C-0100).

Missile Production

Dec 4/09: Support. Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, MA received a $133.3 million modification (#P00003) under a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00030-09-C-0008) for the Trident II D5 guidance system tactical engineering support and guidance applications program. Specific tasks include:

  • provide tactical engineering support;
  • provide Mk6 LE field support services;
  • develop a strategic guidance application program;
  • develop a GPS receiver design approach;
  • provide support for the Extended Navy Test Bed (ENTB) and ENTB derivative reentry body experiments (ENTB [PDF] is a special Trident reentry body used to test performance of the missile’s reentry vehicle guidance using GPS); and
  • assess maintaining the accuracy of the existing reentry systems.

The contract modification increases the total contract value to $290.7 million. Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA (73%); Pittsfield, MA (21%); El Segundo, CA (4%); Clearwater, FL (1%); and Andover, MA (1%). Work is expected to be complete by Sept 30/11.

Dec 4/09: D5 LE. Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, MA received a $109.7 million modification under a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for guidance system repair and delivery of Trident II D5 Mk6 LE pre-production units, to support 3 planned proofing test missile flights.

The modification increases the total contract value to $547.6 million. Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA (82%) and Pittsfield, MA (18%) and is expected to be complete by Sept 30/12 (N00030-08-C-0010, PO 0009).

Nov 24/09: Support. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Mitchel Field, NY received a $62.9 million cost-plus incentive fee/ cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide navigation subsystem engineering support services to the US and UK fleet of Trident II D5 ballistic missiles. The contract contains options, which if exercised, would bring its cumulative value to $141.4 million.

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will provide fleet support, strategic weapon system shipboard integration support and trainer, trainer systems support, sea-based strategic deterrent support, engineering refueling overhaul support, and navigation subsystem studies.

Lockheed Martin will perform the work in Mitchel Field, NY (95.4%); Oldsmar, FL (3.6%); Baltimore, MD (0.4%); Moorestown, NJ (0.4%); Eagan, MN (0.1%); and Manassas, VA (0.1%). The company expects to complete the work by Dec 31/11, or Sept 30/13 if all options are exercised. Contract funds in the amount of $30.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00030-10-C-0002).

Nov 16/09: Support. L3 Interstate Electronics Corp. in Anaheim, CA received a $39.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide data acquisition, processing, and analysis for Trident missile flight test missions of the United States and United Kingdom. This contract contains options, which if exercised, would bring the contract value to $49.4 million.

L3 Interstate Electronics will perform the Trident flight test data work in Anaheim, CA (50%); Austin, TX (20%); Ascension Island (10%); Cape Canaveral, FL (10%); and St. Croix, US Virgin Islands (10%), and expects to complete it by Sept 30/10, or September 2012 if all options are exercised (N00030-10-C-0009).

Oct 23/09: Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co in Sunnyvale, CA receives an $853.3 cost-plus-incentive-fee/ cost-plus-fixed-fee (CPIF/CPFF) unfinalized contract to support Trident II D5 missile production, and deployed systems (C4 and D5). The contract type will be CPIF/CPFF for this contract only, and mature production efforts will transition to fixed-price-incentive in FY 2011.

The place of performance is to be determined, pending finalization of the award. Work is expected to be complete in Dec 30/13. Only $284,965 will expire at the end the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09. The contract was not competitively procured (N00030-10-C-0100).

Missile production

FY 2009

Incremental changes: Missile orders; SHIPALT kits; Mk6 LE work; Support contracts.

Sept 30/09: Support. Boeing in Anaheim, CA received a $28.8 million contract modification, exercising an option to provide the following efforts for the TRIDENT II (D5) navigation subsystem:

  • Engineering support services, and problem investigations for U.S. and U.K.-owned electrostatically supported gyro navigator (ESGN) navigation inertial equipment;
  • Modification, refurbishment, and repair of US and UK ESGN instruments and components;
  • TRIDENT II (D5) shipyard overhaul field engineering;
  • US Fleet documentation, surveillance program, and training;
  • US/UK stable platform housing refurbishment.

These options increase the total contract value to $62.6 million. Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA (84%) and Heath, OH (16%), and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/12. $1.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, which is more or less immediately (N00030-09-C-0002).

Aug 31/09: Support. General Dynamics Electric Boat Corp. in Groton, CT received a $30.9 million contract modification to add new procurement CLIN(contract line item numbers). The new tasks will include:

  • Produce and install the NAVSEA ship alteration kits, for the SSP shipboard integration Increment 1, MK98 MOD 6/7 fire control system
  • Conduct investigations and resolution of problems associated with TRIDENT I and TRIDENT II submarine launched ballistic missile programs
  • Provide strategic weapon systems technical engineering support.

This is follow-on work from the base contract, vid. June 20/08 entry. Work will be performed in Groton, CT (68%); Silverdale, WA (14%); Kings Bay, GA (14%); and North Kingstown, RI (4%), and is expected to be complete Aug 4/10. $1.25 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09 (N00030-08-C-0031).

April 9/09: Support. Boeing in Anaheim, CA received a $33.9 million cost plus incentive fee, cost plus fixed fee contract to provide the following efforts for the TRIDENT II (D5) Navigation Subsystem:

  • Engineering support services, and problem investigations for U.S. and U.K.-owned electrostatically supported gyro navigator (ESGN) navigation inertial equipment
  • Modification, refurbishment, and repair of US and UK ESGN instruments and components
  • TRIDENT II (D5) shipyard overhaul field engineering
  • US Fleet documentation, surveillance program, and training
  • US/UK stable platform housing refurbishment.

Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA (90%) and Heath, OH (10%), and is expected to be complete in June 2012. $25.4 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09. The contract was not competitively procured (N00030-09-C-0002).

March 31/09: D5 LE. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $63.6 million modification under a cost plus incentive fee contract for the Trident II D5 Life Extension (LE) SPALT(SPecial Products ALTerations) Production.

Work will be performed in CA (46.20%); MA (18.57%); MN (15.01%); NM (6.25%); GA (6.11%); FL (5.29%); PA (0.77%); SC (0.53%) and other locations (1.40%), and is expected to be complete by Sept 30/14. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-07-C-0100, P00027).

March 30/09: UK Support. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $21.3 million cost plus fixed fee contract to provide for technical services in support of Britain’s TRIDENT Strategic Weapons System.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (75%); Cocoa Beach, FL (10%); Hudson, NH (2%); St. Mary’s GA (1%); Groton, CT (1%); Bremerton, WA (.5%); other US locations (.5%); and other UK and Italian locations (10%), and is expected to be complete by March 31/10. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-09-C-0018).

Jan 30/09: D5 LE. The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc. in Cambridge, MA received a $146.2 million cost plus incentive fee contract for a Trident II D5 MK6 LE Guidance System.

Work will be performed in Clearwater, FL (35%); Plymouth, MN (27%); Bloomington, MN (16%), Cambridge, MA (12%); and Pittsfield, MA (10%), and is expected to be complete by December 2011. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-09-C-0011).

Dec 5/08: Support. Charles Stark Draper Laboratories in Cambridge, MA received a $157.3 million cost plus incentive fee, cost plus fixed fee contract for services supporting the TRIDENT II (D-5) weapons system. Services will include:

  • Specialized tactical engineering services, logistics services, fleet support services, and guidance repair services to test, repair and maintain guidance subsystems, test equipment, and related support equipment;
  • Research in the application of technologies to support TRIDENT II (D-5) Guidance and Reentry Systems;
  • Failure verification, test, repair and re-certification of Inertial Measurement Units P/N 5807000, Electronic Assemblies P/N 6285900, electronic modules and MK 6 Guidance System related components;
  • Design, analysis and test of service life related upgrades of Inertial Measurement Units P/N 5807000, Electronic Assemblies P/N 6285900, electronic modules and MK 6 Guidance System related components.

Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA (72%); Pittsfield, MA (21%); Clearwater, FL (3%); El Segundo, CA (3%); and Andover, MA (1%), and is expected to be complete Sept 30/09. $91.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-09-C-0008).

Dec 1/09: Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $720.1 million modification to a cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide TRIDENT II (D5) and TRIDENT I (C4) missile subsystems. Specific tasks may include:

  • Missile body, re-entry body, D5 instrumentation systems and support equipment production (D5 only);
  • D5 Production Continuity Hardware (D5 only);
  • Components and requalification activities in support of D5 life extension requirements;
  • Critical components in support of D5 life extension requirements;
  • Field Processing;
  • Engineering and operational support services;
  • Training material development and maintenance;
  • Trainer design and operational support;
  • Spares and integrated logistics support;
  • Flight Test Analysis and Range Support;
  • Safety Assurance including Nuclear Weapon Security (NWS);
  • Missile and support equipment repair;
  • Flight Test Planning and Flight Test Data Acquisition and Processing (D5 only);
  • Development, production and installation of SPALTs/PADs/Sers [Special Projects Alterations, POMF (POLARIS Missile Facility) Alteration Documents, and Support Equipment Requirements];
  • Develop and produce an Alteration Release Assembly;
  • Develop an Enhanced Telemetry System;
  • Technical services in support of the C4/D5 Ballast System and Test Instrumentation Mast program;
  • Technical services in support of all requirements associated with TRIDENT I (C4) related to asset dispositions and disposal.

In addition to TRIDENT II (D5), and TRIDENT I (C4) missile subsystem requirements, there is also a requirement to:

  • Provide storage and maintenance for the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile, Nuclear (TLAM-N) at the Strategic Weapons Facilities;
  • Perform processing and provide technical services in support of the SSGN Attack Weapon System (AWS) at SWFLANT;
  • Provide TRIDENT SWS(Strategic Weapons Systems) Missile Training;
  • Develop technology applicable to global strike objectives that integrates with existing TRIDENT missile and/or the platform, and the missile processing and TRIDENT operations infrastructure;
  • Provide Options for Flight Test Data Acquisition and Analysis for the Air Force and the Missile Defense Agency.

Work will be performed in California (42%); Georgia (11%); Utah (16%); Florida (9%); Washington (8%); Virginia (3%); Tennessee (2%); New Jersey (1%); Massachusetts (1%); Illinois (1%); Maryland (1%); other (5%), and is expected to be complete in September 2012. $285.5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09 (N00030-08-C-0100, PZ0001). See also March 26/08 entry.

Missile & components production, D5 LE, Services

Nov 19/08: Fire control. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Pittsfield, MA received a $52.3 million contract modification for FY09-FY11 US and UK TRIDENT II (D5) fire control system (FCS) work, and US SSGN attack weapon control system (AWCS) support. These efforts include:

  • US/UK weapon control systems (WCS) and weapon control training system (WCTS) operational support
  • US/UK WCS operational support
  • US/UK WCS and navigation system repair and return (R&R)
  • FCS software 344 (Mk 6 life extension) development
  • US/UK Mk 98 Mod 8/9 FCS development
  • Engineered refueling overhaul service
  • Mk 98 Mod 4, 5, 6 and 7 FCS updates
  • AWCS training unique
  • Strategic weapon system training unique.

Work will be performed in Pittsfield, MA, and is expected to be complete on April 1/11. $25.8 million will expire at the end of current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09 (N00030-08-C-0041, P00013)

Nov 12/08: D5 LE. The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory receives a $117.4 million contract modification for Trident II (D5) guidance system repair, guidance system parts, and MK6 LE work. This modification increases the total contract value to $298.3 million.

Work will be performed in the following locations: Cambridge, MA (43%), Pittsfield, MA (38%), El Segundo, CA (12%), Clearwater, FL (5%), and Andover, MA (2%) and is expected to be completed by 30 Sept. 2011. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-08-C-0010, P00006).

FY 2007 – 2008

Missile orders; SHIPALT kits; Mk6 LE work; Support contracts.

Sept 17/08: Support. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Mitchel Field, NY receives a $35 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus incentive fee, cost plus fixed fee contract (N00030-08-C-0002), exercising options to provide U.S., and U.K. Trident II (D5) Navigation Subsystem Engineering Support services, and Engineering Refueling Overhaul Support. The options increase the contract value to $112.1 million.

Work will be performed in Mitchel Field, NY, and work is expected to be complete in September 2011.

July 18/08: Support. Aero Thermo Technology Inc. in Huntsville, AL receives a $5.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide technical, analytical, and program research and development services to support the TRIDENT I and TRIDENT II Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) program, and the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile guidance system requirement. This contract contains options, which if exercised, will bring the total contract value to $32.5 million.

Work will be performed in Huntsville, AL (59%); Nashville, TN (20%); Honolulu, Hawaii (18%); and Colorado Springs, CO (3%), and is expected to be complete in December 2008 (December 2012 with options). This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-08-C-0030).

June 20/08: Support. General Dynamics Electric Boat Corp. in Groton, CT received a $13.7 million contract modification to:

  • Produce and install the Naval Sea Systems Command Ship Alteration (SHIPALT) kits for the Strategic Systems Programs Shipboard Integration (SSI) Increment 1, MK98 MOD 6/7 Fire Control System;
  • Conduct investigations and resolution of problems associated with TRIDENT I and TRIDENT II Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile programs, Ohio Class Submersible Ship Guided Nuclear requirements, Attack Weapon System (AWS) Trainer requirements and Advanced Weapons Systems Development requirements;
  • Provide Strategic Weapons Systems (SWS) technical engineering support.

Work will be performed in Groton, CT (68%); Silverdale, WA (14%); Kings Bay, GA (14%); North Kingstown, RI (4%), and is expected to be complete in May 2012. $1.4 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/08. This contract was a sole source award (N00030-08-C-0031).

March 26/08: initial FY 2008. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA received a $19.3 million unpriced letter contract to provide Long Lead Material (LLM) required for FY 2009 follow-on production of the TRIDENT II (D5) Missile System. This unpriced letter contract will be definitized on/about Oct 1/08 as a cost reimbursable, multiple incentive contract with incentives on cost and performance.

Work will be performed in locations yet to be determined, and is expected to be complete in September 2012. The contract was not competitively procured (N00030-08-C-0100).

March 21/08: UK Support. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $15.5 million cost plus fixed fee contract to provide for technical services in support of Britain’s TRIDENT Strategic Weapons System.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (74.47%); Cape Canaveral, FL (17.37%); St. Mary’s, GA (1.35%); Silverdale, WA (0.73%); Jenkintown, PA (0.34%); Indianapolis, IN (0.05%); Broomfield, CO (0.03%) ; Herndon, VA (.02%); other U.S. locations to be determined (0.32%); and locations to be determined in the United Kingdom and Italy (5.32%), and is expected to be completed March 2009. The contract was not competitively procured (N00030-08-C-0019).

March 4/08: Support. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Mitchel Field, NY received a $21.3 million modification under a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to exercise options to provide U.S. TRIDENT II (D5) navigation subsystem engineering support services requirements. Specific efforts include U.S. Strategic Weapon System shipboard integration support and U.S. trainer shipboard integration support. The options increase the contract value to $80.1 million.

Work will be performed in Mitchel Field, NY, and is expected to be complete in April 2010 (N00030-08-C-0002).

Nov 21/07: Support. Northrop Grumman Space Mission Systems Corp. in Van Nuys, CA received an $8.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide for U.S. and U.K. TRIDENT Flight test data collection, planning, support, and refresh of the radars used to collect the data.

Work will be performed in Los Angeles, CA (37%); Arlington, VA (7%); Van Nuys, CA (2%); Huntington Beach, CA (4%); Pleasant Hill, CA (2%), and Huntsville, AL (1%), and is expected to be complete in September 2008. $4.4 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was a sole source acquisition (N00030-08-C-0005).

Nov 19/07: Support. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Pittsfield, MA is being awarded a $91.3 million Strategic Systems Programs contract for FY 2008 through FY 2009 work. The contract is a cost plus incentive fee contract (incentives on cost, performance, and schedule) awarded based on a sole source acquisition. The funding profile is as follows:

  • $2,978,000 FY2007 UK (3.3%)
  • $9,973,000 FY2008 UK (10.9%)
  • $35,613,891 FY2007 OPN (39%)
  • $2,327,403 FY2008 SCN (2.5%)
  • $27,865,698 FY2008 O&M, USN (30.5%)
  • $9,096,830 FY2008 OPN (10.0%)
  • $3,467,739 FY2008 WPN (3.8%).
  • $27,865,698 of FY2008 O&M, USN funding which would expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/08.

Specific work will include: U.S. and U.K. operational support, repair, installation, and checkout; Mod 6/7 development and production; Mod 8/9 development; Engineered Refueling Overhaul Support; Training Unique Development; AWCS; Auxiliary Systems Tech Refresh; AWCS Mod 0 updates; Conventional TRIDENT Modification development; and Mk 6 Life Extension development; from Oct 1/07 through April 2/11. Work will be performed in Pittsfield, MA (N00030-08-C-0041).

Oct 16/07: Support. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Mitchel Field, NY received a $58.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide FY 2008 U.S. and U.K. TRIDENT II (D5) Navigation Subsystem Engineering Support Services requirements. Specific efforts include U.S. and U.K. Fleet support, Strategic Weapon System Shipboard Integration support, modifications to Trident II (D5) backfit navigation computer software and hardware, U.S. and U.K. trainer systems support, engineering refueling overhaul support.

Work will be performed in Mitchel Field, NY, and is expected to be complete in April 2011. $30.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/08. This contract was awarded based on a sole source acquisition (N00030-08-C-0002).

Sept 28/07: Support. L3/Interstate Electronics Corp. in Anaheim, CA received a $59.6 million cost- plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for specialized technical engineering services to operate, maintain, and repair the TRIDENT II D5 Test Instrumentation subsystems, spares, and related support equipment in support of America’s TRIDENT II (D5) missiles. It includes operation and maintenance of the Launch Area Support Ship (LASS) Flight Test Support System, the M250 Test Missile Radio Frequency set, and M240R Data Recording System (DRS). The contractor will also monitor and provide recommendations/updates to the formal training materials, documentation, and hardware/software utilized in the Strategic Weapons System (SWS) training program.

Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA, and is expected to be complete in May 2009. This contract was awarded based on a sole source acquisition (N00030-08-C-0006).

Sept 10/07: Support. Boeing in Anaheim, CA received a $21.4 million contract modification, exercising options for TRIDENT II (D5) Navigation Subsystem work. Specific efforts include:

  • Engineering support services and problem investigations for U.S. and U.K. owned Electrostatically Supported Gyro Navigator (ESGN) navigation inertial equipment;
  • Modification, refurbishment, and repair of U.S. and U.K. ESGN instruments and components
  • TRIDENT II (D5) shipyard overhaul field engineering
  • U.S. Fleet Documentation, Surveillance Program, and training.

Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA, and is expected to be complete in September 2010. This contract was awarded based on a sole source acquisition (N00030-07-C-0002).

March 12/07: UK Support. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $14.2 million cost plus fixed fee contract to provide for technical services in support of Britain’s TRIDENT Strategic Weapons System.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (69.94%); Cape Canaveral, FL (18.64%); Helensburgh, Scotland, UK (8.6%); St. Mary’s, GA (1.05%); Silverdale, WA (0.67%); Herndon, VA (0.22%); Indianopolis, IN (0.21%) and other yet to be determined sites (0.67%), and is expected to be complete in March 2008. This contract was procured on a sole source basis (N00030-07-C-0028).

March 28/07: Long-lead. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA won a $20.5 million unpriced letter contract to procure Trident II D5 long lead time materials. Work will be performed at various locations and is yet to be determined for this undefinitized effort, and is expected to be completed by September 2011. This contract is a sole source procurement (N00030-07-C-0100).

Jan 9/07: FY 2007. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co’s Space and Strategic Missiles division in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $654.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/ cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for Trident II D5 and Trident I C4 nuclear sea-launched ballistic missiles (N00030-06-C-0100, PZ0001).

The Trident C-4 has been in service since 1979, but the D-5 Trident II is more recent. First deployed in 1990 and scheduled for operational deployment until 2042, 12 of the USA’s 14 SSBNs have been outfitted with Trident II D-5 missiles, and the other 2 will be backfitted as opportunity permits.

Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, Irvine, Torrance and Santa Ana, CA (33.42%); St. Mary’s, GA (15.76%); Brigham City, UT (15.76%); Cape Canaveral, FL (11.89%); Silverdale and Nepoulsbo, WA (10.5%); Gainsville, VA (2.34%); Kingsport, TN (1.65%); and miscellaneous sites throughout the U.S. (9.3%). Contract funds in the amount of $247.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, and work is expected to be complete by September 2010.

Missile production

Nov 27/06: D5 LE. The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, MA received a $195.75 million contract for tactical engineering support re: the Mk 6 guidance system used on American and British Trident II D-5 nuclear missiles. Contract funds in the amount of $76.6 million will expire at the end of current fiscal year, and this contract contains options which would bring its cumulative value to $201.9 million if exercised.

Work will include repair and recertification of Mk 6 guidance systems, including pendulous integrating gyroscopic accelerometers, inertial measurement units, electronic assemblies, inertial measurement units electronics, repair parts, test equipment maintenance, and related hardware; deliver a product and process improvement study to investigate approaches to reduce life-cycle cost and improve performance of the Fleet Ballistic Missile Guidance System program; and employ its personnel and facilities in the conduct of various important technical studies including the Guidance Application Program and the Radiation Hardened Application Program. It will be performed in Cambridge, MA (64%); Pittsfield, MA (23%); Andover, MA (5%); El Segundo, CA (3%); Clearwater, FL (3%); and Woodland Hills, CA (2%), and is expected to be complete September 2007 (N00030-07-C-0001).

FY 2005 – 2006

Missile order; Rocket motors; R&D and work on improved guidance; support contracts.

June 1/06: UK support. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Sunnyvale, CA received a $12.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for technical services that support Britain’s TRIDENT strategic weapons systems. Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA, and is expected to be complete in March 2007. This contract was not competitively procured (N00030-06-C-0038).

April 6/06: Rocket motors. Alliant Techsystems received a $76 million contract from Lockheed Martin to produce solid propulsion systems for all three stages of the US Navy’s Trident II D5 missile. Under the terms of the contract, ATK will continue to supply Trident solid propulsion systems to Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Sunnyvale, CA through 2010.

April 5/06: Support. Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, MA received a $26.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to provide repair and recertification of MK-6 guidance systems, including pendulous integrating gyroscopic accelerometers, inertial measurement units, electronic assemblies, inertial measurement units electronics, repair parts, test equipment maintenance, and related hardware. Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA and is expected to be complete September 2006 (N000-30-06-C-0002).

Dec 22/05: FY 2006. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, CA received an $869 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-award-fee contract from the US Navy to provide funding for fiscal 2006 Trident II D5 Missile Production and Deployed System Support.

Work on this FY 2006 Trident II D5 production & sustainment contract will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA (39%); Magna, UT (12%); Kings Bay, GA (11%); Cocoa Beach, FL (12%); Bangor, WA (8%); Gainesville, VA (3%); Kings Port, TN (1%), Rockville, MD (1%), Lancaster, PA (2%); and other locations (11%), and is expected to be complete by September 2009 (N00030-05-C-0100, Mod. No. PZ0001).

Missile production

Dec 12/05: D5 LE. The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory (CSDL) in Cambridge, MA received a $101.1 million modification to previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00030-05-C-0007) to develop all the system software and algorithms, system sensors, gyroscopes, and accelerometers for the MK6 LE system. CSDL will also build all the system test beds and integrate all the subsystems produced by the subcontractors (General Dynamics, Raytheon, Honeywell, Dynamics Research Corp.) into the final MK6 LE proof of concept model.

Nov 16/05: Support. BAE Systems Applied Technologies in Rockville, MD is being awarded a $62.5 million cost plus fixed fee and cost-plus incentive-fee-of-effort contract. This contract provides for System Integration Support for the Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) Program in implementing interface control programs and performing special technical investigations such as the following:

  • Modify and update system test procedures;
  • Perform configuration management and alteration control via documentation, drawings and technical manuals;
  • Provide logistics, engineering and material control support; and
  • Provide maintenance support data system installation and support for the strategic weapon system, including materials.

The contract also contains option effort to plan for and participate in strategic weapon system testing during submarine overhaul, refit and backfit; and to provide

  • Tomahawk Land Attack Missile-Nuclear (TLAM-N) support
  • Advanced Systems’ Studies
  • Strategic Weapon System Underwater Launch Technology Sustainment
  • Trident II D5 Life Extension Systems Engineering, and
  • Trident Submarine Operation and Employment Studies.

Work will be performed in Rockville, MD (78.58%), Kings Bay, GA (11.78%); Mechanicsburg, PA (2.83%); San Diego, CA (5.96%), and Bangor, WA (0.85%); and and is expected to be complete by September 2006. Contract funds in the amount of $44.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00030-06-C-0006).

Nov 16/05: Fire Control. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems (GDAIS) in Pittsfield, MA received an $8.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to provide Trident II weapon control systems operational support and weapon control system repair and return. Work will be performed in Pittsfield, MA, and is expected to be complete by September 2006. Contract funds in the amount of $4 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00030-05-C-0051).

Nov 15/05: Support. The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory (CSDL) in Cambridge, MA received $130.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, elements of which will also be subcontracted out to various other firms. The contract encompasses the following efforts:

  • Providing tactical engineering support (TES) for the US and UK Mk6 Guidance System
  • Providing tactical engineering support (TES) for the Trident II D5’s Guidance System Test Equipment
  • Providing tactical engineering support for investigation, evaluation, and development of Strategic Programs Alteration (SPALT) plans and/or special studies for the Mk6 Guidance System.

CSDL will subcontract to the following companies:

  • Dynamics Research Corp. (DRC) in Andover MA to maintain and operate the centralized engineering database for the Mk6 guidance system, and perform various product improvement tasks related to the Mk6 guidance system test equipment;
  • General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems (GDAIS) in Pittsfield MA, to provide field-engineering support at Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic and Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific;
  • Raytheon Company Electronics Systems Division in El Segundo, CA to provide test equipment maintenance and support, fleet support, stellar camera development, and electronic factory support;
  • Honeywell International, Inc. in Clearwater, FL, to provide storage assessment testing on Trident guidance systems inertial instruments; and
  • Litton Systems in Woodland Hills, CA, to provide for the development of the alternate pendulous integrating accelerometer.

CSDL’s work will be performed in Cambridge, MA, and work on this contract is expected to be complete in September 2006. Contract funds in the amount of $73.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N000-30-06-C-0003).

Nov 14/05: Navigation. The Boeing Co. in Anaheim, CA received a $14.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee letter contract to provide for Trident II Subsystem Fiber Optic Gyro Navigator Design Investigations and Test System Design. Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA and is expected to be complete by October 2007. The contract was not competitively procured (N00030-05-C-0063).

Sept 29/05: Fire Control. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Pittsfield, MA received a $28.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to provide Trident II Mk98 MOD 6/7 Strategic Weapons Systems Development and Production. The Mk98 mod 6/7 is an updated fire control system for the SSBN 726 Ohio Class nuclear ballistic missile submarines and their Trident II nuclear missiles. Work will be performed in Pittsfield, MA and is expected to be complete by December 2009 (N00030-05-C-0051).

Additional Readings

Readers with corrections, comments, or information to contribute are encouraged to contact DID’s Founding Editor, Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.

Categories: News

UCLASS to be Descoped for CBARS Conversion AKA MQ-25 Stingray

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 23:50
UCAS-D/ N-UCAS concept
(click to view full)

The idea of UAVs with full stealth and combat capabilities has come a long way, quickly. Air forces around the world are pursuing R&D programs, but in the USA, progress is being led by the US Navy.

Their interest is well-founded. A May 2007 non-partisan report discussed the lengthening reach of ship-killers. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s carrier fleet sees its strike range shrinking to 1950s distances, and prepares for a future with fewer carrier air wings than operational carriers. Could UCAV/UCAS vehicles with longer ranges, and indefinite flight time limits via aerial refueling, solve these problems? Some people in the Navy seem to think that they might. Hence UCAS-D/ N-UCAS, which received a major push in the FY 2010 defense review. Now, Northrop Grumman is improving its X-47 UCAS-D under contract, even as emerging privately-developed options expand the Navy’s future choices as it works on its new RFP.

N-UCAS: Programs & Potential X-47B concept
(click to view full)

In early 2006 the future of DARPA’s J-UCAS program seemed uncertain. It aimed to create Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV) for the USAF and Navy that could approach the capabilities of an F-117 stealth fighter. Boeing’s X-45C was set to face off against Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Pegasus, the program had demonstrated successful tests that included dropping bombs, and aerial refueling tests were envisioned. J-UCAS was eventually canceled when the services failed to take it up, but the technologies have survived, and the US Navy remained interested.

Like the F-117, a UCAV’s self-defense would involve remaining undetected. While UCAVs can theoretically be built to execute maneuvers no human pilot could handle, the pilot’s awareness of surrounding events would be quite limited. The X-47B isn’t being designed to do what the type inherently does poorly, but to do what the type does inherently well: be stealthier than manned aircraft, and fly reliably on station for days using aerial refueling support.

If Northrop Grumman or emerging competitors can overcome their technical and operational challenges, and if UCAV reliability lets them match the 2-3 day long mission profiles of Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawks, the US Navy would receive the equivalent of a carrier-borne F-117 stealth fighter, with improved stealth and no pilot fatigue limits. That would open up entirely new possibilities for American carriers.

If aerial refueling support is present behind the front lines, an N-UCAS wing could easily sally forth to hit targets thousands miles from their host carrier, while pilots inside the ship fly in shifts. The X-47s would fly a much shorter distance back to aerial tankers as needed, and only return to the steaming carrier several days later, or when their weapons had been used up. As a concrete example, in an emergency a carrier could launch UCAVs as it left Gibraltar at the gate of the Mediterranean, then fly them to the Persian Gulf and keep them on patrol using USAF aerial refueling tankers, all the while steaming to catch up. As the carrier got closer to the Arabian Sea off of Oman, the UCAVs would get more and more loiter time over their target area, and the “chainsaw” would get shorter and shorter.

First Step: UCAS-D / X-47B Concept no more
(click to view full)

N-UCAS (Naval Unmanned Combat Air System) is the US Navy’s broader umbrella initiative to define/develop/produce a fleet of unmanned, carrier based strike and surveillance aircraft. The UCAS-D demonstration program is a subset of that initiative. If the demonstrations go well, the Navy may progress to an Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program.

In July 2007, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Pegasus beat Boeing’s X-45C to win the UCAS-D development contract. Northrop Grumman’s Aug 3/07 release describes their mission as:

“The UCAS-D effort will mature critical technologies, reduce unmanned air system carrier integration risks and provide information necessary to support a potential follow-on acquisition milestone.”

Translation: show us that this can work, and demonstrate carrier-based launches and recoveries of a tailless, autonomous, “LO-relevant” aircraft. “Low Observable relevant” means that its outer shape must reflect stealth requirements, but without any of the operational stealth coatings and other expensive measures. That makes sense, since UCAS-D is only about aerodynamics and control. Eventually, follow on programs like UCLASS will have to test stealth as well, but UCAS-D will be about the basics.

UCAS-D has 2 big technical challenges. One is safe, reliable flight and landings in carrier-controlled airspace, for a stealth aircraft that may not always be visible on radar. Testing appears to be working, and combined manned/ unmanned evolutions have begun. The other big challenge is successful and safe aerial refueling.

Next Step: UCLASS Phantom Ray

Northrop Grumman’s UCAS-D team hopes that by completing the UCAS-D funded demonstration phase, they’ll be able to offer an inherently conservative service a proven UCAV option, with a more complete set of advanced capabilities than privately-developed or late-moving competitors.

The USA’s Naval Aviation Master Plan currently includes provisions for a Navy UCAS (N-UCAS) around 2025. If UCAS-D work goes very well, and the US Navy follows through on its shift toward an X-47B-class UCAV that can be used for limited missions, pressure will build for much earlier deployment. There are already indications of pressure along those lines, and the UCLASS RFI sets a goal of fielding a limited capability UCAV on board American carriers by 2018 or so.

Barring continued and substantial pressure from above, however, the level of cultural shift required by the naval aviation community is likely to slow down any deployment of advanced UCAVs on board ships. That is already happening to UCLASS, which has seen its strike role shrink while the Navy publicly talks about making surveillance its main mission. That would be less threatening to future manned aircraft programs, but it may not be the best use of UCAV technology, and the Navy is already finding itself at odds with Congress on this score. A priority on surveillance also shrinks the need for stealth, which would give General Atomics’ conventional airframe design a big advantage over its 3 tailless flying wing competitors.

Predator C
click for video

If and when the US Navy proceeds with a full Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle deployment program, the X-47 will have competitors. The 3 additional recipients of initial UCLASS study contracts include:

General Atomics. They were the first competitor out of the gate, expanding their jet-powered Predator C “Avenger” research program to include a carrier-capable “Sea Avenger” as well.

Boeing. Boeing already makes F/A-18 Super Hornet naval fighters, and their privately-developed X-45 Phantom Ray UCAV stems from the same DARPA J-UCAS program that produced the X-47B UCAS-D. Northrop Grumman designed their X-47B for carrier operations from the outset, but Boeing developed their X-45C without those compromises, so carrier operations will require added work.

Lockheed UCLASS
click for video

Lockheed Martin. This concept comes out of their famed Skunk Works facility, which produced planes like the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter. Their work also builds on internal efforts like Polecat UAV, and classified programs like the RQ-170 UAV. They also seem to be making a push to leverage their strength in back-end command and control systems as a selling point, while partnering with control system specialist DreamHammer.

UCAS-D: Program & Team

The first X-47B Pegasus UCAS-D (AV-1) was scheduled to fly in December 2009, but that was pushed back to Q1 of CY 2010, and finally ended up taking place in February 2011. It conducted series of detailed flight envelope and land-based carrier integration and qualification events at Edwards AFB, CA, then returned to NAS Patuxent River, MD to begin land-based carrier landing trials.

AV-2, which is equipped with full refueling systems, was expected to make its first flight in November 2010, and begin testing autonomous aerial refueling (AAR). Early 2011 saw the AV-2 airframe pass static and dynamic load tests, but AV-2’s flights were delayed until AV-1 finishes its own tests, in late 2011, and didn’t take off until November 2011. It began carrier-related testing in 2012, and launched for the 1st time in May 2013. Full launch and landing circuits, and aerial refueling tests, are still on the horizon.

Its first landing was initially set for late 2011, but the firm now talks about some time in 2013. Once autonomous aerial refueling demonstrations begin, the Navy intends to achieve both probe & drogue (USN style) and boom/receptacle (USAF style) refuelings.

Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, CA is the final assembly site for the X-47B, and the industrial team also includes:

UCAS-D: Northrop Grumman’s X-47B X-47B 3-view
(click to view full)

UCAVs currently have no real situational awareness of the airspace around them, which makes them sitting ducks for any attack that doesn’t use radar guidance, and isn’t picked up by their radar warning receivers. Even an alerted UCAV currently has few options but to try and change course. That may work against ground threats, but mobile aerial opponents will simply follow and kill them. Their best defense is not to be found. Their best option if found is to make it hard to keep a radar track on them, or to vector in enemy aircraft. This may be why high-end strike UCAVs like the Boeing X-45 Phantom Ray, European nEUROn, British Taranis, and Russian MiG SKAT all use the maximum stealth configuration of tailless subsonic blended wing bodies with shielded air intakes, and attenuated exhausts.

The X-47B’s modified flying wing design and top-mounted air intake reflect this orientation. By removing the pilot and opting for sub-sonic speeds, Northrop Grumman is able to field a design that looks like a more advanced version of its B-2 bomber. Instead of a straight flying wing like Boeing’s competing X-45C, however, their engineers opted for a cranked wing that improves landing characteristics on carrier decks, and makes it easy to use carrier-borne aircrafts’ classic “folding wing” design for improved storage in tight spaces.

This UCAV may be a short plane, but it’s not a small one. The X-47B’s 62.1 foot wingspan rivals the Navy’s old F-14s, and is wider than a Navy F/A-18 Hornet or even a larger Super Hornet. Because of its foreshortened length, however, its storage “spot factor” relative to an F/A-18C Hornet (“1.0”) is just 0.87.

Target and strike
(click to view full)

Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5C turbofan engine powered previous X-47 models, but the UCAS-D will adopt Pratt & Whitney’s F100-PW-220U, a modified variant of the engine that powers American F-16 and F-15 fighters. Subsonic requirements and carrier-based employment changed the engine’s imperatives: it will produce less thrust than its F100 counterparts (just 16,000 pounds), in exchange for efficiency improvements and better protection against the corrosive salt-water environment.

Efficiency matters to this platform. Unrefueled X-47B range is expected to be between 1,500 – 2,100 nautical miles, with a maximum payload of 4,500 pounds. The standard payload is expected to be a pair of 2,000 pound JDAMs, but the weapon bay’s ultimate size and shape will determine its ability to carry other options like strike missiles, JSOW glide bombs, a pair of 4-bomb racks for the GPS-guided Small Diameter Bomb, the forthcoming Joint Air-Ground Missile, etc.

Sensors are currently to be determined, as they aren’t really the point of UCAS-D. Any Navy strike platform is expected to have an advanced SAR radar with Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI), conformal electro-optic day/night cameras, and ESM (Electronic Support Measures) equipment that helps it pinpoint and trace back incoming electromagnetic signals. Given the X-47B’s design’s inherent strengths of stealth and long endurance, additional modules or payloads for tasks like signals collection must surely be expected.

Naval UCAVs: Contracts and Key Events

See also “Boeing to Advance UAV Aerial Refueling” for background and updates regarding unmanned aerial refueling test programs in the US military – which now include UCAS-D/ N-UCAS.

Unless otherwise indicated, The Naval Air Systems Command Patuxent River, MD manages these contracts.

FY 2016

July 19/16: While speculation over its name has been floated for some time, the US Navy’s first carrier unmanned aerial vehicle has been officially named. Known as the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS) program, the service’s Material Command has now designated the aircraft MQ-25A with the name “Stingray.” Initially conceived as a low observable lethal, and deep penetrating strike platform, the MQ-25A will now focus on refueling with some ISR capabilities and followed up with later weapons installation.

May 4/16: The US Navy is expected to release a risk-reduction request for proposals (RFP) for its MQ-25 Stingray program this summer. This will help set out the timeline in which the service can realistically expect the tanker system to be deployed on-board its carrier fleet. It is expected that this will be followed by an engineering, manufacturing and design RFP in early FY2017. Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman all have designs they were going to pitch for UCLASS, and are expected to modify them for the Stingray’s new role.

March 30/16: The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published its annual report on the the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program, as authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. By analyzing the DOD budget for FY 2017 and speaking to program officials, the GAO found that the U.S. Navy has begun to develop modifications to existing shipboard systems to support the UCLASS’ latest iteration – Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS). As with the UCLASS program, CBARS will include an air system segment, an aircraft carrier segment, and a control system and connectivity segment.

March 16/16: The US Navy has announced plans to “descope” the stealth requirement from the development carrier-based aerial system (CBARS). This will allow the tanker to be capable of firing missiles and dropping munitions. Dubbed the MQ-25 Stingray, the descoping marks yet another alteration to the program which had initially started out as the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program before a drastic U-turn took it away from ISR activities to that of refueling role. However, according to Vice Adm Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, the addition of greater weapons capabilities will not see the Stingray spying, with destroying targets and refueling remaining its main mission.

March 7/16: The decision to convert the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program to an aerial refueling tanker under the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS) may require a new competition. Michael Novak, the Deputy Director of the Unmanned Maritime Systems Office under the office of the Chief of Naval Operations said that higher ups in the Pentagon were considering the change to allow all four companies that participated in the earlier UCLASS competition to be able to refine their proposals and “hit the mark for the CBARS.” The decision rests with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) on what the next step for the tanker will be.

February 2/16: Initial plans to have the US Navy’s latest unmanned jet weaponized seems less likely, as plans seem to have shifted towards a tanker role. The long deferred Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program was recently provided enthusiastically with $350 million by Congress. However, this was given on the understanding that the jet would be developed for full integration into carrier air wing operations – including strike operations – and possess the range, payload, and survivability attributes as necessary to complement such integration. No mention had been made about the need for unmanned aerial tanking capability. Instead the jet could be developed under the little known Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS) aimed at producing an unmanned carrier-based aerial tanker, able to refuel other planes low on gas without risking a pilot. Strike capabilities would feature in a future variant of the aircraft.

October 1/15: Both House and Senate armed forces committees have agreed to fund the development of UCLASS unmanned aircraft in the draft FY2016 NDAA bill, in addition to more Tomahawk cruise missiles, F-35B Joint Strike Fighters for the Marines and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for the Navy. The draft bill also includes for the provision of a fourth MQ-4C Triton UAV.

FY 2015

April 20/15:
The X-47B UCAV currently being developed by Northrop Grumman, has conducted successful aerial refueling from a KC-707, the first time the demonstrator has completed this difficult test set. Additionally, the US Office of Naval Research recently successfully tested the ability of UAVs to “swarm”, sharing information in flight with some autonomy, as part of its LOCUST program.

Feb 4/15: FY 2016 budge shelves UCLASS until 2023.
Even (theoretically) busting through sequestration, the 2016 Administration budget for the Navy opts to push UCLASS off to 2023.

The new schedule has an RFP released in FY 2016, with an award in Q2 2017 and first flight milestone in Q3 2020. Initial capability wouldn’t arrive until 2023. Where UCLASS was to originally get $669 million in FY 2016, the final document allowed it only $135 million.

FY 2014

(click to view full)

Sept 10/14: UCLASS. The UCLASS team has integrated the latest iteration of Common Control System (CCS) software, which is the 1st to use the latest Navy Interoperability Profile (NIOP). This iteration forms the baseline for all future UCLASS control software, and Cmdr. Wade Harris is the Control System and Connectivity (CS&C) lead. They’re currently testing this software with an air vehicle simulator based on the MQ-4C Triton.

Ron La France is the UCLASS integration lead, and system-level testing of the control station and connectivity segment, carrier segment, and air system segment in the lab is next. That’s hard enough. Meanwhile, the program team is working with 72 programs of record, 22 program offices, 6 program executive offices and 3 systems commands. No wonder this stuff is slow and expensive; in fairness, a carrier deck can’t afford screwups, and there are a lot of moving parts to consider. Sources: US Navy NAVAIR, “Navy integrates ‘common’ software into next-generation unmanned carrier-based system”.

Aug 29/14: UCLASS. So much for that Sept 10/14 DAB meeting. US Navy Cmdr. Thurraya S. Kent now says that:

“Defense officials will be including [Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS)] in its ISR portfolio review to be conducted in conjunction with the normal budget review process this fall… Determination regarding the release of the UCLASS RFP will be made based on the results of this review.”

It appears that the Navy itself is divided between its initial view of UCLASS as an ISR asset with secondary aerial tanker and low-threat light strike capabilities, vs. a stealthy and refuelable high-threat strike platform that’s designed to radically extend the carrier’s offensive reach. Sources: USNI, “UCLASS RFP Delayed Again Following Pentagon Meeting”.

Aug 27/14: Testing. X-47B testing aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt [CVN 71] draws to a close. The UCAV flew with manned aircraft for the first time (q.v. Aug 17/14), continued flying and landing tests, performed a night time shipboard flight deck handling evaluation to see how the sailors dealt with that, and collected flying quality and recovery wind condition data to evaluate how the aircraft responds to wake turbulence during approach and landing. Sources: US Navy NAVAIR, “X-47B achieves new set of firsts aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt”.

Aug 19/14: UCLASS. USNI reports that US NAVAIR is about to release their UCLASS RFP at long last, with a final signoff expected on Sept 10/14 by the Defense Acquisition Board. The specifications are still secret this time, so it’s hard to have an intelligent public discussion beyond the public data of 14 hours ISR endurance, 1,000 pound payload, or 2,000 mile strike mission with 500 pounds payload.

It is interesting that many American sorties over Iraq these days are surveillance missions, though using Navy fighters for that is a fiscally stupid thing to do. Sources: USNI, “NAVAIR ‘On the Precipice’ of Releasing UCLASS RFP, Pentagon Review Set For Sept. 10” | USNI, “Navy: Most Carrier Sorties Over Iraq Are Surveillance Missions”.

X-47B & F/A-18F

Aug 17/14: UCAS-D & F/A-18F. The Navy continues taking next steps, operating an X-47B alongside manned F/A-18C and F/A-18F fighters from the same carrier at the same time:

“The first series of manned/unmanned operations began this morning when the ship launched an F/A-18 and an X-47B. After an eight-minute flight, the X-47B executed an arrested landing, folded its wings and taxied out of the landing area. The deck-based operator used newly developed deck handling control to manually move the aircraft out of the way of other aircraft, allowing the F/A-18 to touch down close behind the X-47B’s recovery.”

This seems easy, but “de-confliction” is really dangerous. Sources: US Navy, “USS Theodore Roosevelt Conducts Combined Manned, Unmanned Operations” | Foxtrot Alpha, “Video Of X-47B & F/A-18 Carrier Ops Shows The Future Of Naval Aviation” | Washington Times, “Navy’s X-47B drone completes ‘key’ carrier tests alongside F/A-18 Hornet”.

July 31/14: UCLASS. USNI reports that the shift in UCLASS requirements wasn’t budget-driven, it was politically driven based on a program that doesn’t exist yet:

“In particular, the change in UCLASS from a deep strike stealthy penetrator into the current lightly armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) focused aircraft was – in large part – to preserve a manned version of the F/A-XX replacement for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, several Navy, Pentagon and industry sources confirmed to USNI News.”

It wouldn’t be the first time something like this has happened. The usual outcome is the elimination of a useful capability now, without really protecting the future program. Another trap could snap shut if the Washington Business Journal turns out to be correct, and the Navy decides to keep the specifications poorly defined, in order to give themselves more flexibility. What that usually gives you, is more cost. Sources: USNI, “UCLASS Requirements Shifted To Preserve Navy’s Next Generation Fighter” | The Guardian, “Carrier-based drone offers way forward for US navy – subject to squabbling” | Washington Business Journal, “Could UCLASS end up as the Pentagon’s next runaway program?”.

June 26/14: N-UCAS Phase II. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in San Diego, CA receives a $63.1 million to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for Phase II of N-UCAS post-demonstration activities. $45.9 million is committed immediately, using US Navy FY 2013 and 2014 RDT&E budgets.

Phase II activities will include continued flights, test bed and flight test support at both shore-based locations and associated carrier detachments, continued development of Fleet Concepts of Operations, X-47B maintenance support, lab and test bed operational support and continued flight test opportunities.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (70%) and Patuxent River, MD (30%), and is expected to be complete in March 2015. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-07-C-0055).


May 6/14: Politics. House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chair Buck McKeon [R-CA] is proposing to add $450 million to fund 5 EA-18Gs and their equipment in the FY 2015 budget, instead of the 22 on the unfunded priorities list. The committee’s proposed changes would also preserve all F-35 funding, while cutting the Navy’s unmanned UCLASS R&D budget in half to $200 million. Sources: Flightglobal, “House bill promotes EA-18G and U-2S, but hits UCLASS” | Reuters, “Boeing, backers to fight for funding for 22 Boeing jets”.

May 4/14: RFP leak? Shawn Brimley of the center-left Center for a New American Security discusses the recent classified UCLASS RFP. Something must have leaked:

“But last month the Navy instead reportedly issued classified requirements for UCLASS to deliver intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Instead of creating a drone that can carry missiles or other strike power into enemy airspace, defense contractors have been told to submit proposals for an aircraft designed to fly around the aircraft carrier for 12 to 14 hours delivering persistent surveillance over uncontested airspace, with a light strike capability to eliminate targets of opportunity.”

Within the known set of contenders, this RFP would give General Atomics a significant advantage, but it would also remove most of the UCAV’s ability to operate in contested environments. Stealth at a level required for contested environments isn’t a bolt-on, it’s a fundamental design choice that affects most other choices. There’s a set of trade-offs between various capabilities and reasonable cost (q.v. Feb 13 – April 2/14), but one can legitimately wonder why the job description Brimley describes requires a new program of any kind. The MQ-4C Triton and RQ-4B Block 40 Global Hawks will already perform that reconnaissance role, and if light strike is also required, the MQ-9 Reaper could just be navalized. Sources: Defense One, “Congress’s Chance to Fix Aircraft Carrier Drones”.

April 30/14: Politics. The House Subcommittee On Seapower And Projection Forces discusses H.R. 4435, the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Bill. Title II addresses UCLASS directly, and prohibits UCLASS contracts until the Pentagon has produced a review of the report that examines the carrier wing’s capabilities against surveillance-strike complexes by 2025-2035, including both manned and unmanned components. That actually misses one of a UCAV’s biggest benefits, which is the strike range they offer with aerial refueling. The report may not change much, but the committee does say that:

“The committee believes that current UCLASS Air System Segment requirements will not address the emerging anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) challenges to U.S. power projection that originally motivated creation of the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System (N-UCAS) program during the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), and which were reaffirmed in both the 2010 QDR and 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. In particular, the disproportionate emphasis in the requirements on unrefueled endurance to enable continuous intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) support to the Carrier Strike Group (CSG), a capability need presumably satisfied by the planned acquisition of 68 MQ-4C Tritons…. appears unsupportive of the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance for the United States to “maintain its ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged.”

….Finally, the committee is concerned with multiple aspects of the proposed UCLASS acquisition strategy, including: insufficient time and funding for contractors to mature their designs in support of a full-scope Preliminary Design Review, due in part to late-developing and still-evolving air system performance requirements; the additional risk to the program associated with the Navy’s decision to abandon the precision landing system developed and successfully tested during the UCAS-D effort; and the potential risk associated with NAVAIR developing the UCLASS Mission Control System internally.”

April 17/14: RFP. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus signed-off on the draft RFP during an April 16/14 briefing, and the US Navy Navy released a draft UCLASS RFP direct to their existing contractors: Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin & Northrop Grumman. It’s classified, as expected, and the final RFP is due late this year. Sources: USNI, “Navy Issues Restricted UCLASS Draft Request for Proposal”.


April 10/14: UCAS-D Testing. The X-47B conducts its 1st night flight. Sources: US NAVAIR, “Photo Release: X-47B completes night flights”.

April 10/14: UCLASS GA. General Atomics’ modified Sea Avenger UAV appears to have grown larger since initial designs were released, with an internal bay and 4 wing hardpoints, including an option for buddy refueling tanks. The key question for the company will be the UCLASS stealth requirements. If they’re focused on ISR and strike missions in defended airspace, requiring good stealth scores in the C, X, and Ku bands, the Sea Avenger probably can’t compete. If the requirements focus on missions in relatively unthreatened airspace, inherent efficiencies in the Sea Avenger’s design sharply improve its chances. Sources: USNI, “General Atomics Shows Off Company’s UCLASS Option”.

April 9/14: UCAS-D Recognition. The X-47B program is awarded the aerospace industry’s annual Robert Collier trophy for 2013. Sources: US NAVAIR, “Navy’s X-47B program receives aviation honor”.

April 8/14: UCLASS. Speaking at the Sea, Air and Space 2014 expo, NAVAIR PEO unmanned aviation and strike weapons Adm. Mat Winter says that the US Navy expects to release a classified UCLASS draft RFP before the end of April. Sources: USNI, “Classified UCLASS Draft Request for Proposal Due at End of April”.

Feb 13 – April 2/14: UCLASS. Nailing down the UCLASS requirements has been the Navy’s biggest headache throughout, and even at this late date, competing visions are still problematic enough to delay the RFP. One is reminded of legendary Skunk Works chief Kelly Johnson:

“Starve before doing business with the damned Navy. They don’t know what the hell they want and will drive you up a wall before they break either your heart or a more exposed part of your anatomy.”

The core design issues are straightforward. One, more payload = more size = more cost. Two, different UCAV sizes force a choice of specific marinized jet engines, which will have specific fuel consumptions. If gal/nmi isn’t good enough, that means more fuel, which means more payload, and see #1. Engine choice also affects stealth and size directly, since efficient high-bypass turbofans have large diameters, and you have to design around that. Finally, stealth itself costs money, and creates airframe designs that are difficult to change later.

The Navy’s requirements (q.v. June 26/13) effectively impose a $75 million per UCAV cost cap, but “we want it all” letters from House ASC Seapower subcommittee chair Randy Forbes are likely to force costs to $100+ million if its recommendations are adopted. In-air refueling capability is critical for any UCAV, but adding maximum stealth and payload to the request is what breaks the deal. This may be one of those cases where a limited program with a less expensive platform is what’s really called for, in order to allow the Navy to figure out how they can best use the technology first. Sources: Scribd, Rep. Randy Forbes UCLASS Letter || USNI, “Cost Will Drive UCLASS Designs” | “Requirements Debate Continues to Delay UCLASS RFP”.

April 1/14: UCLASS. The Navy has been discussing the potential use of UCLASS as an aerial tanker platform for some time now. They aren’t talking about forward use during strikes. Rather, they’re focused on orbits around the carrier that can top off planes in the landing circle.

The Navy currently uses F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for that job, configured with buddy refueling tanks. Those missions eat up fully 20% of the fighters’ missions, consuming limited airframe flight hours for an expensive asset. All because the Navy foolishly retired its S-3 Vikings when they still had more remaining airframe life than a new Super Hornet. The coming COD carrier cargo aircraft competition may provide a different solution to this problem, via an upgraded C-3 Viking or the V-22’s roll-on refueling pallet. That’s good, because there probably won’t be enough UCLASS drones to do this job and perform their own missions. Sources: USNI, “UCLASS Could Be Used as Tanker for Carrier Air Wing”.

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. They peg the UCLASS program at $3.7 billion, and express concern about using a “technology development” program as a procurement program, which would bypass formal systems development requirements and move directly into production in 2020. A development contract is expected in FY 2014, but:

“UCLASS is critically dependent on the development and fielding of the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS), a global positioning system that guides aircraft onto an aircraft carrier. Navy officials expect UCLASS to hold a preliminary design review – including the air vehicle, carrier, and control segments – in May 2014 based on JPALS test progress. However, the Navy still considers JPALS one of its top risks for UCLASS.”

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The future UCLASS program is slated to consume $2.937 billion through FY 2019, all of which will be R&D money due to the program’s structure.

Feb 13/14: UCLASS Air-to-Air? The Navy is thinking broadly about UCLASS, which is good as long as it doesn’t screw up the specifications. Director of air warfare Rear Adm. Mike Manazir talks about the potential to use the UCLASS’ payload bay as a missile magazine. It wouldn’t have independent targeting capability, but datalinks with fighters like the missile-limited F-35C would allow remote firing, with guidance provided thereafter by manned fighters.

It’s the right kind of thinking, but unlikely to see much use for 3 reasons. One is that the UCLASS will be subsonic, with very limited ability to avoid enemy fighters. That’s a nice way of saying that they’d be expensive sitting ducks if enemy aircraft can get a firing solution on them, even as the number of missiles on board makes them a priority target. Another potential issue is that asking internal launchers to handle a wider variety of weapons (q.v. Nov 21/13) generally drives up costs, and may compromise optimal weapon configurations for the strike role. On a less likely but more catastrophic level, one hopes there’s no software exploit that might allow others to issue those kinds of firing commands. Sources: USNI, “Navy’s UCLASS Could Be Air to Air Fighter”.

Feb 4/14: UCLASS. The FY 2014 defense budget bill added some new demands on the UCLASS program, but they won’t stop the Navy from running it as a technology demonstration project that goes straight into operational production.

Programmatic updates, and annual GAO review of the program, are normal. What will change is the number of UAVs bought during the TD Phase, which is capped at 6 instead of the planned 24. The Navy says that they can handle Milestone B approval with 6, which was never really in doubt. What does change is the ability to field what’s effectively an operational capability straight out of the TD phase. Sources: USNI, “Navy: Congressional Oversight Will Not Slow UCLASS Program”.

Nov 21/13: UCLASS. The UCLASS weapons debate isn’t solved yet, though the Navy seems to be leaning strongly toward a primary surveillance and targeting role, since that would be a new addition to the carrier air wing. UCLASS/UCAS-D requirements officer Cmdr. Pete Yelle says that:

“Weapons requirements will be defined in the final proposals. It is up to the vendors to come back with proposals and leverage what is available”…. The UCLASS will be able to work operations over land and water using EO/IR, or electro-optical/infrared sensors, FMV or full-motion video and eventually a fifth-generation AESA radar, Yelle said.”

Full Motion Video is part of most EO/IR systems these days. As for the AESA radar, that can mean a wide array of solutions, and a significant range of expense. The question is how far one wants to go. Just surface scans? Surface scans plus periscope detection capabilities, to partially replace the retired S-3 Viking’s role? Or a full fighter radar for air and ground surveillance, with specialized capabilities added as software? Each choice leads to different cost ranges, and potential commonalities or divergences with other fleet assets.

On the weapons front, some capability for persistent surveillance and strike seems like an obvious addition. What’s available includes Paveway laser-guidance, JDAM and Small Diameter Bomb GPS, and DAMTC dual-mode laser/GPS bombs. Depending on a given UAV’s internal mechanics, compact anti-ship missiles and even AIM-9X air defense weapons could also become an option, but that tends to add complexity and cost to the system. Sources: Defense Tech, “Navy Plans to Arm UCLASS with JDAMs”.

Nov 10/13: Flying again. The X-47B is back at sea, flying from the decks of the USS Theodore Roosevelt [CVN 71]. US Navy, “X-47B Operates Aboard Theodore Roosevelt”:

“The aircraft performed precise touch and go maneuvers on the ship to generate data that characterizes the environment in close proximity of the carrier flight deck. In addition, the aircraft took part in flight deck handling drills, completed arrested landings and catapult launches. Mission operators monitored the aircraft’s autonomous flight from a portable command and control unit from Theodore Roosevelt’s flight deck during each of its 45-minute flights.”

FY 2013

In-depth carrier ops testing; UCAS-D deck handling, catapult launch, and arrested landing tests; Despite cuts, UCLASS plans are still on. History made
click for video

Aug 28 – Sept 6/13: AAR. A Calspan Learjet has been modified with a non-functioning aerial refueling probe, and X-47B UCAV hardware and software for navigation, command and control, and vision processing. Its challenge? To fly behind an Omega K-707 tanker, and demonstrate its ability to hold correct positions and operate with the installed systems. Testing went well.

The next step will using the kind of digital messaging and navigation processes that were demonstrated by the UCAV’s recent carrier landings, with Rockwell Collins TTNT datalink, and Precision Relative GPS (PGPS) algorithms. The final goal? A complete autonomous rendezvous, approach, plug, and safe separation. No fuel will be transferred to the Learjet, which isn’t equipped to receive it anyway, but the ability to fly that kind of evolution is enough challenge all by itself. People in the military overuse the phrase “game changer,” but a technology that could allow continuous 72+ hour missions and trans-ocean control from a carrier would indeed justify that description. Sources: US NAVAIR, “Navy autonomous aerial refueling tests underway”.

Aug 14/13: UCLASS. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD offers each of the UCLASS study participants another $15 million firm-fixed-price contract for their preliminary design review assessment work. Each firm has $4.75 million committed to it immediately, and work is extended until June 2014. Too bad the core requirements are still in flux. The winners include:

  • Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in El Segundo, CA (N00019-13-C-0140).
  • Lockheed Martin Corp. in Palmdale, CA (N00019-13-C-0141).
  • Boeing in St. Louis, MO (N00019-13-C-0142).
  • General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA (N00019-13-C-0143).

Aug 12/13: UCLASS. Aviation Week reports that the US Navy is having a hard time with the specifications for their UCLASS program RFP, which will be delayed into September 2013.

The biggest question is how much stealth the drone requires. Despite recent manufacturing advances, like the radar-absorbing materials baked right into the F-35’s composite skin, more stealth tends to make planes more expensive to buy and to maintain, while dropping their endurance and payload. On the other hand, current drones would have a very short life expectancy against advanced air defense systems, which creates a gap outside of the military’s unknown “black” programs.

Aviation Week reports that Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are emphasizing stealth, while General Atomics and Boeing are willing to raise the radar cross-section somewhat in exchange for payload and endurance. General Atomics’ Sea Avenger, with its winged body and tail, does seem to fit this description. On the other hand, Boeing’s X-45 Phantom Ray is a tailless flying wing design, just like its NGC and Lockheed competitors. If Boeing is really prioritizing range and payload, it means they’re changing their base platform. Aviation Week: “Uclass: How Much LO is Enough?”

Aug 7/13: UCAS-D: Keep flying. It seems that the X-47Bs aren’t done flying yet. Instead of mothballing them as planned, the US Navy wants to keep them flying into 2015, and deploy to carriers 3 more times. Up to 3 more carriers will be fitted with compatible equipment, and Congress may get its wish to have the aerial refueling tests restored and completed by October 2014. The most important test will involve full integration with a 70-plane carrier air wing for several weeks, which would create a different level of comfort within the Navy for unmanned aircraft.

Despite past weapon drops under the J-UCAS program, The Us Navy doesn’t expect to conduct any of those with the X-47 UCAS-D. NAVAIR’s Capt. Jaime Engdahl repeated that refusal a couple of times a week later, at the AUVSI conference.

Continued flying will also give Northrop Grumman additional opportunities to work on its UCLASS design, and ensure that the Navy gets comfortable with its evolution. David Axe correctly points out that the last situation similar to this one involve Lockheed Martin’s X-35 design, which was chosen to become the F-35. DoD Buzz: “Navy: X-47B Drone Won’t Be a Killer” | USNI News: “NAVAIR: X-47B to Fly Again” | War Is Boring: “Navy’s Big Surprise: Carrier Drone to Make a Comeback”.

July 10/13: X-47B “Salty Dog 502” leaves NAS Pax River, MD and flies to USS George H.W. Bush [CVN 77], off the coast of Virginia. The UCAV successfully lands on the aircraft carrier and traps the #3 wire, marking a huge milestone in naval aviation. It then takes off from the carrier and lands again. On the 3rd approach, the drone reported that one of its 3 navigational computers failed. Rear Adm. Mat Winter decides that they had done enough for 1 day, and orders the drone back to Wallops Island, VA to land. Even with that minor glitch, the Secretary of the Navy had an appropriate quote when he said that:

“It isn’t very often you get a glimpse of the future. Today, those of us aboard USS George H.W. Bush got that chance…”

Actually, glimpses of the future are common. What he meant to say was that glimpses of a future that promises big changes in naval warfare are rare. This event is indeed in that class – closer to Billy Mitchell’s sinking of the Ostfriesland than it is to the 1st carrier jet launch. The Navy still needs to demonstrate UCAS aerial refueling in order to complete an airpower revolution, but this is a very big step forward. US Navy | Northrop Grumman | Wind River | Defense Tech | DoD Live.

Carrier landing at sea!

July 2/13: UCLASS. Lockheed Martin touts a recent UCLASS demonstration at NAVAIR, but their focus is on back-end and Common Control systems, rather than the UCAV itself. Lockheed Martin:

“Using an open architecture framework integrated with DreamHammer’s Ballista [DID: link added] drone control software and Navy compliant software protocols, a single operator managed multiple UAS platforms [including Lockheed Martin’s UCLASS concept] simultaneously. The team also used the new Navy Cloud capability to demonstrate control of the ISR sensors and fully integrate the data into one complete mission picture. The team then used this picture to rapidly re-task and re-route the UAS assets. In addition to using DreamHammer’s Ballista drone control software in this UCLASS demonstration, Lockheed Martin is teamed with DreamHammer Government Solutions in pursuit of the upcoming Navy Common Control System contract.”

June 28/13: JPALS/N-UCAS. Engility Corp. in Mount Laurel, NJ receives a $12.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, exercising an option for engineering services in support of the Joint Precision Approach and Landing Systems (JPALS) and the Navy Unmanned Combat Aerial Systems programs. JPALS is a ground or ship-based system that adds extra precision to GPS, and is used to help land aircraft. It’s a critical enabler for naval UAVs like UCAS-D, UCLASS, etc.

$4 million in FY 2013 RDT&E funds are committed immediately. Services to be provided include requirements definition and analysis; prototyping; test and evaluation; technical assistance; system analysis; engineering; software development, integration and maintenance; test data acquisition; reduction and analysis; technical logistic support; configuration management; training support; and program and project management.

Work will be performed in St. Inigoes, MD (95%); Providence, RI (3%); and Chicago, IL (2%); and is expected to be complete by in January 2014 (N00421-12-C-0048).

June 26/13: UCLASS. “The Navy has outlined the specifications for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) in a requirements document obtained by USNI News.” the key numbers are:

  • Carrier and JALN-M network compatible, with take-off and landing in Sea State 3 (4′ waves) minimum, and SS7 (29′ waves) maximum.
  • Able to conduct a strike mission at 2,000 nmi.
  • Able to conduct 2 surveillance orbits at 600 nmi radius around the carrier, or 1 at 1,200 nmi radius.
  • 3,000 pound payload, including day/night optical surveillance comparable to an MQ-9, plus a surface scanning radar including GMTI moving object tracking.
  • At least 1,000 pounds of that payload can be existing carrier weapons.
  • Enough stealth for surveillance missions in lightly contested areas.

Those requirements will be difficult to meet already. Now add a number of added requirement being floated at present, and ongoing disputes about how much stealth etc. is necessary. Sources: USNI, “UCLASS By the Numbers”.

May 17/13: Touch and Go. The X-47B UCAS-D follows its catapult launch with a touch-and-go landing on USS George W. Bush [CVN 77], which tests its ability to fly precision approaches to a moving target.

A touch-and-go doesn’t trap the wire, but throttles the engine to full and takes off again. Carrier-based planes have to be able to do that if they miss the wire and pull a “bolter,” which is a guaranteed way to get harassed by your fellow pilots. Not sure what you do to a UAV. Perhaps the Navy can offer a rotating pool of drone software programmers, available for friendly abuse via secure video conference. US NAVAIR | US Navy.

Carrier launch
click for video

May 14/13: Carrier launch. An X-47B UCAS-D is maneuvered into position on deck, and launched from USS George W. Bush [CVN 77]. The US Navy, Northrop Grumman et. al. hail it as a revolutionary milestone. We’ll grant that launching amidst the busy, complicated, and dangerous goings-on of a carrier deck is unlike any land-based challenge. It’s a difficult task for humans, and a difficult task for computers to do with human help.

Having said that, this isn’t the complete circuit. It’s the next logical step after on-ship deck tests (vid. Nov. 26/12) and land-based catapult launch (vid. Nov 29/12). We’ve said before that they won’t have a revolution on their hands until they can do the complete circuit: maneuver, launch, fly a circuit, and land. The next revolution after that will involve aerial refueling. When they do these things, we’ll join the chorus. US NAVAIR | Northrop Grumman.

May 6/13: Trap. The X-47B UCAS-D demonstrator successfully traps the wire as it lands at NAS Patuxent River, MD’s shore-based catapult and arresting gear complex. Northrop Grumman.

April 12/13: Support.

“This synopsis provides notice of the Government’s intent to solicit a proposal on a sole source basis from Sierra Nevada Corporation, 444 Salomon Circle, Sparks, NV for work providing support in troubleshooting, problem resolution, and anomaly investigation associated with the Precision Global Positioning System (PGPS) as part of the existing Unmanned Combat Air System-Demonstration (UCAS-D) Program. This request for proposal will be issued in accordance with the terms and conditions of Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) N00421-10-G-0001.

This acquisition is being pursued on a sole source basis under the statutory authority 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1), as implemented by Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 6.302-1, only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements.”

April 7/13: UCLASS. Lockheed Martin finally unveils their Skunk Works’ UCLASS design, which combines elements of their RQ-170 Sentinel stealth reconnaissance UAV with technologies from the F-35C for carrier operations, weapons use, etc. Overall, the design looks quite a bit like Boeing’s X-45C Phantom Ray. LMCO UCLASS Page | YouTube video.

March 26/13: UCLASS. NAVAIR indicates through a presolicitation that it plans to go ahead with follow-on Preliminary Design contracts to all 4 UCLASS study contract vendors (Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman – vid. June 23/11), and continue the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program.

The contracts are expected by the summer of 2013, supporting up to 2 years of work on the UAVs, datalinks for communications and control, and the carrier operations segment. They’re expected to carry each design to the Preliminary Design Review by Q3 2014, and support post-PDR design maturation and follow-on engineering. The next step after that will be the selection of 1 winner, and UCLASS initial operational capability within 3-6 years. FBO | Defense Update.

Dec 21/12: Aerial Refueling. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in San Diego, CA receives a $9.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for Autonomous Aerial Refueling (AAR) demonstration activities in support of the N-UCAS program. Services will include completion of Delta Critical Design Review (DCDR), surrogate testing with manned aircraft, preparation for the X-47B demonstration, travel, and support technical data for the AAR demonstration activities.

Work will be performed in Manhattan Beach, CA (70%) and Patuxent River, MD (30%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013. All contract funds are committed immediately (N00019-07-C-0055).

Nov 29/12: Testing. An X-47B is launched using a land-based naval steam catapult, at NAS Patuxent River, MD. The releases are full of words like “historic,” but DID just doesn’t see it. Lots of UAVs have been launched by non-steam catapults, steam catapult technology isn’t new, and this isn’t a launch from an actual ship. It’s just a test to verify that the X-47B’s landing gear, body structure, and software, which were designed from the outset to handle the rigors of a steam catapult launch, can indeed do so. A milestone, yes, but a minor one.

When an X-47B is launched from an actual ship, and recovered aboard, that will be historic. Ditto for successful aerial refueling. US NAVAIR | Northrop Grumman.

X-47B deck tests
click for video

Nov 26/12: Testing. An X-47B air vehicle arrives by barge from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, and is craned aboard the USS Harry S. Truman [CVN 75] for deck handling tests aboard the ship.

One suspects that civil airspace certification for high-end drones can’t happen soon enough for NAVAIR and the US military. US NAVAIR.

Nov 15/12: Testing. Northrop Grumman announces that its UCAS-D team has successfully completed initial onshore trials of the Control Display Unit (CDU), a new wireless, handheld controller used for carrier-deck maneuvering. Tests were basic: control engine thrust; roll forward, brake and stop; nose wheel steering; and maneuver the aircraft efficiently into a catapult or out of the landing area following a mock carrier landing.

On-ship deck trials are next.

Nov 6/12: NASIF Testing. US NAVAIR discusses testing at the “N-UCAS Aviation/Ship Integration Facility.” If NASIF didn’t exist, the Navy would have to use an aircraft carrier for this sort of testing, and it can’t afford that. Hence the NASIF building, stocked with Primary Flight Control (PriFly), Landing Signals Officer (LSO), Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC) and Mission Control Element (MCE) equipment.

The UCAS-D program uses the facility for system integration of new equipment, and UAV/manned surrogate demonstration events. Events like final Human Systems Integration (HSI) modeling and simulation testing for sailors from USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln.

Instead of using the current method of controlling multiple aircraft with radar displays and voice radio, the event tested their ability to send and receive digital instructions to and from aircraft, in addition to using voice instructions. This capability is absolutely required for UAV, but it will also help manned fighters, whose 60-second landing spread includes a final 20 seconds of enforced controller silence. If the controllers can communicate with everyone else by text while a pilot lands, that’s a big step forward.

The controller teams showed they could handle it over about 20 test scenarios, which progressed from relaying UAV commands to a UAV mission operator for entry, to direct communication with the simulated UAV and more automated systems.

FY 2012

Aerial refueling expands to include both boom and drogue; How can it be a UFO, if it’s on a truck? X-47B, Edwards AFB
(click to view full)

Aug 20/12: UCLASS. NAVAIR awards a small $440,315 firm-fixed-price delivery order to Rockwell Collins, for Phase II of the ARC-210 UCLASS feasibility study with JPALS.

ARC-210 radios are used to communicate with UAVs over UHF, and their software may need fine-tuning to work with UCLASS for all of the Navy’s requirements (N00019-08-G-0016-0076). Contract:

Aug 13/12: UCLASS. Naval Air Systems Command releases a Request for
Information to evaluate the Draft Mission Effectiveness Analysis (MEA) Tool developed by the UCLASS Program Office. In practice this is a spreadsheet fed with warfare analysis models, where the user can input UAV parameters for comparative assessment (N00019-12-P7-ZD235).

The RFP should come in the fall with a down-select to a single design in 2016 aiming for IOC in 2020. The spreadsheet is classified SECRET/NOFORN. | Flight International.

Early July 2012: Testing. Members from the UCAS-D carrier integration team engage in extensive software testing aboard USS Harry S. Truman [CVN 75], talking to fleet air-traffic controllers and air-department personnel about the usability of the new software, and lessons learned. Land-based X-47B tests will continue at Patuxent River, MD, and the goal is a carrier landing in about a year. US NAVAIR.

June 14/12: UFO-G. US NAVAIR indirectly confirms that the wrapped object spotted on a truck in Kansas was UCAS-D AV-2 (vid. June 6/12 entry), being trucked across the country from Edwards AFB, CA to NAS Patuxent River, MD for the next phase of flight tests. Easier than getting the civil flight waivers, I guess.

June 8/12: JPALS. L-3 Service, Inc. in Mount Laurel, NJ receives a $12.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for engineering services in support of the precision GPS Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, and the Navy’s UCAS-D program. The 2 are highly connected, of course, since UCAVs will need to depend on precision GPS, in order to land on carriers (vid. the July 2/11 test). JPALS will also help manned fighters.

Services to be provided include requirements definition and analysis, prototyping, test and evaluation, technical assistance, system analysis, engineering, software work, test data acquisition, reduction and analysis, technical logistic support, configuration management, training support, and program and project management. Work will be performed in St. Inigoes, MD (95%); Providence, RI (3%); and Chicago, IL (2%). Work is expected to be complete in October 2012. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to the FAR 6.302-1, by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-12-C-0048).

June 6/12: UFO-G. From the Augusta (KS) Gazette:

“This morning several Butler County Sheriff officers and KDOT personnel escorted a flatbed trailer entering Augusta from the south on US Highway 77 and headed east out of town on US Highway 54. Traffic was backed up coming in and going out of town. At first glance the strange-shaped cargo cloaked in industrial-strength shrink wrap appeared to be a saucer, but an unidentified KDOT worker advised it was an X-47B Combat Drone coming from Texas and en route to an unknown destination.”

Operating unmanned jets in US civil air space is a bit of a problem, which may help to explain the decision to ship it by road. Kansas is a rather roundabout route from Texas to Patuxent River, MD, but it is more of a straight line from California.

Jan 21/12: Testing. NAVAIR/AFRL’s AAR program completes a series of ground and flight tests that began in November 2011, using a Calspan Learjet surrogate with X-47B hardware and software, and a Omega Air Refueling K-707 aerial tanker. The tests included simulated flight demonstrations of both boom/receptacle (USAF) and probe-and-drogue (Navy & European) aerial refueling techniques, but no fuel was actually transferred, and Calspan’s Learjet wasn’t equipped for that anyway. The tests were all about correct positioning and coordination, beginning at a position 1 nautical mile from the K-707, and allowing autonomous guidance to move the Learjet into the 3 air-air refueling positions: observation, contact, and re-form.

Navy UCAS program manager Capt. Jaime Engdahl says that the next big step will involve using the actual X-47B. The team plans to conduct 2 more surrogate test periods before a planned refueling demonstration with the X-47B in 2014. NAVAIR | Northrop Grumman.

Nov 22/11: AV-2 flies. The fully-equipped UCAS-D demonstrator #AV-2 takes off for the 1st time at Edwards AFB, CA. That’s about a year late, but AV-1’s issues had to be ironed out first.

With 2 flying UCAVs, the program is expected to move AV-2 to NAS Patuxent River, MD by the end of 2011, and begin testing carrier landing technologies in 2012. That will include GPS-guided precision approaches to the carrier, arrested landings and “roll-out” catapult launches at land-based test facilities; and flight testing of new precision navigation computers and guidance/ navigation/ control software recently installed on both aircraft. The new suite of hardware and software is designed to let the X-47B land safely on a moving aircraft carrier deck. AV-1 will continue testing at Edwards AFB, with a focus on finding its flight limits. Northrop Grumman.

Nov 7/11: Aerial refueling. Inside the Navy reports [subscription] that the US Navy will be expanding the X-47B’s planned aerial refueling capability, to autonomously refuel while in flight with both USAF Air Force and USN aerial tankers.

The USAF uses KC-135s and KC-10s, but many of the KC-135s need to place an attachment on the refueling boom, in order to refuel probe-carrying aircraft. The US Navy has KC-130 Hercules aerial tankers, and its F/A-18E/F Super Hornets can become “buddy refuelers” with special wing tanks.

FY 2011

1st UCAS-D flight; 1st carrier landing using a surrogate plane; UCLASS study contracts. “Look ma, no hands!”
(click to view full)

July 18/11: Northrop Grumman Systems in San Diego, CA receives a $25 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for UCAS-D autonomous aerial refueling technology maturation and demonstration activities. They’ll provide “air systems, air vehicle segment, and mission management segment requirements definition; integration planning and verification planning; and definition of certification requirements and approach.”

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete in December 2012. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-07-C-0055).

July 2/11: Testing. A contractor/government team lands an F/A-18D test aircraft from Navy squadron VX-23 on the USS Eisenhower in the western Atlantic Ocean, using hardware and software developed for the X-47B UCAS-D. This Hornet had a pilot on board as a safety precaution, but the system landed the plane. A King Air 300 twin-prop plane from Air-Tec, Inc. was also used as a surrogate to test mission management, command and control, communications, air traffic control and navigation, without executing an actual landing. Participating organizations included USN PEO Carriers, NAVSEA PMA-268, and the crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower; plus industry partners Northrop Grumman, Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, SAIC, ARINC and Sierra Nevada Corporation.

It’s a big step forward for the UCAS-D program, and came after a series of interim steps detailed in the accompanying releases. It could also change the way Navy pilots land manned aircraft. Right now, carrier landings are very manual, and visual. All air traffic control instructions are by voice, and even a good portion of navigation data has to be read out over the air, while visual signals cement the final approach.

Supporting a UAV, and possibly retrofitted manned fighters, in future operations, required some important ship modifications. Eisenhower’s Landing Signal Officer (LSO) equipment was altered to communicate directly with the VX-23 F/A-18D through a digital network, and so were the ship’s primary flight control (“tower”) and Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC). The UAS operator’s equipment, installed in one of the carrier’s ready rooms, was the other key network node. Precision Global Positioning System (PGPS) capabilities with sub-1 meter accuracy were then added into the ship and the aircraft, to provide constant position awareness. US NAVSEA | Northrop Grumman.

Unmanned carrier landing!

June 23/11: UCLASS US NAVAIR awards a set of UCLASS study contracts to 4 vendors. Boeing publicly touted its own 8-month, $480,000 study contract, which includes developing of a concept of operations, an analysis of alternatives, and an investigation of notional solutions for various components of the Navy’s UCLASS program, which could be fielded for ISR and strike operations by 2018. Boeing’s option would include the X-45C Phantom Ray UCAV, but similar contracts for about $500,000 each were issued to Northrop Grumman (X-47B/ UCAS-D), General Atomics (Sea Avenger, also new EMALS/AAG carrier launch/recovery systems), and Lockheed Martin (unknown, has previously discussed the possibility of an unmanned F-35).

The UCLASS system will consist of an air segment (the UCAV), a connectivity and control segment, a launch and recovery segment, and a systems support segment. announcement | Boeing. See also March 28/11, March 19/10 entries.

UCLASS Studies

May 16/11: Northrop Grumman announces that it has picked up awards from the USAF Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, CA, including Flight Test Team of the Quarter (above candidates like the F-35) for its X-47B/UCAS-D aircraft.

April 25/11: Sub-contractors. ARINC Engineering Services, LLC in Annapolis, MD receives a $9.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for technical and engineering services in support of the Joint Precision Approach and Landing Systems (JPALS) and Navy Unmanned Combat Aerial Systems (N-UCAS) programs. The 2 are related, as JPALS precision GPS-driven approach is a natural fit with the landing needs of a carrier-borne UCAV.

Work will be performed in Lexington Park, MD (80%), and St. Inigoes, MD (20%), and is expected to be complete in October 2011. This contract was not competitively procured by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-11-C-0034).

March 28/11: UCLASS. US NAVAIR issues a Broad Agency Announcement regarding UCLASS, in solicitation #N00019-11-R-0031:

“The Naval Air Systems Command seeks proposals which conceptually demonstrate that a UCLASS system can provide a persistent Carrier Vessel-Nuclear (CVN) based Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and strike capability supporting carrier air wing operations in the 2018 timeframe. In order to identify and explore available trade space… The program anticipates leveraging existing, deployed Department of Defense (DoD) systems to launch, recover, and control the air vehicle, transfer data in support of time critical strike operations, and conduct persistence ISR operations. The ongoing Unmanned Combat Air System-Demonstration program will inform UCLASS development and provide technology risk reduction for Unmanned Aircraft (UA) integration into carrier environments.”

March 14/11: Testing. A US Navy/Northrop Grumman Corporation test team issues a report stating that 5 weeks of dynamic load testing on X-47B air vehicle 2 (AV-2) demonstrated its ability to handle the stresses, strains and dynamic loads associated with carrier catapult launches and arrested landings, and air-to-air refueling. AV-2 is the X-47B airframe that will be equipped for air-to-air refueling tests.

The tests themselves finished on Jan 24/11, a week ahead of schedule. NGC AV-2 manager says they included 8 design conditions, including a 3-G symmetrical pull up, a 2.4G rolling pullout, and turbulence during aerial refueling; and 5 conditions expected to occur on the ground, including takeoff and landing tests involving the nose gear and tail hook. To conduct the tests, engineers bonded pads to 200 points on the airframe surface, and then pushed and pulled on those pads using hydraulic jacks to simulate various static and dynamic load conditions. Northrop Grumman.

March 1-4/11: Testing. The X-47B UCAS-D makes its 2nd and 3rd of 49 planned flights at Edwards AFB, CA. Testers are working to expand the flight test envelope in terms of air speeds, altitudes and operating weights, while testing key systems. Major concerns at this point include its flight control system’s ability to handle unpredictable crosswinds and turbulence at all speeds, the accuracy of its flush-mounted air data testing instruments, and engine performance. NGC.

Feb 15/11: UCLASS. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. announces success in wind-tunnel tests of its Sea Avenger model, intended to validate its new wing’s low-speed handling characteristics. a key wind tunnel test on a model of its jet-powered Sea Avenger Predator C variant. The new wing is also designed to increase aircraft dash speeds, which is an interesting engineering combination.

GA-ASI President Frank W. Pace touts the 90-hour, 8-day test at the San Diego Air & Space Technology Center, as a classic example of his firm’ push to invest in early development, ahead of customer requirements for a UCLASS type system. The firm’s past history with the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper backs up his boast.

Feb 7/11: Sub-contractors. Lockheed Martin touts their own involvement in the X-47B program, which mostly revolves around low observable (stealth) design and aspects of aerodynamic edges, inlet lip and control surfaces, and an all new arresting hook system. Al Romig is the current VP of Advanced Development Programs for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, and the firm completed delivery of its UCAS-D hardware in December 2009. Lockheed Martin will continue to support further UCAS-D flight testing, as well as carrier flight operations.

UCAS-D 1st flight
(click to view full)

Feb 4/11: First UCAS-D flight. The flight took off at 14:09 PST (GMT -0800) at Edwards AFB, and lasted 29 minutes, flying between 180 – 240 kt and climbing to 5,000 feet with landing gear down at all times, while executing racetrack patterns. It provided test data to verify and validate system software for guidance and navigation, and aerodynamic control of the tailless design. The flight follows airframe proof load tests, propulsion system accelerated mission tests, software maturity and reliability simulations, full system taxi tests, and numerous other system test activities that happen before any 1st flight.

Eugene Fly had made the first landing on a stationary ship on Jan 18/1911, but a 100th anniversary flight for X-47B #AV-1 wasn’t possible. Some of items that delayed this flight from original expectations in late 2009 included propulsion acoustic and engine-start sequencing issues, an asymmetric braking issue uncovered during taxi tests, and a last-minute maintenance issue with an auxiliary power generation system.

Testing continues. Aircraft AV-1 will remain at Edwards AFB for flight envelope expansion before transitioning to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, later in 2011, where they will validate its readiness to begin testing in the maritime and carrier environment. Meanwhile, the refueling-ready AV-2 has completed its design limit load tests up to 130% with no test anomalies, showing that it’s able to withstand g-loads encountered during aerial refueling. It won’t begin its own tests until AV-1’s initial tests are done, which is currently planned for late 2011. The program is currently preparing the X-47B for carrier trials in 2013. US Navy | NGC release | Bullet points, images & video | Aviation Week.

1st flight

Feb 2/11: USAF opportunity? Defense news quotes Col. James Gear, director of the USAF’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Task Force, on the future of its UAV fleet. Despite a big commitment to the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper caused a major mid-stream shift in plans. Col. Gear cites some existing issues with the MQ-9, which could leave it open to a similar shift.

The Reaper does not fare well in icing conditions, and is also not considered survivable against anti-aircraft systems. The issue of jam and snoop-proof data links, and trace-back and verification of signal origins, has also been a live question during the MQ-1 and MQ-9’s tenure. The “MQ-X” that replaces it will have to do better on all 3 counts, and the USAF also wants it to be easily upgradeable via switch-out modules. The Colonel believes the resulting UAV will end up being common with the US Navy’s carrier-based UCLASS requirement, as the 2 services are cooperating closely. That could give Northrop Grumman’s funded X-47B N-UCAS an edge over Boeing’s privately developed X-45 Phantom Ray. It could also offer a boost to General Atomics’ Predator C/ Sea Avenger.

FY 2010

UCAS-D testing; UCLASS RFI and Navy plans; Does GA’s Predator C have a customer? Manned and…not
(click to view full)

July 19/10: UCLASS. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. touts its jet-powered Predator C Avenger UAS as “ready for deployment” under programs like the British RAF’s SCAVENGER, or as the MQ-X successor to the USAF’s MQ-9 Reapers. The Avenger family’s avionics are based upon the Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper, and the plane features both radar and optical sensor options, plus a variety of internal weapons loads up to 2,000 pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM).

Ready for deployment” is stretching things a bit. The Predator C series first flew in April 2009, “tail one” is currently averaging 2-3 flights a week, and flight tests were recently transferred from GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, CA, to Naval Air Station (NAS) China Lake, CA. GA-ASI Aircraft Systems Group President Frank Pace does describe some results as “exceeding our expectations,” including excellent agreement between advance engineering and flight tests, and fuel burn rates up to 10% better than predicted models. The UAV reportedly uses a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545B engine, which also powers the Cessna Citation XLS business jet.

May 3/10: UCLASS. General Atomics announces that it has submitted its “Sea Avenger” as a potential candidate for UCLASS airborne surveillance and strike requirement. Their UCAV is based on their jet-powered, 44-foot long and 66-foot wingspan “Predator C Avenger,” which can fly at 400 knots for up to 20 hours, and operate up to 50,000 feet. Design changes include a highly fuel-efficient engine and inlet design, a Lynx SAR ground-looking radar, retractable electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors and a 3,000 pound capacity internal weapons bay, and folding wings. The structure can accommodate carrier suitable landing gear, tail hook, drag devices, and other provisions for carrier operations.

Developed on company funds for near-term military use, the base Predator C Avenger is continuing through its planned test program, with a 2nd aircraft currently under development and expected to be complete by the end of 2010. General Atomics.

March 19/10: UCLASS RFI. The US Navy issues a Request for Information for a (UCLASS). The RFI indicates that the Navy is looking to move ahead with full unmanned combat aircraft earlier than its original plans.

“The Navy is interested in information on carrier based, low observable (LO) Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) concepts optimized for Irregular and Hybrid Warfare scenarios, capable of integrating with manned platforms as part of the Carrier Air Wing (CVW) by the end of 2018 to support limited operations in contested scenarios. The UAS should enhance situational awareness and shorten the time it takes to find, fix, track, target, engage, and assess time sensitive targets. This RFI is intended to determine the existence of sources that can provide a limited inventory of systems capable of being operated by fleet Sailors and performing the above mentioned Navy UAS mission.”

The UCLASS concept involves 4-6 UAVs that could perform both intelligence/ surveillance/ reconnaissance (ISR) and strike missions in contested airspace, that are able to fly for 11-14 hours without refuelling. Industry reportedly expected the navy to release a UCLASS RFP in early 2011, and interested parties beyond Northrop Grumman include General Atomics (Sea Avenger), and reportedly Boeing (X-45 Phantom Ray) as well. See: FedBizOpps RFI | Flight International | Jane’s.

March 17/10: Leadership. Janis Pamiljans, previously vice president and program manager of Northrop’s KC-30 aerial refueling tanker bid for the USAF, takes over from Scott Winship as vice president of N-UCAS related efforts. Pamiljans also has worked as a program manager on the F/A-18 and F-35 strike fighter programs.

Aviation Week points out that this is just one of several corporate moves, which seem to be aimed at freeing people up to participate in “black” (classified) programs, and develop a next-generation stealth aircraft for reconnaissance and long-range strike. Aviation Week | Defense News.

March 2/10: Leadership. Capt. Jeff Penfield takes over the Navy’s X-47B program office, replacing Capt. Martin Deppe. Source.

Feb 18/10: Predator C. Don Bolling, a Lockheed Martin senior business development manager, hints that General Atomics’ Predator C has a customer, and isn’t just a privately funded effort. He tells a media source that General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is interested in “Global Hawk-like” payloads for high altitude surveillance on its jet-powered Predator-C Avenger UAV, putting efforts to install the F-35 fighter’s Sniper pod-derived electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) on hold.

The shift was reportedly at the request of a customer, which made the report news because the Predator C wasn’t known to have a customer. The USAF already flies Global Hawks, and export approvals for the EOTS and Predator C would be an involved process. The most likely guess as to the customer would be the CIA, which does operate UAVs of its own, or US Special Operations Command. Flight International.

Feb 13/10: Testing. The US Navy announces that N-UCAS team members are underway with USS Abraham Lincoln [CVN 72] to test the integration of existing ship systems with new systems that will support the X-47B in carrier-controlled airspace. The team is testing X-47B software integration by using a King Air turbo prop “surrogate” aircraft taking off and landing from shore, but approaching the carrier and performing the various procedures associated with systems like Prifly, CATCC, LSO, etc. The digital messages from shipboard controllers receive “wilco” (ACK) responses to verify receipt.

Additional developmental testing later this year, will involve testing the software integration using an F/A-18 surrogate aircraft, to more closely emulate the X-47B’s flight.

Feb 4/10: Navy plans. Defense News reports that the N-UCAS program is slated to receive a $2 billion boost over the next 5 years, and seems set to follow the RQ-4 Global Hawk procurement model, rather than remaining a demonstration aircraft.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk was an advanced development program that was moved to the front lines after the 9/11 attacks, and became a fully operational platform. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review featured a tilt away from technology demonstrator status, and toward an X-47 UCAV that can perform surveillance and/or strike roles. That would let the Navy field operational UCAVs much sooner, and allow them to field a capability that could be similar but superior to the USAF’s current RQ-170 Sentinel/”Beast of Kandahar” stealth UAV. Those exact capabilities remain a matter for discussion, however, as Navy Undersecretary and UCAV advocate Bob Work points out:

“There is a lively debate over whether or not the N-UCAS demonstrator should result in a penetrating, ISR strike bird, or be more of a strike fighter… That debate has not quite been resolved. Having this extra $2 billion added to the budget is going to help us resolve that debate.”

Jan 26/10: Aerial refueling. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Sector in San Diego, CA received an $11 million not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for autonomous aerial refueling technology maturation and demonstration activities in support of the Navy UCAS-D.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA (60%) and Rancho Bernardo, CA (40%), and is expected to be complete in November 2010 (N00019-07-C-0055).

Jan 17/10: Testing. First low-speed taxi test of an X-47 N-UCAS. Source.

Dec 22/10: Delay. Trouble with engine start sequencing and propulsion acoustics will now reportedly delay the X-47B’s December 2009 flight to sometime in the first 3 months of 2010. Gannett’s Navy Times | Defense Update.

Nov 25/09: Aviation Week reports that the X-47 UCAS-D system demonstrator is experiencing “propulsion acoustic and engine-start sequencing” issues, which will require additional testing and push its 1st flight to 2010.

The US Navy reportedly says UCAS-D is still on track for sea trials in 2012, but Northrop Grumman has placed a “moratorium” on press interviews for UCAS-D – never a good sign.

Nov 2/09: Navy plans. The Brookings Institute’s 21st Century Defense Initiative hosts Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead, who discusses the U.S. Navy’s use of new technologies, and its development and integration of unmanned systems. Excerpts:

“I would say that where we can make some significant breakthroughs us just in the organizing principles and in the way that we approach the unmanned systems. The idea of being able to disembark or embark long-range unmanned air systems for example changes the nature in which we can run flight decks, changes the nature of the carrier air wing configurations as we move into the future.

…I would also say that I am often struck that as we talk about unmanned systems we’ve really become enamored with the vehicle itself and there has been very, very little discussion and arguably little work on something that makes it all work together and that’s the network and the architecture of the network, how the information will be moved, what are the redundancies that you would have in place, and what are the common protocols that are going to be required as we move into the future.”

See WIRED Danger Room | Brookings Institute and full transcript [PDF]

Oct 6/09: Sub-contractors. GE Aviation announces that it has delivered the first fully-dressed X-47B UCAS-D landing gear to Northrop Grumman Corporation. “Fully-dressed” landing gear is designed to meet or exceed all U.S. Navy carrier landing requirements for a fully loaded UCAS-D aircraft. GE Aviation says that its combined systems make it the largest non-partner equipment supplier to the X-47B, but the landing gear effort had partners of its own:

“Due to the demanding mission profiles required for this advanced carrier platform, the landing gear system incorporates the latest technology advancements in steering control from Parker Hannifin as well as anti-skid braking systems from Goodrich Corporation.”

FY 2008 – 2009

Aerial refueling will be part of the program; Load testing. UCAS-D load testing
(click to view full)

Aug 11/09: Updates. AUVSI 2009 event reports indicate progress on several fronts from the UCAS-D program.

Flight International reports that an F/A-18D Hornet test plane with be modified to carry X-47B avionics and software, then used as a test bed to develop a fully integrated aircraft/carrier auto-landing system. The Navy is hoping to perform manned but “hands-off” approaches and landings on an aircraft carrier within 2 years, though that aspect remains to be decided.

Meanwhile, Shephard reports that number of USAF personnel will begin arriving at NAS Patuxent River as observers to PMA-268, the Navy UCAS Program Office. The planned air-air refueling demonstration was apparently the catalyst for USAF interest, and the second test aircraft (AV-2) is being built with full internal refueling systems on board.

July 29/09: Load testing. Northrop Grumman announces a successful series of static and dynamic proof load tests, designed to ensure that the UCAV will be able to stand up to aircraft carrier launches, recoveries, and other associated stresses. For these torture tests, over 200 electro-hydraulic assemblies were attached to the major components of the X-47B, whereupon pressure was applied to simulate desired conditions. The 2-month effort included progressive structural, functional proof and calibration tests to verify the integrity of all flight control surfaces, major structural load paths, main landing gear structure, and the tailhook assembly.

The 2nd aircraft is currently being assembled, and will begin proof load tests later in 2009. UCAS-D aircraft will also undergo parallel engine integration and taxi tests through fall 2009, in preparation for first flight and aircraft carrier trials. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems VP and UCAS-D program manager, Scott Winship, cited that unforgiving environment, then promised that:

“The X-47B was built for these conditions, and as the results of the rigorous proof test show, the design of the aircraft is structurally sound for all aspects of carrier operations.”

Jan 12/09: Aerial refueling. Jane’s confirms that the X-47 UCAS-D program will begin aerial refueling tests performed in 2010, using surrogate aircraft.

Dec 9/08: Aerial refueling. Aviation Week quotes UCAS program manager Scott Winship, as part of a report that that Northrop Grumman will modify the second X-47B UCAS-D to allow autonomous aerial refueling (AAR) using both U.S. Navy probe-and-drogue and U.S. Air Force boom-and-receptacle methods. The U.S. Navy has announced plans to award the company a sole-source contract to support the demonstration of AAR capability by 2013, under UCAS-D’s parallel technology-maturation phase.

Boeing is currently leading a team including X-47B partners Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin for the 4-year second phase of a parallel Air Force Research Laboratory program. Winship says the X-47B could be used to provide a “graduation exercise” for the AAR effort.

Nov 19/08: Aerial Refueling. Boeing in St Louis, MO received a $49 million cost plus fixed fee contract as the automated aerial refueling Phase II integrator. At this point, $1.2 million has been obligated. The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages this contract (FA8650-09-C-3902). Read “$49M for Boeing to Advance UAV Aerial Refueling” for an explanation of the importance to the UCAS-D and similar programs.

July 14/08: Sub-contractors. Pratt & Whitney announces a $54 million contract from Northrop Grumman to develop and integrate the X-47 UCAS-D’s engine and exhaust system. The Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220U engine will power the UCAS-D, providing up to 16,000 pounds of thrust while operating in a maritime environment, including carrier deck operations.

FY 2005 – 2007

UCAS-D award; Carrier simulation exercise. Just another day
at the office…
(click to view full)

August 1/07: UCAS-D. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems – Western Region in San Diego, CA received a $635.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the Unmanned Combat Air System CV Demonstration Program (UCAS-D). Work will be performed in Rancho Bernardo, CA (38%); El Segundo, CA (29%); Palmdale, CA (13%); East Hartford, CT (7%); Jupiter, FL (2%); Nashville, TN (2%); Hazelwood, MO (1%), and various locations within the United States (8%), and is expected to be complete in September 2013.

The purpose of the UCAS-D is to demonstrate critical CV suitability technologies for a stealthy air vehicle in a relevant environment [DID: i.e naval/ aircraft carriers]. Expected deliverables include trade studies, analyses, software, reports and flight test data. This contract was competitively procured through a request for proposals; 2 firms were solicited [DID: that would be Boeing and NGC] and 2 offers were received (N00019-07-C-0055). See also Northrop Grumman’s Aug 3/07 release.

UCAS-D contract.

Sept 28/05: As part of DARPA’s J-UCAS program, Northrop Grumman Corporation’s X-47B conducted a successful simulated exercise at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA. It demonstrated the simultaneous control of 4 of its X-47B unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during U.S. Navy aircraft carrier operations. See Dec 9/05 NGC release.

Using a surrogate aircraft which represented one X-47B, 3 additional simulated X-47B aircraft were successfully controlled during several flights using advanced mission-management software and air traffic control procedures currently used by Navy aircraft carriers. The air traffic controller provided standard commands to a single mission operator, who in turn ensured all four aircraft safely operated within the simulated carrier’s airspace. The controller had to demonstrate the ability to guide all 4 aircraft through approach, wave-off and traffic pattern procedures, while accomplishing proper spacing and air traffic de-confliction. The mission operator had to be able to monitor the entire process to ensure proper command response, and advise the controller on aircraft response or performance limitations.

This was one of many tests undertaken as part of J-UCAS. It is reproduced here for its ongoing relevance to the UCAS-D program.

Additional UCAV Readings UCAS-D/ N-UCAS

News & Views

UCAV Programs

Categories: News

Elbit’s Light Spear Directs Threats Away from UAVs | $$ Constraints Plague Israel; Britain | Piaggio’s P.1HH UAV Suffers Setback After Crash

Sun, 07/17/2016 - 23:55

  • The Argentine Air Force has converted its Learjet 35A into an electronic attack platform to replace its Boeing 707 VR-2. Modifications were undertaken by Avcon Industries, who installed a Thales Vigile 200 electronic support system on board. Other visible changes can be spotted on the aircraft’s wingtips and fuselage to provide for additional antennas.

  • Providing tech transfers and domestic production work are the new keys to securing big military hardware contracts according to US industry execs. Prospective purchasing nations are increasingly getting bolder in gaining greater offsets from US and European manufacturing giants in order to boost their own employment at home or indigenous defense industry. Poland, Japan and Turkey have already seen such deals bear fruit, with Saudi Arabia looking to follow.

Middle East North Africa

  • Elbit Systems has unveiled their new jamming system capable of directing threats such as surface-to-air missiles away from UAVs. Dubbed Light Spear, the system caters to a growing demand from customers to be able to operate UAVs in anti-access area denial environments. Based on the company’s electronic warfare defense system, Elisra, the compact design and size of Light Spear has been done with UAVs in mind and allows the operator to field the technology on several platforms.

  • Israel may have to forget its plan for a US military aid package to hit $40 billion and allow for funds to go towards domestic R&D and procurement. The ten year plan, to begin in October 2017, is more likely to be around $38 billion and have a US only clause requiring all military hardware purchased with the funds to come from US companies. Exceptions to the rule include funds for missile defense and pre-agreed upon programs.


  • Russia’s MoD is to continue funding and support for the SR-10 forward-swept-wing jet trainer, with state trials expected to take place next year. The prototype trainer conducted its first two flights in December last year. Initially offered to the Russian Air Force as part of the service’s 2014 basic trainer requirement, it eventually lost out to the Yak-152. It’s now being offered as an intermediate trainer between the Yak-152 and Yak-130 advanced trainer as well as for export.

  • Maritime surveillance capabilities of the British Royal Navy are to experience a setback in 2017 due to budget constraints. It’s been reported that the service will lose its ScanEagle capability and Type 23 warships will not have any UAVs on board. It had been hoped that UAVs could have been procured under the Flexible Deployable Unmanned Air System (FDUAS) program but failed to secure funding in this year’s budget cycle.

  • Deliveries of P.1HH Hammerhead UAVs to the Italian Air Force have experienced a two month delay following May’s crash in the Mediterranean. Manufacturer Piaggio disclosed the ommission at this week’s Farnborough Air Show, adding that they were awaiting the go-ahead from Italian authorities before resuming test flights. The P.1HH is an unmanned version of the company’s Aero P-180 business jet, and the company has a $350 million deal signed with the UAE to deliver eight systems.

Asia Pacific

  • While protests over the US bringing a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) battery to South Korea were to be expected from China and North Korea, domestic disturbances south of the DMZ have sprung up from the residents of Seonju. Those living in the famous melon farming region are up in arms over not being consulted about the THAAD system’s placement. Footage showed protesters throwing eggs and plastic water bottles at Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn as he spoke on the steps of the county office to apologize for not briefing residents earlier.

Today’s Video

  • Debut of the KC-390 at the Farnborough Air Show 2016:

Categories: News

MALE Performance Enhancement: Piaggio’s P.1HH Hammerhead UAV

Sun, 07/17/2016 - 23:45
Hammerhead concept
(click to view full)

At present, the USA and Israel have strong global leads in the UAV field, especially in the area of plane-sized Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) class or larger machines. That lead is eroding quickly, however, as new countries and firms decide that UAVs offer a useful niche with manageable development costs.

Poor US policy is also helping to drive this trend, and the new P.1HH “Hammerhead” UAV is a classic example. Italy is likely to become the initial customer for this high-performance UAV, but the platform itself and the Italian firm that makes it have strong connections to the UAE…

The P.1HH Hammerhead UAV P180 Avanti II
(click to view full)

The P.1HH Hammerhead is based on Piaggio’s sleek, Ferrari-approved P180 Avanti II business turboprop. Rapid deployment inside larger aircraft is engineered by adding a quickly detachable joint for the outer wings, and the high aspect ratio laminar wings have been stretched from 14.03m to a 15.5m/ 50’10” wingspan. Maximum takeoff weight is slightly higher than its civil progenitor, at 6,146 kg / 13,550 pounds.

The Mach 0.7 certified P180 begins with jet-class speed, and the Hammerhead maintains that legacy. Its rear-facing Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B turboprop engines, and low noise propellers, let it cruise quietly at 395 knots/ 732 km per hour for fast deployment or wide-area coverage; alternatively, it can throttle down to a Predator-like 135 knots to get a slower look, or to stretch endurance. It flight ceiling of 45,000 feet sits above many competitors, offering protection from shorter-range air defense missiles. The Hammerhead does give up some endurance relative to a Predator, with only 16 hours at low speed loiter. On the other hand, the P180 Avanti II has an impressive 2,700 km/ 1,500 nmi range, and the Hammerhead’s civil derivation will give it a leg up for flight certification in unrestricted areas.

1st flight
click for video

The core of the UAV is the Selex ES SkyISTAR Mission Management System (MMS), coupled with the firm’s Vehicle Control Management System (VCMS) that commands the aerodynamic control surfaces and manages the on-board equipment. VCMS LRUs are installed inside the large volume fuselage, spaced for temperature control as well as survivability. Selex ES also supplies remote-piloting Ground Control Station (GCS), and UAS datalink and communications systems that can work beyond line of sight (BLOS). The UAV and GCS are NATO STANAG USAR 4671 compliant, which will help streamline approval to fly in the airspace of other countries that have ratified this UAV airworthiness standard.

To put all that together: The MMS handles the overall mission, runs the sensors, and processes the data. During flight operations, the on-board VCMS is commanded from the off-board GCS via the airborne datalink system, and relies on a triple redundancy Flight Control Computer (FCC) system and multiple remote multi-lane Servo Interface Units (SIU) to handle the aircraft. The ATOL takes over for take-offs and landing, which should contribute to fewer losses.

Payload could be more than 500 kg, but Piaggio plans to keep it within that limit, in order to avoid export issues with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MCTR) that Italy has signed. Finmeccanica’s Selex ES will supply an electro-optical day/night turret, along with its e-scan Seaspray 7300 radar for land and maritime surveillance.

Initial plans involve a surveillance-only UAV, but there is more than sufficient space for weapons in a weapons bay, if customers like Italy decide they want that. The key limitation is the MTCR treaty’s 500 kg payload maximum, not the aircraft’s capabilities.

Positioning and Prospects ADCOM United-40
click for video

The P.1HH Hammerhead a solid set of attributes, with design advantages that are likely to endure. Even so, product positioning could make sales beyond Italy and the UAE a challenge. Even if all American and Israeli rivals like the MQ-9 Reaper, Predator XP, Hermes 900, and IAI Heron TP were excluded from consideration, the Hammerhead will still need to compete with Turkey’s Anka, Denel of South Africa’s Bateleur, Sagem’s Patroller, the UAE’s own ADCOM (United-40 et. al.), and developments in Europe and in countries like India, South Korea, and China.

The dominant theme in those comparisons is still a tradeoff. The Hammerhead gives buyers extra speed, and sometimes extra payload and range, in exchange for less endurance and the possibility of higher operating costs. The P180 Avanti II may offer remarkable efficiency for its aircraft class, but a twin-engine passenger aircraft conversion isn’t likely to match thinner and slower single-engine, never-manned designs.

Meanwhile, Piaggio’s use of Pratt & Whitney turboprops gives the USA enough leverage to block sales using its ITAR weapons export laws; that’s exactly what they did to block an export sale of Brazilian EMB-314 Super Tucano light attack turboprops to Venezuela.

What does this mean for market positioning?

As a surveillance-only UAV, Piaggio will need to depend on customers who are acceptable to the USA, and whose need to cover large areas with fewer assets eclipses the value of longer orbits. That’s a limiting definition. If Piaggio does develop weapon options that don’t require American approval, they’ll open an important sales window, but other countries are also working to close that gap. Piaggio’s long-term advantage would be the Hammerhead’s swifter reaction time for close air support, which is nonetheless a tradeoff for shorter ongoing coverage.

Given Piaggio’s significant ownership stake from the UAE and India, those markets are natural places to start. Europe may also look like a natural market that meets these criteria, but the Hammerhead will face real challenges there.

Despite a November 2013 agreement to resurrect a European MALE UAV project, and the Hammerhead’s clear positioning as a qualified candidate that won’t require a lot of development investment, Europe doesn’t look especially promising. European programs prefer to hand out favors to large, established firms, even if it means re-inventing the wheel – recall the Tiger attack helicopter program, and corresponding rejection of AgustaWestland’s similar and ready-to-buy A129. Selex ES has ties to Italy’s Finmeccanica, but those ties would have to to eclipse Alenia’s UAV partnership with EADS, and Italy won’t be in the driver’s seat of a European UAV partnership. European success would be a pleasant surprise, but it would be a surprise.

Contracts & Key Events P.1HH Hammerhead
(click to view full)

July 18/16: Deliveries of P.1HH Hammerhead UAVs to the Italian Air Force have experienced a two month delay following May’s crash in the Mediterranean. Manufacturer Piaggio disclosed the ommission at this week’s Farnborough Air Show, adding that they were awaiting the go-ahead from Italian authorities before resuming test flights. The P.1HH is an unmanned version of the company’s Aero P-180 business jet, and the company has a $350 million deal signed with the UAE to deliver eight systems.

June 3/16: Piaggio has confirmed that it has lost its P.1HH Hammerhead UAV prototype after it took off from Trapani airport on May 31. The crash will be a setback for the UAV’s flight-test program and an investigation is currently being mounted. An order for eight of the drones was placed by the UAE in March of this year.

March 10/16: The first export customer of Piaggio Aero’s P.1HH Hammerhead UAV will be the UAE. Contracts signed on March 8 will see eight of the UAVs produced and delivered at a cost of $347 million, and includes the provision of EO/IR (Electro-Optical Infra-Red) cameras, radar, and communications systems. Development of the Hammerhead has been conducted in conjunction with fellow Italian firm Finmeccanica which has provided the mission control system, sensors, data link, and ground control station (GCS).

July 17/14: Testing. The P.1HH HammerHead DEMO flight program is partly done. It has has validated and fine tuned its advanced control laws, including take-off and landing, augmented modes, flight envelope protection and automatic flight. Automatic management of the ground run both in takeoff and landing has been tested, along with the day/night surveillance turret that’s controlled by the SkyISTAR system.

Next steps in flight testing from Trapani-Birgi in Sicily, Italy involve further testing of the sensors, including installation of an enhanced SkyISTAR Mission Management system that allows the UAV to manage the Seaspray7300E radar. Sources: Selex ES, “P.1HH Hammerhead Programme reaches New Milestone: Autonomous Flight Modes Successfully Validated”.

Nov 18/13: MPA. Tawazun Group subsidiary ADASI says that their P180 MPA program is on schedule, with the first prototype set for its first flight in mid-2014 in Italy. Their release is interesting, because it also suggests potential targets and reach for the Hammerhead:

“The UAE-based company and its partners are actively promoting the MPA as a high-tech solution for maritime patrol, ground surveillance, tactical Intelligence ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and COMNIT (intelligence, technical and intelligence information) security, and have identified Asia, Australia, Africa and the Middle East as the target markets.”

Nov 14/13: 1st flight. Initial flight of the P.1HH HammerHead DEMO, at Italy’s Trapani “Birgi” Air Force base.

If the UAV continues to be successful, it might be able to act as the missing component of the long-frozen M-346 advanced jet trainer deal with Italy. The UAE is looking for a UAV they can arm, and it might also form a very interesting manned/unmanned offering combination with the P180 MPA. Sources: Piaggio Aero, Nov 18/13 release.

1st flight

Oct 31/13: Buy in. Piaggio Aero sees its share structure list heavily toward the UAE and India, after a Shareholders Assembly approves a EUR 190 million buy-in. The HDI Hedge Fund drops from 33% to a 12.5% share. At the same time, Chairman Piero Ferrari increased his share from 1% to 2%, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Company raised their share from 33% to 41%, and India’s TATA Group raised its stake from 33% to 44.5%.

While Piaggio is a civil aircraft company, it’s stuck in a classically Italian slow production mode of about 11-12 planes per year. Many of the new funds are reportedly earmarked for the firm’s 2 defense projects, the Maritime Patrol variant and the P.1HH Hammerhead UAV. Sources: Piaggio Aero Nov 12/13 release | Defense News, “UAE Ups Its Stake in Drone-maker Piaggio Aero” | Defense World, “UAE To Beef Up Stake In New Italian UAV Development”.

Ownership shifts

June 18-24/13: Italy. Italy indicates that they intend to buy 10 Piaggio P.1HH “Hammerhead” MALE UAVs. Taxi tests have already begun and flight testing is expected to begin at the Italian government’s Sardinian test ranges in August or September 2013, with the Aeronautica Millitare managing military certification. Italy is looking for an initial operational capability in 2016-17, and says they will proceed with or without additional partners. Firm backing would give the Hammerhead at least a chance of competing in France and beyond. Aviation Week | AIN re: Hammerhead | Aviation Week follow-on.

June 12/13: Testing. Piaggio tests the Hammerhead UAV’s Vehicle Control Management System (VCMS) in a series of engine and ground handling tests. Sources: Piaggio Aero, June 12/13.

June 18/13: Rollout. Piaggio publicly unveils the P.1HH Hammerhead UAV at the Paris Air Show, after less than a year developing the aircraft in conjunction with Finmeccanica’s Selex ES. CEO Alberto Galassi says:

“The P.1HH HammeHead [sic] and the MPA Multirole Patrol aircraft are the most challenging and technologically advanced aviation programme that Piaggio Aero has ever conceived. They support Piaggio Aero in its newly declared vision of becoming a prominent player in the surveillance and security sector producing leading edge Unmanned Aerial Systems and Multirole Patrol Aircraft together with our world recognized state of the art business aviation aircraft.”

Sources: Piaggio, June 18/13 release.


May 9/13: Italy. Aviation Week interviews Italy’s national armaments director Gen. Claudio Debertolis, who reveals that Italy asked to arm its MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs 2 years ago. The USA has refused to cooperate, halting Italian efforts even though Italy is responsible for wide swathes of territory in Afghanistan, and was the point country for NATO’s campaign against Libya in 2011.

Arming the Aeronautica Militare’s UAVs is a high priority, and Debertolis confirms that Italy is in talks with potential European partners to move forward with a covert “Super MALE” weaponized UAV program. The main question revolves around funding. America may have delayed Italy for so long that it doesn’t have the budget to do anything, even convert its existing UAVs. Aviation Week.

Feb 14/13: Testing. The Hammerhead UAV has its 1st engine start and runway taxi. It’s equipped with 2 rear-facing Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B turboprop engines, and low noise 5-blade scimitar propellers. Source: Piaggio Aero, June 18/13 release.

P180 MPA concept
(click to view full)

July 13/12: P180 MPA. The UAE firm Tawazun is financing development of a Maritime Patrol Aircraft variant of the Avanti II turboprop, with a wingspan stretched all the way out to 21.38 m/ 65′ 2″. Mission endurance at 100 mni from base, in the most taxing low-level (5,000′) profile, is estimated at 7 hours with 45 minutes of fuel reserve. The project will come under Tawazun’s Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments (ADASI), who is financing the development of 2 prototypes from a team that includes Piaggio, Sweden’s Saab, and Tawazun firms. First flight is scheduled for 2014.

The UAE bought 2 Bombardier Q400 MPA aircraft in 2009, and Saab has its own MPA candidate based in its Saab 340 turboprop, but the Avanti MPA’s performance is much closer to existing maritime patrol jets like Embraer’s EMB-145 MP. A range of up to 6,111 km/ 3,3300 nmi, at up to 41,000 feet, with 10+ hour endurance at 648 kph/ 350 knots is certainly competitive, while offering efficiency bonuses during maritime patrol’s low-level flight profiles.

The UAE’s air force already operates 2 P180s as VIP/ MEDEVAC/ Utility aircraft, and ADASI & Mubadala’s involvement lead observers to believe that the UAE will supplement its 2 Q400s with some P180 MPAs, once development is complete. Neighboring Oman would also be a good candidate, but they bought 5 C295 MPAs in 2012; Mubadala may have more luck with the smaller GCC states like Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. The MPA will contribute to the Hammerhead’s market opportunities by trialing potential cross-over equipment, and also by establishing sales reach and reputation in conjunction with the UAE. Then, too, a common manned-unmanned force combination might be very interesting to some buyers. Sources: UAE’s The National, “Mubadala partnership with Piaggio takes flight”.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

KC-46A Boom Problems Resolved | Boeing & MBDA Succeed In Test of Brimstone From AH-64E | Lockheed Martin Undertakes Upgrades for 500 In Service F-16s

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:50

  • A KC-46A fitted with its brand new modified boom has successfully managed a mid-air refueling of a C-17 with the previous axial loading issues no longer present. The testing was carried out on July 12 and the USAF also refueled an F-16 on July 8. Refueling attempts with the F-16 earlier this year were successful, although a higher than expected axial load on the boom was detected. The higher load was again present during the initial attempt with the C-17 which necessitated installation of hydraulic pressure relief valves in the boom.

  • Saab is aiming to carve out a market in South America following their export coup to Brazil. Cash conscious governments from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina could all find a cost effective replacement for their aging fleets in the Gripen fighter. The company has brought a mock-up of its latest model to the Farnborough Air Show alongside an older model for nations that don’t need the kinds of capabilities the new jet brings to an air force.

Middle East North Africa

  • Turkish munition firm Rokestan has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus to integrate a variety of weapons from Roketsan’s existing product range on the Airbus C295W. Existing products in the Rokestan inventory include the 70mm laser-guided missile “CIRIT”; laser-guided long-range anti-tank Missile “LUMTAS”; and laser-guided bomb “TEBER”. With the C295W already used as a transport and maritime patrol aircraft, the weapons integration is part of of Airbus’ expansion plan to increase the capabilities of the plane.


  • Boeing and MBDA have conducted successful life-fire testing of the Brimstone missile on the AH-64E attack helicopter. Funded by the UK MoD, the nine month integration project saw both companies collaborate on a leased AH-64E from the Pentagon. The weapon’s Semi-Active Laser (SAL), Dual Mode SAL/millimetric wave (mmW) and fully autonomous mmW guidance modes were tested while the helicopter was hovering, moving and maneuvering/banking.

  • A UK operated Eurofighter Typhoon has commenced flight testing of the E-scan radar following successful ground trials on the aircraft. The trials are designed to ensure the radar and weapons system reach the required capability in time for first deliveries to the Kuwait Air Force, which became the aircraft’s eighth customer earlier this year. Development of the new radar underpins the Typhoon’s current and future capability evolution.

Asia Pacific

  • Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) has chosen Thales’ Scorpion helmet-mounted sight and display (HMSD) to go into the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase of the South Korean Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) program. Once completed, Thales will provide 400 of the HMSD to KAI. The program will see 200 LAHs introduced into service in the early 2020s.

  • Lockheed Martin is to undergo a large upgrade project of some 500 in-service F-16 fighters with 300 upgrade orders already gained from South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. The F-16V format will see the inclusion of Northrop Grumman’s SABR electronically scanned radar, as well as a new 6 by 8 inch center pedestal display, a Link 16 data link, enhanced data processing and a Sniper advanced targeting pod. A push to sell upgrade packages comes as the company reaches the end of its F-16 orders, which at the current rate, will see production halt in 2017.

  • US experts believe that North Korea will be capable of carrying out full-range testing of the KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile within the next year. The hermit kingdom’s latest test last week ended in failure after exploding mid-air. Analyst Joseph Bermudez stated that the biggest challenges to Pyongyang are quality control and system integration.

Today’s Video

  • MBDA’s Brimstone on the AH-64E Apache:

Categories: News

AH-64E Apache Block III: Evolving Battlefield Roles

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:50
AH-64 in Afghanistan
(click to view full)

The AH-64 Apache will remain the US Army’s primary armed helicopter for several more decades, thanks to the collapse of the RAH-66 Comanche program, and the retirement sans replacement of the US Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). Apaches also serve with a number of American allies, some of whom have already expressed interest in upgrading or expanding their fleets.

The AH-64E Guardian Block III (AB3) is the helicopter’s next big step forward. It incorporates 26 key new-technology insertions that cover flight performance, maintenance costs, sensors & electronics, and even the ability to control UAVs as part of manned-unmanned teaming (MUT). In July 2006, Boeing and U.S. Army officials signed the initial development contract for Block III upgrades to the current and future Apache fleet, via a virtual signing ceremony. By November 2011, the 1st production helicopter had been delivered. So… how many helicopters will be modified under the AH-64 Block III program, what do these modifications include, how is the program structured, and what has been happening since that 2006 award? The short answer is: a lot, including export interest and sales.

The AH-64 Apache Program: Sunset, Sunrise Executive Summary

The AH-64E/ Block III has gone from its 2006 development contract to full production, with no major deficiencies noted in testing. By the end of 2014, all Apache helicopters rolling out of Mesa will be AH-64Es. Features like full UAV control are keeping this 1980s airframe at the leading edge of technology, and interest has been brisk.

The AH-64A/D Apache has become a dominant attack helicopter around the globe, in service abroad with Britain, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the UAE. All are strong candidates for AH-64E upgrades at some point, and some have already placed formal export requests.

Work at the Mesa, AZ manufacturing facility has been running steadily since the AH-64 program’s inception in the early 1980s, but a large share has involved less expensive refurbishment and upgrades. The Block III program continues that tradition, and most AH-64Es will be remanufactured. Countries who buy the AH-64 for the first time, or expand their fleets, will receive new-build helicopters.

There is a market for that. In recent decades, Boeing’s AH-64 Apache has eclipsed Bell Helicopters’ AH-1 in the market Bell founded, and has dealt likewise with new competitors like Eurocopter’s Tiger, AgustaWestland’s A/T129, and Russia’s Mi-28/ Ka-52. Russia’s Mi-24/25 family, which also dates back to the 1980s, is the only platform with similar customer reach, but their customer pools don’t overlap much.

The AH-64E/ Block III has been ordered by the USA (701 planned), Indonesia (8) South Korea (36), Saudi Arabia (up to 70), and Taiwan (30).

Formal DSCA export requests without any confirmed orders yet include India (22 new), Qatar (24), and the UAE (60), with more expected to follow.

AB3 Program Excel

The US Army aims to perform Block III/ AH-64E upgrades to all of the current Block I and II Apaches, their 68 wartime loss replacements, and recently-built AH-64 Extended Block II/+ helicopters. War replacement helicopters bought after FY 2012 will be new-build AH-64Es.

According to Boeing, Low-Rate Initial production involved 2 lots, and totaled 51 helicopters. LRIP Lot 1 was for 8 helicopters. LRIP Lot 2 was divided up into 3 tranches of 16, 19, and 8 helicopters. The Lot 3 contract was delayed so long that Lots 3-4 began Full Rate Production in 2014.

The original plan involved the AH-64’s 2nd re-manufacture program at around $16 million per helicopter. That isn’t cheap, but it’s much cheaper than a new-build AH-64E’s price tag of $40 million or so. The Army still needed new-build production of 56 helicopters, however, in order to reach the program goal of 690.

International AH-64E sales are expected to be a combination of re-manufacture and new-build orders, depending on whether the countries in question already field AH-64s, and how large they want their fleet to be. To date export customers include Taiwan (30 new-build) and South Korea (36 new-build), and Saudi Arabia has begin placing orders. Formal DSCA requests have been made for up to 183 more by India (22 new), Indonesia (8 new), Qatar (24 new), Saudi Arabia (70, most new) and the UAE (60, incl. 30 new).

The AH-64E Apache Guardian (click for video)

The AH-64E Apache Guardian incorporates 26 new technologies designed to enhance the aircraft’s capabilities.

Flight performance: One set of advances are tied to helicopter’s flight performance. They include enhanced -701D engines with improved digital electronic control (DEC); upgraded drive systems including a split-torque face gear transmission, which increases power throughput by more than 20% (to 3,400 shp) without taking up more room; and a new composite rotor blade. The new composite rotor blades, which successfully completed flight testing in May 2004, work with the improved engines to increase the Apache’s cruise speed, climb rate and payload.

Overall, the front-line payoff is a higher hover ceiling altitude, at greater gross weight, on a 95F-degree day. That’s very useful in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. The new avionics will also help, by allowing the new Block III helicopters to fly in clouds and inclement weather that would have grounded earlier models. Pilots in pre-training noticed the additional power very quickly, and pilots on the front lines found that they could now keep up with CH-47F Chinook heavy transport helicopters on escort missions.

Sensor performance: Block III upgrades are designed to extend the Apache’s sensor range in all domains, and may eventually be paired with new extended range weapons like the planned JAGM Block 1.

The mast-mounted radome that defines the current Apache AH-64D Longbow houses the AN/APG-78 Longbow fire control radar. Its millimeter-wave sensing improves performance under poor visibility conditions, and is less sensitive to ground clutter. The short wavelength also allows a very narrow beam-width, which is more resistant to countermeasures as it’s trying to guide the helicopter’s missiles to their targets. Block III will extend that radar’s range, or give commanders the option of trading it for an Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA) that’s mounted in the same place on the mast.

UAV Synergy: The UTA will provide advanced “Level IV MUM” control of UAVs’ flight, payloads, and even laser designators from inside the helicopter, while streaming their sensor feeds back to the Apache’s displays. That level of control is causing a rewrite of existing tactics, techniques and procedures. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command capability manager Col. John Lynch offers one example of what can be done when UAV sensor and flight control is added:

“For example, with the Block III Apache you might have a UAS that’s overhead looking down into urban canyons; with Manned-Unmanned Teaming you have the ability to designate targets and you can see what is in the area where you are going to operate.”

That would have been very relevant to operations in Iraq, before the USA’s destruction of Iranian intelligence networks in that country neutralized the shoulder-fired missile threat.

Electronics & displays: Behind those sensors, AH-64D Block IIIs will add open systems architecture electronics to create more standardization and “switchability,” embedded diagnostic sensors to improve maintenance, extended range sensing, wideband network communications for high-bandwidth networking, Link 16 for shared awareness, and high capacity data fusion computers to merge off- and on-board sensor imagery into a single shared picture of the battlefield.

Other electronic systems will be added over time, and will take advantage of the new electronics architecture. A new and improved IHADSS helmet display is one example. The prototype Ground Fire Acquisition System, (GFAS) is another, and will soon undergo a “user evaluation” in theater. GFAS cameras and infrared sensors detect the muzzle flash from ground fire, classify the firing weapon, and move the information through an Aircraft Gateway Processor into the cockpit. Pilots immediately see the enemy icon on their display screen, integrated with Blue Force Tracking maps. GFAS is expected to find its way into the entire US Apache fleet, but the Block III’s open architecture electronics and convenient rebuild status will make it an attractive destination for early installs.

Upgraded versions of the AN/ARC-231 Skyfire system will form the core of its initial radio capability. SATCOM (Satellite Communications) and Link-16 will supplement those capabilities, improving the helicopter’s ability to receive or share data. New AMF JTRS radios won’t become part of the AH-64E’s communications system until the SALT terminal is added; a full production decision is expected in 2016.

Changes in Production Lots 4-6 will include better embedded diagnostics, APG-78 Longbow radar improvements to add range and over-water capability; and STT Link-16 to share the same view of enemy and friendly units with participating fighters, ships, air defense systems, etc. A Cognitive Decision Aiding System (CDAS) is a cumbersome name for a usegful system, designed “to help the pilot and the crew with some of those tasks that tend to get a little cumbersome at times.”

Contracts and Key Events

Unless otherwise noted, the Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages these contracts. Note that Longbow LLC is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

FY 2016

Taiwan’s Apache fleet Rusting; First AH-64E destined for South Korea. AH-64E & Mi-35P
(click to view full)

July 15/16: Boeing and MBDA have conducted successful life-fire testing of the Brimstone missile on the AH-64E attack helicopter. Funded by the UK MoD, the nine month integration project saw both companies collaborate on a leased AH-64E from the Pentagon. The weapon’s Semi-Active Laser (SAL), Dual Mode SAL/millimetric wave (mmW) and fully autonomous mmW guidance modes were tested while the helicopter was hovering, moving and maneuvering/banking.

June 9/16: Boeing has been awarded a $667 million US Army contract to supply 24 AH-64E Apache helicopters to Qatar. Included in the deal are 1 Longbow crew trainer, ground support equipment, and Thales radios. The deal comes ahead of a planned five-year multi-year contract, which Boeing is hoping to sign in fiscal year 2017. The manufacturer is working with the US Army to accelerate the agreement of such a deal, which would cover the production of 275 aircraft – plus options to ramp up to 450 to support potential export deals – between then and FY2022.

June 1/16: It’s been reported that the British government is set to buy 50 AH-64E Apaches off-the-shelf from Boeing in a deal expected to be worth $2.9 billion. The announcement confirming the sale is expected to be made at the Royal International Air Tattoo or Farnborough air show in July. This will disappoint Leonardo-Finmeccanica who hoped to instead land the contract producing the helicopters at its Agusta-Westland plant in Yeovil, Somerset.

May 31/16: The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) intends to mount a laser weapon on an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, with feasibility tests to commence this summer. According to Col. John Vannoy, the Program Executive Officer Rotary Wing Programs, much of the information regarding the test “will be internal,” however the office envisions using the laser weapon to destroy vehicles or generators as opposed to sending in a missile that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. An expansion of the program could also see the weapon mounted on the MH-60 Black Hawk.

May 20/16: An AH-64 attack helicopter taking part in an exercise at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert was forced to land after a soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord damaged the rotor-craft with live rounds. According to reports, the soldier in question was role playing as OPFOR and his rifle had a blank-fire adapter which was blown off by the first live round. While the OPFOR is usually not issued live rounds, the soldier apparently used a live magazine issued from his home station and scored 5-7 hits on the Apache.

April 26/16: Boeing’s AH-64 Apache attack helicopters are the most likely selection to be made by Poland in an acquisition that could cost up to $1.6 billion. The helicopters will go to the country’s Air Force as part of a widespread military modernization started by the previous government, known as the Kruk program. Under the previous administration, some $33.6 billion was to be spent on new hardware by 2022; however, Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz recently said the program was underfunded, with at least $61.1 billion needed to carry out the required reforms.

April 11/16: Boeing will provide another 117 AH-64E re-manufactured Apache helicopters to the US Army. The contract will earn the company $922.6 million with work estimated to be completed by May 31, 2018. It follows the announcement in March by the DoD that the Army had awarded a contract of nearly $185 million for an undisclosed number of the heavily armored attack helicopters.

March 22/16: AH-64 Apache helicopters are likely to receive a turret upgrade next year, which could save the Army up to $500 million in operations and life-cycle costs. Lockheed Martin began developing a High Reliability Turret for the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) as part of a contract awarded in 2014, and currently expects to receive an engineering change proposal approval around the fourth quarter of 2017 that will allow them to start low-rate procurement. The new turrets will allow for increased slew rates as well as smaller, more affordable line-replaceable modules.

conduct a 1 year feasibility study to see the possibility of integrating its dual-mode Brimstone air-to-surface missile onto the AH-64E Guardian attack helicopter for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). Live test-firing of the system is expected to take place in third quarter of this year. The testing is expected to be low risk, as the UK-specific AH1 configuration already operates the Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire as its main air-to-surface missile. The main portion of the work will involve modifying the fire control software.

December 29/15: Lockheed Martin is to provide AH-64 modernized sensor assemblies for the government of Qatar. The foreign military sales contract worth $130.6 million is to be completed by March 2019. The Gulf Emirate purchased 24 AH-64D APACHE Block III LONGBOW Attack Helicopters in 2014 in a deal worth $3 billion as part of a massive modernization of its helicopter fleet, giving them multi-mission attack capabilities.

December 18/15: Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $215.7 billion foreign military sale contract to provide Modernized Target Acquisition Designation/Pilot Night Vision Systems (M-TAG/PNVS) for Apache helicopters to India. Work is to be completed by December 31, 2021. The contract follows the September purchase of fifteen Chinook and twenty-two Apache choppers by India, in a deal worth $2.5 billion. The Apache will be India’s first pure attack helicopter in service. The Russian made Mi 35, which has been in operation for years and is soon to be retired, was an assault chopper designed to carry troops into heavily defended areas.

December 15/15: Prosecutors in Greece have brought fresh corruption charges against a businessman and a former high-ranking Greek Defense Ministry official over the purchase of 12 Ah-64 attack helicopters in 2003. Both men are being charged with breach of faith over the contract which amounted to $650 million. Several other former ministry officials are also under investigation. The charges come amid Greece’s attempts to cut down on state corruption and clientism which many blame for the cause of the severity of its economic crash in 2008.

November 11/15: Boeing is reportedly eyeing an Egyptian order for additional AH-64 Apache attack helicopters next year, with other potential deals also covering support services to the country’s existing Apache fleet. Egypt received ten AH-64D Apaches in December 2014, following the lifting of a delivery freeze imposed by the US after the country’s military seized power in July 2013. In May 2009 the Egyptian government requested twelve of the helicopters.

November 4/15: Boeing has rolled-out the first AH-64E Apache attack helicopter destined for service with South Korea. Deliveries to the country are scheduled for the first half of 2016, with the helicopters first undergoing testing with the US Army. The South Korean Defense Acquisition Procurement Administration (DAPA) signed a $1.6 billion Foreign Military Sales contract with the US in April 2013 for 36 of the helicopters. Taiwan recently saw problems with the country’s AH-64Es rusting in the tropical climate.

October 29/15: Taiwan’s AH-64E Apache fleet is reportedly rusting in the country’s tropical climate. The helicopters are now mostly grounded, with manufacturer Boeing investigating oxidation in the rear gearbox responsible for taking out nine of the 29 Apaches in service. A lack of spare parts has also grounded a further twelve, with the country’s Ministry of National Defense notifying the US of the issue in March.

FY 2015

Iraq lets its option lapse; UAV testing goes well; M-LRFD modules being upgraded.

September 30/15: India.Following Cabinet Committee of Security approval earlier this month, India’s Defence Ministry has signed a $3.1 billion contract with Boeing for Apache and Chinook helicopters. The 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook transport helicopters are slated for delivery between 2018 and 2019, with Boeing agreeing to a 30% offset clause in a contract split into a Direct Commercial Sale (DCS) for the airframes and a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract for weapons, training and sensors. The deal’s signature comes two days before the expiration of a price agreed in 2013, with Boeing granting an extension to this price in July.

September 8/15: Lockheed is upgrading laser targeting on the AH-64E Apaches, upgrading the M-LRFD modules. The work will cost $21.7 million.

May 1/15: Boeing has been handed a $247.1 million support contract by the Army for Apache and Chinook airframe and weapons system overhaul, repair and recapitalization. The work is expected to run to 2019.

March 18/15: Dutch shove Apache peg into ISTAR hole.
The Netherlands has been experimenting. The Royal Netherland Air Forces has been using “modifications and operational techniques” to convert their fleet of AH-64 Apache helicopters from their traditional ground-attack and CAS roles to a more ISTAR-oriented platform. Details of exactly what these special changes are remain to be seen.

Feb 23/15: Governors gripe about plan to take Apaches from Reserve units. As was predicted, the governors, through their collective lobby group, are
complaining about the Army plan to move National Guard Apaches over to active service Army units. The argument focuses on the fact that Apaches have been used for domestic emergency management (lightly). Governors’ influence on congressional delegations should not be underestimated.

Feb 13/15: More support.Lockheed wins an $82 million contract for AH-64 Apache sustainment; the third and last possible exercising of one-year optional extensions of the original $111 million contract.

Oct 31/14: Support. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives an unfinalized $121.2 million firm fixed-price, contract, covering performance based logistics for AH-64D/E components services and supplies. $90.9 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 Army budgets.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Oct 31/15. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with 1 offer received (W58RGZ-15-C-0017).

Oct 19/14: Taiwan. Taiwan receives the last 6 helicopters, completing delivery of the 30 it ordered under the TWD 59.31 billion ($1.95 billion) contract. It now has 29 available for service, after an April 2014 crash-landing on a residential roof. For full coverage, see DID, “Taiwan’s Force Modernization: The American Side”.

Taiwan deliveries done

Oct 14/14: Maritime upgrade. Apache program manager Col. Jeff Hager says that the Army intends to upgrade the AH-64E’s Longbow radar, “to pick up things in a littoral (shallow water) environment and detect small ships in the water.” The changes would be part of Lot 6 enhancements, and testing of this feature is planned for 2017.

Some use of Apaches is already underway (q.v. July 19/14) in the USA’s own semi-shift to the Pacific theater, and there’s also ample precedent in Britain’s use of AH-64Ds from helicopter carriers during Libyan operations. Not to mention likely demand from new customers like Indonesia and Qatar, whose land-based responsibilities have an intrinsic maritime component.

Meanwhile, American forces are going to run into a difficult problem: the USMC is short of amphibious ships to train its own AH-1 Super Cobra attack helicopters, let alone Army AH-64Es. Sources: AIN, “Maritime Mode Radar Planned for Army’s AH-64E Apache” | DoD Buzz, “Army Configures Apaches for Sea Duty” | Flightglobal, “US Army details combat experience with AH-64E” | IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “AUSA 2014: US Army preps Apaches for sea-basing”.

Oct 14/14: Qatar. Lockheed Martin announces a $90.6 million foreign military sale contract to provide M-TADS/PNVS surveillance and targeting turrets to the Qatar Emiri Air Force. Qatar will be one of the first international customers to receive M-TADS/PNVS systems equipped with the new Modernized Laser Range Finder Designator, which is reportedly 2x as reliable and can be replaced on the flight line.

Qatar marks the M-TADS/PNVS system’s 14th international customer, as the QEAF prepare to receive their AH-64Es (q.v. July 14/14, March 27/14). This sensor sale is structured as an option under the U.S. Army’s Production Lot 9 contract, awarded in May 2014. It extends production in Orlando and Ocala, FL, through 2017. To date, Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 1,250 M-TADS/PNVS systems and spares to the U.S. Army and international customers since 2005. Sources: LMCO, “Lockheed Martin Receives $90 Million Contract for Qatar Apache Targeting and Pilotage Systems”.

Oct 13/14: AH-64 Next? The ATEC, LLC (Advanced Turbine Engine Company), LLC joint venture between Honeywell International, Inc. and Pratt & Whitney has successfully completed testing as part of the Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine (AATE) Science and Technology program (q.v. Oct 21/13).

ATEC intends to offer the HPW3000 as a replacement engine for UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters. They’re still touting the target $1 billion in fleet savings over the new engines’ life cycle, along with performance improvements. Their competition is GE’s GE3000, and the question is AATE’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) successor will become a real program. If not, at least research into the state-of-the-art has been advanced. Sources: Pratt & whitney, “ATEC Completes Second Test, Achieves Key Milestone on New Helicopter Engine”.

Oct 12/14: Iraq. Iraq may have declined its opportunity to buy AH-64s (q.v. Oct 1/14), but they’re playing a key role anyway:

“The top U.S. military officer [Gen. Martin Dempsey] says the U.S. called in Apache helicopters to prevent Iraqi forces from being overrun by Islamic State militants in a recent fight near Baghdad’s airport.”

AH-64E Apache Guardians are conducting operations with the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush [CVN 77]. Sources: Defense News, “Dempsey: U.S. used Apache helos near Baghdad”.

Oct 1/14: Testing. Redstone Arsenal offers an update into AH-64E UAV tests, which have included full control over both RQ-7B Shadow and MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs.

PEO Aviation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office interoperability lead, Doug Wolfe, adds that the same kinds of technology are leading to a One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT) that can control UAV payloads to point where soldiers on the ground want to look, instead of just receiving data. Sources: Redstone Rocket, “Unmanned aircraft soar with new capabilities for Apache”.

Oct 1/14: Iraq. The US Army confirms that Iraq has let its opportunity to buy AH-64D/E helicopters lapse, but the US Department of State says that nothing has been formally canceled. Who is right? The Army is right that there is a time limit to DSCA request’s, and Iraq’s (q.v. Jan 27/14) has expired. The State Department could still end up being correct, if Iraq renews its interest before the pricing changes for the items it’s interested in. If prices do change, the whole process needs to start over with another DSCA export request. Meanwhile:

“The collapse of the proposed sale was confirmed to IHS Jane’s by the US Army on 24 September. A statement by the army said: “The request from Iraq for 24 Apaches was approved by Congress. The Iraqis never accepted the offer and it expired in August…. it appears that Iraq’s latest attempt to secure an Apache sale may have been superseded by the order and start of delivery of attack helicopters from Russia…. as well as already fielding the two Russian types (more of which may now be acquired to compensate for the loss of the Apaches), the Iraqi Army also has 24 armed Bell 407 JetRanger, 20 Airbus EC635, and six Aerospatiale Gazelle helicopters in its inventory for light attack and reconnaissance duties.”

The article adds that once Egypt receives its 10 held-up AH-46Ds, all further Apache builds will be AH-64E Guardians. Sources: IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Iraq passes on Apache buy” | Defense News, “Apache Sale to Iraq Thrown Into Doubt Because of Iraqi Inaction” | RIA Novosti, “Iraq Gets Third Batch of Russian Mi-35M Helicopters: Arms Think Tank”.

FY 2014

Orders: USA, Qatar; DSCA requests: Iraq; Competitions: India, Poland; SAR shows program cost increase; IOC reached; USN qualification; Crash in Taiwan; US shift to National Guard triggers controversy; Request for AH-64s as OH-58D combat loss replacements blocked; AH-64E deploys to Afghanistan; AATE program to research better engines; US Army retires OH-58D armed scouts, will use AH-64Es in scout and attack roles now. To Afghanistan

Sept 29/14: Army/NG debate. The Adjutant-General of the Arizona National Guard, Maj. Gen. Michael T. McGuire, pens an article about the proposed shift of all 192 National Guard AH-64 Apaches into the active-duty Army (q.v. Jan 14/14). Needless to say, he isn’t happy.

For one, he sees the removal of war-fighting capability as a slippery slope. The Guard is meant to fight, he says, and they need the tools to fight alongside regular Army formations. On a cost basis, it’s also true that the same equipment in Army National Guard units does cost less to run and maintain.

The second issue is Constitutional, and has to do with the balance envisioned between the federal government and the states. Even assuming the argument that the US Constitution still exists in meaningful form, arguments about the role of the colonial militia will need more depth than this article provides. Sources: National Guard Association of the US, “Apache helicopter debate fraught with veiled consequences”.

Sept 29/14: Weapons. ATK in Plymouth, MN receives a $36.8 million firm-fixed-price, requirements contract for M230 30mm chain guns and 32 types of spare parts, for use with the Apache helicopter. Work location and funding will be determined with each order, and the contract period extends to Sept 28/17. Army Contracting Command – Tank and Automotive, Warren, MI manages the contract (W56HZV-14-D-0148).

Sept 26/14: HMDs. Elbit USA in Fort Worth, TX receives a $12.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising Option #1 for 300 Apache Aviator Integrated Helmets, which are the key part of the IHADSS-21 system.

Work will be performed over a 2-year period and will be conducted at Elbit Systems’ facility in Fort Worth, TX. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-12-C-0164, PO 0010). See also Elbit systems, “Elbit Systems of America Awarded $12.7 Million Modification Contract, to Provide Additional Apache Aviator Integrated Helmets to the US Army”.

Sept 23/14: Politics. The House Defense Appropriations subcommittee rejects the Pentagon’s request to shift as much as $1.5 billion in “Overseas Contingency Operations” budgets to buy 8 new F-35A/B fighters and 21 AH-64Es. These kinds of shifts require the approval of 4 (!) Congressional committees to go through, so that’s that.

The shifts aimed to replace lost AV-8B Harrier and F-15 fighters, and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scout helicopters, but the subcommittee chair Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen [R-NJ] pushed back against OCO being used to “backfill budgetary shortfalls in acquisition programs that have only tenuous links to the fight in Afghanistan and other current operations…” The Kiowa losses in particular were known to Army planners when they made their January 2014 decisions to retire that fleet wholesale (q.v. Jan 14/14). Sources: Stars and Stripes, “Lawmakers reject Pentagon using war funds on F-35s, Apaches”.

Sept 15/14: +7. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $130 million fixed-price incentive, full rate production contract modification to build 7 new AH-64E helicopters and add appropriate government-furnished equipment. This unfinalized total raises the total contract from $1.1564 billion to $1.2864 billion, and it could rise higher once the contract is finalized. $19.2 million in FY 2013 and FY 2014 funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of March 31/17 (W58RGZ-12-C-0055, PO 0013).

7 AH-64Es

Aug 29/14: India. The new BJP government’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) makes a number of key moves, beginning with cancellation of the 197-helicopter Light Utility Helicopter competition. At the same time, however, DAC effectively cleared the purchase of 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift and 22 AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters, by approving Boeing’s industrial offset proposals. Contracts will follow at some point, as India needs both platforms. Sources: Defense News, “India Cancels $1 Billion Light Helicopter Tender” | Financial Express, “Make in India kicks off with defence deals” | Indian Express, “Centre scraps light utility helicopter tender, opens it to Indian players” | NDTV, “Modi Government Drops Rs 6000-Crore Foreign Chopper Plan, Wants ‘Made in India'”.

Aug 20/14: Indonesia. The Indonesian Ministry of Defence says that they’re prepping a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cover the handling and security of data and communications received by their new AH-64Es (q.v. Sep 21/12, Aug 26/13, Jan 24/14), which are scheduled to begin arriving by 2015. Sources: IHS Jane’s Defence Industry, “Indonesia and US to sign Apache MoU”.

July 19/14: Naval quals. AH-64E Apache Guardians from the 25th Infantry Division’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade conduct deck landing qualifications aboard USS Peleliu [LHA 5] off the coast of Hawaii during RIMPAC 2014. This is the 1st deck qualification for the AH-64E model, though the AH-64D has done so. The ability to deploy from ship sharply changes deployment possibilities in the Pacific, providing lilly-pad options as an alternative to partial disassembly and carriage inside of large aircraft like the C-5 and C-17.

“Four of the [8] Apaches are scheduled to push further into the Pacific for the Pacific Pathways exercise. The other four aircraft are scheduled to conduct training at the Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii prior to returning to Fort Carson [Colorado] in mid August.”

Sources: Pentagon DVIDS, “Apache Guardians perform first deck landing qualifications”.

July 14/14: Qatar. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosts Qatar’s Minister of State for Defense Affairs Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah at the Pentagon, where they sign formal letters of offer and acceptance worth around $11 billion for AH-64E Apache helicopters (q.v. March 27/14 – $2.4 billion for 24), Patriot PAC-3 air and missile defense systems, and FGM-148 Javelin Block 1 anti-tank missiles. Sources: Pentagon, “U.S., Qatar Sign Letters on $11 Billion in Helicopters, Defense Systems”.

July 9/14: Poland. Poland has launched a EUR 1.4 billion tender to upgrade its attack helicopter fleet, which currently consists of 29 Russian Mi-24D/Ws. Submissions for the research phase of market analysis and technical requirements are welcome until Aug 1/14. Read: “Quote the Raven: Poland’s Attack Helicopter Competition” for full coverage.

July 2/14: Iraq. The US State Department is reportedly pushing to sell 4,000 more Hellfire missiles to Iraq. That volume doesn’t make sense for a tiny fleet of AC-208B prop planes carrying 2 missiles each, and a few IA-407 armed scout helicopters; it effectively assumes an AH-64E sale (q.v. Jan 27/14), which doesn’t have a contract yet. The sale would be in addition to the 500 Hellfires from that DSCA request, creating a very large reserve stockpile. One so large that unless deliveries were staggered, it could buffer the effect of any US sanctions if the Iraqi government misused its firepower against broad civilian populations.

It does eventually become a DSCA export request – read “Iraq Wants Hellfires – Lots and Lots of Them“.

June 25/14: Upgrades. Apache PEO Col. Hager discusses pending Lot 4 enhancements:

“…includes the fitting of external crash-worthy fuel tanks and software improvements to the aircraft’s missions systems…. “The Link 16 enables the Apache to receive information from the command-and-control platforms, such as the [Airborne Early Warning and Control System] AWACS and [Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System] JSTARS, and enables it to share this data with all the other services, making it more efficient at locating and prosecuting targets…”

E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS are good intermediaries for sharing data with UAVs outside the Apache’s own radius of UTA control. Link-16 would also let AH-64Es receive information from fighter jets performing close support duties, or send it to those in the vicinity. That’s a big and significant change. With respect to changes already visible in the AH-64E:

“While previously medical evacuation Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters had had to fly slower than they were capable of so as not to outpace their Apache escorts, the AH-64E is able to match the Chinook for speed and altitude in Afghanistan. In addition, the AH-64E’s improved sustainability means that it is being flown at a higher rate of operations that AH-64Ds in theatre.”

Sources: IHS Jane’s International Defence Review , “US Army to begin operational trials of AH-64E Lot 4 enhancements”.

April 27/14: Iraq. Reports arise that Iraq has begun to use AH-64Ds (q.v. Jan 27/14), striking 8 tanker trucks in Wadi Suwab, Syria. Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan said that the strike killed at least 8 people, adding that there was no coordination with the Syrian regime. On the other hand, there’s reasons to believe the reports were bogus:

“Maan did not identify the Iraqi helicopters, but photographs of the attacks suggested that they included the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. In early 2014, the United States said it was sending five Apaches to Baghdad.”

We’ve seen airstrike videos where a fast-moving object could look like an AH-64, but they were Mi-35s when the video was stopped and examined with an informed eye. Iraq has had Russian Mi-35M “Hind” attack helicopters since December 2013, and too many journalists would be hard-pressed to know the difference. Sources: World Tribune, “Iraqi helicopters strike Al Qaida ISIL convoy in Syrian territory”.

April 25/14: Crash. During a training exercise, a Taiwanese AH-64E crash-lands on the roof of a low-rise residential building in Taoyuan county. The Helicopter is a complete wreck, but the pilots suffer only minor injuries, and no residents are hurt. Guys, that’s not what we were supposed to be training today. Subsequent investigations determine that:

“The investigation report shows that the primary causes of the accident were the combination factors of human errors and environment,” Maj. Gen. Huang Kuo-ming told reporters.

The environment refers to fast descending clouds, which disoriented the pilots while they were flying at a low altitude. Still, they should have checked the instruments to maintain adequate height. Taiwan has received 18 of their 30 helicopters, though they only have 17 now. Sources: The Daily Mail, “How did they get out alive? Lucky escape for pilots of Apache attack helicopter after it crashes into a housing block in Taiwan” | South China Morning Post, “Two Taiwan pilots injured as Apache chopper crashes into building” | Defense News follow-on, “Pilots Blamed for Taiwan Apache Crash”.

Taiwan crash

April 24/14: FY15. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $103.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for AH-64E Production Lot 5 long-lead items. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 budgets.

The estimated completion date is Dec 31/14. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with one received. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ. US Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-14-C-0018).

April 17/14: SAR. The Pentagon releases its Dec 31/13 Selected Acquisitions Report. It includes:

AH-64E Apache Remanufacture – Program costs increased $1,321.2 million (+9.5%) from $13,760.2 million to $15,081.4 million, due primarily to higher labor and material costs for embedded diagnostics, Link 16, and full provisions for an external fuel system (+$1,870.0 million). These increases were partially offset by lower support costs for transportability kits, helmets, radar frequency interferometer, more efficient engine procurement, and reduced crashworthy external fuel tanks (-$865.5 million).

In then-year dollars that include inflation etc., the current SAR pegs the entire program at $17.72 billion: $15.081 billion for 639 remanufactured AH-64Es, and $2.639 billion for 63 new-build AH-64Es – up from the previous 55. Note that in the past 3 years since the program split in two, then-year cost for the remanufacture program has increased 26.8%. The retirement of the entire OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scout fleet without replacement (q.v. Jan 14/14) makes it more plausible that the AH-64E program will actually achieve its production goals, but the US government’s deeply shaky fiscal situation makes nothing certain.

AB3A costs rise

April 8/14: to Afghanistan. The AH-64E Model Apache Guardian makes its debut at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade reassembled its flight, electronic and weapons systems on site. Sources: YouTube, “AH 64E Apache Guardian Arrives in Afghanistan”.

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. The AH-64E isn’t mentioned directly, but its communications will eventually receive an upgrade under the AMF JTRS program. That was actually supposed to happen years ago, but the equipment just wasn’t ready.

As an interim solution, AH-64Es will fly with a Small Tactical Terminal (STT) that runs Link 16, for shared awareness with allied planes and defensive systems (q.v. Aug 28/13). The next step will be the Small Airborne Link 16 Terminal (SALT):

“…SALT is designed to be a 2-channel radio capable of running the Link 16 waveform and the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW). The program plans to introduce production hardware into the Apache AH-64E assembly line in fiscal year 2016…. The Army plans to release the SALT request for proposals in the second quarter of fiscal year 2014 and a full rate production decision is scheduled for fiscal year 2016.”

March 27/14: Qatar. The Gulf Emirate orders 24 AH-64Es, at a reported purchase price of around $2.4 billion. It’s just one part of a $23 billion weapon shopping spree announced at DIMDEX 2014 in Doha, Qatar. No word yet re: their delivery schedule. The formal contract is signed on July 14/14.

Other buys include 22 NH90 medium utility (12) and naval (10) helicopters, air defense and anti-tank missiles, fast attack boats, 2 A330 aerial refueling planes, and 3 E-737 AWACS aircraft. Sources: Al Defaiya, “Qatar Announces Big Defense Deals at DIMDEX 2014” | Arabian Aerospace, “Qatar in $23bn arms order including Apache and NH90 helicopters” | Gulf Times, “Qatar, US sign defence deals worth $11.2bn” | Reuters, “Qatar buys helicopters, missiles in $23 billion arms deals”.

Qatar: 24

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The planned removal of the OH-58D Kiowa Warriors from the Army’s fleet has resulted in a big speedup of AH-64 purchases, though the FY 2015 order looks like a cut until the wartime supplemental request is known; based on Apache PMO approval, it will be another 10 (TL 35), a drop of 13 helicopters vs. previous plans. Changes are reflected in the programs and budget graphs, above.

The Apache Remanufacturing Program is all that’s left, and most budget figures through 2019 assume savings associated with a 2017 – 2021 Multi-Year contract, with production assumed to last through FY 2025. They do add that:

“The FY16 AP does not support a Multi-Year contract; however, the Army will adjust FY16 AP [Aircraft Procured] in future budget submissions. The quantities of remanufacture aircraft the Apache PMO approves are FY13, 37; FY14, 35; (based upon 16 Feb 2014 contract negotiation); and FY17, 74. The corresponding AP for all years would need to be adjusted in future budget submissions.”

March 4/14: FY13 – FY14. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $1.156 billion contract modification covering Full Rate Production of 72 remanufactured AH-64Es, 10 new AH-64Es, updates to 5 crew trainers, and full refurbishment of 1 more crew trainer; plus integrated logistics support, peculiar ground support equipment, initial spares, over and above work, and engineering studies.

There have been some advance buys (q.v. Oct 2/12, Jan 3/13, Sept 24/13), but it has taken a while to negotiate these Lot 3 and Lot 4 contracts.

$874.4 million is committed immediately, using a combination of FY 2013 ($380 million) and FY 2014 ($494.3 million) budgets. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, and the estimated completion date is June 30/16. US Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, AL, is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-12-C-0055, PO 0007).

82 AH-64Es

Jan 27/14: Iraq. The US DSCA announces Iraq’s formal export request to buy 24 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and associated items, in a 3-part request with an estimated cost of up to $6.25 billion. Iraq is facing a regrown insurgency in Sunni areas, which has been strengthened by additional battlefield experience gained in Syria. Even so, this announcement immediately attracts opposition in Congress, where Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s divisive and Shi’ite sectarian approach has left him short of support. A number of senators, most prominently Sen. Menendez [D-NJ], are opposed to releasing the helicopters for sale, believing that they would be used against Iraqi civilian populations.

#1: AH-64E Longbow Guardian sale.

  • 24 new AH-64E helicopters with AN/APR-48 Modernized Radar Frequency Interferometers, AN/APX-117 Identification Friend-or-Foe Transponders, Embedded Global Positioning Systems with Inertial Navigation with Multi Mode Receiver, MXF-4027 UHF/VHF Radios, and 30mm Automatic Chain Guns.
  • 56 T700-GE-701D Engines.
  • 27 AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sights and 27 AN/AAR-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors; together, they make up the “Arrowhead” system.
  • 12 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars with Radar Electronics Unit (LONGBOW component), which mount on top of the helicopter rotor.
  • 28 AN/AAR-57(V)7 Common Missile Warning Systems.
  • 28 AN/AVR-2B Laser Detecting Sets.
  • 28 AN/APR-39A(V)4 or APR-39C(V)2 Radar Signal Detecting Sets.
  • 28 AN/ALQ-136A(V)5 Radar Jammers.
  • 52 AN/AVS-6 Night vision goggles.
  • 90 Apache Aviator Integrated Helmets.
  • 60 M299 HELLFIRE Missile Launchers.
  • 480 AGM-114R HELLFIRE Missiles.
  • An unnamed number of 2.75 in Hydra Rockets and 30mm rounds.
  • Site surveys, design and construction.
  • Aircraft Ground Power Units, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, and US government and contractor engineering, technical, and support services.

If a contract is approved and negotiated, Iraq will need 3 US government and 2 contractor representatives in Iraq to support delivery and initial familiarization. That would be followed by a 12-person Technical Assistance Team (1 military, 11 contractors) for about 3 years. Prime contractors will be:

  • Boeing Company in Mesa, AZ (AH-64)
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, FL and MS2 in Owego, NY (Hellfires, Arrowhead)
  • General Electric Company in Cincinnati, OH (Engines)
  • Longbow Limited Liability Corporation in Orlando, FL (Joint venture, Longbow radar)
  • Raytheon Corporation in Tucson, AZ

The estimated cost is up to $4.8 billion. That’s very expensive, but note the implicit inclusion of base construction in the request, and the long-term Technical Assistance team whose ongoing security and provisioning also has to be paid for by the Iraqi government these days.

#2: AH-64D Rental. The 2nd component involves support for a more temporary lease of 6 American AH-64Ds as an interim measure, plus associated items and extensive support. That effort could cost up to $1.37 billion, and includes:

  • 3 spare T-700-GE-701D engines
  • 2 spare Embedded Global Positioning System Inertial Navigation System (EGI)
  • 3 Arrowhead AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sight (MTADS)/ AN/AAQ-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors (PNVS)
  • 8 AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems
  • 6 AN/AVR-2A/B Laser Warning Detectors
  • 6 AN/APR-39A(V)4 Radar Warning Systems with training Universal Data Modems (UDM)
  • M206 Infrared Countermeasure flares, and M211/ M212 Advanced Infrared Countermeasure Munitions (AIRCM) flares
  • 12 M261 2.75 inch Rocket Launchers
  • 14 HELLFIRE M299 Launchers
  • 152 AGM-114 K-A HELLFIRE Missiles
  • Plus Internal Auxiliary Fuel Systems (IAFS), Aviator’s Night Vision Goggles, Aviation MSion Planning System, training ammunition, helmets, transportation, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, and site surveys.
  • 1 US Government and 67 contractor representatives to provide support.

Key contractors for this effort include Boeing Company in Mesa, AZ; Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, FL; GE in Cincinnati, OH; and Robertson Fuel Systems, LLC in Tempe, AZ.

More Hellfire Missiles. The 3rd component involves up to $82 million for 500 of Lockheed Martin’s AGM-114K/R Hellfire Missiles, Hellfire Missile conversion, blast fragmentation sleeves and installation kits, containers, transportation, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, and additional US government and contractor support. Iraq already operates Hellfire missiles on its fixed-wing AC-208B Combat Caravans, but it will need more to equip an attack helicopter fleet.

When all Hellfire requests made this day are put together, they total 152 AGM-114 K-As, and up to 980 of the newest AGM-114Rs. Sources: DSCA #13-18, “Iraq – AH-64E APACHE LONGBOW Attack Helicopters” | DSCA #13-29, “Iraq – Support for APACHE Lease” | DSCA #13-78, “Iraq – AGM -114K/R Hellfire Missiles”.

DSCA: Iraq (24 AH-64Es + 6 rental AH-64Ds + Hellfires)

Jan 24/14: Indonesia. Army Chief of Staff General Budiman says that AH-64Es will arrive in Indonesia between 2015 – 2017, and they will be piloted by the Army. While the Aug 26/13 reports focused on $500 million for the deal, Budiman places it at $600 million when pilot and maintenance training is included. Bases are being prepared, but the main base will be in Berau, the northernmost district of East Kalimantan.

Sadly, the article is provably wrong about other things. The AH-64 can’t carry any anti-radar missiles, for instance, or AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles either. Sources: Antara News, “Indonesian military to have Apache combat helicopters”.

OH-58D over Tal Afar
(click to view full)

Jan 14/14: No ARH. The OH-58 fleet will be retired, without a successor. Instead of 15 Combat Aviation Brigades, the Army is likely to drop to 10-13. On the other hand, the odds of actually fielding the full AH-64E program just rose sharply.

US Army Aviation Center of Excellence commander Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum finally discusses the Army’s 2010 ARH Analysis of Alternatives, which recommended a mix of AH-64Es and UAVs to take on the Army’s scout helicopter role. So, why did the Army keep pushing for a new Armed Aerial Scout? Magnum says they didn’t have enough money to buy enough AH-64s. What changed? A smaller Army doesn’t need as many. The current leadership has decided that 698 AH-64Es, who will be able to control the planned fleets of unarmed RQ-7B Shadow and armed MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs from the air, will provide an “80% solution.”

The AH-64D to AH-64E upgrades will be funded by avoiding Kiowa modernization or replacement, and the Army also axed 15 military specialties that were unique to the OH-58D. Some rebalancing will need to move more UH-60s to the National Guard, where they can offer useful capabilities during natural disasters etc., while shifting AH-64s to the active-duty force. Gen. Magnum adds that investment of all kinds is going to be slim:

“I tell youngsters who are in the Basic Officer Leader Course that when some of you retire from the Army in 20, we still will not have finished fielding the UH-60M and AH-64E. That’s how far we’ve pushed these programs.”

Especially with AH-64s and UH-60s costing a good deal more to fuel and maintain than Kiowas. The question is whether the sequester’s recent rollback will create pushback on Capitol Hill, if National Guard drawdowns affect local bases. If so, will that pushback be enough? The Army does seem determined to do this. Sources: US Army, “Army aviation flying smarter into fiscal squeeze” |, “Army planning to scrap OH-58 Kiowa Warriors helicopter fleet: Reports” | Jackson Sun, “National Guard: Tennessee could lose 30 OH-58D helicopters, including at Jackson flight facility, under proposed Army plan” | The Motley Fool, “The U.S. Army Is About to Make a Huge Mistake”.

Apaches only: End of the OH-58D scout helicopters

Nov 21/13: IOC. The AH-64E reaches Initial Operational Capability on schedule, spearheaded by the 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA. The 1-229th flew more than 670 hours over the last month, with an average operational tempo of 27 hours per airframe per month. Sources: US Army, “Army Achieves Initial Operating Capability with the AH-64E Apache”.


Nov 4/13: Taiwan. Taiwan’s first 6 AH-64E attack helicopters have been re-assembled in Taiwan’s Kaohsiung Harbor, after arriving by ship. The US reportedly asked Taiwan’s military authorities not to reveal the AH-64E’s cockpit layout or configuration in its Nov 7/13 public display. Unfortunately, that request comes about a week after revelations that Taiwanese officers sold key information about Taiwan’s brand-new E-2 Hawkeye 2000 AEW&C planes to the Chinese.

The AH-64Es will become operational in April 2014, with Guiren Air Force Base in Tainan serving as a training and basing focal point. More than 60 Taiwanese pilots and maintenance personnel returned to Taiwan in August 2013, after completed 20 months of training in the USA that will let them act as instructors. Still, there were limits, which echoed circumstances surrounding the delivery of Taiwan’s AH-1W Cobras over a decade ago:

“While Taiwanese pilots and maintenance personnel managed to get a full understanding of the aircraft software and hardware, the pilots were unable to obtain training in certain special flight skills. The Taiwanese trainees were asked to leave the classroom or training site whenever the American instructors were giving lectures on certain critical courses or special flight maneuvers, the officials said.”

They’ll have to figure those out on their own. A 2nd batch of Apache helicopters is scheduled for delivery to Taiwan in late December 2013, and 3 more batches of 6 will complete deliveries by the end of 2014. Sources: Focus Taiwan, “Taiwan takes delivery of first Apache choppers” | Focus Taiwan, “Talk of the Day — AH-64E Apache choppers debut in Taiwan” | Flight International, “Taiwan receives first batch of AH-64E Apaches” | Focus Taiwan, “Apache choppers to bolster Taiwan’s combat capability: expert”.

Taiwan: AH-64Es arrive

HPW3000 promo
click for video

Oct 21/13: AH-64 Next? The US government’s Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine program (AATE) program begins to show public results, with PW/Honeywell’s ATEC joint venture touting its HPW3000’s performance in early tests. Their competitor is GE’s GE3000.

Within the Army, the application of these technologies will fall under AATE’s follow-on Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). Its goal is a 3,000 shp turboshaft that also delivers AATE’s desired 25% better fuel efficiency, 20% longer engine life, and 35% maintenance cost improvements. All in a package that could act as a drop-in replacement for the AH-64E’s current T700-GE-701D, which delivers 2,000 shp. Assuming they can deliver, AH-64 on-station time could rise by an hour or so, or see range extensions and better altitude limits. As an alternative, the helicopter could carry about 3,300 more pounds of payload under better conditions. If the companies could deliver on the reliability goals as well, the combined value of those maintenance and longevity improvements for the UH-60 and AH-64 fleets could add up to $1 billion over the engines’ life cycle. Sources: Pratt & Whitney release, Oct 21/13 | Aviation Week, “Teams Test More Powerful Engines For U.S. Army Helicopters” | ATEC JV site | ATEC HPW3000 infographic [PDF] | GE3000 page.

FY 2013

Orders: USA, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan; AH-64E “Guardian”; SAR shows program cost increase; US new-build program effectively terminated; Link 16 purchases begin; AH-64E vulnerable to hackers. Refurb, Step 1
(click to view full)

Sept 24/13: Lot 3-4. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $52.4 million firm-fixed-price contract to procure an estimated 48 AH-64Es under Lot 3 remanufacture, Lot 3 new build, and Lot 4 remanufacture. Obviously, this is just an initial payment.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with funding from FY 2013 “other authority” funds. This contract was a competitive acquisition via the web, but with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0055).

Sept 9/13: South Korea. The Longbow LLC joint venture in Orlando, FL receives a $51.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 6 Longbow fire control radars, plus associated parts, spares and support. It’s part of Korea’s 36-helicopter buy, which has already seen orders for 36 helicopters, their engines, MTADS-PNVS surveillance and targeting turrets, and now a limited number of Longbow radars. Total announced so far: $1.236 billion, out of a $1.6 billion budget.

The Republic of Korea is the Longbow radar’s 10th international customer, and production under their order is scheduled through 2016. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL; Ocala, FL; and Baltimore, MD. US Army Contracting Command, Aviation at Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as South Korea’s agent (W58RGZ-13-C-0105). Sources: Pentagon | NGC & Lockheed releases, Sept 12/13.

Sept 9/13: Training. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $14.4 million firm-fixed-price, contract for 4 Longbow crew trainers.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, using FY 2011 “other authorization” funds. This contract was done as a competitive acquisition via the web, but just 1 bid was received (W58RGZ-13-C-0086).

Aug 30/13: RDT&E. Boeing receives a $22.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for continued AH-64E development and demonstration. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ (W58RGZ-05-C-0001, PO 0059).

Aug 28/13: Link 16/STT. Following successful AH-64E flight tests, the Army has decided to pursue a sole source contract with ViaSat for their Small Tactical Terminal (STT). The 16-pound KOR-24A STT provides simultaneous communication, voice or data, using Link 16 and the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW).

Link 16 securely shares locations of identified friendly and enemy forces, so that all equipped units see what any one unit can see, and vice-versa. Knowing that there’s an enemy anti-aircraft unit in place before you fly over the next hill is a big plus. Sources: ViaSat, Aug 28/13 release | ViaSat STT.

Aug 26/13: Indonesia. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Purnomo Yusgiantoro, confirms that the US agrees to Indonesia’s request for 8 Apache helos (q.v. Sep 21/12 entry). The deal is valued at about $500 million, far lower than the $1.4 billion cost in last year’s DSCA request, suggesting it does not cover armament. Different contracts are subsequently announced to provide AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to customers that include Indonesia.

Some human rights groups fear the helicopters will be used to crack down on separatists, and are concerned by the sale of such machines to a military with a recent past of human rights abuses. US DoD | Jakarta Globe, “US to Sell Indonesia 8 Apache Helicopters” | Asia Times, “US sparks Indonesia arms sales concern” | Australia’s ASPI, “Why does Indonesia need Apache gunships?”

Indonesia: 8

Aug 23/13: South Korea. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a firm-fixed price, option eligible, multi-year contract from South Korea, with a cumulative maximum value of $904.4 million for 36 new AH-64E Apache Helicopters. This contract includes initial support, spares and 1 Longbow crew trainer.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with the US Army Contracting Command, Aviation in Redstone Arsenal, AL managing the contract as South Korea’s FMS agent (W58RGZ-13-C-0106). Total so far: $1.185 billion, out of a $1.6 billion budget.

South Korea: 36

Aug 21/13: South Korea. General Electric Aviation in Lynn, MA receives a firm-fixed price, no option contract with a cumulative maximum value of $57.5 million for 72 production T700-GE-701D engines, extended warranties, and four spares and support packages. They’ll be used on South Korea’s 36 new AH-64Es, and represent the 2nd purchase of long-lead items by that country.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA, and will be managed by the US Army Contracting Command – Aviation in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract on behalf of their ROK client (SPRTA1-12-G-0006). This is the 2nd Pentagon release that refers to a sole-source item as a “competitive acquisition with 3 bids solicited and 3 received”. We can only conclude that they mean the South Korea’s attack helicopter competition generally.

Aug 8/13: Taiwan. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $92.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, as part of Taiwan’s AH-64E buy and associated support. The Pentagon says that this brings the cumulative total face value of this contract to $716.7 million. The original DSCA request, including 30 helicopters, weapons and 6 years of support, had a maximum of $2.532 billion (q.v. Oct 3/08)

FY 2009 procurement funds are being used, which was the year Taiwan placed the order. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as Taiwan’s agent (W58RGZ-09-C-0147, PO 0025).

Aug 1/13: Longbow LLC, Orlando, FL receives a $6.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for services to support Low Rate Initial Production of the Radar Electronics Unit and UAS Tactical Common Data Link Assembly, bringing the cumulative total face value of this contract to $182.3 million. FY 2012 Procurement funds were used by US Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-10-C-0005, PO 0035).

Aug 1/13: South Korea. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL receives a maximum $223.3 million contract to buy M-TADS/PNVS systems for South Korea (q.v. April 17/13). Lockheed Martin later confirms that this is the 1st announced contract in their 36-machine AH-64E order, covering 36 Arrowhead systems and spares, with production and delivery extending through 2018. Electronics assembly will take place at the Ocala, FL facility, with final assembly performed in Orlando, FL.

South Korea becomes the system’s 12th international customer. Oddly, the Pentagon release says that 3 bids were solicited, with 3 bids received. The system only has 1 manufacturer, and it would be very expensive to integrate a different system on the AH-64. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as South Korea’s agent (W58RGZ-13-C-0104). Lockheed Martin.

June 7/13: Saudi. Longbow LLC in Orlando, FL receives a $39 million firm-fixed-price, foreign-military-sales (FMS) contract modification from Saudi Arabia, buying an undeclared number of AH-64 mast mounted assemblies; the fire control radars that go inside them; and related support equipment.

The Pentagon says that the cumulative total face value of this contract is $333.3 million, but it’s a FY 2006 contract that far predates Saudi AH-64E buys. Based on DID’s tracking of announced contracts, the Saudis have now committed $339 million to their AH-64E buy so far, using several contracts. US Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as Saudi Arabia’s agent for this FMS sale (W58RGZ-06-C-0134, PO 0042).

May 24/12: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/12 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF]. The AH-64E programs feature prominently, with overall program costs rising by more than $2 billion, vs. the previous figures as reported by the GAO in March:

“AH-64E Apache Remanufacture – Program costs increased $1,791.9 million (+15.0%) from $11,968.3 million to $13,760.2 million, due primarily to reflect a revised Independent Cost Estimate (ICE) by CAPE [DID: Pentagon Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation team] in support of Full Rate Production (FRP) approval in September 2012 (+$1,339.5M). There were additional increases for other support (+$347.8 million) and initial spares (+$151.0 million) to reflect the approved CAPE FRP ICE.”

See April 10/13 entry to explain our lack of faith that future US Army new-build orders will ever materialize. Officially, however:

“AH-64E Apache New Build – Program costs increased $328.7 million (+15.3%) from $2,155.8 million to $2,484.5 million, due primarily to a stretch-out of the procurement buy profile (+$260.0 million). Since Milestone C in September 2010, 46 of the 56 AH-64E New Build aircraft have been shifted outside the Future Year Defense Program to higher priority programs. There were additional increases for other support (+$78.5 million) and initial spares (+$26.6 million) to reflect a revised Independent Cost Estimate by Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) in support of full rate production approval in March 2013. These increases were partially offset by a quantity decrease of 2 Overseas Contingency Operations-funded aircraft [DID: lost helo replacements] from 58 to 56 aircraft (- $111.2 million) and associated schedule and estimating allocations ($+46.3 million).”

SAR – program costs rise

May 22/13: Saudi. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $69.2 million firm-fixed-price, foreign-military-sales contract modification for Saudi Arabia’s Apache Block III aircraft and associated parts and services. The US Army reports the total cumulative value of this contract so far as $259.4 million; when other known Saudi contracts are added, contract value to date is somewhere between $296-300 million. Given Saudi AH-64E export requests for up to 60 helicopters, and known helicopter prices, this is just a drop in the bucket.

US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract on behalf of its Saudi client (W58RGZ-12-C-0089, PO 0008).

May 22/13: Saudi. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $14.3 million firm-fixed-price, foreign-military-sales contract modification for Saudi Arabia’s Apache Block III aircraft and associated parts and services. The US Army reports the total cumulative value of this contract so far as $35.2 million. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract on behalf of its Saudi client (W58RGZ-12-C-0113, PO 0003).

April 17/13: South Korea picks AH-64E. South Korea announces that the AH-64E Guardian has beaten the AH-1Z Viper and T-129 ATAK helicopters for a 1.8 trillion won ($1.6 billion), 36-machine order to replace their existing fleet of AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters. The ROK hopes to have the helicopters between 2016 and 2018. The Apaches are useful for countering heavy armor formations, and might have an important role against artillery in Korea, but the Korea Herald offers another interesting possibility: a duel between fast moving aerial and land opponents:

“In Goampo, Hwanghae Province, the North has built a unit to house some 60 hovercrafts whose infiltrations operations could be countered by the attack helicopters. The communist state is known to have some 130 hovercrafts that can travel through mudflats into the border islands at a speed of 100 kilometers per hour.”

The attack helicopter decision had been due in October 2012, but was put on hold until after the elections. The AH-1Z would have represented continuity with the existing fleet, and was the subject of a September 2012 DSCA export request. The Italo-Turkish T-129 would have been a reciprocal deal with a major arms export customer. A DAPA official is quoted as saying that the AH-64E’s superior target acquisition capability, power, and weapons load gave it the edge, and so South Korea will begin the acquisition process. The weapons load issue is debatable, but the Apache is certainly much more heavily armored than its counterparts, and its combination of modernized optics and MMW radar or UAV control does give it an edge in target acquisition.

The ROK is a bit behind on approvals and other concrete arrangements for the AH-64E, but KAI’s existing position as a major AH-64E subcontractor will help a bit. US Army | Korea Herald | Reuters.

South Korea picks AH-64E

April 12/13: Rotors. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $36.6 firm-fixed-price contract modification, buying composite main rotor blades and associated support equipment for the Block III configuration. The performance enhancing composite blades are part of the AH-64E’s efficiency changes. The award uses FY 2012 procurement contract funds (W58RGZ-10-G-0006, 0013).

April 10/13: FY 2014 Budget. The President releases a proposed budget at last, the latest in modern memory. The Senate and House were already working on budgets in his absence, but the Pentagon’s submission is actually important to proceedings going forward. See ongoing DID coverage.

The AH-64E submission marks a big shift. Previous 2014 procurement plans involved 48 machines: 10 new-build helicopters ($475.2 million) and 38 remanufactured ($618.8 million) machines, for a total of $1.094 billion. The new plan involves 42 remanufactured helicopter and no new machines, for a total of just $759.4 million and an overall drop of 30.59%. The Pentagon didn’t even deliver its war supplemental budget, so those numbers could rise. The program as a whole has dropped from the still-official 634 helicopters to 628, but there are still a limited number of airframes to work with. Adding AB3-R Apaches now means subtracting them later, which may be attractive if the Army sees even more problems in future years.

This is a long term shift, because the AB3B new-build program has essentially been terminated. Foreign buyers can still get them, and the US Army’s official fiction is that the remaining 45 new-build helicopters of their 55-helicopter goal will be bought after 2018, creating 683 AH-64Es for $15.33 billion. Anyone who believes that plan is asked to email us, in order to receive the attractive terms of our toll bridge investment opportunity near Brooklyn.

The reality? AH-64E is now a 638 helicopter program, worth $12.53 billion.

Major program shift: de facto termination for AB3 New-build

March 15/13: Support. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $7.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for AH-64E contractor logistics support. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/14. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0161).

March 5/13: SDD. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $41.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification that adds to the AH-64 Apache Block III’s SDD contract.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/14. The original bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-05-C-0001).

Jan 9/13: Guardian. The US Army shares that the designation for the AH-64E Apache is “Guardian,” written/ referenced as “AH-64E Apache Guardian.”

The AH-64D was known as the AH-64D Apache Longbow, due to its radar mast that provides fire and forget operation when using AGM-114L Hellfire Longbow missiles with millimeter-wave guidance. US Army.


Jan 17/13: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The AH-64E is included, and the news is almost all good. It’s operationally effective, and better than its predecessors. It’s also operationally suitable, surpassing reliability thresholds with statistical confidence and meeting all current maintainability requirements. Survivability is at least as good as the AH-64D, and increased power margins also do their bit to improve flight safety.

Now, the lone piece of bad news: The AH-64E is vulnerable to computer network attack. An Army threat computer network operations team conducted limited penetration testing against the Blue Force Tracker, the Aviation Mission Planning System, and aircraft maintenance ports. Threat team activities were limited to computer network scanning (passive and active) while the AB3 aircraft were on the ground, but they were successful in gaining access to AB3 systems.

Jan 9/13: Lot 4-6 Enhancements. US Army Apache program manager Col. Jeff Hager talks to Flight International about the AH-64E.

Boeing has delivered 28 of 51 low-rate initial production AH-64Es so far, and will start full-rate production in 2013. Changes in Production Lots 4-6 will include better embedded diagnostics, APG-78 Longbow radar improvements to add range and over-water capability; and Link-16 to share the same view of enemy and friendly units with participating fighters, ships, air defense systems, etc. A Cognitive Decision Aiding System (CDAS), is a cumbersome name, for a system designed “to help the pilot and the crew with some of those tasks that tend to get a little cumbersome at times.” Flight International.

Jan 3/13: Taiwan? Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $71 million firm-fixed-price contract modification “to procure Apache AH-64D helicopters in support of Foreign Military Sales.” We asked for further details to clarify which customer, but neither Boeing nor the US military will provide those any longer, except through Freedom of Information Act requests. The contract number does match Taiwan’s 30-helicopter order, and the USA seems to be using a different contract number for them, but that conclusion isn’t 100% certain.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of Oct 31/17. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0147).

Jan 3/13: Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $39.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification. Boeing tells us that this is additional advance procurement funding for the US Army.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0055).

Jan 3/13: FMS. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives an $18.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification “to procure Apache Block III Aircraft in support of Foreign Military Sales.” We asked for further details to clarify which customer, but neither Boeing nor the US military will provide those any longer, except through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of April 30/13. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0089).

Nov 1/12: Taiwan? Boeing receives a $66.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification “to procure Apache Block III aircraft and related support.” We asked about this contract, which turns out to be a Foreign Military Sale order, even though it wasn’t announced as such. Neither Boeing nor the US military will provide those any longer, except through Freedom of Information Act requests. The contract number does match Taiwan’s 30-helicopter order, and the USA seems to be using a different contract number for them, but that conclusion isn’t 100% certain.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of Oct 31/17. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0147).

Oct 24/12: AH-64E. The US Army formally renames the AH-64D Block III the “AH-64E,” in accordance with a USAF memo received in September. It also formally announces the program’s full-rate production decision, which the Defense Acquisition Board granted in August 2012.

As part of that decision, the AH-64E becomes an ACAT C program with oversight from the Army (Heidi Shyu), instead of an ACAT D program with oversight from the US Department of Defense.AOL Defense.


Oct 2/12: ? Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $69.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for “Apache Block III aircraft.” Boeing could not provide additional details by the time of publication.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of Feb 28/13. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0055).

FY 2012

RDT&E funding; Taiwan orders; Indonesia & Qatar requests; UTA mast controls MQ-1C UAV; Alone in India. KAI’s new fuselage
(click to view full)

Sept 21/12: Indonesia. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Indonesia’s official request for AH-64D Block III Apache helicopters, ancillary equipment, and weapons. The DSCA says that: “Indonesia will use these APACHE helicopters to defend its borders, conduct counterterrorism and counter-piracy operations, and control the free flow of shipping through the Strait of Malacca.”

The proposed cost is very, very high – up to $1.42 billion for 8 new-build helicopters plus initial support, or about $177.5 million for each operational, fully-equipped helicopter. By comparison, India’s similar DSCA request involved up to $1.4 billion for 22 machines and equipment. The request is somewhat controversial in Indonesia, where the chairman of the House of Representatives Commission overseeing defense and foreign affairs has said that heavy-lift CH-47 Chinook helicopters would be far more helpful. He isn’t against the Apaches per se, just believes that Chinooks would make a bigger difference to one of the military’s main roles, which is distributing relief supplies after natural disasters. He’s right, but that isn’t what they asked for; instead, it’s:

  • 8 AH-64D Apache Longbow Block III attack helicopters
  • 19 T-700-GE-701D Engines (16 installed and 3 spares)
  • 9 “Arrowhead” MTADS/PNVS night vision and targeting turrets
  • 24 Integrated Helmet and Display Sight Systems (IHDSS-21), which allow pilots to target missiles by moving their gaze.
  • 4 AN/APG-78 Longbow Fire Control Radars (FCR) with Radar Electronics Units
  • 4 AN/APR-48A Radar Frequency Interferometers
  • 10 AAR-57v3/5 Common Missile Warning Systems (CMWS), with a 5th Sensor and the Improved Countermeasure Dispenser
  • 10 AN/AVR-2B Laser Detecting Sets
  • 10 AN/APR-39Av4 Radar Signal Detecting Sets
  • Identification Friend or Foe transponders
  • 32 M299A1 Hellfire Missile Launchers
  • 140 Hellfire AGM-114R3 “universal warhead” missiles
  • M230 30mm guns and ammunition
  • Plus helicopter transportation to Indonesia, communication equipment, tools and test equipment, training devices, simulators, generators, associated wheeled vehicles, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and US government and contractor support services.

Many of the items above are produced by sub-contractors like ATK, BAE, Northrop Grumman, et. al., but the prime contractors will be:

  • Boeing in Mesa, AZ (Helicopter)
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, FL (Hellfire missiles & launchers)
  • General Electric Company in Cincinnati, OH (Engines)
  • Lockheed Martin Millimeter Technology in Owego, NY (Longbow radars)
  • Longbow Limited Liability Corporation in Orlando, Florida (Longbow radars)

Implementation of this proposed sale may require 5 U.S. contractor representatives and 3 U.S. Government representatives in country, full-time, for equipment checkout, fielding, and technical support.

DSCA: Indonesia request (8)

Sept 6/12: Support. Longbow LLC in Orlando, FL receives a $39 million firm-fixed-price contract to support the helicopter’s Radar Electronic Unit and Unmanned Aerial System Tactical Common Data Link Assembly.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL until Aug 31/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-12-C-0049).

Aug 28/12: Support. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $17.7 million firm-fixed-price contract “for the procurement of Apache Block III aircraft and related support.”

Work will be performed in Mesa, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0113).

Aug 21/12: India. The Times of India quotes a Ministry of defence official, who says that:

“It’s just a matter of time before the contract is inked for the Apaches after final commercial negotiations. Most of the hurdles have been cleared.”

It’s hard to tell whether that means anything. In India, “just a matter of time” can easily be measured in years. Meanwhile, Boeing and Russia will be competing for another Indian contract, pitting Boeing’s CH-47F heavy-lift helicopter against the even larger Mi-26.

July 13/12: Support. An $84.6 million firm-fixed-price contract covers production and support services for the Apache Block III aircraft. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of Jan 31/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0055).

July 12/12: Sub-contractors. Boeing announces that they’ve received the first 10 new Block III fuselages from long-time supplier Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). This milestone paves the way for delivery of the 1st new-build Apache Block III in 2013.

Boeing is a huge customer for KAI, who supplies parts for commercial jets, F-15s, A-10 wings, etc. KAI have been delivering AH-64 fuselages for over a decade from their facility in Sacheon, South Korea, and the Republic of Korea has expressed some interest in buying new AH-64D Block III helicopters of their own (vid. Sept 24/08 entry).

July 12/12: Qatar wants 24. The US DSCA announces Qatar’s official request to buy 24 AH-64D Block III helicopters, plus associated equipment, support, and weapons, including Hellfire anti-tank and Stinger air-to-air missiles. The total estimated cost, if a contract is signed, is up to $3.13 billion for all requests. The main request includes 24 Block III attack helicopters, which would more than replace its existing 14 SA342 Gazelle light armed scouts.

Read “Qatar: The Emir’s New Helicopters” for full coverage.

DSCA: Qatar request (24)

May 29/12: Taiwan. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $97.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification “of an existing contract to procure Block III Apache AH-64D attack helicopters in support of Foreign Military Sales.” Which means Taiwan. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/17. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-09-C-0147).

The contract number does match Taiwan’s 30-helicopter order, and the USA seems to be using a different contract number for them, but that conclusion isn’t 100% certain. If it is Taiwan, it brings total ROC Apache Block III contracts to $624.5 million so far, of the maximum $2.532 billion noted in the October 2008 DSCA request. If air-launched Stinger missiles are included, on the grounds that they were part of Taiwan’s request, the total so far rises to $683.8 million.

May 6/12: LRIP-2B. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $486.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for “AH-64D Apache Block III low rate initial production and related support.” This appears to be the FY 2012 base order, per plans to buy 19 more Block IIIs as the 2nd tranche of LRIP Lot 2.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/14. The original bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-09-C-0161).


May 6/12: Taiwan. A $171.8 million firm-fixed-price contract “for the procurement of Apache Block III aircraft and related services in support of Foreign Military Sales.” The Pentagon does not mention which country, but conversations with industry sources indicate that this is almost certainly for Taiwan’s 30-helicopter order.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/14. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as Taiwan’s agent (W58RGZ-12-C-0089).

April 3/12: IOT&E. The AH-64 Apache Block III is finishing up its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation at Fort Irwin, CA, and has performed “extremely well.” Col. Shane Openshaw, US Army project manager, Apache Attack Helicopters, is confident that the new variant will be ready to deploy in 2013, even as new technologies like UTA and GFAS begin their own journey into the fleet.

The Army has taken delivery of 10 Block IIIs so far. US Army.

IOT&E done

March 16/12: RDT&E. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $187 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, to fund Apache Block III development, integration and testing. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of July 31/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-05-C-0001).

Jan 17/12: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). Most performance levels looked good as of Sept 30/11, after 1,587 developmental flight test hours, and the new helicopter got good marks for supportability, but formal IOT&E is scheduled for April 2012.

The helicopter meets all thresholds, except for 99% performance in Hover Out of Ground Effect. The new radar met or exceeded 37/44 specification thresholds, and even for the other 7, performance was at or above the existing AH-64D radar. Remaining improvements are mostly focused on 3 key sensors: the IHADSS helmet-mounted display, the MTADS “Arrowhead” sensor turret, and UAV interoperability:

“…the program redesigned the IHADSS helmet to improve its fit and functionality, and has made software corrections to make it easier to adjust radio squelch, provide feedback to the pilot while changing radio frequencies, simplify UAS linkup procedures, and achieve compliance with interoperability standard… M-TADS video vibrates excessively during certain flight regimes. Subsequent testing revealed that the cause of the vibration was the natural frequency of the TADS Electronics Display and Control overlays with the main rotor frequency. The Army is exploring options to correct the problem.”

January 2012: India. India Strategic quotes Raytheon’s Business Development Manager for missile systems Brad Barnard, who says that Raytheon’s FIM-92F Block 1 Stinger ATAS helicopter-mounter anti-aircraft missiles could also be made available for other Indian helicopters, beyond the requested AH-64D Block III buy (vid. Oct 25/11, Dec 27/10).

Missile candidates would include India’s HAL Dhruv helicopters, and HAL’s LCH scout and light attack helicopter.

UTA: UAV mast-er
(click to view full)

Dec 30/11: Mast sensors for Taiwan & US. Longbow Limited Liability Corp. in Orlando, FL receives an announced $64.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, but Longbow LLC pegs its actual value at $181 million, with options to extend performance past 2015, to 2017.

It’s said to include 15 Longbow Block III mast-mounted Fire Control Radar assemblies for Taiwan’s AH-64Ds, marking the Block III version’s 1st export order.

For the US Army, the order includes 14 Block III Radar Electronics Units, which are smaller than their predecessors, and offer lower weight, maintenance and power requirements. The Army is also buying 14 Unmanned Aerial System Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA) systems and spares, which provide a 2-way, high-bandwidth data link that lets the helicopter crew control nearby UAV flight paths, sensors and lasers at long ranges, while receiving high-quality imagery from the UAVs on the helicopters’ own displays.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract, including its work as Taiwan’s FMS agent (W58RGZ-10-C-0005). Lockheed Martin | Northrop Grumman.

Dec 30/11: Training. The US Army discusses AH-64D Block III improvements, as the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division prepares to be the 1st unit in the Army to field a force with only AH-64D Block III machines.

The differences are extensive enough that existing 1-1 pilots are getting a 3-week course at Boeing’s Mesa, AZ facility, including 28 hours of academics, 24 hours in the new simulator, and 8.5 hours flying in the Block III helicopter. Maintenance test pilots get an additional 22 hours of academics and 3 additional hours in the aircraft.

Dec 7/11: Taiwan contract. Boeing in Mesa, AZ received a $141.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for “services in support of 30 Apache AH-64D attack helicopters for Taiwan.” This appears to confirm the report in the June 10/11 entry.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/17. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL, who is acting as Taiwan’s agent (W58RGZ-09-C-0147).

Taiwan’s 30 begin

Dec 7/11: Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $7.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for “logistics support services for the AH-64D Apache low rate initial production.” DID is checking, but believes that only Block III is back at the LRIP phase.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Feb 28/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0161).

Nov 9/11: UAV Mast-a. An AH-64D Apache Block III helicopter fitted with the Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA) atop its mast has controlled the payload and flight of an MQ-1C Grey Eagle UAV while both are in flight. This marks the 1st time an unmanned vehicle has been controlled from the cockpit of an Apache helicopter.

Lockheed Martin says that the test program proved the UTA’s design, adding that: “All goals of this phase of UTA testing were completed with 100 percent success.”

UAV level IV control

Nov 2/11: 1st handover. Boeing hands the 1st of 51 Low-Rate Initial Production AH-64D Apache Block IIIs over to the U.S. Army at a ceremony in Mesa, AZ. Boeing.

1st delivery

Oct 25/11: Alone in India. Reports surface that Russia’s Mi-28N Night Hunter has lost the competition for India’s proposed buy of 22 attack helicopters (vid. Dec 27/10 entry). Unnamed sources say that it fell short in 20 technical areas, and that the AH-64D displayed better maneuverability, multi-role capability, and capacity to accept upgrades.

That will be bad news for MBDA & Diehl, as well; their new PARS 3/TRIGAT LR anti-tank missile was reportedly going to be the Mi-28N’s counterpart to Lockheed Martin’s AGM-114 Hellfire missile family on the Apache. The question now is whether the Indian military’s recommendation will be accepted and approved, then turned into a contract. That often takes a long time in India. Economic Times of India | Russia’s Pravda | RIA Novosti | Monsters & Critics | The Hindu re: PARS 3.

FY 2011

Program split into remanufactured & new; Low Rate Initial Production approved; LRIP-1 & 2 orders; Taiwan deal; Requests from India, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. AH-64Ds, Afghanistan
(click to view full)

Aug 30/11: LRIP-1. A $16 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy support for AH-64D Apache Block III Low Rate Initial Production, Lot 1A and 1B. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Feb 28/14. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0161).

July 25/11: LRIP-2. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $189.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification of an existing contract to provide “16 AH-64D Apache aircraft and related support.” Discussions with Boeing explain the award in detail as unfinalized contracts for Block III Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 2A production and spares/ ground support/ logistics support; increased Advanced Procurement Funding for LRIP Lot 2B production and spares/ ground support/ logistics support/ training devices, and LRIP Lot 2C production and spares.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Feb 28/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0161).

LRIP Lot 2 base

June 10/11: Taiwan deal? Reports surface that Taiwan has signed a contract for 30 AH-64D Apache Longbow Block III attack helicopters under its Sky Eagle program, making it the type’s 1st export customer. US Army AH-64 project manager Col. Shane Openshaw is quoted as the source for the news, and says that Taiwan’s first new-build helicopter will enter the production line in October 2011 as the very 1st new-build Block III, with deliveries expected in 2012-2013. The signing is consistent with April 2011 reports, but no branch of the US government, or Boeing, has made any public announcement yet; and there have been no media reports in Taiwan. On the other hand, subsequent entries strongly suggest a contract.

Per earlier contracts & requests, Taiwanese AH-64s will include Hellfire Longbow fire-and-forget light strike missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles among its weapon options. In exercises, helicopters have proven to be very challenging opponents for fixed-wing aircraft, and the growing aerial imbalance over the China Strait makes some form of aerial engagement capability a necessity for any Taiwanese attack helicopter. The Dec 3/08 DSCA entry set a maximum estimated price of $2.532 billion for 30 helicopters, all associated equipment and initial support, and requested stocks of Stinger and Hellfire Longbow missiles.

Boeing’ VP attack helicopter programs, David Koopersmith, told Shephard’s Rotorhub that the first 3 remanufactured Block IIIs were on the line, and they still expect to deliver the 1st production remanufactured Block III helicopter to the US Army in October 2011. Once the remaining AH-64D Block II line converts over, Koopersmith believes that Boeing could deliver 7-8 Block III helicopters per month on the 2 lines at Mesa, AZ. The Rotorhub report expects the US Army to eventually request 786 AH-64D Block IIIs, 96 above the current program plan of 690. Flight International | Rotorhub | Asian Skies blog.

April 15/11: SAR split. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 30/10 includes a small change, for reporting purposes:

“The AB3 (Apache Block III) program was divided into two separate programs (AB3A Remanufacture and AB3B New Build).”

Looking at the accompanying tables [PDF], that brings the program from its 2010 figure of $9.371 billion for 658 helicopters (602 rebuild, 56 new), to $FY10 12.582 billion for 690 helicopters (639 rebuild, 57 new). The AB3 Remanufacture program cost has increased 43.9%, a jump of 28.3% per helicopter to about FY10$ 11.74 – 16.36 million each for PAUC (Program Acquisition Unit Cost, includes amortized R&D). On the other hand, the AB3 New-Build line has actually seen costs drop 8.3%, from $FY10 41.2 – 37.84 million PAUC, despite adding 1 helicopter.

SAR – the program splits

April 12/11: Taiwan. Defense News reports that representatives from the U.S. government and Boeing will arrive in Taipei in May 2011, to wrap up the AH-64 Block III Foreign Military Sale deal. Author Wendell Minnick.

March 16/11: UTA. Longbow, LLC in Orlando, FL received a $10 million firm-fixed-price contract for radar electronics units and unmanned aerial system tactical common data link assembly units, in support of the Apache Block III helicopter fire control radar. This equipment set helps the helicopter work with unmanned drones. The Block III’s desired “Level IV” control means the Apache pilots see what the UAV sees, and can control a UAV to do anything except launch itself, or land itself. Boeing has equipped the Block IIIs with basic systems for UAV control in anticipation of the day when the battlefield procedures and software, are deemed ready.

Work will be performed in Orlando, Fla., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2015. One bid was solicited with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-10-C-0005).

Dec 27/10: India. India’s attack helicopter competition. The US DSCA announces [PDF] India’s formal request to approve Boeing’s AH-64D Block III attack helicopter for sale, as part of that country’s multinational attack helicopter competition, to supplement and eventually replace India’s existing fleet of 32 Mi-24/35 helicopters. If the Boeing-U.S. Army proposal wins, the Government of India will request a possible sale of 22 AH-64D Block III attack helicopters under Direct Commercial Sale terms, plus up to:

  • 50 T700-GE-701D engines.
  • 23 “Arrowhead” Modernized TADS/PVNS sensor & targeting turrets
  • 12 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars. Used in the AH-64’s “top hat” above the rotors.
  • 12 AN/APR-48A Radar Frequency Interferometers. Actually a defensive system; detects and classifies enemy radar emissions. Of course, that information can be used to attack those air defense systems.
  • 812 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles. These use APG-78’s millimeter-wave radar guidance.
  • 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire II missiles. The new “Romeo” missiles use semi-active laser guidance, and carry a triple-threat warhead that can deal armor-destroying, blast, and fragmentation effects.
  • 245 FIM-92 Stinger Block I-92H missiles. A variant of the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile for use on helicopters.
  • Rockets (presumably 70mm), training and dummy missiles, 30mm ammunition for the Mk44 chain gun.
  • Transponders, simulators, GPS/inertial navigation systems, communication equipment, spare and repair parts; tools and test equipment, support equipment, repair and return support, personnel training and training equipment; publications and technical documentation, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support.

The estimated cost of these items, excluding the helicopters, is up to $1.4 billion. The prime contractors will be GE in Cincinnati Ohio (engines); Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, FL and Mission Systems and Sensors in Owego, NY (APR-48, Arrowhead, Hellfire missiles); Longbow Limited Liability Corporation joint venture in Orlando, FL (Radar); and Raytheon Company in Tucson, AZ (Stinger missiles). Implementation of this proposed sale would require the assignment of 1 U.S. Government and 7 contractor representatives to India for one week to conduct a detailed discussion of the various aspects of the hybrid program with Government of India representatives.

India’s competition has also attracted interest from AgustaWestland (A-129i/T-129 Mongoose), EADS Eurocopter (EC665 Tiger) and Russia (Mi-28 NE Havoc). A previous attempt to buy the 22 attack helicopters also featured interest from Bell Helicopter (AH-1Z Viper), before both Bell and Boeing quit that competition. The 2 American companies had quit because India was insisting on Direct Commercial Sale type procedures, but their offerings required at least some Foreign Military Sale procedures under US law. India ended up canceling the initial competition in 2009, when only Eurocopter was left bidding at the end, but they issued another RFP in early 2010. As is true for other Indian buys of this scale, industrial offsets worth at least 30% of the contract’s value will be required.

DSCA: India request (22)

Nov 8/10: UAE request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] a formal request for 60 AH-64D Block III Apache Longbow attack helicopters. Of the 60, 30 will be re-manufactured AH-64D Block IIs, while the other 30 will be new-build helicopters. The total contract set could run as high as $5 billion, and could include:

  • 30 re-manufactured & upgraded AH-64D Block II lot 10s. These have already been upgraded once, from AH-64A status to AH-64D Block II.
  • 30 new-build AH-64D Block III Apache helicopters
  • 120 T700-GE-701D engines. At 2 per helicopter, this is an exact buy.
  • 76 “Arrowhead” Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sight/Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors
  • 30mm automatic weapons
  • 70 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars with Radar Electronics Units,
  • 70 AN/ALQ-144Av3 Infrared Jammers,
  • 70 AN/APR-39Av4 Radar Signal Detecting Sets,
  • 70 AN/ALQ-136v5 Radar Jammers
  • 70 AAR-57v3/5 Common Missile Warning Systems
  • Plus improved counter measure dispensers, communication and support equipment, improved helmet display sight systems (IHADSS), trainer upgrades, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support.

The prime contractors will be The Boeing Company in Mesa, AZ and Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, FL. Implementation of this proposed sale may require the assignment of additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to the UAE, but that isn’t defined yet. U.S. Government and contractor representatives will also participate in program management and technical reviews for one-week intervals, twice semi-annually. Finally, this note from the DSCA was interesting. The UAE does have troops in Afghanistan, where AH-64s are always in demand:

“The UAE is currently deployed in support of U.S. regional operations, and plans to provide future deployment support.”

DSCA: UAE request (60)

Oct 25/10: LRIP-1 order. Boeing announces a $247 million contract to begin Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) for the U.S. Army’s AH-64D Apache Block III helicopter. The Oct 22/10 LRIP Lot 1 contract covers production of 8 AH-64D Block IIIs. The helicopters will be assembled, flight tested and delivered from the Boeing Global Strike facility in Mesa, AZ, and first delivery is scheduled for October 2011. Boeing | Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

LRIP Lot 1

Oct 20/10: Saudi request. Saudi Arabia submits official weapons export requests for up to 70 AH-64D Block III helicopters: 10 for the Royal Guard, 24 for the Army, and 36 for the National Guard. Some of these helicopters would have the Longbow mast mounted sights, and mounted weapons will include laser-guided rockets as well as AGM-114R Hellfire II missiles.

DSCA: Saudi request (70)

Oct 7/10: LRIP clearance. A Pentagon Milestone C Acquisition Decision Memorandum authorizes the AH-64D Block III program to enter the LRIP phase to produce 51 aircraft, and the current Army acquisition objective is for 690 helicopters across LRIP and Full Rate Production. Source.

Milestone C

FY 2008 – 2010

Taiwan request; South Korean interest; 1st prototype flight; 1st test aircraft flight; Limited User Test done; Howard Hughes Award. Block-III testing
(click to view full)

Jan 13/10: Sub-contractors. Boeing announces that Science Engineering Services Inc. (SES) is joining its Block II industry team. SES will receive U.S. Army Apache helicopters at the SES West Aviation and Integration Facility near Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL. They will be disassembled, inspected and repaired as necessary, then components and airframes will be shipped to Boeing in Mesa, AZ, for integration into the AH-64D Apache Block III.

The program will create approximately 70 new positions for aviation and avionics mechanics, structural installers, and aviation quality inspectors within SES.

Nov 23/09: Testing Boeing completes the 1st flight of its AH-64D Apache Block III program structures test aircraft in Mesa, AZ. The tests demonstrate flight characteristics and handling maneuvers, and test technologies including the composite main rotor blade, composite horizontal stabilator, and -701D engines with enhanced digital electronic control. The aircraft also features a split-torque face gear transmission that increases power throughput by more than 20%, without taking up more room.

The Army and Boeing continue to work toward an anticipated US Department of Defense Milestone C decision in April 2010, which would begin production. Boeing release.

November 2009: Block III LUT. Boeing’s AH-64D Apache Block III program avionics test aircraft completes the Army’s Limited User Test according to schedule. Source.


June 2008: Testing. Boeing completes the first flight of the AH-64D Apache Block III program’s avionics test helicopter ahead of schedule, at the Yuma Proving Ground, AZ. Source.

Dec 3/08: Sub-contractors. Presagis, a Canadian firm which specializes in providing commercial-off-the shelf (COTS) modeling, simulation and embedded display graphics software, announced that Boeing has selected their Lyra image generator to support the development of the next-generation Apache helicopter simulator. Boeing will use Lyra in its new Block III Apache Engineering Development Simulator (EDS), the virtual simulation of the Apache weapon system. Ottawa Citizen – Defence Watch.

Oct 2/08: Taiwan request. Taiwan’s official request [PDF] is placed for 30 AH-64D Apache Longbow Block III attack helicopters and associated equipment. The estimated purchase price is $2.532 billion. Taiwan currently fields AH-1W Cobras in this role, and the AH-64D beat Bell’s AH-1Z Viper on the grounds that it was battle proven, while the AH-1Z remains developmental.

The helicopters will be ordered with 30 Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (MTADS/PNVS “Arrowhead“), 17 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars and AN/APR-48 Radar Frequency Interferometer (FCR/RFI), 69 T700-GE-701D Turbine Engines. Composite horizontal stabilators, crew and maintenance trainers, depot maintenance, all necessary support equipment, tools and test equipment, integration and checkout, spares and repair parts, training and training equipment, and other forms of support.

The request also includes applicable weapons: 173 FIM-92F Stinger Block I Air-to-Air Missiles, 35 Stinger air-air missile Captive Flight Trainers with live guidance systems but no rocket motors, 1,000 AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire anti-tank missiles that can use the APG-78 and their own radar’s millimeter-wave guidance for “fire and forget” capability, and 66 M299 Hellfire missile launchers.

Taiwan has requested industrial offsets, which will be defined in direct negotiations with the contractor(s). Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 2 U.S. Government personnel for a period of 6 years to provide intensive coordination, monitoring, and technical assistance. In addition, 6 contractor representatives will be in country serving as Contractor Field Service Representatives for a period of 5 years, with the possibility of a 5-year extension. The principal contractors will be:

  • The Boeing Company in Mesa, AZ and St Louis, MO (AH-64)
  • General Electric in Lynn, MA (Engines)
  • Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL (Longbow Hellfires, M299, Arrowheads)
  • Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY
  • Northrop Grumman Corporation in Baltimore, MD (Longbow Hellfires)
  • Raytheon Company in Tucson, AZ (Stinger missiles)
  • Inter-Coastal Electronics in Mesa, AZ
  • BAE Systems in Rockville, MD

DSCA: Taiwan request (30)

Sept 14/08: South Korea. South Korea’s Yonhap News reports that the USA has offered to sell 36 used Apache attack helicopters to South Korea at less than 60% of the out-of-factory price, with upgrades to Block III status plus include a new frame and engines, resetting their life span to 10,000 flight hours.

The deal, if signed, is expected to be worth around $811 million. Its size is causing hesitation in Korea, which needs to replace its aging fleet of 500MD Defender helicopters and has backed off of its previous plans for an indigenous attack helicopter program. Politics is an uncertain game, and dates are rarely dependable. A government decision was expected by the end of 2008, but remained unmade as 2012 began. Seoul Times article | DID coverage: “US Army Apaches for Auction?

July 11/08: 1st flight. The Boeing Company and assembled guests celebrate the first flight of the AH-64D Apache Block III helicopter in Mesa, AZ. The aircraft was flown by two Apache-rated aviators: U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody, and Army experimental test pilot (Chief Warrant Officer 5) Rucie Moore.

Actually the demonstration flight on this day was the second flight. As one might expect given the passenger involved, a U.S. Army soldier and a Boeing teammate initially flew this Block III prototype aircraft over the Arizona desert on June 27/08 in preparation for this day’s ceremony. Boeing’s release states that it plans to begin Low Rate Initial Production in April 2010, and to deliver the first production AH-64D Apache Block III in June 2011.

A follow-on Lockheed Martin release notes the debut of its Arrowhead surveillance and targeting sensors, and Longbow Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA) on the new helicopters. The Longbow UTA can control up to 4 UAVs.

1st flight

April 30/08: Award. A team comprised of The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA], the U.S. Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, AMRDEC Aviation Systems Integration Facility, Harris Corp. and Rockwell Collins receive the American Helicopter Society’s (AHS) 2008 Howard Hughes Award during the AHS International Annual Forum in Montreal, Canada. The AH-64D Block III’s progress figures prominently in that award.

One hopes that the award’s annual winners will have better luck with aircraft development than Howard Hughes. Boeing release.

Jan 17/08: Longbow LLC in Orlando FL received a $15.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for Apache Block III radar electronics unit and an unmanned aerial vehicle tactical common data link assembly. The latter item would allow the helicopter’s pilots to share data with UAVs, and could allow full control depending on the technologies used.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD and Orlando, FL and is expected to be complete by June 30/09. One bid was solicited on Jan 20/06, and 1 bid was received (W58RGZ-05-C-0239).

FY 2007 and Earlier

Initial development contract; Advance electronics contracts. AH-64D Longbow
(click to view full)

July 14/06: Development. Boeing and U.S. Army officials sign a $619.3 million development contract for Block III upgrades to the current and future Apache fleet, via a virtual signing ceremony in Washington, DC; Huntsville, AL; and Mesa, AZ.

Those upgrades are described earlier in the article.Boeing release

Block III SDD contract

Jan 25/06: Longbow LLC in Orlando, FL received a $76 million increment as part of a $100 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for Apache Block III Radar Electronics Units.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (50%), and Orlando, FL (50%), and is expected to be complete by Dec 30/08. This was a sole source contract initiated on Jan 11/06 (W58RGZ-05-C-0239).

July 13/05: Longbow LLC in Orlando, FL receives a $15 million increment as part of a $17.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Apache Fire Control Radar Electronics Unit.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (50%), and Orlando, FL (50%), and is expected to be complete by Dec 15/05. This was a sole source contract initiated on July 22/04 (W58RGZ-05-C-0239).

Appendix A: Apache’s (Re) Production History No sunset yet.
(click to view full)

Of the 937 AH-64As ever built, 821 were built for US Army. Over 500 of those were remanufactured to AH-64D status over a 10-year period, under 2 multi-year contracts that ran for 5 years each. Subsequent contracts drew in more AH-64As, and as of April 2012, only 8 AH-64As remained in the US Army.

  • 284 helicopters were fielded as AH-64D Block Is. The first multi-year remanufacture contract was for 232 helicopters, and covered Lots I-V. The Lot VI helicopters from the 2nd multi-year contract were also built to the AH-64D Block I standard, which included the “Longbow” radar mast, compatible dual-mode Hellfire II missile capability, updated self-protection suites, and better cockpit displays. These initial AH-64D helicopters received equipment upgrades, and were also rebuilt to “zero flight hours” condition.

  • Another 217 helicopters in Lots VII-X built AH-64As to the AH-64D Block II standard, which adds improved electronics and software to include the “Longbow” radar mast, compatible dual-mode Hellfire II missile capability, color cockpit displays including moving digital maps, and even more up to date self-protection suites. All were built during the 2nd multi-year contract period, which covered 269 Block I and Block II helicopters in total.

  • The lateness of the JTRS radio program, and other issues, have delayed the future Block III model, and so January 2007 saw a contract to convert another 96 American AH-64As to the AH-64D “Extended Block II” standard, followed by additional contracts for Extended Block II+, where the plus simply indicates that “we’re still producing this model, past our expected schedule”. Boeing has received orders for 278 of these so far: 117 for the Army, 95 for the National Guard, and 66 War Replacement helicopters. In 2013, this production line is expected to switch to Block IIIs.

Observant readers will note that adding up all of the above cohorts makes 779 AH-64Ds produced (284 + 217 + 278) – but that counts the 66 war replacement helicopters twice, so the real total is 713. 713 – 690 = 23 unconverted AH-64Ds for whatever reason, be it unreplaced losses, budgets, or a safety margin to account for future losses and accidents. The Block III program was also supposed to manufacture 56 new-build helicopters as a separate program, but the FY 2014 budget throws the “AB3B” program into doubt. Unless Congress changes the Pentagon’s plans, the new-build program will end at just 8-10 helicopters.

Additional Readings

Readers with corrections, comments, or information to contribute are encouraged to contact DID’s Founding Editor, Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.

Background: AH-64 Apache


Background: Ancillary Equipment




News & Views

Categories: News

The JAS-39 Gripen: Sweden’s 4+ Generation Wild Card

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 23:45
South African JAS-39D
(click to view full)

As a neutral country with a long history of providing for its own defense against all comers, Sweden also has a long tradition of building excellent high-performance fighters with a distinctive look. From the long-serving Saab-35 Draken (“Dragon,” 1955-2005) to the Mach 2, canard-winged Saab-37 Viggen (“Thunderbolt,” 1971-2005), Swedish fighters have stressed short-field launch from dispersed/improvised air fields, world-class performance, and leading-edge design. This record of consistent project success is nothing short of amazing, especially for a country whose population over this period has ranged from 7-9 million people.

This is DID’s FOCUS Article for background, news, and contract awards related to the JAS-39 Gripen (“Griffon”), a canard-winged successor to the Viggen and one of the world’s first 4+ generation fighters. Gripen remains the only lightweight 4+ generation fighter type in service, its performance and operational economics are both world-class, and it has become one of the most recognized fighter aircraft on the planet. Unfortunately for its builders, that recognition has come from its appearance in Saab and Volvo TV commercials, rather than from hoped-for levels of military export success. With its 4+ generation competitors clustered in the $60-120+ million range vs. the Gripen’s claimed $40-60 million, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Sweden’s lightweight fighter? In 2013 a win in Brazil started to answer that question.

JAS-39: The Gripen Program Saab’s JAS-39A-D Gripens “Could-have” weapons
(click to view full)

The JAS-39 Gripen is an excellent lightweight fighter by all accounts, with attractive flyaway costs[1] and performance. Its canard design allows for quick “slew and point” maneuvers, allowing it to take advantage of the modern trend toward helmet-mounted displays, and air-air missiles with much wider boresight targeting cones. The “Cobra” HMD completes that capability, and became operational on SAAF Gripens as of September 2011. Power to weight ratio is good, its PS-05 radar mechanically scanned radar gets good reviews, some “radar profile shaping” techniques have been employed to reduce its own signature, and its small physical size can make it a tricky opponent for enemy pilots.

Short Take-Off and Landing capability makes Gripen a difficult target on the ground as well. Sweden’s defense doctrines avoid dependence on easily-targeted bases, and its fighters are expected to fly from prepared sites next to automotive highways. Gripens can fly from a 9 x 600 meter/ 29.5 x 1,970 foot runway, and land in 600 meters or less – without using a launch catapult or an arrester hook.

The Gripen has one other asset that is often overlooked: very attractive lifetime operational costs. To date, each new generation of modern fighters has proven to be more expensive than its predecessors to operate and maintain. Since operation and maintenance are over 65% of a fighter’s lifetime cost, this aspect of the defense procurement spiral forces much smaller aircraft orders with each new generation of equipment. The JAS-39 was designed from the outset to counter this trend, and lifetime operating costs were given a high priority when making design and equipment decisions. Many of the Gripen’s competitors have tried, but Saab appears to have succeeded.

More exact cost figures were offered in July 2010 by Gripen technical director Eddy de la Motte, who quoted less than $3,000 per flight hour for Sweden’s Flygvapnet, and “for the export customers it will be less than $5,000, including maintenance, spare parts, fuel and manpower.” On its face, that’s stunning. By comparison, the USAF places the per-hour cost of an F-15 at $17,000 [PDF]. Even given a likely mismatch between direct flight costs, and figures that include allocated life cycle costs including depot maintenance, etc., that is a big difference. Switzerland is one customer where that difference appears to have been decisive. Swiss evaluations reportedly rated the Gripen at roughly half the O&M costs expected for its twin-engine Rafale and Eurofighter counterparts.

Gripen: integrated equipment Hungarian JAS-39C/Ds
(click to view full)

The Gripen’s equipment commonality and choice are good. Its engine is a derivative of GE’s F404, in wide use on F/A-18 A-D Hornets and many other platforms. A wide variety of international equipment has successfully been tested and integrated with the aircraft, including equipment from American, Israeli, European, and even South African[2] suppliers. Some key slots like radar-killing missiles still need to be filled, but Raytheon’s GBU-49/EGBU-12 Enhanced Paveway GPS/laser guided bombs were added in 2009, and Gripen is serving as the MBDA Meteor long-range air-air missile’s test aircraft for flight trials.

The end result is an effective lightweight fighter. As an example, the Hungarian Air Force described their experiences at Exercise Spring Flag 2007, held in May at Italy’s Decimomannu air base in Sardinia. Other participants included France (E-3 AWACS), Germany (F-4F ICE), Italy (AV-8B Harrier, F-16C, Tornado ECR and Eurofighter Typhoon), NATO (E-3 AWACS), and Turkey (F-16C), with tanker support from Italy, the UK and the US. The Gripen’s 100% sortie rate was impressive, and it also generated some interesting comments from Hungarian Air Force Colonel Nandor Kilian:

“In Hungary we just don’t have large numbers of aircraft to train with, but in Spring Flag we faced COMAO (combined air operations) packages of 20, 25 or 30 aircraft. The training value for us was to work with that many aircraft on our radar – and even with our limited experience we could see that the Gripen radar is fantastic. We would see the others at long ranges, we could discriminate all the individual aircraft even in tight formations and using extended modes. The jamming had almost no effect on us – and that surprised a lot of people.

Other aircraft couldn’t see us – not on radar, not visually[3] – and we had no jammers of our own with us. We got one Fox 2 kill[4] on a F-16 who turned in between our two jets but never saw the second guy and it was a perfect shot.

Our weapons and tactics were limited by Red Force rules, and in an exercise like this the Red Force is always supposed to die, but even without our AMRAAMs and data links we got eight or 10 kills, including a Typhoon. Often we had no AWACS or radar support of any kind, just our regular onboard sensors – but flying like that, ‘free hunting,’ we got three kills in one afternoon. It was a pretty good experience for our first time out.”

To keep the basic Gripen relevant, block upgrades occur about every 3 years. Block 19, in 2009, integrates IRIS-T SRAAM (Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile), NATO’s Link-16 as a supplement to Gripen’s own shared awareness datalink, and the Cobra helmet-mounted sight. Block 20 in 2012 is expected to include enhancements to the PS-05/A radar, and the ROVER close-air-support data link used with such success by American forces.

Partnerships & Production JAS-39C

The Industry Group JAS (IG JAS) is the joint venture partnership that develops the Gripen System for the Swedish Armed Forces. Partners included in IG JAS are Saab Volvo Aero Corporation and Ericsson Microwave Systems (now part of Saab Group). The development and production of the Gripen has been one of Sweden’s largest industry projects, consuming up to one-third of the Swedish defense budget in some years. Brazil’s 2014 purchase will give them a role in production, and made Embraer a design partner in the 2-seat JAS-39F.

The first JAS-39s were delivered in 1993, and the last Swedish plane was due to be delivered in 2007. While exact figures are extremely difficult to come by, sources place the average flyaway cost of the JAS-39 at about $40 million[4] per plane, or about $50 million in current dollars. The whole Gripen production run for all customers, according to current orders, will reach 261 aircraft. This consists of:

The multinational UK Empire Test Pilot’s School has bought Gripen flight hours from Saab since 1999. They switched from the JAS-39B to the JAS-39D in 2014.

The lion in winter…
(click to view full)

On the marketing front, Saab now handles all international sales, and ties to its parent firms like Investor AB allow it to offer an attractive program of industrial offsets to potential owners. An initial Gripen International marketing partnership with BAE gave the Swedish aircraft wide global representation, but BAE had conflicts of interest, and a divestiture formally ended the partnership in March 2010. A limited international marketing agreement for the JAS-39E/F is being negotiated with Brazil’s Embraer, but that isn’t done yet.

Unfortunately, the Gripen has lost out in or been absent from important export competitions in Austria (Eurofighter), Finland (F-18), Japan (DNP – F-35), India (Rafale, but not closed), the Netherlands (F-35), Norway (F-35), Poland (F-16), Qatar (DNP – TBD), South Korea (DNP – F-35), Switzerland (F-18, then a win but a lost referendum), and Singapore (F-15SG Strike Eagle to replace A-4 Skyhawks). Meanwhile, Sweden downsized its Gripen force to 100 JAS-39 C/D aircraft, flooding the market with second-hand models and choking new production opportunities. All in a market where overall export orders were already below Saab’s expectations.

A number of factors could be cited as reasons for this situation: purchasing slowdowns across the industry, the inertia of existing relationships and equipment standardization, Sweden’s lack of geopolitical weight in contrast to countries like the USA, France or Russia. In Singapore’s case, its status as a single engine lightweight fighter with limited range also hurt it – as did its partner BAE’s greater interest in promoting its own Eurofighter.

Still, the bottom line is that the Gripen was dependent on exports for profitability, as a result of the unprofitable contract Saab signed with the Swedish government. The government’s ability to assist with foreign export orders has proven to be very limited, and envisaged export orders have been more in line with skeptics’ predictions than with corporate hopes.

Can the Gripen production line survive? Upgraded variants have given the fighters new traction in the global marketplace.

JAS-39 Gripen: The Way Forward JAS-39NG: Evolution
(click to view full)

One way forward is through upgrades. Most JAS-39s offered in recent export competitions touted important improvements beyond the present C/D versions. The most important is next-generation AESA radar technology, which offers substantial improvements in detection, resolution, versatility, and maintenance costs. Other common upgrades include uprated engines and longer range. Eventually, they were formalized into 2 programs. The test and development program is called Gripen Demo. Production aircraft will be JAS-39E/Fs, though they’re also referred to as Gripen NG (“next generation”).

Regardless of the exact upgrade sets offered, the hope remains the same: that appropriate upgrades would allow the Gripen to continue offering better performance and features than lightweight fighter peers like the F-16 and MiG-29, including new variants like Russia’s new thrust-vectoring MiG-35 and Lockheed’s AESA-equipped F-16 Block 60 “Desert Falcon” flown by the UAE. They’re also intended to allow the Gripen to compete on more even terms with more expensive fighters like the Rafale, F/A-18 Super Hornet, etc.

In those competitions, Gripen would be positioned as a lower-budget option with “close enough” capabilities overall, and outright advantages in key areas. So far, that positioning has been right on the money in Brazil and Switzerland.

Gripen NG
click for video

That competitiveness is essential. Like France’s Rafale, which also depends on exports to finance its ongoing development, the Gripen is finding itself dependent on home government handouts in order to remain technologically competitive. That’s less than ideal, but given the Gripen and Rafale’s status as the future backbones of their respective national air forces, non-competitiveness is hardly an option. Absent further foreign sales, therefore, the question for both aircraft is how badly future upgrade costs will eat into their home market’s fighter procurement and maintenance budgets. Which explains Saab’s eagerness to escape this trap.

New weapons integration will continue, highlighted by the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile in 2014 – 2015. The sale to Brazil may be especially helpful in this regard, as it creates a customer with full source-code access who will be very interested in integrating their own weapons and systems. They’ll be building on a set of pre-planned upgrades, which form the core of the JAS-39E/F’s improvements.

Sensors & C4 ES-05 Raven AESA
(click to view full)

The first set of chosen Gripen enhancements will improve the pilot’s situational awareness, and this set of enhancements is being designed with an eye to retrofit compatibility on existing JAS-39C/D Gripen fleets. The upgrade set includes:

An AESA radar in place of the present PS-05 is an important future selling point, and has been promised in several of Saab’s recent foreign bid submissions. As of March 2009, Saab is partnered with Selex Galileo to design an ES-05 Raven AESA radar that builds on Selex’s experience with the Vixen 500 AESA, Ericsson’s PS-05 radar, and its Nora AESA experiments. The Raven incorporates an identification friend-or-foe (IFF) function that works in conjunction with the cheek-mounted active array SIT 426 IFF.

In an unusual twist, the Raven AESA will be movable using a single-bearing system, increasing its total field of view by a factor of 2 to +/- 100 degrees, and improving “lock, fire, and leave” maneuvers. The cost is paid in reliability and maintenance, because the pivot mechanisms create a point of failure and maintenance, whereas fixed AESA radars are mostly maintenance-free. Saab is betting that the improved scan performance will justify the cost. The quality of Raven’s AESA transmit/receive modules, and their integration, will also play a large role in the radar’s final performance.

Reaching this point wasn’t easy, and the developmental state of its radar has been a weakness for Saab in competitions like India’s M-MRCA. Saab bought Ericsson’s radar group, which also makes the Erieye AWACS radar, in March 2006. Later that year, they began the “Nora” AESA project, but by autumn 2007 they had changed their approach, and looked to leverage existing radar initiatives instead. That would have been fine in a normal marketplace, but underhanded anti-competitive behavior by Dassault and the US government left Saab without a viable partner, and cost them years of time on a critical market feature.

Gripen Demo & JAS-39D
(click to view full)

Sensors & Datalinks. Beyond the Raven radar, a passive IRST (infra-red search and track) system will be added to improve the JAS-39NG’s aerial target detection, without running the risk that the Gripen will reveal itself by emitting detectable electro-magnetic energy. The JAS-39E/F’s Skyward-G system is air-cooled, which eliminates the weight and maintenance of cryogenic liquid cooling systems.

IRST systems are useful against some ground targets, and all aerial targets. They especially enhance performance against opponents with “low observable” radar stealth enhancements. If medium-long range infrared guided missiles like MICA-IR or NCADE are integrated in Gripen at some future date, an IRST system can even provide missile guidance beyond visual range, without triggering the target’s radar warning receivers.

Link 16 is a situational awareness upgrade, and retrofits are also available for earlier Gripen models. Gripens already had a proprietary datalink that allows them to see a common picture of the battlefield, but the NATO Link-16 standard is more widely used, and adds the ability to share with other types of aircraft, air defense radars, ships, etc. (see June 11/07 entry, below).

EW/ECM. Electronic warfare enhancements are another component of situational awareness these days, and Swiss evaluations in 2008/2009 rated this as a platform strength. Upgrades are critical, in order to keep the platform current. The JAS-39 E/F will get them, and Elbit Systems’ PAWS-2 appears to be at least part of the upgrade.

Structural/ Mechanical JAS-39NG CAP Concept
(click to view full)

Mechanical upgrades are in the works, too.

Size & Payload. Early projections for the single-seat JAS-39NG showed a larger fighter, in order to carry more fuel, and more weapons on 2 extra stations (10 total). Subsequent reports regarding the JAS-39E/F confirm that the fighter will be longer and wider, but aims to have the same wing loading ratio as earlier models. Empty weight for the Gripen Demo technology development prototype was reported as 7,100 kg, which is up from the JAS-39C’s 6,800 kg, but still well below the 10,000 kg of the F-16E Block 60.[5] Maximum takeoff weight for Gripen Demo was a bigger jump from previous versions, rising to 16,000 kg from 14,000 kg. The derivative JAS-39E/F may end up being even heavier, at 16,500 kg or greater. Maximum payload only jumps from 5,000 kg up to 6,000 kg, however, because of…

Fuel. One of the Gripen’s handicaps against competing fighters has been its range. A 38%+ jump in internal fuel capacity is meant help to offset the Gripen NG’s weight and power increases, while extending the aircraft’s combat air patrol radius to 1,300 km/ 812 miles, and boosting unrefueled range to 2,500 km/ 1,560 miles. The landing gear is repositioned to accommodate those extra fuel cells. A new underwing 1,700 liter (450 gallon) fuel tank has been flown, and tanks capable of supersonic drop will be tested in future. With the full set of drop tanks, the JAS-39E/F’s total flight range is expected to reach 4,075 km/ 2,810 miles.

Engine. Hauling all of that around will require a more powerful engine than the current RM12 variant of GE’s popular F404. GE’s F414, produced in partnership with Volvo Aero and in use on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet family, will be that engine. The base model offers a 25-35% power boost over its predecessor the F404, and the developmental F414 EPE could offer another 20% thrust increase on top of that, for a total boost of 50-62%.

Key F414G alterations for the Gripen will include minor changes to the alternator for added aircraft power, and Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) software that’s modified for single-engine operation, instead of the Super Hornet’s twin-engine configuration. Reports also indicate that Saab will look to add divertless supersonic intakes to the JAS-39E/F. This technology saves weight while offering similar or better engine performance, and can be found on the F-35, as well as on China’s JF-17, J-10, and J-20 fighters.

Saab Group remains on track with the basic Gripen Demo program, which has also been referenced as the “Gripen MS21”. The next step will involve setting the final specifications for Sweden and for initial buyers, and finalizing the “JAS-39 E/F” design. Development is expected to be done by 2018-2020, with new JAS-39E/F fighters entering service in Sweden around 2023.

The Next Gripens: Industrial Gripen Demo rollout
(click to view full)

In July 2006, Saab received a SEK 1 billion contract from the Swedish government (about $150 million) to improve the aircraft, and develop the Gripen Demo/NG. This was later followed by a NOK 150 million (about $25 million) agreement with Norway in April 2007, and a set of industrial partnerships with key suppliers. A welter of upgrade contracts, studies, and private investment initiatives have also worked to finance R&D of key components, including the avionics and radar.

Saab’s approach to those Gripen Demo partnerships has been a departure from past practice. Instead of selecting key technologies and modifying them to become proprietary, as was the case for the F404-based Volvo RB12 engine, Gripen Demo is using far more “off the shelf” parts. As noted above, its new GE F414 engine will feature minimal changes, so the upgraded engine is expected to cost 20% less than the its RB12 predecessor. Suppliers like Honeywell and Rockwell were reportedly asked to just provide their products, and let Saab handle integration. There are even rumors that Saab may embrace the same HMDS pilot helmet used on the F-35, instead of Saab’s Cobra. At present, Saab is leading a team of Gripen Demo partners that include:

A demonstrator for the new version was rolled out in April 2008, and has been in flight testing since. Current negotiations with the Swedish, Swiss, and Brazilian governments are aimed at freezing the configuration for the JAS-39E/F/BR, which will feed back into the final industrial team.

As of April 2014, a much-modified JAS-39D (aircraft #39-7) is the primary component test bed, with upgraded avionics including a digital HUD, a production-standard ES-05 Raven AESA radar, and the SkyGuard IRST. Saab is currently assembling aircraft #39-8, a more representative test prototype of the JAS-39E/F that’s due to fly in 2015. Aircraft #39-9 is due to join the test fleet in 2016 as a primary system testbed, while aircraft #39-10 is due to fly in 2017 in the final JAS-39E configuration at the production-standard weight.

Future Gripens? Sea Gripen Concept
(click to view full)

Other aircraft upgrades are not advertised at present, but have been the subject of industry rumor and conditional commitments.

Some reports have touted the possibility of a thrust-vectoring engine in future Gripen upgrades, but this was not listed as a selling point in Saab’s submissions to Norway or Denmark, and has not been mentioned in any Gripen Demo descriptions. More probable rumors involve upgrading existing fighters to JAS-39 C+/D+, by adding the improved F414G engine.

Other reports over the years have focused on a carrier-capable Sea Gripen, and Saab had indicated that it would spend up to half of Gripen NG’s development budget on this variant, if it found a partner. In May 2011, however, an announcement seemed to indicate that the firm was beginning to move forward on its own, with development centered in the UK.

Carrier landing is usually a very difficult conversion, but Saab can take advantage of the aircraft’s natural Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) design. The Sea Gripen would add new undercarriage and nose gear to cope with higher sink rate forces and catapult launches, strengthen the existing tail hook and some airframe sections, and improve anti-corrosion protection. Launch options would include both catapult (CATOBAR) and “ski jump” ramp short take-off (STOBAR) capabilities, with maximum launch weight about 1/3 lower for STOBAR launches. Carrier landing speed is already in the required range under 150 knots, but the current 15 feet per second sink rate needs to be able to reach 25 feet/sec.

Sea Gripens have a possible future role in Brazil as a naval aircraft on Brazil’s NAe Sao Paolo or its successor. They also exist as a very unlikely backup to Britain’s F-35B Lightning IIs on the new CVF carriers, should absolute disaster strike.

Export Opportunities Czech JAS-39C/Ds
(click to view full)

Time will tell whether the JAS-39 Gripen’s unique combination of performance, price, and life-cycle benefits will find enough buyers in the end, or if it will go down in history as the twilight of Sweden’s indigenous combat aircraft designs. Thus far, buyers have included Sweden (195 + 60 JAS-39E upgrade), Brazil (36), South Africa (28), the Czech Republic (14 lease/buy), Hungary (14 lease/buy), and Thailand (12).

Meanwhile, Saab Defence & Security continues to pursue sales possibilities worldwide. The base list comes from a 2006 Bloomberg interview that outlined Saab CEO Ake Svensson’s thoughts about the aircraft’s potential export customers in the coming years. A report from Jane’s, based on that interview, added more specifics. Subsequent developments have closed off some opportunities, and added others.

Still open

  • Argentina: The country has been looking to replace its aged fighter fleet, and is discussing a deal for 24 JAS-39E/Fs, to be signed through Brazil’s Embraer. The catch? The USA and Britain both make critical parts.
  • Baltics: There is an lease requirement for up to 12 aircraft in Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania, but no active pursuit yet.
  • Belgium: interest formally notified in 2014.
  • Bulgaria: Stated in 2004 that it has a requirement for 20 aircraft to replace 6 MiG-21s and 15 MiG-29s. Issued a Request for Information (RFI) to Saab in May 2006. A 2011 RFI cut that to 8 planes. No movement or decision, but Russian aggression seems to be adding to their sense of urgency.
  • Croatia: Was looking for 8-12 aircraft, with an in-service date of 2011. A JAS-39C/D offer was presented, with Swedish JAS-39As to be loaned as an interim force. No action as of October 2014.
  • Greece: In limbo. Was looking to purchase a second tranche of 30-40 advanced fighters, with the process expected to begin in 2006. That was delayed, then hope was held out, then the 2010 fiscal collapse happened. Still in limbo.
  • Finland: Studying a EUR 6 billion program to replace their 62 remaining F/A-18C/D Hornets. Possible joint air defense cooperation with Sweden would help, but Gripen isn’t compatible with their stocks of AIM-9X and AIM-120C-7 air-to-air missiles. Buy decision expected after 2020, replacement to finish by 2030.
  • Indonesia: Looking to replace about 16 F-5E/F fighters. Indonesia has been expanding its own SU-27/30 and F-16 fleets, but they seem to want a 3rd fighter. The shortlist is a confused mix of heavy Su-35s & F-15s, and light F-16s & JAS-39s.
  • Malaysia: Limping along with MiG-29Ns until 2015, but not happy. Saab will offer 12-24 fighters and up to 2 Saab 340AEW AWACS aircraft for lease, competing against Boeing, Dassault & Eurofighter. Their AWACS offering, and unique experience with leasing, will help. So will neighboring Thailand’s happy experiences with the same mix.
  • Philippines: They just bought 12 South Korean FA-50s as low-cost light fighters, but the government says they will also want more advanced fighters to counter ongoing Chinese pressure, and the Gripen has been mentioned. We’ll see.
  • Slovakia: They need to replace their 8 serving MiG-29s, and want to cooperate with the Czech Republic, which is a Gripen customer. Believed to be looking at 6-8 JAS-39Cs, to the same standard as the CzAF.
  • Slovenia: There have been incredible reports re: national aspirations to field 40 aircraft. It’s difficult to see how they could afford anything even close to that, and they don’t fly any fighters at present.


  • Hungary: Customer. The country extended its existing Gripen lease to 2026, and is looking to phase out its fleet of MiG-29s. Saab once thought that another 6 aircraft were possible within the lease extension, but that would have to be a separate deal mow.

Decided/ Closed

  • Brazil: Win (36 – 26E, 8F). The canceled F-X program got underway again, as Swensson had hoped, and Gripen outfought the favored Dassault Rafale. Follow-on buys could expand Brazil’s orders to 60 – 104 fighters, including a potential carrier-based variant within 10-15 years. Brazil will be a Gripen NG development and export partner, with full responsibility for the JAS-39F.

  • The Czech Republic: Extension. In July 2010, Saab officials said that they saw the potential for up to 10 more planes there, but the next 12-year cycle from 2015-2027 just extended the existing lease for 14 JAS-39C/Ds, while adding minor upgrades. On the other hand, continued Czech use makes a similar 6-plane lease/ buy the overwhelming favorite for Slovakia.

  • Denmark: DNB. Offered about 48 JAS-39DKs for their F-16 replacement competition. The Danes cancelled that competition, and now expect to buy just 25-35 fighters (F-35A, F/A-18E/F, or Eurofighter), with a decision delayed until 2014-15. Denmark is an F-35 Tier 3 industrial partner, and Saab and FXM decided not to bid in round 2.

  • Hungary: Extension. Renewed their 12-plane lease until 2026, and did not add any planes. Their ownership is one more reason that Slovakia is likely to fly Gripens.

  • India: loss. India’s M-MRCA competition for 120-190 fighters. JAS-39IN is out, and France’s Rafale is the pick… if M-MRCA can finish without a restart. Escalating costs have the buy under pressure, but even if Rafale negotiations fail, Sweden’s offer has shifted from the Gripen to collaboration on India’s own Tejas Mk.2.

  • The Netherlands: loss. A Tier 2 F-35 partner, but political pressure forced a competing bid, and Saab submitted one for 85 planes in 2008. The bid is essentially lost at this point, with the main Labour Party opposition apparently caving in to a similarly-expensive buy of just 35 or so F-35As.

  • Norway: loss. Had a requirement for 44 fighter aircraft to replace its F-16s. EADS withdrew its Eurofighter, then the F-35A won against the JAS-39N, but it may never have been a real competition. F-35A purchases have begun.

  • Romania: loss. Was looking for 40 new aircraft, but cut that down to 24 used F-16C/D Block 25s from Portugal.

  • Switzerland: canceled (22 JAS-39E picked, but lost referendum). Was expected to start the process to replace 3 of its F-5 squadrons later in 2006, but starts and stops pushed a decision to 2011. Saab’s Gripen was picked against the Rafale and Eurofighter in 2013, and Parliament ratified the decision, but a lack of courage in defending their position cost the government the referendum in 2014.

  • Thailand: Win (12). was looking to replace its aging F-5s, and Gripen won against more F-16s or Russian SU-30s. A follow on order brought their total to 12 JAS-39C/Ds, as part of a package that also included 2 S340 AEW planes. 2014 reports indicate that they may want another 6.

JAS-39 Gripen: Major Events 2014 – 2016

Saab will build JAS-39Fs as well; Live opportunities in: Indonesia, Malaysia, Slovakia; Future opportunities in the Philippines? Thailand?; Government blows referendum in Switzerland, deal dead. CzAF JAS-39C, L-159As
(click to view full)

July 15/16: Saab is aiming to carve out a market in South America following their export coup to Brazil. Cash conscious governments from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina could all find a cost effective replacement for their aging fleets in the Gripen fighter. The company has brought a mock-up of its latest model to the Farnborough Air Show alongside an older model for nations that don’t need the kinds of capabilities the new jet brings to an air force.

June 17/16: Botswana has confirmed that negotiations to purchase between eight and 12 JAS Gripen C/D from Sweden are underway. With an estimated cost of $1.7 billion, the fighters will replace the country’s F-5 fleet bought from Canada in the mid-1990s. Other procurements in Botswana’s sights include a $179 million deal to purchase 45 Piranha 3 8×8 armored wheeled vehicles from Swiss company General Dynamics European Land Systems-Mowag (GDELS-Mowag).

June 16/16: JAS-39 Gripens operated by the Royal Swedish Air Force have been equipped with the latest MS20 software upgrade and showcased at the annual Tactics, Techniques and Procedures exercise. Materiel System 20 is an update of both equipment and software in the aircraft, and involves everything from upgrades in the presentation areas and linkages to new and enhanced abilities. New weapons on the aircraft include the METEOR missile and the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (GDB).

June 6/16: Slovakia’s Ministry of Defense has rejected an offer from the Swedish government on a lease agreement for Saab Gripen fighters. Under the provisions of the deal, Slovakia would have seen Stockholm lease six JAS 39Cs and two JAS 39Ds for an undisclosed price for a total of 1,200 flight hours per year. However, since elections in March saw a change of government including the Slovak National Party, the new prime minister Robert Fico has praised the capabilities of the MiG-29 aircraft.

May 17/16: Botswana is to purchase eight Gripen C/D fighters after it was revealed by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV). It is, however, also reported that the deal could be for up to sixteen, with the total cost of the deal ranging from between $1.45 to $1.63 billion. Whatever the exact number, Botswana’s government is ordering the fighter as part of a modernization that will replace its current fleet of Canadair CF-5s.

May 16/16: The Swedish Embassy has denied that it is in discussions to sell four additional Gripen fighters to Thailand’s military government. Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and former Air Force chief Prajin Juntong told reporters that Bangkok is interested in getting four more Gripen fighters. Juntong made the comments after meeting Swedish ambassador Staffan Herrstrom. The claims where subsequently denied by the Swedish mission, who claimed that no such discussions had taken place. Thailand currently operates 12 Gripens.

March 3/16: Rheinmetall has been contracted by Saab to supply 88 BK27 automatic cannons for the latest Gripen NGs. 36 of the jets fitted with the cannon will be destined for the Brazilian Air Force. The cost of the deal has been said to be in the mid-8 figure euro amount, and delivery will take place between 2017-2025. The latest cannons feature a newly developed linkless ammunition feeding system. A linked ammunition-feeding version of the cannon features as the standard weapon in the Eurofighter Typhoon.

February 5/16: Finland’s former prime minister has given his backing to the Saab Gripen as the jet of choice to replace the Finnish Air Force’s F/A-18 Super Hornet fleet. Matti Vanhanen stated his support for the Swedish aircraft in a book published this week mentioning the deepening defense cooperation between the two countries. While the government has yet to state any preference between the Gripen, Dassault’s Rafale, Boeing’s Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon, Vanhanen acts as a close advisor to current Prime Minister Juha Sipila. With a final decision not to be chosen until the 2020s, the Gripen looks to be gaining the early lead in a procurement that could range between $5-11 billion. While both Sweden and Finland are non-aligned nations, increased cooperation between them, Baltic, and other Nordic states are bringing them into closer cooperation with NATO.

January 19/16: Increased Swedish-Finn defense ties may see the latter purchase Gripen fighters replacing the Air Force’s F/A-18 C/D Hornet aircraft, which are scheduled to be retired between 2025 and 2030. While both governments have remained tight lipped about any particular deal, the increase in bilateral ties may see Sweden’s Gripen gain an advantage as a potential choice for the Finish HX-program. Both nations follow neutrality clauses which prevent them from joining NATO, but they are looking build the basis for a stronger regional military-security alliance with NATO-neighbors Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

January 8/16: Looks like if you break, you buy. Hungary will restructure its lease agreement with the Swedish government over the leasing of Saab Gripen fighters after two of the jets crashed in 2015. The new decree states that the replacement of the lost jets will not exceed $33 million between the leasing period of 2017-2026. Prior to the crashes, Hungary had been leasing twelve of the aircraft since 2001. The leasing of Gripens is seemingly a common practice among central European governments looking for cost effective fighters. The Czech Republic also operates the aircraft and Slovakia is looking into signing a lease agreement for the plane.

January 4/16: Slovakia is set to go ahead with leasing Saab’s Gripen jet fighter, although final contracts will not be signed until after elections due in March. The Gripens will replace the Mig-29 fighters currently on loan to the Slovak Air Force after the current lease ends this year. A more cost effective way of obtaining a fleet, leasing six to eight Gripens between now and 2029 is estimated to cost about $340 million.

December 22/15: Saab has made another bid to sell its Gripen fighters to India, after it lost out a tender to Dassault’s Rafale in 2011. With a deal to buy 36 Rafale fighters just signed last month, Saab has claimed that India will require more fighters to maintain an at capacity fleet. The offer comes sweetened with a technology transfer, giving full system and software control and an offer to help develop India’s aerospace industry for the next 100 years. This deal would see Saab help in the development of India’s own indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). The promise of a Saab base in India and full technology transfer is a tempting one as it would mark a big success for President Modi’s “Make in India” program after tough negotiations with France and Dassault over the Rafale purchase.

October 28/15: Sweden is offering Croatia the Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighter as a replacement for the country’s MiG-21s. The Swedish Defence and Security Export Agency has offered the fighter to Croatia, with the potential procurement likely covering between eight and twelve new aircraft. Croatia’s Defence Ministry is also thought to be looking at the F-16 Fighting Falcon alongside another Western design, with the country announcing its intention to replace its Soviet-era MiGs in April.

July 30/15: Confirming reports from June indicating that Brazil was looking to refinance its procurement of 36 Saab Gripen NG fighters, Sweden has reportedly agreed to reduce the commercial interest rate applied by the Swedish Export Credit Corporation from 2.54% to 2.19%. Brazil cut the amount of funding it planned to take from Sweden in June, with the original sales contract announced in October 2014. The revised agreement will now be transferred to Brazil’s Federal Senate to be signed-off. Meanwhile, Brazilian prosecutors announced in April 2015 that they were planning to investigate the $5.4 billion Gripen deal.

July 20/15: European defense giants Saab and BAE Systems may become embroiled in fresh corruption allegations, with Brazil’s Defense Minister announced on 15 July that the country will soon sign a final, refinanced $5.4 billion contract with Saab for 36 Gripens, approximately a year after the two sides struck an initial agreement on the sale.

June 30/15: European defense giants Saab and BAE Systems may become embroiled in fresh corruption allegations, with the Swedish press reportedly unearthing fresh UK Serious Fraud Office documents relating to the sale of 26 Gripen fighters to South Africa in 1999, as well as a separate deal for Hawk trainers. The lucrative sale saw allegations up to and including the bribery of former South African President Jacob Zuma, just one of a set of BAE-related bribery allegations. The new documents reportedly show that the company paid out approximately $1.58 billion in bribes to secure the Gripen and Hawk deals, with Saab kept in the loop regarding the illicit payments.

June 29/15: Brazil is reportedly looking to restructure its financing with Gripen-manufacturer Saab, a result of austerity-driven budget constraints and cuts to the amount of borrowed cash the country is taking from Sweden’s Export Credit Corporation to fund the fighter. Brazilian prosecutors announced their intention in April to investigate the $5.4 billion deal signed with Saab last year, after the Gripen beat out competitors Boeing and Dassault.

June 17/15: The cause of the Hungarian Air Force JAS-39C Gripen crash last week is being attributed to software issues, according to the country’s defense minister. This is pre-empting the outcome of the official investigation, with defense minister Csaba Hende citing initial details of that investigation.

Dec 15/14: Belgium. Sweden’s FMX defense export agency indicates that back in June it had received a request on joining a feasibility study for Belgium’s future combat aircraft procurement. FXM of course accepted and recently submitted a background document to the Belgian Ministry of Defence. The request applies to next generation Gripen Es. Belgium is going to upgrade its F-16s so they have ample time to make a decision. The F-35 is seen as a strong contender, if the Belgians can afford it.

Nov 9/14: Argentina. Argentina may want to do a deal with Brazil (q.v. Oct 22/14), but Britain has now publicly said “no.” To be more precise, they reiterate the continued existence of a ban. A spokesperson for the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills:

“We are determined to ensure that no British-licensable exports or trade have the potential to be used by Argentina to impose an economic blockade on the Falkland Islanders or inhibit their legitimate rights to develop their own economy…”

About 30% of the JAS-39E/F will be British, from the ejection seats to the radar, landing gear, and a number of electronic systems. Embraer could try to downgrade and substitute, but Argentina lacks the money to finance such an ambitious effort. Now add the fact that a newly-Republican US Senate and House would block export’s of GE’s F414 engines. As knowledgeable observers expected, Argentina will have to look elsewhere. C4ISR & Networks, “Argentina Buying Gripens? Brits Say ‘No Way'”.

Oct 22/14: Argentina. During the Embraer KC-390 medium jet transport’s rollout, Argentina and Brazil sign a formal “Alianca Estrategica em Industria Aeronautica.” Argentina is already making parts for the KC-390, and they need a larger partner for a number of other reasons. The FAB’s releases add that:

“El Gobierno nacional decidio iniciar una negociacion con la administracion de Dilma Rousseff para la adquisicion de 24 aviones Saab Gripen dentro del programa denominado FX 2…”

Regional export rights are also expected to be part of the $5+ billion deal, which is signed on Oct 24/14. That could get interesting, because the Gripen has systems from the USA and Britain in it. You might be able to replace electronics, but it’s expensive – and ejection seats and engines are a lot tougher. Sources: FAB NOTIMP, “Argentina quiere comprar 24 cazas supersonicos”.

Oct 18/14: Finland. The Finnish government has commissioned a working group to investigate Finland’s future tactical and strategic air defense options, with the tactical level centered around an estimated EUR 6 billion project to replace the country’s 60+ F/A-18C/D Hornets. New fighters would be delivered by 2030, at which point the Hornet fleet would be retired; but The working group is also looking to see whether it’s possible to upgrade the existing Hornets, which beat the JAS-39A/B Gripen and 2 other contenders in 1992. MoD official Lauri Puranen puts it this way:

“A 30-year old Formula 1 car can’t survive in this world, and we need to find out if a 30-year old fighter jet can…”

The answer depends on what you want them for, and how much better newer alternatives like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, JAS-39E/F Gripen, F-35A/B etc. might be for the missions you need. An increasingly aggressive Russia, armed with SU-30SM, SU-34, and SU-35 fighters, is a significant threat – and its long-range S-400 anti-aircraft missiles can cover all of Finland. The Finns seem to understand this time, because the study will also look at options like joint air defense with Sweden, or joining the NATO alliance.

A decision to pursue joint air defense with Sweden could give the JAS-39E/F Gripen a “second time lucky” edge, but Finland’s stocks of AIM-9X and AIM-120C-7 air-to-air missiles are currently incompatible, and Russian anti-aircraft missiles could force a need for stealth that pushes detection range outside of Finnish airspace. The missile-compatible and stealthy F-35 also has a constituency (q.v. April 22/14), and so does the less expensive F/A-18E/F, but the Super Hornet may not have a live production line by then. Sources: FDF (2010), “The Successor of the Hornet Needs to Be Decided Only in the Early Twenties” | YLE Uutiset, “Finnish Defence Forces to replace aging Hornet fighter fleet” | Corporal Frisk, “Replacing the ‘capabilities of the Hornet fighter aircraft'”.

Sept 17/14: IHS Jane’s reports that:

“Saab is offering “100% technology transfer” in its bid to supply the Indonesian Air Force (Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara – TNI-AU) with its JAS 39 Gripen combat aircraft, a company executive has told IHS Jane’s.”

It’s a similar offer to the ones they made to India and to Brazil. Indonesia also has a native aviation industry, though PT Dirgantara has been focused on transport aircraft (CN-235, C-212) and helicopters (AS332). With that said, if Southeast Asia is an area of focus for Saab (q.v. Sept. 8/14), it makes sense to have a local partner who can build aerostructures and perform advanced maintenance. Sources: IHS Jane’s Defence Industry, “Saab offers “100% technology transfer” in bid to secure TNI Gripen deal”.

Sept 8/14: Indonesia. Saab begins actively pitching the JAS-39 to Indonesia, which indicates some level of belief in a serious competition, and in Saab’s odds within that competition. To an outside observer, “F-16 capability at a lower ownership cost” seems to be the basic competitive positioning.

The other driver at work may be the global market as a whole. An objective look for Saab sees the Middle East opting for the most expensive jets, while Asia’s biggest players have already made their picks. Africa doesn’t have much opportunity to offer beyond the South African win, and the coming deal with Brazil will cover any possibilities in Latin America. There are a number of small country opportunities in Europe, but those competitions are mostly in limbo. By process of elimination, Southeast Asia is a necessary focus for Saab right now, and Thailand has shown that even small wins lead to larger buys in time. A “max win” scenario in the region could add small but notable Gripen fleets in Malaysia and Indonesia, then follow-on possibilities in the Philippines (q.v. July 10/14), and perhaps even Vietnam over the medium-long term. Every regional win will make Saab more competitive within the region. Sources: Saab AB, “Gripen: Ideal for Indonesian Air Force”.

Aug 30/14: Slovakia. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden have signed a Letter of Intent to co-operate on using the JAS-39 Gripen, “…for ett bilateralt samarbete kring en gemensam luftrumsovervakning av Slovakien och Tjeckien.” Which is to say, as a foundation for bilateral airspace overwatch co-operation between Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Note that past reports have gone as far as positing a common Gripen fighter squadron (q.v. April 3/14) if Slovakia also buys the aircraft, organized as a main base and a secondary forward base. Sources: Swedish FXM, “Idag har Sverige, Tjeckien och Slovakien undertecknat en avsiktsforklaring rorande samarbete kring Gripen” | Flightglobal, “Slovakia creeps closer to Gripen agreement”.

July 21/14: Denmark. Confirmed media reports indicate that Saab declined to bid in the re-launched Danish fighter competition, believing that they faced a situation similar to Norway’s where Lockheed Martin’s F-35 had already been picked. Denmark is already a Tier 3 F-35 industrial partner.

Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet) and Airbus (Eurofighter Typhoon) bid alongside Lockheed Martin and Saab, for an expected order of just 24-32 fighters. In contrast, the Norwegian experience appears to have triggered a more gimlet-eyed appraisal of opportunities by Saab, who also declined to participate in a recent Canadian RFI that was believed to be a political front. Each bid costs millions to prepare, so it’s a smart use of money – if one’s corporate intelligence is good enough to make consistently accurate assessments. Sources: Swedish FXM, “FXM not submitting tender for Gripen to Denmark” | Politiken, “Sverige opgiver at saelge kampfly til Danmark” | Reuters, “Saab will not bid for Denmark warplane order -newspaper” | Seeking Alpha, “Lockheed, Boeing, Airbus enter bids for Danish fighter jet tender”.

No bid in Denmark

July 15/14: Sea Gripen / Slovakia. Saab’s Lennart Sindahl tells a Swedish newspaper that the JAS-39E has become the base for a Sea Gripen design, following studies done in the UK.

They don’t intend to move forward without a confirmed customer, however, and the 3 countries they cite (India, Thailand, Brazil) amount to 1 valid prospect. India has already picked the MiG-29K and Tejas Naval LCA for its carriers, and Air Force dependencies on similar planes means that neither choice will change. Thailand has a carrier that’s arguably too small for a STOBAR fighter like Gripen, but it doesn’t matter – they lost the ability to operate fixed wing aircraft from it several years ago. It’s now a helicopter carrier that isn’t used very much, because they can’t afford it. That leaves Brazil, a Gripen customer working to co-develop the JAS-39F, who will need aircraft to replace the Skyhawks on NAe Sao Paolo in about a decade.

On a more optimistic note, he also says that Slovakia is getting closer to a deal for 6 JAS-39C Gripens, to give them interoperability with the Czech Republic and Hungary. Sources: SvD Naringsliv, “Saab tar kliv mot Gripen anpassad for hangarfartyg”.

July 10/14: Philippines. The Philippines recently bought 12 FA-50 light fighters, but Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin is reportedly interested in more advanced aircraft as well. Saab’s Gripen is reportedly on their radar screen, given the type’s low maintenance costs for a modern fighter. Sources: Saab’s Gripen Blog, “Gripen Has Admirers In Philippines Too”.

July 7/14: Weapons. MBDA announces that Saab and Sweden’s FMV have concluded missile integration firings with the JAS-39C/D Gripen and the Meteor BVRAAM (Beyond Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile). The March 2014 launches completed the full integration program, which includes new MS20 operating software for the jet.

Full Meteor capability will be delivered as part of Swedish Flygvapnet MS20 upgrades. Once that upgrade is cleared for service, the JAS-39 Gripen will be the 1st platform able to use the long-range Meteor, whose continuous ramjet propulsion also widens its no-escape zone. Gripen’s Eurofighter and Rafale competitors won’t even begin to catch up until 2017, and there’s no scheduled integration date for other fighters. Sources: MBDA, “Gripen Closes In On Operational Meteor Capability”.

June 17/14: No Gripen for India. As negotiations to buy advanced Rafale fighters stall, and projected costs rise sharply, India’s Business Standard reveals that Saab had proposed to take a 51% share of a joint venture company, then leverage their expertise to help with HAL’s LCA Tejas Mk.2. It was an abandonment of Gripen in India, but for Saab, the JV would give them a major new niche in the global marketplace: a low-end fighter in a class below the Gripen and its Western competitors.

DRDO chief Dr V K Saraswat was enthusiastic, with an RFI in 2012 and an RFP in 2013. The idea does indeed make great sense in terms of India’s needs. The catch? Incoming DRDO chief Dr Avinash Chander was more focused on developing the Mk.2 alone, and believed that any foreign partnership would require a global tender. In India, that would take years. If MMRCA negotiations for the Rafale fail, on the other hand, and DRDO continues to fail at fielding even the Tejas Mk.1, the new BJP government may decide to take a second look at all of its options. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “Rafale contract elusive, Eurofighter and Saab remain hopeful”.

May 18/14: Switzerland. Unsurprisingly, a tepid and convictionless defense of the Gripen fighter deal results in a referendum loss, with projections showing about a 53.4% no vote. The only surprise is that the margin was this narrow, indicating a winnable vote. Compare and contrast with the September 2013 referendum, which resulted in the Swiss keeping conscription. Or the government’s success in the referendum that ratified their F/A-18 Hornet buy.

While some governments in Europe will re-run referendums until they get the result they like, the Swiss aren’t like that. The TTE fighter buy, and the unrelated referendum proposal to implement a SFR 22 (about $25)/ hour minimum wage, are both history. Switzerland will need to depend on French and Italian jets for basic airspace protection, and Sweden is very likely to end up buying Brazilian Super Tucano trainers instead of Swiss PC-21s. Sources: Swissinfo, “Swiss Reject $3.5 Billion Gripen Purchase in Blow to Saab” | Deutsche Welle, “Swiss referendum turns down minimum wage and new fighter jets” | Reuters, “Swiss voters narrowly block deal to buy Saab fighter jets: projection”.

Referendum kills Swiss buy

April 24/14: Weapons. Sweden has decided that they need KEPD 350 cruise missiles on their Gripens, but their politicians are doing a poor job explaining why. The semi-stealthy Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missile uses a combination of GPS navigation and Imaging Infrared final targeting, with a range of around 500 km/ 310+ miles. They’re integrated on Gripen, but Sweden has never bought any, even though Taurus is a consortium between Airbus, MBDA, and Saab Bofors Dynamics.

Now Defence Minister Karin Enstrom is pushing for a purchase, as part of the governing center-right coalition’s proposals to strengthen Sweden’s defenses post-Crimea (q.v. April 22/14). She touts their “wider reach and the ability to fight distant targets,” adding that “high-precision capacity can also have a deterring effect”. What she doesn’t explain is why that’s necessary, leading observers to conclude that it’s because Germany (KEPD 350) and Finland (AGM-158 JASSM) have been buying such weapons. Overall, it’s a terrible explanation to a country who sees its defense policy as defensive-only, especially after the government’s own foreign minister said in 2013 that cruise missiles would “never be relevant” for that very reason.

It also misses a critical military need, in the face of new advanced air defense missiles with ranges beyond 160 km. In order for Sweden’s Gripens to even fly over defended territory safely, Gripens need to be able to destroy enemy surface-to-air missile platforms that may threaten them, without entering their killing range. The KEPD 350 can perform this role, but the Gripen’s other integrated weapons cannot. If advance thought had been given, and Sweden’s military had outlined a “deep strike” doctrine aimed at the gathering places and logistics of any attacking force, advance consensus on an argument to establish that policy could also have served as a springboard for buying these missiles.

Firing a “bolt from the blue” works well if you’re shooting live KEPD 350s. If you’re a politician, however, it’s just poor preparation. Sources: The Local – Sweden, “Sweden wants cruise missiles ‘for defence'” | Radio Sweden, “Analyst: events sped up cruise missile decision”.

April 22/14: Finland. The Finns are looking ahead to eventual replacement of their upgraded F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters, which beat Saab’s early-model Gripens to become Finland’s first post-Russian fighters. The new discussion involves the JAS-39E/F and F-35A, and will probably involve other machines as well, depending on what’s still in production. But the politics are going to make your head spin. Helsinki Times:

“Carl Haglund (SFP), the Minister of Defence, has rejected the proposal by Eero Heinaluoma (SDP), the Speaker of the Parliament, to acquire JAS Gripen fighters from Sweden in a bid to promote Nordic co-operation…. “Although I advocate co-operation with Sweden, we should not acquire Swedish JAS fighters when we could acquire American F-35 stealth fighters for roughly the same price. Performance must take precedence in the investment,” emphasises Haglund…. “There may be fewer aircraft than at present, but the price tag will be a minimum of five billion euros. A special funding is required.”

Let’s leave aside that the F-35 won’t be roughly the same price, creating fleet size issues, and avoid the military arguments for each plane in light of Finland’s geography. SFP is the Svenska folkpartiet i Finland – Swedish People’s Party of Finland. You read that right. Finland has a Swedish cultural minority, which has often been part of the balance of power in Parliament, and Swedish is a recognized 2nd language that is taught in Finnish schools. As one might imagine, there are also some tensions under the surface. So, the prominent Social Democratic Party (SDP) is suggesting Gripens, but the influential Swedish party is saying no. On the other hand, how would it look if they just smiled and agreed to something this big? Sources: Helsinki Times, “Haglund advises against JAS fighter acquisition”.

April 22/14: 10 more in Sweden? Party representatives from all 4 parties in the current center-right governing coalition make a public statement, officially committing to more defense spending in light of Russia’s recent actions. The increase would be about $760 million per year (SEK 5 billion), and the main beneficiary will be the submarine fleet, which would add 3 newly-designed boats to the 2 in operation. The second beneficiary will be the JAS-39E fleet, which would grow to 70 planes. The 3rd new priority would be an improved air defense system.

In declining order of party seats, the spokespeople were Fredrik Reinfeldt (Moderate), Jan Björklund (Liberal People’s), Annie Loof (Centre) and Goran Hagglund (Christian Democrats). This is a minority government, which currently has a majority because of the Sweden Democrats, a right-wing populist party that’s described as ultra-nationalist, but includes an influential contingent of Chaldean Christians who immigrated from the Middle East. The party is outside the formal governing coalition, but very disinclined to vote with the left-wing opposition parties. Sources: Dagens Nyheter, “Sa vill regeringen starka forsvaret” | The Local – Sweden, “Sweden to beef up air force to counter Russia”.

April 18/14: Update. JAS-39E/F testing seems to be focused on components so far. A much-modified JAS-39D (aircraft #39-7) is the primary component test bed, with upgraded avionics including a digital HUD, a production-standard ES-05 Raven AESA radar, and the SkyGuard IRST. Saab is currently assembling aircraft #39-8, a more representative test prototype of the JAS-39E/F that’s due to fly in 2015. Aircraft #39-9 is due to join the test fleet in 2016 as a primary system testbed, while aircraft #39-10 is due to fly in 2017 in the final JAS-39E configuration with the production-standard weight. Sources: Selex ES, “Selex ES Advances Gripen Systems”.

April 16/14: EW. Finmeccanica subsidiary Selex ES says that tests involving a fighter and ground radars have cleared the way for production of their BriteCloud decoys, which contain DRFM active jammers and are are shot out of a dispenser instead of being towed behind the aircraft. That dispensing method creates larger miss distances for missiles that home in on the decoy, which is very helpful against proximity fuse warheads. It also eliminates added drag on the fighter. The flip side is that you don’t get the decoy back, but cylindrical BriteCloud decoys are the same size and shape as a flare, and can be dispensed from a standard 55mm flare cartridge.

That kind of capability is predictable given the advancing power of electronics, but realizing it is a big technological step forward. Britecloud will be part of the JAS-39E/F’s defensive systems, and is also available as an upgrade to existing JAS-39A-D fleets. Sources: Selex ES, “Selex ES successfully demonstrates BriteCloud Expendable Active Decoy technology”.

April 4/14: Sensors. Saab announces the first flight with the new Selex ES SkyGuard long range Infra Red Search and Track sensor, which can pick up other aircraft using heat instead of radar. Now all they need is a beyond visual range air-to-air missile that can take full advantage, like the French MICA IR or Russian R-27T/ AA-10T. Sources: Saab, “Saab successfully completes flight test with IRST for Gripen E”.

April 3/14: Slovakia. The Czech Republic’s Lidove Noviny writes that working groups are finalizing the details regarding major cross-cooperation with the Slovak Air Force, which currently flies 8 MiG-29s (2 trainer, 6 front-line) but is discussing a Gripen lease.

Key goals include cross-border operations for in-process missions like air policing intercepts, and full cross-servicing of each other’s fighters. Obviously, that will become a lot easier if Slovakia leases the same planes. The newspaper adds that if Slovakia does lease Gripens for operations after the MiG-29s’ service agreement expires in 2016, a joint Czech and Slovakian fighter squadron would be formed, with one main and one minor air base. Sources: Prague Post, “LN: Czech, Slovaks to connect their fighter squadrons”.

April 2/14: Espionage. Saab Switzerland spokesman Mike Helmy confirms that “Secret services have attempted to intercept our communications,” driven by unnamed states on behalf of their industries.

Saab Switzerland is a very logical target. A new customer for an advanced weapon, busy sharing a lot of industrial data as they look to line up manufacturing partners, gives new meaning to the phrase “I’d tap that.” Sources: Swiss RTS, “Le groupe suedois Saab, constructeur du Gripen, se dit victime d’espionnage”.

March 18/14: Malaysia. Reports suggest that just 3 manufacturers will submit leasing options in response to a Malaysian RFI. Saab will submit a bid of up to 24 fighters and 2 S340 AEW aircraft through Saab International Malaysia Sdn Bhd, addressing 2 Malaysian needs at once.

Boeing (F/A-18F) and BAE (Eurofighter Typhoon) have reportedly submitted bids as well, but neither has Saab’s military leasing experience. Dassault has reportedly declined to participate with its Rafale, while Sukhoi’s status (RMAF flies SU-30MKMs) is unclear in the absence of a response.

Malaysia will have to look at the bids, and decide if they’re willing to even lease new fighters as replacements for the RMAF’s dwindling MiG-29N fleet. In the wake of the mysterious Malaysian Airlines FLT 370 fiasco, however, Saab’s offer of AEW aircraft may give both the company and the program a higher profile in Malaysia. Sources: The Malaysian Reserve, “Three fighter jet makers to submit leasing bids” | TIME Magazine, “Another Lesson from MH370: Nobody is Watching Malaysian Airspace”.

Feb 12/14: Thailand. Flight Global says they’re a happy customer, and may want to boost their fleet to 18:

“Saab is in discussions with Thailand for six additional Gripen C/D fighters, the Swedish company says. In a press briefing, Saab Asia-Pacific president and chief executive Dan Endstedt said talks are ongoing. He did not give a timeframe for the possible acquisition, but says that he hopes the deal “happens soon”.”

Sources: Flight Global, “SINGAPORE: Saab looks for additional Thai Gripen sale”.

Feb 4/14: JAS-39F. IHS Janes reports that Brazil wants both single-seat and two-seat variants, unlike Sweden or Switzerland. Perhaps there will be a JAS-39F after all:

“Saab has confirmed to IHS Jane’s that Brazil’s aerospace industry will be given the opportunity to develop a two-seater version of the Gripen NG as part of the USD4.5 million consignment of 36 fighter aircraft…. Out of the 36 fighter jets under the FAB F-X2 programme, eight of the aircraft will be twin-seat Gripen Fs and the rest [DID: 28] will be in the single-seat Gripen Es.”

That would increase Brazil’s workshare, and give them a solid design role, but it also increases costs. Negotiations will be interesting. The other question involves weapons. The JAS-39D eliminates the 27mm cannon found in the JAS-39C, and it remains to be seen whether the JAS-39F will follow the same pattern. Sources: IHS Jane’s 360, “Saab confirms twin-seat Gripen F development for Brazil”.

Jan 17/14: Swiss referendum. Switzerland’s Federal Council announces that the TTE program’s national public referendum will be held on May 18/14, as a yes/no vote re: the Swiss Gripen Fund Law approved by Parliament. The opposition still has to collect 50,000 signatures first, but an organized group is unlikely to fall short of that goal on a high-profile issue, while supported by sitting political parties, in a country of 8 million people. They make it.

Subsequent developments show a pattern wherein the Swiss parties supporting the deal, Sweden, and Saab all abandon the political field under trumped-up pressure, effectively conceding the legitimacy of their argument. The government looks set to lose, even though the Swiss air force was off duty during an airline highjacking in the middle of the referendum. The hijacking had to be handled by Italian and French fighters. Read “Switzerland Replacing Old F-5 Fighters with New Gripen-E” for full coverage.

Jan 8/14: Slovakia. Slovakia is reportedly leaning toward JAS-39 fighters as a replacement for its MiG-29s. They might be able to get second-hand F-16s or Kfirs for less, but the JAS-39’s low maintenance costs are very attractive, and they want to cooperate with the Czech Republic. Flying the same jets offers them the ability to share costs and services at a much deeper level.

Slovakia currently fields 9 L-39 Albatros light attack planes, plus 3 in storage, and reportedly has 6-12 flyable MiG-29s. They’ve never bought fighters as an independent state – what they fly is what’s left of the fleet that was received in their “Velvet Divorce” with the Czech Republic. Sources: MINA, “Slovakia to replace Mig29s with Swedish JAS39”.

Jan 7/14: Indonesia. Indonesia wants to replace its 11 remaining F-5E/F Tiger II light fighters with 16 modern aircraft. Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro confirmed that they “have received proposals from several jet fighter manufacturers,” and are evaluating them. Indonesian Military Commander General Moeldoko added that the TNI-AU has studied the SU-35, F-16, F-15, and JAS-39 Gripen.

Moeldoko wants the requisition plan included in Indonesia’s Strategic Plan II for the 2015 – 2020, but the air force’s choice will also depend on available funds. The F-15 is significantly more expensive than other options, and if the air force wants 16 fighters, the state of Indonesia’s economy will influence what they can buy. Sources: Antara News, “Defense Ministry looking to replace aging F-5 tiger fighter aircraft”.

Jan 2/14: Czech. The Czech government has negotiated its next lease period for their JAS-39C/D Gripens. The new deal will have a longer lease term (12 years + 2 year option), and annual payments about 31% lower. It would be interesting to know how the lease-to-buy program has been affected by these changes, and to have clarity regarding the terms of ongoing aircraft modernization.

The catch is that October’s elections upended Czech politics, in the wake of scandals involving ex-PM Petr Necas and the PMO’s chief of staff that included an affair, using military intelligence to keep an eye on his estranged wife, and possible payments to legislators who resigned in advance of a critical non-confidence vote. The ODS party went from 2nd place to 5th, and its allied parties also lost ground. The new center-left government will be headed by the CSSD (Social Democrats), and includes the ANO protest party and the KDU-CSL Christian Democrats. The outgoing government could have signed the deal, but decided to leave it to the new government on the grounds that it’s a strategic decision.

The new government approves the deal on March 12/14 – see “Contracts” section. Sources: Wikipedia, “Czech legislative election, 2013” | Czech Ministerstvo obrany, “Vlada schvalila prodej letounu L-159, prodlouzeni pronajmu gripenu prerusila”.


Formal Swedish Gripen NG approval – with conditions; Swiss government approves Gripen NG; Gripen NG picked in Brazil; Denmark competition starts up again; Serious about Sea Gripen; Work begins to build the JAS-39E; No Gripen weapon school in South Africa. Gripen-F Demo
(click to view full)

Dec 18/13: Brazil. Earlier press reports that the competition was stalled for another 2 years are proven wrong by a somewhat unexpected announcement by the Ministerio da Defesa that Brazil has picked Saab’s Gripen-NG as their preferred bidder, and expects to buy 36 planes for $4.5 billion. That’s currently just an estimate, as negotiations need to sort themselves out. A final contract and financial arrangements are expected in December 2014, and deliveries are expected to begin 4 years later. That’s a challenge for Saab, as any schedule slippage in the development program would create a late delivery. Late fees can be expected to be a negotiating point, and Brazil’s MdD says that leasing JAS-39C/D Gripens as an interim force may be addressed in the negotiations as a 2nd contract.

The Gripen NG contract figure tracks exactly with previous reports by Folha de Sao Paolo, which means an additional $1.5 billion contract can be expected for long-term maintenance and support. Saab was the cheapest of the reported offers, beating Boeing ($5.8 billion) and Dassault ($8.2 billion, reportedly reduced) by significant margins. Once Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA spying on Brazil’s government killed Boeing’s chances, there was no middle ground. The Rafale’s reported $10.2 billion purchase + maintenance total made it 70% more expensive than Saab’s Gripen. Brazil’s economic slowdown, and the Rousseff government’s focus on entitlement spending, made that cost chasm a big factor.

It wasn’t the only factor. The Gripen has Ministry statements indicate that industry’s long-standing preference for Saab’s industrial terms played a role, as Gripen-NG offers the prospect of participating in a new fighter’s design. So, too, did the unique prospect of full access to weapon integration source code, which the Ministry cited in its Q&A. That will allow Brazil to leverage its revived arms industry, and easily add weapons like Mectron’s MAR-1 radar-killer missile. Throw in the ability to participate in the future design of a carrier-based Sea Gripen variant to replace ancient A-4 Skyhawks on Brazil’s carrier, and Saab’s industrial combination overcame the Gripen’s reliance on an American engine and other equipment.

The Brazilian Air Force has a dedicated website to explain its choice. Dassault issued a terse statement pointing out the presence of US parts on Gripens, and positioning the Rafale in a different league. Which may be true, but it’s also true that global fighter buys have historically been heavily weighted toward a less-expensive league. Sources: Brazil MdD, “FX-2: Amorim anuncia vencedor de programa para compra de novos cacas” | MdD, “Perguntas & Respostas sobre a definição do Programa F-X2” (Q&A) | Dassault, “FX2 contest – 2013/12/18” | Folha de Sao Paulo, “Dilma agradece Hollande por apoio contra espionagem dos EUA”.

Brazil picks Gripen NG

Dec 6/13: Not in T-X. Boeing and Saab AB sign a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) to jointly develop and build a new advanced, cost-efficient advanced jet training solution for the USA’s upcoming T-X competition to replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging supersonic T-38s. The JDA has Boeing as the prime contractor and Saab AB as primary partner. Its scope covers design, development, production, support, sales and marketing of “a completely new designed aircraft, built to meet the needs of the Air Force.”

While Boeing’s predecessor companies did take Northrop’s YF-17 and develop it into the “new” F/A-18 Hornet, Boeing clarified to DID that their offering would not be derived from the JAS-39. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing and Saab Sign Joint Development Agreement on T-X Family of Systems Training Competition”.

Nov 26/13: Qatar. La Tribune cites a number of French export opportunities in Qatar, where the JAS-39 Gripen reportedly wasn’t even invited to bid. That helps France’s Rafale, and so does the USA’s failure to approve export requests in time to respond to the fighter RFP. At least 1 bid from an American manufacturer is expected, but Qatar already uses French weapons on their existing fleet of 12 Mirage 2000-5s, and they are a strong French defense customer generally. If Qatar really does want a mixed fleet, per some reports, the Rafale’s competition narrows to only the Eurofighter. Sources: La Tribune, “La France au Moyen-Orient (3/5) : le Qatar premier client du Rafale?”.

Sept 18/13: Switzerland. The Swiss upper house (Ständerat, or Council of States) votes 27 – 17 in favor of the Gripen fighter deal, following a 119 – 70 – 5 vote in the Swiss National Council. That completes elected political approval, but the deal is very likely to need approval in a countrywide referendum. If so, May 2014 is crunch time. Sources: SBC’s SwissInfo: “Gripen go-ahead: Fighter jets given parliamentary all-clear” | Saab Group, Sept 18/13 release.

Sept 12/13: Czech Republic. After over a year of negotiations, the Czech Government has agreed on terms to lease its 14 Gripen aircraft (12 JAS-39C, 2 JAS-39D) for another 14 years, to 2029. The next step is for the contract to be detailed and then formalized in a signed agreement.

The current 10-year, CZK 19.6 billion (about $1.033 billion) lease-to-buy arrangement lasts until 2015, so there’s no urgent rush. Still, it’s nice to settle the issue after a long period of proposed interim extensions (q.v. Feb 14/12), threats to end the lease (q.v. March 15/13), etc. The new Rusnok government appeared eager to settle the issue on a long term basis (q.v. July 15/13), and has successfully created a framework for doing so. Source: Swedish FXM export agency, Sept 12/13 | See also Saab, “Gripen for the Czech Republic”.

Czechs agree to new 14-year lease terms

Sept 11/13: T-X? Aviation Week reports that Boeing may abandon its push for a clean-sheet advanced jet trainer design, and hook up with Saab to offer a Gripen variant for the USA’s T-X. Subsequent comments from Saab EVP Lennart Sindahl that “We remain focused on the continued development of the Gripen E and the fighter will never be a trainer” make sense from a branding point of view, but Sindahl adds that Saab is open to new business opportunities, and using 2-seat JAS-39Ds as the base would offer an interesting recycling of Saab’s last-generation design.

There’s no doubt that a JAS-39 Gripen, which is flown by Britain’s Empire Test Pilot School, can effectively simulate the most advanced jets. It comes built for supersonic speeds and high Gs, with a helmet-mounted sight, modern weapons, and proven low operating costs. Even with a lower-end radar than AESA-equipped front line variants, it would serve well as a swing-role entrant that could fly Air National Guard (ANG) roles for domestic emergencies. It could also function as an excellent aggressor aircraft, providing capabilities that equal or exceed existing F-16C aggressors at a lower operating cost. F-22s are already using much more primitive T-38s as opponents in order to keep operating costs down, so having Gripens on hand would be a notable upgrade.

Those capabilities set Gripen apart from the General Dynamics/ Alenia M-346, but not from the Lockheed Martin/ KAI T-50, whose TA-50 and FA-50 variants can perform air policing and aggressor roles at a lesser but possibly adequate level.

That’s why price is likely to be the key for Saab – and for Boeing. On the one hand, the notional T-X order of 300 planes would double total Gripen production since the fighter’s inception, creating some economies of scale for a JAS-39T. Boeing can already deliver the significantly larger, twin-engine Super Hornet for around $60 million; still, in order to beat competitors hovering around $30 million, they’ll need to do more than just use 1 GE F404 engine and a cheaper radar. Sources: Aviation Week, “Boeing And Saab To Propose Gripen For T-X”.

Sept 4/13: Operating Costs. South Africa’s iOL News offers a snapshot of JAS-39C/D operational costs per flight hour (CPFH) for the South African Air Force. That’s a tricky area, for 3 reasons. The 1st is that there’s no standard formula, so different militaries can include different costs. The 2nd twist is that the SAAF fleet’s small size increases “dry” costs per flying hour, as fixed costs are amortized over fewer planes. The 3rd twist is unique to low-readiness countries like South Africa, who spend more per flight hour because they allocate few flight hours, but still have to maintain all of the jets. Even with all these caveats in mind, it’s still an interesting data point, especially alongside its comparison to a popular platform:

“[SAAF Director of Combat Systems] General John Bayne… said the “dry costs” (without fuel) for a Gripen were R104 600 per flying hour and fuel cost R30 800, giving a total “wet cost” of R135 400. Hawks fly at a dry cost of R67 500, with fuel costs of R15 400 and a total cost of R82 900…. “To date the Hawks have flown over 10 000 major accident-free flying hours since 2005 and the Gripens 3 500 since 2008,” said Bayne.”

At current exchange rates, that translates into JAS-39C/D flying-hour costs of about $10,465 dry and $13,350 wet; both are wildly higher than IHS Jane’s Aerospace and Defence Consulting’s 2012 estimate of $4,700 per flight hour. The same study’s figures for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet help provide some perspective, however, with a base US Navy Super Hornet figure of $11,000 CPFH, but $24,400 listed for Australia. Fortunately, we have a 2nd set of SAAF data points from a more popular platform. Gen. Bayne’s figures for the sub-sonic Hawk Mk.120 trainer & light attack jets translate to $6,755 dry and $8,295 wet. One good way to normalize Gripen figures for prospective customers is probably to create a ratio involving in-service Hawk trainers under similar circumstances vs. SAAF costs, then adjust from there. Source: iOL, “SAAF jets aren’t in storage, says general” | StratPost, “Gripen operational cost lowest of all western fighters: Jane’s”.

Operating Costs

July 24/13: Netherlands. Financieel Dagblad reports that Saab’s final offer to the Dutch government included penalties for late delivery. A reasonable move, given that the F-35 is about as close to operational capability now as it was 5 years ago.

To make things more interesting, Rekenkamer estimates are saying that the country’s EUR 4.5 billion acquisition budget is likely to buy just 33-35 F-35As, instead of the 85 fighters originally planned. Dutch News.

July 18/13: South Africa. DefenceWeb quotes Saab South Africa President Magnus Lewis-Olsson, who tells them that the SAAF’s interim Gripen support contracts ended in April 2013. Saab was hoping to get a support contract in place within the next few months, but if it doesn’t, SAAF personnel can only provide front-line maintenance. Over time, their fleet will become unable to fly. defenceWeb | DID: “South Africa’s Sad Military: Why Maintenance Matters.”

July 17/13: Weapon School. Saab South Africa President Magnus Lewis-Olsson tells defenceWeb that a planned global Gripen Fighter Weapon School in South Africa (q.v. July 10-18/12) represents a missed opportunity for the country. The 1,000 square meter training HQ would have been at AFB Overberg in the Western Cape, which Saab liked for its central location and available flight space. The course would have used a mix of Swedish and South African pilots, keeping those SAAF pilots current, and reimbursing the SAAF for the use of 4-6 Gripens that aren’t flying anyway due to budget cuts. Oddly, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) didn’t move to support the initiative, and in fact seemed to campaign against it.

Meanwhile, Saab has completed its syllabus and is ready to begin construction of the School and start training. Other countries have expressed interest, and Saab will be moving forward. defenceWeb.

July 15/13: 1st JAS-39E. Saab announces that they’ve begun building pre-production test aircraft 39-8, the 1st complete pre-production version of the JAS-39E. They’re beginning with the front fuselage, as part of manufacturing and assembling of all parts of the fuselage. After the fuselage join comes the installation of cables, mount systems, the outer shell and other equipment. Other parts of the airplane are also being assembled during this process, and they will eventually be joined to or installed in the fuselage. Saab.

July 12/13: Czech Republic. The new Rusnok government’s defence minister Vlastimil Picek says that he’ll submit a proposal for extending the Czech Republic’s JAS-39C/D Gripen lease after the Chamber of Deputies’ expected vote of confidence in early August 2013. Military deputy chief-of-staff Bohuslav Dvorak added that the next lease would be longer than the 10-year lease signed in 2004.

The reality is that the Czech defense budget dropped 25.6% in absolute terms from 2005 – 2012, from CZK 58.44 billion to 43.47 billion and down to about 1.1% of GDP. The dueling imperative are that the Czech Air Force can’t realistically switch to another fighter, given the costs of new training, spare parts, etc. At the same time, they need to negotiate a deal they can afford within that small budget. Prague Daily Monitor | Defense News re: budget comparison.

May 15/13: Sea Gripen. Saab remains serious about its “Sea Gripen NG,” and has been working on the idea since their May 2011 announcement. They’re targeting India, Italy and the UK alongside Brazil, but India has picked the MiG-29K, and is developing their own lower-tier naval LCA fighter. Italy and the UK both seem committed to the F-35B. The leaves Brazil, where a Sea Gripen may be necessary, in order to compete for F-X2.

Brazil’s Navy is expected to buy its own fighters to equip a new aircraft carrier, which is expected to replace NAe Sao Paulo around 2025. They expect their 24 new fighters to be the same type as the FAB’s F-X-2 winner, which leaves Saab competing against 2 proven naval fighters in Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornets and Dassault’s Rafale-M.

To help build their case, former Brazilian naval aviator Comte. Romulo “Leftover” Sobral is invited to flight test a JAS-39D, in order to verify the design’s basic suitability for naval conversion. Sobral liked the aircraft’s intuitive flight controls, ground handling, stability at low airspeeds, acceleration response, handling at the high angles of attack used in carrier landings, and good visibility. He even liked the flight suit. The plane landed in 800m, and Comte Sobral believes that the plane does have the basic requirements to become an effective naval fighter. The Sea Gripen’s lack of proven status, and absence of even a flying prototype, will still hurt the JAs-39. On the other hand, the time lag from F-X2 to a naval buy gives Brazilian industry a unique opportunity to participate in designing the Sea Gripen. Saab Gripen Blog | Full article at Defesa Aerea & Naval [in Portuguese].

April 10/13: Brazil. Saab executive Eddy de la Motta is quoted as saying that Brazilian JAS-39 Gripen NGs would use AEL’s avionics, creating a forked version under the wider development effort. This will help Saab meet industrial offset obligations, and also create commonality for Brazil’s fighter fleet, but integrating all of those components with the plane’s mission computers, OFP core software, weapons, etc. is not a trivial task. Elbit subsidiary AEL’s avionics are used in many Brazilian aircraft, with the exception of the Mirage 2000s that will retire as F-X2 fighters enter the FAB.

A less comprehensive suite of AEL avionics will also be used in Boeing’s F/A-18 International, which offers AEL’s wide-screen display and some other components to all potential customers. Defense News.

March 13/13: Denmark. The Danes pick up their fighter competition as promised, following their announced hiatus in April 2010. Invited bidders include the same set of Lockheed Martin (F-35A), Boeing (Super Hornet), and Saab (JAS-39E/F) – plus EADS (Eurofighter), who had withdrawn from the Danish competition in 2007. The goal of a 2014 F-16 replacement decision has been moved a bit farther back, and now involves a recommendation by the end of 2014, and a selection by June 2015.

The Flyvevabnet are reported to have 30 operational F-16s, with 15 more in reserve, out of an original order of 58. Past statements indicate that they’re looking to buy around 25 fighters as replacements, but there are reports of a range from 24-32, depending on price. Danish Forsvarsministeriet [in Danish] | Eurofighter GmbH | Saab | JSF Nieuws.

March 8/13: Brazil. Brazil has asked the 3 F-X2 finalists to extend their bids for another 6 months from the March 30/13 deadline, as the Brazilian commodity economy remains mired in a 2-year slump. The competitors had hoped for a decision by the time the LAAD 2013 expo opened in April.

The length of the cumulative delays could create changes for the bids, and it effectively squashes any faint hopes that the new jets would be able to fly in time for the 2014 World Cup. Reuters.

March 15/13: Czech Republic. Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas says that the latest Swedish contract extension offer doesn’t meet Czech “expectations,” and makes noises about a competition to choose different fighters. He’ll repeat that line in July, as negotiations continue. Ceske Noviny.

March 13/13: South Africa. Opposition Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier forces the ANC government to acknowledge that 12 of its 26 delivered JAS-39/C/D fighters were in long term storage, and sums up the situation this way:

“The sad facts of the Gripen system are as follows: 26 Gripen fighter jets were delivered; 10 or fewer are operational; 12 are in long-term storage; there are six qualified pilots; there are about 150 flying hours available to the entire squadron for 2013.”

Read “South Africa’s Sad Military: Why Maintenance Matters” for full coverage.

Jan 17/13: Sweden. The Swedish government gives formal approval to the planned purchase of 60 JAS-39E/F fighters, a bit more than a month after the Swedish Riksdagen voted 264-18-19 in favor.

This isn’t an order, just approval to negotiate one – and there’s a big condition attached. If Switzerland backs out, and there are no orders from other countries, the Swedish deal will also die.

The SEK 47.2 billion framework contract is announced on Feb 15/13, see contracts section for more. Saab’s Gripen blog | Sweden’s The Local | Aviation Week | UPI.

Swedish approval – with conditions


Sweden votes for JAS-39E/F; Czech extension; Swiss pick; South Korean opportunity declined. Sea or Land attack
(click to view full)

Dec 10-13/12: Testing. Swedish and Swiss pilots successfully test the Gripen-F Demo, and its new AESA radar, at Linkoping in Sweden. Swiss DDPS [in French] | Saab’s Gripen blog

Dec 6/12: Swedish vote. Sweden’s Riksdagen votes 264 – 18, with 19 abstentions, to approve the JAS-39E/F Gripen Next-Generation program. The total estimated cost, including maintenance and operation, is estimated to SEK 90 billion up until 2042. Swedish FXM | Saab’s Gripen blog.

Sept 23/12: Malaysia. RMAF chief Tan Sri Rodzali Daud tells The Sun Daily that Saab’s offer to lease 18 JAS-39 Gripens is under serious consideration, as a lower cost alternative to buying MiG-29N replacements. Other sources had told the paper that the Gripen and the RMAF’s existing SU-30MKM fighter had been eliminated in technical tests, but Daud stressed that all competing aircraft were still under consideration. He added that a special budget might be necessary to fund MRCA, and that operating and maintenance costs would play a big role in the RMAF’s choice. Indeed, O&M costs have been the main reason behind Malaysia’s desire to retire its MiGs.

If those criteria turn out to be accurate, then the SU-30MKM’s installed maintenance base, and Gripen’s proven design for low operating costs, could give them an important advantage over the Eurofighter and Rafale in Malaysia. Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet would fall somewhere in between. It’s more expensive to operate than the Gripen, and doesn’t have much commonality with Malaysia’s F/A-18D Hornets, but the joint base at Butterworth, Malaysia would offer Super Hornet interoperability with Australia. Just as the Gripen would offer interoperability with neighboring Thailand.

Sept 21/12: Sweden. Sweden’s government presents its 2013 budget request to Parliament, which includes the planned SEK 300 million (about $46 million) to begin paying for Gripen E/F development.

The challenge is that the agreed formula of SEK 300 million in 2013-14, and SEK 200 million thereafter, only gets them to SEK 2.3 billion by 2023. Unfortunately, the Swedish Forsvaret now says that the Gripen E/F program is expected to cost “cirka fem miljarder kronor” (about SEK 5 billion) above and beyond the current 10-year plan, and the plane is scheduled to enter service by 2023, 10 years after development funding begins. To us, that sounds like “half funded”; we’ve asked the Forsvaret to clarify. Swedish Forsvaret [in Swedish] | Swiss DDPS [in German].

July 10-18/12: Pilot school? Saab says that they’re moving to establish a new global Fighter Weapons School for Gripen pilots at the SAAF’s Overberg base, in the southern Cape area, along with the Swedish and South African air forces. The first class is said to be targeting an October 2013 opening. Aviation Week:

“A former site for secret South African/Israeli missile tests, Overberg hosts the SAAF’s test squadron and was chosen because it offers access to maritime, desert and high-elevation training areas, live ordnance areas and instrumented ranges with land targets… The SAAF will provide the school with [4-6] JAS 39C/D Gripens, plus aggressors (opposition aircraft) and targets if necessary, and each student will fly 20 day and night sorties. Discussions with other Gripen operators have already started. Airborne early warning and control aircraft or tankers could be added later.”

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) follows with a sharp rebuke:

“We would like to place on record that there has never been any discussion between SAAB and the SANDF. It is with dismay that we read such in the media when no interaction whatsoever with regard to the purported school. The Air Force Base Overberg is a sensitive security establishment of the SANDF and will remain solely in the hands of the SANDF. The suggestion therefore that such a school will be established is devoid of truth.”

Saab tells defenceWeb that it remains 100% committed to the project, and says that the SAAF was onboard and supportive, “but final and formal approval with South African government bodies is still outstanding.” Saab | Aviation Week | defenceWeb.

July 10/12: Weapons – Meteor schedule. The Gripen will be the 1st plane integrated with MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile, and the plane’s role during the last 6 years of firing trials could allow an early finish in 2013, instead of the planned 2014 operational date.

Subsequent revelations place the Eurofighter’s operational date with Meteor within 2017, and the Rafale’s in 2018.

MBDA has undertaken 21 test firings to complete the development program, is about the deliver a final performance statement that it’s “fully compliant from a lethality and kinematic point of view”, and is building the first production missiles. Aviation Week.

June 18/12: JAS-39E/F. Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman reports from an aerospace conference at Sweden’s Malmen AB, where they’ve discussed details of the JAS-39E/F. They’re hoping that the first 2 development aircraft can fly in late 2013.

The plane’s new sensor set, avionics, and mission computer will be designed so that they can also serve as JAS-39A-D upgrades. The airframe is another matter. Sweetman describes the airframe as “largely new” compared to the JAS-39C/D, with new mid and aft fuselage sections, and widened blended wing-body sections, based on the design and lessons from Gripen Demo. The overall description involves a longer and slightly wider fighter that maintains the same wing loading, despite a gross weight increase over the JAS-39C/D that has reached 5,000 pounds. It’s also supposed to supercruise with weapons, using divertless inlets. Even with a new engine for those inlets to feed, however, the extra weight will make armed supercruise a challenge. The F414 EPE, which adds more thrust, is reportedly under discussion, but configuring the EPE for more thrust will penalize range.

Feb 29/12: JAS-39E/F. Sweden’s armed forces publish a report recommending that at least 60-80 JAS-39E/F Gripens be present in the future Swedish air force, with new aircraft beginning to arrive in 2020 and the entire effort lasting until 2030 or so. The military said its aim was to split the upgrade cost with “at least one other strategic partner country,” but did not reveal whom. It eventually becomes clear that the partner is Switzerland.

This sort of arrangement would usually mean new-build planes, given the extent of the changes, but Saab itself talks about upgrades, and so have earlier reports (vid. Jan 26/12). Either way, Swedish acceptance would stabilize the future of its next-generation Gripen project. Swedish media talk about a SKR 30 billion (about $4.5 billion) project, though the military isn’t discussing any firm estimate yet. Saab | Sweden’s The Local.

Feb 14/12: Czech mates. The Czech Republic’s government has reportedly decided to pursue a 5-year extension of the 10-year, CZK 19.6 billion (about $1.033 billion) lease-to-buy for its 14-plane JAS-39C/D fighter fleet, rather than opting for an immediate replacement tender. Czech defense minister Alexandr Vondra said that he didn’t expect Czech-Swedish negotiations to last longer than 4 months, but they have.

The net effect is to freeze the Gripen as the country’s intermediate-term fighters, and make the Czechs’ long-term fighter fleet plan an issue for a follow-on government. Subsequent negotiations and a new government would later change the country’s plans. Ceske Noviny | Ottawa Citizen.

Feb 13-14/12: Swiss 2009 evaluation leaked. The confidential 2008/2009 Swiss Air force evaluation results are publicly leaked. Its verdict that the Gripen didn’t meet minimum Swiss requirements for its future fighter directly contradicts earlier statements from Swiss military and political leadership that all 3 planes on offer had done so. This leaves the entire basis of the Swiss selection open to question, and pressure is building across the political spectrum.

In response, the Swiss have stated that they’re still open to formal offers, essentially touching off another round of bidding. Officials have staunchly defended their pick in the meantime, saying that it met Swiss requirements by the time the final offer was evaluated. Saab’s public stance reinforces both tracks, saying that they are finalizing Switzerland’s JAS-39E/F configuration, while dropping strong hints that they will lower their price in response to Dassault’s maneuvers (vid. Jan 29/12).

DID has confirmed that at least 2 key attributes did change between the report and the award: the Gripen’s ability to hit multiple targets in one pass, using newly-integrated GPS-guided weapons; and an operational helmet-mounted display. Read “Switzerland’s F-5 Fighter Replacement Competition” for full coverage, including report excerpts.

Jan 31/12: India loss. Dassault’s Rafale is picked as the “L-1” lowest bidder for India’s 126-aircraft M-MRCA deal, even after the complex life-cycle cost and industrial calculations are thrown in. Next steps include the negotiation of a contract, in parallel with parliamentary approval and budgeting.

Until a contract is actually signed, however, India’s procurement history reminds us that even a “close” deal is just 1 step above a vague intention. The contract may take a while. Even the French government sees a deal as only an 80% probability within 6-9 months. The budgeting is likely to be even trickier. The IAF’s exclusion of cost considerations in picking its finalists means that the only question now is: how far over the stated budget will a full Rafale buy go? Some reports place the deal’s cost at around $15 billion – an increase of up to 50% from previous estimates. If economic downturns or squeezed defense budgets make those outlays a big enough issue, early enough in the process, it could have the effect of re-opening the competition. British PM David Cameron has expressed an intent to change India’s mind, and both Saab and Boeing are still positioned within India, in order to be ready for a renewed opportunity. In a competition that’s re-opened for financial reasons, the Gripen would have much better odds. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition” for full coverage.

Jan 29/12: Switzerland. Dassault makes Switzerland a new final offer, after the competition: 18 Rafale fighters for SFR 2.7 billion (EUR 2.24 billion, $2.96 billion), instead of 22 Gripens for SFR 3.1 billion. On a per-plane basis, that’s 17.5% less than Dassault’s reported “final” RFP offer of SFR 4 billion for 22 Rafales.

The offer is aimed at the Swiss parliament, but the way it was handled looks set to create plenty of enemies. Parliamentary discussions are expected to begin in mid-February.

Jan 29/12: South Korea. The Korea Times quotes a DAPA spokesman, who confirms that Saab submitted an application to attend the F-X-3 fighter program’s mandatory explanatory session. They were joined by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and EADS. The report adds that DAPA doesn’t see the Gripen as likely to meet its competition’s requirements. Then again, that’s what explanatory sessions are for. Saab itself told the newspaper that it hadn’t decided whether or not it would bid.

When the bids are submitted, Saab isn’t among them.

Jan 26/12: Swedish JAS-39E/Fs? Defense News reports that the Swedish government will soon begin examining a proposal from Swedish Air Force Command to upgrade 100 Gripens to next generation status:

“Some 20 possible new configurations for a Gripen E/F version are being examined by Saab, the AFC and FMV… The AFC advocates that the Air Force’s stock of C/D version Gripens be upgraded on a phased basis to spread the total cost over a five- to 10-year budgetary period. The AFC views the impending government decision, which it anticipates will be made in March, as the most critical funding issue facing Swedish defense.”

Jan 26/12: Switzerland. An anonymous letter from a “Groupe pour une armee credible et integree” alleges that Switzerland’s benchmark fighter tests had their results manipulated. The accusations are seen as being detailed and specific enough to prompt Switzerland’s parliamentary sub-committee for security policy to investigate further. 24 Heures [in French].

Jan 5/12: Czechmate? Financial Times Deutschland reports that Germany is looking to sell some of its used Eurofighters to Eastern European countries, at the cut-rate price of EUR 60-80 million each. The Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia and Romania are named. Even that price is likely to be rather steep for these countries, in comparison to alternatives like used F-16s, unless Germany can propose substantial savings on training and maintenance. Czech defense ministry spokesman Jan Pejsek says that: “I can completely exclude that talks have taken place, even a [informal] probing.”

Meanwhile, allegations that the CSSD government’s original deal to buy 24 JAS-39 fighters may have been marred by corruption, is creating uncertainty around the possible 2015 renewal of the 12-year, CZK 20 billion (now around $1.04 billion), 14-plane Czech lease-to-buy deal. The current OSD government is reportedly very cool to the idea, and may be considering less-capable options like the American F-16. Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said in June 2011 that it would be difficult to imagine renewing the contract until the corruption investigation was concluded, and recently added that the country’s deteriorating economic situation would have to be taken into account when making this choice. Czech Position.


Swiss win; India elimination; Doing the Brazilian limbo; Competition in Croatia; RM12 engine upgrades; Cobra HMD operational; Thais operational; Sea Gripen started. Swiss takeoff
(click to view full)

Dec 1/11: Swiss win. Switzerland announces their choice – and it’s Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen. Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer estimates the cost of the envisaged deal at up to CHF 3.1 billion (currently $3.5 billion, probably more by 2014), for 22 planes. The DDPS explicitly stated that Gripen also won because it offered lower maintenance costs that made it affordable over the medium and long term. The deal includes a provision for 100% value industrial offsets to Swiss firms. Dassault wasn’t very happy, though they did concede that the Gripen beat them on price.

For various reasons, a secure contract isn’t expected until sometime in 2013. If the contract goes through, Switzerland will join Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, and Thailand as Gripen operators. Read “Switzerland Replacing its F-5s” for full coverage.

Swiss pick

Oct 14/11: Croatia. The Swedish Defence and Security Export Agency (FXM) publicly presents the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen offer, which has already been submitted to the Croatian government. It involves the sale of 8-12 JAS-39C/D fighters, rather than more advanced Gripen Demo/NG planes. Sweden would also loan Croatia some older JAS-39As as an interim force, to avoid a fighter gap as its aged MiG-21s are retired. The offer also support and training agreement for pilots and technicians, and an industrial co-operation package backed by Saab’s delivery record in the Czech Republic, Hungary and South Africa.

The biggest competitor in Croatia is thought to be the Eurofighter. It’s more expensive than the Gripen, but German influence, and the potential for shared training and support, is expected to make it a competitive option. Vid. March 27/08 entry re: the RFI. Saab Group.

Sept 20/11: Cobra HMD operational. South Africa’s air force becomes the 1st customer to declare the Gripen’s Cobra Helmet-Mounted Display operational, on 2 Squadron in Makhado. South Africa was the system’s first customer, but Sweden has since ordered its own Cobra HMDs.

Like all helmet-mounted displays, the Cobra dramatically improves the effectiveness of the plane’s short-range air-to-air missiles, by allowing launches at targets within a much larger field of view. Saab Group.

HMD operational

Sept 14/11: Switzerland. The Swiss House of Representatives and Senate approve a SFR 5 billion per year armed forces budget, instead of SFR 4.4 billion. The difference is about $682 million per year, and some of that will reportedly be used to help fund Switzerland’s fighter purchase.

Sept 12/11: RM12 engine upgrade. Volvo Aero discusses a 2-15% thrust increase for the JAS-39A-D model’s F404-derived engine, at the ISABE 2011 conference in Sweden. They also tout the engine’s record of over 150,000 flight hours without a single major engine mishap, which is indeed impressive. It helps to begin from a very stable, long-serving design like GE’s F404, but it also requires a design focus by Saab and Volvo Aero, extending into the maintenance system used by operating air forces.

Project leader Torbjorn Salomonsson saw the RM12’s improvements coming from an improved FADEC controller, improved fan and blisks for better airflow, and a new high-temperature turbine adapted from GE advances in the F404 and F414. Volvo Aero head of research, Henrik Runnemalm, added that:

“We have stated previously that it is possible to significantly increase the thrust of the existing RM12 engine at a very competitive cost. We will then have a more powerful and economical engine. It also means that we can upgrade the 220 engines that the Air Force already has whilst maintaining engine competence within country.”

July 8/11: Thailand. In a ceremony at Wing 7’s air base in Surat Thani, The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) officially declares its new air defense system operational. That includes the 6 initial Gripens, the S340 AEW Erieye plane, and the ground command and control systems. The system was originally intended to reach this milestone in September, but they managed to be 2 months early. Saab.

May 24/11: Sea Gripen starts development. A Saab Group release states that Saab AB will open a new UK headquarters and a new Saab Design Centre in London. The engineering center:

“…will capitalise on the UK’s maritime jet engineering expertise and is scheduled to open in the late Summer. Initially staffed by approximately 10 British employees, its first project will be to design the carrier-based version of the Gripen new generation multi-role fighter aircraft based on studies completed by Saab in Sweden.”

A 12-18 month concept design phase will follow. After that, Saab will need to decide whether or not to build a flight demonstrator. Sea Gripen was initially pushed for India (q.v. Dec 28/09 entry), but with Gripen out of M-MRCA unless something changes, the likely targets would appear to be Brazil’s suspended F-X2 program, or a Plan B for Britain if its F-35 plans go awry. As an example, imagine that catapult installations in the new CVF carriers prove unaffordable, ruling out F-35Cs, while the F-35B STOVL fails its probation and is canceled. With UK firms already providing 28% of the Gripen NG, Sea Gripen could tout itself as a legitimate British alternative to the more-expensive Eurofighter Naval concept. See also Flight International.

Sea Gripen studies

May 18/11: Brazil. Official opening of the Swedish – Brazilian centre of research and innovation (Centro de Inovacao e Pesquisa Sueco-Brasileiro, CISB) in Sao Bernardo de Campo, Brazil, which grew out of the Saab CEO’s September 2010 visit to Brazil. So far, the centre has attracted over 40 partners from academia and industry, who will be active partners in the specific projects. Areas of focus will be in Transport and Logistics, Defence and Security, and Urban development with a focus on energy and the environment.

Saab President & CEO Hakan Buskhe cites a coastal surveillance radar project with Atmos and a datalink development project with ION as examples, and the firm sees many opportunities in Brazil beyond the Gripen project. Civil security will get special attention, as Brazil is hosting both the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games within the next few years. Saab Group.

April 27/11: Indian elimination. Saab confirms that the JAS-39IN Gripen has been eliminated from India’s M-MRCA competition, which has become a duel between Dassault’s Rafale and EADS/ BAE/ Finmeccanica’s Eurofighter Typhoon. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition” for full coverage.


Feb 22/11: Thailand. The initial batch of 6 Gripen fighters arrives in Thailand. Bangkok Post.

Thai delivery

Feb 8/11: India. Saab announces the establishment of a Research and Development Centre in India, with an initial base of 100-300 Indian engineers. Areas of focus would include aerospace, defense, and urban innovation, including civil security.

See also Saab’s “India – an important part of Saabs production flow“, which covers Saab Aerostructures’ industrial strategy more generally. To date, Saab is working with Tata Advance Material (small to medium sized composite parts), QuEST Engineering (sheet metal and machined parts), and CIM Tools (machining and sub-assemblies).

Feb 4/11: Bulgaria. Bulgaria issues another fighter replacement RFI, soliciting information from Boeing (Super Hornet), Dassault (Rafale, Mirage 2000), EADS (Eurofighter), Lockheed Martin (F-16), and Saab (JAS-39 Gripen) re: 8 new and/or second-hand fighter jets, to replace its existing fleet of 12 MiG-21s.

Bulgaria issued a similar RFI in 2006, for 20 jets, but the global economic crash, and Bulgaria’s own issues in trying to pay for past defense purchases, forced a hold. The Defense Ministry has taken pains to emphasize that this is just an exploratory request, and is not the start of a purchase tender. Nevertheless, November 2010 saw the formation of a National Steering Committee and an Integrated Project Team, to draft preliminary fighter replacement operational, technical, and tactical requirements. That followed October 2010 remarks by Bulgaria’s Defense Minister Anyu Angelov, who discussed spending BGN 1 billion (around $725 million) for the purchase of an uncertain number of new fighter jets to replace its MiG-21s, while modernizing its fleet of 16 MiG-29A air superiority jets. Sofia News Agency | Saab | SNA re: Saab visit.

Jan 17/11: Brazilian limbo. President Rousseff leaves the entire F-X2 competition in limbo, in light of concerns about the financing of the purchase, how much to borrow for the initial fighter purchase, and inter-agency disagreements. The exact commitment is a decision later in 2011, but no contract until 2012. In practice, however, there is no firm timeline or deadline for a decision, the 2011 decision date is later revoked, and domestic spending priorities loom large in Rousseff’s agenda. Which makes this a de facto suspension.

If it is a suspension, it leaves the situation of every contender in play.


BAE divests, ends partnership; Swedish sims upgraded; Danish delay; DJRP Reco pod; SAAF just for show? Gripen Demo w.
IRIS-Ts, Meteors, GBU-10s
(click to view full)

Sept 23/10: DJRP Reco pod. Thales announces that it has delivered its Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod (DJRP) for installation and integration flight trials on South Africa’s JAS-39C/Ds. The electro-optic and infrared Thales DJRP completed its factory integration tests at Thales’s optronics facility in Glasgow, Scotland in June 2010.

Handover of the reconnaissance pod to the South African Air Force (SAAF) will occur after the integration phase.

Aug 7/10: India. India’s Times Now news show reports that the M-MRCA trials will leave only Dassault’s Rafale and EADS’ Eurofighter in the race. To be confirmed. Brahmand | Livefist.

July 13/10: Sea Gripen, Exports. Flight International reports from Farnborough on JAS-39NG plans and testing, including plans to allocate development funds for a carrier-based “Sea Gripen” variant, as described above. Having said that:

“The Sea Gripen will not be developed by Sweden alone… but potential partners could include Brazil and India, who have been offered to do work in their own countries. [Gripen technical director Eddy] De la Motte says the “cost of that programme will be a couple of billion Swedish crowns; more than one billion [DID: over $135 million]. It will be half of the Gripen NG’s development programme cost.”

The big challenge is that India has already picked the MiG-29K as its carrier-borne fighter, and Brazil may well close its door by picking the carrier-capable Rafale. Other carrier-using countries have locked in their future fighter choices, with the exception of Thailand and Spain. This means the Gripen would need to win in Brazil, or depend on new countries joining the ranks of naval fighter operators, in order to make Sea Gripen viable. For now, the announcement adds to their existing bid in Brazil, and thanks to the stated need for a partner, it costs nothing up front. With respect to export opportunities overall:

“Looking out to 2016, Saab-led Gripen International sees multiple export opportunities for almost 230 aircraft with Bulgaria (16), Croatia (12), the Czech Republic (10), Denmark (36), Hungary (six), Malaysia (12), the Netherlands (85), Romania (24), Switzerland (22) and Thailand (six).”

Finally, Gripen technical director Eddy de la Motte gave JAS-39 figures of less than $3,000 per flight hour for Sweden’s Flygvapnet, and “for the export customers it will be less than $5,000, including maintenance, spare parts, fuel and manpower.” On its face, that’s stunning. By comparison, the USAF places the per-hour cost of an F-15 at $17,000 [PDF]. Gripen is engineered for significant savings, but there’s also a possible mismatch between direct flight costs, and figures that include allocated life cycle costs including depot maintenance, etc.

Mid-May 2010: India. Gripen NG demo makes its international debut by taking part in the last phase of the Indian evaluation trials for the M-MRCA competition, following 135 test flights in Sweden. Testing includes high altitude trials at Leh airbase, 3,300m/ 10,826 feet above sea level, as well as testing under tropical conditions and comparative flight tests. Saab AB.

April 21/10: Raven AESA. Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo provides an update concerning its “Raven 1000P” prototype AESA radar. The radar is flying on the Gripen Demo, and has been demonstrated in air-air and air-ground modes, including long range synthetic aperture radar scans at medium and high resolution imagery. The company says simply that “expected performance has been achieved,” without providing clarifying details, and notes that development and new capabilities will continue. SELEX Galileo release [PDF].

April 15/10: Romania. Agence France Presse quotes Jerry Lindbergh, a Swedish government official in charge of defense exports, who says that Sweden could provide Romania with 24 new “fully NATO interoperable Gripen C/D fighters, including training, support, logistics and 100 percent offset for the amount of one billion euros ($1.3 billion),” paid off over 15 years with low interest rates.

In essence, they’re offering newer and better fighters, for the same price as very-used F-16s. Alenia would later match this with an offer of its own for 24 used Italian Eurofighter Tranche 1s, which possess no precision ground attack capability. Read “Nothing But Netz: Romania’s New Fighters” for full coverage of Romania’s fighter buy.

March 24/10: Danish delay. Denmark decides to delay its fighter decision to 2014, with no delivery until 2018.

That gives the F-35 a chance to stabilize costs, and win an order it appeared to be losing to Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. The Gripen remains a distant 3rd, but could recover. The US Navy plans to end Super Hornet production in FY 2015, barring exports to countries like India. Aviation Week Ares.

March 23/10: Exports drive Swedish simulator upgrades. Saab Group announces that Swedish Air Force Wing F 7, based at Satenas, is upgrading from JAS-39 A/B to JAS-39 C/D aircraft and simulators. The Multi Mission Trainer is already converted, and will soon be followed by the Full Mission Simulator.

What’s driving the conversion is the Thai order. The Gripen instructors at 1st OCTU are now preparing to train the first batch of Thai Gripen pilots, who recently arrived to Sweden.

March 15/10: Denmark. Danish radio station DR Forside reports that the Tier 3 JSF partner Denmark will pick Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet as its future fighter, instead of the F-35A JSF or Saab’s JAS-39DK Gripen NG.

According to the report, the ministry’s decision awaits an auditor’s review before being forwarded to the full government and to parliament. The formal contract and delivery date for new fighters are also expected to be delayed, with the F-16 fleet flying on and their replacements entering service in 2017-18. DR Forside [in Danish] | Aviation Week Ares.

March 9/10: India. Sweden flies its Gripen fighters into Bangalore for MMRCA-related trials – but India’s Business Standard reports that they’ll be JAS-39D Gripens, not the new Gripen NG. That could get the platform disqualified, depending on the decisions made by the IAF and Indian MoD:

“The Gripen NG… has always been one of the hottest contenders in the fray. Saab’s default on the MoD’s trial directive, which lays down that the fighter being offered must be the one that comes for trials [leaves it] vulnerable to disqualification… the Swedish Air Force, having opted to buy the Gripen NG, has ordered a series of improvements on the Gripen NG prototype. With those under way, Sweden’s flight certification agency, SMV, has ruled that the prototypes require additional flight-testing in Sweden before the aircraft can be sent to India… Sources close to the Gripen campaign say IAF pilots will be offered a chance to fly the Gripen NG during a visit to Sweden from April 6 to April 10. Gripen International will also ask for fresh dates for bringing the Gripen NG to India for trials.”

March 5/10: BAE divests. BAE’s 11.2 million Class B shares in Saab Group are sold to Investor AB, the Wallenberg family’s publicly traded holding company, at SEK 95.50 per share. The 10.2% share is half of BAE’s remaining 20.5% stake in Saab. Following the sale, and some conversions of some Investors AB and all BAE stakes from Class A to Class B shares, Investor AB’s stake in Saab will change from 19.8% of the capital and 38% of the voting rights, to 30% of Saab and 39.5% of its voting rights. Investor AB Head of Corporate Communications, Oscar Stege Unger, reportedly had this to say:

“[Cooperation between BAE and Saab has] in practice ceased, in as much as Saab manages the Gripen exports itself. There has also been a degree of overlapping between BAE and Saab in larger deals… Now BAE have decided that they do not see this as a strategic holding and want to pull out. We also think that it is good that we clarify the ownership structure.”

The March 4/10 closing price for Saab amounted to SEK 106.00 per share, so Investor AB is presumably happy already. Investor AB | BAE Systems | Sweden’s The Local | UK’s Telegraph | Bloomberg | Defense News.

BAE divests

March 4/10: South Africa. South Africa’s News24 reports that the country’s Gripen jets, along with its MEKO-A frigates and Manthatisi Class U209/1400 submarines, are effectively present only for show, given their extremely low budgets for actual usage.

The SAAF’s current fleet of 11 Gripens will spend 550 hours in flight in the current financial year, which compares to NATO standards of 20 hours per pilot per month (240 per plane per year). Most of that will take place during the 2010 World Cup. In the next 2 years, that meager total will shrink to a fleet total of 250 flight hours per year – or about 9.6 flight hours per plane, per year, with the full fleet of 26 planes.


Raven AESA partnership; EGBU-12 GPS/laser guided bombs integrated; Brazilian dogfight; Dutch deal delineated; Dassault’s double-cross; JAS-39NG Supercruise. Gripen Demo
(click to view full)

Dec 28/09: Sea Gripen. Reports confirm that co-development of a carrier-capable “Sea Gripen” design was part of Saab’s response to India’s M-MRCA fighter competition RFI, adding that Brazil’s future fighter requirements were also targeted. Key changes are outlined, and Gripen VP of Operational Capabilities Peter Nilsson tells StratPost that the Sea Gripen is intended for both CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) as well as STOBAR (Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery – “ski jump”) operations:

“There will obviously be differences in the MTOW (Maximum Take-Off Weight). In a CATOBAR concept, the Sea Gripen will have a MTOW of 16,500 kilograms and a maximum landing weight of 11,500 kilograms. In a STOBAR concept it depends on the physics of the carrier. Roughly, the payload of fuel and weapons in STOBAR operations will be one-third less than the payload in CATOBAR operations. There will be no differences in ‘bring-back’ capability,” he says.”

Oct 22/09: Denmark downgrade. Danish Defence Minister Soren Gade says that Denmark plans to purchase just 25-35 jets to replace its 48 operational F-16s, instead of the 48 aircraft originally envisioned. Gade now believes the soonest an agreement can be reached on the purchase would be the start of 2010, and the Copenhagen Post reports that the military has estimated the purchase will eventually cost “at least 100 billion kroner” (at current rates, about $20 billion – presumably, this includes lifetime maintenance and full equipping costs).

That cost estimate is creating pause, especially in light of a February 2009 report that says the current F-16 fleet still has many hours left in their airframes. The cost imperative to stretch the current fleet runs up against the potential Danish aerospace jobs and manufacturing technology improvements that will accompany any new fighter order. A Danish Defence Command committee was set up in 2007 to evaluate the competitors, which currently include the F-35A, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon, and Sweden’s JAS-39NG Gripen. Defence minister Garde is quoted as saying that at this point, there is no preference among the competitors. Copenhagen Post | defense aerospace.

Oct 4/09: Brazil. Brazil’s FAB confirms that revised bids are in from all 3 short-listed contenders, and Saab’s offer clearly has significant support from the Swedish government.

Gripen International’s revised bid offers a wide range of elements, including: Full involvement in the Gripen NG development program; Complete technology transfer and national autonomy through joint development; Independence in choice of weapons and systems integration; Production in Brazil of up to 80% Gripen NG airframes, via a full Gripen NG assembly line; and Full maintenance capability in Brazil for the Gripen NG’s F414 engine. That last offer would largely remove the threat of future American interference, and it would be interesting to see how Gripen International proposes to achieve it. Gripen International touts “significantly lower acquisition, support and operating costs” for its plane, and all this would be backed by a firm proposal for full long-term financing from the government’s Swedish Export Credit Corporation.

The additional offers are equally significant. Brazil will have the sales lead for Gripen NG in Latin America, with joint opportunities elsewhere. Saab would join the KC-390 program as a development and marketing partner, and Sweden will evaluate the KC-390 for its long term tactical air transport needs, as a future replacement for its recently-upgraded but aging C-130 Hercules aircraft. Saab also proposes to replace Sweden’s aged fleet of about 42 SK60/ Saab 105 jet trainers with Embraer’s Super Tucano, but it received a SEK 130 million ($18.8 million) deal in September 2009 to upgrade the planes’ cockpit systems, and current Swedish plans would see the SK60s continue in service until mid-2017. FAB release [in Portuguese] | Gripen International release.

Sept 29/09: Brazil. Embraer release:

“Regarding the article published in the Valor Econômico newspaper, dated September 28, 2009, Embraer clarifies that it is not directly participating in the selection process of the new F-X2 fighter for the Brazilian Air Force and, contrary to what was stated, it has no preference among the proposals presented. Embraer reaffirms its unconditional support of this process, always in close alignment with Brazil’s Aeronautics Command and the Ministry of Defense.”

Sept 28/09: Brazil. Brazil’s leading aerospace firm Embraer drops a political bombshell. Embraer’s Deputy Chief Executive for the defense market, Orlando Jose Ferreira Neto, tells Valor Economico that the firm was asked to advise the Air Force re: industrial proposals, and concluded that participating in the JAS-39NG Gripen’s development offers Brazil’s aerospace industry the best long-term benefits. Embraer reportedly saw the JAS-39NG as offering the opportunity to participate in the design process, rather than just producing parts.

The opinion is a shock, as France’s interest in buying Embraer’s KC-390 transports was expected to leave Brazil’s top aerospace firm solidly on-side for the Rafale bid. T-1 Holdings executives (see Sept 17/09 entry) were also quoted in the article. In response, Defence Minister Jobim fires back to say that the government will make these decisions, not Embraer. Dow Jones | Defense Aerospace translations (note: links will not last) | Valor Online, via Noticias Militares [in Portuguese] | Defesa Brazil [in Portuguese] | O Globo [in Portuguese].

Sept 17/09: Brazil. Saab announces that over 20 engineers from the Brazilian firms Akaer, Friuli, Imbra Aerospace, Minoica, and Winnstal are already working on the Gripen NG project in Linkoping, Sweden, with the Swedish government’s authorization. The 5 firms will participate as the T1 holding, and would be responsible for projecting and manufacturing the JAS-39BR’s central and rear fuselages and wings. If all goes well, Akaer predicts that as of 2010 a team of at least 150 engineers and technicians from the T1 holding will start working in Brazil, alongside 20 Swedish specialists.

Beyond Gripen production, the holding’s goal is to form a new Brazilian aeronautical center in Brazil, and some technology transfer in the area of composite materials is reportedly underway already. Shaping the wing of a supersonic craft requires higher quality levels than civil applications, as well as manufacturing challenges owing to thicker and more resistant parts. Management and integration training within a holding structure of this type will also be required.

Sept 7/09: Brazil. Brazil’s Ministerio Da Defesa announces that Dassault Aviation is now the F-X2 competition’s preferred bidder, and the country will order 36 Rafales subject to further negotiations. The announcement also says that Brazil has secured French cooperation to develop Embraer’s KC-390 medium transport, and possibly buy 10-12 of the aircraft when they’re introduced.

This sale would be France’s 1st export order for its Rafale fighter, after numerous attempts spanning more than a decade. The twist in this story is that the air force has yet to request final bids, or deliver its evaluation and recommendations.

Sept 7/09: Dutch deal described. The Dutch TV show KRO reporter does an expose, which claims that the Ministerie Van Defensie (MvD) has knowingly misled Parliament regarding its F-35 procurement plans. The report says that the Dutch Defence Materiel Organization head had told the MvD in 2005 that its plans for 85 F-35s was not sustainable at expected budget levels. But the MvD continued to use that number when describing its planned budget and plans to Parliament, and even signed off on that number in the 2006 production phase agreement.

The MvD responds that it still intends to buy 85 aircraft, and that a budget increase to EUR 6.1 billion will take care of the gap. Which is true – if the pricing for the F-35As can be relied on. In contrast, KRO reveals that Gripen International has submitted a firm fixed-price bid for 85 in-service JAS-39NLs at EUR 4.7 – 4.8 billion. KRO reporter video [Flash] | Defense Aerospace KRO partial translation | MvD response [in Dutch].

June 16/09: South Africa. Swedish Chief Prosecutor Christer van der Kwast decides to close the preliminary investigation concerning alleged bribes in connection with the sale of Gripen fighters to South Africa. Saab SVP for Communications and Public Affairs Cecilia Schon Jansson, is unequivocal:

“No illegal methods have been forthcoming from Saab, and this is strengthened by the fact that the Chief Prosecutor now decided to close the investigation.”

See: Chief Prosecuror’s statement [in Swedish] | Saab Group release.

March 24/09: ES-05 Raven AESA. Saab and SELEX Galileo sign an agreement to develop an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the JAS-39NG. This is both a major milestone event and a contract, so it’s covered in full the “contracts” section, below.

March 10/09: RBE-2 Dassault double-cross. Aviation Week’s “AESA Radars Are A Highlight of Aero-India” points to problems with the JAS-39’s AESA radar, which stems from Dassault’s acquisition of a large shareholding in Thales. Rather than produce an RBE2 AESA radar that’s available on 2 platforms, Dassault appears to be excluding other options. The hope appears to be that this will lead to more orders for Dassault’s Rafale, rather than just shrinking Thales’ installed base for AESA fighter radars. Aviation Week:

“In 2007, Saab struck a deal with Thales to provide an AESA antenna for the Gripen Demo program, to be mated with the signal processor from the JAS 39C’s Saab PS-05 MSA radar… Thales will honor the Gripen Demo contract but its AESA will not be available for a production NG.

Sweden has talked about [Raytheon’s] RACR, but would prefer the PS-05/A’s “back end” modules for ease of integration and to stay away from control issues associated with U.S. components. The answer may lie with Selex, which, first as Ferranti, then as GEC-Marconi and subsequently as BAE Systems, was Sweden’s partner on the original PS-05/A.”

Selex was also Saab’s partner in the M-AESA R&D project. Selex Galileo’s Italian division has considerable experience with the Grifo family of mechanically scanned radars, while Selex S&AS UK division has already created the Vixen AESA radar for smaller fighters. Korea’s F/A-50 was recently barred from using the Vixen 500E, under an agreement with co-developer Lockheed Martin that did not allow the F/A-50’s capabilities to surpass the ROKAF’s F-16s.

Feb 2/09: Brazil. Gripen International confirms a Brazilian F-X2 bid involving 36 JAS-39NG aircraft. Their release adds that Brazil will have “direct involvement in the development, production and maintenance of the platform but it will also generate transfer of key technology including access to Gripen source codes.”

Boeing confirms that it has submitted a bid involving 36 F/A-18 Super Hornet Block IIs, with the APG-79 AESA radar. It is presumed that Dassault also submitted a 36-plane bid for its Rafale fighter. Boeing release | Gripen International release.

Jan 21/09: “Supercruise.” A JAS-39NG “supercruises” over the Baltic Sea, flying at 28,000 feet above Mach 1.2, without using afterburners, until the pilot ran out of test area and had to head back to the Saab Test Flight Centre in Linkoping. Saab Group release.

Very few aircraft can supercruise at all, and the fuel penalty means that most fighters’ time above Mach 1 during their entire service lives is measures in minutes, not hours. Supercruise cannot be operationally useful, however, unless it can be maintained with weapons mounted. The extra weight and drag created by externally-mounted weapons can make this a real challenge, which is why supercruise reports beyond America’s F-22A have been in “clean” configuration, with no weapons carried. Unless details are given to the contrary, the working assumption is that this was a “clean” configuration flight.


Gripen Demo rollout; Norway loss. JAS-39D, Swiss arrival
(click to view full)

Dec 18/08: Dutch study. Tier 2 Joint Strike Fighter partner The Netherlands issues a comparative study of the F-16 Block 60+, JAS-39MG Gripen, and F-35A, which has been compiled in cooperation with several organization, and audited by 2 ministries and RAND Europe. It recommends the F-35 as the best combat aircraft. Surprisingly, it also concludes that the F-35 also has the lowest capital costs, and the lowest anticipated life-cycle costs. The issue will now go before Parliament.

Read “Dutch MvD Report Urges F-35 over Gripen NG, F-16E Fighters” for full details and updates.

Nov 20/08: Loss in Norway. The first domino falls. Norway chooses the F-35 over the JAS-39, though the way they chose to make that decision and announce it has created controversies, and had a negative effect on relations with Sweden. The decision itself is now controversial as well, after Sabb’s CEO took the very unusual step of holding a public presentation full of very specific criticisms regarding the accuracy and fairness of Norway’s process.

Nov 6/08: Jane’s publishes “Analysis: Why 2009 could be the year of the Gripen.” It calls attention to the ongoing competitions in Brazil (36+), Croatia (12), Denmark (48), India (126+), the Netherlands (85), Norway (44), Romania (around 40) and Switzerland (36) make final selections, and estimates total sales of up to 523 aircraft worth around $35-40 billion at stake:

“It will be a truly crucial period in shaping the future of the global fighter market. The common link between these eight contests is the presence of the Saab Gripen in the bidding process… Jane’s believes the Gripen team has reasons for optimism, however. First of all, in terms of the aircraft’s capability, Saab is offering its enhanced Gripen NG (Next Generation) variant for the Brazilian, Danish, Dutch, Indian and Norwegian requirements… According to Saab, further enhancements will be rolled out in three-year increments… Development and incorporation of specific customer-funded requirements is also envisaged as part of a 50-year programme plan… the Gripen NG programme would be accelerated in the event of a contract win and the aircraft would be available to enter service from 2014.

With regard to cost, the Gripen NG is viewed by Jane’s as competitive in terms of both acquisition and through-life support costs when compared to its rivals. Bob Kemp, sales and marketing director for Gripen International, citing figures produced for the Dutch fighter contest, said Saab believes that the Gripen NG, as part of an 85-aircraft fleet, would cost EUR6 billion (USD7.6 billion) less than the F-35 in terms of life-cycle costs over a 30-year period…”

Aug 25/08: Netherlands. Gripen International delivers its formal response to The Netherlands’ F-16 replacement program, which has been re-opened due to ongoing political controversies concerning the F-35’s eventual costs.

Eurofighter GmbH and Dassault refused to participate in this exercise, citing unrealistic time limits and perceived favoritism, and Saab’s request for an extension was denied. Saab reportedly replied to 85% of the 250 questions that had to be answered by 25 August; some questions with respect to integration with American products were reportedly not answered, as American firms must receive clearance from the US government in order to even discuss that information with Saab.

The F-35A is still heavily favored, but Saab’s offer is an all inclusive package comprising 85 next-generation “JAS-39NL” Gripen NG aircraft, plus a complete package of training, spares, simulators and support, and industrial co-operation to at least 100% of the total value of a possible contract. Other interesting elements include an option for final assembly in the Netherlands, and a ‘Repairables Exchange Service’ designed to lower costs and reduce their customers’ need for initial inventories of spare parts. Gripen International release | Gripen International Presentation [PDF, 3.2MB] | Gripen International Offer Summary [PDF, 3.2MB].

July 2/08: Switzerland. Gripen International delivers its initial bid to the Swiss government, and announces conditional industrial partnerships. See DID coverage.

April 28/08: Gripen International delivers its MMRCA bid to India’s Ministry of Defence. The JAS-39IN is based on the Gripen NG/ Gripen Demo, and includes an AESA radar and an IRST (InfraRed Scan and Track) system, a Transfer of Technology (ToT) program, a life-time logistics support solution sourced from Indian suppliers with support from Saab and its partners, and full industrial offset cooperation. Gripen International release | Saab release.

Eddy de la Motte, Gripen International’s India Campaign Director:

“Gripen IN will provide India with a capability that offers complete independence of weapon supply… We will do this by transferring all necessary technologies to enable Indian industry and the Air Force to build, operate and modify Gripen to meet all indigenous requirements over time.”

April 28/08: Norway. Gripen International delivers its bid to the Norwegian government. Dagbladet reported, and Gripen’s release confirmed, that Norway added a new wrinkle – a guarantee from Sweden that it would not be the only operator of this fighter type. That guarantee may have consequences for the size of Sweden’s Gripen force.

Gripen Demo
c. Gripen International
(click to view full)

April 23/08: Gripen Demo Rollout. A 2-seat version of the next-generation Gripen Demonstrator aircraft is ‘rolled out’ to the media and public at a ceremony in Linkoping, Sweden.

Photos show it equipped with illustrative mock-ups of IRIS-T short range air-air missiles, Meteor long-range air-air missiles, and Paveway precision-guided bombs. Gripen International release | Saab release | Saab: Videos from the ceremony | Gripen: Saab CEO interview & rollout videos

March 27/08: Croatia. Sweden’s FMV procurement agency announces that it has answered a Request For Information from Croatia, involving a potential lease to buy deal for 12 Saab-made Gripen fighter jets. No prices are quoted at this stage, but Reuters reports that the jets would be former Swedish Air Force planes. Other candidates for Croatia’s air force reportedly include the EADS Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, and Russia’s MiG-29.

Sweden’s FMV adds that : “This invitation from the Croatian authorities follows the recent receipt of similar invitations from Norway, India, Denmark, Switzerland, Romania and Bulgaria…” Reuters report | Reuters Sidebar: “FACTBOX-Balkan candidates offer NATO leaner military muscle

March 3/08: India. With Gripen competing in India’s MMRCA contest, Saab hosts Indian TV journalist Vishnu Som from New Delhi Television for an episode of his new show, “The Jet Set.” See the full episode: Saab release | Full episode [Windows Media]

Jan 17/08: Switzerland. The JAS-39 Gripen is one of 4 aircraft solicited in a competition to replace 3 of Switzerland’s 5 aging F-5 E/F squadrons. Other competitors are Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, and EADS’ Eurofighter. See “Switzerland Replacing its F-5s” for more.

Jan 17/08: Norway. Gripen International announces that it has been formally invited to bid on the Norwegian F-16 replacement fighter contract. It will compete one-on-one with the F-35A lightning II.


F414 for Gripen Demo; Brazil’s back; Link-16 added; Spring Flag 2007. Gripen w. “smokewinders”
c. Gripen International
(click to view full)

Dec 21/07: Norway, Netherlands. EADS pulls its Eurofighter out of the Norwegian and Danish competitions, leaving both future fighter programs as a straight-up competition between the JAS-39 and the F-35. The rationales given are vague and make little sense, but many sources believe their key objection is official favoritism toward the F-35. The government-to-government nature of the F-35 deal, it seems, wouldn’t require the same industrial offsets, though the F-35 program has pledged significant production contracts with Denmark’s Terma and with Norwegian firms.

The Motley Fool, on the other hand, wonders if the same dollar devaluation that’s hammering EADS in the passenger jet market is also creating a price chasm for the Eurofighter. At $100-120 million per aircraft vs. $50-70 million for its Gripen and Lightning II competitors, it was already a significantly more expensive aircraft before dollar devaluation. Bloomberg | Financial Times | Flight International | Motley Fool.

Dec 13/07: Hungary. Hungary receives its last 3 Gripen fighters from its 14-aircraft lease/buy deal signed with the supplier and Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration (FMV). Its fleet now consists of 12 JAS-39Cs and 2 JAS-39Ds. A Dec 10/07 announcement by Kaj Rosander of Gripen International added that “We have fulfilled our total export [read: industrial offsets] obligations to the Hungarian Ministry of Economy and Transport.” Flight International

Dec 5/07: Denmark. Gripen International release: “In connection with a Gripen deal with Denmark, Saab is planning extensive co-operation with Danish industry. Saab has signed a large number of agreements for over 100 percent of the contractual value.”

Denmark’s F-16 replacement order will cover up to 48 planes, and Saab Group’s DKK 10 billion ($1.9 billion) co-operation agreement with dominant Danish defence company Terma in the areas of aviation, space, defense and civil security includes non-military contracts. Saab’s automotive enterprise remains a significant asset when competitions turn on industrial offsets, and is a much wider focus than Terma’s F-35 related contracts; then again, it has to be, since far fewer Gripens are likely to be produced. The Saab-Terma agreement is spread over 10-15 years, and parts of it are dependent on Denmark selecting the Gripen NG for its air force. See full Gripen release.

Nov 29/07: Denmark. The Gripen team submitted their formal proposal to Denmark in December 2005, in response to that country’s RFI(Request for Information), but supplementary information was also requested. The Gripen team’s response is formally handed-over, on time. Gripen International release.

Nov 8/07: IRIS-T. A JAS-39 Gripen fires an IRIS-T short range air-air missile with an operational target seeker for the first time. It was a high g-load test firing using a fully operational missile without a warhead, and was successful at hitting the target over the Vidsel range in northern Sweden. The IRIS-T is a multinational (Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden) 4th-5th generation SRAAM that is currently under development for several air forces. Gripen International’s Jan 16/08 release adds that:

“The missile is being developed to combat targets at short range and is also designed to strike targets behind the firing aircraft. IRIS-T will enter service alongside the Cobra HMD (Helmet Mounted Display) System…”

Nov 5/07: Brazil re-launch. Brazil’s F-X competition appears to be on again, with a $2.2 billion budget for 36 front line fighters. A 50% boost to defense spending in the FY 2008 budget accompanies the announcement. Looks like Brazil may be serious this time, and the Gripen is tagged as one of the contenders.

Oct 2/07: Gripen International announces that a 10-ship flight of Swedish Air Force F21 Wing’s JAS-39C/D Gripens were hosted by the USAF 493rd Fighter Squadron “Grim Reapers” at Lakenheath, England for joint exercises. Electronic warfare systems were the focus of the exercise, the pilots performed Close Air Support missions and executed air-to-ground attacks against targets defended by simulated surface-to-air missile systems during the week-long exercise. They also flew air combat missions against the Grim Reapers’ F-15C Eagles; unfortunately, no results were given.

Sept 28/07: South Africa. As is often the case, South Africa’s Gripen purchase involved industrial offsets. Given the nature of South Africa, those offsets involved special quotas for small and medium “black empowered enterprise” engineering firms. Saab discusses those efforts, with a focus on a 2006 R11 million ($2 million) contract between Saab and Aerosud under which local engineering firms secured sub-contracts for the supply of ground support equipment.

South Africa’s Aerosud is responsible for the program, including managing and mentoring a select group of BEE companies which manufacture the various items, raising their quality standards so that they could become qualified suppliers to the aerospace industry. Items supplied include electrical test equipment, overhaul platforms and test rigs to tailored engine inlet covers, engine trolleys and cockpit access ladders. Companies supplying these items include Cape Town’s Quad Engineering, ContactServe of Olifantsfontein, and the Tshwane-based companies Vacuform and Hartell. Gripen International feature.

Sept 12/07: Denmark. Danish Minister of Defence Soren Gade and the Swedish Minister of Defence Sten Tolgfors signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding Gripen at Saab in Linkoping, Sweden. Denmark is planning to replace its aging F-16 fleet of 48 aircraft within the next 10 – 15 years, and are conducting a comprehensive evaluation of different aircraft types. The MoU guarantees that all relevant Swedish information which is needed for the Danish evaluation of the Gripen fighter will be available; in practical terms, the JAS-39DK is now an official member of the fighter competition. Saab release. A Gripen International release adds that the Danish Air Force Chief, Major General Stig Ostergaard Nielsen flew in a JAS-39D during his August 2007 visit to Sweden.

July 2/07: F414 picked. Saab announces that GE Aviation’s new F414G fighter engine will power its next-generation Gripen models. The F414G is derived from the popular 22,000+ pound/ 96 kN thrust F414-GE-400s that power the twin-engine F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and offers a 25-35% power boost over its predecessor the F404. Key F414G alterations will include minor changes to the alternator for added aircraft power, and modified Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) software for enhanced single-engine operation.

GE Aviation and Volvo Aero Corporation will be working together on the new F414G fighter engine. Although Volvo Aero has manufactured modified F404 engines under license for past Gripen fighters, GE will be supplying GE F414G engines directly to Saab for the Gripen Demo project, with Volvo as a major sub-contractor. GE is currently delivering 2 F414 Engines, with flight-tests and customer demonstration evaluations planned for 2008-2010. Gripen International.

July 2/07: Gripen International continues to tout its aircraft for India’s MRCA fighter competition. India Defence reports that the firm has gone one step farther than the July 2006 promise to have all airframe production take place in India. The firm stresses that the aircraft would be next-generation “Gripen Demo” aircraft, and adds that they were “willing to provide all the know-how for India to carry out modifications according to its needs.” This is a very high level of technology transfer, and resembles the benchmark adopted by the partner nations in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter consortium.

India’s government finally issued the formal RFP for the MMRCA competition on Aug 28/07.

June 11/07: Link-16 added. Saab announces that Link 16/ MIDS compatibility will become an option on the JAS-39, replacing or complementing the existing Swedish datalink. Full Link 16 certification is planned for 2008. The Link-16 program is part of the SEK 1 billion ($139 million) Version 19 systems upgrade – see July 3/06 entry in the contracts section, below. Finally, this tidbit was interesting:

“By the late 1950s Sweden’s military thinkers and aircraft builders had recognized the game-changing effect that a linked flow of secure electronic combat data could have on tactics and operations. It is well known now – but was once a highly-classified national secret – that Saab’s J 35 Draken was fielded with one of the world’s first operational datalink systems. Since then, every generation of Saab combat aircraft from Draken to Viggen to Gripen has fielded more and more powerful datalink capabilities.”

May 2007: Spring Flag 2007. In September 2007, Hungarian pilots described their experiences at Exercise Spring Flag 2007, held in May at Italy’s Decimomannu air base in Sardinia. It included combat assets from France (E-3 AWACS), Germany (F-4F Phantom ICE), Italy (AV-8B Harrier, F-16C, Tornado ECR and Eurofighter Typhoon), NATO (E-3), Turkey (F-16C), and Hungary (JAS-39C/D Gripen) with tanker support from Italy, the UK and the US. The Gripens were the only participating aircraft with a 100% sortie rate, and generated some interesting comments from Hungarian Air Force Colonel Nandor Kilian re: the Gripen’s radar capabilities and low visual cross-section (see above, or follow the link).

If you’re curious about the view from inside these kinds of exercises, DID recommends former USAF Air Weapons Controller John S. Green’s “Command and Control” recounting of a 1980s exercise involving American F-15s in Germany.

Feb 8/07: Norway.F-35 Lightning II Faces Continued Dogfights in Norway.” Endre Lunde chronicles developments in Norway, including endorsement of the Gripen by one of the governing coalition’s political parties.

2006 and earlier

Saab buys Ericsson Microwave; Saab layoffs; Red Flag EW; Terma MoU in Denmark; Terma MRP reco pod. JAS-39 landing
c. Gripen International
(click to view full)

Nov 16/06: Red Flag Alaska – Gripen EW rules! Saab’s release discusses Gripen’s performance at Red Flag Alaska. During the 11-day exercise, the 4 aircraft each flew 2 sorties per day, accumulating 340 flight hours (150 ‘on mission’) with a staff of 12 pilots and 35 maintenance technicians.

In the tactical realm, note the release’s confirmation that the JAS-39 has the ability to drop Laser Guided Bombs carried on one Gripen aircraft, using laser designator pods fitted to another Gripen aircraft. The aircraft’s warning and electronic warfare systems (EWS) also got high ratings: Lt. Col. Lindberg said that:

“…it was almost impossible for the Red air force to get through our EW systems. We always knew where the air defense was, could avoid them and still do our work, even in very dynamic situations, with the threat getting more complex each day.”

Nov 16/06: IRIS-T. Saab announces successful tests with the IRIS-T short-range air-air missile, in order to verify Gripen compatibility. IRIS-T is in production, and is a multinational project that includes Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Spain. It was developed following German experience with the Russian R-73/AA-11 Archer on East German MiG-29s, which caused them to rethink the entire design philosophy behind ASRAAM and pull out of the multinational project.

Nov 3/06: Terma MoU. Saab and Danish defence and aerospace company Terma announce a Memorandum of Understanding for a longer-term business relationship. As a first concrete step, Terma and Saab signed a Contract for production of DKK 10 million (about $1.7 million) worth of Gripen parts, to begin immediately at Terma’s facilities in Grenaa, Denmark. Gripen International

Nov 1/06: Denmark. Danish Aerotech A/S and Saab AB conclude a conditional cooperation agreement worth up to DKK 200 million (about $34.3 million). If Denmark decides to purchase the Gripen fighter as a replacement for its current F-16 fighters, Danish Aerotech is expecting to supply Saab with mechanical, electrical and electronic components as part of the new cooperation agreement. Since its establishment in 1992, Danish Aerotech has been a Saab partner responsible for all maintenance on Danish Saab T-17 training aircraft. Gripen International.

Aug 23/06: Bulgaria RFI. Gripen International announces its response to Bulgaria’s May 2006 RFI: 16 JAS-39 Gripen C/D aircraft (12 single and 4 two-seater) with full support and training provided in cooperation with the Swedish Armed Forces. Several financing options were outlined, and Saab/GI’s usual 100% offset promise was included. The first aircraft could be delivered within two years.

July 19/06: India. Saab pledges to conduct all production in India if it wins the MRCA fighter competition, and cites its record of successfully meeting industrial offset provisions.

June 26/06: Red Flag, ho. Flight International reports that 7 Swedish Air Force Gripens (5 JAS-39Cs and 2 two-seater JAS-39Ds), Two Tp84s (C-130H), and 12 pilots will be headed to Eilson AFB, Alaska under Lt. Col. Ken Lindberg for the latest Red Flag Alaska exercise. As a traditionally neutral country, Sweden has not participated in such exercises before. The Gripens will be deployed with LITENING III targeting pods, and will participate in both air-air and air-ground missions (4-6 aircraft each day, 2 missions per day), including leading mixed air groups from participating nations. They will take off from Ronneby AFB, Sweden on July 13, fly mostly overland without air-air refueling, and arrive on July 17, 2006. This Red Flag Alaska will run from July 24 – August 4, 2006, and is expected to involve 47 fighters and 6 support aircraft from participating countries. See Flight International article for more on the Gripen deployment, and a US Air Force Link article has more background re: the Red Flag Alaska exercises.

June 20/06: Meteor. The JAS-39 Gripen successfully completes its first test set of MBDA Meteor missile firings. Further flight test campaigns will be performed with the Meteor on the Gripen combat aircraft during 2006 and beyond.

June 12/06: Saab buys Ericsson Microwave. Saab Group acquires Ericsson Microwave Systems, who make the Gripen’s current PS05 radar – and probably its future AESA radar as well. EMS also makes the Erieye AESA radar that serves on Saab’s S-1000 and Embraer’s EMB-145 airborne early warning aircraft. See DID coverage.

JAS-39N concept
(c) Gripen International
(click to view full)

May 15-16/06: Denmark, Norway. Gripen International announces the tabling of offers to Denmark and Norway for JAS-39 Gripens to replace those nations’ aging F-16 fleets. The aircraft would have “longer range and greater payload” than existing JAS-39 C/D Gripens, but other than that no details of the offers themselves are released.

For slightly more background, see also their Dec 9/05 release “Gripen for Denmark – Tailor-made to suit Danish needs!

April 25/06: Swedish cuts? The Swedish Armed Forces submit their 2007 budget proposal, which includes a plan for the reduction of Sweden’s Gripen force to just 100 aircraft. The remainder of the force will either be sold on the international market to approved buyers, or scrapped.

March 24/06: eDefense Online publishes “Gripens in Hungary Spark EW Revival.” The archive no longer exists, but an excerpt follows:

“The original decision to lease 14 Gripens from Sweden was made in September 2001 by the country’s previous conservative government. Although many, mostly economic reasons were given for this surprise move against the US offer of Lockheed Martin (Ft. Worth, TX) F-16s, insiders in Hungary say that as a kind of “side effect,” the HDF will have access to a more comprehensive electronic-warfare (EW) system that offers a more “independent” EW capability. While providing “indigenous” EW planning for the customer was included in the original December 2001 contract calling for the leasing of air-to-air-combat-oriented JAS 39A/B aircraft, when the current post-communist government altered the deal in March 2003, more capable hardware was ordered as well. The revised contract includes the lease-to-own of the unique JAS 39 EBS (Export Baseline Standard) HU (Hungary) version, which has a significantly improved EW system compared with its predecessor.”

Dec 13/05: Meteor. Gripen is the first aircraft to flight-validate system integration with MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-air missile. Gripen International.

June 8/05: Layoffs. Saab announced that it will lay off 350 workers in four business units, owing to a reduction of work for the JAS-39 Gripen. The 350 lay-offs involve workers at Saab Aerostructures, Saab Aerosystems, Saab Aircraft and Saab Support. Saab had already laid off 1,000 people in 2003 and 2004; and including this latest move, notice had now been given to 760 people in 2005. The company warns that it expects to lay off a further 1,000 – 1,500 people in 2005 and 2006.

March 29/05: Terma MRP. Flight tests validate Terma’s new Modular Reconnaissance Pod (q.v. contract, Jan 7/02). Flight tests and evaluation will be ongoing at Saab in Linkoping for approximately a year, and introduction into Swedish service to replace the AJSF-37 Viggens will be in 2006. Saab Group’s release quotes Richard Ljungberg, Saab test pilot and former Swedish Air Force recce pilot:

“Excellent handling qualities, the digital flight control system took care of everything; it just feels like flying a clean aircraft… We even tested camera functions in the pod together with maneuverability of the aircraft during the first flight.”

JAS-39 Gripen: Contracts & Awards 2014

Czechs extend lease to 2027; ETPS multi-year support to 2018 and new fighter; JAS-39F development MoU. Gripen for FAB
(click to view full)

Oct 27/14: Sweden. Sweden’s 2015 budget will need to make some changes, in the wake of the Swiss fighter referendum defeat:

“In order to ensure the development and acquisition of the new JAS Gripen 39 E, we will take the responsibility for the completion of its upgrade and production. As a consequence of the incomplete JAS-deal with Switzerland, the allocation to defence equipment will be given an additional SEK 2 billion in 2014. This initiative will be funded in part by reducing the appropriation for international operations by SEK 500 million. The allocation for defence equipment will also receive a further SEK 900 million in 2015. The JAS-project will thereby receive a total of SEK 2.9 billion over the next two years. This is crucial in order to ensure that the lost revenues in the JAS-project do not have a negative impact on other planned equipment acquisitions.”

SEK 2.9 billion is about $404 million at current exchange rates. Sources: Swedish MoD, “Budget reinforcement to the Swedish Armed Forces’ regimental- and air surveillance capabilities”.

Oct 24/14: Brazil. Saab signs a SEK 39.3 billion / BRL 13.363 billion / $5.475 billion contract with Brazil’s COMAER for 28 JAS-39E and 8 JAS-39F fighters, alongside provisions for training, initial spares, and a 10-year Industrial Co-operation contract to transfer technologies to Brazilian industry. Embraer will have a leading role as Saab’s strategic partner, with a JAS-39F co-development role and full responsibility for production.

This contract winds up having wider implications as well, by securing Sweden’s order for 60 JAS-39Es. As signed, it required at least 1 other customer, which was going to be Switzerland until a weak effort from that government destroyed the deal in a referendum. Brazil has now become that additional customer, and Saab expects that this commitment will keep the JAS-39 in service to 2050.

What’s left? Brazil’s FAB confirms that the interim lease agreement for 10-12 JAS-39C/Ds will be a separate deal with the Swedish government. Meanwhile, the JAS-39NG contracts still require certain conditions before they become final, such as required export control-related authorizations from the USA et. al. All of these conditions are expected to be fulfilled during the first half of 2015, with deliveries to take place from 2019 – 2024. Sources: Saab, “Saab and Brazil sign contract for Gripen NG” | Brazil FAB, “Brasil assina contrato para aquisicao de 36 cacas Gripen NG”.

Brazil: 36 Gripen NG

July 12/14: ETPS. Saab signs a new agreement with QinetiQ’s Empire Test Pilots’ School from 2015 – 2018, continuing an association that has been in place since 1999. ETPS will continue to use the JAS-39D fighter they switched to earlier in 2014, after a long period using a JAS-39B for the most advanced portions of the curriculum. Hakan Buskhe, Saab’s President and CEO:

“Since 1999 Gripen has trained more than 70 test pilots and provided more than 800 hours for the ETPS. Saab has a record of 100 per cent on-time delivery with a jet that is totally reliable. The relationship between Saab and the ETPS is something really unique.”

ETPS buys Gripen flight hours from Saab, plus all required support, instead of owning the planes. Operations are conducted at Saab’s Flight Test Department in Linkoping, Sweden, with ETPS instructor pilots flying under Saab supervision. Saab provides supervisory pilots, the Gripen aircraft, logistics, ground support and facilities. Saab 105 jet trainer aircraft are also provided, to act as radar targets for training. Campaigns typically last for 1 week in May and 4-5 weeks in August and September. Sources: QinetiQ/ UK MoD LTPA, ETPS | ETPS, “The Saab Gripen” | Saab, “Saab and ETPS sign new multi-year agreement for continued Gripen training”.

Empire Test Pilot School

July 11/14: JAS-39F Brazil MoU. There’s no agreement yet for the Gripen lease, but Saab and Embraer have signed the expected Memorandum of Understanding around JAS-39E/F production.

Embraer will be the Brazilian industrial lead, performing its own assigned work while managing all local sub-contractors in the program. They’ll also work with Saab on systems development, integration, flight tests, final assembly and deliveries, with full joint responsibility for the 2-seat JAS-39F Gripen NG. Sources: Embraer and Saab, “Embraer to partner with Saab in joint programme management for Brazil´s F-X2 Project”.

March 3/14: Brazil. Brazil and Saab sign advance agreements on defense cooperation, which lay the foundation for the future Gripen contract. This includes a defense cooperation framework agreement, whose scope is already wider than just fighters, and a corollary agreement that commits to appropriate levels of secrecy and security procedures within that cooperation framework. The new agreements build on documents signed in 1997 and 2000, and both will be forwarded to Brazil’s National Congress for approval.

The industrial goal is to be able to produce 80% of the plane in Brazil, which has future implications given that final Brazilian orders over time are estimated at 60 – 104 fighters. Equally significant, the accompanying security agreements include access to the Gripen’s source code. That will allow Brazil to add its own weapons to the new fighters, increasing the global attractiveness of both Saab’s Gripens and of Brazil’s weapons. A current wave of Latin American upgrades could create timing issues for wider regional sales, but export partnership arrangements are under discussion. They currently revolve around Latin America, and developing nations with close Brazilian ties (“das nacoes em desenvolvimento com as quais o Brasil possui estreita relacao bilateral”). Sources: Brazil FAB, “Brasil assina acordos de cooperacao e da prosseguimento a compra dos cacas suecos” | See also Defense News, “Fleet Modernization Drives Requirements Across South America”.

Brazil: Defense cooperation agreements

March 12/14: Czech Republic. The Czech cabinet approves a 12-year the extension of their Gripen fleet lease, with a 2-year option to 2029. Annual outlay will be CZK 1.7 billion, for a total of CZK 20.4 billion over the base period ($1.033 billion). That’s reportedly about a 31% drop. The official contract signing is expected later, but this decision was the key event.

The deal includes the jets, training for 25 pilots and 90 maintenance technicians, depth logistics support, and upgrades to add Link-16 and night vision optics. Sources: Swedish FXM, “Czech Republic approves new Gripen agreement” | Ceske Noviny, “Czech govt approves extension of Swedish Gripen fighters lease” | Sweden’s The Local, “Czech renew lease on Jas Gripen jets”.

New Czech lease

March 4/14: Sub-contractors. Switzerland’s RUAG receives a CHF 68 million ($41.1 million) contract from Saab to develop and produce payload mountings for the JAS-39E’s hardpoints. The order reportedly includes 4 work packages, with CHF 15.5 million ($9.4 million) committed immediately for design, system development, and prototypes for 3 JAS-39E test planes. RUAG is already soliciting sub-contractors within Switzerland.

An option for series production would make up the rest, but Saab can award it elsewhere if the Swiss referendum fails. As appears likely. Sources: RUAG, “RUAG wins contract for SAAB Gripen E payload mountings” | UPI, “RUAG making payload mountings for Gripen fighters” (their currency conversion is wrong) | Saab’s Gripen Blog, “Swiss Technology Group RUAG Collaborates With Saab”.

Jan 30/14: Support. Saab announces a SEK 174 million (about $27 million) Swedish option to support and maintain Gripen fleets throughout 2014, placed under the June 29/12 multi-year contract. The contract still covers JAS-39 fleets in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Thailand. South Africa has its own independent support contract, after a long period of bungles and a near-crisis for its fleet (q.v. Dec 19/13).

Work will take place at Saab’s facilities in Linkoping, Arboga, Jarfalla, Gothenburg… and Ostersund, which wasn’t mentioned in the 2012 contract. Saab’s June 2012 announcement placed the contract’s maximum option value at SEK 2 billion (about $283.6 million), but this release has revised that to SEK 1.36 billion (about $208 million), with SEK 795 million allocated so far. Sources: Saab, “FMV places order for Gripen support and maintenance”.

2012 – 2013

Sweden & Switzerland agree in principle to buy 82 JAS-39Es, followed by a framework contract and the development contract; Sweden issues 60-plane conversion contract; Hungary extends lease to 2026; South Africa gets a real support contract. JAS-39D & Swiss F/A-18
(click to view full)

Dec 19/13: South Africa. South Africa has been relying on short-term interim support contracts that expired in April and endangered the fleet, but a SEK 180 million ($27.5 million) contract with Armscor creates a longer-term arrangement from 2013 – 2016 that should improve costs and predictability.

The contract includes typical support services like engineering support, MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul), and spares replenishment, as well as technical publications amendments to keep them current with SAAF changes. Read “South Africa’s Sad Military: Why Maintenance Matters” for full coverage.

South African support

Dec 18/13: Sweden. Saab receives its Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) contract to convert 60 JAS-39Cs to JAS-39 Gripen Es. The SEK 16.4 billion (about $2.498 million) contract covers the next decade of work from 2013 – 2023, with initial deliveries scheduled in 2018.

The contract is announced the same day that Brazil picks Gripen NG for an initial $4.5 billion buy of 36 planes. That may be simple coincidence, but the Feb 15/13 umbrella contract did have provisions that would allow Sweden to end the conversion contract if the Swiss referendum rejects a fighter buy, and no other customers had committed. While the final contract with Brazil isn’t expected until December 2014, their selection puts that doomsday scenario to rest.

This contract was expected in the fall, and is larger than the math in the initial contract had suggested (SEK 12.962 billion, q.v. Feb 15/13). It follows SEK 13.2 billion in final development contracts (q.v. Feb 15/13, March 22/13), and represents Gripen NG’s 1st production order.

Swedish Gripen E conversion contract

Dec 18/13: Meteor. Saab announces an SEK 186 million (about $28.4 million) order from Sweden’s FMV procurement agency, to finish integration of the Meteor long range air-to-air missile on Gripen E. These funds are on top of the February 2013 contract to develop the JAS-39E Gripen NG.

The order will play out over Gripen E’s 2013 – 2023 development, but Meteor is scheduled to become operational on JAS-39C/D models in 2014, and JAS-39E conversion shouldn’t take that long. The challenge will be bringing the new fighter itself up to an adequate readiness state for qualification trials, which creates a likely certification threshold of 2017 – 2019. Sources: Saab Group, “Saab Receives Order for Integration Support of Weapon System for Gripen E”.

Dec 3/13: Sub-contractors. Israel’s Elbit Systems EW and SIGINT – Elisra announces a contract “for the integration and delivery” their PAWS-2 passive missile warning system “onboard the Gripen fighter.” They don’t say whether this is only for a particular country, as an available upgrade for any model, or targeted for the new JAS-39E/F. The latter option is most likely, as an improved Missile Approach Warning System was an explicit component of the Gripen-E’s upgrades.

PAWS looks for the heat plume of incoming missiles, and calculates whether it’s a potential threat. If it is, PAWS triggers a pilot warning, and can fire automatic flare/ chaff countermeasures while cueing DIRCM direct laser countermeasures. If it isn’t a threat, the system doesn’t bother the pilot, and saves on-board resources until they’re needed. PAWS-2 already serves aboard Israel’s unique F-16i Soufa deep strike fleet, and Elisra says that it was picked for Gripen after in-depth evaluations that included a comparative live fire test. Sources: Elbit Systems, “Elbit Systems Selected to Provide Electronic Warfare Systems for the Gripen Fighter System”.

April 2/13: Industrial. Saab announces that they’ve set Swiss workshare for all future JAS-39E fighters, but haven’t set their exact industrial partnerships yet. They’ve committed to the armasuisse policy of having 5% of their industrial benefits in Italian-speaking regions, 30% in French speaking regions, and 65% in German speaking regions.

Swiss industry will become sole suppliers of the fighter’s rear fuselage, tail cone, air brakes, pylons, and external fuel drop tanks.

March 22/13: Gripen E SDD. Saab receives its SEK 10.7 billion (about $1.65 billion) system design & development order for the JAS-39E, covering work over 2015-2023. It includes full definition and development work for the type, as well as adaptation of test and trial equipment, simulators and rigs.

This brings total Gripen-E funding to date SEK 13.2 billion, on top of funding to create and test Gripen Demo over the last several years. Additional funds under the SEK 47.2 billion development and production framework agreement will be booked when each order is received, and are expected in 2013-2014. If Sweden’s FMV exercises a cancellation under the conditions of the framework agreement, they are liable to Saab for both costs incurred to date, and for cancellation fees. FMV [in Swedish] | Saab Group.

JAS-39E development contract

Gripen Demo
(click to view full)

Feb 15/13: Contract. About 2 months after an overwhelming Dec 6/12 parliamentary vote (q.v. Events section, above), Sweden’s FMV signs a SEK 2.5 billion development contract with Saab for 2013-2014 work on the JAS-39E Gripen Next-Generation. The contract also comes with a number of development and procurement options, which could raise the total to SEK 47.2 billion (currently $7.471 billion).

Within another month or 2, Saab expects to sign a contract that funds the rest of Gripen E development, worth SEK 10.6 billion. This would bring the development and testing total to SEK 13.1 billion (about $2.075 billion) on top of Gripen Demo, far higher than initial estimates (vid. Sept 21/12 entry).

By the end of 2013, Saab expects to sign a contract to convert 60 Swedish JAS-39C fighters to JAS-39Es. That will require a lot of work, because the fuselage is substantially different. Initial JAS-39E deliveries aren’t expected until 2018, and the type isn’t currently expected to gain its operational capability designation before 2023 or so.

By the end of 2014, Saab expects to sign a tranche contract for JAS-39E specific equipment, support and maintenance. It would begin in 2018, alongside the first upgraded Swedish fighters.

The umbrella contract adds provisions for 22 new Swiss JAS-39Es, plus initial support, training, etc. By 2014, Saab should know if the referendum on the purchase has passed. The Swiss contract will be CHF 3.126 billion, or SEK 21.138 billion / $3.384 billion at current rates. If Switzerland’s referendum fails to pass and no other customer has bought the JAS-39NG, however, the contract has provisions that would cancel the conversion deal with Sweden at agreed-upon terms.

A bit of math leaves an interesting question. If the Swiss deal is included in the SEK 47.2 billion figure, then 47.2 billion – 13.1 billion development – 21.138 Swiss = just SEK 12.962 billion/ $2.04 billion. That has to cover major structural modifications on 60 Swedish fighters, add expensive new equipment including engines and radars, AND finance a support deal encompassing all of the JAS-39E’s unique new features and parts. $34 million per fighter is possible for the conversion, but conversion and maintenance is a stretch. The Riksdagen’s Gripen upgrade vote had approved SEK 90 billion to 2042, so the explanation may be that the JAS-39E support annex is very short term. [DID adds: the final conversion contract alone was SEK 16.4 billion] Swedish FMV | Saab.

JAS-39E contract framework for Sweden, Swiss

Aug 25/12: JAS-39E/F. Sweden’s government announces that they are committed to buying 40-60 next-generation JAS-39E/F fighters, as part of a joint effort with Switzerland who will buy 22 more. To fund this effort, they’ve agreed to commit another SEK 300 million to the defense budget in 2013 and 2014, and SEK 200 million per year after that.

By the time the 1st planes are scheduled to enter service with the Flygvapnet, in 2023, that extra funding would amount to SEK 2.3 billion (currently almost $350 million), if subsequent governments maintain it. It’s hard to know if that’s enough, as negotiations are reported to be in progress for the system development contract, but if the aircraft includes everything it’s supposed to have, that would be a cheap price. Green Party MP Peter Radberg says that his party calculates the likely development cost at “a couple of billion kronor per year” instead.

At the same time, the Swiss government issues a statement that there is an agreement in principle between armasuisse and Sweden, completing a Memorandum of Understanding signed on June 29/12. The countries will reportedly share support and upgrade costs under an umbrella model, and final details of specifications, delivery dates, prices, equipment and infrastructure have reportedly been settled, pending final approval from Swiss political authorities. That will include a national referendum – see “Switzerland Replacing Its F-5 Fighters” for full coverage of that buy. Swedish government Release [in Swedish] & Video | Swedish Armed Forces | Svenska Dagbladet – full statement from 4 party leaders [in Swedish] | Swiss government [in German] | Swedish-Swiss Framework Agreement [PDF, in French] | Saab Group || Sweden’s The Local | Expatica Switzerland | Agence France Presse | Aviation Week | Bloomberg | Reuters.

JAS-39E/F commitment

June 29/12: Support. A multi-year support deal with Sweden’s FMV replaces all of the existing Gripen support contracts with a single contract that includes performance-based support and maintenance, extra funding for the MS20 upgrade package, and studies and definition activities for further Gripen development. It covers Gripen fleets in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Thailand, but not South Africa.

The initial order is SEK 3.6 billion ($510.5 million) plus a series of 1-year options totaling up to SEK 2 billion (currently $283.6 million) until December 2016.

Performance-based activities include spare parts, maintenance of aircraft systems, and technical engineering support. there’s also an international angle, as Saab’s work maintains updated technical publications and logistics solutions for operation of the Gripen system in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Thailand. Most of the work will take place at Saab’s facilities in Linkoping, Arboga, Jarfalla and Gothenburg. Sources: Saab, “Saab signs support and development agreement with FMV for Gripen”.

Swedish support, 2012-2016

Jan 30/12: Hungarian extension. Hungary opts to extend its lease of 14 Gripens for another 10 years, to 2026, but doesn’t add any more planes just yet. Terms aren’t disclosed, but the Budapest Business Journal reports that:

“Hungarian Defence Minister Csaba Hende said earlier that extending the lease until 2026 would save the state HUF 63bn [DID: about $290 million]… Government data show the Gripen lease costs the budget an annual HUF 30bn. Training programmes for the aircraft cost an additional HUF 2bn a year.”

That would place the 10-year extension at about $1.1 to $1.4 billion equivalent, including training, based on straight-line extrapolation. In 2001 the Swedish and Hungarian governments entered into a lease-purchase agreement, with a further modification in 2003 that included 14 Gripen C/Ds (12 single-seater and 2 two-seater aircraft). All aircraft were delivered in 2006 and 2007, and all 14 aircraft were in operation with the Hungarian Air Force by the end of 2008. The current contract was due to expire in 2016. Saab | Budapest Business Journal.

Hungarian extension

2010 – 2011

Thais orders another 6 JAS-39C/Ds, AEW plane, missiles; Meteror BVRAAM integration contract; Swedish orders to modernize and maintain the fleet, incl. new avionics system; Curtiss-Wright DSPs for new AESA; Swedish JAS-39
(click to view full)

Sept 6/11: ES-05 Raven. Curtiss-Wright Corporation announces a $15 million contract from SELEX Galileo to supply rugged embedded digital signal processor modules from 2010 – 2014. The company’s Motion Control segment will develop the DSP modules at its Ashburn, VA facility.

The firm has confirmed that their DSPs will provide the radar processing for the new ES-05 Raven AESA fire control radar system, and the contract could rise to $25 million over the lifetime of the program.

July 1/11: Support. Sweden’s FMV issues SEK 1.034 billion (about $159 million) worth of contracts to Saab for a variety of Gripen-related services in 2011.

First, Saab will undertake continual maintenance and updates for Sweden’s JAS-39C/D fighters, in compliance with the Swedish Armed Forces’ long-term planning. Second, related efforts will work to maintain the Swedish fleet’s operational capability, including technical support, product maintenance, flight testing, and flight simulator operation. finally, Saab will conduct studies regarding further JAS-39 development, and a resource baseline will be laid down for renewed Gripen testing and verification in the long-term. Saab.

May 18/11: Avionics. Saab announces a SEK 152 million (about $24.1 million) order from the Swedish FMV for cockpit development work on the Gripen C/D fighter, upgrading the material system 39/ edition 19 configuration during 2011-2012.

March 3/11: Support. Saab announces a SEK 120 million (about $19.1 million) order from the Swedish FMV Defence Material Administration, to provide technical support, product maintenance, flight test and simulators to ensure that Sweden’s Gripen fleet remains ready and operational. The work will be done during Q2 2011, mainly at Saab facilities in Linköping, Arboga, Gothenburg and Järfälla.

Jan 25/11: Upgrades. Saab announces a SEK 127 million (about $18.2 million) order from the Swedish FMV to modify undeclared sub-systems of Sweden’s JAS-39 edition 19 fighters – the 2009 upgrade baseline. Work will be carried out in 2011 and 2012.

Nov 23/10: Thai Order #2. Saab receives a SEK 2.2 billion (currently $316.6 million) order from Sweden’s FMV to provide Thailand’s 2nd tranche of fighters (6 JAS-39C Gripens) and equip the 2nd S340 AEW&C aircraft being sold to Thailand.

There’s also a 3rd component to the overall deal – Saab’s RBS-15F air-launched anti-ship missiles. Precise designations matter here. The FMV specified RBS-15Fs, which are radar-guided Mk.I missiles, without the land attack capabilities of the longer-range, GPS/radar guided Mk.III variants. The RBS-15Fs can be carried on the Gripens to hit ships over 70 km away, using a 200 kg warhead delivered by a stealthy, wave-hugging approach that includes programming for indirect attack vectors, and evasive maneuvers.

The agreement is reportedly signed by RTAF commander in chief Air Chief Marshal Itthaporn Subhawong and FMV Director General Gunnar Holmgren, and FMV’s announcement would not disclose the full value of the government-to-government contract. Swedish FMV | Gripen International | Saab Group | Bloomberg | Engineering News, South Africa | Flight International | ScandAsia | China’s Xinhua.


Nov 16/10: Training. Saab announces an order from the Swedish FMV procurement agency, to deliver 3-dimensional (3D) models to the Swedish Gripen simulators, to be generated from aerial images using Saab’s new Rapid 3D Mapping(TM) system.

Sept 8/10: Meteor. Sweden’s FMV military procurement agency gives Saab a 4-year, SEK 312 million (about $42.75 million) contract to integrate MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile with their JAS-39 fleet’s radar, displays, and support and maintenance systems like simulators and planning computers. The order includes test flights and test firing, as well as a 2-way datalink for communication with the missile and even “hand-off” targeting after it has been fired.

The JAS-39 has a head start in this area. It has been the Meteor missile’s test platform since 2006, and has already conducted several Meteor test firings. Work will mostly be performed in Linkoping, Sweden, with some involvement from the Gothenburg facilities. Sweden is now the 3rd country to sign Meteor production orders, after Britain and Spain, but the other 2 countries will mount them on the Eurofighter Typhoon. Saab Group | Gripen International | Defense News.

Meteor integration

June 1/10: Support. Saab announces a SEK 230 million (currently $29.4 million) support contract from the Swedish Defence Material Administration. It covers product maintenance, technical support, and basic operations such as test flying, rigs and simulators, in order to ensure that the Svenska Flygvapnet’s Gripens remain operational. Work will be undertaken during the second half of 2010, at Saab’s Swedish plants in Linkoping, Arboga, Goteborg, and Stockholm. Saab AB.

May 25/10: Upgrades. Saab AB announces a 2-year, SEK 450 million (currently $57.25 million) contract from Sweden’s FMV procurement agency, in order to develop a next-generation set of Gripen avionics upgrades. Saab VP and head of the Aeronautics business area, Lennart Sindahl, explains part of the problem, which is common to all modern combat aircraft:

“Computers with the best performance possible today will be viewed as inadequate for the tasks facing Gripen in ten years, when the aircraft must remain modern for a further twenty years. Few high-tech products have a service life as long as Gripen.”

In response, Saab will develop a completely new avionics system that includes new displays, back-end computing, and features like sensor fusion, the ability to sort and selectively display information with different security classifications, and changes to the electronic system architecture. The challenge is doing these things without breaking existing capabilities, of course, and the new package isn’t scheduled to enter service with Sweden until about 2020. Saab AB.

March 31/10: Upgrades. Sweden’s FMV procurement agency issues a 4-year, SEK 400 million (about $42.3 million) contract to Saab Group to improve the reconnaissance pod’s user interface, and give it night-time capability.

The Gripen can also carry the LITENING-III surveillance and targeting pod, which has full night-time capability, and its ReeceLite relative. This order, however, almost certainly involves Terma’s Modular Reconnaissance Pod (MRP 39, q.v. Jan 7/02 entry below).

March 30/10: Support. Saab announces a SEK 600 million (about $82.6 million) support contract for 2010-2011:

“The contract represents a part of continual system maintenance and updating tasks for the Gripen and complies with the Swedish Armed Forces’ long-term planning for the Gripen… as well as maintaining the material prerequisites for conducting coordinated testing of the flight system. The material prerequisites include renewal of test equipment and test aircraft for testing of the Gripen system on the long term.”

March 10/10: Upgrades. Saab announces a 5-year, SEK 2 billion (currently about $280 million) contract from Sweden’s FMV procurement agency, aimed at upgrading the existing fleet of JAS-39 C/D Gripen fighters. On the capability front, upgrades will include improved communications systems, and ECM (Electronic Counter-Measures) defensive systems, upgrades to the existing PS05 radar that will increase its range and add new functions, and integration of additional weapons.

On the operational front, Saab will be making some changes to reduce operating costs, based on the fleet’s 130,000 hours of flight experience to date. Interestingly, there’s also a project to “reduce the noise and emissions from test runs during engine maintenance.” Work will mainly take place at Saab’s Swedish plants in Linkoping, Gothenburg, Jarfalla, Kista and Arboga. Saab release.

Feb 16/10: IRST. Saab picks SELEX Galileo’s Skyward-G Infrared Search and Track (IRST) to equip Gripen NG. Saab Gripen blog.

2008 – 2009

Swedish government support & upgrade contracts, incl. EW & IFF, IRIS-T SRAAM integration; Sweden orders Cobra HMDs; MRP 39 reece pod development; ETPS support agreement; ES-05 Raven AESA radar development contract with SELEX, after Thales sabotages RBE2-AA AESA collaboration; F414 picked for Gripen NG; improvements. RTAF Gripens
(click to view full)

May 9/09: Thailand. The Thai Democrat Party government cancels its 15 billion baht follow-on option for 6 Gripens. Faced with a drop in government revenues, it slashes the coming defense budget from 171 billion to 151 billion baht.

Subsequent comments indicate that the purchase may end up being delayed, rather than canceled. That is what happened, in the end.

March 24/09: ES-05 Raven AESA. Saab and SELEX Galileo sign an agreement to develop a mechanically-pivoted Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the JAS-39NG. Terms are not disclosed.

The Raven’s base technology comes from SELEX Galileo’s proven Vixen family of AESA radars, but it has evolved while incorporating technologies and experiences from other radars, including the existing PS-05. Part of that evolution is an innovative combination of AESA focus and low signal “leakage” beyond its focus area, with the potentially wider field of regard that mechanically-pivoted radars can possess. The result will be a far more capable radar than previous Vixen offerings. The new joint radar is now known as the ES-05 Raven, and the addition of mechanical rotation to traditional AESA strengths is an interesting design choice that will give the Raven a unique set of strengths (wider scan; lock, fire and leave tactics) and weaknesses (reliability, maintenance). The end quality of its AESA transmit/receive modules, and their integration, will also play a large role in the radar’s final performance.

The arrangement is initially aimed at Brazil’s F-X2 fighter competition, where it leverages Selex Galileo’s strong pedigree equipping Brazil’s F-5BR fighters (Grifo-F radar) and AMX light attack jets (Scipio radar). Once integrated and proven, of course, the AESA upgrade would be available to any Gripen customer. Saab | Gripen International.

Raven AESA partnership

Feb 10/09: Sub-contractors. Saab and TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) partnered Aeronaoutical Design and Development Centre (ADDC) has been awarded its first contract by Saab to participate in the aerostructural design and development for Gripen NG. Gripen International.

Feb 9/09: Studies. Saab announces an SEK 400 million (about $49.7 million) order from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) for 2009 studies regarding future Gripen capabilities.

Until significant export sales are made, Sweden remains the home market and financier of the ongoing upgrades required to keep Gripen current. This order is a continuation of a project that started last year, and will form the base for the Swedish Armed Forces decisions regarding what capabilities and technologies to incorporate in subsequent versions.

Jan 8/09: Support. Saab announces a SEK 550 million (about $70 million) order from the Swedish FMV procurement agency, to support the Swedish Air Force. Covered activities during 2009 will include program management, product maintenance, support, flight testing, pilot equipment and simulators.

Gripen Demo rollout
(click to view full)

July 9/08: EW. Saab announces a pair of orders from the Swedish FMV procurement agency worth SEK 574 million (about $95.5 million).

A SEK 324 million order for Electronic Warfare Systems (EWS) will equip Sweden’s aircraft with up to date antennae, transmitters and appropriate electronics, and deliveries will be made during 2008-2009.

The second contract is a SEK 250 million contract for weapons pylons that will enable the Gripens to use GPS-equipped weapons systems like JDAM bombs; most likely this involves pylons with MIL-STD 1760 circuitry. Deliveries will take place between 2009-2011.

April 23/08: Thales AESA. Saab announces a contract with France’s Thales to develop a new advanced radar based on AESA technology. Peter Andersson, product manager at Saab Microwave Systems:

“At present Thales is developing an AESA within a French radar programme and, like Saab Microwave Systems, is one of the world leaders within the radar field. Together we can quickly develop a demo-product that can show the markets the advantages of AESA technology. The collaboration over the antenna is also cost effective and is in line with Saab’s overall strategy of finding industrial partners for Gripen… Our collaboration is for the Gripen demo. We will have to see what happens in the future.”

The collaboration is good for Thales, which have been building the RBE2 AESA radar for France’s Rafale fighter. With other future fighter markets locked up, a Gripen deal offers them their best hope of leveraging that technology into wider sales. Both Thales and Saab have experience with AESA radars, but the global fighter market pits them against established competitors in the USA’s Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, and prospective competitors in Russia’s Phazotron and Euroradar (EADS, Finmeccanica’s SELEX SAS and Galileo Avionica, and INDRA).

Saab Microwave Systems is responsible for the overall radar system and its capability, Thales contributes with the antenna, and Saab Aerosystems is responsible for integrating the final product into the JAS-39. Collaboration surrounding the AESA radar actually started in autumn 2007; integration of the complete radar system will continue during 2008, and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2009. The first test flights are planned for summer 2009, and Saab intends to follow that with customer demonstrations.


Jan 8/08: IFF. Saab has awarded the Thales Group a contract to supply new IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) Combined Interrogator-Transponders (CITs) for existing and future JAS-39 Gripen fighters. Price was not disclosed.

The contract covers a total of 143 aircraft. 68 Swedish Gripens will receive NATO Mode 4 CITs, and another 75 Gripens (47 Swedish, 14 Hungarian, 14 Czech) will be upgraded to Mode 4 CITs with Mode S capability that gives each aircraft its own “squawk” and can tell aircraft apart in a crowded sky. The aircraft will be ready for the transition to the new NATO Mode 5 secure IFF capability, but this will not be part of the current upgrades. [Source Epicos report link now broken.]

2007 and Earlier

Thailand orders 6;

Note that this section is not complete. See the Gripen Program Timeline, above, for key milestones and buys involving Sweden, South Africa, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Gripen & S-1000
(click to view full)

Oct 17/07: Thailand. The Thai government announces a $1.1 billion deal for 12 JAS-39 Gripens and 2 S-1000 Erieye AWACS aircraft. Phase 1 will feature 6 Gripens and 1 AWACS for $600 million, with a $500 million Phase 2 option for another 6 Gripens and the 2nd AWACS.

Thailand’s current political situation did much to clinch the deal – but it also risked unraveling it. Read: “Thailand Buying JAS-39 Gripens, AWACS” for full coverage.


Oct 17/07: Gripen Demo – Go! SEK 3.9 billion ($600 million) contract with the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV) to upgrade 31 Swedish Air Force JAS-39 A/B Gripens to the very latest JAS-39 C/D standard. The FMV has also given the go ahead for the next-generation ‘Gripen Demo’ variant.

Gripen Demo

Oct 3/07: Cobra HMD for Sweden. A SEK 345 million ($54 million) deal between Sweden’s FMV and Saab promises to equip Swedish Gripens with the Cobra Helmet-Mounted Display. South Africa has already ordered it for their Gripens, and an HMD can really add to a fighter’s air-air capabilities.

July 2/07: F414 picked. Saab announces that GE Aviation’s new F414G fighter engine will power its next-generation Gripen models. The F414G is derived from the popular 22,000+ pound/ 96 kN thrust F414-GE-400s that power the twin-engine F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and offers a 25-35% power boost over its predecessor the F404. Key F414G alterations will include minor changes to the alternator for added aircraft power, and modified Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) software for enhanced single-engine operation.

GE Aviation and Volvo Aero Corporation (now part of GKN) will be working together on the new F414G fighter engine. Although Volvo Aero has manufactured modified F404 engines under license for past Gripen fighters, GE will be supplying GE F414G engines directly to Saab for the Gripen Demo project, with Volvo as a major sub-contractor. GE is currently delivering 2 F414 Engines, with flight-tests and customer demonstration evaluations planned for 2008-2010. Gripen International release.

F414G for Gripen Demo

April 26/07: Norway. Norway and Sweden sign a Memorandum of Understanding on co-operation in development work on future versions of of the JAS-39, worth NOK 150 million (currently about $25 million) over 2 years, plus the option to further extend the agreement. There was also a Letter of Agreement (LoA) signed between Norway and Saab subsidiary Gripen International that will enable Norwegian companies to undertake advanced development work in a range of high technology areas, such as composites, communication systems, studies and integration work for Norwegian weapon systems, ammunition, logistics and data systems connected to Next-Gen Gripen development.

July 17/06: UK ETPS. Trainee test pilots at Britain’s world-class ETPS (Empire Test Pilots’ School), which is operated by QinetiQ in partnership with the UK MOD, have signed a new agreement that increases their use of the JAS-39 Gripen. In 2005 all syllabus requirements were met, zero flights were lost due to unserviceability, and where all teaching goals in all areas were exceeded. The new 2006 deal will see a 30% increase in student numbers, a 20% increase in flights per student, the training of a third ETPS Instructor Pilot (IP) and the inclusion of Flight Test Engineer students within a refined syllabus. The 2006 program goes very well, with 56 sorties in just 10 flying days, and no downtime due to mechanical issues.

The 2006 test pilot students will be drawn from the French Air Force, the United States Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and Britain’s Royal Air Force. See Saab release for more details.TEXT


MRP-39 on Gripen
(click to view larger)

July 3/06: Upgrades. Saab received a SEK 1 billion ($150 million equivalent as of 05/07) order from the Swedish Defence Material Administration, covering continued development of the Gripen System. The order reportedly covers various software upgrades, as well as other development activities supporting the long term development of the Gripen system. Work will be performed at Saab Aerosystems and Saab Aerotech in Linkoping, Sweden as well as at Saab Avitronics in Jarfalla and Kista, Sweden. See release.

March 23/06: Drop tanks. Saab Aerosystems appoints Swiss firm RUAG as single source supplier for drop tanks to the Gripen. At the same time, an initial EUR 4 million order for more than 60 export drop-tanks was announced, with first deliveries scheduled for August 2007.

Note that entries before 2006 are incomplete at this point.

Dec 29/05: IRIS-T. Saab receives a SEK 150 million ($18.9 million) contract for integration of the IRIS-T 4th generation short-range air-air missile on the Gripen. Saab is planning to fire the first shot with IRIS-T in 2007, but the integration process will continue to 2009.


Jan 7/02: Terma MRP. Terma A/S announces a sub-contract from Saab Avionics AB to make Modular Reconnaissance Pods for the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen fleet, in order to meet the Swedish FMV’s request for a new reconnaissance system. Terma bid jointly with Saab on that contract as the partner responsible for the pod system. AerotechTelub is responsible for Integrated Logistic Support, Recon Optical for the CA270 sensor, and L3 Communication for the digital mass memory.

Terma is contracted to develop, qualify and supply the Modular Reconnaissance Pod (MRP 39), including the Environmental Control System, Electrical System, Ground Support System, and part of the Reconnaissance Management System (RMS). The MRP 39 is conceptually based on Terma’s successful F-16 MRP, but it employs a circular cross-section on the lower area of the pod, and an advanced rotating window section. The rotating window is attached directly to the MRP 39 strongback and can be positioned at various positions along the length of the pod mid-section, giving the system more flexibility to add different sensors with different weight and balance restraints. The window section’s 360 degree rotation is electronically synchronized to the sensor aiming, except for take-off and landing where it is rotated up to a safe position.

The upper part of the MRP 39 has a square cross-section providing room for the strongback, ducts for the environmental control system, cabling, etc. The idea is to offer more internal pod space, and provide separation that helps eliminate or limit buffeting and dynamic vibrations on the sensitive equipment.

The Environmental Control Unit (ECU) will be a new, hybrid structure providing both air and liquid coolers and heaters, plus two symmetrical, multi-speed fans. The ECU will be installed in the aft cone of the MRP 39 and it will be handled as a single, line replaceable unit for ease of maintenance. Saab re: partners.

Terma MRP 39 Reco Pod

End notes

fn1.’s July 2006 report attempting to estimate the true cost of western fighters placed the JAS-39C Gripen at over $68.9 million per plane based on the offer to Poland, and estimated the plane’s program cost (R&D amortized) at $78.7 million. To give the reader a quick idea of how that benchmarks, costs for the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet were estimated at $ 78.4/ 95.3 million, the Eurofighter at $ 100-120/ 120-145 million, and the F-35 Lightning II at $ 115 LRIP / 112.5 million. Read the full report here. The report also noted Saab’s official response of $35-40 million per plane flyaway costs, however, and acknowledged the problems involved in calculating per-plane figures based on foreign orders due to other costs and terms. [Return to story]

fn2. Saab clarified that they had not integrated and qualified all of the weapons shown in the “could-have weapons” illustration. Rather, it was intended to display a full range of options that Saab could integrate, in response to customer requests and funding. DID is working on a current list. [Return to story]

fn3. The Gripen’s “visual stealth” may surprise some people, but it shouldn’t. A lightweight fighter with a small frontal cross-section always has this edge in air-air combat. An especial disparity occurs when fighters like that confront bigger aircraft; American F-4 Phantoms had some nasty experiences along these lines in Vietnam, flying against much older MiG-17s and MiG-19s. A trip to the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, AZ, where a MiG and Phantom are positioned right across from one another, makes the difference clear. Now throw in the Gripen’s high maneuverability, and the widened ‘threat cone’ for modern short-range infrared missiles. An enemy pilot must now scan for threats in a much larger area – when seconds are all he has, he risks missing an oncoming Gripen in a quick scan, or looking in the wrong place.

In exchange for these advantages, lightweight fighters have traditionally given up the powerful radars that could guide medium-range missiles. Moore’s Law of rising silicon chip power has removed this trade-off, and turned it into a difference of degree rather than an absolute difference in capability. [Return to story]

fn4. “Fox 2 kill” means an infrared missile shot. Many current Gripens are equipped with Sidewinders, but the plane has also been integrated with the European multinational IRIS-T, and the South African/ Brazilian A-Darter. [Return to story]

fn5. Many thanks to reader Dave Dogman, who took the time to read the Saab presentation to Norway and noted the typo – it isn’t 8,100 kg empty weight for Gripen NG, but 7,100 (up from 6,800). DID is grateful to him for pointing this out. [Return to story]

Additional Readings & Sources

DID thanks Saab and the Swedish FMV for their assistance with this article. Any mistakes are our own. Readers with corrections, comments, or information to contribute are encouraged to contact DID’s Founding Editor, Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.

JAS-39 Gripen: The Platform

JAS-39 Gripen: Ancillary Equipment

Peer Competitors

Export Competitions: Highlights

News & Views

Categories: News

Argentina Gets First C-130H Upgrades | Raytheon Says SA’s Patriots Have a 100% Success Rate | Thales, Qinetiq Choose Textron’s Scorpion for ASDOT Program

Wed, 07/13/2016 - 23:58

  • The first upgrade of Argentine Air Force C-130H aircraft has been delivered back by L-3 to the service. A 2011 Foreign Military Sale contract saw for the provision of commercial-off-the-shelf avionics upgrades for a total of five aircraft, with the remaining four aircraft to be upgraded at FAdeA’s (Fábrica Argentina de Aviones) modification facility in Córdoba, Argentina. Under the program, L-3 installed new communication, navigation and air traffic management systems avionics capabilities, as well as a reliability upgrade on critical environmental and power systems to increase mission availability.

  • US foreign military sales projection for 2016 is expected to reach $40 billion, down from $46.6 in 2015. The forecast was announced by US Navy Vice Admiral Joe Rixey, who heads the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) at the Farnborough Air Show. Rixey said the total could still fluctuate, depending on what happens in the fourth quarter, but maintained that global demand for US helicopters and other weapons remain strong.

Middle East North Africa

  • Patriot anti-missile systems operated by Saudi Arabia have had a 100% success rate according to manufacturer Raytheon. The system has seen service as part of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen intercepting missile attacks from Houthi rebels. Iran is believed to be arming the rebels with small arms and munitions including scud missiles.

  • Production has commenced on Embraer A-29 Super Tucanos destined for Lebanon from the start of 2017. The US government agreed to a $173 million foreign military sales contract in November that will see Embraer’s US partner Sierra Nevada deliver six of the light-attack turboprops to the Lebanese air force by 2019. Once in service, the aircraft will support Lebanon’s fleet of intelligence and reconnaissance Cessna 208B Caravans.


  • A consortium of Thales and Qineteq have chosen the Textron Airland’s Scorpion light attack aircraft for their part of the Air Support to Defense Operational Training (ASDOT) program. The live flying training program will see the government procure a red air and electronic warfare (EW) training service, replacing a number of individual contracts with a single umbrella contract with a single operator. With the deal to last 15 years, the winner is set to earn $1.5 billion over the contract’s lifespan.

  • Lockheed Martin has dismissed fears that its joint proposal with MBDA to supply the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) to Germany could slip into difficulty. While negotiations could well run into 2017, an election year, officials said lawmakers could still approve the deal as long as it was done in the first three months of the year, before the German national election cycle kicks off in earnest ahead of the September vote. MBDA is expected to have its final proposal submitted very soon.

Asia Pacific

  • The US and South Korean governments have agreed to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in Seongju County in North Gyeongsang Province. A HAWK ground-to-air missile battery is already operated at the site and is likely to be moved to make way for the new system. Seongju was chosed as it is out of range of North Korea’s multiple rocket launchers deployed along its border with South Korea, and THAAD can protect key US facilities in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province and Daegu.

  • India is to launch its first “Make in India” initiative for the development of a tactical communication system (TCS) next year. The competition will see two domestic development agency (DA) consortiums awarded contracts to build one TCS prototype each at a cost of $150 million, in 18 months, with the government providing 80% of the prototype’s funding. Once the two prototypes are handed over to the Indian Army, they will undergo technical evaluation, be tested on the ground, and then shortlisted for production. The winner will provide seven TCS systems for plains and desert areas at a cost of $4 billion in the next 10 years.

Today’s Video

  • The F-35 at the Farnborough Air Show:

Categories: News