Defense Industry Daily
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Japan is a trading and shipping power, so it isn’t unreasonable for them to be very concerned about mines. Helicopters are an important adjunct to Japan’s large fleet of 25+ minesweeping ships, and can even serve as a substitute in some situations. Japan’s fleet of 11 MCH-101 airborne mine counter-measures helicopters are closely derived from AgustaWestland’s 3-engined AW101 heavy maritime helicopter, and most are being built in Japan under license by Kawasaki. Mission equipment will include the AN/AQS-24A mine hunting side scan sonar, the AN/AES-1 airborne laser mine detection system, and the MK-104 acoustic minesweeping system.
ECH-101s have good range, and can operate from shore. As an alternative, they can be embarked aboard Japanese ships, especially the JMSDF’s 19,000 ton Hyuga Class “helicopter destroyers” (LPH anywhere else).2010 – 2016
June 27/16: Leondardo Helicopters is in talks with the Japanese government over the potential sale of a further 12 AW101 helicopters for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Tokyo already operates seven of an eventual 11-strong fleet of the heavy helicopters configured for minesweeping missions, designated as the MCH-101, plus two of an eventual three CH-101 utility transports. Giovanni Soccodato, Leonardo’s executive vice-president for strategies, markets, and business development, said the company was “close to finalizing” a new contract with the Japanese.
June 18/13: Northrop Grumman announces that they’ve has delivered the 1st of 4 AQS-24A airborne mine-hunting sonars to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (q.v. July 11/12). The 1st ALMDS wide-area laser mine detection system is slated for delivery “later this summer.”
There’s always a follow-on period of training and tactics development, so it will be a little while before Japan can make full use of these new capabilities. NGC.
Nov 6/12: MEDAL. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) announces that Japan has picked its Mine Warfare and Environmental Decision Aids Library (MEDAL) counter-mine software control system, for installation into the corresponding ground system for the JMSDF’s MCH-101 helicopters. MEDAL has played a similar role in the US Navy since the mid-1990s, and the USN’s compatible MEDAL system performs the same mission planning, evaluation, and command and control functions.
SAIC will be assisting with engineering and training services as MEDAL is integrated within NEC Corporation’s broader MCH-101 ground support system.
July 11/12: AQS-24. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces follow-on contracts by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to supply 3 more AQS-24A airborne mine hunting systems, plus ground-based support equipment. The AN/AQS-24 is a towed sonar with an accompanying laser line scanner for optical identification, and the sonar and laser both operate at the same time. It’s deployed from the rear ramp of helicopters like the US Navy’s MH-53s, and the JMSDF will use all 4 systems ordered to date on its new MCH-101 helicopters.
The award of the airborne electronics work marks the culmination of a technology transition that allows some local manufacturing in Japan, and will eventually enable the JMSDF to provide full logistics support for the AQS-24A systems. Additional follow-on efforts for more systems, electronics and support equipment are anticipated in 2013, and will continue until the JMSDF reaches its full operational inventory objective. NGC.
AQS-24 detection sonars
Feb 2/12: ALMDS. Japan becomes the AN/AES-1 ALMDS’ first export customer, buying 4 of the laser mine detection pods to equip its MCH-101 (AW101) medium-heavy naval helicopters. Northrop Grumman will work with Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., and Fujitsu Ltd. on delivery and installation.
ALMDS uses a fan-shaped beam of laser light detection and ranging (LIDAR) to detect, classify and localize near-surface moored sea mines. The forward motion of the helicopter sweeps the light over the water in a “push broom” manner, and 4 cameras are arranged to cover the same swath illuminated by the laser fan beam. As images are received by the system, an automatic target recognition algorithm picks out potential mine-like objects and stores their images for later classification by fleet operators, using computer-aided post-mission analysis tools. The new system has had some trouble in American tests with false positives, but Japan has worked with Northrop Grumman for a long time, and seems willing to go ahead anyway. Northrop Grumman | Read more in “LCS & MH-60S Mine Counter-Measures Continue Development“.
ALMDS laser mine detection pods
Oct 24/11: AQS-24. Northrop Grumman announces that its AN/AQS-24 towed mine-hunting sonar has been “competitively selected” by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Under the initial contract, Northrop Grumman’s Undersea Systems business unit will deliver 1 system to Kawasaki Heavy Industries, for integration into Japan’s new Airborne Mine Countermeasures MCH-101 helicopter.
The AQS-24 is currently deployed aboard the US Navy’s even larger MH-53E mine hunting helicopters.1994 – 2009
June 17/09: Local spares. AgustaWestland announces an agreement with Marubeni Aerospace Corporation of Tokyo, Japan to establish a local MCH-101/ CH-101 Spare Parts Depot. That will certainly cut turnaround time for spares.
The Spare Parts Depot has been privately funded and will operate initially for a period of 5 years.
March 26/07: Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) has delivered the JMSDF’s 1st licence-built MCH-101. It’s the first EH101/AW101 to be assembled outside AgustaWestland’s production facilities in Italy and the UK, and has 35% local content. Flight International.
March 2006: Japan takes delivery of its 1st MCH-101. It was assembled at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil, UK plan before undergoing conversion at Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ Gifu works. Source.
1st MCH-101 delivery
2003: The first of 14 MCH-101 (Airborne Mine Counter Measures, 11) and CH-101 (Antarctic Support, 3) helicopters was delivered to the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force. Subsequent releases indicate that it was a CH-101. Source.
1st AW101 delivery
2002: The ECH-101 partners enter into a general consultancy and distributorship agreement for the promotion and sales of the AW101. Source.
1994: Teaming agreement signed by AgustaWestland, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Marubeni to compete for Japan’s mine warfare helicopter needs. Source.
LM Gets $357M FMS Contract for AEGIS | US Naval Research to Test LOCUST Next Month | Qatar to Purchase Pakistan’s Super Mushshak Trainer
- A USMC plan to equip their AN/TWQ-1 Avenger low-altitude air defense units with a 30-kilowatt laser weapon is progressing well. The Office of Naval Research is spearheading the Ground-Based Air Defense (GBAD) Directed Energy On-The-Move concept demonstrator program – which is able to start phase 3 testing. Once the development program is completed around 2022, it will enter as a program of record for the Marines and likely reside alongside the Stinger missile system as a ground unit self-protection system – giving those units a much-needed upgrade after operating with the Stinger for decades.
- Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $357 million contract for Advanced Electronic Guidance and Instrumentation System (AEGIS) in-service combat systems for several nations. The contract will see the company provide computer program maintenance, annual inspection and regular overhaul execution support, in-country support, and staging. Replacement of legacy cathode ray tube character readout devices for Japan, logistics depot support for Norway unique line replaceable unit, and AEGIS implementation studies for future Foreign Military Sales (FMS) AEGIS shipbuilding programs to fulfill AEGIS lifetime support requirements of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, Republic of Korea Navy, Spanish Armada, Royal Australian Navy, and Royal Norwegian Navy. Completion is expected for November 2019.
- The US Office of Naval Research is to commence testing its swarming UAV concept at sea next month. Referred to as the Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST), the system consists of thirty Coyote unmanned aircraft systems all launched rapidly and flown together. The swarming technology allows the drones to relate to each other spatially and fly their swarm formations with minimal human direction or intervention, which Mastroianni noted is key for practical and efficient unmanned technology that decreases the warfighter’s burden.
- Contracts have been signed between Qatar and Pakistan, confirming the former’s purchase of the PAC Super Mushshak basic trainer. The sale was concluded three months after Pakistan displayed the aircraft, along with the JF-17, at a demonstration at the Qatar Air Show. A Pakistan Air Force spokesperson commented that a number of other nations were also interested in Pakistani aircraft, however failed to mention anyone by name.
- Airbus is in consultations with the German Ministry of Defense over a study into the replacement of the Panavia Tornado fighter-bomber. According to Alberto Gutierrez, Airbus Group’s head of Eurofighter and combat aircraft program, the company will not be able to offer a new fighter built from scratch and any proposal will involve having components recycled from the Eurofighter. The Tornado would not be replaced until the 2030s.
- Work is being carried out on integrating the Russian Zagon-2 depth charge on the Mi-14 anti-submarine helicopter. The Zagon-2 antisubmarine corrected air bomb is designed to engage submarines on the sea surface, under periscope and deep down. At 1.5 meters long, the munition was originally designed to be carried by the Ka-28 but can also be dropped by the Il-38 and Tu-148 aircraft.
- India has issued a Letter of Request (LoR) to the US government over the potential purchase of 22 General Atomics Guardians, a maritime patrol variant of the MQ-9 Predator B. A letter of acceptance from the US will follow later in the year which will trigger the commencement of price negotiations over the UAVs with a final contract to be signed sometime in 2017-18. It is unclear, however, whether the Indian Navy will acquire the non-weaponized Guardian variant – featuring intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities – the weaponized one, or both.
- Leondardo Helicopters is in talks with the Japanese government over the potential sale of a further 12 AW101 helicopters for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Tokyo already operates seven of an eventual 11-strong fleet of the heavy helicopters configured for minesweeping missions, designated as the MCH-101, plus two of an eventual three CH-101 utility transports. Giovanni Soccodato, Leonardo’s executive vice-president for strategies, markets, and business development, said the company was “close to finalizing” a new contract with the Japanese.
- The Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST):
Boeing Offers Deal Sweetener to Canada | T-6B Trainer Deliveries Complete to US Navy | Israeli Air Force Looks to Acquire More F-35s
- The US Navy has announced the operational testing of an MQ-4C, which successfully transmitted full motion video to a P-8A via the Common Data Link (CDL). During the flight, the UAV had to use its electro-optical/infrared camera to build situational awareness of its environment before the P-8A arrived at the scene. The MQ-4C Triton’s ability to perform persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance within a range of 2,000 nautical miles will allow the P-8A aircraft to focus on their core missions.
- Boeing has thrown in a sweetener for Canada if it were to select the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters as the replacement for its CF-18 fleet by including civil aviation work opportunities for Canadian firms. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government promised during last year’s election that it would launch an open CF-18 replacement competition, and pledged not to buy Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets as the previous Conservative government had planned to do. In response to the F-35 slight, Lockheed Martin warned that they may shift work on the F-35 away from Canadian firms amid the uncertainty.
- Delivery of the the final T-6B has been completed with the Navy now in possession of 148 of the trainer. The final model was delivered to the Training Air Wing 5 at Naval Air Station Whiting Field on June 21. Replacing the aging T-34 Turbomentor fleet, the T-6B has twice the performance power compared to T-34 and came equipped with a digital (glass) cockpit display, heads-up display, and ejection seat.
- The Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) C-1 has been delivered to the US Navy for operational use after the munition cleared the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) stage earlier this month. This newest iteration of JSOW is integrated with a Link 16 network radio, enabling the weapon to engage moving targets at sea. The radio allows the launch aircraft or another designated controller to provide real-time target updates to the weapon, reassign it to another target, or to abort the mission.
- Israeli Air Force chief, Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman, says his service needs 75 Lockheed Martin F-35s. At present, 35 F-35A models have been ordered with new Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman committing to a further 17 of the Joint Strike Fighter. Kelman however is in favor of acquiring a further 25 F-35s with the possibility of adding a number of the fighter’s B variant to assist in other operational tasks despite it not being capable of carrying as many munitions.
- Ukraine is looking to increase its defensive capabilities with plans to purchase radars and anti-drone weaponry from the US. This will add to Humvees, unarmed Raven UAVs and other equipment already supplied by the Pentagon. However, Kiev has yet to be supplied with more advanced technologies and lethal weaponry such as the anti-tank Javelin missile due to fears expressed by former secretary of defense Chuck Hagel that Ukraine’s military is not sophisticated enough to operate them. To counter this, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, vice prime minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic integration recently visited Washington to discuss increased military support and arms transfers which included a meeting with under secretary of state for arms control and international security Rose Gottemoeller.
- North Korean hard man Kim Jong Un has claimed the hermit kingdom is capable of attacking US targets in the Pacific following its latest round of launches of its intermediate-range Musudan missile. The missile, which is fired from mobile launchers, has a design range of more than 3,000 km, meaning all of Japan and the US territory of Guam are potentially within reach. Meanwhile, Japanese authorities have begun examining the suspected nose cone of a rocket that washed up on a Japanese beach hoping to glean information on the reclusive North’s missile program.
- A series of shipbuilding and force modernization programs has been announced by the Taiwanese Navy which will see $14.7 billion spent on indigenous development over the next 24 years. The purpose of the program is to wean Taiwan off expensive and politically troublesome US defense acquisitions which often sparks trouble with neighboring China. Big ticket items include a Taiwan Aegis destroyer and frigate, submarine, high-speed minelayer, landing platform dock (LPD), 11 additional stealthy Tuo Jiang-class missile corvette catamarans, and multi-purpose transport. Other programs include more AAV7s, a type of assault amphibious vehicle, for the Taiwanese Marine Corps, underwater swimmer delivery vehicles for special forces, and assorted weapons for special forces.
- US AH-64 and South Korean AH-1S attack helicopters in joint exercise:
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The world’s P-3 Orion fleets have served for a long time, and many are reaching the end of their lifespans. In the USA, and possibly beyond, the new P-8 Poseidon Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft will take up the P-3’s role. While the P-8’s base 737-based airframe offers strong service & maintenance arguments in its favor, the airframe is expensive enough that the P-3s cannot be replaced on a 1:1 basis.
In order to extend the P-8 fleet’s reach, and provide additional capabilities, the Poseidon was expected to work with at least one companion UAV platform. This DID FOCUS Article explains the winning BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) concept, the program’s key requirements, and its international angle. We’ll also cover ongoing contracts and key events related to the program, which chose Northrop Grumman’s navalized MQ-4C Triton Global Hawk variant.
The P-3 fleet’s heavy use in both maritime surveillance and overland roles points up a potential problem with its successor the P-8A Poseidon. The 737-based aircraft will be bought in fewer numbers than the aircraft it replaces, but its high end Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) capabilities could quickly turn it into a sort of “mini-JSTARS,” making it a platform with strong maritime and land surveillance capabilities like NATO’s similar sized Airbus 321-based AGS battlefield surveillance aircraft.
As an expensive but in-demand asset, the P-8’s coverage scope could easily translate into a fleet run ragged by high flight hours per airframe, and forced into early retirement. See the Strategic Review article “Brittle Swords: Low-Density, High-Demand Assets” [PDF] for more background on this phenomenon.
The logical response is to pair the P-8s with a lower cost counterpart.
Hence the P-8 Poseidon’s companion Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV program, run by NAVAIR’s PMA-263 program management office.BAMS: Requirements and Missions NGC on BAMS
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The BAMS UAV is formally designated MQ-4C Triton: “M” as a multi-mission aircraft, even though all of its missions are ISR/reconnaissance missions.
The name fits. In mythology, Triton was Poseidon’s son, and the messenger of the sea. Tritons will work with the P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft on missions that will include maritime surveillance, collection of enemy order of battle information, battle damage assessment, port surveillance, communication relay; plus support for maritime interdiction, surface warfare, battlespace management, and targeting for maritime and strike missions. MQ-4C Increment 3 UAVs and beyond are slated to add SIGINT capabilities, to capture enemy communication and radar transmissions. They would begin replacing the current EP-3 fleet in that role.
The MQ-4C UAV’s required capabilities definitely placed it at the high end of today’s UAV spectrum. BAMS had to be capable of a completely pre-programmed mission track, communication plan, and sensor employment plan, with manual override possible to support real-time control and/or re-tasking. The baseline requirement for operation with the P-8A is currently Level II control (receipt of sensor data to/from), with a proposal to quickly increase to Level IV (full control except landings) in the P-8A’s first improvement cycle. It also needed the ability to land on its own if necessary, however, using pre-surveyed and pre-programmed air fields.
Many of those capabilities are already present in existing medium UAVs. The requirements that follow are not.BAMS: expected ‘orbits’
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BAMS had to have a minimum mission radius of 3,000 nautical miles, with a 10 hour time to on-station at 2,000 nmi mission radius, and autonomous flight through moderate icing or turbulence. More to the point, the requirements were expressly crafted for persistence. They included an 80% Estimated Time On Station (ETOS) for a group of BAMS platforms, over a period of 1 week (168 hours). That means UAVs in the air, within their assigned patrol zones at an estimated 900 nmi distance from launch, for 134 hours out of 168. That’s the minimum – the goal is 95% ETOS, or almost 160/168 hours.
The Navy saw BAMS UAVs employed within 5 “orbits” around the globe, with no more than 3 UAVs operating at the same time within each orbit. While this may make BAMS seem like a tiny program, consider the fact that all aircraft have fatigue lifespans measured in flight hours. Many fighters have lifespans of 10,000-12,000 hours. Transport aircraft can reach 30,000-40,000 hours, with major rebuilds along the way. Now consider the number of UAVs required to support flight profiles within those orbits, which are estimated to sum to 43,800 on-station flight hours/year, plus flight times to and from station for each mission. Over an expected program operational lifetime of about 20 years.
BAMS also has an unlisted, but critically important, program requirement. As UAVs proliferate in this role and begin undertaking long-range missions, they’ll require enough secure bandwidth to transmit large first-pass processed data sets to accompanying aircraft or ground stations. That cannot be provided from within the BAMS program, though communications relay packages on high-altitude BAMS UAVs will help military commanders on the surface. BAMS is in turn reliant on the USA’s Global Information Grid’s future security and capacity, in order to reach its full potential.BAMS Options BAMS/P-8 mission sets
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Some nations use smaller business jet derivatives for maritime surveillance, and this option was closely considered by the Navy. The joint ACS (Aerial Common Sensor) program had potential dual-use features that could have made it a maritime surveillance supplement, as well as a SIGINT/ELINT (Signals & Electronic Intelligence & intercepts) platform to replace the Navy’s aging EP-3 Aries II fleet. The ACS program’s demise has taken that option off of the table for now. As it happens, however, the Navy had already chosen a different kind of companion for its P-8.
While business jets offered economy and numbers, the US Navy believed that unmanned UAVs could bring more to the long and oft-times tedious job of maritime surveillance. They can undertake very long-endurance flights of 30 hours or more, in part because they don’t have to carry processing stations and crew, or worry about aircrew endurance.
Northrop Grumman was always the favorite to win the BAMS competition. Its unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV had already proven itself in battlefield surveillance roles around the globe, and had been used as the Navy’s GHMD/BAMS-D maritime surveillance UAV testing and concepts research.
In contrast, the General Atomics MQ-9N Mariner’s main offered efficiency at much lower flight ceilings, up to 3,000 pounds of integrated weapons, and commonality with the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper strike UAV.
Boeing’s manned/unmanned G550 business jet was the 3rd major entry, offering the largest payloads, twin-engine redundancy, and compatibility with a civilian fleet.BAMS: The MQ-4C Triton MQ-4C Triton rollout
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The “RQ-4N” system chosen by the US Navy was based on the USAF’s RQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawks, but it incorporated a wide range of changes on the way to its unveiling as the MQ-4C Triton.
Sensors received the biggest overhaul. MQ-4Cs will have a more rounded belly housing for Northrop Grumman’s own 360-degree coverage AN/ZPY-3 AESA radar, as part of their Advanced Integrated Sensor Suite (AISS). Unlike conventional mechanically-scanned radars, AESA radars offer the ability to zoom in on several targets of interest, and they can do this without stopping the broader scan. That shift from Raytheon’s side-looking AESA radar used in the RQ-4B could have become a major risk factor, which was a big reason behind Northrop Grumman’s decision to field their new radar on a Gulfstream II BAMS test bed during the competition.
Beyond the radar, “Electronic Support Measures” systems that can pick-up, map, and identify radar emissions initially relied on Northrop Grumman’s LR-100, but Sierra Nevada’s Merlin ESM system was substituted in order to meet the program’s requirement for 360-degree, 300 nm/ 555 km coverage. In the visual spectrum, AISS includes an optical day/night surveillance and targeting turret.
Other sensors expected for the MQ-4C include a “due regard” radar and other systems that let them descend safely into potential air traffic over international waters (currently facing development difficulties), Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) in various modes, and of course sensor packages with additional SIGINT/ELINT equipment and other specialty mission packages. The UAV must be able to perform “first pass” processing of any data it receives, before sending it on to other ships, aircraft, and/or ground stations.RQ-4N concept
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Communications. A Ka-band Wideband Gapfiller satellite link will replace the commercial Ku-band link used by the USAF, in order to ensure 100% accessibility over long stretches of water. In addition, a pair of Ku-band and X-band datalinks have been added to the fuselage sides, to act as communications relays. Those relays, plus the addition of dual Common Data Links instead of single-CDL, and Link 16 capability UHF/VHF radios with HAVE QUICK and SINCGARS capability, will allow real-time data feeds to other Navy ships and aircraft. The US Air Force is reportedly considering this upgraded set for its own Global Hawks.
On the MQ-4C, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver will allow the detection, identification, geo-location, and tracking of cooperative ships equipped with AIS transponders.
Mechanical. The need to have Navy UAVs descend and rise from altitude during over-water missions requires de-icing systems on the MQ-4C’s engine inlet, wings and tail. Strengthened wing structures were also deemed to be necessary.
One final mechanical issue concerns the Global Hawk design’s single turbofan engine. To cope with possible engine outages without losing these ultra-expensive UAVs, the USAF reportedly uses a combination of modified control software and alternate “glide-to” landing bases. When flying over vast ocean expanses, high altitude flight will be required, in order to keep the “glide-to” option alive.BAMS: The Program
In April 2008, NAVAIR’s PMA-263 selected Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4N Global Hawk, which has since been re-designated MQ-4C. The FY 2014 budget cut the program from 70 (5 test + 65 operational UAVs) to a total of 66: 5 test + 61 operational UAVs.
BAMS Budgets from FY 2009 include:
Industrial team members include:
NGC performs Global Hawk sub-assembly work at its Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, MS, and anticipates performing final assembly at its St. Augustine, FL manufacturing center.
Triton’s Tactical Support Centers for command and control will be focused around the P-8A’s main bases: NAS Jacksonville, FL and NAS Whidbey Island, WA. Initial MQ-4C basing will include Ventura County Naval Base, at the Point Mugu, CA facility. Beyond that, NAVAIR has been tight-lipped, but reports have highlighted a few likely locations.
Andersen AFB on the island of Guam, which already supports some RQ-4 Global Hawks, is expected to become an important forward Pacific base, along with Hawaii and Diego Garcia. A fall 2013 agreement with Japan will provide for some Global Hawk basing in Japan itself, as a forward deployment from Andersen. It would be logical to expect MQ-4Cs as part of any eventual arrangement there. Australia’s Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean have also been discussed as a way of relieving congestion at Diego Garcia, while keeping RQ-4 and possibly MQ-4 UAVs closer to sea lanes and countries of interest. The required infrastructure upgrade is an issue for Australia, however, and much may depend on Australia’s own purchasing decisions regarding the MQ-4C.
Sigonella AB in Sicily, Italy is already a key Global Hawk base, and it will also house NATO’s RQ-4B Block 40 AGS fleet. It’s likely to serve as the Triton’s hub to help cover Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, but other bases in that region would make the fleet much more effective. Advanced spy planes have already flown out of the UAE, which would be very convenient for covering the Middle East and western Indian Ocean. Portugal’s Azores was a key naval air waystation for decades until NAF Lajes was inactivated in the late 1990s, and would be well positioned for operations to cover Africa’s oil-rich and piracy rich western coast. It’s worth keeping an especial eye on developments in those 2 locations.BAMS: The International Angle Mariner UAV
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The US Navy has been using the RQ-4 Global Hawk as a demonstration and proving platform to refine requirements and concepts of operations for BAMS, under the GHMD(Global Hawk Maritime Demonstrator) program. Even so, UAVs aren’t widely used for maritime surveillance just yet.
Beyond America’s shores, India has successfully used Israel’s Heron and Searcher II UAVs for coastal patrol as well and overland surveillance; UAVs from their 2005 follow-on Heron order have also been pressed into service along the coasts. To the southeast, Australia has undertaken successful trials with the General Atomics’ Mariner UAV for Coast Guard duties along its resource-rich Northwest Shelf. In the Great White North, Canada is evaluating UAVs for a maritime surveillance role under its JUSTAS program; Phase 2 could even include arctic surveillance out of Goose Bay, Labrador. IAI/EADS’ Eagle UAV, and General Atomics’ Altair high-altitude UAV derived from the MQ-9 Reaper, have already been tested as part of requirements definition.
Every one of these countries could eventually end up involved in the BAMS program.P-8i test flight
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India’s MPA competition chose the “P-8I” as their next maritime patrol aircraft. With BAMS integration already scheduled for their chosen platform, a nation that sees its responsibilities stretching across the Indian Ocean from the Straits of Malacca near Singapore, to the Persian Gulf, and down to Madagascar, has obvious uses for the compatible Triton long-range, long-endurance UAV platform.
India seems to agree with this logic, but a treaty that it hasn’t signed is in the way. MTCR was originally aimed at limiting cruise missile exports, but a jet-powered UAV shares enough characteristics to create problems. Discussions are ongoing.
The Canadians have also been approached as possible partners in the P-8A Poseidon program, as a future replacement for their P-3/CP-140 Auroras. Thus far, they have made no commitments. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman is offering them an RQ-4 variant called “Polar Hawk” for Arctic patrol, incorporating some MQ-4C features like de-icing. The vast expanses of Canada’s north make the speed of a jet-powered UAV very attractive, Northrop Grumman will have to beat General Atomics, which is offering its jet-powered Predator C as well as its slower MQ-9 UAV. If NGC can win, adding more Global Hawks for other missions would become easier.AP-3C: who’s next?
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Australia went even further, and made itself a partner in BAMS via its AIR 7000 program. First Pass Approval was given in September 2006, and a Project Agreement was signed on Jan 13/07. Australian Embassy personnel have attended NAVAIR PMA-263 industry days, Australian technical experts are part of the BAMS integrated project teams, and NAVAIR’s BAMS RFP now includes an “Australian Unique Option” section. BAMS had passed its Milestone B “go/no-go” decision, and was analyzing unique Australian requirements before an expected Australian second-pass approval decision that could begin Australian BAMS production in 2012, and achieve Initial Operating Capability in 2015.
In 2009, however, Australia chose to drop out of the BAMS program, with sources citing both operational stress over the P-8A’s similarly-timed introduction, and fiscal pressures. They could still choose to drop back in, and their May 2013 Letter of Request for technical information is a step in that direction. The trade-off is that they’ll be looking at more of a finished product, with less scope for free-of-charge changes.BAMS: Contracts & Key Events BAMS cutaway
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Unless otherwise noted, all contracts originate with the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD.FY 2016
June 24/16: The US Navy has announced the operational testing of an MQ-4C, which successfully transmitted full motion video to a P-8A via the Common Data Link (CDL). During the flight, the UAV had to use its electro-optical/infrared camera to build situational awareness of its environment before the P-8A arrived at the scene. The MQ-4C Triton’s ability to perform persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance within a range of 2,000 nautical miles will allow the P-8A aircraft to focus on their core missions.
February 18/16: The US Navy has completed the first of two operational tests on Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C. While data on the tests is still being analyzed, a favorable review could see a low rate procurement contract awarded in the second quarter of this year, a year ahead of the next operational test event. Initial plans for the UAV involve providing broad area surveillance over 5 orbits encircling the globe, then cueing the manned P-8A Poseidon to inspect closer or deploy weapons. Initial predictions of fleet loss of four per 100,000 hours led the Navy to order 70 to maintain an operational fleet of 20. This has, however, has come under scrutiny from the Department of Defense and could lead to the Navy reviewing and altering their attrition requirement.
November 20/15: he Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton UAV has reached a significant stage as it now enters the program’s Milestone C review. Operational tests will involve six test flights and if successful will lead to the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT & E) phase. Successful testing of the UAV will lead to a production contract (albeit at low levels initially) with the Navy committed to ordering three in 2016 but will increase orders to 68 in 2017. Overseas contracts potentially include seven of the Tritons being procured by Australia with Germany, India and the UK also looking at purchases.FY 2015
August 21/15: Meanwhile, the heavyweight MQ-4C Triton UAV is scheduled to undergo a Navy operational assessment in September, with an initial production contract slated for next year hanging on successful completion of this assessment. The two months of testing could lead to a Milestone C decision and subsequently a production contract, ahead of an anticipated Initial Operation Capability date of 2018. The procurement of up to seven Tritons by Australia, announced in March 2014, is also dependent on the UAV achieving these milestones.
June 22/15: On Friday the Navy handed Northrop Grumman a $60.9 million contract to support the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance – Demonstrator (BAMS-D) UAV, also known as the MQ-4C Triton. The company was awarded a contract last week to improve the air-to-air subsystem design of the Triton. The Navy announced in March that the UAV’s first deployment will be to Guam.
June 16/15: In a third and final contract awarded to Northrop Grumman on Monday, the firm was handed a $39.1 million contract to improve the current air-to-air radar subsystem design of the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton UAV and to demonstrate that the radar technology is feasible and risk-mitigated. The Navy has previously stated that it intends to fit a “due regard” radar to the Triton, as part of capability upgrade scheduled for introduction by 2020.
March 9/15: First deployment scheduled. An MQ-4c Triton will be deployed to Guam in FY 2016, according to information passed to Congress from Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations. The drone, capable of staying in the air for more than a day, was first flight tested just six months ago.
Nov 3/14: Sense-and-Avoid. After canceling the original plan for a “due regard” sense-and-avoid system to prevent collisions with other aircraft (q.v. April 9/14, Aug 13/13), the Navy has re-issued a less advanced RFI.
Instead of requiring radars that could handle ground clutter for low-altitude landings, the MQ-4C will take the more sensible approach of using airport radar data. Instead of demanding full capability up front, the Navy wants a “modular” and “scalable” design that will be improved over time. Ultimately, they want Triton to comply with ICAO ANNEX 2, Section, 3.2; U.S. Code of Regulations (CFR) Part 91.111 and 91.113; and Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 4540.01 guidelines for safe flight. But they’re willing to begin with DoDI 4540.01. Sources: FBO.gov #N00019-15-P7-PMA-262-0029, “MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Sense and Avoid Air-to-Air Radar Capability” | Flightglobal, “US Navy re-starts sense and avoid radar for MQ-4C”.FY 2014
Sept 23/14: Cuts? Reuters reports that reliability improvements in the MQ-4C may be a double-edged sword. The target had been 68 UAVs, in order to maintain 5 “orbits” of 4 UAVs on call for continuous surveillance. Better reliability could tempt the Navy to cut the number bought. The USAF’s RQ-4B Block 40s will also have some maritime surveillance capability (April 28/14), which adds to the pressure.
FY 2015 is expected to see the first production purchases of long-lead items, but budget cuts to date have already slowed program delivery to initial use in 2017, and IOC to mid-2018 with a full orbit of 4. Sources: Reuters, “UPDATE 1-Navy says may trim Northrop drone order due to better reliability”.
Sept 18/14: Testing. After an 11-hour, 3,290 nmi cross-country flight at 50,000 feet along the Mexican border, across Florida, and then up the Eastern Seaboard, Patuxent River, MD gets its 1st MQ-4C. PMA-262’s Pax River tests will include flight envelope expansion, sensor and communications testing, and interoperability testing. Sources: “Navy’s Triton unmanned aircraft completes first cross-country flight” | NGC, “MQ-4C Triton UAS Arrives at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Enters Next Phase of Testing.”
July 4/14: Front-line thoughts. Foxtrot Alpha’s “Confessions Of A US Navy P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol Pilot” interviews a US Navy P-3C pilot who now flies P-8As. He also has some thoughts regarding the MQ-4C, and its performance compared to the current EP-3E electronic eavesdropping plane. His 3 areas of concern are bandwidth limitations, jamming, and real-time strike support:
“It is worth considering what the MQ-4C Triton can and cannot do. Any Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) operations by Triton will likely be limited by satellite bandwidth. I’m speaking from my own knowledge and assumptions here, but consider the task at hand. If you want real-time data off a UAV you have to transmit it via a satellite uplink to a ground monitoring station…. Is it more cost-effective to simply wait till the MQ-4C lands and accept that the downloaded intel will then be hours old? Maybe or maybe not.
Now let’s consider a wartime scenario. Other nations have demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities, including kinetic hard-kill capabilities against low Earth orbit satellites. While this isn’t a concern for geo-synchronous communications satellites, the ability to jam or spoof UAV satellite uplinks was possibly demonstrated during the loss of the RQ-170 [stealth UAV] over Iran. How secure exactly are our satellite uplinks? Are they safe from cyber attack? Will this bandwidth be available to the Navy during wartime or will more pressing communications take precedence? This is all above my pay-grade but realize that UAV endurance doesn’t come without a price.
There’s another factor to consider and that’s the nature of the EP-3E’s mission. EP-3s are capable of supporting a Carrier Strike Group’s air wing by providing communications and signals intelligence support. This is a distinctly ‘real-time’ function as enemy air defense operators may only speak for a few moments or activate SAM radars for several seconds. The latency (time delay) inherent in satellite communications and control systems could possibly mean the difference between life and death for strike pilots in F/A-18 Hornets heading into the target area. If you take away EP-3E, you may lose that real-time SIGINT and COMINT capability.”
April 28/14: Friendly competition? The USAF is touting success in an 11.5 hour RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 flight over the Point Mugu sea range in California.
This Maritime Modes program risk reduction work involves testing software that lets the Block 40’s MP-RTIP AESA radar use a Maritime Moving Target Indicator and a Maritime Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (MISAR) to track surface vessels. The MQ-4C has other naval capabilities beyond these, but then, MP-RTIP is well-tuned for land surveillance. As budgets decline, Global Hawk variants that can do similar jobs may find themselves competing for budget dollars. Sources: USAF, “Air Force tests new surveillance capability”.
April 9/14: Sense-and-Avoid. The US Navy still wants to place this technology on the MQ-4C, not least because it will be required for low-altitude flying in many areas of interest. The problem is that miniaturizing the Exelis AESA radar turned out to be much harder than they thought, to the point where they had to pause and look at other options (q.v. Aug 13/13).
Above 18,000′, standard ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) and TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) “due regard” systems can keep the UAV from getting too close to civilian aircraft, and to many military airplanes as well. Below that altitude, ground and ship-based radars can be used, and something might be doable using aerial radars like AWACS plus datalinks. On the other hand, the whole point of the MQ-4C is to survey areas where those assets aren’t already on patrol.
This is a serious issue for UAVs generally, so it may be worth biting the bullet and investing the funds required to solve the problem. It may even be a hard and significant enough problem to justify DARPA’s involvement. Sources: USNI, “Navy Expanding Search for ‘Sense and Avoid’ Technologies for Triton”.
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 program dashboard and timeline have been updated accordingly, though the Navy’s program office has authorized NGC to develop a new target baseline and schedule with increased costs and schedule delays. That isn’t represented in the charts yet. The program has 3 big technical risks left.
One is software, thanks to about 1.6 million lines of new code in an 8 million line system. There are another 2 software phases left before operational evaluation begins in January 2016.
Another is navigation. In September 2013, the Global Hawk program experienced an anomaly with a navigation system, suspending the derivative Triton’s test flights until a workaround was identified. The problem remains unfixed.
Finally, the air-to-air “sense and avoid” radar subsystem (q.v. Aug 13/13) for operating in civil airspace has hit a wall, and delayed the program by about 1 year.
March 28/14: Infrastructure. The Guam MACC Builders joint venture in Honolulu, HI wins a $45.5 million firm-fixed-price task order under a multiple-award construction contract. they’ll design and build a high bay maintenance hangar to support MQ-4C forward operations and maintenance at Andersen AFB, Guam. That involves scheduled inspections, airframe repairs, pre- and post-flight operations, as well as technical order compliance and aircraft modifications. A pair of unexercised options could raise the total to $46.7 million.
All funds are committed immediately, using a combination of FY 2010 and FY 2014 budgets. Work will be performed in Yigo, Guam, and is expected to be complete by April 2016. Six proposals were received for this task order by NAVFAC Pacific at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, HI (N62742-10-D-1309, #0003).
March 24/14: Testing. The Mq-4C has completed the envelope expansion portion of its test flights (q.v. Jan 6/14). Sources: NGC, “Northrop Grumman, U.S. Navy Complete Initial Flight Testing of the Triton Unmanned Aircraft System”.
March 4/14: FY15 Budget. The USN unveils their preliminary budget request briefings. Precise figures are only offered later, but the Navy does offer planned purchase numbers for key programs between FY 2014 – 2019.
MQ-4C Triton production was supposed to start with 3 UAVs in FY15, but that isn’t happening because the program is behind. In addition to the late start, the Navy’s mid-term budgets will also slow the production ramp-up. Production begins in FY16 instead with 4 (unchanged), and continues with 4 in FY17, 4 in FY18 (-2), and 4 in FY19 (no previous comparable). Subsequent documents show that the program’s overall budget doesn’t change all that much, but around $400 million is added to R&D, and costs per UAV rise a bit. Those costs may drop a bit in future, if Australia buys in as expected.
The immediate pause makes sense, but the vastness of the Pacific and supposed importance of the “Pacific Pivot” don’t seem to be getting a lot of weight in the Navy’s 5-year plan – which also cuts P-8 sea control aircraft, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye AWACS. Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF].
Jan 6/14: Testing. Northrop Grumman announces that the MQ-4C is half-way through the envelope expansion portion of flight testing. It’s still early days, with the longest mission being just 9.4 hours at up to 50,000 feet. Sources: NGC, “Multimedia Release — Northrop Grumman, Navy Complete Nine Flights of Triton Unmanned Aircraft System”.
Nov 4/13: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman Corp. and Triumph Aerostructures’ Vought Aircraft Division have finished initial MQ-4C structural strength testing at Vought’s Dallas, TX facility. Which means torturing the wings and bending them 22% beyond US Navy structural requirements, in hopes they don’t break or permanently deform. This isn’t just a life-span issue. It’s a very immediate requirement whenever a Triton UAV has to drop down for a closer look at something, possibly through inclement weather.
Vought was involved in these tests because they produce Global Hawk family wings. A fatigue test of the entire airframe will begin in 2017. Sources: NGC, Nov 4/13 release.
Oct 7/13: Basing. The Whidbey News-Times reports that the MQ-4C’s Tactical Support Centers for command and control will be placed at the 2 main P-8A support centers: NAS Jacksonville, FL and NAS Whidbey Island, WA. It seems like a fairly obvious operational conclusion, but it was also the consensus of environmental assessments.
“Four of the MQ-4C Tritons will be based out of Ventura County Naval Base in California [by 2016], but the existing P3 tactical support center at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station will be expanded to support both the P8-A and the Triton…”
Sources: Whidbey News-Times, “New drone supports P-8A Poseidon”.FY 2012 – 2013
Test plan approved and BAMS becomes “MQ-4C Triton”; NGC buying 1 for itself; Australia renews interest, but it’s lukewarm; India is interested; DOT&E testing report; RQ-4A BAMS-D crash; Sense and Avoid tech suspended.
MQ-4C: 1st flight
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Sept 9/13: Australia. Australia’s Liberal Party is back in power after a convincing electoral win over Labor. While the new government’s commitment to 2% of GDP for defense spending is a broad positive for industry, their level of commitment to the MQ-4C weakened:
“The acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles will be dependent on the advice of the chief of the Defence Force and service chiefs, as well as a clear cost-benefit assessment that demonstrates the value of these aircraft.”
Triton is likely to pass that test, but this is a step back from earlier statements to the effect that Triton was a high-priority buy. Sources: Australian Liberal Party, “The Coalition’s policy for Stronger Defence” | Defense News, “New Australian Leadership Pledges to Boost Defense Spending”.
Aug 14/13: Infrastructure. Small business qualifier Whitesell-Green, Inc. in Pensacola, FL wins a $15.9 million firm-fixed-price contract to build a BAMS Mission Control Complex at NAS Jacksonville, FL. It will be a freestanding 2-story structure with two Electromagnetic Interference Shielded Mission Control Systems, a Tactical Operations Center with sensitive compartmented information facility spaces, and numerous roof-top mounted antennas. This project will also renovate some interior spaces, including a reconfigured command suite, systems reconfiguration, and in some cases finish upgrades. Finally, additional antennas will be built at a remote site south of the new facility.
All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be complete by December 2014. This contract was competitively procured via Navy Electronic Commerce Online, with 8 proposals received by NAVFAC Southeast in Jacksonville, FL (N69450-13-C-1258).
Aug 13/13: Sense-and-Avoid. BAMS Program manager Navy Capt. Jim Hoke says that ITT Exelis’ radar-based Airborne Sense And Avoid system (q.v. Aug 10/12) is “behind schedule,” so the Navy has “made a decision to pause on the capability right now” and has stopped work. Hoke says that he understands how important this capability is for operations in crowded airspace and allied countries (vid. May 29/13, May 14/13), especially given the MQ-4C’s operational need to descend to lower altitudes at times for a closer look, but “all options are on the table.” If the system really is seen as critical, that could mean a re-compete of the sub-program, or the Navy could decide to join the USAF’s ABSAA effort (q.v. July 30/12).
Re-competes can be problematic, but this may be a case where the circumstances are attractive. The natural scalability of AESA radars means that any successful implementation could be applied to other large UAVs, from NATO’s planned RQ-4 Block 40 AGS Global Hawk variant, to smaller MALE UAVs like the MQ-9 Reaper or MQ-1C Gray Eagle. That’s a significant and growing opportunity for the winning contractor, with follow-on “proven leader” opportunities around civil UAV use. This dynamic could attract firms willing to invest up front with low bids or substantial resources, and the base ABSAA field is a mature one thanks to civil aircraft. Breaking Defense.
Sense-And-Avoid radar on hold
June 25/13: Australia. With an election coming, the MQ-4C Triton seems secure, as both parties remain committed to it. Reuters:
“There’s not a lot of new money in our policy, (but) we are going into Broad Area Maritime Surveillance, the Triton,” said conservative defense spokesman David Johnston, who is likely to become defense minister following the September 14 elections…. “This is about maritime security and surveillance in the Indian Ocean,” a senior Labor insider with close knowledge of defense planning said. “This is a force multiplier. It’s better to think of Triton as a mobile satellite we can steer around the Indian Ocean,”
June 14/13: Sense-and-Avoid. BAE Systems’ AN/DPX-7 Reduced Size Transponder (RST) Indentification Friend-or-Foe system flies on the MQ-4C for the 1st time. IFF transponders broadcast coded location signals to friendly aircraft, and also receive signals from civil and military aircraft around them. They aren’t a complete solution to the problem of operating in crowded airspace, but with the right programming and UAV flight system connections, they can help. Unmanned Systems Technology.
May 29/13: Sense-and-Avoid. Answers from Northrop Grumman clarify the MQ-4C’s sense-and-avoid systems:
“Triton’s due regard radar is meant to provide safe separation of aircraft while the system is in flight at lower altitudes. The U.S. Navy’s mission requires that Triton be able to descend to lower altitudes to make closer identification of surface vessels. The radar is still in development and would be flight tested on Triton at a later date. This is a Navy requirement to ensure that the Triton UAs can safely operate over international waters.”
With respect to ICAO certification issues, Northrop Grumman would only say Global Hawk is the first unmanned aircraft system to achieve a military airworthiness certification. That can only be used to fly a pre-approved, monitored flight plan in American civil airspace, and then only if a specific supplemental FAA certificate of authorization (COA) is granted in advance. Whether this level of certification will work at NAS Sigonella, Italy is a question that the US Navy will need to answer. “Saigon” has already been a base of operations for RQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawks, which lack any form of collision avoidance system. The question is how restricted future MQ-4C flight options would be, absent further certifications.
May 22/12: Fly! The MQ-4C has its 1st flight. The flight was originally scheduled for March 2013, but all goes well, The Navy and Northrop Grumman flight test team conducts an 80 minute flight from Palmdale, CA, reaching up to 20,000 feet while remaining within restricted airspace.
Northrop Grumman says that additional flight tests will take place from Palmdale to mature the system, before it’s flown to the main flight test facility at NAS Patuxent River, MD, later this year. It will be interesting to see if it flies there under its own power, or is disassembled and carried in a heavy-lift aircraft. Even the carrier-based X-47B stealth UCAV had to travel to Pax River on a truck, because the FAA wouldn’t certify it for flight in civil airspace. The MQ-4C is designed with a sense-and-avoid system, so the FAA could conceivably grant it a waiver. US Navy Capt. Jim Hoke is the current Persistent Maritime UAS office (PMA-262) program manager, and it will be up to him to oversee transportation arrangements. US Navy | US NAVAIR | US Navy Live | NGC.
May 22/13: XP – 7. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Bethpage, NY receives a $15.3 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to upgrade some MQ-4C Triton components from Windows XP to Windows 7. Microsoft is ending support for XP, hence the shift, which will happen in quite a few US military programs. We wonder about the security implications of using Windows at all in an incredibly expensive autonomous system, but that’s a separate discussion.
Work will be performed in Hollywood, MD (33.5%); Bethpage, NY (25.8%); Rancho Bernardo, CA (15.6%); San Diego, CA (12.7%); Salt Lake City, UT (9.8%); Stillwater, OK (1.10%); Melbourne, FL (1.0%) and Van Nuys, CA (.05%), and is expected to be complete in April 2014. Funds will be committed as needed by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-08-C-0023).
May 16/13: Australia. Australia’s government announces that they’re sending a formal Letter of Request to the USA for the MQ-4C Triton UAV. The letter will become a Foreign Military Sales Technical Services Case with the United States Navy to obtain detailed cost, capability and availability information. They emphasize that they haven’t picked the MQ-4C yet for AIR 7000 Phase 1B, but they didn’t announce letters of request for any other platforms that might compete with the Triton, like General Atomics’ MQ-9. Which may have separate opportunities of its own:
“As also outlined in the 2013 Defence White Paper, Defence will analyse the value of further investment in unmanned aircraft for focused area, overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, including for use in border security operations. This will include the potential expansion of the role of these assets in the ADF to include interdiction and close air support, subject to policy development and Government consideration.”
May 14/13: Euro Hawk falls. Germany has decided to end the Euro Hawk UAV project, after spending EUR 562 million on system development and test flights. Not only would it cost hundreds of millions more euros to attempt EASA/ICAO flight certification, but German authorities reportedly lacked confidence that they would receive a certification at the end of the process. Rather than pay another EUR 600 – 700 million for additional UAVs and equipment, and an equivalent amount to attempt EASA certification, Germany will attempt to find another path.
The remaining questions fall instead on Sigonella, Italy, where NATO and the USA plan to base MQ-4C Tritons, and RQ-4B AGS Global Hawk Block 40s. German lawmakers are raising those questions, and some are advocating pulling out of NATO’s AGS as well.
March 4/13: Australia. Aviation Week reports that Australia may want more P-8As, at the possible expense of its MQ-4C companion UAVs:
“The RAAF is quietly making a case for 12 Poseidons, arguing that eight would not be enough to cover the vast oceans surrounding the continent. And the unmanned requirement is now described as “up to” seven high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft, potentially reducing Northrop Grumman’s opportunity. At the same time the air force sees an argument for a supplementary drone, possibly the Predator, to take on some of the electronic-intelligence missions that would otherwise fall to the Poseidons and Tritons.”
This is a bit of a head-scratcher. The stated purpose of sustained ocean coverage would be better served by adding another orbit of 3-4 MQ-4Cs (to 10-11), using the P-8s as more of a fleet overwatch and contact response force. Likewise, it makes little sense to use a different UAV for ELINT/SIGINT collection, especially the slow and shorter-range MQ-9. Rather, one would use the MQ-9s in nearer-shore maritime and EEZ patrols, along the lines of the 2006 Northwest Shelf experiments, in order to free up MQ-4Cs for longer-range expeditions over strategic corridors, and the ELINT/SIGINT mission they will be equipped for as of Increment 3.
Feb 22/13: Australia. Australia may have officially dropped out of the BAMS development phase (vid. March 2/09 entry), but News Corp. reports that Defence Minister Stephen will sign a formal export letter of request for the MQ-4C at the 2013 Australian International Airshow. Australia has remained part of the P-8A program for a manned sea control jet, so the MQ-4C is a natural pairing.
The purchase budget is expected to be $A 2-3 billion, but it may be overshadowed by Australia’s expected announcement that they will buy another 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets. News Corp.
Feb 7/13: India. Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C business development lead Greg Miller tells Shephard’s UV Online that India’s RFI for a High Altitude, Long Endurance maritime surveillance platform holds promise:
“They want to follow the US model; P-8 and Triton…. The Indian Navy agrees with the US’ requirements, which exactly fits our sweet spot.”
Their problem is the same problem facing South Korea: the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which bans the export of cruise missiles or unmanned vehicles with certain range and payload limits. India hasn’t signed MTCR, but the issue needs to be resolved at a government-to-government level. UV Online.
March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. With respect to BAMS, they say the design is stable, with 99% of drawings releasable to manufacturing. Software code is a challenge, as are the UAV’s new-design wings. Disruptions to the USAF’s Global Hawk programs aren’t expected to affect schedule, but fewer UAVs produced does drive up the cost per UAV. Excerpts:
“The second development aircraft, the first aircraft with a full sensor suite and the air-to-air radar subsystem, is nearing completion and is expected to begin testing in 2013…. However, the program poses a significant software development challenge, utilizing nearly 8 million lines of code, more than 20 percent of which will be new. Much of the remaining software is derived from Global Hawk; however, officials noted that integration and testing of this code is taking longer than expected. Officials also noted that delays in the manufacturing of the aircraft wing as well as corrections to software during integration of subsystems are the primary reasons for a delay in the program’s operational assessment and production decision….”
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 MQ-4C Triton is included, and the program is falling behind. The plan was to conduct an Operational Assessment in June 2013, leading to a Milestone C decision in October 2013.
Unfortunately, a combination of UAV mission computer software stability problems, and radar performance issues identified in tests with Northrop Grumman’s radar-equipped Gulfstream-II jet, delayed flight testing from May 2012 to “at least” January 2013. The program has also “deferred development and testing of [unspecified] air vehicle and sensor capabilities until after Milestone C in order to reduce current test schedule pressures.”
The plan to reach Milestone C by October seems less and less likely, especially given additional “ground test delays encountered in [fall 2012].” Northrop Grumman will also need to resolve issues with software stability for both the mission computer and ZPY-3 MFAS radar, radar detection and tracking consistency, and radar image quality.
Jan 8/13: Company bird. Northrop Grumman is spending its own money to build and equip its own MQ-4C UAV, complete with the same sensor set the Navy will get. The UAV is under construction, and just had its wings and fuselage joined.
It isn’t the first time Northrop Grumman has done this; indeed, in many ways it’s just a further extension of the company Gulfstream-III business jet test bed, which has been flying since before the development contract was awarded. Initial missions for the company’s UAV will involve supplementing Navy tests, in order to help the team reach their goal of operational UAVs by late 2015. Eventually it will become a platform for demonstrations, integration of different sensors that the US Navy or other customers are interested in, and system performance improvement testing.
1 MQ-4C for Northrop Grumman
September 2012: Testing. A 2nd MQ-4C is added to ground test efforts, with a focus on control software and subsystems. NGC.
Aug 10/12: Sense-And-Avoid. ITT Exelis exhibits their BAMS airborne sense-and-avoid (ABSAA) radar for the first time, at the Unmanned Systems North America conference in Las Vegas. It’s the 1st U.S. Department of Defense ABSAA/ ICAO “due regard” radar program of record, with flight testing expected to start in Q1 2013.
Aug 10/12: Sense-And-Avoid. ITT Exelis exhibits their BAMS airborne sense-and-avoid (ABSAA) radar for the first time, at the Unmanned Systems North America conference in Las Vegas, NV. It’s the 1st US Department of Defense ABSAA/ ICAO “due regard” UAV radar program of record, with flight testing expected to start in Q1 2013.
Their “SkySense 2020H” can be adapted for other UAVs, but the self-contained, 50 pound MQ-4C configuration involves 3 thin-tile AESA array panels mounted at the front of the UAV. It operates in the Ku-band with an 8-10 nmi range, and a 110 degree wide x 30 degree high field of view. AESA radars are flexible if the right software is installed, and Exelis is also looking at using SkySense for weather radar and communications functions. AIN Online.
July 2012: Testing. 1st MQ-4C Triton begins ground tests. NGC.
July 30/12: Sense-And-Avoid. The USAF Research Laboratory (AFRL) has been working on a sense-and-avoid system called Multiple Intruder Autonomous Avoidance (MIAA) since 2008, and is about to conduct the final test phases using a Calspan-operated Learjet as an RQ-4 surrogate. Co-operative commercial aircraft are dealt with using standard methods: a traffic collision avoidance system and ADS-B. Aviation Week says that for non-cooperative aircraft:
“The flights will evaluate collision-avoidance algorithms and a new electronically scanned sense-and-avoid radar, as well as a new technique to perform passive target ranging from the two-dimensional imagery provided by electro-optical sensors.”
Once they’re done, MIAA will become move to EMD system development as part of the USAF’s Global Hawk program. The Navy and Army are both interested, however, and are partners in this effort. A Global Hawk flight is planned in 2015, with Initial Operating Capability planned in 2017. Aviation Week, via NPS.EDU: “Sense-And-Avoid System To Transition To Global Hawk”.
June 14/12: Triton unveiled. Northrop Grumman and US NAVAIR unveil the 1st MQ-4C at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, CA plant, and announce its operational moniker: “Triton.” In mythology, Triton was Poseidon’s son, the messenger of the sea. US NAVAIR | Northrop Grumman.
MQ-4C “Triton”BAMS-D Crash
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June 11/12: BAMS-D Crash. An RQ-4A BAMS-Demonstrator Global Hawk crashes into a marshy tributary of Maryland’s Nanticoke River, during a routine training flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River. There were no injuries to civilians and no property damage, but the crash site has been blocked to recreational boat traffic while the agency investigates. The crash leaves 4 UAVs in the program: 3 for testing, tactics, and doctrine development in the USA, and 1 deployed abroad with the 5th fleet. CNN | Wired Danger Room | WBOC.
May 30/12: Canada. Northrop Grumman Corporation and Canada’s L-3 MAS announce plans to offer Canada a “Polar Hawk” UAV for surveillance of Canada’s arctic land and seas.
As one might guess, it will need to share a number of structural features like strengthened wings and improved de-icing with the MQ-4C Triton. Improved satellite communications, with specialized receivers for polar-orbit satellites, will also be necessary. Sensors aren’t discussed, but the accompanying picture shows a conventional Global Hawk shape, without the AN/ZPY-3 MFAS. NGC.
May 29/12: More SDD. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Bethpage, NY receives a $32.8 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification, for BAMS system development and demonstration. This modification funds a maintenance concept change that will develop a logistics management I.T. system, and improve the transition from contractor logistics support to organic military maintenance by the Navy. Funding will be committed as needs arise.
Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY, (74.54%), Rancho Bernardo, CA (20.82%), Melbourne, FL (4.59%), and Palmdale, CA (0.05%); and is expected to be complete in September 2015 (N00019-08-C-0023).
January 2012: Testing. The Pentagon approves the MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP), which will guide efforts to bring the UAV to a successful Milestone C decision, and into low-rate initial production. DOT&E.
Test plan approvedFY 2010 – 2011
April 25/11: ZPY-3. Northrop Grumman announces the start of system tests for the BAMS UAV’s Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS) maritime surveillance radar. MFAS will use a 2-dimensional radar with both electronic and mechanical scanning.
Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector facility in San Diego, CA is expected to take delivery of the 1st MFAS in June 2011, following ongoing radar software mode development and hardware synchronization and integration activities. A 2nd radar is slated for delivery in September 2011, and risk reduction flight tests on board the company’s Gulfstream II test-bed expected before year end.
March 16/11: Northrop Grumman Corporation completes the 1st of 3 BAMS fuselages under the SDD phase. The MQ-4C fuselage will undergo final assembly and system checkout at the company’s Palmdale, CA facility, ahead of its first flight in 2012. NGC.
March 7/11: CDR. Northrop Grumman announces that the BAMS program completed its system-level Critical Design Review (CDR) with the U.S. Navy in February 2011 – but it is not fully closed yet. The government and Northrop Grumman teams will be working to close out issues raised during the CDR, before it can be officially over.
The system-level full CDR sets the initial product baseline for the MQ-4C system, and was preceded by 10 subsystem and segment CDRs. Northrop Grumman VP and BAMS program manager Steve Enewold says that the SDD phase’s first 2 UAV fuselages are being built at Moss Point, MS, and the first will ship in April 2011 to Palmdale, CA for final assembly. The next major milestone is Test Readiness Review, planned for fall 2011. First flight is expected in 2012, and Enewold says the program continues to meet its acquisition baseline cost, schedule and performance requirements.
Feb 18/11: Sense & Avoid. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Sector’s Battle Management & Engagement Systems Division in Bethpage, NY receives a $25.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to develop an “airborne sense and avoid capability for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aircraft system in support of the Navy and Air Force.” The goal is a TRL 7 system, i.e. a prototype tested in operationally-relevant conditions.
The wording is interesting, as it implies that USAF RQ-4A/B Global Hawks will also be fitted with this capability. As they should be. Sense and avoid technologies are used in commercial aircraft, in order to prevent mid-air collisions. While flying at 60,000 feet will go a long way toward zero collisions, the UAVs do not begin at that altitude, and BAMS in particular will not spend all of its mission time at that level. Throw in funded experiments like aerial refueling between 2 Global Hawk UAVs, and expectations that the stratosphere is likely to be more crowded in future, and the necessity of sense & avoid technologies becomes clearer. To this point, however, the US Navy and USAF have pursued different technology approaches: an ITT-supplied air-to-air radar and ADS-B cooperative surveillance for the Navy, and a multi-sensor “multi-intruder autonomous avoidance (MIAA)” USAF project that uses 3 electro-optical cameras, a low-power radar, and the civil TCAS traffic collision avoidance system.
Work to reconcile those approaches into a common prototype will be performed in Bethpage, NY (50%) and San Diego, CA (50%), and is expected to be complete in November 2012. $7,368,022 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-G-0004). See also: Aviation Week.
Feb 9/11: Northrop Grumman announces a $3.3 million contract to participate in the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Control Segment (UCS) Architecture Working Group (UCSWG), sponsored by the Office Secretary of Defense’s (OSD) Unmanned Warfare Office.
The UCSWG is an open technical standards committee consisting of industry and government representatives from each UAS program of record, several emerging UAS programs and small businesses. The objective of the UCSWG effort is to define a common UAS control station architecture based on standard data models and service interface definitions to enable interoperability, scalability and adaptability of UAS ground stations.
Sept 1/10: New designation. A ceremony at Northrop Grumman’s Moss Point, MS manufacturing facility marks the beginning of RQ-4N BAMS UAV construction.
It is also the first official mention of the platform’s MQ-4C designation. Northrop Grumman spokesman Jim Stratford explains that “M” stands for “Multi-mission,” referring to planned expansion to communications relay and SIGINT missions. The “C” is because there are significant differences from the USAF’s RQ-4B Block 20/30/40, such as anti-icing and sense/avoid capabilities. The “RQ-4N” was Northrop Grumman’s designation during the BAMS competition, but it was never official. Northrop Grumman.
March 3/10: Sub-contractors. Curtiss-Wright Corporation announces a $25 million contract from Northrop Grumman Corporation to provide BAMS’ Advanced Mission Management System (AMMS). Curtiss-Wright will design, develop and manufacture BAMS UAV AMMS units at the company’s Motion Control facility in Santa Clarita, CA Hardware deliveries will start at the end of 2010 and continue through 2011.FY 2008 – 2009
Aug 13/09: USAF getting ideas? The Shepard Group reports that The United States Air Force is exploring a potential communications suite re-architecture for its RQ-4 Global Hawk fleet, based on the Navy’s RQ-4 BAMS set. The BAMS de-icing system has also attracted interest.
April 27/09: Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems in Bethpage, NY received a $22.4 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus award fee BAMS System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract (N00019-08-C-0023). This modification will add wing static and load testing for the BAMS RQ-4N UAS.
Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (90%) and Bethpage, NY (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012.
March 2/09: Australia out. Defense minister Joel Fitzgibbon announces that Australia will not be exercising its option to continue as a member of the BAMS program. The country is shelving the “AIR 7000 Phase 1B” project, in order to concentrate on the introduction of the 737-based P-8A Poseidon instead. Despite the minister’s focus on operational difficulties and schedule slips, Northrop Grumman’s statements cite fiscal pressures as one of the key reasons behind the decision.
Australia will probably want and need maritime patrol UAVs at some point, and its public-private CoastWatch program already has a provision for introducing some to the mix over the next decade. The question around BAMS is what price Australia might pay in penalty fees, if any, should the country decide to rejoin the BAMS program at a later date. Australian DoD | The Australian | Canberra Times.
Feb 4/09: Delays. Aviation Week reports that the BAMS schedule has slipped, owing in part to delays created by Lockheed Martin’s protest. The first RQ-4N BAMS will begin testing in FY 2012 instead of FY 2011, with low-rate production beginning in FY 2013, and initial operational capability declared by FY 2016 instead of 2015. Full delivery is now expected by FY 2019.
Feb 4/09: Reports indicate that one of the Gobal Hawk Maritime Demonstration UAVs has deployed to CENTCOM’s theater of operations by the US Navy. Information Dissemination believes that its future will include pirate tracking off of Africa’s eastern coast. GHMD is a limited program that is both a predecessor to BAMS, and a way to experiment and learn how an advanced maritime patrol UAV can be used in real world operations (CONOPS).
Dec 23/08: Northrop Grumman announces that U.S. Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX-20) gave the RQ-4 Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) team its Q2 2008 Test Team of the Quarter award. To date, the 2 GHMD demonstrator aircraft have flown more than 1,350 hours.
The team’s accomplishments included performing more than 1,000 hours of flight operations over an 18-month period, troubleshooting issues with the communications system, integrating the automatic identification system into the aircraft so it can be used in civilian air space, conducting tests with the ocean surveillance initiative, and developing tactics and guidelines for unmanned patrol systems. From January to June 2008, the team also supported various operational activities, including the Southeastern Anti-Submarine Warfare Initiative 08-2, the USS Iwo Jima Group Sail, and the Commander Carrier Strike Group 8. The team’s successes during this period culminated with the Trident Warrior exercise in June 2008, when the team flew more than 113 hours over a 5-week period, including an unplanned 23-hour humanitarian mission in which a GHMD was re-tasked to assist in the Northern California wildfires. July saw the UAVs participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2008 fleet exercise, which saw the team finish 4 missions totaling more than 92 hours.
Sept 29/08: Rolls Royce puts out a release confirming that Northrop Grumman has selected their AE 3700H engine to power the RQ-4N BAMS UAV. This is hardly a surprise, as Rolls Royce was part of the bid team and those same engines power non-naval Global Hawks. Rolls Royce release.
Aug 8/08: The Congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) denies a protest from the Lockheed Martin MS2/ General Atomics team, which offered its MQ-9 Reaper derived Mariner UAV for BAMS. The grounds of that denial were interesting, and included improvement in Northrop Grumman’s contractor performance in comparable programs like the USAF’s MQ-9 systems. An improvement that was not matched by similar corrective successes at General Atomics.
The BAMS program had been frozen while the appeal went forward, but it is now free to begin in earnest. US Navy NAVAIR announced on Aug 11/08 that the program would resume. See: GAO decisions #400135.1/2.
GAO denies protest, contract continues
April 22/08: Northrop Grumman Corp. Integrated Systems in Bethpage, NY won a cost-plus-award-fee contract with an estimated value of $1.16 billion for the BAMS System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. This phase includes the design, fabrication, and delivery, of 2 unmanned RQ-4N Global Hawk variant aircraft with mission payloads and communications suites; one Forward Operating Base Mission Control System; one Systems Integration Laboratory; and one Main Operating Base Mission Control System.
Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (30%); San Diego, CA (25%); various locations throughout the United States (13%); W. Salt Lake City, UT (9%); Rolling Meadows, Ill., (7%); Falls Church, VA (6%); Baltimore, MD (5%); and Norwalk, CT (5%), and is expected to be complete in September 2014. This contract was competitively procured through a request for proposals; 3 firms were solicited and 3 proposals were received, as the RQ-4N beat out the General Atomics Mariner and Boeing’s “optionally manned” G550 for the contract (N00019-08-C-0023). See also US DoD release | Northrop Grumman release.
Jan 31/08: An 18-month, $15 million cooperative agreement between the United States and Australia becomes part of the pre-system development and demonstration processes for the US Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System program. DC Military.FY 2007 and Earlier
Sept 4/07: General Atomics talks about their BAMS efforts, which they are undertaking in conjunction with Lockheed Martin. The firm announces successfully completion of wind tunnel testing at the San Diego Air & Space Technology Center on a 1/10 scale model of its Mariner, which “exceeded our expectations… Preliminary evaluations validated key competitive capabilities of the aircraft and suggest that Mariner’s design is even more efficient than originally assumed.”
Basically, the testing enabled a specific set of configuration changes to be evaluated at a lower cost and faster pace, while generating important data regarding performance and statistical sensitivities.
Aug 6/07: Northrop Grumman promotes its “sense and avoid” approach, which is intended to meet the BAMS requirement of safely operating alongside manned military and civilian aircraft.
Though they rely in part on high-end capabilities like the Global Hawk’s radar, UAV deconfliction is a major industry issue and the underlying algorithms used are likely to be significant beyond BAMS – in its X-47B UCAS-D unmanned naval fighters, for instance.
June 18/07: Boeing enters the fray. The BAMS 550 would create a manned/unmanned version of the Gulfstream G550 business jet (already in service with the Navy) with fully integrated sensor and communications suites and an advanced mission control system. The Boeing BAMS 550 industry team consists of Boeing, Gulfstream, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell, and touts “an offering that significantly improves upon the historically low reliability, limited payload and extensive support requirements of legacy unmanned aircraft systems.” The Register | Boeing handout [PDF]
May 24/07: Northrop Grumman Corporation discusses its BAMS offer and proposed approach. Their offer is based on an RQ-4N maritime-configured RQ-4B Global Hawk, that will meet “all of the threshold and more than 90% of the Navy’s objective requirements.” The RQ-4N will benefit from the GHMD contracts and efforts already undertaken with the US Navy.
Northrop Grumman’s approach is called Head Start, and is organized around step by step risk assessment that concentrates on system elements, sensor effectiveness, and demonstrating a ForceNet-compliant communications system. Head start will also use a specially modified Gulfstream II business jet as a flying test bed, equipped with the radar sensor that Northrop Grumman is offering as part of its BAMS system. Bill Beck, BAMS Head Start program manager, says: “The test-bed will be used to perform end-to-end communication functionality testing using the Advanced Mission Management System for network, bandwidth and sensor control. It will be tied to a company-built prototype of the Mission Control System (MCS), located at our Hollywood, Md., facility.” The prototype MCS contains off-the-shelf commercial software and hardware components, in keeping with the US Navy’s drive toward upgradeable open architecture approaches.
Carl Johnson, NGC’s vice president of the BAMS program, claims that. “This approach creates a significant program schedule margin which ensures an initial operation capability well ahead of threshold requirements.”
The Northrop Grumman RQ-4N BAMS team includes Northrop Grumman as prime contractor and team leader, unmanned aerial vehicle supplier and developer of the Multi-Function Active Sensor active electronically scanned array radar and the Night Hunter II electro-optical infrared sensor; L-3 Communications providing communications integration; Raytheon supporting the Mission Control System segment; and Rolls-Royce providing the jet engine.
May 8/07: Lockheed Martin discusses its BAMS proposal, which involves the modified Mariner version of General Atomics MQ-9/Predator B. The firm has partnered with EDO, FLIR Systems, Honeywell, LSI, and Sierra Nevada Corp., and its entry will offer an Electro Optical Infrared (EOIR) high definition camera, Automatic Identification System (AIS) to identify ships at sea, a communications relay capability, and Link 16 among its systems.
The Mariner shares its avionics, fuselage, flight controls, and engine (Honeywell TPE-331-1OT turboprop) with the MQ-9/Predator B, but adds enhanced wings (88 foot wingspan) and tails to support the increased takeoff weight, plus 2,000 pounds of additional fuel, 34 antennas for communications, anti-icing and deicing capability, and a retractable EO/IR surveillance turret as part of its 1,350 pound internal payload. The design has an extra 800 pounds of internal payload to offer, plus 4,000 pounds of external payload, which can be carried up to 50,000 feet. Maximum range would be 7,100 nautical miles, albeit at a rather slower speed than the jet-powered RQ-4. The flip side is that the Mariner would be able to cruise for long periods at low altitudes, and do so efficiently. Defense Daily.
May 3/07: The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System source selection process formally begins, with receipt of proposals from aerospace manufacturers. A winner is expected to be announced this fall following BAMS Milestone B approval, with a System Design and Development (SDD) contract award following soon after.
Cdr. Bob Dishman, the BAMS Integrated Product team lead, is quoted in a NAVAIR release as saying that “This is a full and open competition and we are satisfied with the number, breadth and technical maturity of the proposals we have received.” See full NAVAIR release.
Jan 29/07: Flight International reports that the US NAVAIR is delaying the release of tenders for its broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) unmanned air system requirement until mid-February, in order to enable modification of bid documents to meet unique Australian requirements for the system.
Jan 13/07: Aussies in. Australia formally signs a project agreement to participate in the BAMS system development and demonstration phase.
July 28/06: The Australian government has given first pass approval to AIR 7000 Phase 1, under which Australia will spend A$ 1.0-1.5 billion to develop a “multi-mission unmanned aerial system.” Formal negotiations can now begin with the USA on a cooperative development program linked to BAMS, and a final participation decision is expected by late 2007. Australian industry participation will be a key factor, especially with respect to the Integrated Ground Environment for UAV control and fusion of sensor information.
AustraliaAdditional Readings & Sources Background: BAMS/ Triton and Key Ancillaries
- US NAVAIR – Persistent Maritime UAS. Global Hawk BAMS-D and MQ-4C Triton.
- Northrop Grumman – Triton.
- GlobalSecurity.org – Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS).
- DID FOCUS – The Wideband Gapfiller Satellite Program. BAMS’ initial control link.
- DID FOCUS Article – P-8 Poseidon MMA: Long-Range Maritime Patrol, and More. BAMS’ manned complementor.
- US NAVAIR, via WayBack – Persistent Unmanned Aerial Surveillance Program. PAge went down in 2007. It’s mostly of historical interest, and PUMAS was more of an overarching concept of Navy-related ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) systems and operations that includes various manned and unmanned platforms. See also “Northrop Grumman Wins U.S. Navy Contract to Study Maritime Surveillance Concepts.”
- Australia DMO – AIR 7000: Phases 1B and 2B. Phase 1B is the unmanned portion, phase 2B will involve the manned P-8A aircraft. Phase 1B was shelved for a while, and is likely to re-start. It’s just a question of when.
- DID – Australia’s Coastwatch: A Public-Private Model for Coast Guards and CBP. Has included UAV trials with the MQ-9.
- Foxtrot Alpha (July 4/14) – Confessions Of A US Navy P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol Pilot. In-depth discussion of the P-8A and MQ-4C.
- StrategyPage (Oct 1/13) – The Death And Resurrection of Global Hawk.
- Flight International, via WayBack (Feb 9/09) – RQ-4N spreads Global Hawk brand to maritime patrol.
- C4ISR Journal, via WayBack (May 31/07) – BAMS Battle.
- DID (Dec 2/05) – Global Hawk UAV Prepares for Maritime Role (updated). These efforts are relevant to BAMS/PUMAS.
- DID (Aug 24/05) – Follow-Up: Rear Adm. Michael L. Holmes on The USA’s P-3C Force. Excellent in-depth interview, which discusses plans for the P-3 fleet, changes underway in the Navy, and the P-8/BAMS role.
- Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, via WayBack (2003; Volume 24, Number 3) – Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft Survivability in Modern Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Missions [PDF format]
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics [AIAA] Aerospace America Magazine, via WayBack (April 2002) – Maritime patrol market: Escaping the doldrums. By the Teal Group, an aerospace industry analyst firm. Very good at outlining the contours of the P-8’s market, as well as some of the turboprop vs. jet trade-offs in the maritime patrol role.
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In March 2007, Raytheon received a contract to develop the AGM-154C-1 variant of the popular JSOW glide bomb family. This new version would add moving target capability via improved imaging infrared seekers, better seeker algorithms, and a 2-way Link-16 data link. That combination allows the missile to be used as a secondary weapon against enemy ships, with some capability against certain moving land targets. The 2-way link ensures that targeting commands can be received, and missile status and position transmitted back, right up to the moment of impact. Most of those options are currently found only at the high end of the cruise missile market, giving the AGM-154C-1 an interesting positioning as a cheaper short-range alternative.
That development effort was successful, and in late 2008, the US DoD gave the go-ahead for JSOW Block III, which will be integrated on US Navy F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and on the F-35 Lightning II. Now, the JSOW Block III system is the default version under the US Navy’s full rate production contract.
Note that other JSOW contracts have been issued within this time period. If they weren’t American contracts related to the Block III version, however, they’re not covered here.
Unless the entry says otherwise, Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ is the contractor, and all contracts are managed by US Naval Air Systems Command.FY 2014 – 2016
June 24/16: The Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) C-1 has been delivered to the US Navy for operational use after the munition cleared the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) stage earlier this month. This newest iteration of JSOW is integrated with a Link 16 network radio, enabling the weapon to engage moving targets at sea. The radio allows the launch aircraft or another designated controller to provide real-time target updates to the weapon, reassign it to another target, or to abort the mission.
February 19/16: Raytheon and the US Navy have successfully commenced operational testing of the new Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW C-1) at China Lake. The AGM-154 Block III upgrade incorporates a new Link-16 weapon data link and a moving maritime target capability. This was the eighth successful test for the air-to-surface missile after seven deployments in the developmental and integration test phases. The latest test has been described by Raytheon as “a challenging battlefield scenario [which] included a well-defended target that used tactical countermeasures.” Once the free flight operational testing is complete, the JSOW C-1 will be released for full use by the Navy.
Dec 20/13: FRP-10. An $80.5 million contract modification exercises an option for 200 full rate production Lot 10 AGM-154C-1 JSOW unitary weapons, and a single AGM-154C-1 for a performance characterization test. All funds are committed immediately from US Navy FY 2014 weapon budgets.
Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (44%); Cedar Rapids, IA (24%); Tucson, AZ (22%); and McAlester, OK (10%), and is expected to be complete in August 2016 (N00019-13-C-0011).
FY 2014: 200
Dec 17/13: ANAO Report. Australia’s National Audit Office releases their 2012-13 Major Projects Report, which includes some interesting notes concerning the JSOW-C1. Australia had to place an interim buy of AGM-154Cs in time for the Super Hornet’s planned December 2010 Initial Operating Capability, but they won’t accept the JSOW-C1s and their moving target capability until February 2016. Why?
“The JSOW C-1 has been affected by software integration issues leading to an impact on Australian Super Hornet capability. The USN has slipped the integration of the JSOW C-1 into the next build of software for the Super Hornet…. The JSOW C-1 FOT&E test event in September 2014 has been affected by the integration issues with the software build leading to [test cancelation and] an impact on Materiel Release of the JSOW C-1.”
“There is [also] a chance that USN/Raytheon have insufficient Telemetry Instrumentation Kits (TIK) to support Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) and Raise Train Sustain firings of JSOW C/C-1.”
Oct 27/13: Testing. At the US Navy’s Trident Warrior 2013 demonstration, Super Hornet fighters simulated the launch of an AGM-154C-1 JSOW precision glide bomb, while the E-2D directed the imaginary weapon toward the positively identified target and received status updates from the “weapon.”
It mirrors a 2009 simulation involving a JSOW C-1 with a Navy P-3 Orion and USAF E-8C JSTARS battlefield surveillance aircraft. Sources: Raytheon, Oct 27/13 release.FY 2011 – 2013
OT&E: weapon’s great but the UI sucks; F/A-18 Super Hornet integration contracts and testing; Australia commits to JSOW for its Super Hornets and F-35As. Hard hats required
June 5/13: FRP-9. An $80.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 200 full rate production Lot 9 AGM-154C-1 JSOWs, including associated support equipment, plus 1 more AGM-154C-1 for testing.
Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (44%); Cedar Rapids, IA (24%); Tucson, AZ (22%); and McAllester, OK (10%), and is expected to be complete in July 2015. All funds are committed immediately. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-13-C-0011).
FY 2013: 200
May 16/13: Australia. During Parliamentary hearings by Australia’s Joint Committee On Foreign Affairs, Defence And Trade, DMO’s New Air Combat Capability program manager, Air Vice Marshal Kym Osley, discusses the JSM and Australia, in response to a question from Sen. Fawcett. With Norway’s government fully finding the missile through F-35 integration in Block 4, Australia doesn’t need to be involved in that financially, and they haven’t made any commitments to JSM yet beyond discussing requirements etc.
Australia’s near-term plan is to use the AGM-154C-1 JSOW glide bomb as their initial maritime strike weapon, first on their F/A-18F Super Hornets and next on their F-35As. They believe that the USAF and US Navy will also make JSOW part of F-35 Block 4, which is planned to finish in 2020 and release to the fleet in 2021. F-35 software development remains very behind, but Australia hopes to have JSOW available on their F-35As by the RAAF’s own planned F-35A Full Operational Capability date, in 2023. Beyond 2023, Australia’s JP3023 program will be looking at a new maritime strike platform for use across its navy surface combatants and air force (F/A-18F, F-35A, P-8A). Hansard Australia [PDF].
April 26/13: Super Hornet. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $12.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to integrate the new AGM-154C-1 JSOW into the F/A-18E/F aircraft’s H10E Operational Flight Program (core operating system) software.
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete in February 2015. $7.7 million in FY 2013 Navy Weapons Procurement funds are committed immediately, with the rest available as needed. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-10-G-0006, #2002).
Jan 22/13: Testing. Raytheon touts another pair of successful AGM-154C-1 integrated tests, this time against stationary targets with operationally realistic infrared and radio frequency countermeasures. Previous testing in the integrated test phase demonstrated JSOW C-1’s capability against 2 moving maritime targets, and those were also direct hits.
Jan 17/13: DOT&E report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The JSOW C-1 is included. Short version: the report is very complimentary about the weapon’s accuracy, but says that it isn’t ready for prime time.
Without being more specific, they say that reliability is well below specifications, largely because of software-driven problems. The software is also really poor as an interface for the pilot, “excessively complicated and could prevent successful mission execution.” Raytheon plans to update the software, but once it does, some of the previous integrated test data won’t be valid any more.
The program is headed for an Operational Test Readiness Review (OTRR) in Q2 FY 2013.
Testers not happy
Aug 21/12: Testing. Raytheon discusses the AGM-154C-1’s initial integration test using US Navy Super Hornets. The test presented 2 maneuvering ship targets, and involved a handoff from one fighter to another, followed by a successful retargeting from the smaller ship to the larger ship.
The firm says that the program remains on track for reaching initial operational capability in 2013.
Dec 19/11: FRP-8. An $84.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 226 more AGM-154C-1 JSOW glide bomb all-up rounds (in storage containers) with unitary warheads, including associated support equipment. This is full rate production Lot 8.
Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (44%); Cedar Rapids, IA (24%); Tucson, AZ (22%); and McAllester, OK (10%), and is expected to be complete in June 2014 (N00019-11-C-0032).
FY 2012: 226
July 28/11: FRP-7. An $85.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 225 full rate production, Lot 7 AGM-154C-1 JSOW glide bombs with unitary warheads, including associated support equipment, and 1 AGM-154C-1 for performance characterization testing. The production lots involve all variants of JSOW, but new production lots have the Block III as the default version.
Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (44%); Cedar Rapids, IA (24%); Tucson, AZ (22%); and McAllester, OK (10%), and is expected to be complete in June 2013. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-11-C-0032).
FY 2011: 225
Oct 15/10: US NAVAIR PMA-201 accepts an initial 11 JSOW-C1 production rounds. The JSOW-C1 is assembled at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, OK, and will be sent to the fleet once operational testing of its moving target capabilities is complete, in early 2013.
NAVAIR adds that the C1/Block III variant was “recently” tested during a 3-day Joint Surface Warfare Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, where the weapon was used in conjunction with an E-8C JSTARS ground surveillance aircraft, 2 F/A-18 Hornets, and 2 instrumented target ships. So far, about 3,500 JSOWs have been delivered to the fleet since 1998, with more than 400 used in combat. US NAVAIR.
Navy acceptanceFY 2007 – 2010
March 26/10: FRP-6. A $101.6 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-07-C-0093) for 313 full rate production Lot 6 (FRP-6) AGM-154C-1 Unitary Joint Stand-Off Weapon missiles, including associated support equipment. In addition, this modification provides for one extra AGM-154C-1, which will be used for performance characterization testing.
Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (44%); Cedar Rapids, IA (24%); Tucson, AZ (22%); and McAllester, OK (10%), and is expected to be complete in March 2012.
FY 2010: 333
March 4/10: Testing. Raytheon’s AGM-154C-1 JSOW Block III glide bomb hit a milestone by completing its first captive-flight test on an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter, and demonstrating Link 16 compatibility. NAVAIR | Raytheon release.
Super Hornet flight
Feb 15/10: Testing. Raytheon announces that its AGM-154C-1’s Strike Common Weapon Datalink (SCWDL) communicated via Link-16 nodes with a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft. The test demonstrated the weapon’s ability to function as a node on the network and moved the system one step closer to engaging moving maritime targets. The test was part of the Navy’s Joint Surface Warfare Joint Capability Technology Demonstration.
Feb 1/10: FY 2010 budget. The Pentagon releases its FY 2011 budget request. The USAF stopped participating in JSOW in 2005, but the US Navy continues.
The FY 2010 budget is $152.2 million (incl. $10 million RDT&E) for 357 weapons. The FY 2011 request is a slight procurement drop-off, to $143.9 million (incl. $12.9 million RDT&E) for 333 JSOW unitary glide bombs.
March 13/09: FRP-5. A $106.5 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-07-C-0093) for Full Rate Production of 280 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) unitary warhead AGM-154C-1s, plus 1 additional unit for performance characterization testing. Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (44%); Cedar Rapids, IA (24%); Tucson, AZ (22%), and McAllester, OK (10%), and is expected to be completed in March 2011.
The FY 2009 budget of up to $164.9 million covers 280 weapons, and includes $21.8 million in RDT&E finding.
FY 2009: 280
Dec 19/08: Testing. A $17.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm fixed price contract for the special tooling and special test equipment required to maintain Joint Stand-Off Weapons (JSOW-C) production rate requirements, and to support the transition to production readiness activities for the AGM-154C-1 Variant.
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete in March 2010 (N00019-07-C-0093).
Sept 19/07: Datalink. Rockwell Collins announces an $18 million contract by Raytheon Missile Systems to design, develop, and produce the Strike Common Weapon Data Link for the JSOW Block III precision glide bomb and the next generation of Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The Strike Common Weapon Data Link Program is ultimately sponsored by the U.S. Navy’s PMA-201 program management office.
The 2-way, anti-jam, dual waveform (UHF and Link 16) datalink will add the ability to provide target updates from the launcher to the weapon or vice-versa, retarget the weapon while in flight, abort if desired, and provide bomb hit indication (BHI).
March 8/07: Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $93.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued broad basic ordering agreement (N00019-05-G-0008), that covers multiple systems. This order will be used for the Joint Standoff Weapon AGM-154C-1 Block III Network Enabled Weapon Moving Target Capability and Seeker Obsolescence Redesign. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete in July 2009. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
Efforts under this delivery order will include the design, development, integration, test and delivery of an AGM-154C-1 network enabled weapon moving target capability and qualification and production of a replacement for the obsolete seeker processor and detector components (Phase I). In addition, this order provides for delivery of a validated engineering change proposal (Phase II). See also Raytheon release.
JSOW C1 development
JLTV May See First Export to UK in FMS | Turkey Installing Indigenous Air Defense to Counter IS in Syria | Eurofighter Plans for Typhoon Fighter Export Sales
- Raytheon has been awarded a $28 million contract to ensure that the firm’s AIM-120 AMRAAM can be integrated onto various Air Force and Navy aircraft. Platforms on which the munition will be integrated include the F-16 Block 30, F-35, F-15 Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System; F-16 Active Electronically Scanned Array; AMRAAM Real Time Integration Simulator; and multiple F/A-18 configurations. Work is expected to be completed by January 30, 2020.
- The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) could see its first export order, with the UK currently in talks with the Pentagon over a potential Foreign Military Sale. If agreed, the vehicles would be acquired as part of the MoD’s Multi-Role Vehicle-Protected (MRV-P) program under its package one requirement, the smallest for carrying troops and other light duties. Package two involves larger troop carrying and battlefield ambulance vehicles with package 3 involving light protected recovery vehicles.
- Turkey is to install new indigenously developed air-defense systems around a southern province to counter rocket attacks launched by Islamic State militants operating in neighboring Syria. The systems being put in place include the counter-mortar radar known as Serhat and the Korkut self-propelled air-defense gun which is capable of firing 1,100 rounds per minute. In addition, two batteries of Aselsan’s High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) will be installed in the Kilis area to operate with scores of drones.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense has announced a successful test-firing of the A-135 anti-ballistic missile interceptor by the Russian Aerospace Forces from the Sary-Shagan missile testing site in Kazakhstan. According to the ministry’s statement, the test was conducted to “to verify performance characteristics of ABMs operated by the Air Force.” Originally developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, Russia carries out periodic tests on the A-135 system in Kazakhstan, known for its vast empty spaces ideal for missile tests and space landings.
- France has received delivery of its first A400M aircraft with tactical capabilities from Airbus. While the delivery is number nine of an eventual 50 A400s, aircraft MSN33 is the first with the ability to participate in missions such as airdrops and includes the addition of cockpit armor and defensive aids system equipment, plus clearance for the Atlas to transfer and receive fuel in-flight. It’s expected that two more such aircraft will be delivered by the end of the year, and three already in service will be upgraded with such features.
- Eurofighter is to target fresh export sales of the Typhoon fighter as the consortium announced deliveries of 47 of the multi-role aircraft in the 12 months running up to May. A backlog of 106 deliveries now remain, with orders from Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the UK. Targets for the fighter include campaigns with Indonesia and Malaysia, several European nations and a watchful eye is being kept on the ongoing situation in Canada.
- Singapore has announced that it is to delay its decision on which helicopter will replace its Super Puma fleet. News of the postponement comes following the crash of an H225M in Norway, and while the helicopter was a civilian model, the military version is believed to be the front runner in the replacement program. According to anonymous sources talking to Reuters, a new tender for the $1 billion acquisition is not being considered.
- Taiwan’s IDF fighter has been armed with CBU-100 cluster bombs after a photograph of a fighter was posted on the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science & Technology (NCSIST) webpage. The aircraft pictured was one of the two prototype aircraft that participated in the Hsiang Sheng upgrade program. As a non-member of the United Nations, Taiwan is not a signatory of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
- Russia’s latest A-135 anti-ballistic missile interceptor test:
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The multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon has been described as the aerodynamic apotheosis of lessons learned from the twin engine “teen series” fighters that began with the F-14 and F-15, continued with the emergence of the F/A-18 Hornet, and extended through to the most recent F/A-18 Super Hornet variants. Aerodynamically, it’s a half generation ahead of all of these examples, and planned evolutions will place the Eurofighter near or beyond parity in electronic systems and weapons.
The 1998 production agreement among its 4 member countries involved 620 aircraft, built with progressively improved capabilities over 3 contract “tranches”. By the end of Tranche 2, however, welfare state programs and debt burdens had made it difficult to afford the 236 fighters remaining in the 4-nation Eurofighter agreement. A 2009 compromise was found in the EUR 9 billion “Tranche 3A” buy, and the program has renewed its efforts to secure serious export sales. Their success will affect the platform’s production line in the near term, and its modernization plans beyond that.
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The Eurofighter program emerged out of a long and conflicting set of multinational efforts to design a new European fighter. By 1983, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain had coalesced around the Future European Fighter Aircraft (FEFA) program. That partnership lasted only until 1985, as differences with France over carrier compatibility, weight limits, and French insistence on the lead industrial role, ended their partnership. Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain established Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH in 1986 to manage the Eurofighter project, while France went its own way and developed their Rafale fighter.
Both projects went on to develop clipped delta, canard-equipped twin-engine fighters, whose “radar shaping” designs significantly lowered their radar signature compared to earlier fighters like the Mirage F1, Tornado, or F/A-18A-D Hornet. Even so, it would be a misnomer to call these European jets stealth aircraft. The standard term is a “4+ generation” fighter, distinguishing them from “5th generation” aircraft like the American F-22A Raptor and Indo-Russian PAK-FA.
While the Rafale’s development emphasized weapon load and multi-role capabilities, squeezed budgets and ample fleets of strike aircraft led Eurofighter’s partner nations to focus on the air superiority role. An excellent aerodynamic design, very good thrust-to-weight ratio, and fast slew-and-point capability was fused with a very integrated set of electronic sensor and defensive systems, including a pilot-friendly cockpit design that offered the first use of voice commands in a fighter. This made Eurofighter’s Typhoon very capable in its chosen aerial role, able to compete with or best serving opponents short of the American F-22A.
Typhoons even proved capable of armed supercruise during 2011 Libyan operations, but this was only possible with low-drag “4 + 2” air-to-air missile configurations, at high altitudes, to Mach 1.2.PIRATE IRST:
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For air-to-air combat, the Eurofighter currently relies on long range detection using its mechanically-scanned, phased array ECR-90 CAPTOR radar and PIRATE IRST(Infra-Red Search & Track) system, coupled with a good array of advanced air-to-air weapons. Non-British Eurofighters will also have a 27mm Mauser cannon on board, considered by many observers to be the best fighter cannon on the market.
On defense, the Typhoon’s Praetorian (formerly EuroDASS) self-protection suite is designed for 360 degree coverage, with high automation. The Defensive Aids Computer (DAC) controls a package that includes Towed Radar Decoys, a Missile Approach Warner (MAW), wingtip ECM pods, and a Countermeasures Dispensing System (CMDS). They are integrated with each other, and with the Eurofighter’s radar and IRST.
Unfortunately for the consortium, this aerial combat strength ended up being the flip side of their biggest weakness. Initial “Tranche 1” machines were severely hobbled on the export market by their poor ground attack capabilities, a serious weakness in a world of multi-role fighters. When combined with the plane’s $100+ million cost, the result has been a slew of lost export competitions. Dassault’s Rafale, which had gaps of its own, could not capitalize on that failing, and is still looking for its first export win. Embarrassingly, the Eurofighter has usually lost to modernized, multi-role versions of the very F-16s and F-15s it was meant to supplant. That, in turn, has affected both prices and the pace of upgrades.
A list of current weapons may help snap the plane’s evolution into clearer focus:
As the list above notes, the Tranche 2 fighters that began delivery to member countries in 2008 have added precision ground attack capabilities under programs like P1E, but still fall well short of the full capabilities and weapon arrays offered by competitors like the American F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-15E Strike Eagle. Their lack of a helmet-mounted display (HMD) compounded this issue, preventing the Typhoon from taking full advantage of its new air-to-air missiles, and detracting from their ground attack capabilities. A BAE “Striker” HMSS Helmet-Mounted Display is in low-rate production now, but it didn’t become operational until 2011.
Tranche 3 Eurofighters will reportedly be based on the Tranche 2 standard, with provisions for dorsal conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) that can extend range while creating minimal drag. The other big change involves upgraded power systems and electronics that can more easily support future growth and upgrades. The weapon bus can handle fiber optic cabling, onboard computing is upgraded, and a high speed data network improves sharing with weapons or other platforms. The most important upgrade remains a CAPTOR “E-Scan” Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to replace the ECR-90. Industry is developing it for a 2015 delivery date, but there doesn’t seem to be a contract framework in place. The lack of an AESA radar leaves the Eurofighter a generation behind its American counterparts in radar technology, and until it catches up, it’s likely to suffer in export competitions.F-35A Lightning II
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Even as these upgrades are being discussed, however, the Eurofighter’s export window as a leading-edge fighter choice is closing. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is aerodynamically inferior, but it offers a stealth fighter with a tested AESA radar, a wider array of sensors, and sensor fusion at an even higher level. By the end of this decade, 5th generation projects like the Russo-Indian PAK-FA will also become viable choices for some export targets.
Successful upgrades can keep the Eurofighter Typhoon competitive, even in that environment, if its production line lasts long enough. The key word will be “competitive.” As an example, see this comparison of the Eurofighter vs. Saab’s single-engine contemporary, the 4+ generation JAS-39 Gripen. Saab already has a development contract for an ES-05 Raven AESA radar, and is significantly ahead in weapons integration:Eurofighter: What’s Next? A Weak Core Eurofighter 2020
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Tranche 3 aircraft are expected to deliver a few important new capabilities, including an AESA radar and Conformal Fuel Tanks. At present, however, only Tranche 3 Eurofighters are designed to add CFTs. The biggest question at present is whether Tranche 3A aircraft will be the only CFT-capable Typhoons. The status of core countries’ Tranche 3B orders is very unclear, but Britain and Germany have already firmly ruled out further buys, and it appears likely that Tranche 3A will be the last production order from the original member countries.
In 2011, Eurofighter’s CEO placed the end of production at 2015, barring a major export win like India or Japan, or a Tranche 3B purchase from the consortium partners. By 2014, that date had been revised to 2017/18, but 2015 still marks the point that parts of the supply chain will begin to stop.
This will leave core countries with smaller fleets, for 2 reasons. One is limited orders. The other is Typhoon fleets that won’t serve in parallel. UK Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy has said that he expects the RAF to operate on the basis of a Typhoon fleet of 120 aircraft. By the time the last jets of the 3A tranche come into service, between 2015 and 2020, the first batch of Tranche 1 Typhoons would be approaching the end of their life. This is likely to be true in other partner countries as well. A 2009 Der Spiegel article illustrates some of the issues in Germany, for instance:
“The German air force didn’t get the first jets until July 2006. It now has 38 Eurofighters. But 14 of them have been sent back for repairs. Some of them still suffer instrument failure during flights. Of the six single-seat aircraft at the Neuburg air base only four are fit for service on average. That’s just enough to provide day and night cover for Germany’s airspace. The defense ministry recently admitted to budget committee members that the approved sum of [EUR] 14.7 billion would only be enough to pay for 143 Eurofighters. Parliament would have to approve an additional [EUR] 3 billion if the air force was to get the planned 180 aircraft…”Upgrade Lifeline? IPA7 tests KEPD-350s
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At the same time, remaining aircraft in these existing fleets offer strong opportunities for piecemeal upgrades, from moves to give Tranche 1 planes precision ground attack capabilities, to helmet-mounted sights, AESA radar retrofits, and even thrust-vectoring engines to create super-maneuverability. Conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) could also become possible, if Eurofighter devises an appropriate upgrade process. It would be logical to make that part of a life-extension structural refit, which would help existing customers keep expensive investments in service for longer. Key export order competitors like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-15 Strike Eagle, F-35 Lightning II, JAS-39 Gripen, Rafale, and Russian SU-30MKx/SU-35 already field every one of these capabilities – but none currently field all of them.
Weapon upgrades are absolutely expected. Expansion of the Typhoon’s ground attack weapon choices is an ongoing process. MBDA’s medium-range stealthy Storm Shadow cruise missile is in testing for full integration by 2015, reportedly thanks to Saudi Arabia and Oman. Taurus’ similar KEPD 350 will undergo partial testing at the same time. Saudi Arabia also reportedly wants to add the French Damocles surveillance and targeting pod, which makes sense because the Israeli LITENING-III runs up against their boycott.Storm Shadow
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In the air, 2017 is expected to mark full integration of the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile.
Over the medium term, planned weapons reportedly include Diehl’s medium-range PILUM and HOSBO glide bombs, short-range MBDA Brimstone light strike missiles, and possibly their longer-range SPEAR-3 successors. Raytheon’s AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles have been discussed, and they would fix a critical deficiency for an important mission. So, too, would anti-ship missiles, which all of its competitors already carry. None of these items come with a schedule, however.
National budgets will play a role in the pace of these upgrades, as they have throughout the Eurofighter’s history. The question, for current and future customers, is timing. Until integration is done, the absence of key capabilities like long-range precision strike and anti-radar missiles will continue to hobble the Typhoon’s positioning as a fully multi-role aircraft.
What has changed now is the consortium’s seriousness about winning exports, along with a dawning understanding that most of these upgrades are now basic requirements for serious players. The question is whether this understanding came too late.Exports Required Eurofighter Display
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Export wins will be necessary in order to finance the full range of timely improvements, and keep the line open past 2017/18. An August 30/09 Financial Mail article reported that Eurofighter GmbH was hoping for sales of 300 Eurofighter Typhoon to 10 export countries by 2020, but that will be very challenging.
The Eurofighter’s cost of $100-140 million each is already creating tough sledding against F-35 stealth fighters whose production quantities will eventually create prices in the $100 million range, and F/A-18 Super Hornets or JAS-39E/F Gripens that can be sold for around $60-70 million. With existing operators interested in selling some of their aircraft, even an export win or 2 may not change the Eurofighter’s overall production numbers.
The Tranche 3A release from Eurofighter cited active export campaigns in Switzerland, India, Japan, Romania, Greece, and Turkey, while “exploring possible opportunities” in South Korea, Bulgaria, Croatia, et. al. Romania (F-16s) and Turkey (F-35A) never went ahead with a real competition. Subsequent losses in Brazil (JAS-39E/F Gripen), India (Rafale, unfinalized), Japan (F-35A), South Korea (F-35A), Switzerland (JAS-39E Gripen, canceled by referendum), and the UAE (TBD, q.v. Dec 19/13 entry) have hurt.
Greece, which canceled an order for 30-60 Eurofighters in 2005, and bought F-16s instead, still had plans for an additional next-generation fighter buy to counter Turkey’s planned purchase of 100 F-35As. With Greek finances in tatters, however, don’t hold your breath.
After that, Eurofighter’s options narrow sharply. On the bright side, the Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar all have fighter competitions in progress, and successful sales to Saudi Arabia and Oman help the Typhoon’s chances within the Gulf Cooperation Council.
With Japan and South Korea out, the once-promising Asian market has few options left for Eurofighter. A MiG-29N replacement competition in Malaysia has run into trouble due to finances, and they are exploring leasing deals. That will be a tough win for Eurofighter. In Europe, Eastern European countries like Bulgaria and Croatia would normally be problematic sales due to the Eurofighter’s costs, but Germany is pushing hard, and offering umbrella maintenance agreements and training packages. Even if they succeed, however, the end result is just a handful of sales.Typhoon at Sea? Naval variant, cutaway
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India was pitched with very explicit offers to have their needs and investments drive the Typhoon’s future enhancements, and significant roles for Indian industry. At Aero India 2011, Eurofighter and BAE even unveiled an initial internally-funded design for a navalized Eurofighter than can operate from aircraft carriers. In a direct nod to potential Indian sales, they touted the plane as being able to take off from “ski jump” carriers without catapults – a design that describes all of India’s current and planned carriers, as well as the initial design for Britain’s own Queen Elizabeth Class. Eurofighter GmbH describes the goal as 95% commonality with land-based aircraft, and required changes as “limited… include a new, stronger landing gear, a modified arrestor hook and localised strengthening on some fuselage sections near the landing gear, as well as updates the EJ200 engines,” which could include thrust-vectoring as well as structural reinforcement.
It didn’t help. India picked the French Rafale, which already has a carrier-capable version, as their future M-MRCA medium fighter. The Indian Navy is currently flying MiG-29Ks as its naval fighters, and plans to add Indian-designed LCA Naval light jets.
Britain could have been a long-shot backup option, but they’re planning to use the F-35B from future carriers, which won’t be fitted with steam catapults and arrester wires after all.
Brazil might have been a future option, on the assumption that they will replace their aircraft carrier at some point. Unfortunately for Eurofighter, Brazil picked Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen as their future air force fighter, and Saab also has plans for a naval variant.
That leaves a carrier-capable Eurofighter variant without a plausible future customer.Eurofighter: Industrial Structure & Orders IPA7 over Manching
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Technically, the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) is the customer for the Eurofighter project. Eurofighter GmbH is the contractor, with joint ownership by all of the key industrial partners: BAE Systems, EADS, and Finmeccanica. Overall, Eurofighter GmbH cites a total of 100,000 supported jobs in 400 companies across Europe.
Aircraft production work shares were designed to correspond to the number of aircraft ordered under the 1998 Umbrella Contract:
- 37.5% UK (232). BAE Systems: Front fuselage including foreplanes, canopy, dorsal spine, tail fin, inboard flaperons, rear fuselage section.
- 30.0% Germany (180) EADS Deutschland: Main center fuselage. Airbus spinout Premium AEROTEC is the main sub-contractor.
- 19.5% Italy (121). Alenia Aeronautica: Left wing, outboard flaperons, rear fuselage sections
- 13.0% Spain (87). EADS CASA: Right wing, leading edge slats
The Eurofighter’s 2 EJ200 turbofans deliver 20,000 pounds thrust each in reheat mode, and are manufactured by the EUROJET partnership of Avio (Italy), ITP (Spain), MTU Aero Engines (Germany) and Rolls-Royce (UK).
The Euroradar consortium supplies the ECR-90 CAPTOR radar, and is developing the “E-Scan” AESA successor for introduction by 2015. It is led by Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems in Edinburgh, UK (formerly BAE Systems Avionics), and also includes EADS and Spain’s Indra.
The Eurofighter contract was designed to protect the fairness of each participants’ agreed manufacturing work shares, by making it very expensive to back out of committed orders. On the other hand, European defense spending continues to decline due to pressure from welfare state commitments and debt burdens, even as European military operational deployments and their costs have increased. Hence the fractious contract negotiations around Tranche 3, and also the investigation of foreign sell-offs by the member countries.
In June 2009, the partners took a diplomatic way out, splitting Tranche 3 into 2 parts. At the end of July 2009, the 4 partner nations placed a EUR 9 billion Tranche 3A order, which will keep production going for several more years. The table below summarizes the Eurofighter’s evolving production plans, from the original 1985 plan to the 1998 agreement, and then planned and actual orders for each production tranche.
Note that 24 of Britain’s Tranche 2 aircraft have been diverted to Saudi Arabia, in order to satisfy Saudi demands for early delivery. In response, Britain ordered 24 more Tranche 3 aircraft as replacements. In practice, this means that Britain has ordered only 16 of its originally planned 88 Tranche 3 Eurofighters – and high-level statements indicate that Tranche 3A agreement absolves Britain of the need to place any further Eurofighter orders. Other reports explain the gap by claiming that the other 48 British Tranche 3 aircraft will go to Saudi Arabia, meaning that all of Saudi Arabia’s 72 planes will have been siphoned off from British orders.
Maintenance contracts to keep the fleets in service involve a small core of multi-national contracts for key systems and general service, followed by a number of national umbrella contracts to address other areas, and then a set of national maintenance agreements that are less comprehensive. See the chart below for tracking of the main support contracts currently underway:Contracts & Key Events New dawn, or twilight?
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DID coverage focuses on purchases related to consortium aircraft buys under Tranche 3, platform improvement efforts, international opportunities, and sales. See the “Additional Readings” section for coverage of the comprehensive support contracts for the various countries, and of the Saudi and Austrian export deals.2014 – 2016
June 23/16: Eurofighter is to target fresh export sales of the Typhoon fighter as the consortium announced deliveries of 47 of the multi-role aircraft in the 12 months running up to May. A backlog of 106 deliveries now remain, with orders from Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the UK. Targets for the fighter include campaigns with Indonesia and Malaysia, several European nations and a watchful eye is being kept on the ongoing situation in Canada.
May 10/16: With the company currently rolling out its Leonardo re-brand, Finmeccanica has reported a strong financial first quarter thanks to its recent $9.1 billion Eurofighter deal with Kuwait. However, a drop in helicopter sales is negatively affecting the company. Helicopter orders dropped a massive €964 million in the first quarter from €1.35 billion last year to €384 million, which managers are attributing to turmoil in the oil and gas sector, resulting in companies buying fewer helicopters to access oil rigs.
April 8/16: Kuwait is to become the launch customer of the Eurofighter Typhoon’s Captor-E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The country will be the first to flight test the new technology upon delivery of its long awaited order for 28 of the multi-role fighters. Finmeccanica, who has taken the lead on the Kuwait sale has said that the Typhoons that will be delivered to Kuwait will be the most advanced configuration of the type, and will include the company’s Praetorian defensive aids suite and Pirate infrared search and track system.
April 6/16: Kuwait’s delayed Eurofighter deal was eventually signed on Tuesday. The 28 jets making their way to the Gulf state will be the largest order of the jet for Italian Eurofighter partner Finmeccanica, who spearheaded the deal. The fighters will also come with a new electronically scanned radar designed by the European EuroRADAR consortium and specifically developed for the Eurofighter. Kuwait will be the first to have such radars installed on their jets as the four Eurofighter launch partners, Germany, Spain, Italy, and UK have yet to adopt the radar.
March 3/16: Finmeccanica can breath a sign of relief as Kuwait’s parliament approved a draft law to allow for a $500 million down payment on its future Eurofighter deal. The purchase of 28 jets at a total cost of $8.7 billion had been hanging in the balance since a memorandum of understanding was signed in September. A final was expected to be signed in January, but issues over final cost and training requirements had been put under scrutiny. The delay had stoked fears that the deal could be cancelled, causing a 6 percent tumble in the Italian manufacturers’ shares in early February.
February 23/16: Oman’s ordered Eurofighter Typhoon’s move one step closer to delivery according to Eurofighter partner BAE Systems. Final assembly has begun at BAE’s Warton site in Lancashire, UK with 12 to be delivered to the Royal Oman Air Force in 2017. The sale will also include eight Hawk 166 advanced jet trainers. Exports of the joint European Typhoon have been on the increase, with Italian partner Alenia Aermacchi and the Italian government leading the charge for the sale of 28 of the fighters to Kuwait.
February 15/16: Following the delays in finalizing Kuwait’s Eurofighter fighter deal, Kuwaiti Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Sheikh Khaled Jarrah Al-Sabah has said that contracts will be signed this week. Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti will visit Kuwait after both ministers discussed issues surrounding the deal during wider NATO talks over tackling the Islamic State in Brussels. With the deal originally planned to be finalized by the end of January, procedural delays over cost and training had put in doubt a deal being concluded any time soon.
February 3/16: Last weekend’s expected signing of a deal for Kuwait to purchase twenty-eight Eurofighter jets has been put off. Italian Ministry of Defense officials cited “procedural” delays on Kuwait’s behalf, and that no clear date had been set. It had been expected that the deal would close quickly after some initial delays over pilot training had pushed an agreement into 2016. News of the deal came as Kuwait’s initial plan to purchase F-18 Super Hornets from Boeing was scrapped after their frustration over congressional delays in gaining approval for the sale. The loss of the sale to the Eurofighter has put into question the security of some jobs at Boeing’s St. Louis plant. The plant specializes in the manufacture of the Super Hornet, and were set to start production of the $3 billion deal before the change.
January 28/16: After delays in gaining approval from the US to buy new F-18 Super Hornets, Kuwait instead looks set to sign contracts for twenty-eight Eurofighter Typhoon jets to replace their older F-18s. An official in the Italian Ministry of Defense said minister Roberta Pinotti would visit Kuwait on Sunday to sign papers finalizing the deal estimated to be worth $8.7 billion. Talks had been ongoing since November with issues over pilot training delaying the deal, but should be completed within eighteen months. The switch in allegiance will no doubt annoy manufacturer Boeing, and may see renewed frustrations over the lengthy congressional approval process for foreign military sales.
December 14/15: Kuwait’s purchase of 28 Eurofighter jets from Finmeccanica is set to experience further delays, as contracts may not be signed until 2016. The CEO of Finmeccanica expressed concerns last week, saying that he did not expect a sale to be agreed upon before December 25. The $9 billion purchase has been delayed repeatedly since a memorandum of agreement was signed in September. Reasons for the delay have apparently arisen due to disagreements over pilot training and the dispatching of specialized personnel. On December 1, the Kuwaiti government requested parliament to release a supplementary budget of $20.4 billion to fund military weapon purchases over the next ten years.
November 30/15: A $9 billion Eurofighter sale to Kuwait has been delayed. Italian defense company Finmeccanica announced that problems with pilot training and the dispatching of specialized personnel has resulted in the deal being postponed until mid-December. An initial memorandum of agreement for 28 fighters was signed in September and it was hoped contracts would have been signed by November. Kuwait is one of several Gulf nations currently driving to acquire high-tech aircraft and weaponry to protect themselves from neighbouring Iran as well as internal threats in the region.
November 13/15: BAE Systems is slowing Eurofighter production in order to sustain production lines out past 2018, in addition to cutting jobs on the fighter’s UK production line. The decision reflects the company’s orderbook, covering production orders which conclude in 2018 and an expected uptick in production as a result of an order for 28 Eurofighters by Kuwait, following an agreement between the Italian and Kuwaiti governments earlier this year; however a finalized deal has yet to materialize.
October 19/15: In further bad news for the German Eurofighter program, a malfunction with the aircraft’s external fuel tank grounded [German] the fleet from flying with the additional fuel pod attached, reducing the ability of the fighters to operate at longer distances. One of the German contingent of Eurofighters deployed to the Baltic region saw one of its fuel tanks fall off last week, leading to the grounding. This follows news earlier this week that the German government has temporarily suspended deliveries of new Eurofighters, citing manufacturing defects. German press also reports [German] that the EUR1 billion ($1.27 billion) contract to develop the CAPTOR-E radar system for the fighter, signed in November 2014, is now delayed by five months, as well as being above budget.
October 14/15: Germany’s Defence Ministry has halted deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters following the discovery of a technical fault with the Airbus-manufactured jets. The technical problem is thought centered around the connection between the aircraft’s vertical stabiliser and the fuselage. This is the second time quality control measures for the European fighter have caused problems, with manufacturing defects in September 2014 [German] also leading to a suspension of deliveries. In both cases BAE Systems was the consortium member responsible for manufacture of the defective parts; however this latest problem is not thought to pose any immediate flight safety issues for operators of the aircraft.
September 14/15: Kuwait is buying 28 Eurofighters through the Italian government, following an order for a dozen of the aircraft in December 2012. The order is the first in three years for the multinational Eurofighter, with the Eurofighter consortium’s partner company Alenia Aermacchi reportedly having led the marketing campaign in the Gulf state. Oman similarly ordered twelve of the multi-role fighters in December 2012, with the aircraft already in operation with six national air forces.
Dec 12/14: Weapons. BAE announces that the 1st Brimstone trial onto a Typhoon was completed, following a June 19/14 award to study integration between the missile and the aircraft. The firm says that “6 Brimstone missiles were fitted to the aircraft, each wing carrying a launcher with three missiles. Training missiles were used for the purposes of the trial and demonstrated that the weapon can be fitted to the aircraft.” Of course that’s not the toughest part in such an endeavor, and full integration is not expected before 2018.
November 2014: Weapons. The 1st release of a Storm Shadow cruise missile was performed successfully by the Italian IPA2 test aircraft, following initial tests in August. Now that inert drop tests and store release trials were performed, Phase 3 will involve environmental data gathering, followed by additional flights to assess handling qualities.
BAE Systems was also able to test the installation of a Storm Shadow onto a RAF Typhoon. Source: Eurofighter.Captor-E concept
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Nov 19/14: Sensors. NATO’s Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) finally signs a EUR 1 billion/ GBP 800 million / $1.273 billion contract with Eurofighter Jadgflugzeug GmbH to finish and integrate Euroradar’s Captor E-Scan movable AESA radar (q.v. March 22/12, July 30/12, Nov 15/13, Oct 17/14), whose absence is currently a big disadvantage compared to every other top-tier fighter on the market. This deal was supposed to be done by the end of 2012, and the delay has been costly, but better late than never.
Captor-E is touted as having an unspecified “very large” antenna size that’s expected to be comparable to F-15s (APG-82v1) and F-22As (APG-77). That means more raw power for performance, and more T/R modules available for specialized functions; though materials, build quality, and the number of the T/R modules will all modify final performance statistics. Instead of using a fixed mounting like American fighters and the French Rafale, Eurofighter’s Captor-E will be mounted on a movable plate for an extremely Wide Field of Regard (WFoR). The current contract release appears to have expanded the touted FoR from about 120 to 200 degrees, thanks to the combination of mechanical movement and electronic beam steering. Eurofighter sees that capability as very useful for fire-and-evade dogfighting maneuvers that use the Eurofighter’s speed and maneuverability to their fullest, without breaking the launching fighter’s radar lock. The tradeoff is paid in poorer reliability and higher maintenance costs, compared to a fixed AESA array.
The contract value for Finmeccanica alone will be EUR 400 million, as the leader of the Euroradar consortium. Finmeccanica-Selex ES will produce the new radar at its facilities in Edinburgh, UK and Nerviano (Milan), Italy while Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi’s Turin, Italy site will be responsible for the navigation systems during the integration phase. Airbus DS in Germany, and Spain’s Indra, round out the consortium. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter And NETMA Sign One Billion Euro Radar Contract” | UK MoD, “€1 billion contract to develop cutting-edge radar for Typhoon” | Airbus Group, “New radar ensures superiority of the Eurofighter” | Finmeccanica Selex ES, “€1 billion contract signed between the Eurofighter consortium and the inter-governmental agency NETMA” | Defense News, “Action Pending on AESA Radar for Typhoon”.
CAPTOR-E AESA RadarFlying low…
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Oct 17/14: P1E. BAE Systems announces that deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon Phase 1 Enhancement upgrades have created 17 P1Eb standard aircraft in service with the RAF. A further 18 are to be delivered by April 1/15, under a EUR 1.2 billion program that will eventually convert all 67 Tranche 2 Typhoons in RAF service; BAE offers a useful summary of key features.
Now that the UK has completed testing and undertaken initial fielding, the upgrade package will also become a proven installation option for other Eurofighter Tranche 2 customers, beginning in 2015. Meanwhile, future P2E and P3E upgrades are being planned, but the biggest wild card and competitive disadvantage remains:
“Eurofighter is still waiting for the partner nations to sign a production contract for the introduction of the Captor-E [AESA radar]…. A program source confirmed that the signing of the deal had slipped to the end of 2014, and “the staffing process within some partner nations is taking more time than originally planned.” “Germany is still sorting out some details,” a second source said.”
Sources: BAE Systems, “Royal Air force now flying their most advanced fighter jets ever” | Defense News, “British RAF Now Flying Improved Typhoon Aircraft”.
Sept 30/14: Defects. Germany suspends their remaining 32 Eurofighter deliveries, pending resolution of a manufacturing defect and negotiations re: what to do about it. They also sharply cut the estimated number of safe flying hours in each of their 108 delivered Eurofighters to just 1,500, and Austria and Britain are apparently taking similar measures. The timing is terrible, coming on the heels of revelations that budget cuts have forced the German armed forces into deep disrepair, with most of its key equipment unready for war.
BAE Systems and Britain’s RAF reportedly discovered that some of the rivet holes in the rear fuselage of the jet were drilled in ways that could introduce splinters and cracks into the rear fuselage, giving it less ability to resist wear and tear. That section is built by BAE, and tests are underway to get a more precise estimate of the effect on the fighter’s safe lifespan.
Meanwhile, the problem isn’t an immediate safety issue, and the Luftwaffe won’t hit even this low hours limit until 2018, so the planes aren’t grounded. Exports to Oman and Saudi Arabia are expected to continue.
Note that 1,500 flight hours is a ridiculously short life span, even for fighter jets whose forecasts in a capable military amount to just 150-300 hours per plane per year. Base figures of 5,000 – 8,000 are expected, with deep repair and refurbishment extending some airframes to around 10,000. The original official limit of 3,000 hours was itself just half of the Eurofighter Typhoon’s 6,000 hour design life, with the expectation that hard flight data would extend the official limit as experience offered greater certainty. It’s a very German approach, but the introduction of a big uncertainty is pushing estimates the other way for now. Sources: German Bundeswehr, “Eurofighter: Flugbetrieb der Luftwaffe aktuell nicht von industrieller Flugstundenreduzierung betroffen” | Der Spiegel, “Desolate Bundeswehr-Ausrustung: Hersteller warnt vor Mangeln am “Eurofighter” | Defense-Aerospace, “Eurofighter: Air Force Flight Operations Currently Not Affected By Flight Hours Reduction” | Agence France Presse, “Germany ‘erring on side of safety’ regarding Eurofighter defect” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-Manufacturing flaw halts some Eurofighter deliveries” | Reuters, “Austria says Eurofighter has part problem” | SwissInfo, “Austria says Eurofighter has part problem, some deliveries halted” | Russia Today, “Eurofighter hull hitch: Germany halves fighter flying hours” || Der Spiegel, “Marodes Material: Bundeswehr erfullt Nato-Anforderungen derzeit nicht” (re: massive disrepair in armed forces) | Deutsche Welle, “Bundeswehr struggles with faulty defense equipment”.
Manufacturing defect could shrink fighter lifespan
Aug 5/14: Weapons. Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi has confirmed that the 1st phase of tests for Storm Shadow long-range cruise missile integration (q.v. July 26/13, Nov 20/13) is complete.
They add that the fighter will be able to carry 2 Storm Shadows and up to 8 air-to-air missiles. That’s a good load for fighting your way in and out, which is useful to customers like Saudi Arabia and Oman who are paying for the work. The ability to add drop-tanks would be another valuable load-out, extending the Storm Shadow’s reach. Countries like Britain would find that exceedingly useful, but weight and aerodynamics make this combination a more challenging load-out. Perhaps Tranche 3 upgrades and Conformal Fuel Tanks (q.v. May 13/14) can offer this capability in a more elegant way. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Success For Italian Eurofighter Storm Shadow Trials”.
July 16/14: HMD. BAE unveils its Striker II Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD), which builds on the original Striker system flying with Eurofighter and Gripen fleets.
The new system removes the need for night vision goggles, integrating a center-mounted ISIE-11 sensor based on Intevac Photonics’ patented electron bombarded active pixel sensor (EBAPS) advanced imaging sensor technology. The result is brighter and lighter than standard HMD/NVG combinations. the system is fully digital, and new hybrid opto-inertial technology is designed to reduce jitter and other syncing issues as the HMD tries to stay aligned with the pilot’s head movement and display its symbology. Sources: BAE Systems, “BAE Systems Unveils Digital Striker II Helmet-Mounted Display System with Superior Tracking, Night Vision Capabilities”.
June 19/14: Weapons. BAE announces an initial GBP 5 million study contract from the British Ministry of Defence, to conduct initial integration studies for the dual-mode radar/laser guided Brimstone 2 short-range light strike missile. Brimstone is already operational on Britain’s Tornado GR4 strike fighters, and this is an expected development that will improve the Typhoon’s capabilities for close air support against land targets and swarming motorboats.
Initial wind tunnel tests are already underway at Warton, Lancashire, and the study also intends to explore a common launcher for future derivatives like the 75+ km SPEAR 3 light strike missile. The target date for Brimstone 2 integration is 2018. Sources: BAE, “UK Study Contract Awarded to integrate Brimstone 2 onto Typhoon”.
June 10/14: Crash. A Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon crashed just before landing at Moron de la Frontera AB, killing the pilot. The pilot was an experienced flyer with 600 flight hours in the type, and the cause is under investigation.
It’s the first Spanish Air Force plane to go down, though a consortium prototype and a Saudi Eurofighter have crashed in Spain within the last decade. Sources: The Local – Spain, “Eurofighter jet exploded shortly after 2pm shortly after take-off for a routine practice mission” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-Eurofighter jet crashes at Spanish base, killing pilot” | UK Daily Mail, “Eurofighter jet crashes just short of southern Spain airbase runway killing pilot”.
June 9/14: Weapons. The Eurofighter’s weak weapons array has come back to bite it again, this time in Malaysia and Qatar. In “response” to this demand for “maritime attack capabilities,” which all of its competitors already possess in full:
“Peter Maute, the head of combat aircraft sales at Airbus Defence, said the Boeing Harpoon and MBDA’s Marte and Sea Brimstone missiles were being considered as possibilities…. work on the weapons was done by Eurofighter in its development simulator but that full integration would have to await a customer. Qatar and Malaysia are known to have stipulated a maritime-strike capability for their next purchase of combat jets.”
One hears “discussion,” study” and “plan” a lot, with respect to key Typhoon capabilities. In a competitive market, that doesn’t substitute for action. If you await a customer, you’ll be watching them buy something else: F-16s with Penguin Mk3s, F-15s with SLAM-ERs, JAS-39 Gripens with RBS-15s, Rafales with Exocets, Russian jets with Kh-31/ Kh-35s, or Super Hornets with Harpoon and SLAM-ER anti-ship and land strike missiles. It’s also doubtful that most customers would consider the short-range Brimstone missiles to be a “maritime attack capability,” unless one confines potential targets to small boats. Sources: Defense News, “Eurofighter Studying Missiles To Give Typhoon Maritime Attack Capability”.
May 21/14: P1Eb. Eurofighter GmbH formally unveils the Phase 1 Enhancements B package in Berlin at the ILA 2014 airshow. It’s essentially the EP2 capabilities (q.v. Oct 30/13) of enhancements to the existing radar for Meteor missile compatibility, DASS defensive system improvements, MIDS/Link-16 interoperability updates, as well as Flight Control System (FCS) and the Utility Control System (UCS) improvements. Plus Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which weren’t announced in EP2 because payments are coming from outside the core group. Storm Shadows should be integrated by 2015, but full Meteor long-range air-to-air missile integration isn’t scheduled until 2017.
The FCS/UCS upgrades will inprove compatibility with future civil airspace requirements, and also allow the pilot to switch seamlessly between air-to-air and air-to-ground modes.
Overall, there’s less here than meets the eye. The Eurofighter’s aerial performance is very good, and they have a reputation for implementing very good pilot interfaces. With the exception of Meteor, however, comparable or better capabilities are already fielded in competitive aircraft like the F-15. This is more of a partial catch-up than a paradigm shift in anything. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter Unveils ‘Paradigm Shift’ In Capability At Berlin Air Show”.
May 13/14: CFTs. BAE Systems has begun wind tunnel tests for conformal fuel tank designs, based on a “geometrically perfect 1/12th scale model” of the Tranche 3. The CFTs are created using additive manufacturing, then attached and removed for the tests.
CFTs are one of the big changes inherent in the Tranche 3 aircraft, which will form a small portion of the core partners’ Typhoon fleets. Removing drag-creating fuel tanks from underwing hardpoints is a big plus, but a great deal depends on good design. Boeing and Northrop Grumman managed to craft CFTs that added 3,500 pounds of fuel to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, while creating nearly zero drag at sub-sonic speeds. Even those CFTs impose a trans-sonic penalty, which will be an issue for Super Hornets, but the Eurofighter has such a good power to weight ratio that a minor trans-sonic penalty won’t matter. Sources: BAE, “British Engineers test new configuration of fighter jets in high speed wind tunnel”.
April 30/14: Germany – Costs. Germany’s Bundesrechnunghof (Federal Court of Auditors) publishes a supplementary annex to its 2013 report, and the Eurofighter is one of their subjects. The press release goes over known ground by saying that the EUR 11.5 billion budget will buy just 140 planes, instead of 180. What’s new is an acknowledgement that Eurofighter maintenance costs continue to increase, driven by added need for support and spares, and that life-cycle costs are expected to be roughly double the 1997 estimate of EUR 30 billion.
2011 and 2012 reportedly had the Eurofighter fleet consuming about 1/3 of the air force’s maintenance budgets, even though the fleet was smaller than planned and didn’t reach its maximum flight hours. By 2020, the fleet is expected to rise from 86 to 140, and flight hours would roughly triple to 28,400 per year. A comparative graph in the full report shows the rising operating & maintenance costs from the F-4F Phantom, to the Tornado fleet, to the Eurofighter fleet. The United States has seen similar trends as it fielded each new generation of fighters, but the Tornado is known to be a maintenance problem, and the Eurofighter still graphs significantly above it.
The Bundesrechnunghof adds that even Germany’s Ministry of Defence doesn’t seem to know the full cost, and explains the Ministry’s rationalizations for not knowing. Other countries seem to manage such things, somehow. Perhaps the Germans could visit those countries and find out. Sources: German FCA, 2014 Pressemitteilung 04 – Bemerkungen 2013, weitere Prüfungsergebnisse [Press release] | “2013 Bemerkungen – Weitere Prufungsergebnisse – Nr. 09 “Kostentransparenz beim EUROFIGHTER herstellen” [Eurofighter summary, incl. link to full report] | Langfassung der Bemerkung Nr. 09 [Full report, PDF].
Feb 27/14: Pessimism, or Realism? Airbus CEO Tom Enders doesn’t sound very sunny about Eurofighter’s future:
“Enders said he’s also “not very optimistic” about securing further deals for the Eurofighter combat jet…. “We do hope we can still score one or two other successes in exports,” he said. “But we also have to prepare for a scenario — due to lack of export orders plus cancellations from others — that we’ll have to ramp down production of this otherwise very impressive aircraft sooner rather than later.”
Sooner would be an end of production in 2017, which means that preparations within the supply chain would begin sometime in 2015. Sources: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Airbus CEO Says Turkish Delay in Taking A400M Threatens Ramp-Up”.
Feb 25/14: Germany. The Handelsblatt business daily says that Airbus is demanding EUR 800 – 900 million in compensation for Germany’s Tranche 3B cancellation. Britain finessed its absence from Tranche 3B by substituting Saudi jets, which were bought under a direct government-to-government deal with Britain, but the other partners aren’t able to do that.
That’s a steep price. Negotiations are expected, but even if Germany ends up paying in full per their original contract, it will still be a small percentage of what they would have paid to buy 37 new Typhoons. Obvious options involve some shifting of payments into R&D or upgrade work, or a refundable “export loan” whose repayment depends on reaching a certain number of fighter exports.
The larger question for Eurofighter GmbH is whether financially fragile Italy and Spain take the same approach as Germany, or stand by their Tranche 3B orders. Sources: Sky News Australia, “Airbus ‘wants money’ for scrapped jets” | Frankfurter Allgemeine Wirtschaft, “Airbus will Entschadigung fur abbestellte Eurofighter”.
Feb 20/14: Germany. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen removes 2 senior procurement officials: Stephane Beemelmans and Detlef Selhausen. Part of the issue involves Eurofighters, specifically, a EUR 55 million euro (~$75 million) settlement to Germany’s MTU in lieu of EUR 340 million for Eurofighter Tranche 3B engine work. Not bad, but Bundestag budget committee approval is required for contracts over EUR 25 million, and the payment was authorized without that. Relationships with these individuals were already tense, so that was the end of the road. Sources: Defense News, “Germany Plans Procurement Overhaul After Program Missteps” | Der Spiegel, “Rustungsprojekt “Eurofighter”: Verteidigungsministerium gab Millionensumme ohne Bundestagsvotum frei” | Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “Wie von der Leyen aufräumen will”.
Feb 19/14: Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia finalizes their contract for 72 fighters, agreeing on price escalation terms to upgrade the fighters bought under the Salaam program toward Tranche 3 standard (q.v. Feb 21/13, Aug 1/13, Dec 19/13). BAE was very involved in the process, but because the underlying agreement is actually with the British government, the amendment must also be negotiated between the governments involved.
BAE had continued Eurofighter deliveries during the long negotiations, which meant rising amounts of cash committed without booking any profits. Clearing this issue up frees BAE to deploy its cash reserves more freely, while also removing a source of uncertainty for potential Gulf Cooperation Council customers.
The firm describes the settlement as “broadly consistent with the Group’s prior trading outlook for 2013.” That outlook (q.v. Dec 19/13) estimated a 6-7 pence earnings per share drop without any agreement, or about GBP 250 million (~ $410 million) maximum, based on total shares revealed in a recent transaction. That’s on top of the original GBP 4.43 billion pounds/ $7.4 billion. Sources: BAE Systems, “Agreement on Salam Price Escalation” and “Feb 20/14 Transaction in Own Shares” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-BAE Systems agrees pricing on Saudi Eurofighter deal”.
Feb 19/14: Germany. News reports are describing a German decision to cancel 37 Eurofighters, based on Deputy Defense Minister Stephane Beemelmans’ testimony before their the parliamentary defense committee. That isn’t quite true.
What it means is that Germany doesn’t intend to pay for a Tranche 3B, which would have included 37 fighters to finish their agreed purchases. A Tranche 3B offer was reportedly extended to the core countries by Eurofighter on June 9/10, but Europe’s financial woes have left the core partners uninterested. Indeed, Germany ended their plans for a Tranche 3B order back in 2011 (q.v. Oct 21/11). 2014 was supposed to be a year of decision for the core countries, but with Germany and Britain on the sidelines, Spain or Italy become that much more difficult to convince.
The wording of the July 31/09 Tranche 3A agreement, and of the broader Eurofighter partnership agreements, determine how much the decision costs Germany in cancellation fees. Britain found a way to disclaim any Tranche 3B buy the moment the Tranche 3A contract was signed, but they appear to have done so by shifting Saudi exports under their own account, which avoids any penalties.
Unless Eurofighter GmbH finds additional orders somewhere, the production line will begin shifting toward upgrades and maintenance only in 2015 (q.v. Jan 25/11). Sources: Reuters, “Germany cancels delivery of last 37 Eurofighter jets: source” | Handelsblatt, “Deutschland bestellt 37 Eurofighter wieder ab”.
Feb 9/14: Italy. The center-left Democratic Party is reportedly preparing a policy document that would cut F-35 buys from the current reduced plan for 90 F-35A/Bs to around 45 planes, while trying to make Italy invest in Eurofighter’s Tranche 3B buy.
Significant reductions in planned buys by Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, etc. will all hit Italy’s own F-35 Final Assembly and Check-Out plant. Part of the party’s push despite this incentive is ideological, reflecting a bias that’s in favor of European defense programs and less friendly toward the USA. Part of it reflects a level of general uneasiness with F-35 costs, capabilities, and delivery dates. Sources: Defense News, “Italian Lawmakers Consider New Cuts to JSF Purchase”.
Jan 15/14: Testing. Test flights with the KEPD 350 cruise missile begin from at Manching Military Air Systems Center, north of Munich. They’re technically part of the Storm Shadow integration program, thought the KPED 350 won’t be fully integrated, and will include flutter tests, air data system large store interference assessment and aerodynamic data gathering. Sources: Eurofighter, “Eurofighter Typhoon: Flight tests with Taurus KEPD 350 missile started”.2013
Saudis abandon local assembly; Competitions in Denmark, South Korea; Problems in Germany?; Testing begins for Storm Shadow & KEPD 350 missiles; Tranche 3 flies; 400th delivered; New CEO has a big job ahead.
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Dec 19/13: Low Rents of Arabia. A BAE investors release suggests that the UAE “have advised that they have elected not to proceed with [Eurofighter] proposals at this time,” and adds that negotiations with the Saudis over Tranche 3 upgrades to their Al-Yamamah buy of 72 planes may be deadlocked.
The UAE’s decision is a very big blow to the Eurofighter’s future in the Gulf. A UAE buy offered the prospect of sustaining production for several years beyond 2018 by making Eurofighter the GCC’s de facto standard fighter, just as key competitions in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar were coming up. If the UAE goes back to the Rafale instead, their fellow Mirage 2000 operator Qatar becomes a much harder target for Eurofighter, and the standardization momentum that was bringing unlikely customers like Bahrain to the table evaporates.
The British government tried to use diplomacy on Eurofighter’s behalf, but they may have done more damage than good. None of the Gulf Cooperation Council were pleased with Britain’s failure to support the Syrian rebels. They were even less pleased when Britain’s government pushed hard for an Iranian nuclear deal that most of them regard as both catastrophically stupid and directly threatening. In contrast, France has played a leading role in pushing the Syrian issue, and was a very public dissenter regarding the Iranian deal. Sources: BAE, “BAE Systems – Status of prospective business in the UAE and Salam pricing discussions” | The Telegraph, “Blow for Britain and BAE Systems as UAE rules out Eurofighter deal” | The Telegraph, “David Cameron’s Typhoon debacle a sign of Britain’s declining Arabian influence”.
Dec 9/13: Tranche 3. British Single Seat aircraft #116 conducts the 1st Eurofighter Tranche 3 flight, with pilot Nat Makepeace at the controls. The biggest differences from earlier versions include a structure that can mount dorsal conformal fuel tanks; and a modified nose with a new internal structure, power, cooling and electronics for the future E-Scan AESA radar.
Another development aircraft has been modified to take an E-Scan development radar for testing purposes. It’s currently being prepared at Warton, UK, ahead of its coming 1st flight. Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3 Takes to the Skies” | BAE Systems, “Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3 Takes to the Skies”.
1st Tranche 3 flight
Dec 4/13: #400. The 400th Eurofighter Typhoon has been delivered. The single-seat fighter in question was handed over to the German Air Force at Cassidian’s Military Air Systems Center, located in Manching, Southern Germany. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter Typhoon Marks Delivery of 400th Aircraft”.
Nov 27/13: Testing. Flight tests of the Storm Shadow missile (q.v. Nov 20/13) begin from Alenia Aermacchi’s Flight Test Centre at Decimomannu Air Base, in Sardinia, Italy. Sources: Eurofighter, “Eurofighter Typhoon: Flight tests with Storm Shadow missile started”.
Nov 22/13: Industrial. BAE and Finmeccanica’s Selex ES announce a teaming agreement to provide Electronic Warfare Operational Support (EWOS) for future Eurofighter Typhoon customers, “and the Eurofighter Typhoon core programme where appropriate.”
Electronic warfare is often a pretty “black box”, as-is affair, but its importance makes it something that customers want to be able to modify for local threats and local needs. Technology has made that ideal easier, as software-defined digital systems are fielded. The flip side is that full export customer access to key items like threat libraries and operational modes creates a greater attack surface area for the core countries’ enemies to steal secrets. Under this agreement, the partners pledge to provide willing customers with a “sovereign” EWOS capability. That word is usually associated with full ability to maintain and modify a system, but absent further details, use of the word alone isn’t something to rely on.
Selex ES SVP Electronic Warfare, Chris Bushell, adds that the partners have “agreed to also look at non-Typhoon EW support solutions where there is mutual benefit to doing so.” Sources: BAE, “Boosting Eurofighter Typhoon Electronic Warfare Support”.
Nov 20/13: Weapons. At the Dubai Air Show, Eurofighter GmbH commits to full integration of the stealthy, medium range GPS/IIR guided Storm Shadow cruise missile by 2015. Storm Shadows are already used by Eurofighter customers in Britain, Italy, and Saudi Arabia (q.v. July 26/13). Ground tests are complete, and flight tests will begin using the IPA2 test aircraft upgraded to the P1E equipment standard.
The similar KEPD 350 missile in service with Germany and Spain won’t be fully qualified, but it will be flight tested at the same time on the IPA7 test aircraft. That will cut time and costs if a customer decides to spend the money and pay for full integration. Sources: Eurofighter, “Flight tests for Storm Shadow and Taurus stand-off precision missiles announced”.
Nov 15/13: CAPTOR-E AESA. The Eurofighter’s new AESA radar has finished its 4-nation program review at Cassidian’s site in Ulm, Germany, with antenna, repositioner, and Antenna Power Supply and Control Unit results that meet the theoretical design.
Next, the antenna sub-system will go to Selex Edinburgh for integration and test with receiver and processor. Final integration of the Captor-E radar into Eurofighter test plane IPA5 is planned in springtime 2014. Source: EADS Cassidian, Nov 15/13 release.
Nov 12/13: Bahrain. Flight International quotes Col. Salah Al-Mansoor from the Royal Bahraini Air Force’s planning headquarters, who says that Bahrain will be upgrading its 21-plane F-16 fleet to roughly F-16V status from 2014-2018, under a deal whose initial outline is already agreed with Lockheed Martin. Bahrain would represent the 3rd such F-16 upgrade, after Taiwan and South Korea. Major upgrades under the Common Capability Integration Program will reportedly include an AESA radar (NGC APG-80 or SABR, or Raytheon RACR), new cockpit displays, the Link-16/MIDS datalink, software upgrades, and Lockheed’s AN/AAQ-33 Sniper surveillance and targeting pod. Al-Mansoor also mentions GPS-guided JDAMs, an upgrade to AIM-9X short range air-to-air missiles, and “the D-model version of Raytheon’s AIM-120 AMRAAM”. That last is unlikely; the AIM-120D isn’t approved for export, and is still working toward Initial Operational Capability in the USA.
Col. Al-Mansoor says that the kingdom is considering a follow-on order of new F-16s, adding that “We must analyse and determine the cost of the future force structure.” The RBAF’s 16 F-5E/F fighters need replacement, and a winner is expected to be announced in January 2014 at the Bahrain international air show. BAE’s Eurofighter remains the front-runner, but the same outlay that would buy just 12 Eurofighters would net Bahrain around 20-22 F-16E/F Block 60s or similar F-16V equivalents, with all of these upgrades already baked in.
Questions remain. Can Bahrain buy new F-16s and Eurofighters, given the need to aid countries like Egypt and pacify its own restive population? Is the F-16 CCIP + Eurofighters their best Plan B, or could they decide to operate an all-F-16 future fleet of upgraded and new fighters, offering lower short and long-term force structure costs, and commonalities with the nearby UAE? Finally, what about Gulf monarchs’ growing wariness concerning US intentions and support? How will that play into Bahrain’s decisions? Flight International, “Bahrain to launch F-16 upgrade in 2014”.
Nov 4/13: Tranche 3. The 1st Tranche 3 Typhoon (BS116), has successfully completed engine ground runs at Warton, UK, from green screen checks through Stage C checks of the engine’s integration with all onboard systems. 1st flight is expected to take place before the end of 2013 – and does, in December. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, Nov 4/13 release.
Oct 30/13: EP2. The NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) signs a development contract with Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH for Evolution Package 2. It includes enhancements to the existing radar, DASS defensive system, and MIDS/Link-16 system, as well as Flight Control System (FCS) and the Utility Control System (UCS) improvements to inprove compatibility with future civil airspace requirements. MBDA’s Storm Shadow cruise missile isn’t mentioned (q.v. July 26/13).
Development is supposed to be done by the end of 2015. Earlier reports (q.v. July 30/12) suggested that the radar enhancements may involve a new AESA system, but current sources indicate that EP2 this just adds Meteor missile capability to the existing Captor-M radar (q.v. June 18/13). Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, Oct 30/13 | AIN, “Eurofighter Signs New Contract, Describes AESA Radar Status”.
Oct 28/13: P1E. The Eurofighter Typhoon Phase 1 Enhancements (P1E) program has finished flight testing in Manching, Germany and Getafe, Spain, and will be ready for installation and retrofit on existing Tranche 2 aircraft by the end of 2013.
P1E implements full Air-to-Surface capability, with full integration of a Laser Designator Pod (RAFAEL LITENING III), full smart bomb integration (Paveway laser-guided, and dual-mode Paveway IV/ EGBU-16 GPS and laser), Helmet Mounted Sight System upgrades for ground attack use, Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe, improved Radios and Direct Voice Input, Digital integration of Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (full IRIS-T integration with HMSS for high off-boresight shots, and allowing future AIM-9X integration), and an updated MIDS/Link-16 Datalink for wider interoperability. All of these enhancements will come factory-installed in Tranche 3 aircraft. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, Oct 28/13 | Aviation Week, “Partners Chart Course For Eurofighter Typhoon Enhancements”.
Tranche 2 P1E upgrades approved
Aug 19-20/13: South Korea. Conflicting messaging from DAPA and contractors give a somewhat muddled picture, but the upshot is that Eurofighter was disqualified on a questionable technicality, and the F-35 for budgetary reasons, apparently leaving the F-15SE as the de facto winner. That was reversed in late September, when South Korea’s government decided to cancel the competition and start over. In effect, they’ve signaled that it isn’t really a competition, they want the F-35. Which is confirmed in November, when the F-35 is picked as a sole-source winner. Read “South Korea’s Reboots F-X Multi-Role Fighter Buy, Wants 5th Gen” for full coverage.
Loss in Korea
Aug 7/13: Bahrain. BAE Systems says that Bahrain “has expressed an interest in Typhoon and the British government are leading very early discussions”. That’s new, and the motivation is interesting.
Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa reportedly told British Prime Minister David Cameron that they were interested in buying Eurofighter jets to “create a cohesive defence system between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)” nations. Saudi Arabia is the linchpin of the GCC, and Oman is a respected member. This is a clear dividend from their purchases, and the king’s comment may also be good news for prospective sales in the UAE (40-60 jets), Kuwait, and Qatar. At the same time, every one of these sales is expected to be hotly contested, with competition in place or expected from Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Lockheed Martin’s F-16E/F, and Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen. Reuters.
Aug 1/13: Saudi Arabia. BAE’s 2013 Half-Year Results says that deliveries have resumed, with the Saudi fleet up to 28 fighters, construction beginning on new facilities, and pilot training in-country progressing:
“Four Typhoon aircraft were delivered in the first half, adding to the initial phase of 24 Typhoon aircraft deliveries between 2009 and the end of 2011…. A [GBP] 0.3bn contract was signed in March for the construction of airfield facilities at King Fahd Air Base in Saudi Arabia. Discussions on the provision of maintenance and upgrade facilities in-Kingdom, and further capability enhancement of the Typhoon aircraft remain ongoing. Under an order received at the end of 2012 to deliver training to the RSAF, the first graduation ceremony of cadets from the King Faisal Air Academy was held in May .”
With respect to finalizing terms for Tranche 3 upgrades, BAE’s accompanying presentation cites “good progress,” and says “Significant trading bias to second half anticipated.” Translation: we expect a deal before the end of the year. That will need to be taken care of before BAE can talk about further sales, though they do cite a “KSA B2” opportunity as one of their top prospects. Half-Year Results statement [PDF] and presentation [PDF] | Daily Mail.
July 26/13: Storm Shadow. AIN reports that key Tornado upgrades may end up being funded by Saudi Arabia and Oman. RAF assistant chief of the air staff AVM Ed Stringer says that “Storm Shadow will be on the Typhoon sooner than you think.” From “Middle East Customers Funding Eurofighter Upgrades”:
“…further indication that some key upgrades to the combat jet are being funded by Saudi Arabia and possibly Oman. The four original partner nations have proved reluctant to collectively fund in the near term enhancements… such as integration of the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile. The four partners have also so far failed to approve full development of the Captor-E AESA radar by the Euroradar consortium…. “Other Typhoon customers are involved [in providing] funding profile,” [RAF Air Vice Marshal Ed Stringer] added…. During a briefing at the IDEX show in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, a BAE Systems official said that the Storm Shadow would enter flight-test on the Typhoon this year because this is a requirement of the Royal Saudi Air Force.”
The RSAF already uses Storm Shadow missiles on their Tornado strike fighters.
July 7/13: Germany. Der Spiegel takes a strafing run at the Eurofighter program in Germany, pointing out both its budget overruns, and citing recent documents that discuss safety and quality issues with the planes. Germany and the other Eurofighter partners are expected to make their Tranche 3B decisions sometime in 2014, so the articles feed into a live political debate as an election approaches.
On the budgetary front, the Bundestag approved EUR 14.7 billion for 180 fighters, but Der Spiegel says that EUR 14.5 billion has already been spent on just 108 machines. The current Bundeswehr estimate is reportedly EUR 16.8 billion for 143 fighters (Tranche 1 through 3A) by 2018. That would average out to EUR 117.5 million/ $157 million per plane.
The 2nd issue involves quality control problems. On Oct 1/08, the military did not extend the Manching, Bavaria plant’s license to remain a Bundeswehr aviation site. Aircraft were still accepted after more detailed inspections, but that could leave the government liable in the event of a crash on German soil. Later, on April 18/13, an auditor from the Bundesamt fur Ausrustung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr (BAAINBw) in Koblenz cited the ejection seats as a fleet-wide problem area. Der Spiegel alleges that German quality control and inspections have suffered as a result of austerity measures and military “reforms,” but it isn’t the first time this has been publicly cited as an issue. In August 2010, an RSAF Lt. Col. and member of the Saudi Royal family was killed in a 2-seat Typhoon crash near Moron, Spain, when his parachute separated from the harness. His Spanish counterpart ejected safely. The accident led the RAF to modify its fleet’s ejection seat harnesses. Der Spiegel re: budgets [in German] | Der Spiegel re: reliability [in German] | Reuters.
July 5/13: South Korea. DAPA suspends bidding on its fighter competition, after none of the entries (Eurofighter, F-15SE, F-35A) could meet South Korea’s industrial demands, and performance specifications, and budget limits. Something clearly has to be rethought, if South Korea wants those fighters. If they don’t drop the number bought, then either the budget must be increased, or cost-adding elements like industrial offsets need to be revised, or the performance specifications need to be relaxed and new competitors contemplated. Yonhap | Yonhap follow-on.
July 2/13: P1E Weapons. BAE announces that they have finished initial Paveway IV GPS/laser guided bomb trials with a Eurofighter, as part of the Phase 1 Enhancement Programme that will give Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 2 planes independent precision strike capabilities. Other elements of the program include the LITENING laser designation & surveillance pod, and EGBU-16 Enhanced Paveway laser/GPS guided bomb. BAE Systems.
June 20/13: Qatar. AFP says that the Middle Eastern Emirate intends to launch its RFP for 24-36 fighters “soon.” They own a fleet of Mirage 2000-5s, which recently flew to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.
French President Hollande will visit Doha for high-level economic talks on June 22, and France has close ties with the Emirate, but the Qataris aren’t waiting around. They reportedly spent time in May 2013 evaluating the Eurofighter Tornado with the RAF, and will soon host a Eurofighter team in-country for flight trials. Boeing also remains in the mix. Agence France Presse.
June 19/13: Industrial. New Eurofighter GmbH CEO and former Airbus Military head Alberto Gutierrez seems to understand what his firm needs to do. Now, can he do it? He tells Reuters:
“In this market, where we are, there is competition and we have to keep on going, finding out whatever improvement is available to catch up, to make the product cheaper and a way of getting into decisions leaner and faster…”
All true. The problem is, he has just admitted that his plane is behind competitors in key areas, too expensive, and hobbled by an industrial structure that doesn’t foster either lean costs or fast action. Fixing even 1 of those problems is a serious challenge. Fixing all 3 in time to land new orders, before the plane goes out of production, while keeping governments from derailing improvement plans, starts edging toward “Mission: Impossible” territory.
June 18/13: Weapons. Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH signs a full weapon system integration contract with the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) for MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile. This will reportedly include 2-way datalink integration, which will offer parity with the JAS-39 Gripen and an advantage over the Dassault Rafale.
Germany became the last of the 6 core Meteor partners (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden) to sign a contract for missile stocks, on May 31/13. The NETMA contract completes the other coverage loop, and means that MBDA now has contracts to integrate its missile onto all 3 originally-envisaged platforms: the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen.
BAE had done some preliminary work (q.v. June 20/11, July 11/12) in Britain, which led to an unguided test firing (Dec 6/12). That was an excellent set of 1st steps to cut integration time for everyone, but that isn’t the same as full integration. Further design and test work on the missile system will continue at Alenia Aermacchi, BAE Systems, and EADS Cassidian… which doesn’t seem like a very efficient way to conduct things.
What the releases don’t say is when integration will be complete. Eurofighter GmbH has now confirmed the date as 2017. That’s about 3 years later than Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen (2014), and later than original Eurofighter forecasts of mid-2015, and but a year earlier than the French Rafale (2018). Eurofighter | MBDA | UK MoD | Aviation Week.
Full Meteor air-air missile integration contract
June 7/13: Engine. EUROJET Turbo GmbH celebrates the delivery of its 1000th EJ200 production engine, of over 1,500 orders places so far. This one was assembled at ITP for Spain, and the firm touts 789 engines in service so far on operational Eurofighter Typhoons. To date, the engines have accumulated over 390,000 flying hours. Eurojet [MS Word] | Eurofighter.
May 23/13: South Korea. EADS Cassidian reportedly announces that they would invest $2 billion in the K-FX fighter development project, and help market the plane internationally, if the Eurofighter is chosen for F-X-3. Investments would include a maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility that could extend to the KF-X, and an aerospace software center.
It isn’t a bad idea for EADS. Barring multiple orders from new sources, it’s very unlikely that the Eurofighter will still be in production by 2022. Upgrades and maintenance will continue for some time, but the C-203 KF-X design could offer EADS a new option to sell, with a fundamental design that can improve toward stealth fighter status. The question is whether South Korea wants to go forward. Yonhap News.
April 5/13: South Korea. An un-named military official tells the government’s Yonhap News Agency that after 2 years of discussions and negotiations with DAPA, EADS has changed its industrial offer. Instead of having the first 10 made in Europe, the next 24 made using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea, EADS has offered to build just 12 in Europe, with the other 48 Tranche 3 planes at KAI in South Korea.
The news report is imprecise, leaving the question of structural manufacturing vs. kit assembly unaddressed. It also fails to address how EADS can promote the idea of 20,000 South Korean aerospace jobs for a 5-year period, when the company also says that building the Typhoon for the much larger orders of the core country participants created just 10,000 jobs in Europe. On its face, the statement seems less than plausible, but it does point to the likelihood of significant structural manufacturing in Korea. Yonhap.
April 4/13: South Korea. The ROKAF has picked Taurus’ KEPD 350 long range cruise missile for their future fighter force. They’ll have to pay extra to integrate it with their F-16s and F-15Ks. The proposed F-15SE Silent Eagle is different enough that it will probably require added testing, so Eurofighter may garner a slight advantage from German & Spanish plans to add the KEPD 350 to Eurofighter by 2015. Read “Korea’s F-X Multi-Role Fighter Buys: Phases 2 & 3” for full coverage.
March 26/13: Tranche 3. The Tranche 3 Instrumented Production Aircraft 8 test plane has joined all major structural pieces, and moves on to the next production station on the final assembly line in Manching. Work is now focused on hydraulics, defensive aids, test flight instrumentation, and electrical systems with over 110 km of complex special cabling.
IPA8 will play an important role testing and integrating new features like the AESA radar, new weapons, etc. EADS Cassidian.
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.
Feb 21/13: Saudi Arabia. BAE’s end of year investor presentation [PDF] discusses changes in Saudi Arabia, including a contract amendment that formally abandons Saudi plans for a final assembly line in-country. That insistence had been holding up deliveries, and the remaining 48 aircraft will begin arriving in 2013. Meanwhile, work to “expand the multi-role capabilities” of Saudi Typhoons continues, as do negotiations to continue expanding those capabilities toward Tranche 3 levels.
Pricing remains an issue several years after the contract, and the next stage of support contracts is also in long negotiations:
“Under the Saudi British Defence Co-operation Programme (SBDCP), orders totalling £3.4bn were awarded for support through to 2016, including the provision of manpower, logistics and training to the RSAF…. The initial three-year Typhoon support contract finished at the end of June and two subsequent six-month extensions have been secured. Discussions continue with the customer on the next five years of support. Discussions on Typhoon price escalation with the Saudi Arabian government remain ongoing. Negotiations are also ongoing for the provision of maintenance and upgrade facilities in-Kingdom, and further capability enhancement of the aircraft.”
Feb 11/13: DACT distilled. A veteran Eurofighter test pilot doesn’t see the logic behind Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Flynn’s recent claim that an F-35 will beat any 4+ generation aircraft, including the Eurofighter Typhoon:
“The F-35 thrust to weight ratio is way lower [than Eurofighter] and its energy-manoeuvrability diagrams match those of the F/A-18…. starting from medium altitude and above, there is no story with a similarly loaded Typhoon…. [F-35] Transonic acceleration is… better than in an F/A-18 or F-16, but mainly due to its low drag characteristics than to its powerplant. That means that immediately after the transonic regime, the F-35 would stop accelerating and struggle forever to reach a non operationally suitable Mach 1.6…. The Typhoon will continue to accelerate supersonic with an impressive steady pull, giving more range to its BVR (Beyond Visual Range) armament…. Angle-of-attack is remarkably high in the F-35, as it is for all the twin tailed aircraft, but of course it can not be exploited in the supersonic regime, where the limiting load factor is achieved at low values…. Excessive energy bleeding rates would operationally limit the F-35 well before its ultimate AoA is reached.”
Both Britain and Italy will eventually find out for sure, as they will soon have both types in service. Italy will be the best test, as its F-35As are more capable dogfighters than Britain’s F-35Bs. About 2 months earlier, the Aviationist had canvassed Italian pilots, who fly both the F-16 and the Eurofighter, for their opinion concerning those 2 platforms:
“During more or less a decade of service with the Italian Air Force, the F-16 has been extensively used to train Typhoon pilots in WVR engagements. According to the Italian pilots, the F-16 matches the F-2000 under 10,000 feet. But above FL100 the Typhoon becomes quite difficult to beat since its superior aerodynamics give the Eurofighter can out maneuver the Viper at every engagement.”
vs. F-35 & F-162012
Dec 21/12: Oman. It isn’t Christmas over there, but the RAFO is getting a present anyway. The Sultanate signs a GBP 2.5 billion (about $4.057 billion) deal with Britain for 12 Eurofighters, and 8 Hawk LIFT advanced trainers. This makes them the Eurofighter Typhoon’s 3rd export customer, a status they share with their neighbor Saudi Arabia. The deal includes in-service support, and deliveries are expected to begin in 2017.
See “Oman’s Air Force Upgrades: From Jaguars to F-16s & Eurofighters” for full coverage.
Oman buys 12
Dec 6/12: Weapons. 1st firing of MBDA’s Meteor long range air-air missile from a Eurofighter Typhoon. It’s part of Britain’s Future Enhancements Flight Test Programme, and builds on BAE’s unpowered trials to verify safe separation. The flight trials were conducted with integrated support from QinetiQ and MBDA. BAE | Eurofighter.
Nov 29/12: UK Updates. BAE Systems has finished upgrading 43 RAF Eurofighters under the Retrofit 2 program, which began as its own effort but was subsumed into the wider Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) contract. Their Tranche 1 Block 5 standard installs the PIRATE forward looking infra-red (FLIR) system, improves air-to-air capability; and adds precision strike by using a combination of Paveway II family laser-guided bombs, and RAFAEL’s LITENING-III surveillance and laser designator pod. Eurofighter GmbH.
Nov 6/12: UAE. British Prime Minister David Cameron issues a joint communique with the UAE. The 2 countries will improve their defense ties, with specific commitments that include:
“Deepen our defence ties by; continuing the development of our joint plans for the security of the UAE and wider Gulf region; increasing our joint exercises and training; and by investing in the British military presence in the UAE.
Establish a defence industrial partnership that involves close collaboration around Typhoon and a number of new technologies.”
The Eurofighter is competing with France’s Rafale for a 60-plane buy, and these sorts of agreements are normal under the circumstances. It’s also normal for specific defense deals to depend on the customer’s final choice, though the joint communique includes economic relations beyond defense. UK PM | Reuters.
Nov 6/12: Flight costs. From Britain’s House of Commons:
Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average hourly cost was of flying the Typhoon fighter (a) with and (b) without fuel costs. 
Mr Dunne [holding answer 1 November 2012]: The standard marginal flying hour cost for a Typhoon is £3,875, including the cost of fuel. Excluding fuel costs the figure reduces to approximately £2,670.”
Even GBP 3,875 (about $6,200) is considerably cheaper than published American fighter costs per flight hour. The comparable F-15 Eagle family is generally quoted as being in the $17,000 – $30,500 range. The difference has less to do with the respective machines, and more to do with differing approaches to calculating those costs, especially in one’s choice of what to include. A standard calculation method would be informative, but it doesn’t exist.
RAF flight costsHEA
click for video
Oct 16/12: HMD. Eurofighter GmbH touts the new “Head Equipment Assembly (HEA), developed by BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems, [which] comprises the aircrew helmet and all the sub-system elements needed to display a real world overlaid picture on the helmet visor.” The accompanying video has a Typhoon pilot explaining why this is so powerful, and expressing his belief that it’s impossible to beat an enemy if they have a system like this and you don’t. “Once you’ve had this helmet on, you don’t ever want to be without it.”
All well and good, but American fighters have had these capabilities for almost a decade now. A fact that they have used to their advantage in international competitions against the Typhoon, and against other fighters like the French Rafale that lack an accompanying HMD.
Why HMDs matter
July 2012: Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Defense releases its “Defense of Japan 2012” White Paper. Among other things, it explains exactly why the F-35 won. All 3 contenders fulfilled all mandatory requirements, but the F-35 was rated as the overall winner based on the 2nd stage evaluation of capability, industrial participation, cost, and support.
Part of the problem is that Japan simply accepted Lockheed Martin’s paper performance and cost promises at face value, in the absence of data. Even then, the Typhoon was seen as the most fuel-efficient plane, and its bid had the best industrial benefits for Japan. On the other hand, EADS and BAE had trouble meeting Japan’s purchase cost targets while giving Japanese firms all of that work, and picking EADS/BAE would have meant deviating from Japan’s strongly American industrial links and equipment infrastructure. The Eurofighter Typhoon also had a compatibility problem with the JASDF’s KC-767 aerial tankers, who don’t carry hose-and-drogue refueling pods. KC-767 retrofits would have been required, driving up the program’s expense. Read “Japan’s Next Fighters, From F-X Competition to F-35 Buys” for full coverage.Luftwaffen
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July 30/12: Eurofighter vs. F-22. Combat Aircraft leaks some results from the 2012 Red Flag exercises. WIRED Danger Room:
“In mid-June…  Typhoons arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska for an American-led Red Flag exercise involving more than 100 aircraft from Germany, the U.S. Air Force and Army, NATO, Japan, Australia and Poland. Eight times during the two-week war game, individual German Typhoons flew against single F-22s… The results were a surprise to the Germans and presumably the Americans, too. “We were evenly matched,” Maj. Marc Gruene told Combat Aircraft’s Jamie Hunter. The key, Gruene said, is to get as close as possible to the F-22 … and stay there. “As soon as you get to the [close-in] merge … the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22,” Gruene said.”
That’s interesting, and an impressive testament to the Eurofighter’s design and ergonomics. On the other hand, let’s acknowledge that it isn’t exactly easy to “get to the merge” against an opponent who is invisible to your radar at range, moving up to 50% faster than you are, and able to see you just fine on their own radar.
July 30/12: AESA. NETMA(NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency) has reportedly issued an RFP to Eurofighter GmbH for the development of an E-Scan Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar. Eurofighter CEO, Enzo Casolini says the 2015 target remains, per announcements in June 2011:
“The timescale is to answer the RFP by October this year and to have an agreement with the nations by the end of the year. The target is to have a contract by the middle of next year and to have an E-Scan entering into service by 2015.”
See: Arabian Aerospace.
July 11/12: Weapons. BAE describes cockpit assessment trials for the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile. They took pilots from “each of the Eurofighter nations,” and put them through a range of scenarios in a modified simulator. That led to a series of recommendations for the final cockpit design.
On the one hand, getting the user interface really right pays big dividends in combat. On the other hand, the fact they’re doing these exercises a good indication of how early they are in the process. It also points to how much more is involved in this sort of thing, beyond just hanging a new missile on a pylon. BAE Systems.
July 10/12: Gulf opportunities. Reports from Farnborough shed some light on potential Eurofighter Typhoon sales to Oman, Qatar, and the UAE.
Dassault has been sounding quite confident about the Rafale’s ultimate prospects in the UAE, but BAE Systems’ business development director Alan Garwood told Reuters that he believed the UAE’s interest is “real and genuine,” adding that they “could tell by the questions they were asking us that they were serious.” BAE is still working with the British government to put together a package for 60 planes. With the loss in India, and the near-certain demise of Tranche 3B, the UAE represents the fighter’s largest near-term opportunity. Oman is a higher-odds opportunity, and Garwood said that:
“We’ll start formal negotiations [for 12 jets] with Oman towards the end of August  I would imagine. The two governments have targeted it for completion this year and we want it done this year as well… I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do that.”
With respect to Qatar, he would say only that: “We are talking to the Qataris quite a bit.” That’s normal in a competition like this, which is reported to include Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Lockheed’s F-35A Lightning II, and Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen. Reuters | WSJ’s The Source blog.
July 9/12: Upgrades at last? At the opening of the Farnborough defense exhibition, British Prime Minister David Cameron discusses the Eurofighter’s future:
“Typhoon’s growth potential is huge and the four partner nations, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK have agreed the next steps required to further exploit this. The integration of the METEOR missile, an Electronically Scanned Radar, enhancements of the Defensive Aids System, further development of the air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities and integration of new weapons.”
With Tranche 3B fading away, and India out as a big export win, upgrades like these are the only way to keep part of the manufacturing base going for much longer, and are also its best hope for landing significant export orders. The question is when some of these upgrade “agreements” will become signed contracts with actual dollars behind them. Read “Eurofighter’s Upgrades: Enough? In Time?” for more.
March 30/12: “Contract 1”. Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH signs a major 5-year contract with NATO’s Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA), to support the fleet of Typhoon jets across the 4 Eurofighter core nations: Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. The overall contract total is not disclosed, but is estimated to be around EUR 2 billion (currently $2.66 billion).
BAE estimates its share of the total at GBP 446 million (about EUR 533 million). Finmeccanica estimates its share of the total at “more than EUR 500 million.” EADS declined to give figures.
“Contract 1” replaces previous Integrated Logistics Support (PC1-11) contracts and a number of sustainment contracts, covering items like day-to-day support, studies, and customer queries and investigations. It also includes continued development, testing, and upgrade work on the fighters’ systems. Replaced contracts will morph into Contract 1 over a period of time, but they will not include any of the major support contracts announced by various member countries in 2009. Eurofighter GmbH | BAE | Finmeccanica | Defense News.
“Contract 1” for support
March 30/12: #321. A Finmeccanica release notes that so far, the consortium has delivered 321 Eurofighter Typhoons to customer nations.
March 22/12: AESA – just a sim. EADS Cassidian touts the benefits of an “E-Scan” AESA radar for the Eurofighter, and touts its operation of the largest assembly line in Europe for the individual transmit/ receive modules that make up those radars.
The German BWB’s 2-year study, using IABG GmbH’s MILSIM (man-in-the-loop simulator), is nice enough. What it isn’t, is a development and production contract. American F-15 Strike Eagles, F-16s, and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets are offered with AESA radars right now. France’s Dassault just received the 1st RBE2-AA AESA radar for its Rafale production line. Saab is well underway developing its own ES-05 Raven AESA radar for the JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, which will join the Eurofighter’s notional AESA design in using a pivoting plate approach. They’re doing so in conjunction with Finmeccanica’s SELEX Galileo, the current leader of the Euroradar consortium. Unless the Eurofighter consortium and its governments get moving soon, their fighter will begin to find itself at a severe disadvantage in international competitions.
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. Some reports place its cost as $5 million lower per plane. 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.
Eurofighter’s problem is that it’s hard to see how it might succeed in a competition that was re-opened for financial reasons. Dassault | President Sarkozy [in French] | Economic Times of India, see also their timeline | Indian Express | Rediff (thanks for using our descriptions, sans attribution) | Times of India || Aviation Week | BBC | UK’s The Guardian | Reuters report and expert roundup.
HMD at last; Tranche 3 sub-system contracts; German cuts to 3B plans; Competitions in Bulgaria, India, Japan (loss), South Korea, UAE; Opportunities in Indonesia & Turkey?; AESA by 2015?; Paveway IV and EGBU-16 bomb tests; PILUM glide bomb; Naval Eurofighter; Negative British NAO report; 100,000 flying hours.
Eurofighter over Dubai
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Dec 20/11: Japan loss. Japan’s Ministry of Defense announces that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II has won the F-X competitive bid process for 42 planes, beating the Eurofighter and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet International. As F-4 replacements, the F-35As will have an air defense role, but Japan does have a large cadre of dedicated F-15Js to perform that mission. Conclusion? Their undeclared role is as strike fighters.
Note that there’s still an F-XX program in the future, aimed at replacing Japan’s F-15Js. Numbers as high as 100+ planes have been floated, but that will depend on both economic straits, and local geopolitical threats. Read “Japan’s Next Fighters, From F-X Competition to F-35 Buys” for full coverage.
Nov 16/11: UAE. The UAE is either engaged in the mother of all hardball negotiations, or the potential Rafale sale is crashing. Critical comments at the highest levels are accompanying the invite to Eurofighter, strengthening the belief that the Typhoon is more than just a stalking horse to lower the French bid.
The question is, how big is the opportunity? Reports have surfaced that the UAE may be about to cut its planned new jet order, regardless of its choice, and buy more of its unique F-16E/F Block 60s. Read “Derailed Denouement in Dubai: What’s Up With the UAE’s Fighter Deal?” for a snapshot.
Nov 13/11: UAE. Flight International reports that the UAE must have liked their October briefings re: Eurofighter’s capabilities, because they’ve asked Eurofighter GmbH for an RFP bid to replace their current fleet of Mirage 2000-9s. The UAE has been in negotiations to buy Rafale planes for several years now, but hasn’t been able to clinch a deal.
It’s hard to tell if the UAE is just looking to add pressure and get a better price from Dassault, or if their interest is serious. One sign that they might be serious is the fact that they’ve also received classified technical briefings regarding the F-15E Strike Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet, but haven’t asked for RFP bids from the Americans. Flight International believes that this may be a prelude to consideration of the stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle or F/A-18 Super Hornet International for the UAE’s planned 2018-2025 fighter modernization. The obvious 3rd contender there is Lockheed Martin’s F-35.
They also tout a range of technologies that they hadn’t advertised much before, including thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, an AESA radar, and MBDA’s Marte anti-ship missile. The release appears to blur the line between concepts/plans, and field-ready equipment.
Oct 21/11: Germany & Tranche 3B. Germany announces further defense cuts, which include a proviso that their Eurofighter orders will end at Tranche 3A, instead of adding another 37 planes in a Tranche 3B.
With Britain also saying that Tranche 3Ais the end, and the governments of Spain and Italy under severe financial strain, it appears less and less likely that there will be a Tranche 3B. The question is how to escape termination costs. Negotiations can be expected, but one option is to count future exports as re-sales of scheduled orders from existing partner countries. Aviation Week.
Aug 18/11: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica’s SELEX Galileo contracts with BAE Systems Manufacturing at Hillend in Fife, in GBP 20+ million procurement and electronic manufacturing services contract related to Tranche 3A’s Captor radars. Work at the Hillend facility will run from 2011-2013.
BAE’s release adds that the facility has won over GBP 165 million in Captor and Typhoon DASS orders, over the last 12 years.
July 20/11: South Korea. As South Korea’s DAPA eases the criteria to try and foster more competition, DAPA’s Col. Wi Jong-seong says that “Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi expressed its intent to compete in the fighter jet procurement project early this year.” The report quotes him as saying that Sukhoi’s T-50 PAK-FA will be up against Boeing’s stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Assuming we don’t have an FX-II competition repeat, where all competitors but one drop out.
At this point, FX-III is being touted as a 60 jet buy of high-end fighters, with a budget of 8.29 trillion won ($7.86 billion). Eurofighter reportedly offered a better deal than the F-15K in F-X-2, but lost. The firm recently proposed to phase in Korean assembly for Phase III, with the 1st 10 made in Europe, the next 24 using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea. Korea Times.
June 27/11: Weapons. Diehl BGT and Israel’s RAFAEL unveil a new weapon for Eurofighter at the 2011 Paris Air Show. The PILUM long-range glide bomb concept has a range variously reported as 100-160 km/ 62 – 99.5 miles, but it’s a developmental weapon, so exact figures remain to be proven. PILUM uses RAFAEL Spice’s combination of GPS/INS and imaging infrared guidance, within Diehl’s HOSBO modular glide bomb system. HOSBO is a steamlined glide bomb that can carry a modular payload, including warheads of various sizes and types, even warheads designed to disrupt electronics. This JSOW Block III competitor will be able to attack defended targets, vehicles, ships, or even smaller targets. It will be integrated on Germany’s Tornado and Eurofighter aircraft. Will the Saudis, who fly both types, want any? Diehl BGT release | Jerusalem Post.
June 24/11: HMD. A Reuters report offers an update on progress with the Eurofighter’s BAE “Striker”/ HMSS helmet-mounted displays. HMDs are now considered a standard feature for fighter jets, as they’re required in order to take full advantage of new short range air-to-air missiles, and boost ground attack capabilities.
British RAF pilots tested the first helmets in summer 2010. So far, about 50 total helmets have been delivered to Italy, Germany, Spain and UK, at a delivery rate of about 8 per month, but none are being used over Libya. They’re expected to become operational in the RAF by the end of 2011.
June 22/11: AESA. After a year of preliminary industry funding, Eurofighter GmbH and Euroradar agree to continue development, and announce 2015 as the target date for entry into service of a Typhoon with the new “E-Scan” AESA radar. A later date wasn’t really feasible, given the delivery schedules involved in critical competitions like India’s M-MRCA. Indeed, even a 2015 date could be a disadvantage as the Eurofighter competes with France’s Rafale, which has begun testing its own RBE2-AA. The firm does say that:
“The new AESA array, larger than the ones available to our competitors thanks to the Typhoon’s voluminous radome, will be fitted on a repositioner that will provide a wider field of regard when compared to those installed or scheduled for introduction on other fighters. The new radar will offer customers the freedom to retrofit their existing Typhoons when required.”
E-Scan AESA date announced
June 20/11: Weapons. Eurofighter IPA1 has completed the first of a series of Meteor missile trials, beginning with safe separation across the flight envelope on the Aberporth range in Britain. Eurofighter GmbH.
May 17/11: Leadership. EADS Cassidian Spain has appointed 56 year old Luis Hernández Vozmediano as their new Head of the Eurofighter program. He has spent virtually his entire professional career at EADS, and has been heavily involved in Britain’s A330 Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA), and the related American KC-X pursuit. Eurofighter GmbH.
May 11/11: Turkey. Eurofighter has courted Turkey for a long time, despite Turkey’s political & industrial commitment to the F-35 program. Hurriyet reports growing interest in a fighter split-buy, to reduce dependence on the USA.
Naturally, Italy’s government is pushing Turkey to solve that problem by joining the Eurofighter consortium. Turkey might also pick a hi-low approach, and join South Korea and Indonesia in KF-X instead. The real wild card? Turkey’s current account deficit is hitting levels that worry some observers. High levels have been predictors of Turkish economic crises in the past.
April 27/11: India. Fulfilling long-standing rumors that it had gained a leading position in India’s M-MRCA future fighter competition, Eurofighter is confirmed as one of 2 finalists, alongside Dassault’s Rafale. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition” for full coverage.
April 2011: Weapons. EADS Cassidian Spain achieves the first 1,000 pound EGBU-16 Enhanced Paveway II precision guided munition release. The EGBU-16 is the selected dual mode bomb for Germany, Spain and Italy, whereas the locally-developed Paveway IV is the dual mode choice for the UK. Eurofighter GmbH.
March 7/11: Weapons. The first ever Eurofighter release of a Paveway IV dual guidance bomb takes place from development aircraft IPA6, in an hour long test flight over the Aberporth Range in Wales. BAE Systems | Eurofighter GmbH, incl photo.
March 10/11: Indonesia? The Times reports that more of Britain’s fighters could be leaving the force, if Indonesia’s interest in up to 24 Typhoons pans out. That could be politically challenging, though. Britain has led the way into attacks on Libya for bombing its civilians, but Indonesia has used its BAE Hawk light attack jets against its own insurgencies, and in East Timor. That triggered a defense export ban 12 years ago. Indonesia continues to operate a large fleet of Hawk jets, but it has since filled its high end air superiority slot with a handful of Sukhoi’s SU-27/30 Flanker family fighters – a cheaper choice with similar capabilities.
The UK MoD says it has “no current plans” to export Typhoons to Indonesia, but that means little to nothing when the statement is carefully parsed. If Indonesia really is interested in adding Typhoons, one option might be to re-export 24 RAF Tranche 1 aircraft that haven’t been given precision ground attack modifications. The Times [subscription-only] | Agence France Presse | The Guardian | UPI.
March 2/11: Britain’s reluctance to invest in additional Typhoon fighters is partly explained by the findings of an NAO report, which notes that:
“The cost of the Typhoon project has risen substantially. Despite the MOD’s now buying 72 fewer aircraft (down from 232 to 160, a reduction of 30 per cent), the forecast development and production cost has risen by 20 per cent to [GBP] 20.2 billion. This is a 75 per cent increase in the unit cost of each aircraft. The cost of supporting each aircraft has also risen by a third above that originally expected. The MOD now estimates that, by the time the aircraft leaves service, some [GBP] 37 billion will have been spent.”
There are concerns that the report might affect the jet’s chances in India. Meanwhile, a report in The Register highlights the importance of paying attention to Tranche buy totals, in an atmosphere of declining budgets. Note that the retirement of the RAF’s Tranche 1 jets will happen long before they reach their service life design limits, raising the possibility of resale:
“Probably the most dismal figure we are given is that the RAF will actually put into service just 107 Typhoons. At the moment it has received 70: the last of the 160 planes ordered by the UK will be delivered in 2015. But, we are told, “by 2019” all the Tranche 1 jets (which were still being delivered to the RAF at the start of 2008) will be “retired” – that is, thrown away. We’ll pay for 160 jets (actually we’ll pay for 232), but we’ll only ever get a fleet of 107.”
UK NAO report
March 2/11: During high level visits, British officials continue to press the case for the Eurofighter as Japan’s future F-X fighter, over offerings from Boeing (F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or F-15SE Silent Eagle) or Lockheed Martin (F-35A/B/C). One interesting wrinkle is that reconnaissance capabilities could become an important requirement, a move that would give the F-35 family an edge. BAE et. al. are fighting an uphill fight, but they’re not alone: in January 2011, the European Business Council in Japan launched a defense and security committee to promote defense-related business cooperation. Asahi Shimbun | Japan Times | L.A. Times.Naval concept
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Feb 21/11: Aero India 2011 sees Eurofighter and BAE unveil an interesting wrinkle: an initial design for a navalized Eurofighter than can operate from aircraft carriers, based on an internally-funded set of studies and simulations. In a direct nod to potential Indian sales, they tout the plane as being able to take off from “ski jump” carriers without catapults – a design that describes all of India’s current and planned carriers, as well as the initial design for Britain’s own Queen Elizabeth Class.
Eurofighter GmbH describes the goal as 95% commonality with land-based aircraft, and required changes as “limited… include a new, stronger landing gear, a modified arrestor hook and localised strengthening on some fuselage sections near the landing gear, as well as updates the EJ200 engines,” which could include thrust-vectoring in flight.
India is currently planning to use MiG-29Ks as its naval fighters, but it’s currently the type’s only customer, and the Typhoon is seen as a leading contender in its M-MRCA competition for land based aircraft. Britain is planning to use the F-35C from its future carrier, but further cost increases or delays for the multinational program could open an opportunity for a jet type that the RAF already flies. Eurofighter GmbH.
Naval concept unveiled
Feb 4/11: Bulgaria RFI. Bulgaria issues another fighter replacement RFI, soliciting information from Boeing (F/A-18E/F), 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.
Feb 3/11: Upgrades. The first Spanish single-seat instrumented production aircraft version 4 (IPA4) completes 500 hours of flight at the EADS Cassidian Spain facility at Getafe, near Madrid. After a functional upgrade from its original Tranche 1 air superiority standard to Tranche 2, this aircraft is testing new technology including a Link-16 MIDS system, as well as integration trials and the launching of precision air-to-ground weapons.
The UK has already upgraded a number of its Eurofighters along similar lines, and added advanced LITENING targeting pods. Eurofighter GmbH believes that this Spanish IPA4 platform may serve as a model for the possible upgrade of the Tranche 1 fleets currently in service with Eurofighter customer nations. That’s the good news. The bad news is that an upgrade program of this type may also be seen as an alternative to ordering the final Tranche 3B set of Eurofighters. Eurofighter GmbH.
Jan 28/11: Sub-contractors. Premium AEROTEC’s Varel, Germany plant has successfully started assembling structural components for the Eurofighter. EADS Cassidian announces that Varel’s first 3/2b Eurofighter fuselage section, a 3m section that mates with the wings, has been delivered to the Augsburg plant, where the entire fuselage center section will be assembled.
Premium AEROTEC is a spin-off of the former Airbus sites in Nordenham and Varel and the former EADS site in Augsburg. It began operations on Jan 1/09, and in addition to various Airbus passenger aircraft components, it manufactures the fuselage center section for all Eurofighter aircraft, including the 4 program partners (United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Germany) and export customers Austria and Saudi Arabia. This makes Premium AEROTEC GmbH, with over 6,000 employees and 2009 revenues of EUR 1.1 billion, the largest supplier of structures for the Eurofighter. The company has production plants in Augsburg, Bremen, Nordenham and Varel in Germany; and in Ghimbav, Brasov County, Romania. Premium AEROTEC | EADS Cassidian.
Jan 25/11: Eurofighter GmbH’s CEO sees 2011 as a pivotal year, in order to avoid the end of production in 2015. India’s M-MRCA competition, and hopes of a Tranche 3B from its consortium countries, are the key underpinnings.
Britain has been very clear that there will be no Tranche 3B buy there, and the austerity programs underway (voluntarily or otherwise) in Germany, Italy, and Spain make a Tranche 3B buy extremely unlikely.100k milestone @ Moron
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Jan 25/11: Eurofighter GmbH announces that the multinational operational fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons in service since the second half of 2003 achieved 100,000 flying hours in January 2011.
As aircraft are delivered and air forces declared their Typhoons to be operational, usage has accelerated. The first 5,000 flying hours was achieved by November 2005, and 10,000 hours was reached in August 2006. May 2007 included the 20,000 hour milestone, and by August 2008 the Typhoon had surpassed 50,000 hours. According to the firm, global operational fleets currently have more than 260 aircraft in service, with 6 squadrons in the UK (4 in Coningsby, 1 in Leuchars and 1 in Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands); 4 squadrons in Italy (2 in Grosseto and 2 in Gioia del Colle); 3 squadrons in Germany (Laage, Neuburg and Nörvenich), as well as 1 each in Spain, Austria and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
At present, all 148 Tranche 1 aircraft have been delivered, and Tranche 2 production is in full swing.
100,000 fleet flight hours
Jan 4/11: HMD. BAE announces that its “Helmet Mounted Symbology System” (HMSS) is scheduled to enter service with the RAF in 2011, giving Britain’s Eurofighters the same helmet mounted sighting capability already enjoyed by pilots of competing aircraft, via systems like the Israeli/American JHMCS.
The HMSS does add some advanced wrinkles. A Eurofighter pilot can now look at multiple targets, lock-on to them, and prioritize them by voice-command. This will work even for targets over the shoulder, or targets picked up by the radar but located underneath the aircraft.
HMD at last2009 – 2010
Oct 5/10: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo announces a EUR 242 million (about $333.5 million) contract for 88 Captor-M mechanically scanned phased array radars, as part of the Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3A buy. Deliveries would begin in 2012.
The CAPTOR-M is the Eurofighter’ standard radar. Contracts are in progress to develop and field new CAPTOR-E Active Electronically Scanned Array radars for future buys or retrofits, vid. the July 20/10 entry. SELEX Galileo [PDF] | Defense News.
Sept 7/10: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo announces [PDF] a EUR 400 million sub-contract from BAE Systems, to supply Tranche 3A fighters with the Praetorian Defensive Aids Sub System (DASS), delivered to the same standard as the Tranche 2 fighters. SELEX Galileo leads the EuroDASS Consortium of Elettronica, Indra Sistemas, EADS and SELEX Galileo, which shares the production of more than 20 major Line Replaceable Items (LRIs) that make up the system. First deliveries are expected in mid-2012.
The Praetorian DASS includes Electronic Support Measures (ESM) to find hostile radars, active Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) to confuse them, and Missile Approach Warning (MAW) systems, tied into an array of defensive subsystems that include chaff, flares, and towed decoy options.
Aug 19/10: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman announces a contract from EADS Military Air Systems business unit to deliver 88 inertial measurement units (IMU) for Tranche 3A of the Eurofighter Typhoon. The IMU system is the sole sensor which measures the motion of the aircraft and continuously provides motion data to the flight control computer. In a secondary function, the IMU provides backup navigation data.
The IMUs, which provide motion data for the aircraft, will be built by the company’s German navigation systems subsidiary, Northrop Grumman LITEF, which also provided IMUs for Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 of the aircraft. More than 400 Northrop Grumman LITEF IMUs have been delivered and are already in service on Eurofighters in Germany, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Austria and Saudi Arabia
July 20/10: AESA. Eurofighter GmbH and Euroradar announce that they have begun full scale development of an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to serve in the Eurofighter, with a target in-service date of 2015. The Eurofighter/Euroradar groups have been conducting preliminary AESA development and flight testing since 2007, and Selex Galileo is already working towards integrating an AESA array with the UK’s Eurofighter (vid. Feb 19/10 entry).
Full-scale development of a CAPTOR AESA successor is a new step that could become a factor in Tranche 3B discussions, or later 3A upgrades. Still, SELEX Galileo CEO Steve Mogford says move represents a standalone offer, and is not linked to the proposed Tranche 3B production phase. The Euroradar consortium has reportedly proposed retaining as much “back-end” CAPTOR equipment as possible, as part of delivering the proposed E-Captor AESA system. The consortium also plans to make CAPTOR-E a mechanically scanned AESA radar, rather than mounting it in a fixed position as American fighters have done. This will expand the AESA radar’s slightly narrower cone, and also make it easier for the aircraft to use “launch and break away” tactics against aerial opponents that are beyond visual range. Eurofighter GmbH | Flight International | Microwave Journal.
June 9/10: Tranche 3B offer. At the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, Reuters relays word from a Eurofighter GmbH spokesman that it has submitted a Tranche 3B offer to the partner nations for 124 more Eurofighters, finishing the planned Tranche 3. Defense industry sources at the Berlin Air Show said the offer was around EUR 10 billion.
To date, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain have so far taken delivery of a combined 222 Eurofighter Typhoons, out of 473 ordered. Eurofighter says a production decision is needed within a year, in order to avoid the beginning of a supplier shutdown and a production gap. The member countries will face a choice between declining defense budgets, versus the likely need to pay some cancellation costs if there is no Tranche 3B.
Feb 19/10: Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo announces [PDF] a GBP 19 million contract from Britain’s defense ministry to install a first of type, multi-function, wide field of regard AESA radar on a British Eurofighter as a technology demonstration program.
The AESA TDP will focus on Day/Night All Weather targeting, high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), air to air targeting, and communications. It’s designed to raise the technology readiness levels of the enabling hardware, de-risk the capability and demonstrate maturity of concept. Following ground and antenna range testing, the radar is planned to fly on a Royal Air Force Typhoon around 2013.Future weapons array?
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July 31/09: NETMA (NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency), Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH and EUROJET Turbo GmbH signed the Tranche 3A contract, a EUR 9 billion (about $12.96 billion) order for 112 aircraft and 241 EJ200 engines (224 engines to equip 112 planes, plus 17 spares). This new contract also sets the baseline for subsequent support contracts.
BAE cites a work value of GBP 2 billion (EUR 2.35 billion), Finmeccanica cites EUR 3 billion worth of work from Tranche 3A, divided between subsidiaries in Italy (EUR 1.6 billion) and the UK (EUR 1.4 billion). Rolls Royce values its 37% share in the EUROJET order at GBP 300 million (EUR 352 million). The EJ200 includes advanced integrated Health Monitoring, and is already supported by availability-based contracting terms. Eurofighter GmbH | UK MoD | BAE Systems | EADS | Finmeccanica | Rolls Royce | BBC | Deutsche Welle | Financial Times | Hamburg Local | Reuters says last buy for Britain | London Telegraph | Times Online | UPI Asia.
Tranche 3AAdditional Readings
Readers with corrections or information to contribute are encouraged to contact editor Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.
- Eurofighter GmbH. Official site.
- Eurojet Turbo GmbH.
- SELEX Galileo – CAPTOR-M radar [PDF].
- Eurofighter GmbH – Eurofighter Typhoon Helmet. Includes Quicktime video.
- German Bundesrechnunghof (April 30/14) – Press release [in German] | Eurofighter summary, incl. link to full report: 2013 Bemerkungen – Weitere Prufungsergebnisse – Nr. 09 “Kostentransparenz beim EUROFIGHTER herstellen [in German] | Full Report: Langfassung der Bemerkung Nr. 09 [PDF, in German].
- UK National Audit Office (March 2/11) – Management of the Typhoon Project. See also The Register.
- The Aviationist (Feb 11/13) – No way an F-35 will ever match a Typhoon fighter jet in aerial combat.
- The Aviationist (Dec 10/12) – How does the F-16 perform against its adversaries in dogfight? “….above FL100 the Typhoon becomes quite difficult to beat since its superior aerodynamics give the Eurofighter can out maneuver the Viper at every engagement.”
- Smithsonian Air & Space (May 21/12) – Under the Eurofighter’s Hood: Europe’s frontline fighter is a marvel of technology.
- Aviation Week Ares (March 1/10) – JSF – Mid Year Check. Includes a detailed anecdote covering serious aerodynamic issues with the Typhoon, which delayed its entry into service until 2005, when its automatic low-speed recovery system was qualified.
- Defense et Securite Internationale (May 2006) – Rafale et Typhoon: Les Europeens auraient-ils tort d’avoir… raison? [PDF, in French].
- DID – The 2006 Saudi Shopping Spree: Eurofighter Flies Off With Saudi Contract.
- DID – Eurofighter’s Rough Ride in Austria.
- DID – UK’s Eurofighters Fly To Availability-Based Contracting .
- DID – Spain’s Moron Maintenance: EUR 150M to EADS for Typhoons.
- DID – Eurofighter GmbH Signs EUR 600M+, 5-year Support Contract for Italy.
- DID – BAE Wins Big PBL Support Contracts for European & Saudi Eurofighters.
- DID (July 5/05) – $1.5B for Eurofighter Electronic Warfare Suite. Part of Tranche 2 production.
tag: typhoonfocus, eurofighterfocus
One rocket, to go…
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Antonov’s An-124 Condor began as a Soviet super-heavy military transport aircraft that would be even larger than the American C-5 Galaxy. After coming out on top in that particular ‘mine is bigger than yours’ contest, the An-124 outdid its American rivals again by going on to a surprising second career in the civilian sector. It has become the de facto global standard super-heavy cargo aircraft for outsize loads. Even NATO uses the Condor these days, via its SALIS lease of 6 AN-124s to meet the military transport needs of 17 participating nations.
On the flip side, that popularity means existing AN-124s are accumulating flight-hour fatigue, and some of them have yet to be upgraded with newer electronics and engines. As the fleet ages, freight carrier Volga-Dnepr chairman Alexei Isaikin was quoting forecasting An-124 capacity shortages by 2008. Hence the Dec 15/06 negotiations held at ANTONOV ASTC headquarters with key customers Volga-Dnepr Airline JSC and Aviastar JSC, and subsequent talks with Russia concerning new military airlifters.
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The current An-124-100 is actually a fully commercial derivative of the military AN-124, with more than 15 years of operational experience. The civil An-124-100 was certified in 1992, and meets all current civil standards including ICAO Stage/ Chapter III noise limits and modern navigational equipment requirements. These upgrades let the AN-124 operate with a decreased crew, offer increased range of flight and payload, add new engine options that meet the newest ICAO standards, and incorporate modernized avionics.
Modification of the aircraft to a reported An-124-100M-150 status is said to extend the AN-124’s freight capacity from 120t to 150t, reduce required crew size from 6 to 4; and add a strengthened front cargo ramp, simplified and accelerated loading/unloading, increased range, an improved braking and tire system, and upgraded avionics including a ground proximity warning system.
Aviastar JSC Executive Director Mr. V. Savotchenko, hinted at concrete arrangements for further production when he said in 2006 that “…the plant did not stop production of the airplanes. That is why we are ready to renovate serial production of the airplanes, the giants of An-124 family.”
The engineering and production reality behind that statement remains murky, but in September 2004, the governments of Russia and the Ukraine announced that series production of the An-124 would be restarted, with to 80 An-124-100M upgraded aircraft to be jointly manufactured by Aviastar and Aviant between 2006-2020. That project has been delayed, and there have been no public reports of a contract, but neither has it been affirmatively cancelled.
In the interim, a military contract to begin producing a 10-20 new Condors for Russia’s military is moving forward alongside a confirmed refurbishment program for Russia’s existing fleet. Once signed, this military contract could break the logjam by re-opening production; from there, it’s just a question of rate and scale.Global Markets and Competition C-17 vs. AN-124
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In 2006, Herman A. Kurapov’s research pegs the global out-sized air cargo market at:
“…about US$250M in annual sales. 5300 tonnes of cargo are carried and 14,600 flight hours flown. During the ’90s, the market grew 12% per year on average, compared to 5-6% growth for regular airfreight. Business has quadrupled in the last 10 years and is expected to reach US $ 500M by 2010 and become worth US $ 2B within 30 years.”
Much of this market is not military in origin; indeed, Kurapov claims that more than 52% of this market (or US$ 115 million per year) is currently North America-related (35-40% of total sales in the US market, 11-12% in Canada).
This indicates that the An-124 is likely to occupy a unique and sustainable space in the global cargo market for quite some time to come, with new aircraft rolling off the production line and financing available. Across the Atlantic, the USAF is undertaking upgrades to its decades-old C-5A Galaxies that will give them acceptable mission readiness profiles via new engines and electronics. They also seem intent on shuttering C-17 production despite usage and wear levels in the existing fleet that have been significantly higher and more strenuous than originally envisioned. Oddly, the Americans even seem to be creating
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Over the longer term, the An-124 could find itself facing competition from a completely different type of platform. Blimp-like hybrid airships are rising slowly but noticeably, as new materials, new designs, and fuel cost economics all combine to create new levels of comparative performance. As of 2011, near-term possibilities seem to be concentrated in the 20-30t range, with offerings including cargo versions of the US Army’s LEMV surveillance blimp, Aeros’ Pelican, Boeing/JHL’s Skyhook partnership, and Lockheed Martin’s Skytug.
Their carrying capacity is significantly below the An-124’s, but the firms involved are all explicitly targeting industries that need outsize aerial transport services. They also believe that there are no significant engineering obstacles to scaling their designs well past the 100t range. When combined with ultra-low fuel costs and the ability to land without a runway, the An-124 could be facing a formidable competitor in future years. The long-term question for Antonov and its operators is how much that competition will act as a substitute for their platform, and how much it will grow the outsize lift market as a whole.Contracts and Key Events French Buffalo, delivered
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June 22/16: Aviastar-SP – a subsidiary of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC)- has been looking at various alternatives to replace the aging Russian-Ukrainian An-124 cargo plane. The company’s managing director, Andrey Kapustin, told RIA Novosti that the project is still in the conception stage. Production of the An-124 has been suspended amid the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and accusations by Ukraine that Moscow is meddling in its conflict in the eastern Donbas region.
Aug 16/14: Dead program. Russia’s invasion of the Crimea, and subsequent fostering of a civil war in Eastern Ukraine, appear to have killed future An-124 production. At the International Air Transport Forum 2014, Russian Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Yuri Slusar said:
“I am very sorry… The project for resuming the production and upgrade of the unique plane Ruslan is off the agenda. That’s too bad. The niches that the Ukrainians and we might have taken… Designers there and producers here…”
The twin-engine An-148 regional jet program remains in effect as a cooperative venture, as does its derivative An-158. Russia’s ITAR-TASS, “Resumption of Antonov-124 jumbo jet project with Ukraine grounded – trade ministry”.
Dec 19/13: Negotiations. The Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers has approved a draft inter-governmental agreement with Russia to restart serial production of An-124 aircraft powered by D-18T engines. It’s part of the process of establishing a joint venture related to An-124 production, which could produce 80 aircraft worth a total of $12.89 billion – about $160 million per plane.
The Ukraine recently bowed to Russian pressure and turned away from integration into the EU, a move that set off large protests within the country. The question is whether the Ukraine had much choice, given Russian policies that blocked shipments of goods into Russia, and targeted heavy industry in the Ukraine’s eastern region that depends on the Russian market. Trade was being strangled, and foreign reserves had fallen below the standard 6-month safe level. The larger agreement reportedly has Russia invest $15 billion in Ukraine’s government debt (giving them a future lever), and reduces gas prices from Russia to Naftogaz by about 1/3, but may involve some ceding of control over the Ukraine’s pipelines. Military deals like the An-124 and An-70 can also become bit pieces in these dramas. Sources: Russian Aviation, “Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers approved the draft agreement with Russia on production of An-124” | Interfax-Ukraine, “An-124 plane production recovery program includes production of 80 planes, says Ukrainian premier” | IHS Jane’s 360, “Ukraine, Russia agree to restart An-124 production among raft of economic agreements” || See also Antonov, “Ukraine and Russia continue cooperation on joint aviation projects” | Reuters, “Special Report: Why Ukraine spurned the EU and embraced Russia”.
Oct 28/13: Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is non-committal when talking to an audience at the Don State Technical University about the An-124. He says only that “Joint tests are continuing, with the purpose of making a decision about the possible resumption of the manufacture of Antonov An-124 aircraft”. Sources: Interfax-Ukraine, “Lavrov: Russia, Ukraine working to restore An-124 Ruslan production”.
Aug 29/13: Negotiations. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Boiko says that the Ukraine and Russia have reportedly finalized a draft agreement to resume An-124 batch production. They’re working out the technicalities, and expect to sign an agreement in September-October 2013. Sources: The Voice of Russia, “Ukraine and Russia plan to resume production of An-124 planes”.
April 11/13: SALIS celebration. Antonov and the Ukrainian Embassy organize a reception at Leipzig’s Leipzig?Halle airport, dedicated to the 30?year anniversary the AN?124?100’s maiden flight. Leipzig-Halle has been the base for NATO’s SALIS program since 2006, and has acted as a maintenance hub since January 2007, sparking the airport’s growth into a key regional logistics hub.
Antonov First Vice President – Director General Vladimir Korol adds that Antonov and the Volga?Dnepr group of companies have performed about 1,400 SALIS flights, including 222 flights from Germany and 177 to Germany, carrying more than 81,500t of cargo, including 14,195t from Germany and 8,440t to Germany. Sources: Antonov, “30 years since the AN-124 Ruslan maiden take-of” | Antonov, “The AN?124?100 was presented at Leipzig?Halle airport”.AN-124-100 variant
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Aug 16/11: Speaking at Russia’s MAKS-2011 military exhibition, United Aircraft Corp CEO Mikhail Pogosyan tells reporters that there is no formal contract yet, but:
“Starting from 2015, we plan to supply the Defense Ministry with ten An-124s as part of the arms procurement program until 2020.”
Oct 27/10: Russian and Ukrainian leaders sign a Participants’ Agreement to establish a joint venture between Antonov and Russia’s state-owned UAC. According to Antonov:
“The joint venture will be engaged in coordination of activity of enterprises of ANTONOV and UAC in directions of vendor items purchase, production, marketing and sales, as well as after-sale support and design of new modifications of ANTONOV aircraft. The list of programs to be realized by the JV includes: further development of AN-148 regional jet of a new generation, AN-70 STOL military transport, assumption of new versions of AN-124-100 RUSLAN freighter.”
Sept 30/10: Russia’s RIA Novosti says that a proposed Russia-Ukraine venture has received orders for 60 An-124 cargo aircraft, to be produced by a forthcoming Antonov/UAV joint venture joint venture.
What they do not have, is a contract – and one is not announced by Antonov as of August 2011. That doesn’t mean a contract cannot exist, but it does make its status rather murky. Russia’s RIA Novosti
July 19/10: The Russian Defense Ministry’s 2011-2020 spending plans includes about 20 An-124-100 Ruslans. Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin:
“We are now working on this issue… We intend to buy about 20 such aircraft… We plan to modernize two [existing AN-124] planes annually [under a recent contract], and starting from 2015-2016, if the manufacturers are ready, we will start purchasing them.”
That last bit is the challenge. Restarting production is always expensive, and the study mentioned in the June 24/08 entry seems to set 40 orders as the threshold for a good financing case.
June 11/10: Russia’s Kommersant newspaper quotes UAC head Alexei Fyodorov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as saying that Russia had proposed the joint production of the AN-124 in the USA to the U.S. government, and that the issue would be on the agenda of President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the United States later in June.
A number of American firms do have AN-124 outsize heavy lift contracts, including Boeing, the United Launch Alliance, and Lora. The Pentagon has used them too, and reportedly has contract options until 2016. Still, this was probably a very short conversation. The cost of setting up even a final assembly line will run into 9 figures, which offers little incentive to Boeing without a lot of orders. that’s unlikely, since there is little economic or political incentive for the US government to encourage the AN-124. The Ukranians were reportedly upset by even the mention of this topic, and wish to keep production in the Ukraine. RIA Novosti.
Dec 25/09: Merry Christmas to the Air Force? RIA Novosti:
“I believe that by 2020 we will begin receiving new aircraft of this type,” Lt. Gen. Viktor Kachalkin, commander of the 61st Air Army, said Friday at a news conference in Moscow.”
First, they have to resume production.
Nov 24/09: Russian and Ukranian media report that a $500 million investment looks set to relaunch AN-124 design in 2010, with a goal of beginning production in 2012. Key quotes include Russian President Dmitry Medvedev:
“There’s a market niche for new large cargo transporters. If we don’t seize this opportunity, others will.”
Volga-Dnepr President Aleksey Isaikin, whose airline owns 10 of the planes:
“BP used our 124s to ship oil rigs to a deposit in Colombia. They say it worked out tens of times cheaper than by boat. But we desperately need new planes to fill demand.”
The price tag is estimated at $200 million per plane, which pleases state-owned United Aircraft Corporation President Aleksey Fedorov:
“We will manufacture 70 new 124s in the first phase. That will require investment by the government of half a billion dollars.”
This is still not a contract. The first task will be re-creating a reliable supply chain, and prospecting work has begun. The Ukrainian government is reportedly considering state financing for related development projects to modernize the Antonov An-124-100 and its D-18T engines. Interfax-Ukraine reports that a relevant agreement was reached by the Russian-Ukrainian intergovernmental economic committee, at a Moscow meeting of its subcommittee for cooperation in aircraft. RIA Novosti’s RT | Interfax-Ukraine | StrategyPage.
Nov 17/09: Ukrainian Industry Minister Volodymyr Novytsky is quoted as saying that Ukraine and Russia will speed up work on preparations for resuming the mass production of An-124 Ruslan aircraft in 2010. The 2 countries had already started preparatory work, including design work by Antonov to modernize the avionics. BSANNA.
June 24/08: Russia’s RIA Novosti:
“It will take 4 billion rubles ($165 million) and at least 40 solid orders to resume production of the An-124 Ruslan (Condor) heavy-lift cargo plane, the RBK daily said on Tuesday citing a feasibility study… by Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation and Ernst & Young, stated that An-124s could be manufactured at Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar from 2012 at a rate of one to two a year. If 40 firm orders are secured, a business plan would be drafted and a loan sought.”
The study estimates 70 potential orders until 2030, at a current cost of $150-160 million each.
April 27/07: The new Ruslan AN-124-100M-150 has completed tests. Antonov announces the completion of Russian GosNII GA and GosNII Aeronavigatsiya certification tests for the new AN-124-100M-150. Documentation is now being prepared for consideration by the Interstate Aviation Committee, in order to obtain their certificate for the AN-124-100M-150.
Dec 15/06: Representatives of ANTONOV ASTC, Volga-Dnepr Airline JSC and Aviastar JSC sign an “agreement on modernization and construction of AN-124 Ruslan aircraft family.” Antonov ASTC press release.Additional Readings
- Volga-Dnepr Group – Resuming production of An-124 Production
- Antonov ASTC – AN-124 Ruslan
- Aviation Zone – Antonov An-124 Ruslan (Condor)
- Air Force Technology – AN-124
- Aviation Zone – Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
- Aviation Zone – Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
- Air Cargo World (April 2006) – Planning Projects Properly. “Frustrated by the ad-hoc nature of project cargo operations, Volga-Dnepr wants more say in supply chain planning…”
- CASR (February 2006) – Strategic Airlifters: a Comprehensive Comparison between the Boeing C-17 and the Antonov An-124-100 [Author Bio | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]. Note that AN-124 purchase price given in Part 2 & 3 appears to be off by a factor of 8; this may have been confused with an upgrade price.
Qatar to Get 7 Naval Vessels from Fincantieri | Solution to Refueling Problem May Soon be History for A400M | Japan on Alert for Potential Projectiles from Hermit Kingdom
- Raytheon’s high powered microwave demonstrator capable of disabling the electronics on small UAVs is reported to have gained renewed interest from Department of Defense contractors. This follows the successful 2013 test of the system’s capabilities on an Army site. The system is the ground-based cousin to Raytheon’s computer-frying missile, the Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) and also resembles the active denial system’s configuration, including its reflector and steering mirror, but with a different mission set.
- Turkey’s strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that his country’s shipbuilding industry is capable of constructing its own indigenous aircraft carrier. Erdogan made the claims in a speech at a launching ceremony at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard. However any ambitious plans to start such a development won’t begin until the completion and delivery of TCG Anadolu, a planned amphibious assault ship being built by the Sedef–Navantia consortium.
- The US State Department has cleared potential foreign military sale (FMS) for AC-208 sustainment, logistics, and spares support to the government of Iraq. Contained in the $181 million deal is a five-year sustainment package for its AC/RC-208 fleet that includes: operational, intermediate, and depot-level maintenance; spare parts; component repair; publication updates; maintenance training; and logistics. This will allow the Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) to continue to operate its fleet of eight C-208 light attack and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft beyond the June 2016 end of its existing CLS contract.
- Italy has landed its largest ever export deal after signing contracts with Qatar to provide seven naval vessels from Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard. The deal is estimated to be worth between $3.8 to $4.28 billion. According to Italian officials, the Gulf nation also signed a pre-contract agreement, or “Letter of Award” with European missile house MBDA to supply Exocet and Aster 30 missiles worth €1 billion to equip the vessels, with a contract to follow “within weeks.”
- Aviastar-SP – a subsidiary of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC)- has been looking at various alternatives to replace the aging Russian-Ukrainian An-124 cargo plane. The company’s managing director, Andrey Kapustin, told RIA Novosti that the project is still in the conception stage. Production of the An-124 has been suspended amid the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and accusations by Ukraine that Moscow is meddling in its conflict in the eastern Donbas region.
- Airbus believes that it has found a solution to its A400M tactical transport incapability of refueling helicopters in flight. Tests conducted on the company’s H225 helicopter revealed that the rotorcraft’s proximity to its T-tail meant that the air-to-air refueling activity could not be safely completed using a standard, 24.4m (80ft)-long hose. The potential solution, still awaiting tests, involves using a stiffer hose that is more narrow in diameter which will result in a slower refueling time.
- Japan’s military was on alert for a possible North Korean ballistic missile launch, a government source said on Tuesday, with media reporting its navy and anti-missile Patriot batteries have been told to shoot down any projectile heading for Japan. The alarm was raised when Pyongyang appeared to have moved an intermediate-range missile to its east coast, but there were no signs of an imminent launch according to South Korean sources. Tension in the region has been high since isolated North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed that with a satellite launch and test launches of various missiles.
- Polish F-16 fighters escorting Chinese President Xi Jinping on his state visit:
The US may have left Iraq in 2012, but that country is a long way from being able to police its own airspace. The country’s air defenses involve just 2 airspace surveillance radars and 3 air-traffic-control radars, plus some Saddam-era anti-aircraft guns. In addition shoddy maintenance jeopardizes a small air fleet, though Iraq’s only armed aircraft are Cessna AC-208Bs.
Their first serious defensive systems will be short-range Pantsir S1 systems from Russia, but now an official export request outlines the backbone of Iraq’s future air defense architecture. If it’s installed, it would give them “a baseline tactical radar and threat intercept capability” with missiles, and eventually with their F-16IQ fighters.
June 22/16: The US State Department has cleared potential foreign military sale (FMS) for AC-208 sustainment, logistics, and spares support to the government of Iraq. Contained in the $181 million deal is a five-year sustainment package for its AC/RC-208 fleet that includes: operational, intermediate, and depot-level maintenance; spare parts; component repair; publication updates; maintenance training; and logistics. This will allow the Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) to continue to operate its fleet of eight C-208 light attack and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft beyond the June 2016 end of its existing CLS contract.
Aug 5/13: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Iraq’s official request to import an Integrated Air Defense System. Requested items include:
- 40 Avenger Fire Units. Avenger is a short-range gun/missile system, mounted on HMMWVs. It’s in the same competitive class as the Pantsir S1s, but its Stinger missiles use their own targeting, instead of command guidance.
- 681 FIM-92H Block I Stinger Reprogrammable Micro-Processor (RMP) missiles.
- 3 HAWK XXI Batteries (6 Fire Units). Hawk missile systems are the PATRIOT’s predecessors, but they have been heavily updated over the years and have even demonstrated limited ballistic missile defense capabilities (MIM-23J/K). Engagement range is around 35 miles. The system is used by Iraq’s neighbors in Iran (from the Shah’s era), Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE. Hawk XXI systems would be on par with Turkey’s, and Iraq’s request includes 216 MIM-23P Hawk Tactical Missiles, 6 Battery Fire Direction Centers, 6 High Powered Illuminator Radars, 2 Mobile Battalion Operation Centers (BOC), 3 HAWK XXI BOC Air Defense Consoles (ADCs), 1DS/GS Shop 20, 1 DS/GS Shop 21, 1 Mini-Certified Round Assembly Facility (MCRAF).
- 13 AN/MPQ-64F1 Sentinel medium-range radars. Mobile. Can be used as part of Kongsberg of Norway’s NASAMS system, which is fully interoperable with Hawk XXI.
- 7 AN/YSQ-184D Forward Area Air Defense Command, Control, and Intelligence (FAAD C2I) Systems
- 75 AN/VRC-92E SINCGARS Radios
- Ground Air Transmit Receive Ultra High Frequency/Very High Frequency radio capability
- Facilities and construction for 1 underground Air Defense Operations Center and 2 Air Defense Sector Operations Centers
- Plus spare and repair parts, repair and return, software support, systems integration, long haul communication technical integration, communications equipment, support equipment and sustainment, tools and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other US Government and contractor support services.
The DSCA also acknowledges that the Integrated Air Defense Systems includes Lockheed Martin’s TPS-77 Long-Range Radars (the radars already ordered and in place), 10 Medium Range Radars, and the Omnyx-I0 Air Command and Control System.
The estimated cost is $2.403 billion. If contracts are negotiated, the principal contractors involved in this program would be:
- Lockheed Martin Corporation in San Diego, CA (TPS-77)
- Thales Raytheon Systems in Fullerton, CA (Sentinel)
- Boeing Company and American General (Avenger)
- Letterkenny Army Depot, Chambersburg, PA
- Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, Andover, MA (Stinger, Hawk)
- Northrop Grumman in Rolling Meadows, IL
- Kratos Defense and Aerospace in Huntsville, AL
- DID – Iraq: Weapons – and Challenges – In the Pipeline
- DID – Baby Come Back: Iraq is Buying Russian Weapons Again. Including Pantsir S1 mobile short-range air defense systems.
- DID – Iraq Orders a Long-Range Radar. Now confirmed to be the mobile AN/TPS-77.
- DID – The New Iraqi Air Force: F-16IQ Block 52 Fighters. They’ll also be part of Iraq’s future IADS.
- Boeing – Avenger.
- Lockheed Martin – Long-Range Ground-Based Air Surveillance. Which includes the TPS-77 transportable radar, with a range of up to 250 nautical miles.
- Raytheon – Stinger.
- Raytheon – Hawk XXI.
- ThalesRaytheonSystems – AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel. Radar range is 90 – 120 miles.
- Kongsberg Gruppen – Ground Based Air Defence Systems. They’re involved in HAWK XXI and NASAMS.
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In January 2005, the U.S. Navy selected the US101 as the new “Marine One” baseline helicopter, for use by the President of the United States. The US101 is an American variant of AgustaWestland’s successful AW101 multi-mission medium helicopter; it beat out Sikorsky’s S-92 Superhawk, which is already in use as a government VIP transport in countries like South Korea.
That $1.7 billion victory was first endangered, and then destroyed, by ongoing changes from the White House staff. In 2008, the program’s ballooning costs and requirements got a temporary reprieve when US Navy agreed to proceed with the VH-71, despite a cost per aircraft equal or greater than the President’s Air Force One 747s. By June 2009, however, the VH-71 program had shot itself down.
Another round of competition is on the way, and back in 2009 the Pentagon said it was considering buying 2 different helicopters in the VXX follow-on program. Faced with an initial Analysis of Alternatives deemed too expensive, the OSD accepted the Navy’s revised approach in May 2012, setting things in motion for a new program of record.
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The Marine Corps currently operates 11 VH-3D Sea Kings, and 8 smaller VH-60N Black Hawk helicopters. The VH-3Ds were originally placed in service in 1974 and 1975, and the VH-60s entered service in the 1980s. They’re safe and reliable due to low and careful use, but they no longer had the growth capability to incorporate the equipment that George W. Bush’s White House believed was required in a post 9/11 environment.
The new “Marine One” helicopter, expected to be in service for up to 4 decades, was officially designated VH-71A in July 2005. The platform never made it into service. The Presidential office kept adding requirements, the Navy couldn’t or didn’t refuse, and eventually the entire project crashed. Each helicopter had become more expensive than a VC-25 “Air Force One” Boeing 747.What Now?
When the VH-71 program was terminated, in 2009, the question was what to do with the 9 delivered machines. The President and Pentagon believed that the 5 pilot production VH-71s wouldn’t be useful, long-lived, and cost-effective enough to join the Presidential fleet, while some in Congress still believed the 5 should be fitted out and pressed into service. By September 2011, however, all 9 VH-71 airframes had all been shipped to Canada, for use as spare parts.
In its place, the US DoD plans with a revised “VXX” program that aims to field 21 operational helicopters, divided between Presidential helicopters and associated supply helicopters. In 2012 the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense agreed on a cost-effective revised Analyses of Alternatives, setting things in motion to restart a program of record that won’t be in a position to replace the current fleet until 2020 at the earliest.
The VXX RFP was issued in May 2013. During the EMD phase, the selected contractor will provide 6 test helicopters, 4 of which will transition to front-line service in HMX-1. They’ll join another 17 production helicopters: 4 from LRIP Lot 1, 5 from LRIP Lot 2, and 8 from “full-rate production”. Flight and maintenance training systems and contractor support will also be part of the contract, and the level of security around the project will be very tight.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon moved ahead with a program to refurbish the existing VH-3/VH-60 helicopter fleet, while adding 12 V-22 tilt-rotors that will carry cargo, support staff, and media members. The 1st HMX-1 V-22 was inducted in May 2013.VH-3/ VH-60 Refurbishment VH-3D
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This section covers efforts underway to improve existing VH-3D/ VH-60N helicopters, or extend their lifespans.
The VH-3D Lift Improvement program consists of the operational level installation of 55 composite main rotor blades on all 11 VH-3Ds. Sikorsky and their partner Carson Helicopters have been working on upgrades to the VH-3D’s commercial S-61 counterpart, using a 5-blade upgrade of new composite main rotor blades, while strengthening the helicopter’s tail pylon and transmission mounts. This costs just $1.25 million per aircraft, while boosting lift capacity by 2,000 pounds (910 kg), increasing speed by 15 knots at regular power, stretching range by 15%, and doubling service life to 20,000 hours.
The Structural Enhancement Program consists of efforts to redesign the VH-3D’s cabin redesign to reduce total gross weight, replace critical aircraft structure on the VH-60N, upgrade the safety of the fuel system on the VH-3D, and perform Service Life Extensions on the VH-3D and VH-60N.
The VH-3D and VH-60N Cockpit Upgrades consists of an upgrade to LCD panels, replacing mechanical dials and gauges. The Communication Suite Upgrade consists of Demand Assigned Multiple Access Satellite Communication radio upgrade, Digital Frequency Modulation radio upgrade, High Frequency radio upgrade, the Presidential redundant secure communications upgrade, Data Transfer capability upgrade, and Crypto Modernization Upgrade.
The Obsolescence Management Program will manage impending Executive Helicopter obsolescence issues. A variety of factors will be addressed including communication, navigation, operational weight, safety, and engine upgrades to remain mission relevant. An H-3 and H-60 will be converted to TH-3D and TH-60N training helicopters, in order to reduce wear on the operational fleet. The addition of VH-22 Osprey tilt-rotors to the squadron as of May 2013 will also help in this regard, though they’re never used to carry the President.
A Sept 15/14 contract aims to refit the VH-3s with new cabin interiors and air conditioning.
Note that other contracts exist for something called “Special Progressive Aircraft Rework.” These are not upgrades, just an enhanced version of the helicopters’ Standard Depot Level Maintenance that occurs after a set number of flight hours or months, whichever comes first. It includes partial disassembly of the airframe, replacement of components, refurbishment of interior furnishings, and repainting the aircraft.VH-71/VXX Marine One: Contracts & Events
US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, MD manages these contracts; exceptions are noted in the text below. Note that this article covers the Presidential fleet only. Ancillary planes like the Presidential squadron’s supporting VH-22 Ospreys will have milestones mentioned, but won’t receive full coverage.FY 2016
June 21/16: Sikorsky has announced that its VH-92A Marine One helicopter is on track to fly by Spring 2017. The company was selected to design a replacement for the aging fleet of current presidential helicopters in 2014 after a cancelled attempt by Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland which saw ballooned costs and requirements running out of control. Up next for the VH-92A program is the subsystem critical design review of the helicopter at the end of next month, and that is expected to take place earlier than scheduled.
November 6/15: Sikorsky has completed a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for its new Presidential transport helicopter, the VH-92A. The company was awarded a $1.2 billion engineering & manufacturing development contract in May 2014 for development of the helicopter, with options covering 21 operational and 2 test helicopters. The Presidential Helicopter Recapitalization Program (or VXX) saw Sikorsky become the only bidder after other competitors dropped out. The VH-92A is scheduled for fielding in 2020, with the PDR allowing Sikorsky to move into a Critical Design Review (CDR) stage.FY 2014
VXX development contract; final VH-71 settlement.
Sept 16/14: VH-3s. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $9.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price delivery modification for one-time efforts redesigning the VH-3D’s cabin interior and environmental control system, including VIP seats, a cabin interior kit, and special tooling. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy aircraft budgets.
Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, and is expected to be completed in August 2016. US Navy NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-14-G-0004, DO 4010).
May 7/14: VXX Contract. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $1.245 billion fixed-price-incentive-firm target contract for the Presidential Helicopter Replacement program’s Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase. The EMD Phase includes 6 VH-92 test aircraft and associated support equipment, with “mature government-defined mission systems” integrated, flight training and maintenance training devices/ simulators, and various forms of support.
$42 million is being committed immediately, using FY 2014 RDT&E funding. Work will be performed in Stratford, CT (62.22%); Owego, NY (19.38%); Coatesville, PA (14.25%); Orlando, FL (1.44%); Phoenix, AZ (.86%); Cedar Rapids, IA (.85%); Vergennes, VT (.53%); and Torrance, CA (.47%), and is expected to be complete in October 2020. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD received 1 offer (N00019-14-C-0050).
VXX EMD contract
Jan 27/14: VH-71 Termination. Inside Defense reports that Lockheed Martin and the US government finalized the end of the VH-71 helicopter program on Dec 19/13 with a final $91.1 million payout: $38.5 million for completed work and $51.6 million in termination fees. That brings the termination total to about $203 million (q.v. June 2/11).
The contract was terminated on June 2/09, and the total amount paid to Lockheed over the entire contract ends up costing the taxpayer about $2.2 billion. The biggest reason for all that waste is a President’s own office that couldn’t stop adding requirements (q.v. Dec 13/07, Jan 19/08), but enforcing Navy certification requirements on a helicopter designed to commercial aviation standards wasn’t helpful, either (q.v. March 14/08). Sources: Inside Defense, “DOD, Lockheed Settle On Final $2.3 Billion Tab For Terminated VH-71 Program”.FY 2013
Sept 6/13: GAO Report. The GAO releases a short report that looks at the Navy’s rationale for waiving competitive prototyping requirements for either the base VXX helicopter, or its equipment suite. That’s normally required by The Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, but prototyping can be waived with a justification to the US Comptroller General.
As VXX hit Milestone B, the US Navy had calculated that competitive prototyping would delay fielding by 16 months, and raise development costs by somewhere between FY11$ 782 million – 3.38 billion. At best, spending in the higher end of this range would save FY11$ 542 million in lifetime costs, which is a poor deal.
The helicopter justification is straightforward this time, because the program is insisting on an off-the-shelf helicopter, without huge modifications to change performance. For the mission sub-systems, most of the components are known, and prototyping wouldn’t be a big help to integration. GAO did note that this aspect of the program is likely to be challenging, and may be more challenging than the Navy thinks, but the question is whether competitive prototyping would help. GAO thought the Navy’s documentation and analytical rigor around that question was good, and accepted the Navy’s rationale. That’s good news, if the Navy wants to go ahead with just the VH-92. Sources: US GAO Report #GAO-13-826R.
Aug 2/13: VXX. Reuters quotes “Defense officials” who say that the pullout of AgustaWestland and Boeing won’t change their plans to proceed, “and said there were procedures in place to ensure competitive pricing even in cases involving a single bidder.”
These procedures include re-use of existing equipment in the new airframe, and could involve the CRH search and rescue helicopter approach of requesting more price data from Sikorsky. Sources: Reuters, “UPDATE 1-U.S. Navy defends presidential copter bid format as firms bail out”.S-92
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July 29/13: VH-92 left. Boeing and AgustaWestland both confirm to Aviation Week that they don’t intend to bid on the VXX RFP. That leaves only Sikorsky & Lockheed Martin’s VH-92. The S-92 is widely used as a head-of-state VIP helicopter, but this probably isn’t the outcome the Navy was looking for. AgustaWestland:
“After a comprehensive analysis of the final RFP…. There are fundamental proposal evaluation issues that we believe inhibit our ability to submit a competitive offering, and that provide a significant advantage to our likely competitor…. we believe we have the best, most suitable aircraft for the President.”
Eurocopter never stepped in. Then there’s Boeing, whose response also removes Bell Helicopter:
“The Boeing Company will not submit a bid for the U.S. Navy’s VXX Presidential Helicopter program. While both the Boeing H-47 Chinook and the Bell Boeing V-22 are often used to transport military and government leaders in theaters of operation, we do not believe these aircraft would be competitive for this program as it is currently structured.”
The downwash issues on the White House lawn made those machines rather improbable from the get-go, and you can’t transport a V-22 in a C-17, unless you remove the wings. Leaving the question: now what? Sources: Aviation Week, “VXX Becomes One-Horse Race”.
May 4/13: VH-22. The 1st of 12 MV-22B Ospreys is delivered to the HMX-1 Presidential Squadron. These Ospreys will never carry the President, just cargo, support staff, and media members.
V-22 joins HMX-1
May 3/13: VXX RFP. The US Navy issues their VXX RFP. Proposals for the 23 helicopters are due in 90 days with a goal to award a fixed-price incentive engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract, with production options, by mid-calendar year 2014. Proposals will be evaluated on “best value,” which means a more expensive proposal can win, and technical factors are “slightly more important” than cost. Vendors can gain an extra 10% for assessed strengths in some or all of Fully-outfitted Performance with Overall Weight Growth Margin; Transportability – C-17 Load/Unload Timeline; Cabin Reconfiguration Timeline; and Reliability. Another 5% premium can be gained by offering risk reduction benefits, for a maximum of 15%.
The government will define the mission systems, which is what crashed the program last time, and choose the interior aesthetics from among options offered by the contractor. One hopes that past lessons have been learned. They do have a cost target, which may seem low:
“The affordability target for unit recurring flyaway VXX Integrated Air Vehicle and support equipment, provided for guidance, is $41M. Unit recurring flyaway is defined as that which is associated with the “end item” (excluding GFE hardware) and is comprised of the Prime Mission Equipment including airframe, propulsion, avionics, and it is also comprised of the Software, Integration, and Systems Engineering / Program Management (SEPM) to repeat build of the end item…. The affordability target for Production Support, provided for guidance, is $12M per option year.”
The thing to remember is that most of the helicopter’s total cost will be tied up in the Government Furnished equipment. The difficult interactions happen when the amount of equipment starts forcing overall design changes to the helicopters that can’t be met by off-the-shelf technologies. Having said that, some requirements like the ability to safely land in very small landing zones, with minimal damage to the surroundings, are non-negotiable. Sources: FBO.gov | US NAVAIR.
May 4/13: H-92. Sikorsky reiterates that they’ll be submitting a variant of their S-92 for VXX, in partnership with Lockheed Martin. They’ll compete against Northrop Grumman and AgustaWestland (AW101), and Boeing (TBD). Sources: Sikorsky, May 4/13 release.
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.
Planning changes from FY 2013 to FY 2014 are “directly related to the reprogramming of funds to support the unplanned requirements associated with keeping the existing fleet of Presidential VH-3’s and VH-60’s [sic] safely operating beyond their originally planned service life until replaced by VXX. Requirements include obsolescence issues and safety improvements such as weight reduction efforts, and structural improvements.” Overall, life extension and modernization work on the current fleet of 11 VH-3Ds and 8 VH-60Ns amount to about $708.7 million from FY 2012-2018.
March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. The VXX program gets a short 1-page entry, which notes an April 2012 VXX analysis of alternatives (AOA) study:
“The program plans to leverage existing avionic and mission systems and it uses less stringent requirements than those developed for VH-71. In addition, the acquisition approach includes integrating a government developed communication package and mission systems…. A May 2012 Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) memo certifying the AOA study states that the analysis demonstrates that the proposed approach to avoid [requiring flight recertification of the final helicopter] is feasible for a number of options and, if adopted, offers potential for reduced cost and schedule.”
The tradeoff involves reduced requirements from the VH-71 program, and GAO says that the final Capabilities Development Document didn’t make any changes that would destroy the assumptions of the AOA study.
Nov 29/12: Program Support. Engility Corp. in Mount Laurel, NJ received a $9.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide technical and engineering support services. They’ll help with requirement specification, design, implementation, test, management, and maintenance of laboratory/information system and project/program related software in support of the MH-53 program for minehunting helicopters, the existing VH-3/60 Executive Transportation Program, the VXX program, and general Avionics System Integration.
Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (95%), and Lexington Park, MD (5%), and is expected to be completed in November 2013. $2.4 million is committed immediately, and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-13-C-0006).
Nov 29/12: VXX. US FBO:
“The VXX Program will conduct a Pre-solicitation Conference on 10 December 2012 at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center located at 44219 Airport Road, California, MD 20619, from 1:00p.m. to 5:00p.m. EST. The purpose of this event is to provide a brief status update of the VXX Program, inform industry of program requirements, receive industry’s feedback on the draft RFP, and provide a Question & Answer/networking opportunity.”
Nov 23/12: VXX. FBO.gov releases NAVAIR’s draft for the VXX competition, #N00019-12-R-0063. Once the RFP is refined and released, it will be about designing, building, testing, qualifying, and delivering 25 helicopters. The 2 VXX Engineering Development Model (EDM) machines would be delivered within 30-36 months, and 4 System Demonstration Test Article (SDTA) helicopters would be delivered within 42-52 months. They would be followed by 11 Low Rate Initial Production lots, and 8 “Full-Rate Production” lots. Each lot is actually 1 helicopter.
On the one hand, NAVAIR is trying to keep development costs down:
“Offerors will be highly encouraged to propose an existing, in-production helicopter platform from which the VXX will be derived. It is the Government’s desire to hold development to an absolute minimum on the VXX Program and focus the program effort on integration of mature subsystems on a mature platform. While minor changes to the platform to accommodate integration of subsystems are inevitable, change to major components such as drive train, rotors, engines and basic structure is highly discouraged. In keeping with this approach, the Offerors will be encouraged to not propose any design elements that contain immature technology or that might be deemed Critical Technology Elements (CTEs).”
Announced competitors Finmeccanica/Northrop Grumman (AW101) and Sikorsky/Lockheed (S-92) both fit the basic requirements. On the other hand, the VH-71/AW101 fiasco involved an in-production, C-17 transportable platform, led by a US contractor. It needed so many changes to its engine, rotors, etc. because of the program’s equipment and range requirements, which couldn’t be met by any existing helicopter. These aspects of VXX have yet to become public. A pre-solicitation conference will be held in Maryland on December 10. Sources: US FBO.gov, “Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program (VXX) Contract” | Aviation Today, “NAVAIR Sets Ball Rolling (Again) for Presidential Helicopter (VXX) Replacement” | Reuters, “Navy moves ahead to replace presidential helicopters”.FY 2011 – 2012
August 2012: AoA. Navy Public Affairs Officer Capt. Cate Mueller tells DID that the revised Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) was approved back in May. The focus for the program is set on “affordability, cost control and risk reduction” which reflects adjustments asked by the Pentagon after the original AoA was deemed to set an unaffordable path.
The next step in the acquisition process is work on a Capabilities Development Document (CDD), the key deliverable of the Technology Development (TD) phase. This is expected to be submitted for approval to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) in 2013. Once that is approved, an Independent Cost Estimate (ICE) has to be made before moving to Pre-Engineering & Manufacturing Development and issuing an RFP.
All told, this puts the program at least “8 years away from when a new helicopter could replace the current fleet” according to Mueller. The Congressional Budget Office, in its July 2012 assessment of the FY 2013-2017 FYDP, assumes a replacement for Marine One will happen “in the second half of this decade.”
Feb 27/12: GAO Report. the Government Accountability Office publishes its second report on DOD’s handling of the VH-71 cancellation aftermath and VXX follow-on. (The first report was released in March 2011.) The GAO conducted a performance audit from March 2011 to February 2012 that reviewed work on the Navy’s AOA and a number of high-level Pentagon and Navy briefings.
The AOA submitted by the Navy in March 2011 was not approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) because of a lack of a cost-effective solution. At least that was OSD’s perception as it is relayed in the GAO report. The Navy apparently believed it had been faithful to DOD guidance in its analysis. OSD then provided additional guidance in December 2011. There won’t be a Milestone A, nor an official program, until that is resolved. The revised AOA is expected to be presented to OSD in March 2012.
Feb 13/12: 2013 Budget. The US Navy is asking for $61M in FY2013 for V-XX program definition.
Sept 12/11: Off to Canada. HW Farren Company announces that it has finished transporting the USA’s 9 VH-71 helicopters to Canada’s Department of National Defence, for use as spare parts to Canada’s CH-149 Cormorant fleet. The CH-149s have had readiness issues, and have been consuming spares at a rapid clip. Hence the mention that the 9 helicopters were “in care of” maintenance contract holder IMP Aerospace in Enfield, NS.
The first 4 VH-71s were broken down for transport, but the last 5 could not be disassembled, and HW Farren had to designed and fabricate special wheel cradles for them. They were loaded on a barge, transported to Baltimore, off-loaded, placed on an Atlantic Container Line Roll-On Roll-Off Vessel for transport to Halifax, then re-loaded onto barges, for transport to Canadian Forces Depot Bedford. CFAD Bedford is technically part of CFB Halifax, but the “Bedford Magazine” is its own major property occupying the entire northern shore of Bedford Basin. It houses all of the weaponry and ammunition for MARLANT vessels, and has a loading jetty and several nearby anchorages. HW Farren | CASR.
VH-71s to Canada as spares
June 2/11: Termination fees. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Owego, NY receives a $53.4 million modification to the previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee VH-71 system development and demonstration contract, which was terminated for the convenience of the government. This modification provides funding for post-termination related expenses, including, but not limited to: physical inventory of contractor acquired property; proposal preparation; security; disposition of contract inventory; subcontractor settlement costs; and termination management activities. When combined with the June 2010 contract, it raises termination expenses to $112 million.
Work will be performed in Owego, NY (36%), and at various subcontractor facilities located within the United States and in the United Kingdom and Italy (64%), and is expected to be complete no later than September 2012 (N00019-05-C-0030).FY 2010
June 21/10: Termination fees. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Owego, NY receives a $58.6 million modification for termination-related expenses. The cost-plus-award-fee VH-71 System Development and Demonstration contract (N00019-05-C-0030) was terminated for the convenience of the government, but there are still some associated costs that the government must pay. This modification provides funding for post termination related expenses, including, but not limited to, the physical inventory of contractor acquired property; proposal preparation; security; disposition of contract inventory; subcontractor settlement costs; termination management activities; and applicable fees.
Work will be performed in Owego, NY (36%) and at various subcontractor facilities located within the USA, and in the United Kingdom and Italy (64%), and is expected to be complete by September 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10 (N00019-05-C-0030).
June 7/10: AW101. The EH101 is back, as Boeing teams with AgustaWestland. Finmeccanica’s subsidiary has produced several Boeing helicopters under license in England and Italy (WAH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinooks), and now Boeing will return the compliment with the AW101. The license will give Boeing full intellectual property, data and production rights, making its version of a Presidential AW101 bid a Boeing aircraft, built by Boeing personnel, at one of its U.S. facilities. Boeing says that it will respond to the current VXX RFI by the June 18/10 deadline.
This decision is likely to create several ripples. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute points out that:
“Boeing’s bid could create some embarrassing moments for both itself and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin spent years arguing that the AgustaWestland airframe was superior to the Sikorsky product it now supports… By the same token, Boeing is engaged in a bitter dispute with Airbus concerning European aircraft subsidies, and [the AW101 has received them]… As Christopher Drew noted in today’s New York Times, the government will be selecting between the same two rotorcraft in the new competition that were offered the first time around, albeit with different teams behind them. Whether the government ultimately saves any money… will depend on how it re-writes its performance specifications… the more likely outcome is that… the greater capacity of the EH101 will once again prevail.”
April 20/10: V-22? Boeing and Bell Helicopter are reportedly considering a VV-22 tilt-rotor bid for the VXX competition.
The V-22 offers significant speed and range advantages, but there’s a reason the V-22 didn’t make the finals the first time. Massive downdrafts too strong for the White House lawns didn’t fit the RFP, and a low-ceilinged cabin design didn’t fit the idea of a President walking in without stooping. Not to mention continued jitters concerning its safety, though that can cut both ways as a political statement. DoD Buzz.
April 19/10: H-92. Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin team for VXX. This day, the 2 companies also jointly submit a response to the U.S. Navy’s VXX request for information, detailing how they would design and manufacture the next Marine One. The agreement has Sikorsky as the prime contractor, offering its H-92 Superhawk medium-lift helicopter, with Lockheed Martin as the major integrator of all required electronic subsystems.
In addition to the VXX teaming agreement, the firms also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore business opportunities involving “other Sikorsky programs” beyond VXX, or their existing 38-year partnership surrounding the US Navy’s SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk naval helicopters. Sikorsky | Lockheed Martin | Aviation Week Ares.
Feb 16/10: VXX. The USA releases a 27-page RFI for new “VXX” Presidential Vertical Lift Platform(s). Interested parties are asked to provide a 5-page response by March 3/10. The responses will be used to support a new analysis of alternatives, the first step toward a formal Request for Proposal.
One change is that VXX would feature at least 2 versions of the new helicopter: an executive model for VIP transport and a passenger-cargo variant for support. Total buy for both models will track closely with VH-71 plans, at 23-28 aircraft. FedBizOpps #VXX-RFI | Defense News.
Oct 14/09: Politics. US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates sends a letter to Congress [PDF], in advance of House/Senate efforts to reconcile their defense bills into a single agreed budget. It includes the following excerpt:
“The conference bill should not provide funding for weapons that are not working or are no longer needed. To that end, the Department strongly objects to the House’s addition of $400 million to make operational five partially-completed VH-71 helicopters and appreciates that the Senate did not add funds [for the VH-71] to the President’s [budget] request. These helicopters currently have no mission equipment and would require in excess of $2 billion to complete and operate as Presidential helicopter. Even with these funds, they would not meet full operational requirements for the mission. The Department [of Defense] and the White House are conducting a requirements analysis, and the outcome of this effort should not be pre-empted. If the final bill were to include funds that continue the existing VH-71 program, or would pre-judge the plans to re-compete the Presidential helicopter program, I would recommend that the President veto the bill.”FY 2009
June 2/09: It’s official: Arrivederci, VH-71. A Pentagon press release states that:
“The Navy today announced that it will terminate the VH-71 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) program contract. The announcement follows a Department of Defense (DoD) decision to cancel the existing presidential helicopter replacement program… Navy contract N00019-05-C-0030 and associated work with Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Owego (LMSI-O), Owego, N.Y., awarded Jan. 28, 2005, for the SDD of the VH-71 program, has been terminated for the convenience of the government. The under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics issued a VH-71 program acquisition decision memorandum on May 15, 2009, which directed the program be cancelled, to include both Increment 1 and Increment 2.”
June 1/09: Arabian Aerospace quotes Sikorsky VP of Business Development Frank DiPasquale, who says that:
“We have worked very hard to establish the S-92 in a Head of State role in the Middle East and that has been a great success. The aircraft is performing that mission in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and in Saudi Arabia where the royal family is now flying in the S-92.”
May 21/09: What Next? One of the big problems with the new helicopters was the need to pack all of that communications gear, into a helicopter that can fly nearly 300km without refueling to an emergency airbase at Andrews AFB or Camp David, while remaining small enough to avoid damaging the White House lawn.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that the Pentagon is now considering a request for 2 different helicopter types: one for routine shuttle trips, and a more capable escape aircraft designed for use in emergencies. This would allow a much lower-budget fleet of standard helicopters for everyday use, and a much smaller fleet built on a larger design that didn’t have to care about the White House lawn.
May 15/09: Stop work. The VH-71 program receives a stop work order from the Pentagon. Another 225 layoffs are expected at Lockheed Martin’s Owego, NY facility before the end of the month.
The 5 production and 4 test aircraft would still be the property of the US Navy, but many have not had their advanced systems integrated yet. It will be up to the US Navy to decide what to do with the helicopters.
The US Navy said that the $85 million 2010 budget request includes money to cover termination costs, government efforts to develop options for a replacement program, and service life extensions for the current presidential helicopter fleet. Some estimates place termination costs as high as $500 million, but that figure remains to be negotiated between Lockheed Martin and the federal government. Elmira Star Gazette | Ithaca Journal | NY Times op-ed | Wall Street Journal on local impacts | WICZ Fox 40 news | bNet | The Hill magazine | Wall Street Journal on cancellation.
April 28/09: Testing. The 9th and final (4 test + 5 pilot production) VH-71 to be built under “Increment 1” of the US Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program leaves AgustaWestland’s Yeovil, UK facility. It will be sent to the United States for completion by prime contractor Lockheed Martin. AgustaWestland release.
April 28/09: Politics. In a Reuters interview, AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi takes issue with the Pentagon’s characterization of the VH-71 Increment 1 helicopters’ expected lifespan. Orsi says that even with the additional armor and modifications, the new VH-71 helicopters are certifiable for a minimum 10,000 flight hours of operation, or about 30 years of service in the Presidential fleet. The firm has agreed to tests with the US Navy to verify that performance.
Those tests may be important, because Orsi also backed a compromise plan being floated in Congress. It would revert to the original budget of $6.8 billion, in exchange for sticking to the VH-71 Increment 1 specifications. Note the March 17/08 entry, below, which explains that a number of original requirements were deferred from Increment 1 to improve affordability.
Since the Increment 2 specifications are not realistic or cost-effective, the question going forward must be which specifications can be cut, even if the competition is re-started. The question is whether the Increment 1 helicopters can serve for the required length of time, and are close enough to the reduced requirements, to justify continuation of the program. The alternative involves termination costs that could run to $200 million, in exchange for a renewed competition and a helicopter that offers a more exact match for the new requirements. Reuters | New York Times.
April 27/09: Layoffs. Lockheed Martin Corp. announces an initial round of 225 job cuts at its Owego, NY plant, with further layoffs expected. About 800 of the plant’s 4,000 workers are dedicated to the VH-71 program, and others have been working on an EH101 derivative for the USAF’s CSAR-X search and rescue competition. AP, via Forbes.
April 6/09: Stop. In an unusual move, American Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announces his FY 2010 budget recommendations to the President. He recommends full cancellation of the VH-71 program, on the grounds that the Increment 2 helicopters will cost more than an Air Force One 747, and “Increment One helicopters do not meet requirements and are estimated to have only a five- to 10-year useful life.”
New options for the future Presidential helicopter are to be developed for a replacement program that’s expected to begin in FY 2011.
March 5/09: Bloomberg reports that the latest estimate and 15-page report, prepared for congressional defense committees, revises the VH-71’s program cost from $11.2 billion to $13 billion – 113% above the original baseline of $6.1 billion. Based on 28 helicopters built, the allocated R&D and purchase cost would be $464.3 million per helicopter.
The report adds that instead of having the first 5 helicopters ready no earlier than September 2010, there would be a delay of 18 months (April 2012), and that the upgraded version with more sophisticated communications and the most advanced defenses would slip from December 2017 – December 2019.
The US Navy would not confirm these changes or comment, because Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has yet to provide a formal certification of cost and justification for the program to Congress, per the Nunn-McCurdy legislation’s review process. Bloomberg News | Congressional Quarterly | Washington Post | Ithaca Journal | Britain’s The Independent discusses the effect in Britain.
Costs rise again
Feb 27/09: Hacked. P2P Intelligence firm Tiversa claims that in Oct/Nov 2008, it traced a file that contains details regarding the VH-60N Presidential Helicopter’s CAAS avionics architecture, and some program financial data, on public-access peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks. On Feb 25/09, the file was found on the IP address of an Iranian computer.
The CAAS avionics architecture is slated for use in the VH-71 as well. Read “P2P Network Leaks: The VH-60N Helicopter” for full treatment of this breach, its implications, and the underlying trend at work.
Feb 23/09: Arrivederci? Disparaging comments at the White House fiscal summit by President Obama, and by his Republican Party opponent Sen. John McCain, cast doubt on the VH-71 program’s future. From The Australian’s report :
“Yesterday Mr Obama, as if playing both speaker and leader in the Westminster style, first called on Senator McCain in this version of question time.
“Thank you for doing this,” said Senator McCain, “your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One. I don’t think that there’s any more graphic demonstration of how good ideas have cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money”.
“I’ve already talked to (Secretary of Defence Robert) Gates about a thorough review of the helicopter situation,” he said.
“The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me,” he said, generating laughs before adding “of course, I’ve never had a helicopter before … maybe I’ve been deprived and I didn’t know it.”
He said it was an example of the “procurement process gone amok. And we’re going to have to fix it”.
Those comments by both men were widely reported, and triggered a drop in Finmeccanica’s share price. AgustaWestland USA chief executive Stephen C Moss stated his belief that the program will go forward, with changes, and pointed out that in 63 cases of Nunn-McCurdy cost overruns, only 2 programs have been canceled. Changes have been proposed to the VH-71, including reducing the number of helicopters, and removing some of the troublesome requirements. Other proposed changes include putting the program up for rebid, building new VH-3s with updated communications, or simply canceling the program without replacement.
In the current economic environment, more extreme solutions become more likely. Given that the existing VH-3/ VH-60 fleet is not suffering from flying hour fatigue, these comments from Obama and McCain will make the required Nunn-McCurdy justifications to Congress very problematic. See also: Washington Post | CNN Money with Moss statement | MSNBC re: Connecticut delegation’s rebid push | The Hill | AP | Helciopter Association International | Flight International | WIRED Danger Room.
Jan 29/09: Cost breach. The US Navy announces that the VH-71 program is more than 50% over budget, triggering “Nunn-McCurdy” legislative provisions and stopping work on development of the VH-71’s Increment 2 design.
Under those provisions, the Defense Department either must end the program, or certify that it is essential for national security, that the new unit costs are reasonable, that management structure can control future growth, and that no substitutes exist that provide equal or greater military capability at less cost. Reuters, via Forbes.
Nov 26/08: SDD. Another $500 million in System Development and Demonstration (SDD) funds to Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY. Work on this modification to the existing cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0030) will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (28%); Owego, NY (26%); Yeovil, UK (20%); Cascina Costa, Italy (15%); Rolling Meadows, IL (3%); Lynn, MA (3%); Clifton, NJ (2%); Denton, TX (1%); Grand Rapids, MI (1%); and Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (1%), and is expected to be complete in December 2014.
Oct 9/08: SDD. Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY receives a $173 million modification, raising the January 2005 cost plus award fee contract (N00019-05-C-0030) for the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) of the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter.
Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (28%); Owego, NY (26%); Yeovil, United Kingdom (20%); Cascina Costa, Italy (15%); Rolling Meadows, IL (3%); Lynn, MA (3%); Clifton, NJ (2%); Denton, TX (1%); Grand Rapids, MI (1%); and Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (1%), and is expected to be complete in September 2011.FY 2008
Sept 22/08: Testing. The first operational pilot production helicopter (PP-1) completes its maiden flight at AgustaWestland’s facility in Yeovil, England. Lockheed Martin release.
March 14/08: New deal. The Pentagon reaches an agreement with the White House re: the VH-71 program, and confirms that the cost of the 28 helicopter program has jumped to $11.2 billion – from $6.1 billion when the contract was signed in 2005. Increment 1 rose from $2.3 billion to $3.7 billion, and Increment 2 jumped from $4.5 billion to $7.5 billion. The price of the Increment 2 helicopters would be over $325 million each – comparable to the current Air Force One 747 fleet, even when adjusted for inflation since 1990.
The original VH-71 program planned to rely on an existing commercial helicopter and make modest modifications, but Pentagon acquisition chief John Young has now acknowledged that no existing medium-lift helicopter can meet all of the requirements crammed into VH-71 Increment 2:
“The Navy and industry team did not clearly realize the full implications of the White House requirements… These issues were further complicated by the enforcement of Navy certification requirements on a helicopter designed to commercial aviation standards.”
That’s a rather startling admission. Now, the Navy and industry teams are will complete a “substantial” redesign of the EH-101 base helicopter to meet Increment 2 requirements. The Day Paper, CT | Aviation Week | Defense News
New deal, costs rise
Feb 27/08: Testing. Test Vehicle 3 makes its initial flight in Yeovil, England marking the 4th program helicopter to enter flight test. TV-3 will be the first vehicle tested that is outfitted with mission systems, which means it will be able to validate in-flight performance data for the helicopter’s equipment, instead of relying on lab tests.
TV-3 is due to arrive at the Presidential Helicopter Support Facility here on March 17/08 and will then travel to Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY for final assembly and mission systems integration. TV-3 will join TV-1, TV-2 and TV-5, which have accumulated more than 650 total hours of flight test so far. One additional test vehicle is scheduled for flight testing and missionization after TV-3, before the initial lot of production aircraft are delivered to Patuxent River. NAVAIR release | Flight International.
Jan 19/08: VH-71 stays. Defense Technology International reports that After considering alternatives to the Lockheed Martin VH-71 presidential helicopter – including upgrading the Sikorsky H-3s – the Navy has reportedly decided to stick with the US101 aircraft and fund an additional $1 billion in modifications in “Increment 2,” on top of the program’s initial $6.1 billion price tag, on the grounds that other alternatives wouldn’t be any better.
DTI reports that White House and Navy requirements are essentially turning the helicopter into another “Air Force One” (Presidential 747), which involves hundreds of specifications not included at the program’s outset. In addition to extra electronics, the changing specifications will include structural modifications to the US101 helicopter, in order to extend its range beyond what the current airframes can deliver.
Adding hundreds of new performance requirements in mid-stride does make successful program delivery very difficult – and being on that ride has cost Lockheed Martin before, during evaluations of another modified US101 for the $10-15 billion CSAR-X combat search and rescue helicopter.
Jan 10/08: Testing. The first 2 VH-71 Increment 1 helicopters (TV-2 and TV-5) have entered the flight test phase with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. They are the first of 4 Increment 1 test aircraft; TV-3 and TV-4, will undergo additional assembly and missionization at Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY, before being transferred to NAS Patuxent River in 2008 for testing. NAVAIR release.
Jan 3/08: Cancellation? Inside Defense reports that the VH-71 program may face significant cuts:
“The fate of the VH-71 presidential helicopter program is hanging in the balance as senior defense officials privately weigh the elimination of the bulk of the program, according to sources tracking the issue inside and outside the Pentagon…”
Dec 13/07: Cancellation? Gannett’s Marine Corps Times reports that cost increases and schedule problems, “driven in part by nearly 2,000 requirement changes,” (vid. April 2007 entry) forced a meeting with the White House Military Office to discuss the program’s fate.
Rumors of cancellation began shortly after that, though the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aviation Programs later said that there “has been no decision to terminate the program… We’re continuing to look at all the options. We’ve looked at almost every conceivable option…”
Nov 14/07: Industrial. Lockheed Martin announces that its VH-71 Systems Integration Lab (SIL) is now operational at the Navy’s Presidential Helicopter Support Facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, in preparation for the arrival of the first aircraft built for the VH-71 program. The new SIL at Patuxent River will allow engineers to test VH-71 avionics and mission systems prior to installation aboard the aircraft – for instance, ensuring that the President can communicate with several government agencies simultaneously. It consists of test benches to evaluate individual subsystems currently in development. The SIL at Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY, which became operational in August 2007, includes a master systems bench full-scale functional mockup of the VH-71 cockpit and cabin that allows the Navy-Lockheed team to run mission scenarios of the final integrated systems.
Test Vehicle 2 (TV-2) is scheduled to arrive at Patuxent River in mid-November 2007 to commence a comprehensive testing program. Another 3 test vehicles are scheduled for delivery to the U.S. this winter, followed by 5 production aircraft during 2008. Capt. Don Gaddis, the U.S. Navy’s Presidential Helicopters program manager, said that:
“A Systems Integration Lab at the Presidential Helicopter Support Facility will enable the Marine Corps to test the integrated systems more quickly during the flight test phase… Having this on-site test capability is critical to meeting our requirements.”FY 2006 – 2007
July 3/07: Testing. The 1st VH-71 pilot production helicopter makes its maiden flight at AgustaWestland’s facility in Yeovil, UK. Before that TV2 model is delivered to the test facility in Patuxent River, MD in fall 2007 for structural testing, the aircraft will complete initial shake-down flying and embark on flight trials to test the integrated avionics systems and aircraft systems. Lockheed Martin release | GE release.
April 2007: 2,000 changes? A systems requirements review reveals that nearly 2,000 design changes will be needed to meet Pentagon requirements for the VH-71 Increment 2 model – the first model intended to offer the President full command and control capability while in flight. The changes reportedly included a new tail, transmission and rotor blades. Source.
Oct 24/06: Sub-contractors. GE Aviation officially opens its new Presidential Helicopter engine facility at the Lynn, Massachusetts, plant. The dedicated area in Lynn Product Development & Delivery will house the assembly and shipment operations of CT7-8E and CT7-8CE1 engines for the next-generation “Marine One” helicopter that will be used by the President of the United States.
Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY awarded GE a $65-million contract to provide CT7-8E and CT7-8CE1 engines for use during the system development & demonstration (SDD) phase of the Presidential Helicopter Replacement program. GE Aviation release.
June 12/06: Industrial Lockheed Martin formally opens the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter Integration Facility. The new 176,000-square-foot facility features aircraft integration hangars, program management and engineering office space, systems integration laboratories, aircraft parts storage, and maintenance and helicopter paint facilities. The complex also includes a new helicopter flight operations area. Lockheed Martin release.
October 2005: First test flight of the VH-71.
1st test flightFY 2003-05
July 7/05: VH-71. The next generation US presidential helicopter sheds its generic “VXX” placeholder and contractor’s “US101” moniker and received its mission design series designator of “VH-71A.” A popular name for the VH-71A is still under consideration. NAVAIR release.
May 19/05: Politics. The House Armed Service Panel approves the FY 2006 defense appropriations bill, including the Presidential helicopter. Money for the project now is included in the House version of the Defense Appropriations bill. Congressional maneuvering had left this result in some doubt, along with about 750 jobs at the Lockheed Martin Systems Integration plant in Owego, NY. Government Executive.
April 2005: Politics. Sikorsky’s home-state Sen. Christopher Dodd [D-CT] inserts an amendment to a State Department authorization bill that would have prohibited any European companies in “countries that do business with terrorist-sponsoring states” from producing components of the US101 helicopter. The amendment was crafted to target AgustaWestland, but Lockheed Martin home-state Sen. Chuck Schumer’s [D-NY] objections to the amendment kill it. Towanda, PA Daily and Sunday Review
Jan 28/05: Winner! U.S. Navy NAVAIR selects the US101 as the new “Marine One” helicopter for the President of the United States, issuing a $1.7 billion System Design & Development (SDD) contract.
The US101 is a derivative of AgustaWestland’s 3-engine EH101. The reason for such a large contract is that the helicopter may be a tested platform, but there’s a lot of gear to position, integrate, and test, including expensive propositions like electronic interference testing. Team US101 release | Lockheed Martin release.
US101 wins, gets SDD contract
Dec 1/03: US101. The US101 Team competing to provide the president of the United States with a new Marine One helicopter fleet selects GE Aircraft Engines (GEAE) to supply American-made CT7-8E engines for the US101 Presidential helicopter. At more than 2,500 shaft horsepower, the CT7-8E is one of the newest and most powerful derivative of GEAE’s successful T700/CT7 family of helicopter engines. Lockheed Martin release.Appendix A: VH-71 – The Plan, and the Problems Air Force One
(click to view full)
Given the immense complexity of the electronics involved, the plan was for VH-71 deliveries to involve 2 separate “increments” that separated the full electronics suite from the airframe and basic functions.
In the Increment 1 phase, 4 test aircraft and 5 pilot production VH-71 aircraft were to be delivered through 2009. Increment 1 would answer the urgent need for an air system with enhanced performance over existing VH helicopters, but would not include many of the desired technologies.
Increment 2 was supposed to see a significant increase in helicopter performance, and communications, for the operational helicopters that would remain for many years as America’s Presidential fleet.
According to the Pentagon’s Selected Acquisition Reports, these 28 VH-71 aircraft were initially expected to cost a total of of $6.145 billion, including both R&D and production. Even that worked out to about $219.5 million per helicopter, a sum that could purchase a new civilian 747 jumbo jet.
Tier one of the program’s problems began when it rushed the schedule.
The original schedule for the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program, known as VXX, had called for an initial operating capability in 2014. That schedule was accelerated by 4 years after the 9/11 attacks, even though it had taken several years to award the contract. Based on the contract schedule, the first US101 that was equipped to transport the President was expected to be available in 2009. The entire fleet of 28 US101s was scheduled for delivered to the Marine One squadron by late 2015.
Tier 2 of the program’s problems are a common refrain in US Navy acquisition programs: a long stream of requirements changes mid-process, creating technical specifications that current technologies cannot meet, with production starting long before a final design is agreed upon. In this case, however, many of the changes were driven by White House staff, not by the Navy.
By March 2008, the Pentagon confirmed a new figure of $11.2 billion, or $400 million per helicopter – comparable to a new buy of the USAF’s VC-25 “Air Force One” 747s. Their next SAR was forced to incorporate that jump, and report the VH-71 program as being in breach of American Nunn-McCurdy regulations. Those laws require cost increases of over 25% to re-justify the program to Congress. That proved to be a very difficult exercise, amidst the meltdown of the global financial system.VXX 1.0 – Team Lockheed’s “US101” US101 Demonstrator
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This competition had some unique requirements, including rotor wash and helicopter weight that had to avoid being too hard on the White House landscaping. Those requirements had reportedly washed out Bell Textron and Boeing’s V-22 tilt-rotor, which meets a number of the program’s challenging range requirements and offers speed advantages. Aside from its downwash effect on the local flora, the Osprey also had a very low-ceilinged cabin and safety questions, and was never seriously considered for presidential use. Bell Helicopter joined Lockheed’s US101 team.
In 2005, after a long competition, a modified AgustaWestland EH101 beat out Sikorsky’s smaller S-92, which already operates as a head-of-state helicopter in other countries. Team US101 lead Lockheed Martin received a $1.7 billion contract from the Navy for the VH-71 Marine One program’s systems development and demonstration phase.
Team US101 was led by Lockheed Martin as system integrator. AgustaWestlandBell, a joint venture between AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopter Textron, was the principal American subcontractor to Lockheed Martin. Despite being a subcontractor, they would have responsibility for the basic helicopter design, production build, and basic air vehicle support.
While most European EH101s use a Rolls Royce/ Turbomeca RTM322 engine, The VH-71/US101s will be powered by 3 of GE’s CT7-8E and CT7-8CE1 engines, derived from the T700 series that powers many US military helicopters. The CT7-8 delivers 2,520 shp at sea level, and subsequent models were expected to surpass that.
Other key suppliers included ITT, Northrop Grumman, Kaman Aerospace, and Palomar Products. Aircraft final assembly will be by Bell Helicopter in Amarillo, TX, with mission equipment installation and final integration by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in NY.
New engines, and a rotor downwash that wouldn’t mess the flowers, were only the beginning of the changes to the basic airframe and systems. Another key modification for the new US101 a 6-foot-tall main cabin airstair door, instead of the shorter opening on regular EH101s. Why? It makes for better TV. The taller door matches the height of the cabin, and so the President needs only a tip of the head to get into Marine One, instead of having to duck down.
The VH-71 would retain the EH101’s active control system, which cancels out rotor and transmission vibration to create an airliner-like ride. Sound-absorbing material was also installed throughout, to provide a better work environment. All this would be present in the Initial Increment 1 helicopters.
Increment 2 would add other technical features, including head-up displays in the cockpit, a more robust tail rotor design, a higher power gearbox, slightly redesigned rotor blades for better flight characteristics, and higher performance engines.
The Presidential helicopters’ most important technologies, however, involved an array of EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse, created by nuclear blasts) resistant communications systems. While VH-71 Increment 1 helicopters would have limited capabilities in this regard, the full production VH-71 Increment 2 birds were expected to feature a wide array of new capabilities, allowing the President of the United States to work while in transit, and exercise command while en route to longer-term crisis transportation. From a temporary transport with some communications capabilities, Marine One was morphing into a platform that began to resemble the USA’s “Air Force One” VC-25s/ 747s.
In VH-71 Increment 2 helicopters, the 4th aircrew member would operate an elaborate, state-of-the-art, open architecture communications suite providing secure access to the White House communications network, along with technical enhancements designed to give the President full command and control capability while in flight.
Unfortunately, advanced EMP-resistant systems of this type are expensive, proprietary, inherently bulky, and draw a lot of power when aggregated together. In a 747, that isn’t a show-stopping problem. It’s a serious engineering problem in a very confined space, however, and also creates weight issues that will bite especially hard with a less-efficient helicopter aircraft. They bite even harder if that helicopter must also have truly unusual range, something that’s rather difficult to do if it’s loaded to the gills with gear, power generators, and other weight-creating equipment.
The 1st flight of a VH-71 pilot production helicopter took place in Yeovil, England on July 3/07.
In March 2008, Pentagon acquisition chief John Young acknowledged that no existing medium-lift helicopter could meet all of the requirements crammed into VH-71 Increment 2, adding the startling admission that “The Navy and industry team did not clearly realize the full implications of the White House requirements…” Following a program reorganization, the Navy and industry teams worked to complete a “substantial” redesign of the EH-101 helicopter to meet those Increment 2 requirements. It was this redesign that drove costs so high, as the helicopter was required to carry tons of extra gear and up to 15 passengers, while flying farther than current VH-3 and VH60 helicopters.
No problem is insoluble, if enough dollars and engineering resources are applied. Projects can and will be killed, however, if those dollars and resources climb too high. In the end, that’s what happened to the US101.Additional Readings Background: Helicopters & Program
- FBO.gov – Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program (VXX). Solicitation Number: N00019-13-R-0060.
- AgustaWestland – AW101
- Bell Textron – The Bell-Boeing V-22. Didn’t contend in either phase, but VH-22s are becoming HMX-1 Squadron’s associated utility platform, carrying cargo and VIPs other than the President. They’ll eventually supplant the VH-60s.
- Sikorsky – S-92 Superhawk
- GE – CT7-8E and CT7-8CE1. This engine also equips the S-92 Superhawk, and Spanish NH90 helicopters. GE CT7-6 variants power Italian EH101s.
- Lockheed Martin Code One Magazine (Q4 2004) – Landing on the Lawn
- Wikipedia – VH-71 Kestrel. They were eventually sold to Canada as spare parts for the CH-149 (AW101) search and rescue fleet.
- Lockheed Martin, via WayBack – US101. They’re now part of Sikorsky’s S-92 team.
- Team US101, via WayBack. This was Lockheed Martin’s collaboration with AgustaWestland, for the VH-71.
- GlobalSecurity.org – VH-60 Marine-1
- GlobalSecurity.org – VH-3D Marine-1
- US GAO (Sept 6/13, #GAO-13-826R) – Department of Defense’s Waiver of Competitive Prototyping Requirement for the VXX Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program
- US GAO (Feb 27/12, GAO-12-381R) – Effort Delayed as DOD Adopts New Approach to Balance Requirements, Costs, and Schedule. This is about VXX.
- US GAO (March 25/11, GAO-11-380R) – Application of Lessons Learned and Best Practices in the Presidential Helicopter Program
- Congressional Research Service (Dec 2009) – VH-71/VXX Presidential Helicopter Program: Background and Issues for Congress
- Defense News (Feb 7/05) – Lessons of US101 [PDF format]
- IEEE Internet Computing (6(1), February 2002), via – Mapping the Gnutella Network: Properties of Large-Scale Peer-to-Peer Systems and Implications for System Design [PDF]. Explains the system behind the VH-60N avionics leak.
- US Navy, via GlobalSecurity (November 2001, N88-NTSP-A-50-0008/A) – Navy Training System Plan for the VH-60N [PDF]
Sikorsky Marine One Helo Ready by Spring 2017 | Pressure Mounts to Approve Sale of Super Hornets to Kuwait | UAC Says T-50 PAK-FA Ready for Mass Production
- Sikorsky has announced that its VH-92A Marine One helicopter is on track to fly by Spring 2017. The company was selected to design a replacement for the aging fleet of current presidential helicopters in 2014 after a cancelled attempt by Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland which saw ballooned costs and requirements running out of control. Up next for the VH-92A program is the subsystem critical design review of the helicopter at the end of next month, and that is expected to take place earlier than scheduled.
- Members of the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 776, who represent a significant portion of Lockheed Martin workers at the company’s Fort Worth plant, have voted in favor of strike action. At present, both the union and Lockheed are in negotiations to replace the current four-year contract which is due to expire on July 10. Union members are asking for an extended five year contract and a 38% pay increase.
- Four Israeli pilots are to travel to the US next month to undergo F-35 training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The training will be ground-based and the men will only fly the real aircraft back in Israel. It is expected that 12 pilots will have completed their training by the middle of 2017.
- Pressure is mounting on the Pentagon to approve the sale of F/A-18 Super Hornets to Kuwait though US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has warned that his service will have to pay more to buy the F/A-18 due to cost increases. According to Mabus, Boeing needs more orders so that it can keep producing the fighter at an economical rate as the 16 slated for Fiscal year 2017 are not enough to ensure optimum production. Kuwait has been waiting over a year for approval for 28 fighters in a deal estimated to cost $3 billion.
- Turkish police reports believe that militants belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have access to up to 50 Man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). Three reports from late May were seen by Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet and included warnings that the systems could be used to target Turkey’s Cobra helicopters. The news comes following the release of footage of a PKK militant successfully targeting and shooting down a Turkish helicopter.
- The Norwegian government has published a whitepaper outlining their Long Term Plan for the Norwegian Armed Forces between the years 2017-2020. Included in the document is a plan to acquire new maritime patrol aircraft and a long-range air defense system to complement the current NASAMS 2 such as the AMRAAM-ER currently developed by Raytheon. $19.7 billion has been set aside for the purchases.
- United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) has announced that its Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA is now ready for mass production. According to Russian newspaper Izvestia, the fifth generation fighter almost fully meets the requirements of the military’s combat capabilities. UAC is also currently preparing a proposal to be submitted to the Russian Ministry of Defense on starting serial production.
- South Korea’s government has completed its own investigation into the botched attempt to upgrade the Korean Air Force F-16 with BAE Systems as contractor. According to the investigation, its Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) failed to heed warning from the Pentagon and broke US foreign military sales (FMS) by having selected the vendor and negotiated the price via competitive bidding. The incident has delayed the program by four-years and incurred a loss of $89 million.
- A Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-15J firing off its M61 Vulcan gatling cannon during a mock intercept mission:
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Russia wants a “5th generation” fighter that keeps it competitive with American offerings, and builds on previous aerial and industrial success. India wants to maintain technical superiority over its rivals, and grow its aerospace industry’s capabilities. They hope to work together, and succeed. Will they? And what does “success” mean, exactly?
So far, preliminary cooperation agreements have been signed between Sukhoi/United Aircraft Corporation, for a platform based on Sukhoi’s T50/PAK-FA design. This DID FOCUS article consolidates specific releases and coverage to date, and adds analysis of the program’s current state and future hurdles.
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The plane behind the project has taken on several names. The T50 may eventually become the SU-50, but for now it’s referred to as PAK-FA. The aircraft project is also known as FGFA (India: Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft), and PMF (Russia: Prospective Multirole Fighter). Key characteristics include:
Shaping: Some observers have tried to characterize the T50 as a copy. That’s a mistake. The PAK-FA’s first flight revealed a distinctively Russian stealth-driven configuration, which borrows from previous Sukhoi designs and priorities. The prototype has some clear stealth-limiting features, from fit quality, to features like Sukhoi’s standard spherical InfraRed Scan & Track (IRST) system mounted near the cockpit. Those may change in the production aircraft; meanwhile, a smaller tail, clear stealth shaping, and internal weapons carriage all indicate a strong push toward a stealthier plane.
The PAK-FA’s air intakes are set back from the leading edge root extensions (LERX), and one interesting wrinkle involves movable LERX shapes that come forward from the wings to join the aircraft body. This “PChN/ Movable LEX” feature apparently allows some of the maneuverability bonuses normally associated with canards on planes like the SU-30SM, SU-34, etc., but in a much lower profile design.RT feature
Engines: Reports concerning the fighter’s initial engines vary. Some sources contend that the engines used in its test flight are 5th generation engines, but most of them report that it is borrowing from the SU-35 program for now, until more advanced engines designed specifically for the plane can be fielded. Both descriptions could be correct. The SU-35S reportedly uses a heavily-upgraded and more reliable version of NPO Saturn’s AL-31F, named the Saturn 117S. It is said to offer over 30,000 pounds of thrust, with full 360 degree thrust vectoring, and is believed to equip initial PAK-FA fighters. The longer-term question is whether incremental 117S upgrades will let the aircraft reach its required “5th generation” performance levels, or whether the AL-41F project, which aims to use a new and improved engine core, will be able to replace the 117S in future.
Weapons: Russian reports cite carriage of 8 missile suspension points inside the fuselage, to match the F-22. While the Raptor has 2 body bays (with space-saving AVEL launchers) and 2 smaller side bays, the Russian plane is big enough to have 4 body bays and 2 side bays. Air-to-air weapons will certainly include the improved AA-11 (RVV-MD SRAAM) and AA-12 (RVV-SD MRAAM), but RIA Novosti adds that it has the ability to carry 2 ultra long range AAMs, presumably the 200-400 km Novator K-100-1. These “AWACS killers” are also intended for use on the SU-35, and their size may force the PAK-FA to carry them externally.
To date, the T50’s ground-attack weapon capabilities remain something of a mystery.PAK-FA prototype
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Sensors: The PAK-FA’s advanced Tikhomirov AESA radar is still undergoing testing on other platforms, and its readiness could be important to the project. As is true of all 4+ generation Russian designs, the radar will be supplemented by an IRST that looks for the heat produced by engines and air friction. This allows long-range, no warning missile attacks, and offsets enemy advantages from radar stealth.
Another approach to offset enemy radar stealth involves L-band radars in the wing’s leading edges, to help the plane find other X-band optimized stealth fighters. The plane’s SH121 radar complex will reportedly add another 3 small X-band AESA radars around the front and sides of the aircraft, in order to provide full radar coverage. Harmonizing these features with stealth, and ensuring that they don’t become a maintenance nightmare, will be another important technical challenge for the new fighter.
The fighter’s biggest technical challenge will involve harmonizing all of these sensors into a single view for the pilot. Russia and India aren’t short on programming talent, but pilot ergonomics has been a long-standing weakness in Russian fighters, as western pilots found when they began flying East German MiG-29s. Good sensor fusion is a technically challenging task, especially if the goal is a system that can accommodate upgrades without ruinous expense. The talent is there, but both Russia and India have mixed histories trying to manage those kinds of military efforts.
Other Electronics: Sukhoi’s releases emphasize an advanced datalink that allows PAK-FA aircraft to share situational awareness, much like NATO’s “Link 16” standard. As the USAF has discovered, however, having other platforms share information with stealth aircraft, while retaining “low probability of intercept” to avoid giving the stealth aircraft’s positions away, is difficult. Russia and India will need to resolve that issue, or accept the operational limitations of a unique but incompatible datalink.Test flight
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All of these characteristics show a convergence of Russian design with leading-edge technologies. Russian 4+ generation fighter designs have always placed a premium on super-maneuverability, and so does the T50. Russian AESA radars are becoming service-ready, and the T50 looks set to be a key platform for their use. Engine improvements may even allow Mach 1+ supercruise if the T50’s weight can be kept down, and if Saturn can deliver on promised operational performance – but both of those “ifs” remain to be proven.
Once it becomes operational, this plane is expected to get the designation SU-50. The big question right now is how close it is to reaching that goal.Development Timelines, Risks, & Differences of Opinion Defined Design? A Disagreement From YF-22 to F-22
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As of February 2014, 5 PAK-FA prototypes are flying, and 2 more are in ground test roles, which is short of the 8 that were expected to be available by the end of 2013. The “T3” prototype was the first to have the full avionics and radar suite, including the AESA radar. The plane is reportedly preparing for full operational trials in 2015, and VVS fielding in 2016-2017, but the history of stealth fighters justifies some caution about those dates.
In 2009, former Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. chairman Ashok Baweja took that caution several steps further, saying that that the current PAK-FA prototype and tests were only “proof of concept” level work. The Russians had already approved the design in 2008, so they clearly didn;t see things that way, but America’s F-22 program history made Baweja’s thesis plausible. The YF-22 prototype made quite a few modifications en route to its F-22A designation, over a period lasting several years. The Russian design has changed since 2009, including visible reinforcements to indicate a need for redesign in the wings and other areas. On the other hand, external design changes haven’t been much in evidence, and they continue to move forward with more advanced tests.
India’s low level of expertise designing advanced fighters, and the advanced nature of Russia’s project before India joined, both point toward a final FGFA design that’s much closer to the planes Russia is already flying.Russian & Indian Timelines PAK-FA Mach flow
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Differences of opinion re: the fighters’ readiness also express themselves in each side’s proposed timelines. Russia is focused on 2015-2016 production and 2017-2018 fielding, though senior officials acknowledge that full serial production won’t begin until 2020 – 2024.
Indian officials have pushed a timeline that’s up to 4-5 years longer, in order to develop many of the FGFA’s systems and make a long list of changes. As the cumulative cost and risk of their chosen course become apparent, however, they’re reducing their demands. A 2012 interview with Air Chief Marshal Browne suggests that India’s FGFAs will hew much more closely to Russia’s design, beginning with the current single-seat configuration instead of a new 2-seat layout. About 100 HAL engineers are already working on the project from a facility in Bangalore, and another contingent has moved to Russia to work in the Sukhoi design bureau.
That’s all well and good, but it’s 2014, and the joint R&D contract between Russian and India remains unsigned. Plenty of time remains for meddling, as India was expecting to receive prototypes in 2015, 2017, and 2018. India would still have to fund their own national program of FGFA (SU-50KI?) customization for the Indian air force by a joint team of Russian and Indian engineers. The difference is described as “mission hardware and software,” though it would be surprising if Indian bureaucrats’ fetish for “indigenization” was forced to stop there. Each prototype will be slightly different, creating an incentive for the military and political figures to press for additional changes and alternations.
If India’s FGFA R&D program can get underway in 2014, and if it progresses without major delays, a 2018 prototype would finalize the base configuration, and Indian development could end in 2019. Whereupon series manufacturing would begin at HAL in 2022.
Note the number of “ifs” required to meet even that target. Which will also have to contend with HAL’s known high-tech production industrial issues (vid. LCA Tejas & M-MRCA programs). They’ll need to be solved by the time FGFA production begins, because its manufacturing techniques are likely to be a step beyond anything HAL has attempted to date.
So much for the original plan of IAF service by 2017. If current dates hold true, India wouldn’t see operational serving FGFA fighters until 2025 at the earliest. At the same time, India’s planned FGFA buy is shrinking, from over 200 to around 144.
In a project of this nature, it’s par for the course for Russia and India to both end up being too optimistic in their initial schedules. There’s still more than enough room for that dynamic to happen within the revised schedules, as the project works through configuration, testing, and production issues. The history of modern fighters suggests that software could prove to be particularly troublesome.Contracts & Key Events 2015 – 2016
June 21/16: United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) has announced that its Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA is now ready for mass production. According to Russian newspaper Izvestia, the fifth generation fighter almost fully meets the requirements of the military’s combat capabilities. UAC is also currently preparing a proposal to be submitted to the Russian Ministry of Defense on starting serial production.
December 11/15: The Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Boisov has said that testing of the PAK FA is nearly complete. The 5th generation fighter is intended to replace the Mig-29 and Su-27 currently currently in service. The fighter is part of a development partnership between Russian manufacturer Sukhoi and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The Indian Air Force may purchase 154 of the aircraft once they come into service in 2016. The PAK FA is set to rival the US made F-35 fighter, but holds a major export advantage in that it is much more cost effective.
August 27/15: Russia’s “fifth generation” Sukhoi PAK FA stealth fighter is to get the X-58USHK missile, which will reportedly reach mach 3.5. But the critical advantage the new combo would bring was expressed in the a Tass sub-headline: “The missile will be placed inside the fighter’s fuselage.” Thus the PAK FA – also called the T-50 – will remain stealthy, where the F-35’s weapons bay has grown even smaller on the new variants and most weapons will have to be mounted externally.
Feb 2/15: Agreement on production split. The Hindu reports that the main sticking point (who produces what) is settled between the Russians and the Indians. Up to now, the Indians were producing only 13 percent of the fighter, and none of the interesting technology bits. The agreed-upon split hasn’t been made public.
Feb 2/15: On (new) schedule. Originally slated for 2015 production, the PAK-FA, now being called the T-50 in press materials, is to be produced in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in 2016, according to company officials. There is no mention of an export market. India had already cut its order from 200 fighters to 144, but bureaucrats have also pushed back certification to 2019, after which production could be authorized. Complaints by the Indian Air Force in early 2014 may indicate some buyer’s remorse.2014
Negotiations with India turn tense, remain in limbo as Russia moves ahead; Better stealth than the F-22?
Oct 21/14: Sub-contractors. Russia’s Radio Electronic Technologies concern has provided the 1st batch of Himalayas internal electronic warfare systems for the new jet.
The Himalayas EW system was developed by RET’s Kaluga Scientific Research and Radio Technology Institute, and is manufactured at its Signal Radioplant in Stavropol. Sources: Defense World, “Russian T-50 Aircraft Gets Himalayas EW System”.
Sept 15/14: Negotiation. The Russians and Indians are saying different things to Defense News. “A “Russian diplomat in India” tells them they they “have finally sorted out all sticky issues that have been holding back an agreement,” adding that India’s workshare was eventually expected to increase from 13-18% to 40%. India’s MoD refused to confirm this, “especially those [issues] related to workshare between the two countries”.
We’ve seen enough programs involving India to be skeptics, even when Indian officials will confirm such stories. The magazine’s sources say that India and Russia will sign a final agreement on the program the end of 2014. Take that as the metric, and believe it when you see it. Sources: Defense News, “Indo-Russian Jet Program Finally Moves Forward”.
Aug 30/14: Tension. India isn’t pleased with the lack of response to its questions concerning the recent PAK-FA engine fire (q.v. June 10/14), NPO Saturn AL-41FI jet engine performance, Byelka AESA radar performance, the lack of permission for its pilots to fly the jet in Russia, and HAL’s low workshare. India’s lack of a firm development agreement is the 1-sentence argument for much of this situation, except for the engine fire question and HAL’s workshare.
HAL’s workshare has reportedly dropped from 25% to just 13%: tires, the VOR-DME basic navigation avionics, coolant for the radar, a laser designation pod and the head-up display. This list appears to justify analysis that HAL simply doesn’t yet have the capability to be a full partner in such a sophisticated aircraft, and may also be a function iof Indian dithering as Russia simply goes ahead and makes final decisions about the PAK-FA’s development..
Within HAL’s workshare, the Laser Designation pod itself is unlikely to come from India, but may be produced under license. Israel’s RAFAEL LITENING pods equip many Indian aircraft, including the SU-30MKI, but Eastern European and American pressure on Israel makes SU-50 integration tough to contemplate. Thales’ Damocles pod, which already equips Malaysia’s Su-30MKMs and would equip Indian Rafales, would be a more logical choice.
The real challenge here is twofold. One is the M-MRCA program, whose $10 billion cost growth really shrinks the overall room for PGF funding within India’s budgets. The related challenge is time, and “IAF sources told IHS Jane’s that this deadline [to begin Indian production in 2020 – 2021] would be missed by several years.” Sources: Daily Mail India, “India-Russia jet deal hits turbulence over ‘technical worries’ ” | IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Indian Air Force unhappy at progress of PAK-FA fifth-gen fighter”.
Aug 4/14: Negotiations. Still no firm production agreement re: the PAK-FA/ FGFA/ PMF, following the end of the initial engineering development contract in 2013. Russian sources continue to make hopeful noises, but at this point, it means very little until there’s a firm contract in place. Sources: Itar-Tass, “Sukhoi to sign another contract with India on FGFA”.
June 10/14: Fire. A commission will be investigating:
“Today after the regular test flight of the T-50 aircraft at the airfield of the M.M.Gromov Flight Research Institute in Zhukovsky near Moscow, while the plane was landing, a smoke above the right air intake was observed, then a local fire broke out. The fire was quickly extinguished. The plane is to be repaired…. This incident will not affect the timing of the T-50 test program.”
The Moscow Times suggested that the damage might leave the plane out of action for a little while, as people reportedly: “…saw smoke and flame billow out of the front of the engine and [it] caused visible damage to the exterior of the aircraft.” Sounds like an engine issue. Maybe one day, we’ll know. Sources: Sukhoi, “Sukhoi’s message over the incident with the T-50 aircraft” | Moscow Times, “Russian Advanced Prototype Fighter Jet Erupts into Flames on Landing”.
Feb 21/14: Production version. Sukhoi announces that their production version will not be waiting until 2016, while the current set of 4 flying and 2 ground prototypes continue their work at Zhukovsky. In fact:
“Today the flight model of the prospective 5th — generation fighter aircraft (PAK-FA, T-50) arrived to the 929th Chkalov State Flight Test Centre’s airfield in Akhtubinsk for State Joint Tests…. The PAK FA tests program included aero-dynamic features evaluation, tests of stability and controllability and of dynamic strength, function check of on-board equipment and aircraft systems. Optical locator system as well as active electronically scanned array radar was tested on the aircraft with positive results obtained. Air refueling mode was tested. Supermaneuverability tests of the aircraft are under way. Aircraft systems are being tested on the test stands, ground experimental works continue.”
It’s still possible for hardware or software problems to make the delivery of 60 combat-capable aircraft an impossible goal by 2020, and Russian reports aren’t going to involve public accountability or discussion of test results. Even so, the Akhtubinsk arrival is embarrassing timing for War Is Boring’s same-day report. Sources: Sukhoi, “T-50-2 fighter aircraft made the flight to Akhtubinsk” | Russia & India Report, “Russian Air Force receives first FGFA T-50 fighter for tests”.
Feb 21/14: No mystery. “Russia’s New Air Force Is a Mystery” wonders why Russia is buying SU-30MK2s, SU-30SMs and SU-35s, in addition to the future PAK-FA. It turns out that the answer is extremely simple: industrial priorities that bought up aircraft the Chinese stopped buying, took advantage of successful advanced SU-30MKx export developments, and aim to provide the SU-35 with a home country order base for potential exports. That sort of thing happens all the time, everywhere. The article ends up stinging itself with this quote re: the PAK-FA:
“The T-50’s schedule has stretched farther and farther to the right. Originally planned for handover to the air force’s Akhtubinsk flight test center for evaluation in 2014, recent announcements suggest this might now slip until the second half of 2016. This would derail plans to declare initial operational capability, and the start of full-scale production, at the end of 2016.
The best-case scenario would have seen 60 production T-50s delivered between 2016 and 2020, but this now seems a distant hope. As a result, the air force is badly in need of supplementary equipment.”
The 1st PAK-FA arrives in Akhtubinsk for testing that same day. Sources: War Is Boring, “Russia’s New Air Force Is a Mystery”.
Feb 7/14: Timelines. Russia and India are still negotiating the FGFA R&D contract, but India’s Chief of the Air Staff and Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar (A K) Browne tells the Press Trust of India that the 1st FGFA prototype will arrive in India this year, for testing at Ojhar AB, located NE of Mumbai. One imagines that he’s speaking on the basis of a draft R&D contract that would have Indian scientists and test pilots in Russia until the R&D phase is scheduled to end in 2019.
2022 is now given as the planned in-service date, as India slip farther and farther from the original plan of having these planes in service by 2017. That 2017 date was always a pipe dream, and even present dates depend on very large financial decisions being made very soon by an unpopular government, or by its electoral successor. It’s more realistic to assume that the draft R&D agreement won’t actually become a signed contract and disbursed funds until 2015 or later, with attendant effects on India’s schedule.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to develop the plane,m but even they are several years from serious fielding. Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) First Deputy Director Alexander Fomin is quoted as saying that testing and manufacturing ramp-ups will require: “At least… [6-10 years] before we build a sample of the fifth generation fighter plane and being its serial production.” Sources: Itar-Tass, “Russia fulfils FGFA obligations with India – Alexander Kadakin”.
Jan 21/14: India. India’s Air Force is directly criticizing the stealth fighter program, according to the minutes of a Dec 24/13 meeting chaired by secretary of defence production Gokul Chandra Pati:
“Business Standard has reviewed the minutes of that meeting. The IAF’s three top objections to the FGFA were: (a) The Russians are reluctant to share critical design information with India; (b) The fighter’s current AL-41F1 engines are inadequate, being mere upgrades of the Sukhoi-30MKI’s AL-31 engines; and (c) It is too expensive. With India paying $6 billion to co-develop the FGFA, “a large percentage of IAF’s capital budget will be locked up.”
On January 15, the IAF renewed the attack in New Delhi, at a MoD meeting to review progress on the FGFA. The IAF’s deputy chief of air staff (DCAS), its top procurement official, declared the FGFA’s engine was unreliable, its radar inadequate, its stealth features badly engineered, India’s work share too low, and that the fighter’s price would be exorbitant by the time it enters service.
Top MoD sources suspect the IAF is undermining the FGFA to free up finances for buying 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for an estimated $18 billion, an acquisition that has run into financial headwinds because of budgetary constraints….”
Perhaps if India hadn’t structured its MMRCA competition to completely ignore the costs of the competing aircraft, this wouldn’t be happening. But they did, and it is. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “Russia can’t deliver on Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft: IAF”.
Jan 16/14: T-50 trolling. Rosoboronexport’s parent firm Rostec decides to troll the aviation world, with claims that the PAK-FA will have better stealth than the American F-22 Raptor:
“The average [radar cross section value] for the T-50 fighter is between 0.1 and 1 square meter…. the T-50 is now ahead of not only all other fighters of the Russian Army, but also foreign models. For example, the visibility of the American fifth-generation F-22 fighter is 0.3-0.4 square meters, according to PAK FA chief designer Alexander Davidenko.”
This means almost nothing. First, the Russian PAK-FA range includes values that are a closer match for the Eurofighter than the F-22. Second, Davidenko couldn’t know the F-22’s real production values without access to American flight test data, and there are rumors that it’s smaller than 0.3 m2. The third issue is production. Davidenko’s claims for the PAK-FA back existing assessments that it’s a legitimate stealth aircraft design, but production work affects final values for any plane. If it’s shoddy and alignment is poor, for instance, a design with RCS of 0.1 m2 could easily hit 1.0 m2 in reality. Russia is known for many things, including excellent and robust fighter designs, but precision work? Not so much. A real comparison would require test data from production aircraft (q.v. Nov 12/12 caveats), including different values from various angles, and their different success levels against different radar bands. That isn’t on offer for either plane.
Other points in the release are more informative, if true. Rostec says that composite materials are just 25% of the fighter’s weight, but cover 70% of its surface. A new power system design from Rostec’s Aviation Equipment provides double the amount of electrical power offered by previous Russian systems. We hope they have better luck than Boeing has, but that power will be needed by Radioelectronic Technologies’ new avionics and related systems. With respect to the plane’s biggest current deficit, UEC has an initial-model of the next-generation AL-41F1 thrust-vectoring engines installed in a prototype now, and Rostec is feeding general expectations that the AL-41 will give the new fighter supercruise capability. Sources: Rostec, “The T-50 Fighter will feature even greater stealth capabilities” | Air & Cosmos, “Le T-50 russe serait plus furtif que le F-22”.2013
Oct 28/13: #5. Sukhoi flies the 5th T50 prototype at its Y.A.Gagarin KnAAZ aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Once it finishes local flight tests, the aircraft will join the program flight tests at Zhukovsky, near Moscow.
Sukhoi pegs the number of flights to date at “more than 450”, with another 2 planes are involved in ground tests as a complex ground stand and static testing platform, respectively. Sources: Sukhoi release, Oct 28/13.
Oct 21/13: Indian complaints. Aviation Week reports that India is dissatisfied with their development workshare, in a project they came op late and close to lockdown on their partner’s side, and for which they have only recently managed to produce anything resembling their specifications (q.v. April 10/13):
“We have a major opportunity in the FGFA program,” Indian air force (IAF) Deputy Chief Air Marshal S. Sukumar says. However, “at the moment [the 15% development share] is not very much in favor of Indian development. We are flagging it through the government. It should be much more focused towards indigenous development capability.”
The problem is that 4 Russian T50 prototypes have performed about 450 test flights since January 2010, and the VVS plans to begin inducting the fighter in 2015-2016. Even if they’re a year late, it doesn’t leave much room for development. That would have required fast decisions to begin the contract early, when the design was still in need of refinement.
India’s desires and its modus operandi are in conflict once again, and the question is whether the dichotomy will become a stumbling block in negotiations for the final $11 billion system development contract. At this point, the only way to square that circle would be to increase the number of differences between the Russian and Indian fighters, or to involve India in developing the “Block 10” next iteration of a fighter whose core technologies are already a big stretch for Indian firms. Either approach would drive up overall costs for the contract under negotiation (q.v. July 15/13), and add substantial risk to India’s plans to begin manufacturing at HAL in 2022 – itself a problematic proposition, given HAL’s record. Sources: Aviation Week, “India Concerned About Fifth-Gen Fighter Work Share With Russia”.
Oct 18/13: Aircraft issues. An article in The Aviationist looks at issues with the PAK-FA, which don’t get the same exposure as western projects with their public oversight. Piotr Butowski of the Polish Magazyn Lotnictwo notes that:
“…the plane still suffers from the strict g-limits…. The plane underwent a modernization in the Sukhoi facility on the Polikarpov Street in Moscow Dec. 2012 and May 2013. The airframe was reinforced according to the flight tests and static tests that were already carried out; many new [metal strip] overlays can be seen on the airplane’s surface.”
Problems and modifications aren’t abnormal. The 1st PAK-FA prototype has structural cracks in 2011, and the 2nd had an engine flameout cancel its public MAKES 2011 air show performance. Sources: The Aviationist, “Russia’s most advanced fighter jet’s troublesome childhood”.
July 15/13: India Delays. The FGFA project’s parameters may be set (q.v. April 10/13), but there’s a problem with the R&D deal, which was pegged at $11 billion equivalent. The Times of India:
“Defence ministry sources said the inking of the final design and R&D contract for the stealth fighter has been hit by a huge delay, with Russia also jacking up costs for the futuristic project. “It’s very unlikely the FGFA final design contract will be concluded in the 2013-2014 fiscal,” said a source. “The timeframes will now have to be revised. MoD has established a committee of specialists and finance officials to verify the rise in costs. An internal contract negotiation committee is also in progress…”
Russia isn’t going to wait, and will continue development of their version while they wait for India’s signature. Operational testing is slated to begin in 2014. If FGFA negotiations stretch into 2015, the net effect will be to severely delay India’s variant, even as the base Russian design becomes more and more firmly set.
April 25/13: VVS flight. The Russian air force’s (VVS) Chkalov Flight Test Center begins flying the PAK-FA prototypes, with a 2-hour flight from the M.M. Gromov Flight Research Institute in Zhukovsky (Moscow region).
At present, Sukhoi has 4 flying test planes, which are mostly flown by company test pilots, and 2 ground test planes. Sukhoi.
April 10/13: India. Sukhoi announces that the parameters for their joint FGFA project with India are set:
“The contract to develop a sketch and technical project of the Russian-Indian perspective multi-functional 5th-generation fighter (PMI/FGFA) was completed. The fighter design was fully developed. The both parties have agreed upon on the amount and division of work during the research and development (R&D) stage. A contract for the R&D is being prepared. It is to be signed this year.”
March 1/13: Plans & Schedule. High-level Russian and Indian sources offer a bit more clarity concerning dates, but they seem to be at odds regarding electronics.
Russian VVS commander Gen. Victor Bondarev expects weapons release trials to begin in 2013, as the number of aircraft rises from 4 – 8. If tests go well, the fighter could enter series production in late 2015 or early 2016. Based on past fighter programs, that may be a bit optimistic.
Meanwhile, IAF chief of staff Air Marshall N.A.K. Browne is expecting to sign the big design & development contract for the FGFA in 2013. They’ll receive 3 developmental prototypes in India in 2015, 2017 and then 2018, rather than the wider 2014-2019 window reported earlier. That SDD version would apparently be fully common between Russia and India, making Pogosyan (vid. Feb 7/13) correct to that point. India would then fund, as a separate project, FGFA (SU-50KI?) customization for the Indian air force by a joint team of Russian and Indian engineers. The difference is described as “mission hardware and software,” though it would be surprising if Indian bureaucrats’ fetish for “indigenization” was forced to stop there. Series manufacturing would begin at HAL in 2022.
If true, it means that India wouldn’t see operational serving FGFA fighters until 2025 at the earliest, and that’s only if HAL’s known industrial issues with high-tech production are fully solved by 2022. AIN.
Feb 7/13: Avionics. At Aero India 2013, Obedinnoe Avaitstroitel’noi Corporatsii (United Aircraft Corp.) President Mikhail Pogosyan says that the new fighter will “have a single set of on-board equipment [cockpit avionics],” as a requirement of the Indian Air Force. He adds that India’s fighters will also share the Russian single-seat configuration.
Both of those statements would represent major changes from India. India’s initial plans involved a 2-seat variant that would follow the example of programs like the SU-30MKI, and create a unique cockpit avionics set that used equipment from Indian companies and foreign vendors. If Pogosyan is correct, India has backtracked toward a standard type configuration, and joint funding of upgrades. UPI.2012
Dec 12/12: #4 flies. The 4th prototype takes flight at the snowy Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO). UAC.
Nov 12/12: RCS guess. Airpower Australia uses public-domain photos coupled with the Physical Optics (PO) method for predicting the Radar Cross Section of complex targets on Russia’s T50, using VisCam View software to produce a PolyChromatic Spherical Representation (PCSR). Without flight test data, it’s still a guess, but it’s a kind of guess that Moore’s Law has made available outside of large intelligence agencies.
Their guess? It won’t match the F-22, or even China’s J-20, but if they introduce a rectangular faceted design to the engine nozzles and add radar absorbent coatings, they might beat the F-35. Sources: Airpower Australia, “A Preliminary Assessment of Specular Radar Cross Section Performance in the Sukhoi T-50 Prototype” | WIRED Danger Room, “Russia’s Stealth Fighter Could Match U.S. Jets, Analyst Says”.
Oct 9/12: During an interview with India Strategic, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne confirms that HAL has committed $6 billion to joint development. Plans have changed, and India’s 144 planned FGFAs will all be single seaters, now, hewing much more closely to the Russian baseline. In the same vein as India’s SU-30 MKIs, however, they’ll have some avionics and integration differences. According to the ACM Browne:
“… the first prototype is likely to be delivered to India in 2014 followed by two more in 2017 and 2019. The series production then “will only be ordered based on the final configuration and performance of the third prototype.”
Aug 19/12: Even later to India. Reports now indicate that the 1st FGFA prototype flight tests should start in India in 2014, with deliveries to the Indian Air Force by 2022, a full ten years from now. This would be the start of a $30+ billion, 250 plane program over the next decade, at roughly $100 million each.
Aug 8/12: Radar. Sukhoi announces that they’ve begun flight tests of the PAK-FA’s Tikhomirov “active phased array radar system” in both air-to-air and air-to-surface test modes. Initial trials toward flight refueling also take place this month. Sukhoi | The DEW Line | RIA Novosti.
May 14/12: Late to India. India is already backtracking on service dates for its FGFA variant of Sukhoi’s T50, bringing them closer to predictions made by outside observers years ago. M M Pallam Raju has moved the plane’s certification and production start date from 2017 back to 2019. Close examination shows that 2020 or beyond is more likely.
India’s Business Standard also highlights a number of areas that aren’t settled, where ongoing specifications changes and/or technical problems may end up delaying the fighter and send India’s costs skyrocketing. India reportedly wants 40-45 design changes to the current PAK-FA, including its own avionics and a “360 degrees” AESA radar. That last requirement is likely to involve AESA “cheek fairings” that need to maintain aircraft stealth levels, a tailcone radar, and the internal computing and software required to fuse all of those radars into a single picture. They also want at least 2,000 hours of certification flying, and possible configuration changes in light of tests. India now expects their fighters to prepare for service no earlier than 2019, and if the IAF fields a 2-seat version, it’s likely to take even longer. All of India’s changes add 3 types of risk.
One is technical risk. India’s history is littered with overly ambitious projects that India’s Ministry of Defense and associated state-run agencies approved, but could not execute. The cutting-edge nature of the FGFA project magnifies those risks, even with Sukhoi’s assistance.
The 2nd risk is cost risk. Sukhoi’s help, and the associated design, production, and testing of new FGFA equipment, won’t come for free. The more changes India makes, the more the project will cost them. Russia isn’t going to pick up the tab for changes to a design their air force has already approved, and even the “Tactical Technical Agreement” that specified Indian changes isn’t going to mean much if costs become a problem. Russia has forcibly renegotiated critical defense contracts with India several times, and won’t hesitate to do so again.
The 3rd risk is schedule risk. Since Russia is focused on fielding the current single-seat configuration in its current form, while India is focused on major configuration changes and is still debating a 2-seat variant, both of those timelines could turn out to be true. Russia could wind up fielding SU-50 squadrons several years before India even finishes development. India’s Business Standard.
Jan 29/12: Korea: No PAK-FA. The Korea Times quotes a DAPA spokesman, who confirms the potential F-X-III competitors:
“No Russian firm submitted an application to attend the program’s explanatory session, which was a prerequisite to participate, by the Friday registration deadline,” a spokesman of DAPA said. He noted that a representative from Swedish company Saab, which has been searching for additional export orders for its Gripen multirole fighters, successfully filed an application for the mandatory session along with Boeing, Lockheed Martine [sic] and EADS.”
This means that the Indo-Russian PAK-FA will not be part of the $7+ billion competition, despite reports (vid. July 20/11) that it was intending to participate, just as Russian disinterest kept the SU-35 out of F-X-2.2011
Dec 22/11: #3 flies. First flight of the 3rd PAK-FA prototype from Sukhoi’s KNAAPO aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Sukhoi.
Sept 6/11: Exports? Russia & India Report highlights an analysis by Russia’s unofficial Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade (CAWAT), which takes a look at potential buyers of the PAK-FA’s export version. They see a potential for 274-388 export units beyond India or states that spun out of the Soviet Union, like Kazakhstan et. al. Their projections for possible buyers, and their projected purchasing periods, include:
- Algeria (2025-2030)
- Argentina (2035-2040)
- Brazil (2030-2035)
- Venezuela (2027-2032)
- Vietnam (2030-2035)
- Indonesia (2028-2032)
- Iran (subject to lifting of the arms embargo, 2035-2040)
- Kazakhstan (2025-2035)
- China (“subject to certain conditions”, 2025-2035)
- Malaysia (2035-2040)
- Syria (2025-2030)
Aug 24/11: Flameout. Flight International conveys NPO Saturn general director Ilya Federo’s explanation of the MAKS 2011 failure:
“The motor did not fail – in fact, it was put by erroneous control input into a wrong mode that caused the surge. This is not an engine failure, but the wrong data input caused by a malfunctioning sensor feeding data to the flight control system. After what had happened the motor was checked [and] the malfunctioning sensor was replaced by a good one. Today, there is no issue with this engine.”
Aug 22/11: Flameout. After performing a basic fly-over with the PAK FA, Sukhoi intended to close Russia’s MAKS 2011 air show with a bang – and did, sort of. The pilot of its second prototype PAK-FA/T50-2 was forced to abort his take-off run, and the planned flying routine, after 2 bursts of flame erupted from the right engine.
The show’s organizers compounded the embarrassment by promising that the 1st prototype would fly instead – but it was not on site, and is believed to be in maintenance following its Aug 17/11 demonstration. Flameout: Flight International (incl. flame burst picture) | India’s Open magazine | China’s Xinhua || Appearance: Moscow Times | Pravda | RIA Novosti | Voice of Russia | Reuters | UPI | WSJ Emerging Europe blog | op-ed – Right-wing Heritage Foundation, USA.
July 20/11: PAK-FA for South Korea? As South Korea’s DAPA eases the criteria to try and foster more competition, DAPA’s Col. Wi Jong-seong says that “Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi expressed its intent to compete in the fighter jet procurement project early this year.” The report quotes him as saying that Sukhoi’s T50 PAK-FA will be up against Boeing’s stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, and EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon. Assuming we don’t have an F-X-2 repeat, where all competitors but one drop out.
At this point, FX-III is being touted as a 60 jet buy of high-end fighters, with a budget of 8.29 trillion won ($7.86 billion). Eurofighter reportedly offered a better deal than the F-15K in F-X-2, but lost. The firm recently proposed to phase in Korean assembly for Phase III, with the 1st 10 made in Europe, the next 24 using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea. Korea Times.
March 3/11: #2 flies. Russia’s 2nd PAK-FA fighter prototype successfully completes its 1st test flight in Russia’s Far East region of Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Note that China’s Xinhua cites local reports dated Feb 23/11, but Sukhoi’s release pegs the date at March 3/11.
UAC’s Mikhail Pogosyan adds that they expect to have a fleet of 3 test aircraft by year end, and says the existing jets have now made 40 flights since last January to test the model’s aero-dynamic characteristics and electronics. Beyond that, Pogosyan tells Russian media that the Indian Air Force will “acquire 50 single-seater fighters of the Russian version” before their 2-seat FGFA is developed. If true, it would go a long way toward ensuring that India meets its 2017 induction target. On the Russian end, plans are to purchase the first batch with existing engines, buying the first 10 aircraft after 2012 and then 60 after 2016. Russia’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies director Ruslan Pukhov predicts that Vietnam will be the 2nd export customer for the fighter. Sukhoi | Russia’s Pravda | China’s Xinhua.
Feb 9/11: With Aero India 2011 underway, Sukhoi offers some additional details regarding the December 2010 agreement with India:
“This is the first of a series of documents governing the obligations of the parties at different stages of the program. The PMF project includes the design and development of a next-generation fighter, which will have such advanced features as stealth, supersonic cruise speed, high maneuverability, highly integrated set of avionics, an advanced warning system about the situation, the internal deployment of weapons and the possibility of a centralized reporting and electronic warfare system. The fighter is being developed on the basis of the Russian perspective aviation complex (PAK FA) according to stringent technical requirements of the Indian side. The further development of the program envisages design and development of a two-place version of the aircraft and integration of an advanced engine with increased thrust. The two sides are supposed to cooperate in joint marketing of the complex in other countries.”
Feb 9/11: India. Indian defence minister AK Antony reiterates their target of a 2017 induction for the FGFA. India’s defense procurement history suggests that they’re unlikely to make it. Time will tell. Sukhoi.2010
Dec 20/10: Contract. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reportedly signs a set of defense and nuclear agreements in India, including the FGFA development contract. Details remain sketchy. Bloomberg | BBC.
Dec 16/10: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Chairman Ashok Nayak tells Russia’s RIA Novosti that Russia and India have agreed on key features of the design contract for their joint fifth-generation fighter project. The cost of preliminary design is estimated at $295 million, with work expected to be complete within 18 months. The partnership will develop both a single-seat and a twin-seat version of the aircraft by 2016, focusing on the single-seat version in the initial stages of development.
Nayak said the contract could be signed by the representatives of India’s HAL and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) during a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to India on December 20-22. RIA Novosti.
Nov 30/10: The right-wing American Heritage Foundation think tank releases an analysis of the Russia program and its implications: “What Russia’s Stealth Fighter Developments Mean for America“.
July 23/10: Testing. Sukhoi’s KnAAPO issues a release saying that:
“Sukhoi Company has completed the preliminary on-land and in-flight activities which involved all 3 engineering prototypes of the Frontline Aviation Advanced Airborne Complex (PAK FA)… These prototypes were used for testbed strength tests, on-land optimization of fuel systems and other work towards flight trials. The flying prototype has made 16 flights… enables execution of a complete program of flight trials… Vladimir Popovkin, the Russian Defense Minister First Deputy, in his interview to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper estimated the Russian Air Force’s demand for the 5th-generation fighters at 50 to 100 units. It is planned to complete all tests of the PAK FA airframe in 2011-2012, and to sign a contract in 2013 for a pilot lot of ten aircraft for testing the model’s entire weapons suite.”
July 13/10: Russia. RIA Novosti quotes senior Russian figures. Russian Air Force chief Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin confirms the expected delivery dates of over 60 planes, which they hope to begin in 2015-16, but equipped with older, “non-fifth” generation engines from existing SU-30 family planes.
“Deputy Defense Minister for Arms Procurement Vladimir Popovkin said the Defense Ministry would purchase the first 6 to 10 aircraft after 2012, based on the outcome of initial tests… The prime minister said 30 billion rubles (around $1 billion) had already been spent on the project and another 30 billion would be required to complete it, after which the engine, weaponry and other components would be upgraded.”
April 2010: Testing. The 1st flying prototype of the fighter, and the avionics testbed used for systems optimization before flight trials, are delivered to the flying test center of the OKB Sukhoi Experimental Design Bureau in Zhukovsky, near Moscow. On April 29/10, the flying prototype begins preliminary tests. Source.
March 29/10: Welcome to the new world of intelligence, where a pair of YouTube videos appear to provide insights into PAK-FA technologies. Veteran aviation journalist Bill Sweetman reports that:
“…the video highlights a new honeycomb core material designed for high temperatures. It also states that the T-50 will have no fewer than five radar arrays: the 1500-module forward active electronically scanned array (AESA), two side-facing X-band sub-arrays and two “decimetric” (L-band) arrays in the leading-edge root extensions. It also states that the goal is to fight the F-22 by closing within visual range. Another new video shows a novel inlet radar blocker… It uses flexible vanes with a rotating ring at the rear end: in the “stealth regime” it provides extensive blockage, but it clears the airflow when it doesn’t matter or you need full speed or power.”
Late March 2010: Testing. Acceptance trials of the flying prototype are fully completed. Source.
March 16/10: Russia. In “The future of the Russian Air Force: 10 years on“, RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik discusses planned buys and pending recapitalization of the Russian Air Force over the next decade:
“According to various media reports, the Ministry wants to buy at least 1,500 aircraft, including 350 new warplanes, by 2020. The fleet would include 70% new equipment at that point, said Air Force Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Alexander Zelin… The Defense Ministry has now signed contracts for the purchase of 32 Su-34 Fullback advanced fighter-bombers to be delivered by 2013, 48 Su-35 Flanker-E fighters by 2015, 12 Su-27SM Flanker-B Mod. 1 fighters by 2011, 4 Su-30M2 Flanker-C planes by 2011 and 12 Su-25UBM Frogfoot combat trainers. This year, the Defense Ministry intends to sign a contract for the delivery of 26 MiG-29K Fulcrum-D fighters by 2015. Additional contracts for the delivery of at least 80 Su-34s and 24-48 Su-35s are expected to be signed. In all, the Russian Air Force is to receive 240-260 new aircraft of these types. It is hard to say much about the specifications of another 100-110 aircraft, due to be manufactured primarily after 2015. They will probably include 25-30 MiG-35 fighters, another 12-16 Su-30 combat trainers for Su-35 squadrons and 40-60 Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA (Advanced Frontline Aviation Aircraft System) fifth-generation fighters…”
Feb 6/10: Some aviation watchers ask “How long has the PAK-FA or T50 been flying?” They believe that the first prototype may have flown before January 2010, and that there may be more than 1 prototype, based on differences in available photos.
Jan 29/10: Fly! The first prototype PAK-FA fighter lifts off from KNAAPO’s Komsomolsk-on-Amur facility for a 47 minute flight, piloted by Sukhoi test-pilot Sergey Bogdan. Sukhoi says that the plane met all expectations. Sukhoi JSC release | NPO Saturn release [in Russian] | Russia 1 TV video | Pravda | RIA Novosti | Times of India | Aviation Week | Defense News | Agence France Presse | BBC | Canadian Press | Washington Post | China’s Xinhua | Aviaiton Week’s Bill Sweetman: Preliminary Analysis.
1st PAK-FA flight
Jan 6/10: India’s Business Standard covers the workshare and capability issues that have must be addressed before production contracts and arrangements can be finalized. The project is currently expected to have development costs of $8-10 billion, and Russia and Sukhoi have already made substantial investments.
The crux of the negotiations revolves around HAL’s designated development workshare, and the areas it will be applied to. On the other side of the table, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation is wary of India’s lack of design credentials, coupled with the cutting-edge nature of this project. HAL is intent on a 25% share, to include the mission computer and critical software (building on Indian SU-30MKI work), navigation systems, cockpit displays, counter-measures dispensing (CMD) systems, composites expertise and production to complement Russia’s titanium expertise, and modifying Sukhoi’s single-seat design into a twin-seat fighter for the IAF. HAL’s Chairman Ashok Baweja seems to have a different view of the fighter’s design state, referring to existing prototypes as “proof of concept” items rather than nearly final designs.
Once the 2 sides come to a firm agreement on issues of design and funding, UAC and HAL will sign a General Contract, and set up a joint venture to design and build the aircraft. That has not happened yet, while Sukhoi has continued to push forward with general design, and has produced a prototype aircraft. Business Standard describes India’s workshare as “almost finalised,” but as we’ve seen with other Indian procurements, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
Jan 3/10: Rollout. Reports surface that the first prototype of Russia’s PAK-FA aircraft has rolled out on the runway at KNAAPO’s plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, but did not fly. The test pilot reportedly switched on the engines and made 2 runs on the airstrip, while testing the brakes.
Russia’s vice premier Sergei Ivanov had promised that tests would commence in December 2009-January 2010, and the Russian Air Force reportedly plans to induct the fighter beginning from 2015. DNA India.2008 – 2009
Oct 9/09: India. The Indian Ministry of Defence issues a release regarding the 9th meeting of the Russia-India Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation on Oct 14-15/09:
“Among the major new projects which will be high in priorities of the Indian agenda for bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries, will be projects for joint design and development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and of the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA). The co-development and co-production of the FGFA with Sukhoi Design Bureau Russia has been progressing, with several rounds of discussion already completed to finalize the technical requirements. During discussions in the meeting of the Commission, Shri Antony would highlight New Delhi’s interest in ensuring that the development phase of the FGFA is completed by 2016, as originally anticipated and that induction of the aircraft into the IAF can start by 2017.”
See also: Times of India.
Aug 28/09: Radar. Tikhomirov’s NIIP reportedly exhibits models of the PAK-FA’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. Tikhomirov reportedly says the AESA antenna entered bench testing in November 2008, and was mated with the radar’s other blocks for an initial integration test “this summer,” with a 2nd radar produced by mid-2010 for integration with the operational prototype aircraft.
The Milaz report adds that Sukhoi will complete 5 prototypes for initial testing, including 2 to be dedicated for ground test activities. Initial trials are scheduled for completion in 2011-12, with the company expecting to produce an initial batch of aircraft for operational trials by 2015.
April 16/09: Exports? Forecast International offers a cautionary market assessment of the FGFA:
“…with the PAKFA program under increasing tension and the West’s major aerospace firms seeking to shore up additional orders for soon to be closed fourth-generation aircraft production lines, Russia faces the prospect of declining presence in the world’s most high sought after arms markets… Faced with the considerable research & development costs associated with developing a new, advanced fighter platform, Russia is seeking to both distribute costs and ensure that a viable export market will exist… Sukhoi, is reported to have already invested as much as $115 million in company capital…
Several factors are working against the Rosoboronexport’s attempts replicate the international cost/production-sharing development model implemented for the F-35, which is expected to become the dominant fighter in the fifth-generation market… the unproven status of the PAKFA… its timeline for delivery its far behind its western competitors. Deliveries of the PAKFA are not anticipated to begin until 2017. Finally, as production of the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35 ramp up, the western aerospace firms currently producing advanced variants of fourth-generation aircraft are likely to push hard to gain additional order to extend production lines.”
Aug 8/09: RIA Novosti quotes the chief of the Russian Air Force, Alexander Zelin, from the MAKS-2009 arms show. Zelin says there are problems with the PAK-FA’s proposed new engines, and:
“For the time being the aircraft will use Saturn engines. There are problems, I admit, but research is continuing.”
Dec 29/08: MoU. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) sign the deal to jointly develop and produce a 5th generation fighter aircraft. HAL Chairman Ashok K Baweja:
“We (HAL and UAC) are moving forward as per schedule. We (have) just done the general contract yesterday. I went to Delhi and signed the general contract.”
According to reports, Russia and India will simultaneously develop 2 versions of the aircraft: a 2-seat version for India, and a single seat version for the Russian Air Force. India Defence.
India – Russia MoU
Sept 29/08: India Today magazine reports that the Russian and Indian designs for the FGFA project will differ somewhat, while efforts continue to define India’s participation in a project that has reportedly already had its design frozen by Sukhoi. HAL Chairman Ashok Baweja is quoted as saying that the Indian aircraft will be a 2-seat aircraft, which changes some aspects of design and has an especial impact on stealth unless carefully managed. Bajewa added that both stealth and supercruise capabilities were expected for the aircraft, adding that both sides were closer to a real agreement defining India’s participation, almost a year after the original cooperation memo was signed. India’s capabilities in composite materials manufacturing was mentioned as a possible basis for industrial participation.
Meanwhile, Russia’s the United Aircraft Corporation President Alexey Fedorov says that the single-seat T50 is set to fly in Russia in 2009 as planned; Bajewa adds that it will be powered by an ALF-31 FP engine.
The most interesting quote was Indian Air Vice Marshal Kak’s, who noted that the opportunity to gain from being part of the design process was gone, and added that “…if we have missed out on the design phase, we have to analyse the cost-benefits of acquiring only super cruise and stealth technology for $10 billion.”
A fair question. One likely to be asked in the political realm as well, when the time comes to finalize the agreement. Which leads to the corollary questions: How important each aspect is to the IAF? And where, if anywhere, might enough of these performance benefits be acquired at less cost?
Summer 2008: Design approval. The fighter’s initial design is approved in Russia, and the prototype blueprints are delivered to the KNAAPO aircraft building company based in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Source.
Russia approves design
April 3/08: RIA Novosti reports that Russia plans to begin flight tests of a new fifth-generation fighter based on Sukhoi’s PAK FA project in 2009.
Feb 28/08: HAL explains some of the timelines facing the FGFA program. HAL Chairman Ashok Baweja explains the process, which is also the set of implicit points of failure where the project can become stalled or canceled:
“We have only signed an Inter-governmental Agreement which agrees to cooperate in developing the FGFA. Now from that will flow the project report, general contract, the structure of the company that will be set up, and where the funding will come from. An aircraft design, development, certification, the complete entity with its power plant, systems, weapons, trials, is a process which takes 15 years to be completed.”2004 – 2007
Nov 6/07: India. Issues and rifts may be developing between India and Russia over the FGFA contract, which still lacks key signatories. Defense News reports that key difference include the design’s level of finalization (India wants more input and hasn’t finalized requirements, Russia says the design is final), India’s monetary share (HAL says $2 billion, agreement suggests $5-6 billion), and other issues. The Defense News report does claim that Sukhoi’s secret PAK-FA/ I-21/ T50 design has been selected as the foundation.
The first prototype of the aircraft is reportedly projected to be test-flown by 2015, but the number of aircraft to be built remains among the unsettled issues, and the 2 state-owned firms (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. & Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau) have not signed any agreements yet.
All of these things are solvable by negotiations, of course, but that means the partnership is still effectively in negotiations, rather than a final deal.
Oct 18/07: India and Russia sign an Intergovernmental Agreement for joint development and joint production of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). The agreement was signed in Moscow, Russia at the conclusion of the 7th Meeting of the India- Russia Intergovernmental Commission for Military and Technical Cooperation.
India’s Defence Minister Mr. AK Antony and his Russian counterpart Mr. Anatoly Serdyukov also signed a Protocol which envisages a ‘new strategic relationship’ based on greater interaction at various operational levels. The two countries have agreed to strengthen and expand relations in all areas, especially in the areas of more frequent joint exercises and greater R&D cooperation. Talks with Russia to extend the 2000 Military Cooperation Agreement beyond 2010 have now begun, and Antony also expressed hope that the two countries would soon sign an Intergovernmental Agreement on co-development and co-production of Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MRTA). The India MoD release adds:
“The Defence Minister described the Agreement on FGFA as a ‘major landmark’ and said that the Indo-Russian relationship is on a trajectory to reach new heights. He Mr. Antony expressed satisfaction at the outcome of discussions on other important projects e.g., supply and licensed production of T-90 tanks, SU-30 MKI aircraft and other strategic issues. He admitted that there has been a delay in the delivery of the repaired and refurbished aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov along with supply of deck-based fighter aircraft MiG-29K and said it was decided that some more studies by technical groups would be done to go through the details. He appreciated the efforts made by the Russian side to resolve issues relating to life cycle support of equipment of Russian origin.”
Aug 29/07: India. India’s MoD issues a familiar release, in response to renewed questions:
“Co-development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft has been identified as an important area of cooperation between the Indian and Russian Government. Technical discussions to work out the details are in progress. Efforts are on for finalizing the draft Inter Governmental Agreement in this regard. This information was given by the Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh in a written reply to Shri Gurudas Dasgupta and Shri CK Chandrappan in Lok Sabha today.”
March 1/07: India. “Advanced Combat Aircraft” release from India’s Minister of State for Defence Production Shri Rao Inderjit Singh:
“The co-development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft has been identified as an important area of cooperation between the Indian and Russian governments. Technical discussions to work out the details are in progress. Efforts are on for negotiations and finalization of the draft Inter-Governmental Agreement in this regard.”
Dec 10/04: The new fighter’s exterior design is approved. Source.
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Russia’s SU-27/30 Flanker family fighters were invented in the 1980s and 1990s, and attempted to incorporate the lessons from America’s 4th generation “teen series” fighters (F-14, F-15, F-16, F/A-18) into their designs. They were successful, and India’s Air Force may now be flying the world’s second best air superiority fighter in the SU-30MKI. The MKI, and European designs like the Eurofighter, Rafale, and JAS-39 Gripen, are typically referred to as “4+ generation” aircraft.
The term “fifth generation” fighter is part marketing hype, and partly based in reality. There are no objective criteria for this designation, and very few examples, which means it’s mostly applied based on when the development of a front-line, advanced fighter begins. There are a few general constants on the American side: some level of stealth, and internal weapon carriage to maintain it; arrays of embedded sensors within the airframe’s structure, rather than as bolt-ons; and sensor fusion into single displays. On the other hand, level of application varies for each category, and key capabilities like super-maneuverability and supercruise (Mach 1+ without using fuel-guzzling afterburners) have not been constants.F-22, bays open
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The USA’s “5th generation” F-22A Raptor offers full stealth, supermaneuverability, an advanced AESA radar, huge computing power that creates a single “sensor fusion” picture from the plane’s array of embedded sensors and datalinks, and the ability to “supercruise” above Mach 1 instead of just making short supersonic dashes. It is operated by the USAF, and just over 190 aircraft will constitute America’s entire fleet. America has refused to export it, despite interest from very close allies.
To a lesser extent, there’s also the cheaper F-35 Lightning II, with some stealth, a smaller AESA radar, sensor fusion, and even more computing power and sensors embedded around the aircraft. It lacks supercruise or super-maneuverability, and will be produced for domestic use and export in Air Force, Marines/STOVL, and Navy variants.
The obvious solution was a foreign partner, but Europe had limited funds, and had invested in its own 4+ generation projects: Dassault’s Rafale, EADS’ Eurofighter, and Sweden’s Gripen. India, on the other hand, has a long-standing defense relationship with Russia, and the funds to pursue advanced projects. From their point of view, a joint development agreement is one way to restrict Russian cooperation with China along similar lines. See Vijiander K Thakur’s “Understanding IAF interest in the MiG fifth generation fighter” for more background.
Until similar aspects of the Russian design became clear, however, it was impossible to know exactly what Russia and India meant by “5th generation.” Some of those ambiguities were resolved when Russia unveiled its T50 demonstrators.Appendix B: DID Analysis – Under Pressure (2008) The competition?
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If there’s one watchword to use for this deal, it’s “pressure.” Russia has been putting pressure on India lately to remain a customer, by giving China export rights to jet engines that will power Pakistan’s new fighters, and by working to evict India from its base in Tajikistan. Verbiage concerning deepened strategic cooperation needs to be seen in this light.
The second kind of pressure at work here is the fiscal variety. With the Navy also demanding funds for new ships, submarines and aircraft as India’s geostrategy shifts toward securing the Indian Ocean sea lanes, any additional fighters will face an extremely tight fiscal environment over the next decade and more.
India already faces cost pressures given limited defense budget and pressing need to refurbish its existing fleet, modernize its fighters via the MRCA competition, and bring the Tejas LCA on line to replace its MiG-21s. Not to mention adding new platforms to patrol India’s vital sea lanes, fulfill naval fighter needs, upgrade its transport aircraft fleet, and extend the IAF’s reach. Meanwhile, India’s SU-30MKIs remain one of the best 4th generation aircraft in the world, with a comfortable edge over regional rivals, good growth prospects, and superiority over most current and planned US aircraft as well.SU-30MK2s, China
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Then there’s pressure in future, as the strategic agreement lays the foundations for something of a dilemma down the road. There are no real guarantees when dealing with Russia, only its interests of the moment and the logic of cash. Any fighter whose R&D is partly underwritten by India can easily be sold to China later on if relations turn sour, or if India does not buy enough aircraft to make exclusivity worthwhile from Russia’s point of view. One might think that this would be counterbalanced somewhat by Russian wariness about giving a potential rival its best technology, but past experience shows that even this will be for sale. China’s real military budget is about 4-5 times India’s according to most credible estimates, and is likely to remain so.
Given the amount of Russian equipment in India’s military, and the limitations of defense budgets in a democracy that prevent a massive “throw-out and re-equip” exercise, India’s options for retaliation would be very limited.
India faces high hurdles to retaining future exclusivity – and is handing a potent lever to Russia for future “negotiations” involving Russian armaments.Additional Readings Background: PAK-FA
- Global Security – PAK FA [Perspektivnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsyi].
- Air Power Australia (Feb 15/10) – Assessing the Sukhoi PAK-FA. “While the failure to account for the imminent arrival of this design in United States TACAIR force structure planning qualifies the PAK-FA as a “known capability surprise”, the important advances in PAK-FA aerodynamic, kinematic and low observables design also qualify it as a “surprising capability surprise”.
- Wikipedia – Sukhoi PAK FA. Wikipedia is a useful source for concept aircraft, because it tends to aggregate the various sources. This article is a good example. Note that all articles concerning this aircraft must be regarded as very provisional.
- Warfare.RU, via WayBack – PAK-FA Sukhoi T-50. As of 2011. The “T-50” is an internal designation; the operational aircraft will be SU-##.
- RIA Novosti, via WayBack – FACTBOX: Russia’s fifth-generation fighter T-50 (PAK FA). As of 2012.
- NPO Saturn – 117S. The engine that equips the Su-35, and early T50 models. For its successor, see Aircraft Engines of the 5th Generation [in Russian].
- Air Power Australia – Sukhoi Flankers: The Shifting Balance of Regional Air Power. The SU-30 family has its own growth potential. Includes program history, details, regional procurement notes, and analysis of current capabilities and likely future upgrades.
- China Air and Naval Power (Jan 29/14) – Some thoughts on 5th gen projects. Less than sanguine about Russia’s ability to pull off a good AESA radar, and suggests that software will become a bigger issue as the PAK-FA/SU-50 jets get closer to deployment.
- The Aviationist (Oct 18/13) – Russia’s most advanced fighter jet’s troublesome childhood.
- Flight Global, via WayBack (April 20/13) – Flying the Flanker. Tactical Air Support COO Gerry Gallop talks about supercruising in a clean, demilitarized SU-27. The SU-50 will be heavier and bulkier, but it will also be clean with basic weapons loaded. Can the engines provide enough thrust : weight?
- Airpower Australia (Nov 12/12) – A Preliminary Assessment of Specular Radar Cross Section Performance in the Sukhoi T-50 Prototype. Uses public-domain photos coupled with the Physical Optics (PO) method to predict the RCS of complex targets, using VisCam View software to produce a PolyChromatic Spherical Representation (PCSR). Conclusion: it could match the F-35, with some changes and coatings added. Without flight test data, it’s still a guess, but it’s a kind of guess that Moore’s Law has made available outside of large intelligence agencies.
- Heritage Foundation, via WayBack (Nov 30/10) – What Russia’s Stealth Fighter Developments Mean for America.
- Defense Technology International, via WayBack (Feb 8/10) – Major Work Ahead on Russian Stealth Fighter.
- Plane Talking (Feb 6/10) – How long has the PAK-FA or T-50 been flying?
- Flight Global (April 24/07) – Picture: Russian Sukhoi T-50 fighter images emerge. From the NPO Saturn web site. See above for the rendering, and see also this Russian page re: the engine.
- DID (Jan 26/07) – January 2007 India-Russia Cooperation Agreements.
- DID – The F-22 Raptor: Procurement & Events.
LM May Offer MHTK Missile to Export Mkt | TAI Begins Production on T70 Utility Helo | Harris Corp. Receives $1.7B FMS Contract for Radio Supply to Afghanistan
- Dynetics has unveiled a design for a new 27kg-class glide munition that contains a warhead larger than ones found in the heavier class AGM-114 Hellfire. The development is part of an $11.6 million contract awarded earlier this month to continue development of small glide munition (SGM) for the US Special Operations Command. By mounting modules for the nose section, tail kit, and wing directly to the warhead case, the small glide munition (SGM) can afford 16kg blast-fragmentation warhead with detonation by direct impact or a pre-selected height above the ground.
- Lockheed Martin is to consider offering its Miniature Hit-to-Kill (MHTK) missile to the export market as the US Army has slowed its plans to develop a capability to launch a variety of missiles against rocket, artillery and mortar (RAM) threats under its Integrated Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) program. Designed by Lockheed in order to take out RAM threats in the wake of a high casualty rate in Iraq, the MHTK offers a cost-effective measure against RAMs as well as some unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). According to the company, interest in the munition has been found “everywhere from the Middle East to Europe to Asia”.
- Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is to commence producing the T70 utility helicopter as part of the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP). Based on Sikorsky’s Black Hawk, the license agreement was agreed between the US and Turkish governments and will allow TAI to build and deliver 109 T70 helicopters over the next 10 years. These helicopters will be supplied to six Turkish agencies: the Land Forces, Air Force, Gendarme, Special Forces, National Police, and the Directorate General of Forestry.
- CAE has been awarded $111 million in contracts by the UAE to provide a naval training center and helicopter training simulators. The first contract involves designing and developing a comprehensive training center for the UAE navy which will offer individual, team, whole ship, and joint training capabilities as well as a range of integrated ship simulation-based training suites and maritime aircraft sensor stations. In total, the training center development is worth an estimated $345 million over the next 15 years. The company will also provide the UAE’s Joint Aviation Command with a suite of helicopter simulators and training devices for the NorthStar Aviation 407 Multi-Role Helicopter and the Sikorsky UH-60M Armed Black Hawk.
- The French special forces have pulled from field trials and put on display a heavily adapted version of its Sherpa vehicle at the Eurosatory Exhibition. Armed with one 12.5mm and three 7.62mm machine guns, and capable of carrying five commandos, modifications to the Sherpa include equipment for intelligence missions. 25 units will be delivered by the end of the year.
- Rheinmetall has been wooing the Australian Department of Defense with its new Lynx infantry fighting vehicle. Unveiled during this week’s Eurosatory Exhibition in Australian camouflage, the company is also awaiting a decision on whether its Boxer 8×8 armored personnel carrier has been selected as part of Australia’s Land 400 requirement. The Lynx comes in two tracked versions, the six troop KF31 and the eight troop KF41. Weaponry on the vehicles include a 35mm cannon with a 30 mm option and the KF31 also holds an anti-tank missile launcher holding two Spike LRs (Long Range).
- Next month will see Hanwha Thales commence work on developing the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for South Korea’s KF-X program. In April, the defense section of the Hanwha conglomerate was selected to participate in building the AESA radar to be installed on about 120 fighters that South Korea plans to have developed by the mid-2020s. A working prototype is expected for next June and if it is successful, an upgraded version will be made available in 2018.
- Harris Corp. has been awarded a $1.7 billion foreign military sales contract by the US Army to supply the government of Afghanistan with radios and related parts and services. Under the contract, the company will procure Harris radios, ancillaries, spare parts and services with an estimated completion time of June 15, 2021. This follows last month’s award to supply single-channel ground and airborne radio systems to Morocco under a potential $405 million foreign military sales contract.
- TAI’s T-129 attack helicopter:
Botswana Considers Sweden’s JAS Gripen C/Ds | Belarus to Buy Su-30SMs from Irkut | Saab Plans to Increase Presence in India
- Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) intends to negotiate and award a Firm-Fixed-Price (FFP) contract with Boeing for the integration of the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile on the Saudi F-15SA. The notice was made on the US Federal Business Opportunities website. NAVAIR’s plan to award Boeing the contract was justified as the company “alone has the experience, special skills; proprietary technical documentation, software/algorithms; facilities and manufacturing techniques required to produce, assemble and integrate this equipment and furnish the supplies and services within the required timeframe.”
- Workers at the Lockheed Martin plant in Forth Worth are to ballot on potential strike action next week as the current contract between the aerospace giant and the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers union expires next month. A vote in favor of industrial action would put pressure on Lockheed to come up with an offer that is more amicable to the workers. A 2012 strike, which lasted ten weeks, led to an 11% pay increase, however the union was unable to stop the company from ending a traditional defined-benefit pension for new hires and shifting instead a 401(k) plan.
- Aerospace giant Airbus and Turkish missile producer Rokestan are to collaborate on integrating the latter’s Cirit laser-guided rocket on H135 and H145 helicopters. The Cirit missile project was launched to equip Turkish Army’s T-129 Atak, AH-1P Cobra and AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters with low-cost precision strike capabilities, but now has started to attract foreign clients as the Eurocopter selected the missiles to equip the EC635 helicopters. Test operations will be conducted in Turkey.
- 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).
- A senior French official has disclosed that they are offering the Aster 30 missile to Sweden as a potential option for the latter’s hunt for a new ground-based air defense system. The joint French-Italian Aster 30 missile program will compete against the Norwegian NASAM – which has seen interest from Poland and Lithuania – and other competing products from Diehl and Rafael. The offering to Stockholm comes as the Aster program enters a new phase, with France and Italy having signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation on the Aster Block 1 New Technology, a version which extends the missile’s range.
- Belarus has announced plans to purchase Su-30SM fighters from manufacturer Irkut. Interest in the new aircraft was admitted by Belarusian Defense Minister Andrei Ravkov when asked by media if his ministry had any plans to procure newer fighters than the current Su-27 and MiG-29 in service. Regarded as a 4+ generation fighter, the Su-30SM is capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions with a wide variety of precision-guided munitions. The aircraft features thrust-vectoring engines to enhance maneuverability.
- A series of British Army sponsored live-firings of the Lockheed Martin & Raytheon Javelin missile have scored 100%. The missiles were fired from a Kongsberg M151 Remote Weapon Station mounted on a Spartan armored fighting vehicle in Salisbury Plain Training Area in Wiltshire, England. Traveling distances of between 1.2 and 4.3 kilometers, the tests were conducted following a growing demand to fire Javelins from infantry fighting vehicles and the need by soldiers to have a flexibility to fire the missile from either a vehicle or in the dismounted mode.
- Saab is to push to increase its presence in India with a series of plans to boost their Aerospace production and sales to the country. Among these are to create dedicated manufacturing and maintenance facilities for fighter aircraft, aligning supply of the Gripen E fighter aircraft under the “Make in India” policy, and the setting up of a joint venture in India for the fighter program with a domestic private firm. Other ongoing talks with the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) aim to offer electronic-warfare technologies, avionics, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and weapon-integration solutions for the Indian-made Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas 1A.
- The Rokestan Cirit laser guided rocket:
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The sub-sonic, wave-skimming GM-84 Harpoon is the US Navy’s sole anti-shipping missile, with the minor exception of small helicopter-borne AGM-119B Penguin missiles. The Harpoon has been adapted into several variants, and exported to many navies around the world. At present, the Harpoon family includes AGM-84 air, RGM-84 sea/land, and UGM-84 submarine-launched versions. Variants such as the Joint Standoff Land Attack Missiles and the upgraded AGM-84K SLAM – Expanded Response will also be covered in this DID FOCUS Article. It describes the missiles themselves, and covers global contracts involving this family.
The Harpoon family’s best known competitor is the French/MBDA M38/39/40 Exocet, but recent years have witnessed a growing competitive roster at both the subsonic (Israel’s >Gabriel family, Russia’s SS-N-27 Klub family, Saab’s RBS15, Kongsberg’s stealthy NSM, China’s YJ-82/C-802 used by Hezbollah in Lebanon), and supersonic (Russia’s SS-N-22 Sunburn/Moskit, SS-N-26 Yakhont, and some SS-N-27 Klub variants, India’s SS-N-26 derived PJ-10 BrahMos) tiers.
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The sub-sonic, sea-skimming GM-84 Harpoon is the standard anti-shipping missile used by the US Navy, and its variants are in service with 27 navies around the world. Boeing lists its range as “in excess of 67 [nautical miles]”; other sources place the range for basic Harpoon types between 140-200 km (75 – 120 nautical miles). The current version in service with most US ships and aircraft is the Block IC.
At present, air-launched AGM-84 Harpoon missiles are qualified for use on serving P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, F/A-18 and F-16 fighters, and B-52 Bombers. Because they don’t need to fight gravity at launch, and are already moving forward at speed, air-launched missiles have the longest ranges.
The ship-launched version is the RGM-84, and it includes a solid rocket booster to help it fight gravity at launch and extend its range.
The submarine-launched UGM-84 also includes a rocket booster, all inside a container that pops to the surface when the missile is fired. The rocket booster ignites as the container reaches the surface.Block II test
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Harpoon Block II. This privately-developed upgrade program was designed to improve the missile’s ability to attack targets in congested littoral environments, where nearby land masses and other ships can provide cover for would-be targets. xGM-84L Block IIs have more waypoints associated with missile flight in their software, which allows them to take less direct routes. To ensure that they do arrive, GPS/INS guidance gets them to the target area. Once the missile arrives in the target area, the Block II’s targeting system can use shoreline data provided by the launch platform to make it much better at distinguishing between a ship and a nearby land mass; indeed, these upgrades reportedly offer a 90% shrinkage of the Block I’s “problem zone” near local shorelines.
To keep costs down, the Block II program leveraged progress on several other weapons, using the low-cost Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System (GPS/INS) from Boeing’s Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) smart bomb program, plus GPS antennae and software from Boeing’s Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM) and AGM-84K SLAM Expanded Response (SLAM ER). Its GPS/INS capabilities give it the ability to hit targets on land, and the existing 500 pound blast warhead can deliver lethal firepower against targets like coastal missile batteries and ships in port.
The Harpoon Block II can use existing command and launch equipment, and will eventually work with all platforms that currently use the Harpoon Missile system. Harpoon Block II has been bought or requested by some foreign navies (Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey), but not by the US Navy.
An upgrade called Block II+ uses JSOW C-1’s Common Weapon Datalink for targeting updates and re-targeting, and should be operational in 2017.
Block III (canceled). The proposed Harpoon Block III program was intended to be an upgrade kit for up to 800 of the US Navy’s surface and air-launched UGM/AGM-84 Block IC missiles, and 50 RGM-84 Block IC ship-launched missiles. Once complete, it would also have become a new missile or upgrade option for other customers. It would have built on the Block II, reportedly adding more jam-resistant SAASM GPS, “land blanking” capability for improved near-shore and land attack; and a 2-way datalink that lets controllers receive the missile’s radar picture, update or even switch targets in mid-flight, and confirm hits. Navy budget documents estimated that the entire development program would have cost $113.7 million between 2007-2009.
The US Navy decided not to go ahead with Block III, but SAASM GPS systems have been tested as part of Block II. The other Block III enhancements will have to wait, as will competitive upgrades like extended range, fitting an electro-optic terminal seeker similar to that used on the AGM-84K SLAM-ER (Standoff Land Attack Missile – Enhanced Response); and allowing vertical launch from strike-length Mk 41 Vertical Launch System cells mounted inside Navy ships. That last capability would allow navies to remove the separate Harpoon launcher on the deck, improving both ship flexibility and radar signature. None of these would have been realized in Block III, though Boeing had said that the missiles would be “positioned” for vertical launch and extended range. Whatever that meant.SLAM-ER Highlights
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SLAM-ER. Boeing’s AGM-84K Joint Standoff Land Attack Missiles-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) is an advanced derivative of the Harpoon missile, and competes with precision attack missiles like Lockheed’s JASSM, and European missiles like the EADS Taurus KEPD 350 and MBDA’s Storm Shadow. In service since 2000, it is the primary long-range land attack missile for US Navy F/A-18 aircraft, and has also been ordered by South Korea (F-15K) and Turkey (F-16).
Powered by an air-breathing turbojet engine, the 1,400 pound/ 635 kg SLAM-ER can deliver its 500-pound warhead over 150 nautical miles, flying by INS/GPS navigation at subsonic speeds. The missile can also receive in-flight target position updates, via an In-Flight Flex-Targeting capability and video link. Once it nears its designated target area, the missile activates its imaging infrared (IIR) sensor, using pattern-matching algorithms to compare the target scene with on-board reference images, in order to locate the pre-planned aimpoint in the target scene. The Weapon System Operator or pilot can then change the decision taken by the missile, or do nothing and have it continue to its target. A special Stop Motion Aimpoint Update makes this task easier, and allows narrowband datalinks like Link 16 to be used for near-real time battle damage assessment and transmission.
Defense Update reports that approximately 700 SLAM missiles in the U.S. Navy arsenal will be retrofitted with the SLAM-ER upgrade. They add that:
“The missile is equipped with a 500 pound derivative of the Tomahawk Block III warhead developed by the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif. The WDU-40/B warhead uses a titanium case shaped specifically to increase penetration and becomes reactive during detonation, substantially increasing the blast and incendiary effects.”GM-84 Harpoon Family: Contracts & Key Events RGM-84 AUR, loading
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Before we begin, a few terms. Entries referring to “encapsulated all-up rounds” (AUR) refer to a missile pre-loaded into a container that contains electronics required to transmit data and fire the missile, or protects a missile that’s ready to load. The idea is that it’s all one simple package that can be dropped into torpedo bays, or fitted to the Harpoon launchers on a ship’s deck. Countries can also specify AUR containers only, if they have existing stocks of missiles.
The Harpoon missile body consists of the Guidance Section, Warhead Section, Sustainer (propulsion) Section, and the Control Section. The Harpoon missile body, along with an appropriate air launch, canister (ship) or other launch kit (to include wings, fins, booster if applicable for UGM-84s), makes up a Harpoon AUR.
Harpoon canister AURs can be bought in any of 3 configurations. Thickwall Canister is armored against small arms fire and other hazards. Grade B Canister is only protected against near-miss shock. Lightweight Canister is the lightest configuration, designed for use on small ships.
Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued to Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO. Unless otherwise noted, US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract. This is also true for Foreign Military Sales, where it acts as the buyer’s agent.FY 2013 – 2016
June 17/16: Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) intends to negotiate and award a Firm-Fixed-Price (FFP) contract with Boeing for the integration of the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile on the Saudi F-15SA. The notice was made on the US Federal Business Opportunities website. NAVAIR’s plan to award Boeing the contract was justified as the company “alone has the experience, special skills; proprietary technical documentation, software/algorithms; facilities and manufacturing techniques required to produce, assemble and integrate this equipment and furnish the supplies and services within the required timeframe.”
November 20/15: Boeing has reached an important milestone in the development of the latest Harpoon Block II+ missile after successful tests carried out by the US Navy. The main feature of the missile is the ability to receive in-flight updates through a network enabled data link as well as an upgraded GPS guidance kit. The missile will receive more rigorous testing in the new year but all seems to be pointing to the positive for Boeing who also this month received increased orders of its existing systems from foreign buyers worth $124.6 million.
November 9/15: The Navy has awarded Boeing a $124.6 million contract for 53 Harpoon weapons systems, along with Standoff Land Attack Missile – Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles. The contract covers Foreign Military Sales requirements for several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Australia, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Japan requested the Harpoon system in May, with Australia reportedly looking to integrate the missiles onto its P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
May 15/15: The State Department has approved a possible sale of 48 UGM-84L Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles to Japan. The submarine-launched Block II version of the missile is designed to improve the missile’s ability to attack targets in congested littoral environments, where nearby land masses and other ships can provide cover for targets. The Foreign Military Sale would be worth $199 million, with the missiles manufactured by Boeing. The company is meanwhile offering the latest version of the missile – known as the Harpoon Next-Gen – to the US Navy.
July 29/14: Australia. Flight Global reports that Australia is looking to incorporate the AGM-84G Harpoon Block I anti-ship missile into its P-8A Poseidon long-range sea control jets. The AGM-84 Block IG is based on the Block IC, and reportedly adds seeker improvements and re-attack mode. It could be created by upgrading existing Australian AGM-84 missiles, which serve on the existing AP-3C Orion fleet of sea control turboprops. Australia has requested Harpoon Block IIs for other platforms, but appears to be satisfied with smaller-scale air-launched upgrades.
There seems to be a bit of a divergence on the P-8, but no matter which missile is picked, it needs to be fully integrated with the plane’s mission software. The USA has been testing the AGM-84 Block IC, Australia has picked the Block IG, and India’s P-8i seems set to host the GPS/radar guided AGM-84L Block II with land attack capability. Sources: Flight Global, “Australia pushes for Harpoon integration on P-8As”.
May 28/14: Portugal. Portugal’s pair of U212 (U209PN) Air-Independent-Propulsion diesel submarines will soon be able to fire the country’s small handful of Harpoon Block II missiles operationally, with plans for formal induction in Q4 2014:
“Eight Portuguese Navy RGM-84 Block I surface-launched anti-ship missiles are being adapted into Block II weapons in Den Helder, the Netherlands, with the installation of upgrade kits supplied by Boeing, the missile’s original equipment manufacturer. Upgrade of the first missile was completed on schedule at the end of 2013…. Portugal also purchased eight capsules and associated containers in 2009 under its Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LoA) agreement with the United States.”
The submarines were delivered with Harpoon compatibility, for use alongside its Black Shark heavy torpedoes. A Sources: IHS Jane’s Navy International, “Portugal to induct Harpoon Block II for submarines in 2014”.
May 6/14: Brazil. The US DSCA announces Brazil’s formal export request for AGM-84L Harpoon Block II Missiles. Specifically, they want an initial order of 16 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II Missiles, 4 CATM-84L Harpoon Block II Captive Air Training Missiles, containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of US Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $169 million, but the exact price will depend on contract negotiations.
Adding AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles would give Brazil’s P-3AMs a long-range weapon to extend their reach over sea and land, and proportionately reduce their response time to high-level threats. This is only enough for an initial buy, but it will get the FAB started and allow their crews to become fully proficient with the new weapon. For full context, read “Brazil’s Maritime Patrol Aircraft“.
DSCA: Brazil request
Dec 17/13: The Boeing Co., St. Louis, MO, is being awarded a $70 million firm-fixed-price contract for 12 encapsulated Harpoon AURs; 5 harpoon Grade B exercise Missiles; 2 encapsulated harpoon certification training vehicles and shipping containers; 100 harpoon improved fuze booster kits; 50 harpoon improved fuze kits; 2 harpoon blast test vehicles; and associated hardware and containers. They’re for the US Navy ($2.4 M / 3.42%) and various foreign military sales customers: South Korea ($38.1M / 54.44%); Canada ($10M / 14.25%); Japan ($7.7M / 10.97%); Germany ($6.5M / 9.27%); Australia ($3.4M / 4.79%); Taiwan ($812,520 / 1.16%); Saudi Arabia ($460,952 / 0.66%); Turkey ($444,749 / 0.64%); Egypt ($239,618 / 0.34%); and the United Kingdom ($51,225 / 0.07%).
All funds are committed immediately. The USA isn’t buying these missiles any more, so it’s likely that most of these missiles are headed for South Korea.
Work is expected to be complete in December, 2014, and will be performed in the St. Charles, MO (48.2%); United Kingdom (12%); McKinney, (8.83%); Middletown, CT (4.77%); Elkton, MD, (4.16%); Toledo, OH (3.72%); Lilititz, PA (2.24%); Joplin, MO (2.09%); Galena, KS (1.9%); St. Louis, MO (1.74%); Grove, OK (1.38%); Lancaster, PA (1.04%); Huntsville, AL (1.0%); Newton, PA (0.8%); China Lake, CA (0.8%); Chandler, AZ (0.7%); Minneapolis, MN (0.56%); East Camden, AR (0.55%); and various locations in the continental United States (3.52%). This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1, by US NAVBAIR in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-14-C-0005).
Missiles & Parts
Dec 4/13: Support. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives an $8.5 million firm-fixed-price delivery order top provide 2014 integrated logistics support/engineering services for Harpoon/ SLAM-ER Missile System and Harpoon Launch System parts for the US Navy and various foreign military sales customers.
This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($3,122,737; 36.82%); the governments of Korea ($759,253; 8.95%); Taiwan ($715,517; 8.43%); Turkey ($632,914; 7.46%); Egypt ($421,912; 4.97%); United Kingdom ($317,393; 3.74%); Japan ($302,563; 3.57%); Pakistan ($283,035; 3.34%); Australia ($260,331; 3.07%); Chile ($223,047; 2.63%); Saudi Arabia ($223,212; 2.63%); Canada ($204,204; 2.41%); Israel ($165,053; 1.95%); Bahrain ($109,006; 1.29%); United Arab Emirates ($106,102; 1.25%); the Netherlands ($83,584; 0.99%); Germany ($83,582; 0.99%); Kuwait ($77,246; 0.91%); Singapore ($75,386; 0.89%); Oman ($71,439; 0.84%); India ($64,462; 0.76%); Portugal ($62,687; 0.74%); Thailand ($45,825; 0.54%); Denmark ($41,791; 0.49%); and Malaysia ($28,823; 0.34%) under the Foreign Military Sales program.
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (91.17%); St. Louis, MO (5.43%); Yorktown, VA (2.64%); Pt. Mugu, CA (0.71%); and Oklahoma City, OK (0.05%), and is expected to be complete in July 2014 (N00019-11-G-0001, DO 2035).
Oct 17/13: Testing. You wouldn’t think that loading an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with 4 Harpoon missiles underwing would be a problem, but its canted pylons magnify the effects of turbulence and buffeting on the aircraft, and on each missile launch. US NAVAIR is just now beginning tests of this load-out, beginning with a simple flight test of the load.
It’s a good reminder that just because an aircraft is integrated with a specific weapon, doesn’t mean that any configuration is automatically acceptable. Testing may or may not test the full range. Sources: Boeing feature, “Locked & Loaded” (incl. video).
Oct 15/13: A pair of DSCA export requests from Saudi Arabia and the UAE would deliver a large number of Harpoon Block II and SLAM-ER missile to those Mideast air forces, for use from their F-15SA (Saudi) and F-16E/F (UAE) fighters. If the orders go through, they’ll be a big boost for the production line.
Saudi Arabia: Part of a $6.8 billion request
- 400 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles.
- 40 Harpoon CATM.
- 20 ATM-84L Harpoon Exercise Missiles.
- 650 AGM-84H SLAM-ER cruise missiles. The Saudis already deploy MBDA’s stealthy, long-range Storm Shadow cruise missile from their Tornados, but SLAM-ER will definitely add punch to the F-15 fleet.
- 40 CATM-84H Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), with seekers but no motor.
- 20 ATM-84H SLAM-ER Telemetry Missiles for test shots.
- 4 Dummy Air Training Missiles. Sometimes you just need similar weight & form factor.
- 60 AWW-13 Data Link pods. Pilots can receive text, data, and photos from various sources, and can also use it to communicate with the SLAM-ER in mid-flight.
UAE: Part of a $4 billion request
- 300 AGM-84H SLAM-ER cruise missiles.
- 40 CATM-84H Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), with seekers but no motor.
- 20 ATM-84H SLAM-ER Telemetry Missiles for test shots.
- 4 Dummy Air Training Missiles. Sometimes you just need similar weight & form factor.
- 30 AWW-13 Data Link pods. Pilots can receive text, data, and photos from various sources, and can also use it to communicate with the SLAM-ER in mid-flight.
Sources: US DSCA 13-48, Oct 15/13 | US DSCA 13-49, Oct 15/13.
DSCA: Saudi Arabia & UAE
June 24/13: Testing. One of NAVAIR’s P-8A test aircraft serving in VX-20 successfully fires an AGM-84D Block IC Harpoon anti-ship missile, which scores a direct hit on the Low Cost Modular Target’s fabric. The Point Mugu Sea Test Range firing is the 1st live Harpoon firing by the new P-8 sea control jet. US NAVAIR.
Dec 20/12: Egypt & Turkey. A $12.2 million firm-fixed-price contract from Egypt ($11.9M/ 98%) and Turkey ($312,482/ 2%), with all funds committed. Turkey gets 1 Lot of AN/SWG-1A(V) Harpoon Shipboard Command Launch Control Set (HSCLCS) hardware; 1 of the 90-day Prime Spares Kits; 1 Global Positioning System Receiver Assembly (GPS-RA) and associated hardware; and 1 Lot of Engineering Technical Assistance.
When Germany transferred 5 of its Tiger Class Type 148 Fast Attack Craft to Egypt about a decade ago, they were equipped with MM38 Exocet missiles. Egypt appears to be in the process of converting 4 of its 5 Type 148s to Harpoon Block IIs, per its Dec 18/09 DSCA request, to create commonality with its forthcoming Ambassador III Class FACs. They’re buying 4 AN/SWG-1A(V) HSCLCS, including both classified and unclassified portions; 4 Ordinance Alteration EGE 3987 kits; 8 GPS-RA Retrofit Kits and associated hardware; Installation and Checkout Prime Spares Kit (both classified and unclassified portions); 4 of the 90-day Primes Spares Kits; 1 Classified Prime Spares Kit – 2 years; 2 Unclassified Prime Spares Kit – 2 years; 1 Harpoon Shipboard Equipment Integrated Logistics Support Program; and 1 lot of engineering and technical assistance.
Work will be performed in Lititz, PA (51%); St. Louis, MO (32%); Pryor Creek, OK (5%); Santa Fe Springs, CA (5%); Madison, AL (3%); Kirkwood, MO (3%); and Irving, TX (1%), and is expected to be complete in July 2014. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304c1 (N00019-13-C-0019).
Egypt & Turkey
Nov 9/12: JCTS. A $34.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the design, development and test of the Harpoon and SLAM-ER’s Joint Common Test Station. This contract includes purchases by the Governments of Saudi Arabia ($15.0M/ 57.7%) and Australia ($11.0M/ 42.3%), who use Harpoons. That $26 million is committed. The rest will be spent as required by the USA.
Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in March 2016. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-13-C-2022).
Nov 5/12: FMS parts. A $36.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for Harpoon Weapons System components to the governments of Australia ($32M/ 87.48%); Japan ($1.5M/ 4.00%); Saudi Arabia ($786,992/ 2.15%); Korea ($953,400/ 2.60%); the Netherlands ($848,925/ 2.32%); Egypt ($311,045/ 0.85%); Taiwan ($87,710/ 0.24%); Oman ($73,128/ 0.20%) and the United Arab Emirates ($59,390/ 0.16%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.
Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in April 2014 (N00019-12-C-0103).FY 2012
Sept 3/12: Post-Harpoon? Aviation Week offers a look into potential Harpoon replacements, as part of a larger shift toward “net enabled weapons.” In June 2012, the US Navy announced a sole-source contract to Raytheon to develop the interim Offensive Anti-Surface Weapon (OASuW) by modifying Tomahawk Block IV missiles with new sensors and data links. The missile is expected to enter service by 2015.
Full PE 0604786N OASuW Technology Development awards are expected to begin in FY 2013, after a Q2 Milestone A decision. The technical Development phase runs from FY 2013 – FY 2017, to an expected total of $557.2 million, with Initial Operational Capability currently set for 2024. RDT&E finding is proposed as:
- FY 2013: $86.8 million
- FY 2014: $44.3 million
- FY 2015: $88.9 million
- FY 2016: $138.5 million
- FY 2017: $198.7 million
The Navy is looking to replace the Harpoon and Standoff Land Attack Missile—Extended Range (SLAM-ER) in the maritime interdiction role, and they will have choices. The USN is deploying Raytheon’s new AGM-154C-1 glide bomb with anti-ship capabilities, and Raytheon continues to develop their powered but slow JSOW-ER. In Norway, Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile offers high subsonic speeds, and would share JSOW-ER’s ability to fit inside an F-35C fighter. Lockheed Martin is developing the stealthy, long-range LRASM-A under a DARPA/USN contract, effectively re-introducing a more advanced form of the JASSM missile that competed against the AGM-84K SLAM-ER. LRASM-A would even be capable of vertical launch, which offers a unique capability within this set.
Boeing isn’t idle, fielding AGM-84K SLAM-ERs and Harpoon Block IIs with foreign militaries, and developing the AGM-84L Harpoon Block II Plus. Block II+ uses JSOW C-1’s Common Weapon Datalink for targeting updates and re-targeting, and should be operational in 2017. It won’t fit inside an F-35, though, or launch vertically – and looks set to face stiff competition from many directions.
June 29/12: Lot 87? A $145.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for the nearly 90 Harpoon Block II missiles and associated hardware “for the U.S. and 4 foreign militaries.” The $145.1 million contract also includes exercise and test variants of the Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER).
In truth, almost all of these orders are exports. The USN isn’t buying Harpoon missiles, which are so low on their priority list that they don’t even rate a mention in Navy FY 2012 budget justification documents. Boeing has now confirmed that:
“The contract for the U.S. portion included the “associated hardware.” The Harpoon Block II’s were for the four FMS customers, not the USN.”
The first missile deliveries under this contract are scheduled for August 2012, and contract work is expected to run through December 2013. Boeing.
May 22/12: ROK request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] South Korea’s official request to buy 18 UGM-84L Harpoon Block II All-Up-Round Missiles, 1 UGM-84L telemetry exercise section, and containers, Guidance Control Unit (GCU) spares, recertification and reconfiguration support, spare and repair parts, tools and tool sets, and other forms of support. The estimated cost is up to $84 million; actual prices will depend on contract negotiations.
UGM-84s are submarine-launched missiles, which could be employed from the ROKN’s U209 and U214 diesel-electric boats. The DSCA says that they’re intended to “supplement current weapon inventories and bring the ROK’s Naval Anti-Surface Warfare performance up to existing regional baselines.” Boeing will be the prime contractor.
Implementation of this proposed sale won’t require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor personnel to Korea, but there will be occasional visits for program, technical, and management support.
South Korea request
May 21/12: An $11.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for GM-84 Harpoon and SLAM-ER components. Orders are from the US Navy ($4.3 million/ 39.2%) and, under the Foreign Military Sales Program, the governments of: Australia ($2.9 million/ 26%); Britain ($237,005/ 2.1%); Canada ($241,015/ 2.1%); Egypt ($39,834/ 0.4%); India ($59,428/ 0.5%); Japan ($916,182/ 8.3%); Kuwait ($79,668/ 0.7%); Pakistan ($246,452/ 2.2%); Saudi Arabia ($313,751/ 2.8%); South Korea ($537,786/ 4.9%); Turkey ($1.1 million/ 10.2%); and the United Arab Emirates ($67,431/ 0.6%).
Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in August 2013. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-12-C-0058).
May 21/12: ROK. A $7.8 million delivery order covers an Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System software license for the government of Korea, integrating ships with Encapsulated Harpoon Command Launch System III hardware. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in June 2012 (N00019-11-G-0001).
Dec 1/11: A $9.2 million firm-fixed-price basic ordering agreement modification, exercising an option to provide Harpoon/ SLAM-ER System and Harpoon Launch System integrated logistics and engineering services support to the U.S. Navy (35.82%); and to the governments of South Korea (8.22%), Turkey (6.94%), Taiwan (5.06%), Japan (4.72%), Egypt (4.62%), Greece (3.88%), United Kingdom (3.63%), Pakistan (3.07%), Australia (2.97%), Chile (2.76%), Canada (2.24%), Saudi Arabia (2.34%), Israel (2.04%), Singapore (2.03%), Thailand (1.45%), Bahrain (1.24%), United Arab Emirates (1.10%), Germany (1.09%), Netherlands (1.09%), Portugal (0.82%), Kuwait (0.81%), Malaysia (0.76%), Oman (0.74%), and Denmark (0.55%).
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (91.17%); St. Louis, MO (5.43%); Yorktown, VA (2.64%); Point Mugu, CA (0.71%); and Oklahoma City, OK (0.05%), and is expected to be complete by November 2013. $3.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-11-G-0001).
Nov 29/11: ROK Test fail. Consternation and controversy in Korea, where an AGM-84K SLAM-ER missile test-fired from an F-15K falls into the sea. The Korea Herald reports that ROKAF is drawing criticism for not disclosing the failed June 15/11 live fire drill. Their other live firing to date, on June 17/11, worked just fine; it was used as televised warning footage on Nov 23/11, the 1st anniversary of North Korea’s attack on the Yeonpyeong islands.
This may seem like a lot of concern over 1 failed test, but the SLAM-ER is the ROKAF’s longest-range strike weapon, for use against the most heavily defended targets. It’s important enough that the ROKAF’s new F-15K Strike Eagle family fighters are colloquially known as “Slam Eagles”. The ROKAF’s response was to note that as a rule, they don’t talk about test results, so they didn’t hide anything by not mentioning this one. They are trying to investigate the failed launch as best they can, however, without the missile’s remains to help them. They’re also are checking other SLAM-ER missiles in inventory for defects, and the missile’s importance assures a high priority for those tasks.
Having said tall that, most people think of missiles the way they think of a flashlight: assemble it, then turn it on when you need it and it lights up. The truth is that keeping them combat-ready is a very involved exercise of careful handling, frequent inspections, and periodic testing; otherwise, a country will have a surprising number of failures. This isn’t to say that the ROKAF has failed at these tasks, only that the task itself is more chancy and complex than it seems. Some missile manufacturers are working to get ahead of this curve by installing self-test systems inside, and turning the storage container itself into as push-button test device. Raytheon’s new SM-6 medium range air defense missile is a good example of that.
SLAM-ER testFY 2011
Sept 14/11: A $9.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity support contract, to include engineering, training and technical services, for the Harpoon and SLAM-ER missile; the Encapsulated Harpoon Command and Launch Systems; encapsulated support; and the Harpoon Shipboard Command Launch Control System.
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO, and is expected to be complete in December 2013. Funds will be committed if and as needed. Since Boeing is the missiles’ manufacturer, this contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-11-D-0041).
August 15/11: An $8.8 million firm-fixed-price delivery order to provide integrated logistics services in support of Harpoon and SLAM-ER programs for the US Navy and for the governments of various foreign military sales customers. The total estimated value including all options is $18 million. Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (91.17%); St. Louis, MO (5.43%); Yorktown, VA (2.64%); Point Mugu, CA (0.71%); and Oklahoma City, OK (0.05%), and is expected to be complete in November 2012. $3.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11.
This order combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($3.2M/ 36.64%) and the governments of Korea ($711,007/ 8.06%); Turkey ($607,029/ 6.88%); Taiwan ($435,217/ 4.93%); Japan ($418,388/ 4.74%); Egypt ($402,423/ 4.56%); Greece ($343,865/ 3.90%); United Kingdom ($314,938/ 3.57%); Pakistan ($264,047/ 2.99%); Australia ($256,929/ 2.91%); Chile ($246,008/ 2.79%); Canada ($193,501/ 2.19%); Saudi Arabia ($196,640/ 2.23%); Israel ($173,608/ 1.97%); Singapore ($173,345/ 1.96%); Thailand ($125,777/ 1.43%); Bahrain ($110,445/ 1.25%); Germany ($99,643/ 1.13%); Netherlands ($99,643/ 1.13%); UAE ($95,249/ 1.08%); Portugal ($74,732/ 0.85%); Kuwait ($68,820/ 0.78%); Malaysia ($65,153/ 0.74%); Oman ($64,075/ 0.73%); and Denmark ($49,821.45/ 0.56%). See also FBO.gov).
July 6/11: Orders. A $119.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for Lot 86 Harpoon missiles and associated equipment. Based on past order requests, all missiles in this set are Block II Harpoons with dual radar/ GPS guidance. Orders include:
- Egypt: $51.2 million/ 42.9%. 20 tactical light weight canister BGM-84 AUR. Egypt’s new Fast Attack Craft missile boats will use Harpoons.
- India: $35.1 million/ 29.4%. 20 tactical air launch AGM-84 AUR; and 2 exercise air launches.
- Taiwan: $26.9 million/ 22.5%. 2 AGM-84 Harpoon missile bodies; 2 exercise Grade B canister All Up Rounds (AUR); 8 anti-submarine rocket AUR (not Harpoon-related); associated hardware, and 2 exercise air launches. Taiwan is receiving refurbished P-3C Orion aircraft, which will use the air-launched version.
- “Harpoon-related hardware” will for existing customers in Australia ($1.9 million/ 1.6%), Canada ($695,994/ 0.6%), Japan ($2.1 million/ 1.7%), Korea ($1.2 million/ 1%), and Singapore ($404,441/ 0.3%).
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (43.5%); McKinney, TX (13.5%); Toledo, OH (6.0%); Motherwell, United Kingdom (4.4%); Cedar Rapids, IA (3.6%); Lititz, PA (3.5%); Elkton, MD (3.0%); Grove, OK (2.6%); Black Mountain, NC (2.2%); Middletown, CT (1.8%); Kirkwood, MO (1.6%); Galena, KS (1.5%); Joplin, MO (1.3%); Huntsville, AL (1.1%); Chandler, AZ (1.0%); Palo Alto, CA (0.8%); McCalester, OK (0.8%); El Paso, TX (0.7%); Clearwater, FL (0.7%); Lancaster, PA (0.7%); Estill Springs, TN (0.6%); and various locations in and outside the continental U.S. (5.1%). Work is expected to be completed in July 2012. This contact was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-11-C-0300).
Egypt, India, Taiwan, etc.FY 2010
Sept 2/10: India buy. India’s Economic Times reports that India signed a deal with Boeing for 24 Harpoon Block II missiles in late July 2010, but the missiles will equip its its Jaguar strike aircraft. The paper quotes Boeing defence, space and security’s India head Vivek Lall, who says that no agreement had been reached yet with regard to supplying the missile for P-8I. That will be a separate Foreign Military Sale case.
India is believed to possess about 10 Jaguar IM maritime strike variant fighters in No.6 Squadron, which have been upgraded over the years with IAI ELta’s EL/M-2032 radar and improved electronic defense systems. At present, the Jaguars are limited to carrying 1980s-vintage Sea Eagle missiles, and their land attack capabilities have not kept pace. Adding the Block II Harpoons, with their dual sea-land attack capabilities, will make the Jaguar fleet a potent threat once again. See also Sept 9/08 entry.
July 29/10: Orders. A $66 million firm-fixed-price contract for:
- 32 Lot 85 Harpoon missile bodies (HMB) for the government of Taiwan
- 4 Harpoon canister grade “B” missiles for the government of Canada
- Associated spares and support.
- Harpoon missile spares for the governments of Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal, Japan, the United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan, Turkey and Singapore, to include containers;
- Plus Block II guidance section upgrade kits; wire bundle assemblies; and guidance control units.
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (55.3%); McKinney, TX (10.7%); Toledo, OH (6.2%); Huntsville, AL (4.5%); Lititz, PA (3.7%); Middletown, CT (2.7%); Grove, OK (2.3%); Galena, KS (1.6%); Minneapolis, MN (1.5%); Motherwell, UK (1.2%); Elkton, MD (1.1%); Kirkwood, MO (1%); Anniston, AL (0.8%); Clearwater, FL (0.7%); McAlester, OK (0.6%); Melbourne, FL (0.6%); and various locations in and outside the contiguous U.S. (5.5%). Work is expected to be complete in June 2011.
This contract combines purchases for the governments of Taiwan ($43.8M; 66.4%), Canada ($10.1M; 15.3%), Portugal ($7.6M; 11.5%), the Netherlands ($3.2M; 4.8%), Japan ($514,864; 0.8%), the United Kingdom ($263,986; 0.4%), Israel ($194,635; 0.3%), Pakistan ($169,360; 0.3%), Turkey ($31,643; 0.1%), and Singapore ($2,584; 0.1%) under the Foreign Military Sales program. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-10-C-0053).
Taiwan, Canada, etc.
Jan 29/10: Taiwan request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Taiwan’s official request for 12 “Harpoon Block II Telemetry” missiles. The DSCA release cites 10 “RTM-84L” and 2 “ATM-84L” missiles, which have telemetry payloads for missile tests, instead of the warheads found on standard RGM-84 (ship-launched) and AGM-84 (air-launched) variants. In addition to the missiles, Taiwan would receive containers; training devices; spare and repair parts; supply/technical support; support equipment; personnel training and training equipment; technical data and publications; and U.S. Government and contractor support.
The estimated cost is $37 million, the prime contractor will be Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, Missouri, and implementation of this sale will not require any additional U.S. Government personnel or contractor representatives.
The Harpoon Block II could be militarily significant, because its GPS guidance and improved clutter resolution allow it to attack land targets, as well as ships. See also the Oct 3/08 entry, requesting submarine-launched Block II missiles. Taiwan is building its own “HF-2E Hsiung Feng” land attack cruise missiles with much longer ranges, however, so the Block II’s land-attack capability would not be a new military development in the region.
Dec 18/09: Egypt request. The US DSCA announces Egypt’s formal request to buy of 20 RGM-84L/3 Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles with rocket boosters; 4 AN/SWG-1A Harpoon Shipboard Command Launch Control Systems including all consoles, software, and shipboard canister launcher units (4 missile battery); plus spare and repair parts; supply/technical support; support equipment; personnel training and training equipment; technical data and publications; and U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is $145 million.
Egypt intends to use the missiles and launch systems on upgraded S-148 Tiger Class Patrol Boats, and consolidate the configuration of the surface-to- surface missiles within its inventory away from the shorter range MM-38 Exocet missiles that had previously equipped this class. The principal contractor will be Boeing in St. Louis, MO. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale, and implementation of will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. government or contractor representatives to Egypt. U.S. government and contractor representatives will be required to travel to Egypt annually for a period of 1-2 weeks, however, to participate in program and technical reviews.
DSCA requests are not contracts, and Congress can block the sale if it acts promptly. The Harpoon Block II’s land attack capabilities have created concern and lobbying from Israel, which had previously succeeded in ensuring that American missiles sold to Egypt could not be used to strike its population centers.
Dec 8/09: Australia. Australian Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet provides an update regarding their Air Warfare Destroyer program, and notes both Lockheed Martin’s “pull the plug” ceremony, and an A$ 20 million (currently $18.3 million) contract with Boeing for the Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System.
Its accompanying missiles, expected to be BGM-84 Harpoon Block IIs with dual radar/GPS guidance “…will allow our three Air Warfare Destroyers to engage surface and land targets at ranges well beyond the horizon.” That contract is still pending.FY 2009
Sept 21/09: Block III. Forecast International reports that the U.S. Navy has dropped plans to purchase the Harpoon III.
Senior Missile Analyst Larry Dickerson refers to the company’s overall forecast of a $7 billion anti-ship missile market through 2018, and sees the possibility of MBDA eclipsing Boeing thanks to its updated Exocet and Otomat/ Marte offerings. Boeing’s American orders will drop, but export sales will continue as the anti-ship market changes. Eventually, Dickerson sees anti-ship missiles disappearing as an independent segment, becoming submerged in a larger strike weapons market.
No Block III
Sept 10/09: Block II SAASM. A Boeing Harpoon Block II missile equipped with a redesigned Guidance Control Unit (GCU) flew for the first time in a test from the USS Princeton off the coast of California, scoring a direct hit on a land-based target on San Nicolas Island, CA.
The new GCU incorporates a Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to improve GPS security, replaces some obsolete electronics, and has been designed to accommodate a future 2-way datalink if one is funded. Boeing began developing the new GCU in 2007, and all new Harpoon missiles will incorporate it. In its release, Boeing says that it has delivered more than 7,100 Harpoon missiles to the United States and 28 allied partners over the program’s lifetime.
July 2/09: SLAM-ER cleared for land. The U.S. Navy declares the AGM-84K SLAM-ER missile operationally effective against moving targets on land, following a successful Operational Evaluation. This is extremely useful against targets like missile launchers and mobile radars, but its 2-way datalink and in-flight re-targeting also have obvious uses against elusive and mobile targets like terrorists. Boeing release.
SLAM-ER for land attack
Dec 18/08: SLAM-ER upgrade. Raytheon Technical Services Co., LLC in Indianapolis, IN received an $8.5 million firm-fixed-price and cost plus fixed fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement.
This delivery order will provide for the development of the upgraded Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) systems’ AWW-13 Data Link Pod with the AWW-13 Frequency migration. The AN/AWW-13 Advanced Data Link can allow retargeting in flight to deal with targets of opportunity, or let the operator select a more refined aimpoint via mid-course corrections. In order to “close the loop,” it can receive seeker video images from the missile’s data link transmitter, for display in the pilot’s cockpit video.
Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in October 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-05-G-0008).
Nov 8/08: Dutch test. The Royal Netherlands Navy successfully test-fires Boeing Harpoon Block IC missiles from its new air defense and command frigate HMS De Zeven Provincien. It’s the first time the Dutch Navy has launched multiple Harpoons on a single target, and both missiles hit. The Netherlands has been a Harpoon customer since 1975. Boeing release.
Oct 3/08: Taiwan request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Taiwan’s official request for 32 UGM-84L Sub-Launched Harpoon Block II missiles. Taiwan’s request adds 2 UTM-84L Harpoon Block II Exercise missiles, 2 Advanced Harpoon Weapons Control System (Version 2) for installation on Taiwan’s 2 Seadragon Class submarines, 36 Harpoon containers, 2 UTM-84XD Encapsulated Harpoon Certification and Training Vehicles, test equipment and services, spares and repair parts for support equipment, and other forms of support.
The estimated cost is $200 million, and the contractor is Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas in St Louis, MO.
The US DSCA notes that “The recipient has previously purchased both air and surface launched HARPOON missiles and will be able to absorb and effectively utilize these submarine-launched missiles.” As such, no additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives will be required.
Taiwan request: sub-launchedFY 2008
Missile buys: Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey; Harpoon Block III development contract.
Aug 25/08: Orders. A $149.8 million firm-fixed-priced contract covers purchases for the US Navy, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey. The orders include:
- US Navy: 9 SLAM-ER exercise missiles retrofitted and certified from SLAMs to SLAM-ERs ($9.2 million; 6%)
- Canada: 4 UGM-84 Block II Grade B exercise missiles in canister AURs ($8.4 million; 6%)
- Japan: 1 Harpoon Exercise Section and associated hardware ($432,103; 0.3%)
- South Korea: 9 AGM-84 air-launched missiles and associated hardware and 1 missile exercise section with associated hardware ($11.5 million; 8%)
- Taiwan: 60 AGM-84 air-launched AURs and associated hardware ($89.8 million; 59.7%);
- Turkey: 4 UGM-84 Block II missiles with Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) GPS added, in AURs that fit to ships’ Tartar launchers rather than conventional Harpoon missile launchers ($30.4 million; 20%). That suggests a possible fit with Turkey’s upgraded FFG-7 frigates.
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (55.32%); McKinney, TX (10.71%); Toledo, OH (6.28%); Huntsville, AL (4.58%); Lititz, PA (3.76%); Middletown, CT (2.68%); Grove, OK (2.25%); Galena, KS (1.55%); Minneapolis, MN (1.52%) the United Kingdom, (1.17%); Elkton, MD (1.08%); and various locations across the United States, (9.10%). It is expected to be complete in June 2010 (N00019-08-C-0042).
USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey
June 5/08: An $8.1 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for engineering, logistics, and technical services in support of the Harpoon Weapon Systems and SLAM-ER Missile System for the U.S. Navy, and for the Governments of Australia, Canada, Chile, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United Arab Emirates under the Foreign Military Sales Program.
Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO and is expected to be complete in December 2010. This contract was not competitively procured (N00091-08-D-0011).
Jan 30/08: Harpoon III SDD. A $73.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00019-08-C-0021) for the system development and demonstration of the Harpoon Block III Missile Program. See above for details re: the missiles/ upgrade kits, and see the Sept 11/07 entry for related market analysis.
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (92.12%); Lititz, PA (1.93%); Cedar Rapids, IA (0.84%); Chatsworth, CA (0.76%); Galena, KS (0.49%); Lowell, MA (0.42%); and various locations across the United States (3.44%), and is expected to be complete in August 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured.
Harpoon III SDD
Dec 27/07: Turkish order. A $16.7 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-priced contract (N00019-07-C-0037) for 9 Harpoon Lightweight Canister All-Up-Rounds for the Government of Turkey under the Foreign Military Sales Program. In addition, this modification exercises an option for an Encapsulating Training All-Up-Round for the Government of Turkey.
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (38.64%); McKinney, TX (20.48%); various locations within the U.S. (10.45%); Toledo, OH (7.40%); the United Kingdom (5.13%); Chicago, IL (4.49%); Elkton, MD (3.97%); Kirkwood, MO (3.97%); Galena, KS (2.79%); and Hartford, CT (2.68%), and is expected to be complete in December 2011.
Sept 19/07: Datalink contract. Rockwell Collins announces an $18 million contract by Raytheon Missile Systems to design, develop, and produce the Strike Common Weapon Data Link for the JSOW Block III precision glide bomb, and the next generation of Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The Strike Common Weapon Data Link Program is ultimately sponsored by the U.S. Navy’s PMA-201 program management office. S
See “Harpoon & JSOW Getting 2-way Datalinks” for the full story, and a scenario explaining how this would work in practice and why it would matter.
Sept 11/07: Harpoon III. In “Harpoon III Order a Boost for Boeing,” Forecast International sees the forthcoming Harpoon Block III version giving Boeing another push in the global anti-ship missile market. F.I. sees $1.5 billion in revenues for Boeing from anti-ship missile sales over the next 10 years, followed by MBDA with $789 million in sales. China will build the largest number of anti-ship missiles, according to the market forecast, and Russia will manufacture nearly as many missiles as the United States, but receive considerably less money for them.
Aug 24/07: Israel request. The US DSCA announces Israel’s request for 30 RGM-84L Harpoon block II anti-ship missiles with containers, 500 AIM-9M Sidewinder Short Range Air-to-Air Infrared Guided missiles, spares and repair parts for support equipment, training, publications and technical documents, and other related elements of logistics and program support.
The principal contractors will be the Boeing Company in St. Louis, MO (Harpoon) and Raytheon systems Corporation in Tucson, AZ (Sidewinder), and the estimated total for both purchases is $163 million.
Aug 8/07: Taiwan request. The US DSCA announces [PDF format] Taiwan’s formal request (“the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States”) for 60 AGM-84L air-launched HARPOON Block II missiles, 2 HARPOON guidance control units, 30 HARPOON containers, 30 HARPOON extended air-launch lugs, 50 HARPOON upgrade kits from AGM-84G to AGM-84L configuration, missile modifications, test equipment and services, spares and repair parts for support equipment, training, publications and technical documents, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $125 million.
This sale is consistent with United States law and policy as expressed in Public Law 96-8. The U.S. is committed to providing military assistance under the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act. Taiwan has previously purchased both air and surface launched Harpoon missiles, and will be able to absorb and effectively utilize the additional missiles (60 new, 50 upgraded). Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas will be the prime contractor, and although the purchaser generally requires offsets, at this time, there are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
June 14/07: Turkey request. The US DSCA announced [PDF] Turkey’s request for 51 All-Up-Round, Selected Availability, Anti-spoofing Module-compliant Block II Tactical HARPOON missiles in the following configurations: 8 set for Tartar launcher, 38 Lightweight canisters, and 5 Encapsulated missiles. Also included: containers, test sets and support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government (USG) support, contractor representatives’ engineering and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics support. DSCA adds that:
“Turkey will use these missiles to augment its present HARPOON missile inventory and enhance its anti-ship warfare capability. The capabilities of this weapon system will improve Turkey’s ability to contribute to coalition NATO operations. The missiles will be provided in accordance with, and subject to the limitation on use and transfer, under the Arms Export Control Act, as amended, and as embodied in the Letter of Offer and Acceptance. This proposed sale will not adversely affect either the military balance in the region or U.S. efforts to encourage a negotiated settlement of the Cyprus question.”
The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $159 million. The prime contractor will be Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas.
May 31/07: Pakistan. A $8.1 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-06-C-0027) for the procurement of a Harpoon Missile Subsystem Test Set Weapon Station upgrade, interim spares, installation and checkout, and applicable training for the Government of Pakistan under the Foreign Military Sales Program.
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (34.02%); Dallas, TX (28.89%); St. Louis, MO (18.46%); Oklahoma City, OK (7.34%); St. Louis, MO (3.43%); Yorba Linda, CA (3.19%); Chatsworth, CA (1.20%); Englewood, CO (0.70%); Austin, TX (0.60%); and various locations across the United States (2.17%) and is expected to be complete in January 2009. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD.
April 13/07: Pakistan. Small business qualifier Delex Systems, Inc. in, Vienna, VA received a $7.5 million firm-fixed-priced order against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement (N00019-03-G-0015) for the development, documentation, testing and delivery of a turnkey Harpoon Tactical Training Program for the Pakistan Navy under the Foreign Military Sales Program.
Work will be performed in Vienna, VA (95%), and Karachi, Pakistan (5%), and is expected to be complete in April 2012. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
March 30/07: Orders. A $191.4 million firm-fixed-priced contract combines US and foreign military sales:
- US Navy TL: $3.7 million – 1.96%
- 4 SLAM-ER exercise missiles retrofitted from SLAMs to SLAM-ERs for the U.S. Navy
- Japan TL: $821,504 – 0.43%
- 6 Harpoon Guidance Section Containers
- 2 Harpoon Exercise Sections
- 2 Harpoon Exercise/Warhead Containers
- Pakistan: $63.7 million – 33.27%
- 30 Harpoon Tactical Block II Encapsulated All-Up Rounds
- Turkey: $79.2 million – 41.36%. Fulfills prevous DSCA announcement.
- 48 SLAM-ER tactical missiles
- 59 SLAM-ER All Up Round (AUR) Missile Containers
- 3 SLAM-ER Instrumented Recoverable Air Test Vehicles
- 2 each SLAM-ER Guidance Sections; SLAM-ER Warhead Sections; SLAM-ER Sustainer Sections; SLAM-ER Control Sections; SLAM-ER Exercise Missiles; SLAM-ER Captive Air Training Missiles
- South Korea TL: $44 million – 22.98%
- 30 Harpoon Tactical Block II Encapsulated All-Up Rounds (AUR)
- 9 Harpoon Air Launch AUR Containers
- 2 Harpoon Captive Air Training Missile (CATM-84) Ballistic Air Test Vehicle-uninstrumented
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (45.75%); various locations across the United States (9.35%); McKinney, TX (8.29%); the United Kingdom (8.03%); Toledo, OH (5.44%); Tucson, AZ (4.18%); Huntsville, AL (3.59%); Melbourne, FL (3.31%); Fort Washington, PA (2.74%);Middletown, CT (1.91%); Galena, KS (1.80%); Erlanger, KY (1.44%); Elkton, MD (1.44%); Clearwater, FL (1.44%); and Kirkwood, MO (1.29%) and is expected to be complete in December 2011. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-07-C-0037).
USA, Japan, South Korea, Turkey
Feb 12/07: Pakistan buy. A $15.8 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-06-C-0027), exercising an option for 10 Harpoon Tactical Block II Grade B All-Up-Round (AUR) missiles and 10 MK631 Canister AUR Containers for the Government of Pakistan under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Retired Indian Commodore RS Vasan’s “The impact of induction of the P3C Orion Aircraft on the Indian Navy’s Preparedness: An Assessment” is an excellent source for those who wish to understand the regional military implications of Pakistan’s expanding P-3 fleet and recent Harpoon missile purchases – a topic that grows in importance as Pakistan itself becomes less stable.
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (50.46%); McKinney, TX (15.14%); Toledo, OH (5.93%); United Kingdom (5.28%); Huntsville, AL (3.86%); Clearwater, FL (3.79%); Galena, KS (2.33%); Elkton, MD (2.19%); Kirwood, MO (2%); Middletown, CT (1.83%), and other various locations throughout the United States (7.19%), and is expected to be complete in February 2007.
Oct 23/06: A $17.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for Harpoon Ship Command Launch Control Systems upgrades, modifications and associated equipment and spares for the Governments of Pakistan, Chile, and Turkey. This contract combines purchases for the Governments of Pakistan ($6.1M/ 35%); Chile ($5.9M/ 34%); and Turkey ($5.3M/ 31%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (74%); Lititz, PA (8%); San Diego, CA (6%); Baltimore, MD (5%); Cedar Rapids, IA (4%); Kellyville, OK (2%); and various locations across the United States (1%), and is expected to be complete in July 2008. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-06-C-0090).
Oct 13/06: ROK buy. A $37.5 million modification to previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract N00019-06-C-0027 exercises an option for 20 tactical Block II airlaunch all-up-round (AUR) missiles, 10 MK607 airlaunch AUR containers, 6 tactical Block II encapsulated AUR missiles, and 6 MK630 canister AUR containers for the government of Korea under the Foreign Military Sales Program.
Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (50.46%); McKinney, TX (15.14%); Toledo, OH (5.93%); Huntsville, AL (3.86%); Clearwater, FL (3.79%); Galena, KS (2.33%); Elkton, MD (2.19%), Kirwood, MO (2.00%); Middletown, CT (1.83%); other various locations throughout the United States (7.19%), and the United Kingdom (5.28%); it is expected to be complete in November 2007.
South KoreaAdditional Readings & Sources Background: Harpoon Family
- Boeing – AGM-84D Harpoon The USN actually uses the xGM-84 Block IC. Their generic Harpoon page is actually about the GPS-enabled Harpoon Block II, which isn’t in America’s arsenal but has been exported.
- GlobalSecurity – AGM-84 Harpoon/ SLAM [Stand-Off Land Attack Missile].
- Boeing, via WayBack – Standoff Land Attack Missile — Expanded Response SLAM-ER.
- Information Dissemination (Sept 11/07) – The US Navy and the Harpoon III.
- Defense Update – SLAM-ER Guided Missile.
- Indian Commodore RS Vasan’s “The impact of induction of the P3C Orion Aircraft on the Indian Navy’s Preparedness: An Assessment.” Excellent perspective on operational deployment of Harpoon missiles on Pakistani P-3C Orion long-range maritime patrol aircraft, and its implications in and around the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.
- Wikipedia – CHETA C-802. Also known as YJ-82 in China, and CSS-N-8 by NATO.
- MBDA – Exocet MM40 Block 3. The AM39 (see MBDA sidebar) is the air-launched variant, and the SM39 is the submarine-launched variant.
- GlobalSecurity.org – Exocet AM.39/ MM.40.
- Defense Update – Exocet MM40 Block 3.
- Wikipedia – Gabriel Missile.
- Defense Update – IAI Unveils Gabriel 5.
- DID – LRASM Missiles: Reaching for a Long-Range Punch. Derived from Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158B LRASM-ER, this stealthy missile will be the Harpoon’s immediate successor. It may also win a wider order for ship-launched replacements, as it will be compatible with the Mk.41 VLS.
- DID Spotlight – Norwegian Contracts Launch NSM missile.
- Saab Bofors Dynamics – RBS-15 Mk3 Surface-to-Surface Missile. They also have a page for the air-launched RBS-15F.
- Wikipedia – Kh-35. Also known as SS-N-25; sometimes unofficially called the “Harpoonski” for its resemblance. Limited export succes, to India and Algeria.
- BrahMos Aerospace – Home Page. This is the Indian joint venture based on Russia’s P800/ SS-N-26. The envision a hypersonic Brahmos II.
- GlobalSecurity.org – Moskit/ SS-N-22 Sunburn.
- Warfare.RU, via WayBack – SS-N-27 Sizzler / P-900, 3M54 Klub family. Anti-ship designs become supersonic during their terminal attack phase.
US Senate Passes $602B Defense Authorization | Rafael’s Iron Dome: Global Interest, No Sales Yet | Gabon Signs Multiple Defense Orders with French Nexter
- The US Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to pass a $602 billion defense authorization bill, despite President Barack Obama’s threat to veto the annual policy measure over issues including a ban on closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison. Passing of the bill was ensured with a compromise on the use of Russian RD-180 rocket engines. Lawmakers eased a ban on their use late last year, worried that it could drive United Launch alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, out of business and leave only privately held SpaceX to transport satellites into space.
- Despite much global interest, Israel has not received any export orders for its Iron Dome short-range missile defense system. Developed by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Iron Dome has gained notable world recognition since its first successful intercept in 2011 of a Hamas launched rocket from Gaza. Despite a 90% interception rate, Rafael execs have been working to entice customers with an expanded mission set including sea-based defense, drone killing missions, and the ability to intercept anything from mortars to precision-guided munitions.
- Rafael has completed its first export orders of its Spike SR (Short Range) shoulder-fired anti-tank missile to an unknown customer. Designed to respond rapidly against so-called targets of opportunity, the Spike SR can be fitted with two warheads, one to target tanks and fast traveling vehicles and a blast fragmentation penetrator designed for bunkers. As a next generation missile, the Spike SR allows infantry in congested urban environments to utilize a versatile, short, small diameter missile with an augmented penetration capability and a range from 50 metres to 1.5km.
- Gabon has signed a number of defense orders which will see French manufacturer Nexter provide a positioning system, unmanned ground vehicles (UGV), and mobile medical shelters to the west African country. The deal was announced by the company after signing, at the ongoing Eurosatory exhibition in Paris, although no details have been given on the value of the sale. UGVs such as the Nerva LG and NX-100 UAVs have already been deployed in the current UN peacekeeping mission in the central African Republic, where Gabonese soldiers have recently begun operations.
- French and Italian defense ministers signed a “Cooperation Arrangement” agreement in Paris to jointly develop the Aster 30 Block 1 NT missile. Tuesday’s signing will see the development program encompass not just the upgrade of the interceptor, but the modernization of the SAMP/T air defense system as well. This will see an increase in French and Italian air defense capabilities – notably against ballistic missiles – thereby making essential contributions to the NATO program in this domain.
- Airbus has announced a successful live firing of its HForce plug n’ play weapon management system on an H225M in Belgium from May 25 to June 3. The system is comprised of a central core unit, Thales Scorpion monocular helmet mounted sight display (HMSD), an electro-optical system (EOS) from Wescam as well as gunner armament weapon grips and weapon pods. Weapons fired during the trial included 12.7mm guns, 70mm rockets as well as 20mm cannons.
- 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).
- After a rather public shunning of the Italian defense industry, the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has begun the task of searching for alternative suppliers to meet a growing range of weaponry requirements. Its latest cancellation of a $200 million deal to buy 98 Black Shark torpedoes from Leonardo-Finmeccanica subsidiary WASS leaves not only torpedoes on the shopping list, but also network-centric capabilities and naval gun solutions for its submarines. One alternative may be the German defense industry with reports of a deal to buy SeaHake torpedoes from Atlas Elektronic. Also in the mix is the purchase of six conventional submarines with air-independent propulsion technology under the Make in India program with negotiations between the MoD and ThyssenKruupp Marine Systems underway.
- Rafael’s Spike SR:
(click to view full)
On August 16, 2011, Rafael and Raytheon announced a partnership to market the Iron Dome system in the United States. This rocket interception system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has an all-weather range of up to 70 km (43.5 miles). To make the system mobile, the detection/tracking radar and battle management/control parts of the system are carried on trucks, while the missile firing unit is mounted on a trailer.
Then in November 2011 the Jerusalem Post reported that the US Army had expressed interest to protest its bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. South Korea is also reportedly interested. While exports remain tentative as of the end of 2011, several systems have been fielded in Israel in recent years.Israeli Deployment
Iron Dome was selected by Israel’s government as its short range defensive solution back in 2007. At the time other options were also on the table such as the THEL/Skyguard laser-based system. In February 2010 IAI announced a $50 million export contract for the radar component of the Iron Dome system. After the US Congress approved $205M in military aid to procure 9 Iron Dome batteries, Israel said that it would start deploying the systems by the end of that year to protect civilians from rockets, mortar and artillery fired by Hamas.
The IDF announced in April 2011 that the Iron Dome battery deployed in Be’er Sheba intercepted two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at night. However, beyond the initial investment, at issue is the cost asymmetry between improvised rockets at maybe $500 a pop vs. intercepts estimated to cost $50K+ each. More broadly, which approach to take for missile defense has been a subject of intense debate in Israel for years. This cost vs. benefit public discussion is still very much alive.
On August 7, 2011, Israel’s High Court of Justice answered a petition from a group of towns in the Gaza area by ruling in favor of the Defense Ministry which refuses to fund Iron Dome systems in all towns more than 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) from the Gaza Strip. Still, on August 31 planned deployments were continuing with the 3rd battery being stationed outside the city of Ashdod.
For larger, longer-range threats, IAI has developed the Arrow theater missile defense system with Boeing.Updates
June 16/16: Despite much global interest, Israel has not received any export orders for its Iron Dome short-range missile defense system. Developed by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Iron Dome has gained notable world recognition since its first successful intercept in 2011 of a Hamas launched rocket from Gaza. Despite a 90% interception rate, Rafael execs have been working to entice customers with an expanded mission set including sea-based defense, drone killing missions, and the ability to intercept anything from mortars to precision-guided munitions.
FMS Goes South; Pakistan Looks to Jordan for Second Hand Aircraft | Thales Premiers New 3D Short Range Air Defense | NK Hackers Steal F-15 Wing Blueprints
- The US Navy took an MV-22 from VMX-1 aboard aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson for flight trials on June 12. Testing comes as the service moves to induct the CMV-22B variant as the replacement for the Northrop Grumman C-2 Greyhound twin turboprop in the aircraft carrier logistics role at sea. The purpose of the MV-22 tests is to allow crews to experience landing on an aircraft carrier as opposed to landing on an amphibious ship, like with the USMC. Additions to the Navy model will see the installation of extra fuel bladders to extend its range from 860nm to approximately 1,150nm, as well as a beyond line-of-sight radio and public address system so that crews can communicate en route to the aircraft carrier’s deck, or between other ships in the battle group.
- Pakistan is to drop its attempts to purchase F-16s from the US, instead opting for a deal to source second-hand aircraft from Jordan. Last month, the potential sale of eight F-16C/D aircraft was brought into question after US Congress objected to using the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program to subsidize the deal, requiring Islamabad to pay the full amount of $699 million. Speaking to the Senate Standing Committee on Defense and Foreign Policy on Monday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Aizaz Chaudhry bemoaned the often strained relations between the two countries commenting “the US has spent 16 years fighting the war on terror. If only it had given six years to the peace process things would have been different.”
- Iraq’s Defense Minister Khaled Obaidi took part in air force sorties against Islamic State targets over Fallujah on June 13. Obaidi, who served as a flight engineer in the Iraqi Air Force between 1987-2003, took to the back seat of an F-16D fighter, posting video to his Twitter and Facebook accounts. The Iraqi Army and Shiite militias, backed by US airstrikes, launched the offensive to retake Fallujah on May 22 and already gain control over most of suburbs of the city.
- Pacifist activists staged demonstrations on Monday at the Eurosatory 2016 Defense Exhibition in Paris. About ten protesters managed to cover several exhibited items with red paint, symbolizing blood, which included France’s famous Leclerc tank. Before the protesters were ejected by security, they also hung up a rainbow flag with the word “Paix,” or “peace”, in French. The exhibition runs until Friday.
- Thales has introduced its new Ground Master 60 3D short-range air defense radar system. According to the company, the radar has the unique capability to detect rockets, artillery shells, and mortars while on the move, and was unveiled at the Eurosatory 2016 event in Paris. Ground Masters are a family of multi-mission air defense radars with an architecture based on common building blocks and interfaces. It is unknown if the radar got covered in red paint.
- BAE Systems is currently working on a new Hawk jet trainer demonstrator for India. Changes to the 42 year old aircraft include wing improvements and modifications expected to improve its aerodynamic performance. The Advanced Hawk, which is sometimes referred to as the Combat Hawk, is being offered to the Indians to expand the size of their training fleet, as well as give them a light attack capability with precision-guided munitions.
- Hackers from North Korea allegedly stole blueprints for the wings of the Boeing F-15 coming from the computers of Korean Air Lines. The theft came as part of wider attempts to break into networks at 160 South Korean firms and government agencies, planting malicious code under a long-term plan laying groundwork for a massive cyber attack. According to reports, the intrusions were detected in February and the breaches could be traced back to 2014.
- Export marketing advocate Kallman Worldwide has announced its 500 sqm US International Pavillion to represent US homeland security manufacturers at next year’s Milipol Asia-Pacific 2017 event in Singapore. The April 4-6 event will focus on products including CBRN defense, forensic science services, law enforcement, anti-terrorism, special forces, crime, security of public places, border control, airport and port security, road safety, security of financial systems, and prison management.
- Dutch F-35 air power display at at Leeuwarden Air Base:
(click to view full)
The induction of advanced jet trainers into India’s Air Force has been a long and difficult process. After a number of false starts, and indigenous efforts like HAL’s Ajeet that didn’t quite live up to expectations, a 20-year procurement process came to an end in 2004, when India selected BAE’s Hawk as its future advanced jet trainer. The 66-plane order was worth about $1.2 billion, and included options for another 40 aircraft. The first 24 Hawk Mk.132 AJTs have already been delivered by BAE; the other 42 are being license-built by Hindustan Aeronautics, Ltd. in India, who have been behind on the delivery schedule.
Those difficulties had consequences. In March 2009, the Press Trust of India reported that India’s Air Force had elected not to pick up the Hawk’s follow-on option. In and of itself, that wasn’t unusual. What was unusual, was a follow-on competition for advanced jet trainers that was thrown open to international firms, via a February 2009 RFP. In the end, BAE’s Hawk won again, adding the Indian Navy to its customer list. Is a 3rd, aerobatic win in the cards?
Aerobatic tender finally re-isssued – with a new point about accountability in the Ministry; Government can’t afford to blacklist Rolls Royce; Why so many flight accidents?
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June 15/16: BAE Systems is currently working on a new Hawk jet trainer demonstrator for India. Changes to the 42 year old aircraft include wing improvements and modifications expected to improve its aerodynamic performance. The Advanced Hawk, which is sometimes referred to as the Combat Hawk, is being offered to the Indians to expand the size of their training fleet, as well as give them a light attack capability with precision-guided munitions.
February 24/16: BAE Systems and India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) are considering establishing a joint venture to co-produce variants of the Hawk trainer, upgrade the Jaguar aircraft, and establish an operations base in India focusing on logistics and producing spare parts. Both aircraft are already produced under license by HAL and further cooperation could lead to a more hands on development in improving maneuver performance with laser designation, precision smart weapons, and state-of-the-art synthetic training to create a more advanced trainer aircraft.
October 26/15: The Indian Air Force is reportedly buying twenty Hawk Mk132 Advanced Jet Trainers for the service’s Surya Kiran aerobatics team. The deal is thought to value over $500 million, with the new aircraft coming equipped with smoke pods and decorative livery.
Oct 10/14: Aerobatic. India’s MoD has issued a fresh tender for 20 Hawk AJTs, in order to replace the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team’s aged HJT-16s. This has been delayed for quite some time (q.v. May 6/12, Sept 14/12) – but in a very big change for India, the behavior is being called out, with consequences promised:
“The original file related to the tender had gone missing and the process had to be restarted by the Government…. The defence ministry has taken a serious view of the lapses on part of the officials handling the file and an inquiry has been ordered, officials said. Disciplinary proceedings would be initiated against officials who are found responsible for the lapses…”
Seems there’s a new Sheriff in town. Sources: India’s Economic Times, “Defence Ministry issues fresh tender for 20 Hawk aircraft”.
Aug 3/14: Engines. In December 2013, Rolls Royce admitted that it had paid GBP 1.85 million in commissions to a middleman, which is against Indian regulations. But the government can’t blacklist them, because their engines power Indian patrol vessels, Jaguar fighters, Sea Harrier jump-jets, Avro light transports, Embraer Legacy VVIP jets, C-130Js, Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJTs), Kiran mark-II trainers, and Sea King helicopters. So… no.
The Ministry of Defence has given Rolls Royce permission to pursue deals while the CBI’s investigation plays out. Sources: The Times of India, “Govt not to blacklist Rolls Royce for ‘operational’ reasons”.
Nov 6/13: Navy. Formal induction of the new Hawk trainers by the Indian Navy, at INS Dega in Vishakhapatnam. Sources: The Economic Times, “Indian Navy inducts HAL’s Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers”.
Sept 23/13: Navy delivery. The Indian Navy receives its 1st of 17 ordered Hawk Mk.132 trainers. Meanwhile, the contract for 20 aerobatic aircraft (q.v. Sept 14/12) hasn’t been finalized yet. BAE’s Guy Griffiths:
“We have also submitted our response to HAL’s Request for Proposal for a potential order to supply products and services for the manufacture of 20 additional Hawk aircraft to the IAF, and are now looking forward to partnering with HAL in providing the Indian Air Force’s display team this fantastic aircraft.”
Feb 4/13: Training. BAE Systems and Elbit Systems will extend their teaming agreement, in response to a formal request from the IAF. They’ll develop the next set of improvements to the IAF’s Virtual Training System to simulate advanced radar, electronic warfare, countermeasures, and weapons within the Hawk Mk.132.
That allows pilots to conduct advanced combat training in the air, using simulated scenarios, in less expensive trainer jets instead of front-line fighters. BAE Systems | Elbit’s Embedded Virtual Avionics page.
Sept 14/12: Aerobatic. No, there’s no done deal yet. BAE announces that:
“We have received a Request for Proposal (RFP) from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for a potential order to supply products and services for the manufacture of 20 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft. The aircraft, to be built by HAL in Bengaluru, will fulfill the Indian Air Force’s requirement for its prestigious aerobatic team.”
A 20-plane order would bring India’s Hawk fleet to 143, making them the world’s 3rd largest Hawk operator behind the US Navy and Britain. The Surya Kiran Aerobatics Team (SKAT) disbanded in 2011, due to a shortage of working HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mk.2 jet trainers in the air force. If reconstituted with Hawk Mk.132s, they would become the 2nd 9-Hawk formation team in the world, after the RAF’s Red Arrows. There are also reports that the team may receive a new title, possibly going back to their “Thunderbolts” moniker when they operated the excellent Hawker Hunter. BAE | Livefist.
June 11/12: Why so many crashes? India’s IDSA raises an interesting issue for the IAF:
“The IAF still has one of the highest accident rates in the world. This translates into a loss of between half and one complete squadron of aircraft per year apart from aircrew losses due to injuries or fatalities. Earlier, this high accident rate was attributed to the lack of an Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT), which forms the link between trainer aircraft and fast jet fighters. However, IAF aircrew have been training on the British Aerospace Hawk AJT for at least five years now. Yet, the accident rate does not reflect a major reduction in spite of the Hawk being in service and in use… That the induction of the AJT has not reduced the accident rate significantly indicates that the problem lies elsewhere. The IAF may consider sanctioning an external audit of its functioning to identify the cause(s) of this slow attrition.”
May 6/12: Aerobatic? The Times of India reports that India has bought another 20 Hawk AJTs, for the Surya Kiran (SKAT) aerobatics team. The Hawks would replace the 1980s-era HJT-16 Kiran jets currently in use:
“After first ordering 66 twin-seat Hawks in March 2004 and then another 57 in July 2010, at a combined overall project cost running into Rs 16,000 crore, India has now ordered another 20 AJTs… At present, IAF has inducted over 60 Hawks. The overall AJT project, with 24 supplied directly by BAE Systems and 122 to be licensed manufactured by HAL in India, will cost well over Rs 20,000 crore by the time it’s completed in 2016-2017.”
The report turns out to be premature, but the general direction is correct.2010 – 2011
Dec 12/11: BAE spares & support. BAE Systems announces a GBP 59 million (currently $92 million) contract for IAF Hawk AJT spares and ground support equipment, adding that “This brings the total value of Hawk related contracts won in India to more than [GBP] 600 million in the last 18 months” – vid. also coverage below.
The Hawk Mk 132 is manufactured in India under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, with materials, parts and support services provided by BAE Systems.
Feb 9/11: Support. GE Aviation Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) announce a 30-year contract that covers licenses to carry out repairs and overhaul of various GE avionics, instruments and hydraulic products for India’s Hawk Mk. 132. As part of the license agreement, GE will develop, supply and commission the test equipment and supply technical data. The agreement also includes training, technical support, post design services for one year, and spares services.
This license will provide in-house repair and overhaul capabilities to HAL for GE Aviation products, cutting the turn-around-time for the repairs. HAL will build its maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities at its Bangalore (hydraulics) and Korwa (avionics) facilities. GE
July 28/10: Hawk, again. BAE Systems announces a new GBP 500 million (about $773 million) order to supply India with another 57 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft, to be built under licence in India for the Indian Air Force (40) and Indian Navy (17). The aircraft will be manufactured at HAL’s facilities in Bangalore, and BAE Systems will provide specialist engineering services, the raw materials and equipment necessary for airframe production, and the support package for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.
Rolls-Royce also confirms a finalized contract for Adour Mk871 engines to power the 57 Hawk AJT trainers. The Rolls-Royce engine contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is worth up to GBP 200 million (about $310 million), and the engines will be assembled in Bangalore, India, in partnership with HAL. That partnership began with the licensed production of engines in 1956, and in March 2010 the 2 firms announced their International Aerospace Manufacturing Private Ltd. joint venture.
IAF/ Navy: 57 Hawks
July 23/10: India’s air force hasn’t made any moves yet, but its navy reportedly has, via a reported Rs 3,042 crore (about $643 million/ GBP 414 million) deal with BAE Systems for 17 new Hawk trainers. The jets will reportedly be delivered from HAL’s Hawk production line, though it isn’t yet clear whether the naval training Hawks will involve final assembly or full manufacturing. Hawk variants are already used for advanced naval aviation training, vid. the US Navy’s Adour F405 powered T-45 Goshawk.
Some sources say that the deal is part of a 57 plane, Rs 9,400 crore (about $2 billion/ GBP 1.3 billion) combined follow-on purchase by the IAF and navy, to be announced during British Prime Minister David Cameron’s upcoming visit to India. Note that the total value of the deal from India’s perspective would include HAL, so those figures may differ from the total deal value to BAE and Rolls Royce.
The Indian Navy is currently training its pilots at the Indian Air Force academy, but it expects to induct the new trainers from 2013, and will set up a parallel training academy for pilots as they prepare to fly its MiG-27K and Tejas Naval fighters. Economic Times of India | Indian Express | Times of India | BBC | The Guardian | Bloomberg.Yak-130: Next?
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April 26/10: A London Times article covering Iraq’s trainer aircraft competition mentions that:
“India is set to order another 60 Hawks in addition to the 66 it has already booked. That deal could be announced within weeks.”
April 22/10: Hawk delays. In response to a Parliamentary inquiry by Rajya Sabha representative Smt Mohsina Kidwa, Minister of State for Defence Shri MM Pallam Raju continues to blame BAE Systems for HAL’s late delivery of Hawk AJT jet trainers, and also claims that IAF training is not being compromised:
“Delivery of 42 (Hawk-AJT) aircraft was scheduled from 2007-2008 to 2010-2011 in a phased manner. Three aircraft were to be built from semi-knocked down (SKD) kits, three from completely knocked down (CKD) kits and 36 from raw material phase. The CKD and SKD kits were assembled on schedule. When production in raw material phase was taken up, it was found that the equipment supplied by the OEM had various shortcomings. The assembly jigs that were supplied did not meet the requirements, there was mismatch in the kits/components supplied, there were defects in major assemblies like the wing spar etc. These problems took time to overcome and hence affected the production schedule at HAL.
HAL has manufactured 12 aircraft till now, three in the year 2008-2009 and nine in the year 2009-2010, including the first aircraft from raw material phase. The Air Force is not facing any acute shortage of trained pilots and the delay in delivery schedule of AJTs by HAL is not affecting the Air Force. Indian Air Force is meeting its requirement by utilizing the existing resources for training of pilots.”
When asked by DID to respond, BAE Systems had this comment:
“The BAE Systems Hawk AJT is performing well in the service of the IAF and delivering excellent training to future frontline pilots and superior serviceabilty. BAE Systems is confident in its performance on the Hawk contract and has made it clear to HAL it is willing to assist them in any aspect of their Hawk contract. We would be happy to also discuss this with MoD and address any concerns.”
That places India’s current Hawk Mk.132 fleet at 36 aircraft: 24 delivered direct from BAE, 6 built from kits, and 6 HAL-built planes.2009
Nov 5/09: All HAL now. BAE announces that it has delivered the 24th and final BAE-assembled Hawk AJT to India. It’s actually a bit of a technicality, because HT001 was the first IAF Hawk to be built, and served for 3 years as a UK flight test platform, instructor training program, and proving ground for integrating new components into the IAF Hawk fleet.
The first IAF Hawk delivery took place in November 2007, and other than this final development aircraft, deliveries of the other 23 to India were completed in 2008. The Hawk fleet is based at Air Force Station Bidar, located lightly NW of Hyderabad in Karnataka state (formerly Mysore), south central India.
Meanwhile, the international follow-on competition continues.
Last all-BAE Hawk
Oct 2/09: An Indian Express report says that India is urgently seeking up to 180 trainer aircraft to replace or augment its trainer fleet at all levels, in the wake of problems with the lower-tier HPT-32 fleet and contract issues with its upper-tier Hawk AJT program.
The report adds that a plan to buy 40 additional Hawk AJTs has hit a roadblock, due to differences over price between BAE and the IAF.
Oct 1/09: Basic trainer problems. Plans to phase out India’s grounded HPT-32 basic trainer fleet will intensify India’s needs for trainer aircraft at all levels. Indian Express quotes Air Chief Marshal P V Naik:
“The IAF lost two experienced instructors in a fatal crash of HPT-32 this year. We have ordered an inquiry and a study on the aircraft, as we have had a lot of problems since their induction in 1984. We hope to use it only till 2013-14″…
Sept 2/09: Training choking. India’s Business Standard:
“The Indian Air Force (IAF) is desperately short of aircraft for training its flight cadets. With the entire fleet of basic trainers – the HPT-32 Deepak – grounded after a series of crashes, advanced training is suffering equally due to unexpected delays in the manufacture of the Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT) in India… According to the contracted schedule, the first 15 Hawks should have already been built in Bangalore. Instead, only five have been completed.”
Now Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) Chairman Ashok Nayak, under sharp attack for the delays, blames BAE Systems for supplying key tools and frames for the wrong version of the Hawk trainers. He adds that that resolution has been slow because the BAE Systems team stationed at the Hawk assembly line has to refer back to the UK for decisions. Meanwhile, items like the aircrafts’ windscreens must be shipped to the UK and back for quality certification, adding more delays. India’s Business Standard adds that:
“Guy Douglas, BAE Systems’ spokesperson in India, strongly refutes HAL’s version. In an emailed response, he states “BAE Systems does not accept that the programme delays being experienced by HAL, on their contract with the government of India, are materially down to BAE Systems. BAE Systems has completed all hardware deliveries to support the licence-build programme. BAE Systems has repeatedly made clear that it stands ready to assist HAL, should they require it. In this respect, a number of proposals have been made by BAE Systems to HAL and we await their response.”
In summary: HAL claims that BAE has made mistakes, and has a corporate structure that is not addressing issues very well. BAE responds that HAL’s own bureaucracy and failure to respond in timely ways is the core problem. One of them could be right, or both could. At present, however, HAL is the only viable game in town for technology transfer and the manufacture of advanced jet aircraft in India. Under those circumstances, they’re likely to build any follow-on AJT order, whether or not the contract goes to BAE Systems.AERO L-159T, L-159A
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March 17/09: Follow-on competition. The Press Trust of India reports that supply delays to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which is supposed to assemble a number of the Hawks in India, have resulted in an international competition for India’s follow-on order of up to 57 Lead-In Fighter Trainers.
The RFP was reportedly sent to the Czech Republic’s Aero Vodochody (L-159), Italy’s Alenia (M-346), BAE (Hawk, but it would be a more advanced variant), Korea’s KAI (T-50s), and Russia (either the YAK-130 variant of the M346 joint project, or the MiG AT). PTI News | Indian Express | Flight International.
Round 2 is a competitionAdditional Readings
- BAE Systems – Hawk
- Vector Site – The BAE Hawk
- Air Force Technology – Hawk Trainer / Light Combat Aircraft, United Kingdom
- Air Force Technology – T-50 Golden Eagle Jet Trainer and Light Attack Aircraft, South Korea
- DID FOCUS – Korea’s T-50 Spreads Its Wings
- Air Force Technology – M-346 Advanced Fighter Trainer, Italy
- Air Force Technology – Yak-130 Combat Trainer, Russia. The M-346 project’s other fork.
- Air Force Technology – MiG-AT – Advanced Flight and Combat Trainer Aircraft, Russia
- Air Force Technology – L159 ALCA Advanced Light Combat Aircraft, Czech Republic
- DID – Czech L-159s: Cheap to Good Home
- Bharat Rakshak – HAL Kiran Mk.I/IA/II. The IAF’s intermediate trainer, delivered between 1985-89; see also photo album.
- Bharat Rakshak – HAL Intermediate Jet Trainer HJT-36. Was intended to replace the HJT-16 Kiran; some sources now say that the BAE Hawks are slated to do that.
- Air Force Technology – HJT-36 Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer, India
- Bharat Rakshak – HAL HPT-32 Deepak. India’s basic trainer fleet.
- BBC (Oct 23/09) – Crucial Indian defence deals delayed. These include the Navy’s submarine and aircraft carrier projects, advanced trainers for the air force, and coastal surveillance plans. “For its part, the government has been slow in responding to criticism – even from its auditing organisation. When it comes to defence issues in India, speed does not seem to be of paramount importance.”