Skip directly to content

Defense Industry Daily

Subscribe to Defense Industry Daily feed
Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 1 hour 2 min ago

Concept contacts awarded for new 360 degree Patriot radar | DA Defense to enter USAF ADAIR competition | SM-6s for Japan’s Aegis Ashore?

15 hours 38 min ago

  • Canadian defense contractor Discovery Air Defense is to enter the United States Air Force’s (USAF) Adversary Air (ADAIR) competition with the General Dynamics F-16. The firm told Jane’s that it had just finalized a deal to procure a “large volume” of the aircraft and that competing firms were offering third-generation solutions masquerading as fourth-generation one. Multiple awards for as much as $6 billion combined are expected for ADAIR, with the Navy also in source selection for its own procurement for adversary air training. Potential competitors for ADAIR joining DA Defense include Saab’s Gripen Aggressor and a Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) bid offering the French-built Dassault F1 fighters.

  • It’s been reported that a number of contracts have been awarded by the Department of Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium (DOTC) to four companies to come up with concept designs for the Army’s long-running Patriot air-and-missile defense radar replacement. Based on their previous involvement with the Patriot program, both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin received contracts to develop new concepts for the radar, while Northrop Grumman also confirmed its involvement in the concept phase of the program. Another firm, Brea, California-based Technovative Applications, has also been reported to have landed another Army contract, which are expected to run for 15 months. After spending years debating what will replace the Patriot’s Raytheon-manufactured radar, the Army announced earlier this year a competition for a brand new 360-degree, lower-tier AMD sensor that can detect different evolving threats coming from any direction, be they ones that ones that fly slower, faster or manoeuvre differently.

Middle East & Africa

  • Egypt’s first Gowind 2500 corvette from French shipbuilder Naval Group (formerly DCNA) and the second Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) Type 209/1400 diesel-electric submarine (SSK) have been delivered to the Navy’s naval facility at Alexandria. Cairo has four Gowind 2500 corvettes on order under a $1.1 billion order from France in 2015 and four TKMS Type 209/1400 SSKs from Germany in 2012. The Gowind procurement is part of a multi-billion-dollar arms package agreed with France, and includes two Mistral landing helicopter docks (LHD)—delivered in 2016—a DCNS FREMM multi-mission frigate and 24 Dassault Rafale fighters. Funding for the deal saw Paris provide a $3.76 billion loan to support 60% of the purchase, with Cairo coughing up 40% in upfront payments from the treasury.

  • Denel Group of South Africa has given updates on its A-Darter high-off-boresight (HOBS) air-to-air missile (AAM) and Marlin radar-guided beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile programs. The firm said the A-Darter recently completed seeker performance qualification flight trials and is expected to complete final qualification tests by the end of the year ahead of entering serial production. Regarding the Marlin, Chief systems engineer Ivan Gibbons said the missile has completed various tests such as rocket motor firings and firing of a largely complete missile from the Denel Overberg Test Range two years ago by utilizing a ground-mounted launcher to test the missile’s manoeuvrability and flight characteristics. Target markets for the missiles include Algeria, Brazil, Kenya, Malaysia, Mozambique, Oman, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).


  • The Greek government has replied to criticism surrounding the recent US State Department approval of an upgrade package for its fleet of F-16s. In a notice posted by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), 123 F-16s will be upgraded to the V-standard at a cost estimated to reach $2.4 billion. However, this figure has been criticised by the opposition New Democracy, who said the government was “offering jobs not in Greece but in the US,” and lamented the sale as “an expensive deal”. In response, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said that the budget ceiling for the program is only $1.3 billion and the “rest relates to subsidy packages and offsets.” While no offsets have so far been agreed to, the DSCA notice noted that Greece usually requests offsets, and that any offset agreement will be defined in negotiations between Greece and the contractor—Lockheed Martin.

  • A $18.2 million US Navy contract modification has been awarded to Orbital ATK to undertake conversion work of high-speed, anti-radiation missiles into advanced medium-range air-to-ground guided missiles with counter-enemy shutdown capability for the Italian government. The previous firm-fixed contract award called for the procurement and transition of AGM-88B High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM), to the latest generation of AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM). Differences between the two munitions is that the AARGM has an advanced guidance section and control abilities that use a multi-mode seeker to counter enemy shut-down capability, as well as an onboard Weapons Impact Assessment subsystem that supports battlefield commanders in conducting after-action battle damage assessments. It can also relay impact assessment data prior to the impact on target. The majority of the contract’s work will take place in California, with some to take place in Istrana, Italy. Contract conclusion is scheduled to March 2019.

Asia Pacific

  • Shaking off the ongoing corruption allegations being investigated at the firm, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has been busy chasing sales at this year’s International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX) in Seoul. The firm is currently looking to start negotiations with Thailand for an additional batch of four T-50TH trainer aircraft, adding to the eight initially procured by and delivered to Bangkok and a contract signed earlier this year for a further four aircraft scheduled to be delivered in 2018. Thailand had intended to acquire all of its planned 16 T-50s in a single go, but budget constraints forced the government to pursue a multi-batch procurement. The aircraft are scheduled to replace the Royal Thai Air Force’s Aero L-39 Albatros jet trainers. Other target nations for the T-50 include Botswana and Argentina, but these deals have been pushed back until at least 2018.

  • The Japanese government is considering the inclusion of SM-6 interceptors—in conjunction with the anti-ballistic missile SM-3 Block IIA interceptor—at its proposed ground-based Aegis Ashore installations, giving the systems the capacity to counter cruise missiles. While a shorter-range will limit the SM-6’s coverage, Tokyo is deeming it a necessary procurement to counter the threat of Chinese bombers like the H-6, which can carry cruise missiles loaded with nuclear warheads that have a range of more than 1,500 kilometers. These aircraft are frequently sighted in the skies around Japan and current anti-air missiles in Japanese stocks are not designed to intercept cruise missiles until they are very close. While Aegis Ashore won’t be online until at least 2023, SM-6s will be deployed on Japan’s Aegis warships from next year.

Today’s Video

  • Naval Group delivers Gowind 2500 to Egyptian Navy:

Categories: News

SM-3 BMD, in from the Sea: EPAA & Aegis Ashore

15 hours 42 min ago

Land-based SM-3 concept
(click to view full)

SM-3 Standard missiles have been the backbone of the US Navy’s ballistic missile defense plans for many years now, and are beginning to see service in the navies of allies like Japan. Their test successes and long range against aerial threats have spawned a land-based version, which end up being even more important to the USA’s allies.

In July 2008 the US Missile Defense Agency began considering a land-based variant of the SM-3, largely due to specific requests from Israel. Israel currently fields the medium range Arrow-2 land-based ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) system, and eventually elected to pursue the Arrow-3 instead of SM-3s. Once the prospect had been raised, however, the US government decided that basing SM-3 missiles on land was a really good idea. The European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense is being built around this concept, and other regions could see similar deployments.

EPAA & The SM-3 Option

Aegis Ashore
(click to view full)

The European Phased Adaptive Approach aims to use a combination of naval and land-based missile defense systems, which hope to share a common architecture and missile set. The core physical component is a “deckhouse” enclosure, containing the command and control center and a BMD-enhanced SPY-1(D) radar that’s similar to those aboard US Navy destroyers and cruisers. The software will be taken from the Aegis combat system on US Navy ships, beginning with version 5.0.1 and upgrading over time. A connected vertical launching system building will contain 24 SM-3 missiles, which will become more advanced as newer variants are fielded.

The USA is building 3 Aegis Ashore sites: one test site in Barking Sands, Hawaii, USA, and sites in Deveselu Air Base, Romania and Redzikowo, Poland. The GAO estimates that building these sites and bringing them to operational status will cost the USA about $2.3 billion. Our own tracking includes R&D into land-based SM-3 options, and tracks obviously related categories in MDA’s shifting budget lines.

The European Phased Adaptive Approach

The European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) currently envisions 4 phases:

EPAA Phase 1, 2011-2015

In 2011, the US Navy expected to have naval SM-3 Block 1A missiles and ships fully in place, on more BMD-capable ships than the 2 Atlantic Fleet destroyers available in 2009, to pair with land-based AN/TPY-2 radars that are also used in the THAAD system. Another 4 destroyers are being forward-deployed to Rota, Spain in FY 2014-2015. Unfortunately, naval SM-3 Block 1 missiles cannot cover the Czech Republic at all, and can offer only limited coverage for Poland.

The Obama administration bowed to Russian pressure and picked the THAAD system’s AN/TPY-2 radar as the system’s ground accompaniment, to limit the distance they could see into Russian airspace. The Russians simply saw weakness, and kept up the pressure, but couldn’t make any more headway. Turkey agreed to host the AN/TPY-2 radar near Diyarbakir in SE Turkey, though they added conditions that the data must not be shared with Israel.

This will be the only EPAA option until 2015, which is beyond the Obama administration’s current term of office. During that interim period, THAAD continues to receive upgrades. At sea, AEGIS BMD system 4.x is being rolled out beyond USS Lake Erie [CG 70], offering some capability improvements on board ship, and laying an open architecture foundation for future upgrades.

In parallel, NATO has fielded an initial version Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD) command and control architecture. They declared an “interim” BMD capability in May 2012, after a successful multinational test.

ALTBMD will also have European components to draw upon, including the national early-warning system under development by France. In August 2012, Poland announced that it was pursuing its own national BMD system, which may mirror many of France’s components. France (11 systems) and Italy (6 systems) can also contribute with their land-based SAMP/T Mamba and its Aster-30 missile, which is designed to address threats in the SRBM (<1,000 km) class.

On the naval front, the Netherlands is upgrading its 4 top-tier air defense frigates with ballistic missile tracking capability, and its ships are compatible with SM-3 missiles if they decide to purchase some. Elsewhere, Aster-30s are already found on advanced air defense destroyers: the Franco-Italian Horizon Class, and Britain’s Type 45 Daring Class. The naval system hasn’t been tested against ballistic missiles yet, but the systems could all be upgraded to do so.

EPAA Phase 2, 2015-2018

In Parallel:
SAMP/T launch
(click to view full)

If progress continues per plan, 2015 would see advances on 2 fronts.

One front involves improved SM-3 Block 1B missiles, which will expand the range of coverage for American ships. Serious orders for the Block 1B missile began in 2011, but technical issues have delayed full production. That delay means that US Navy ships based in Europe will be competing with other priorities in Asia and around the USA, as they seek to host the new missiles. A slower phase-in that extends to 2018 now looks most likely.

The other element was to be a land-based “Aegis Ashore” site at Deveselu Air Base, Romania, hosting SM-3 missiles instead of Boeing’s longer-range, fixed-location GMD system. Aegis Ashore designs appear to have shifted from an easily-deployable configuration, toward high-investment fixed sites that are similar to the GMD program they replaced. The Romanian deployment would use SM-3 Block 1B missiles from an emplaced Mk.41 VLS launcher, and be controlled by a SPY-1D radar and AEGIS BMD 5.0.1 combat system. An interim setup was formally commissioned in October 2014.

If successfully deployed, this is a defense against short and medium range missiles (SRBMs & MRBMs), with some capability against intermediate range missiles in the 1,850-3,500 mile class (IRBMs). On the other hand, the location of these defenses still leaves central Europe mostly unprotected.

During Phase 2, NATO’s Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD) command and control network will be operational at an initial level. France, Italy, and possibly Poland will have armed land-based BMD systems of their own deployed, and it’s likely that ALTBMD compatible BMD-capable ships will be fielded. The Netherlands is already preparing its vessels for missile tracking and SM-3 hosting, and the Aster-30/ PAAMS combination is fielded on British, French, and Italian ships.

EPAA Phase 3, 2018-

SM-3: EPAA phases
(click to view full)

Around 2018, America expects to deploy the longer-range, 21″ diameter SM-3 Block II missile, on ships and (if deployments have been accepted) on shore. The US MDA would add Redzikowo, Poland to its list of land-based sites, defending Northern Europe with SM-3 Block 1B & Block IIA missiles, controlled by an AEGIS BMD 5.1 combat system.

This system would be intended to kill SRBM, MRBM, and IRBM threats, with some capabilities against full intercontinental range missiles (ICBMs). Gen. Cartwright has stated that just 3 SM-3 Block II locations would be able to cover all of Europe, but that missile is an earlier-stage R&D effort, with all the expected implications for dates and certainty of capabilities.

EPAA Phase 4, 2020+

Effectively cancelled.

The USA was going deploy a new Next-Generation Aegis Missile (SM-3 Block IIB) design, to improve performance and begin to field a credible anti-ICBM capability. Technical issues became a serious problem, once experts concluded that the initial sites picked for EPAA aren’t all that helpful for defending the USA. A liquid-fuel booster could be used to boost interceptor speeds, but that isn’t safe to use on ships. Even though the best place to defend the USA against an ICBM launched from Iran is from the middle of the North Sea. Now throw in a planned development schedule defined by a wild-guess political promise, rather than solid information. The whole thing was a mess, and in March 2013, it was “restructured” into into an R&D program by the Pentagon.

Aegis Ashore

(click to view full)

Making these things happen requires a number of additional steps. AN/TPY-2 radars will provide initial services during Phase 1, and will continue to play a supplemental role thereafter in both EPAA and NATO’s ALTBMD.

Beyond Phase 1, the USA has shifted to a larger and more permanent basing structure, which removes some of the benefits of switching away from GMD. The US Missile Defense Agency is building an “Aegis Ashore” test complex near Moorestown, NJ, and another at its missile defense testing center at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. The Hawaiian complex is hosting a land-based Mark 41 launcher, a 4-story building with a SPY-1 radar, and three 125-foot tall test towers.

Poland is being considered for Aegis Ashore deployment in 2018, but the country is beginning to diversify its options. The September 2011 agreement with the USA is still in force, but Poland is determined to have its own missile defense infrastructure, and may choose to place their bets on a parallel NATO/ European system. Their other option would likely involve American PATRIOT and/or THAAD systems.

Beyond Europe

Aegis Ashore may spread beyond Europe. In the Pacific, Japan is already deploying SM-3s at sea, and may find land-based counterparts useful. Its neighbor South Korea shares Japan’s worries about North Korea’s evil and semi-stable regime; the ROK intends to load shorter range SM-6 missiles on its AEGIS destroyers, is buying and deploying Patriot PAC-2 GEM+ missiles, and has contracted with Israel for “Green Pine” air and missile defense radars. Its cruiser-size KDX-III AEGIS destroyers could be modified for a ballistic missile defense role, but land-based SM-3s linked to air and naval systems offer an option that doesn’t require naval upgrades.

The other country that has been linked to land-based SM-3s had a more complicated set of choices, and possible rationales. See Appendix A’s coverage of Israeli deliberations, which ended with a decision to deploy their own Arrow technology instead.

The Missiles

SM-3 seeker: target!
(click to view full)

With a maximum range of about 300 miles/ 500 km, the Standard Missile 3 Block I (SM-3) has just 1/5th to 1/6th the reported reach of GMD’s Ground Based Interceptors, but a longer reach than current mobile land options like THAAD. SM-3 has 4 stages. The booster motor and initial stage launch the missile, and take it out of the atmosphere. Once it goes “exo-atmospheric,” the 3rd stage is used to boost the missile higher, and also corrects its course by referencing GPS/ INS locations. The final stage is the LEAP kill vehicle, which uses infrared sensors to pick out the target, then guides itself in to ram it. That target is expected to be an enemy ballistic missile, but America’s shoot-down of its own ailing satellite in 2008 showed that the same technology can be used against any low earth orbit object.

The introduction of Raytheon’s SM-3 Block II variant will widen the missile’s diameter from 13.5″ to 21″, greatly extending its range and speed. That means better performance against longer range missiles that move faster, and offer different trajectories. Block II weapons will add the ability to handle longer-range, higher-flying IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles, usually 3,000-5,000 km range), and even offer some hope against global-strike threats like ICBM (Inter Continental Ballistic Missile) warheads. SM-3 Block IIA is currently expected to debut around 2015, but testing and other requirements mean it won’t be part of EPAA until 2018 or later.

Contracts & Key Events

Europe scenario

Because of the intertwined nature of the EPAA system, many contracts will be covered elsewhere. The AN/TPY-2 radar has its own article, as does the THAAD theater air defense system the TPY-2s were originally developed for. Standard Missile family contracts also have their own FOCUS article, as does the ubiquitous Mk.41 vertical launching system that will be part of the Aegis Ashore complex.

Unless a contract of these types specifically notes dedicated assets for EPAA/Aegis Ashore, or is directly germane to key program technologies, they will not be covered here.

FYs 2015 – 2017

NSF Devesulu opens.

October 20/17: The Japanese government is considering the inclusion of SM-6 interceptors—in conjunction with the anti-ballistic missile SM-3 Block IIA interceptor—at its proposed ground-based Aegis Ashore installations, giving the systems the capacity to counter cruise missiles. While a shorter-range will limit the SM-6’s coverage, Tokyo is deeming it a necessary procurement to counter the threat of Chinese bombers like the H-6, which can carry cruise missiles loaded with nuclear warheads that have a range of more than 1,500 kilometers. These aircraft are frequently sighted in the skies around Japan and current anti-air missiles in Japanese stocks are not designed to intercept cruise missiles until they are very close. While Aegis Ashore won’t be online until at least 2023, SM-6s will be deployed on Japan’s Aegis warships from next year.

May 15/17: The Japanese government has completed its study into the possible procurement of the land-based Aegis Ashore system, concluding that developing a new missile defense layer with the system is more cost-effective than purchasing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. At present, Tokyo operates a two-tier missile defense system with the first being SM-3 interceptors onboard Aegis-equipped destroyers, while the surviving missiles will then face a Patriot battery firing Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air guided missiles. Discussions on the procurement are expected to last into the summer and will likely take several years to implement. It is expected that two fixed Aegis Ashore sites equipped with the SM-3 Block 2A missile would be sufficient to cover the country, at a cost of $705 million.

May 16/16: The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System (AAMDS) in Romania was declared as operationally certified. A ceremony on May 12 marked the occasion with the facility covering an area that protects allied countries in Southern and Central Europe, significantly reducing the risk of potential attacks with ballistic missiles from outside the Euro-Atlantic space. Construction of a second Aegis Ashore site in Poland has recently commenced as part of the final phase of NATO’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).

February 12/16: The US Army has awarded AMEC a $182.7 million contract with option to support the Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Poland. The contract comes as part of Phase III of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) program, which aims to boost land based missile defense systems for NATO allies against ballistic missile threats. The Polish installations will be placed to protect nations in northern Europe and follows the installation of an interceptor site in Romania during Phase II. The deployment of the Aegis systems will act as part of NATO’s forward deterrence policy in Europe in ally nations that border Russia.

December 22/15: Raytheon has been awarded a $2.35 billion contract to deliver 52 SM-3 Block IB missiles. The contract finalizes a preliminary one for 44 missiles valued at $541 million. The addition of 8 further missiles comes as the US military is increasing its stocks of SM-3s in the wake of increased missile threats, and orders by foreign allies of its weapons systems.

December 10/15: Raytheon has been awarded a not-to-exceed $543,337,650 undefinitized contract action modification to a previously awarded contract to manufacture, assemble, test, and deliver 17 Standard Missile-3 Block IIA missiles. The deal, initially set at $87 million, has now been extended to $543.3 million. The news comes after the US Navy and Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced the second successful flight test on Tuesday. The SM-3 is the only ballistic missile killer to have the capability to be launched from both land and sea, and is being jointly funded and developed by US Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces. Future development of the program will see the interceptor be tested for the European missile defense system and hopeful deployment in Poland by 2018.

Oct 10/14: Romania. NATO formally inaugurates Naval Support Facility Devesulu, the new Aegis Ashore facility in Romania. Capt. William Garren becomes the site’s 1st commander, and construction continues on site. It’s scheduled to become fully operational in 2015. Stars and Stripes, “Navy to commission missile defense base in Romania” | Romnaia TV, “Vin americanii! SUA preia vineri baza de la Deveselu” [picture is wrong] | Iran’s PressTV, “US will commission missile base in Europe amid tensions with Russia” | Russia Today, “US commissions ‘crucial’ NATO missile shield facility in Romania”.

NSF Devesulu, RO opens

FY 2014

GAO & CRS reports cite software issues, spectrum frequency conflict in Poland, question operating cost estimates and cost-sharing; Initial Turkish deployment was very ragged; 1st launch from AA facility; DDGs deploying; SM-3 Block IIA passes CDR.

NATO BMD concept
click for video

June 2/14: DDG Deployment. USS Ross [DDG-71, uses BMD 3.6.1] steams out of Norfolk to its new base in Rota, Spain, where it will join USS Donald Cook [DDG-71, uses BMD 4.0.2] as part of EPAA efforts. Sources: WVEC Norfolk, “Photos: 2nd Navy destroyer leaves Norfolk for Spain”.

May 22/14: SAMP/T. France and Italy carry out a test of their own at the French DGA’s Biscarosse test range, with SAMP/T Mamba systems from each country firing an Aster-30 missile and destroying a target drone. The larger story is the successful interconnection of their systems, within a broader test campaign that also involved French air force Crotale SHORADS batteries, French Army man-portable Mistral VSHORADS, and a French E-3F AWACS plane, all connected to the French 3D Defense Management Center (CMD3D) and control centers at Lyon and at Mont de Marsan.

France is building a national air defense and anti-missile system, which needs to inter-operate with NATO. Italy is another natural partner for missile defense, as they’re also using Aster-30 missiles on land in SAMP/T Mamba systems, and using them at sea in Franco-Italian Horizon Project frigates. Sources: French DGA, “Vidéo : reussite d’un double tir SAMP/T franco-italien” | defense-aerospace, “Surface-to-Air Campaign at Biscarosse: “Barrois” Squadron from Saint Dizier Fires First Mamba, Demos Interoperability”.

May 20/14: AA CTV-01. The 1st SM-3 launch from an Aegis Ashore facility takes place at the Pacific Missile Range Facility test site in Kauai, Hawaii. It’s a live SM-3 Block IB launch, but not a live intercept, since they’re only using a simulated target. The main goal is ensuring that all systems work when they’re transferred to land. Sources: US MDA, “Standard Missile Completes First Test Launch from Aegis Ashore Test Site” | Lockheed Martin, “Aegis Ashore Achieves Major Test Milestone for Worldwide Ballistic Missile Defense System” | Raytheon, “Aegis Ashore Launches Standard Missile-3 for First Time”.

1st Aegis Ashore launch

April 11/14: GAO Report. The Pentagon has been reluctant to develop a life-cycle cost estimate for BMD in Europe, on the dubious grounds that it isn’t a separate program. that’s why GAO-14-314 concerns itself with EPAA’s costs and implementation issues.

PATRIOT and AN/TPY-2 deployments have already shown weaknesses. The Turkish PATRIOT batteries faced roadblocks involving deployment when they arrived in December 2011. Other issues included training to different NATO engagement procedures, information-sharing uncertainties, soldiers deployed to cold mountaintops in tents that couldn’t handle the conditions, and poor local roads that could be dangerous. Build-out of longer-term infrastructure won’t even begin until mid-2014. The TPY-2 radar deployments to Turkey (2011) and CENTCOM (2013), meanwhile, still can’t share information and work together, because that hasn’t been worked out.

For Aegis Ashore, previous reports (q.v. April 26/13) have mentioned the AN/SPY-1D radar’s conflicts with local civil frequency usage. That’s largely worked out now in Romania, but not in Poland. Indeed, the Poles are about to issue commercial licenses for key radar frequencies, which would complicate things even more. It doesn’t get easier to handle all of this when US Strategic Command, European Command, MDA, and the Navy all claim roles in each deployment.

On the cost side, the US Navy will take over maintenance and operation of both European Aegis Ashore sites in 2018, but they haven’t developed a joint 25-year O&M estimate. There are also gaps concerning other BMD elements. The Army is estimating $61 million to support the Turkish TPY-2 radar, and $1.2 billion over 20 years. This assumes contractor support throughout, but different arrangements might be better and cheaper. A full analysis is expected in FY 2015. THAAD batteries have an estimated O&M cost of $6.5 billion over 20 years, but that $325 million per year involves basing in the USA. Costs for basing in Europe are expected to be higher. How much higher? We don’t know, because the US MDA and US Army can’t agree on how to do the analysis.

April 9/14: Speed up? Vice Adm. James Syring of the US Missile Defense Agency responds to speculation by saying that they could speed up the deployment of Poland’s Aegis Ashore installation in response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea, but:

“We’d need some additional funds in the budget, and we’d need to move up the development of the [SM-3 Block] IIA,”

The first part of the statement is true. Given the likely cost of the SM-3 Block 1B missiles, and known costs for the facility, it will take somewhere between $400 – 500 million to fully pay for an operational site. The second part of Syring’s statement, however, is wishful thinking. Unless development is being slow-walked and funds are the primary bottleneck, extra funds have a very limited effect in moving up a project’s development. The SM-3 Block IIA isn’t the type of project that will get much benefit. Sources: Defense News, “US May Accelerate Deployment of Missile Defense System in Poland”.

April 8/14: CRS Report. The Congressional Research Service updates their backgrounder covering the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, which includes the EPAA. They confirm DID’s charts regarding these areas, though CRS doesn’t divide general naval BMD from the land-based European implementation.

They do have some pointed questions for Europe, however, proposing a calculation of relative American vs. European total contributions to European missile defense, and asking “Why should European countries not pay a greater share of the cost of the EPAA, since the primary purpose of the EPAA is to defend Europe against theater-range missiles?” That’s a different attitude.

Meanwhile, the FY 2015 budget cuts 132 SM-3 missiles from the FY 2014 budget’s 2015-2018 buys, and it will also change the composition and makeup of the naval BMD fleet via slower upgrades, and the mothballing of 4 BMD cruisers. Congress will want to know what effect that will have on overall capabilities, but asking the military will be pointless.

April 1/14: GAO Report. GAO-14-351 focuses on acquisition goals and reporting for missile defense in general. Most of the key findings for EPAA have already been covered recently, but the program is concerned about flight test delays and cancelations affecting Aegis Ashore, while adding that a 17 month delay in the modernized Aegis system is at a problematic point:

“Discovery of software defects continues to outpace the program’s ability to fix them; fixes may have to be implemented after software is delivered.”

March 25/14: AA Poland. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, Moorestown, NJ receives a $93 million contract, exercising options for the core radar and equipment in Poland’s Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System (AAMDS), and providing multi-year procurement funding for Aegis Weapon System (AWS) MK 7 equipment sets.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 budgets and FY 2013 shipbuilding budgets. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (85.5%), Clearwater, FL (13.1%), and Akron, OH (1.4%), and is expected to be complete by September 2021. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-14-C-5114).

March 21/14: AA Poland. Raytheon IDS in Sudbury, MA receives a $45 million modification for 1 AN/SPY-1D(V) Transmitter Group and select Missile Fire Control System MK 99 equipment, which will become part of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System in Poland.

Work will be performed in Andover, MA (78.3%); Sudbury, MA (19.3%); Canada (1%); Moorestown, NJ (0.9%); and Norfolk, VA (0.5%), and is expected to be completed by March 2016. All funds are committed immediately, using FY14 funds. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-13-C-5115).

March 14/14: GAO report. The GAO releases GAO-14-248R, regarding the USA’s EPAA plans for defending Europe from ballistic missiles. The bottom line? There are a lot of moving parts, they’re being developed in parallel, and some of them aren’t moving as fast as others. Which means the system as a whole is going to be a bit behind. The MDA isn’t interested in acknowledging that, but the GAO makes a strong case by citing all the promised capabilities that are being removed from the beginning of each phase.

Phase 1, 2011. A TPY-2 radar is deployed in Turkey, but C2BMC systems still haven’t tested scenarios where they’re managing more than 1 TPY-2 radar, and GAO says that “Key capabilities for Phase 1 will not be fully available until 2015.”

Phase 2, 2015. The biggest issue is C2BMC S8.2 software, which has been delayed until 2017. It was supposed to improve the integration of incoming missile tracks for Phase 2, and provide a Lock-On After Launch firing capability for AEGIS BMD systems. Without it, radars like the TPY-2 will perform below their planned potential, and so will the missiles. Especially since the Romanian site’s Aegis Ashore system will only be an interim version, which will also wait until 2017 before it has all of the initially promised capabilities. On the mobile front, THAAD’s ability to distinguish incoming warheads in debris fields won’t reach desired capability until 2017, either.

Phase 3, 2018. The 2-year delay of full Phase 2 Aegis Ashore capability leads one to wonder if AEGIS BMD 5.1 will really be ready for 2018 deployment. The same might be said of the SM-3 Block 2A missile, even though MDA says it’s on track. Meanwhile, C2BMC is the biggest issue again. S8.4 is meant to let AEGIS BMD systems intercept incoming missiles without using their own radars, thanks to faster integrated tracks, more precise tracking, and resilience in more “complex” conditions. It won’t arrive until 2020 or later, forcing the MDA to deploy an S8.2.x build instead. That lateness will affect THAAD as well as Aegis Ashore, and THAAD’s own upgrades will happen in a timeframe that means any issues found in testing will delay them until after Phase 3 has begun.

Dec 27/13: Aegis multiyear. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a multi-year $574.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for Aegis MK 7 equipment sets. All confirmed orders will be used in destroyer production and refits (DDG 117 – 123), but there’s 1 option that can be used for Poland’s Aegis Ashore complex, along with associated engineering services. Lockheed Martin confirms that the core of all sets will be Aegis Baseline 9, which includes missile defense features.

$308.4 million in FY 2013 shipbuilding funds is committed immediately, to enable advance buys in bulk. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (85.5%); Clearwater, FL (13.1%); and Akron, OH (1.4%), and is expected to be complete by September 2021. As one would expect, this is a sole source contract under 10 U.SC 2304(c)(1). US NAVSEA in Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-14-C-5114). See also Lockheed Martin, Jan 7/14 release.

Oct 31/13: SM-3-IIA. Raytheon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have completed the SM-3 Block IIA’s Critical Design Review (CDR), and the USA and Japan have agreed on workshare arrangements that allocate development responsibility between each country. SM-3-IIA is the key new piece in EPAA Phase 3, and the successful CDR keeps it on track for flight test in 2015.

Raytheon made the announcement at the 2013 AIAA Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference in Warsaw, Poland. Sources: Raytheon, “New, Larger Standard Missile-3 Moves From Design to Testing” | Raytheon, Oct 31/13 release.

Oct 28/13: AA Romania. American, Romanian and NATO officials break ground on the Aegis Ashore facility at Devsulu AB, based on the September 2011 accord between the United States and Romania.

Romania’s SC Glacial PROD SRL has already done $3.3 million in site-activation work, including temporary offices, container housing units, a warehouse, and a vehicle inspection area. US Navy, “US, Romania begin work on Aegis Ashore missile defense complex”.

FY 2013

SM-3 Block IIB canceled; European multi-system test; GAO Report; MBDA’s Aster-30 SAMP/T and USA’s GBI advance in parallel.

2013 BMD conference
click for video

July 18/13: AA Romania. KBR announces a $134 million Aegis Ashore build-out contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Europe District. The 269-acre site on Romania’s Deveselu Air Base will include a 4-story radar deckhouse structure relocated from New Jersey, security fencing, plus facilities and infrastructure including roads, support buildings, communications, security and utilities.

April 26/13: GAO Report. The GAO looks at the Missile Defense Agency’s full array of programs in report #GAO-13-342, “Missile Defense: Opportunity To Refocus On Strengthening Acquisition Management.” With respect to EPAA/ Aegis Ashore, the report reiterates concerns from the GAO’s March 30/12 and April 20/12 reports (q.v.): unstable cost baselines, concurrent testing & development, and questions about the ability to use the SPY-1’s radar frequencies without creating spectrum interference problems for the host nations.

The program office sees its greatest risks as (1) integration testing in Hawaii and New Jersey, (2) potential shipping or transportation delays, and (3) construction delays for the operational and test facilities. The disconnect stems from a fundamental disagreement about the project’s level of risk. With the program citing similarity to sea-based Aegis BMD as a reason for low risk. If the GAO’s concerns re: spectrum issues come true, however, the similarity will drop quickly. An analysis for Romania is due in 2013, but Poland will present its own independent situation. Meanwhile, knowledge gained from flight tests that begin in 2014 can’t be used to guide construction. Under a new plan, even Poland’s 2018 site will be ordering advance construction components in January 2014.

The GAO estimates the cost to develop and build the Polish facility at $746 million, from R&D to operational status. As such, the MDA reported costs of all 3 Aegis Ashore facilities is $2.3 billion. The GAO wonders about the US MDA’s portfolio balance, given R&D needs for multiple missiles, plus full build out of Aegis Ashore and full production of the SM-3 Block IB, plus operation, support, and testing for the iffy GMD system. The GAO recommends Analysis of Alternatives studies as one way to help manage that portfolio.

April 18/13: Poland. US State Department official Frank Rose (Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance) speaks to the Polish National Defense University in Warsaw about Aegis Ashore. Poland is looking to build a national missile defense architecture, so Rose stresses the important of interoperability with NATO’s Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) command-and-control system (q.v. May 21/12). He adds that:

“The Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement between the U.S. and Poland entered into force in September of 2011. This agreement places a land-based interceptor site, similar to Phase 2, in Redzikowo, and includes the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor. This EPAA Phase 3 site is on schedule and on budget for deployment in the 2018 timeframe. The interceptor site here in Poland will be key to the EPAA. Not only will it protect Poland itself, but when combined with the rest of the EPAA assets, Phase 3 will be able to protect all of NATO Europe against ballistic missile threats from the Middle East.”

March 15/13: Following North Korea’s 3rd nuclear test attempt, the new US Secretary of Defense announces that the USA will add 14 more ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, AK and Vandenberg AFB, CA, boosting the total number from 30 back to the 44 planned by the previous administration. At the same time, they’re re conducting Environmental Impact Studies for a potential additional GBI site in the United States.

They’re paying for this by “restructuring” the SM-3 Block 2B Next Generation Aegis Missile program, whose 2020 deployment date was never realistic (vid. April 20/12 GAO report). It’s effectively canceled.

Japan will continue to collaborate with the USA on the SM-3 Block 2A program, and they’ll get a 2nd AN/TPY-2 radar on their territory. Pentagon AFPS | Full Speech Transcript | Boeing | CS Monitor re: Russian angle.

No EPAA Phase 4

March 6/13: SAMP/T. MBDA’s SAMP/T system is operated by a joint French & Italian crew, and successfully intercepts a 300 km (short range) tactical ballistic missile target. Eurosam describes it as:

“…the first SAMP/T firing test in a NATO environment, close to what would be an operational use… [within] the alliance ALTBMD programme…. DGA sensors did provide the firing units and the command levels long-range detection data on A L16 radio network. DGA MI, in Bruz, acted as a L16 [Link-16] national C2, interfacing in L16 both with NATO BMDOC [in Ramstein, Germany], via L16 JREAP and with SAMP/T.”

The SAMP/T system is now widely deployed in France & Italy, with 15 land-based units equipped, alongside naval use of its Aster-30 missile from the countries’ Horizon Class frigates. We won’t be covering it here beyond this initial milestone, but it will be part of NATO’s missile defenses going forward. France’s DGA [in French] | Eurosam.

Feb 11/13: GAO Report. GAO-13-382R: “Standard Missile-3 Block IIB Analysis of Alternatives” throws cold water on the idea that the SM-3 Block 2B can defend the USA from bases in Poland or Romania. The geometry isn’t very good, and success may require a boost-phase intercept. Those are very tricky, and have limited range, because you have to hit the enemy missile within a very short time/ distance.

Some members of the military think it’s possible, at an initial estimated budget of $130 million extra. The problem is the tradeoffs. Liquid propellants can boost speed, but are unsafe on Navy ships due to the fire risks. On the other hand, the middle of the North Sea offers much better missile intercept geometries. Maybe Block 2B shouldn’t be land-based at all, but then why replace Block 2A in such an expensive way? MDA still needs to set the future missile’s performance requirements and limits. Where should the tradeoffs be made?

This brings us to the GAO’s point about the MDA developing the SM-3 Block IIB under a framework that dispenses with a good chunk of the usual paperwork, including an Analysis of Alternatives. On reflection, this is more than a bureaucratic point driven by “records show that programs doing the paperwork usually fare better.” One of the EPAA’s key underlying assumptions is now in question, and the proposed solution must now be in question as well. Is the best solution for land-based European missile defense still SM-3 Block IIB? What are the tradeoffs vs. using a system like the NRC’s recommended GMD-I from the USA (vid. September 2012 entry), and making Block 2B a ship-deployed missile? Does Block 2B even make sense now? Without good answers regarding capability, options, and maintainability, how does the MDA decide – or pick the right winning combination among the Block 2B competitors? A full AoA could improve those answers, and hence the odds of a smart pick.

Dec 21/12: Radar components. Raytheon IDS in Sudbury, MA receives $19.7 million for firm-fixed-price delivery order for radar components: Stabile Master Oscillator ordnance alteration kits, Radio Frequency Coherent Combiner ordnance alteration kits and associated spares, and material and installation services in support of the modernization effort on Navy ships and Aegis ashore units. This contract includes options which could bring the contract’s cumulative value to $22.9 million.

Work will be conducted in Norfolk, VA (63%); Andover, MA (27%); and Burlington, MA (10%), and is expected to be complete by June 2015. $19.7 million will be obligated at time of award. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-11-G-5116, #0020).

Dec 21/12: AA Romania. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $57.3 million contract modification for an Aegis Weapon System in support of DDG 116 and the purchase of material assemblies to support Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System Host Nation #1, Romania.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (85%), Clearwater, FL (14%), and Akron, OH (1%), and is expected to be complete by January 2017. All contract funds in the amount of $57,336,086 are committed immediately. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-5110).

Dec 20/12: Trainer SDD. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors (MS2), Moorestown, NJ receives a $20.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price contract for the Aegis Ashore Team Trainer. This trainer will be designed to meet the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System (AAMDS) individual watch station and watch team training, qualification and certification requirements. This contract will also fund information assurance requirements for the trainer, an information assurance training course, an instructor operator training course, and travel associated with the trainer’s development.

$4.7 million are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ and is expected to be complete in October 2014. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL (N61340-13-C-0007).

Dec 10/12: AA Romania. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors (MS2) in Moorestown, NJ receives a $45.9 million a contract modification for Aegis Ashore Engineering Agent engineering support and skid integration for “host nation” (which would be Romania) though “this is not a Foreign Military Sales [FMS] acquisition.” If the US military is buying it, it isn’t an FMS, even if they’re preparing to base it at a foreign location. This award raises the total contract’s value to date from $209.9 million to $255.8 million.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ through Dec 31/15, and $7.8 million FY 2013 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds will get things going. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages this contract (HQ0276-10-C-0003, PO 0044).

Nov 5/12: Networking. Boeing in Huntington Beach, CA receives a $16.7 million firm-fixed-price and time-and-material contract for gigabit ethernet data multiplex systems. They’ll be used in the DDG modernization program, new ship construction, and Aegis Ashore Systems. This contract includes options which could bring its cumulative value to $30 million.

Work will be performed in Camarillo, CA (57%), Smithfield, PA (33%), and Huntington Beach, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete by May 2015. $475,975 will expire by the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was procured on a limited competition basis via the and Navy Electronic Commerce Online websites, with 2 proposals solicited and 2 offers received. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Dahlgren, VA manages this contract (N00178-13-C-2000).

Oct 2/12: C2 Integration. ALTBMD. NATO’s NCI announces that “Ensemble Test 2” has been successful, using NATO’s Combined Federated Battle Lab Network (CFBLNet) as a test bench. Participants included 12 laboratories from 5 Nations across 2 continents, and the systems included:

  • An Italian AN/TPS-77 transportable long range radar, built by Lockheed Martin
  • French and Italian land-based SAMP/T systems, using MBDA’s Aster-30 missile
  • Italy’s Horizon Class high-end air defense frigate, which uses the PAAMS combat system and Aster-30 missile
  • US, Dutch and German PATRIOT missile defence systems
  • A Dutch ADCF (De Zeven Provincien Class) high-end air defense frigate
  • A German SAM Operations Centre from Germany,
  • An American Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence System
  • The USA’s C2BMC (Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications) system
  • The AN/TPY-2 radar that accompanies THAASD, and is part of EPAA
  • The USA’s huge Shared Early Warning System (SEW) radars
  • NATO’s Air Command and Control System (ACCS), the Air Command and Control Information Services (AirC2IS), CRC System Interface (CSI), and Interim Command and Control (ICC) system.

Firing missiles is the easy part. Having different command and control systems work together, which is required for any sort of coordinated defense, is difficult. Ensemble Test 3 is scheduled for May-June 2013. NATO NCIA.

FY 2012

NATO declares interim defensive capability; EPAA won’t really defend USA; SM-3 Block IIs may not meet EPAA schedule; Costs keep rising; Poland independent, but not out.

click for video

Sept 25/12: AA Romania. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA a $43.6 million contract modification “for the production and integration of an Aegis Weapon System (AWS) and Missile Fire Control System in support of DDG 116, and an AWS in support of Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System Host Nation #1” (HN-1, i.e. Romania). Raytheon makes the AN/SPY-1 radar transmitters and MK99 FCS illuminators.

Work will be performed in Andover, MA (80%), Sudbury, MA (15%), and Portsmouth, RI (5%), and is expected to be complete by September 2017. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-5111).

Sept 14/12: AA Romania. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives an $18.5 million contract modification for the production and integration of an Aegis weapon system in support of DDG 116, and the purchase of material assemblies to support Aegis ashore missile defense system Host Nation 1 (Romania).

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (85%); Clearwater, FL (14%); and Akron, OH (1%); and is expected to complete by January 2017. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-5110).

September 2012: NRC report. The US National Research Council publishes “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives.” The report staff have deeply impressive backgrounds related to missile defense, and their main conclusion is that very fundamental reasons of geography and physics make boost-phase defense systems a waste of time.

This includes AEGIS BMD systems. The report explains very clearly that the window for stopping a warhead before it has enough energy to hit “defended” areas makes it difficult to impossible to position a ship in a place that allows even future SM-3 Block II missiles to hit their target.

It also states that EPAA Phase IV is not likely to be an effective way to defend the United States, and recommends that the USA make changes to its own GMD system and radar set. They’re not advocating the dismantling of EPAA, just saying that the USA should have a system in which EPAA is about Europe’s defense, and the USA has a system that doesn’t depend on it.

Aug 30/12: AA Kauai. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ gets an $8.3 million contract ceiling increase, to provide Aegis Ashore Engineering Agent (AAEA) long-lead-time materials for the complex being built at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Hawaii. This brings the total contract value from $200.1 to $209.3 million.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ through April 30/13, and $5 million in FY 2012 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds will be used as initial funding. The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0003, PO 0038).

Aug 10/12: CRS Report. The US Congressional Research Service issues its latest update of “Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” [PDF]. Key issues highlighted or examined by Mr. O’Rourke include the cost of forward-deploying 4 destroyers to Spain, the FY 2013 budget’s proposal to slow the 2013-2020 ramp-up rate for BMD ships, the potential for European contributions to naval BMD, the inability to simulate China’s DF-21 ship-killing ballistic missile, SM-3 Block IIB risks, and concurrency and technical risk in the AEGIS BMD program generally.

With respect to the Spanish deployment (vid. Feb 16/12 entry), Rota can accommodate all of the new personnel, but infrastructure upgrades will be required. In total, the Navy estimated that it would incur approximately $166 million in up-front military construction, personnel, and maintenance costs; a small annual increase in operations and maintenance; and personnel costs of approximately $179 million – though really, you have to pay them wherever they are.

Aug 6/12: Poland fixing its “mistake”. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski states that Poland is prepared to create its own anti-aircraft and missile defense system as part of a NATO shield, at a cost of $3-6 billion. With respect to the USA’s defensive plan, which Poland hasn’t rejected yet:

“Our mistake was that by accepting the American offer of a shield we failed to take into account the political risk associated with a change of president. We paid a high political price. We do not want to make the same mistake again.”

The missile and air defense system proposed by the Polish president would target all short and some medium range missiles, just like the initial 2 stages of the EPAA. The system would be part of NATO’s broader air defense systems, as well as the emerging NATO ALTBMD Missile Defense shield. Germany and France are specifically mentioned as potential partners, and MBDA’s naval PAAMS system and Aster-30 missiles have already been converted to a land equivalent of their own. Their SAMP/T is the logical competitor if Poland wants to buy a non-American system. Its weakness is that it wouldn’t be able to grow into a counter against IRBM or ICBM missiles, but that could make it a very good complement to an American system that did. Relations with Israel are close, but David’s Sling is a joint development with Raytheon, and past American behavior has been to use its weapon export rules against potential competitors. Read “Alone, If Necessary: The Shield of Poland” for full coverage of Poland’s WISLA and NAREW air defense competitions.

June 27/12: FTM-18 test. USS Lake Erie [CG-70] with its AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 system successfully launches an SM-3 block IB missile to hit a separating ballistic missile target. This is the same configuration that will be used for the land-based Phase 2 of the USA’s European missile defense plan, and represents an important success for the SM-3 block IB after the FTM-16 failure. This firing makes the AEGIS & SM-3 combination 23/28 in intercept tests so far (82.1%), vs. 31/40 (77.5%) for all other missile defense system intercept tests. US MDA | Lockheed Martin | Raytheon.

June 7/12: AA Romania. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors (MS2) in Moorestown, NJ gets a contract ceiling increase of $9.8 million, increasing the total contract value to $197.4 million from $187.6 million. Under this modification, they’ll provide Aegis Ashore Engineering Agent Phase 2B support for the Host Nation 1 (Romania) skids and skids accessories.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, and Akron, OH through Oct 31/13. $6.9 million in FY 2012 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds will be used as incremental funding. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages this contract (HQ0276-10-C-0003, PO 0032).

June 4/12: Aegis Ashore. URS Group, Inc. in San Antonio, TX wins a $129.5 million firm-fixed-price task order to build the Aegis Ashore test complexes in Moorestown, NJ and the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, HI.

In Moorestown, they’ll build a radar deckhouse and support building, and do related work to test the government-furnished, government-installed MK41 missile launchers. The Pacific Missile Range facility involves full site construction of a radar deckhouse, support building, launch pad, electrical power, potable water, sewer connection, synthetic natural gas system, and communications systems, in addition to testing their success in integrating government-furnished, government-installed MK41 missile launchers. The task order also contains 1 unexercised option, which, if exercised, would increase cumulative task order value to $130 million.

Work will be performed in Kauai, HI (72%), and Moorestown, NJ (28%), and is expected to be complete by November 2013. Three proposals were received for this task order by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (N62742-09-D-1174, HC02). See also Aug 24/10 entry.

May 21/12: NATO ALTBMD. NATO leaders declared that the Alliance now has an interim ballistic missile defence capability, via a basic ALTBMD command and control system capability which has been tested and installed at Headquarters Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany.

At present, ALTBMD is just a C2 network. NATO members need to provide sensors and interceptors to connect to the system. Full Operational Capability isn’t expected until the end of the current decade, or the early 2020s. NATO.

ALTBMD interim capability

April 20/12: GAO report. The US GAO releases report #GAO-12-486, “Opportunity Exists to Strengthen Acquisitions by Reducing Concurrency.” The implications for missile defense belie the bland title:

“To meet the presidential 2002 direction to initially rapidly field and update missile defense capabilities as well as the 2009 announcement to deploy missile defenses in Europe, MDA has undertaken and continues to undertake highly concurrent acquisitions. Concurrency is broadly defined as the overlap between technology development and product development or between product development and production. While some concurrency is understandable, committing to product development before requirements are understood and technologies mature or committing to production and fielding before development is complete is a high-risk strategy that often results in performance shortfalls, unexpected cost increases, schedule delays, and test problems. It can also create pressure to keep producing to avoid work stoppages… During 2011, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, the Aegis Standard Missile 3 Block IB, and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense experienced significant ill effects from concurrency.

…Aegis Ashore began product development and set the acquisition baseline before completing the [Preliminary Design Review]. This sequencing increased technical risks and the possibility of cost growth… The program has initiated procurement of components for the installation and plans to start fabricating two enclosures called deckhouses – one for operational use at the Romanian Aegis Ashore installation and one for testing at the Pacific Missile Range Facility – in fiscal year 2012, but does not plan to conduct the first intercept test… until fiscal year 2014. Further, the program plans to build the operational deckhouse first, meaning any design modification identified through system testing… will need to be made on an existing deckhouse and equipment. As we have previously reported, such modifications on an existing fabrication may be costly.”

March 30/12: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012. For Aegis Ashore, RDT&E costs have increased from $835.1 million in April 2010 to $1,418.6 million as of October 2011. The reconstitutable deckhouse design for the sites had not been included in its baseline, and the addition of hardware for a 3rd site in Poland also had to be paid for.

GAO sees concurrency risks from the program’s decision to begin system development before the preliminary design review, and from its plan to buy operational components before testing is done. the Navy defends their practice by saying that all of these systems are in advanced testing or deployed on Navy ships already. The program’s last milestone was a Critical Design Review in December 2011, and flight tests aren’t expected to begin before Q2 2014. The 1st “deckhouse” with radar, missiles, etc, is expected to be ready in December 2015, and the 2nd by December 2018. GAO:

“The SPY-1 radar requires modifications for its use on land and other changes may be necessary due to host nation radar frequency issues… In addition, the maturity of SM-3 Block IB may be overstated because some of its component technologies have not been flight tested or have experienced failures in testing. The multimission signal processor also faces development challenges, and the Defense Contract Management Agency has identified its schedule as high risk. We have previously reported that a significant percentage of its software still needs to be integrated.”

March 30/12: SAR. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 31/11 includes elements of EPAA:

“Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) – Program costs decreased $3,596.4 million (-3.1%) from $122,362.6 million to $118,766.2 million, due primarily to a reduction in the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile production rate (-$1,247.2 million), the elimination of seven AN/TPY-2 radars (from 18 to 11) (-$1,237.2 million), and the placement of the Sea Based X-band (SBX) radar in limited test and contingency operation status (-$666.3 million). There were additional decreases for the reduction of three THAAD batteries (from 9 to 6) (-$540.8 million), reductions in Special Programs funding (-$408.2 million), a reduction of Aegis Standard Missile-3 Block IB missiles in FY 2013 (-$298.1 million), cancellation of the Airborne Infrared Program (-$239.3 million), and reductions in the Directed Energy Program (-$194.2 million). These decreases were partially offset by the application of revised escalation indices (+$684.8 million), increases to the Israeli Cooperative Program for FY 2011-2012 (+$217.8 million), increased construction estimates for Romania and Poland Aegis Ashore sites (+$213.0 million) [emphasis DID’s], and increases for Iron Dome in FY 2011 (+$205.0 million).”

Program costs

March 29/12: AA Romania. BAE U.S. Combat Systems in Minneapolis, MN receives a $23 million contract modification for MK 41 Vertical Launching System mechanical modules and related equipment and services for DDG 116 and Aegis Ashore, Host Nation One (Romania). Contract modification efforts includes requirements to procure MK41 VLS mechanical systems, production of support material, interim support parts, and equipment in support of DDG51-class new construction, and Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Systems requirements.

Work will be performed in Aberdeen, SD (43%); Farmingdale, NY (19%); Aiken, SC (15%); Fort Totten, ND (10%); York, PA (7%); Minneapolis, MN (5%); and Louisville, KY (1%). Work is expected to complete by September 2015. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-11-C-5301).

March 28/12: Beyond Europe? Hurriyet Daily News reports that EPAA could soon have other regional counterparts:

“The US seeks to expand its missile systems to Asia and the Middle East by building regional shields against ballistic missiles, similar to the NATO shield already in Europe. A senior Pentagon official says the Obama administration will hold talks with South Korea, Japan, Australia and Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”

Feb 23/12: AA Romania. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA receives a $106.5 million modification to previously awarded contract for the production of an AN/SPY-1D-V radar transmitter group for Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System Host Nation 1 (Romania), as well as 2 AN/SPY-1D-Vs and a MK 99 Mod 14 targeting illuminator to equip the future DDG 116 destroyer.

Work will be performed in Andover, MA (80%); Sudbury, MA (15%); and Portsmouth, RI (5%), and is expected to be complete by September 2017. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contracts (N00024-09-C-5111).

Feb 18/12: Turkey(s). During meetings with NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu states the TPY-2 radar based at Diyarbakir (vid. Sept 3/11) must not have any of its data sets shared beyond NATO, with a specific reference to Israel. The radar is positioned in a way that makes it easy to see into Iran, for early detection of ballistic missile launches. Voice of America | UPI.

Feb 16/12: Phase 2 ships. The US Navy announces the 4 Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyers which will be forward deployed to Rota, Spain in FY 2014 and 2015. See also DoD Buzz.

“The four include three from Norfolk, Va; USS Ross, USS Donald Cook, and USS Porter, and one from Mayport, Fla., USS Carney. The ships are in support of President Obama’s European Phased Adaptive Approach to enhance the security of the European region… Ross and Donald Cook will arrive in fiscal 2014 and Carney and Porter in fiscal 2015.”

Nov 1/11: Radars. The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awards Raytheon IDS of Woburn, MA a maximum $307.6 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract. Under this new contract, Raytheon will maintain software required to operate “the X-band family of radars,” and perform and Ballistic Missile Defense System test planning, execution and analysis. Discussions with Raytheon personnel confirmed that the funding applies to the XBR radar on the SBX naval platform, as well as their AN/TPY-2 radars (THAAD, EPAA, deployed in Israel & Japan), and a “Ground Based Radar Prototype” that they’re working on as a technology demonstrator.

Work will be performed in Woburn, MA from Nov 1/11 through Oct 31/13, and the MDA’s FY 2012 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used to fund initial orders. The MDA at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (HQ0147-12-D-0005).

FY 2010 – 2011

Europe grapples with BMD; Czechs out, Turkey in; Aegis Ashore shifts the plan and the costs; Progress report.

(click to view full)

Sept 15/11: Progress report. The White House offers an update on progress made so far on its European missile defense plans. By Phase:

Phase 1: “In March of this year the USS Monterey [CG-61] was the first in a sustained rotation of ships to deploy to the Mediterranean Sea in support of EPAA. Phase One also calls for deploying a land-based early warning radar, which Turkey recently agreed to host as part of the NATO missile defense plan.”

Phase 2: “This week, on September 13, the United States and Romania signed the U.S.-Romanian Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement. Once ratified, it will allow the United States to build, maintain, and operate the land-based BMD site [and SM-3 deployment] in Romania.”

Phase 3: “Poland agreed to host the [SM-3] interceptor site in October 2009, and today, with the Polish ratification process complete, this agreement has entered into force.”

Russia: “As an initial step, NATO and Russia completed a joint ballistic missile threat assessment and agreed that the [NATO-Russia Council] would resume theater missile defense cooperation. The United States and Russia also continue to discuss missile defense cooperation through a number of high-level working groups at the State and Defense Departments.”

Sept 9/11: Aegis Ashore. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA awards a $115.5 million sole source cost-plus-award-fee/ cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to Lockheed Martin MS2 in Moorestown, NJ, for continued Aegis Ashore Combat System adaptation efforts, site planning, transportation planning, technology initiatives and studies. This award of contract line item number (CLIN) 0001, and increase in the amounts for CLINs 0011 (material) and 0012 (travel), increases the total contract value to date from $61.2 million to $176.7 million.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, through Sept 30/12. FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used to incrementally fund this effort (HQ0276-10-C-0003, PO 0019).

Sept 2/11: Turkey in. Turkey has agreed to emplace an AN/TPY-2 early warning radar, facing Iran and linked to US Navy systems via Cooperative Engagement Capability. Turkish reports place it near Diyarbakir in SE Turkey, which also hosts Patriot missile batteries. Col. David Lapan tells Stars & Stripes that the agreement has some further required approvals to clear, but “The hope is to have it deployed by the end of this year.” Zaman Dis Haberler [in Turkish] | Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance | Stars & Stripes | Russia’s RIA Novosti.


Aug 23/11: Phase 3. Raytheon Missile Systems Co. in Tucson, AZ receives a $9.8 million sole-source, cost-plus-award-fee contract modification. The CLIN 0008 option, “Future Upgrades and Engineering Support,” will help the Missile Defense Agency execute technical analysis for the Aegis BMD 5.1/SM-3 Block IIA combination, which is critical to PAA Phase 3. Exercising CLIN 0008 increases the total contract value from $276.7 – $286.5 million.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ through Sept 30/16, and will be incrementally funded by FY 2011 research, development, test, and evaluation funds. Though the SM-3 Block IIA is a cooperative program with Japan, this is not a foreign military sales acquisition. The US MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0005, PO 0015).

July 6/11: DSB Report. In an open letter, the US Defense Science Board aims to dispel impressions that they recommended against the SM-3, which by its nature is a mid-course or terminal phase interceptor:

“The DSB concluded that the Missile Defense Agency is on the right track in developing European Phased Adapted Approach (EPAA) options, including continued evolution of the SM-3 family of missiles… The DSB also examined the potential in the EPAA context for EI [Early Intercept] in regional defense against short-range missiles before threat payloads could be deployed, and concluded that this was not a viable option because of technical constraints… The fact that this form of EI is not viable in shorter-range regional applications does not imply that either SM-3 family interceptors or the EPAA concept are flawed… MDA is on the right track in pursuing this capability for national missile defense, and examining the potential application in regional defense as a function of the range of threat missiles.”

June 23/11: CRS Report. The US Congressional Research Service releases the latest update of “Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” [PDF]. Key excerpts:

“Some observers are concerned – particularly in light of the EPAA – that demands from U.S. regional military commanders for BMD-capable Aegis ships are growing faster than the number of BMD-capable Aegis ships. They are also concerned that demands from U.S. regional military commanders for… BMD operations could strain the Navy’s ability to provide regional military commanders with Aegis ships for performing non-BMD missions… MDA states that SM-3 Block IAs have a unit procurement cost of about $9 million to $10 million, that SM-3 Block IBs have an estimated unit procurement cost of about $12 million to $15 million, and that SM-3 Block IIAs have an estimated unit procurement cost of about $20 million to $24 million.”

June 15/11: Czech Republic. The Czech Republic formally abandons its proposed role in the U.S. “Phased Adaptive Approach” to missile defense. Defense Minister Alexander Vondra told visiting Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn that his country no longer wanted to participate in the American system, but would continue working within NATO on potential European defenses. Stars & Stripes.

Czech out

April 15/11: Testing. Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-15) begins to test the European Phased Adaptive Approach architecture, firing an SM-3 Block 1A missile against an intermediate-range (officially, 1,864 – 3,418 miles) target, based on AN/TPY-2 ground-based radar data, before the USS O’Kane (DDG 77, equipped with AEGIS BMD 3.6.1) could pick the target up using its own radar. Initial indications are that all components performed as designed, and the missile recorded the 21st successful AEGIS BMD intercept in 25 tries.

The target missile was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles SW of Hawaii. The AN/TPY-2 radar, which is also used as part of the THAAD missile system, was located on Wake Island, and crewed by Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. It detected and tracked the missile, then sent trajectory information to the 613th Air and Space Operations Center’s C2BMC(Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications) system at Hickam Air Force Base, HI. That was relayed to USS O’Kane, sailing to the west of Hawaii, which launched the SM-3-1A missile about 11 minutes after target take-off. O’Kane’s own AN/SPY-1 radar eventually picked up the incoming missile itself, and controlled the missile until impact.

As an important sidebar, the 2 demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), launched by MDA in 2009, successfully acquired the target missile, providing stereo “birth to death” tracking of the target missile.

FTM-15 was less dramatic than the 2008 satellite kill using an SM-3, but it’s equally significant. The successful full integration of ground and naval defenses, remote launch, and supplementary satellite track confirmed that EPAA Phase I, which has already deployed, works. It did so even though launch on remote track was supposed to wait for AEGIS BMD 5.1, and IRBMs were supposed to wait for SM-3 Block II. Instead, the test also combined to extend the current system’s proven capabilities, while validating the difficult connections that make a missile defense system more than the sum of its parts, and proving out an important early warning element (STSS) in the system. US MDA | Lockheed Martin | Raytheon | Lexington Institute.

April 3-18/11: The Russian Question, Take 2. Russia’s NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin describes the issue of NATO-Russian missile defense cooperation as “a complicated matter, but it is not hopeless.” Nonetheless, differences run very deep. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov roiled the waters recently when he said that:

“We insist on only one thing: that we’re an equal part of [a joint missile defense arrangement]. In practical terms, that means our office will sit, for example, in Brussels and agrees on a red-button push to start an anti-missile, regardless of whether it starts from Poland, Russia or the U.K.”

It’s not 100% clear if he meant veto power over launches, though it certainly sounds that way. In response, Sen. Mark Kirk [R-IL] sent a letter to President Obama, co-signed by 38 Republican senators. Excerpt:

“In our view, any agreement that would allow Russia to influence the defense of the United States or our allies, to say nothing of a “red button” or veto, would constitute a failure of leadership… ask for your written assurances that your Administration will not provide Russia with any access to sensitive U.S. data, including early warning, detection, tracking, targeting, and telemetry data, sensors or common operational picture data, or American hit-to-kill missile defense technology…”

They’re not likely to get those things, but it’s a warning shot that any agreement along these lines would face a Senate backlash, and become a 2012 election issue. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also poured cold water on the concept, saying “We are thinking about two systems – one NATO’s and one Russian – that will cooperate and exchange information to make us more secure.” Bloomberg re: Lavrov | Agence France Presse | right-wing Heritage Foundation | Russia’s ITAR-TASS | Moscow Times re: NATO | The Telegraph (UK) | Voice of Russia re: Rogozin | AEI’s Weekly Standard (incl. full text of Senators’ letter).

March 24/11: GAO Report. The US GAO issues report #GAO-11-372: “Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Transparency and Accountability.” Key excerpts:

“In 2010, MDA was able to meet or exceed its delivery goals for several MDA activities, such as missile defense upgrades to Aegis ships… MDA finalized a new process in which detailed baselines were set for several missile defense systems… [but] GAO found its unit and life-cycle cost baselines had unexplained inconsistencies… DOD has not fully implemented a management process that synchronizes European missile defense acquisition activities and ensures transparency and accountability. Without key management and oversight processes, there is a limited basis for oversight, and there is a risk that key components will start production before demonstrating system performance… GAO makes 10 recommendations for MDA to strengthen its resource, schedule and test baselines, facilitate baseline reviews, and further improve transparency and accountability. GAO is also making a recommendation to improve MDA’s ability to carry out its test plan. In response, DOD fully concurred with 7 recommendations. It partially concurred with 3…”

Feb 7/11: Turkey. With Turkey seen to be demurring on proposals to host one or more American AN/TPY-2 radars, as part of a European missile defense shield, US Senators Jon Kyl [R-AZ], James Risch [R-ID], Mark Kirk [R-IL] and James Inhofe [R-OK] have sent a joint letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, asking him to consider Georgia as one of several potential alternate hosts.

Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister David Dzhalagania says the country has not formulated a concrete position, but thinks the proposal is interesting. The very thing that makes it interesting to Georgia – a major US asset that America would feel compelled to protect if hostilities begin again with Russia – is also the potential down-side to its placement in that country. On the other hand, a radar there would be very well positioned to monitor Iran. Civil Georgia | Georgia’s The Messenger | Russia’s RIA Novosti.

Dec 27/10: AA Kauai. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $65.6 million contract modification for production of the Aegis Weapon System, tooling, test equipment, and associated technical services for the Aegis Ashore test site at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (87%), and Clearwater, FL (13%), and is expected to be complete by October 2014. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-5110).

Nov 3/10: AA Kauai. Black & Veatch Special Projects Corp. in Overland Park, KS receives a $6.5 million for firm-fixed price Task Order under an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for architect-engineer services in support of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. They’ll prepare plans, specifications, cost estimates for design-bid-build requests for proposal contract documents, and other related services for FY 2011.

Work will be performed in Barking Sands, Hawaii, and is expected to be complete by June 2011. One proposal was received for this task order by NAVFAC Hawaii in Pearl Harbor, HI (W912GB-09-D-0062, SR02).

Aug 24/10: AA Kauai. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors (LM MS2) in Moorestown, NJ, is being awarded a sole-source, not-to-exceed $69.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee letter contract to serve as the “Aegis Ashore” Engineering Agent. In accordance with the AA Program of Record. Contract finalization is expected to be complete by Nov 19/10. The work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, and the performance period is from August 2010 through April 2011.

This project is part of a $278 million program to increase missile testing on Kauai. LM MS2 will provide the engineering and necessary material to support the design of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex; the deployment sites; the integration of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System (AAMDS) into the removable deckhouse; the installation, test and checkout of the AAMDS at these sites; and initial site maintenance and logistics support during site transfer to the lead service. This unfinalized contract will allow LM MS2 to assist in the development of the Aegis Ashore Combat System (AACS) requirements, to include supporting program planning, element capability specification, and concept of operations development. LM MS2 will begin the AACS adaptation, design efforts associated with the configuration of the AAMDS in the removable structure, and designing the enclosures for transport.

LM MS2 will begin those activities associated with validation and verification of the deckhouse requirements and will facilitate system requirements review in September 2010, and system design review in January 2011. FY 2010 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds will be utilized to obligate $10.1 million for this effort. The Missile Defense Agency manages this contract (HQ0276-10-C-0003). See also Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

April 1/10: SAR. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009:

“Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) – Program costs decreased $10,068.9 million (-9.7%) from $102,912.4 million to $92,843.5 million, due primarily to the following: cancellation of the Kinetic Energy Interceptor and Multiple Kill Vehicle Program (-$5,304.2 million); cancellation of the Airborne Laser Program (-$2,634.7 million); elimination of the Space Tracking and Surveillance System follow-on constellation (-$1,972.0 million); transition of the sensor content to procurement (-$1,223.7 million); general infrastructure reductions (-$1,216.7 million); revised estimates for special classified programs (-$1,155.4 million); application of revised escalation indices (-$1,169.1 million); reduced Ground-Based Interceptor inventory due to the change of European site architecture (-$88.0 million); and infrastructure reductions (-$1,216.7 million). These decreases were partially offset by the change in European architecture to Aegis Ashore (+$2,493.5 million) [emphasis DID’s] and the consolidation of targets and revised Integrated Master Test Plan (+$1,646.4 million). In addition, procurement costs of $9,520.3 million, which were previously excluded from the SAR due to its pre-Milestone B Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E)-only status pursuant to section 2432 of title 10, United States Code, were added as an adjustment to the program in accordance with Congressional direction. RDT&E and Military Construction (MILCON) costs of $14,340.1 million were also added as adjustments to reflect the addition of two years to this program, which is considered Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) limited and has been allowed to add two years of cost to the program with each biennial budget. These adjustments are not considered to represent cost growth.”

Program costs

Dec 7/09: Europe BMD. Aviation Week notes several undercurrents involved in discussions around Europe’s missile defense.

One is “consequences of intercept,” which are certainly less than the consequences of a missile strike, but could well fall outside the launching country. Another is the compressed time frames, which means authority will reside in the commander – who will that be, and where will that commander be based?

A 3rd question is how the proposed SM-3 phases mesh with European NATO plans, including NATO’s Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) program command and control hub, and proposed land-based radars. Which are going to be an issue all their own, since the system requires them, and the American TPY-2s may not be the only players. Finally, there’s the question of whether European navies will join the program, which would further blue the question of whether this is an American system with NATO ancillaries, or a NATO system with American assets.

Nov 17/09: Early intercept. Northrop Grumman announces a 3-month $4.7 million task order from the US Missile Defense Agency, under an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity Joint National Integration Center Research and Development Contract. Under the Sept 29/09 task order, the firm will help the MDA integrate and demonstrate an early-intercept capability using existing SM-3 and GBI missiles. This kind of capability is especially relevant for forward-based SM-3s.

The Early Intercept effort aims to address renewed focus by the U.S. Department of Defense on dealing with large raids and countermeasures. Early Intercept will demonstrate an integrated architecture of early warning sensors, including space, airborne, land and sea; regional fire control and battle manager systems; and secure communications. This integrated architecture will enable current systems to engage threats earlier in the battle space to improve protection against large raids and facilitate “shoot-look-shoot” opportunities.

Northrop Grumman will begin by assessing existing sensor and battle management systems’ ability to support missile interception in the difficult boost phase, including technology developed for programs like the now-canceled Kinetic Energy Interceptor and battle management projects. The firm will plan demonstration experiments, leading toward the design and development of an experimental, plug-and-play architecture for battle management, command and control.

FY 2008 – 2009

Israeli interest in land-based SM-3; EPAA plan unveiled.

SM-3 launch from CG 70
(click to view full)

Sept 17/09: Plan B – EPAA. The Obama administration announces revised plans for its European missile defense architecture. Instead of positioning Boeing’s Ground-Based Interceptors, which could intercept even the longest-range ballistic missiles, they choose an architecture based around the SM-3.

According to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James Cartwright, the new plan begins with the current deployment of Patriot PAC-3 point defense systems in Europe, which may be adjusted. Those adjustments will bear watching, as early indicators of seriousness.

  • In 2011, the US Navy is expected to have naval SM-3 Block 1A missiles and ships fully in place, on an expanded fleet of BMD-capable ships versus the 2 Atlantic Fleet destroyers available today. Unfortunately, naval SM-3 Block 1 missiles cannot cover the Czech Republic at all, and can offer only limited coverage for Poland. This will be the only option until 2015, which is beyond the Obama administration’s current term of office.

  • 2015 would see progress on 2 fronts. One is SM-3 Block 1B missiles, and an improved AEGIS BMD system that will expand the range of coverage for American ships. The other would be land-based SM-3s in an easily-deployable configuration, based in Europe, instead of the longer-range Boeing Ground Based Interceptors. Political support for that land-based deployment is likely to become a political flash point, again.

  • The final iteration would take place in 2018 or so, with deployment of the much larger SM-3 Block II missile, on ships and (if deployments have been accepted) on shore. Gen. Cartwright stated that no more than 3 SM-3 Block II locations would be able to cover all of Europe, but cautions that it’s an earlier-stage R&D effort, with all the expected implications for dates and certainty of capabilities.

Cartwright and Gates also added several additional considerations that affected their decision. One was Russian concerns about having large X-band BMD radars that could peer deeply into Russia. By using shorter-range, directional TPY-2 radars deployed in the Caucasus, Iranian aggression can also be hedged without covering Russia so deeply – something that allies like Poland may not necessarily see as a plus. The other, more significant Russian concern was that the GBI missile was powerful enough to be fitted with a nuclear warhead, and become an offensive MRBM with very low warning time. American denials did little to dissuade the Russians, since one must plan on the basis of capabilities rather than intent. That concept becomes technically ridiculous with an SM-3, removing that issue from the table.

Another issue for the USA was cost and flexibility. Gen. Cartwright cited a cost-per-missile of $3.3 million for a Patriot PAC-3, about $9 million for THAAD v1, $9.5-10 million for SM-3 Block I, about $13-15 million estimated for SM-3 Block II… and $70 million for the GBI interceptors. In a global environment that was seeing rapid growth of medium-range offensive missiles, that cost disparity had implications for strategic flexibility, as well as budgets. According to Gates and Cartwright, the GBI deployment was really designed to deal with 3-5 incoming intercontinental missiles, rather than larger salvos of medium-range missiles that are now possible. GBI is also silo-based and so immobile, as opposed to mobile ships and redeployable land-based SM-3s. The question is whether the USA will actually increase its planned buys of SM-3 in response, something that Information Dissemination’s report suggests hasn’t really been thought through yet. The US Navy’s next 5-year budget plan will tell the tale.

With that cost and architecture change comes a 3rd consideration: greater capacity for allied burden-sharing. Several other nations deploy and will deploy AEGIS ships that could be upgraded to SM-3 BMD capability, including Japan (Kongo class, being upgraded), South Korea (KDX-III), Spain and Australia (F100), plus the non-AEGIS F124 frigates fielded by Germany and the Netherlands. The SM-3 missile has already been exported, and could easily be exported more widely. Gen. Cartwright cited the potential for development of a common architecture linking land and naval systems, which would be deployed in Europe, Asia, Israel, and elsewhere. The architecture is being developed to incorporate non-American systems, and Israel’s IAI/Boeing Arrow was specifically cited. Gates added that talks along these lines had begun with Arab Gulf states, who are already developing their own missile defense preparations based on regional command and control systems, Patriot missiles, and possibly THAAD and MBDA’s comparable Aster-30 SAMP/Ts.

Meanwhile, THAAD missiles are still scheduled to deploy to Europe in 2009, as part of operational testing, and the system is still planned for roll-out as the Army’s area-defense weapon. The USA is also still interested in adding 2-stage capability to its GMD/GBI interceptors in Alaska and California, in order to improve their speed and increase their range. The big winner in these changes, however, is unquestionably Raytheon’s SM-3. Pentagon: Gates/ Cartwright press conference | Pentagon: DoD/ Czech MoD press conference | Aviation Week | Aviation Week Ares | Defense Tech called it early | Information Dissemination | Lexington Institute.

Switch to EPAA

August 18/09: Onto land. In a presentation at the 2009 Space and Missile Defense Conference & Exhibition in Huntsville, AL, Raytheon announces that it is developing a land-based system SM-3 system that would work with THAAD’s Raytheon-made AN/TPY-2 long range radar, and could be ready as early as 2013.

The presentation states that this solution could provide Israel a near-term solution to counter ballistic missiles from Iran, given the deployment of TPY-2 radars in Israel by the US government. It is also reportedly under consideration for use in Europe as the missile component of planned deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic.

It’s no accident that this comes just as Boeing announces a “mobile GMD” proposal for Europe by 2015, and Lockheed Martin has gone farther by submitting a modified THAAD proposal to the US Missile Defense Agency for consideration in the 2011 budget. Lockheed Martin has already invested privately funded R&D into a 21″ wide THAAD variant that would nearly double the Army interceptor missile’s range. Current SM-3s are 13.5″ in diameter, current THAADs are 14.5″, and the proposed SM-3 Block II being developed in partnership with Japan will also be 21″ in diameter. It would appear that a competition for the forward-deployed theater defense role may be brewing. Arutz Sheva | Reuters | Aviation Week re: shifts in doctrine | Aviation Week re: THAAD | Jerusalem Post re: Boeing’s “mobile GBI”.

April 27/09: Study. Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reports that the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has started studying a new missile defense system capable of launching the Standard Missile-3 from the ground.

Aug 4/09: Study. Colin Clark of DOD Buzz publishes a short video interview with Raytheon VP of advanced missile defense and directed energy Mike Booen. The interview took place at the 2009 Paris Air Show, and the topic is the $50 million FY 2010 US military budget request to study land-based SM-3 deployment.

July 17/08: Israel. Aviation Week reports that the US Missile Defense Agency is considering a land-based variant of the SM-3 Standard missile, at Israel’s request:

“SM-3 prime contractor Raytheon is examining a range of options — including a moveable, but not highly mobile, system that could fill Israel’s needs. Very few modifications would be needed for the missile and some tweaks would be required in the command and control system. The system would employ the same vertical launch modules, in an eight-pack configuration, used in the Aegis ship-based system.”

Appendix A: EPAA – The Rationale for The Switch

GBI Missile loading
(click to view full)

When it was first announced in 2009, land-based deployment of SM-3 missiles was seen as a political move. That’s partly true. The proposed GBI missile is so powerful that it could be fitted with a nuclear warhead, and become a serviceable MRBM itself. This made Russia very uneasy. Then, too, a massive American investment in fixed site deployments, in countries that could cave in to pressure and ask the USA to leave later on, was both politically and financially problematic.

There’s also a valid military rationale in the European theater for replacing the longer-range Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system used in the USA itself, with the shorter-range and seemingly less-capable SM-3. The bottom line is more missiles, in semi-mobile locations. SM-3 missiles cost about 80% less than GMD’s GBI missiles, and the ground-based infrastructure of adapted Mk.41 vertical launchers and mobile radars is also less expensive than GMD’s full multi-silo complex and fixed radar. Now throw in the ability to move those assets once they’re built, and to quickly bulk up defenses using similar systems deployed at sea. That’s very useful against an enemy who is building a lot of MRBM/IRBM missiles, and could easily use a mass rush offense to overwhelm limited numbers of GBI interceptors – possibly coupled with terrorist operations against their fixed GMD launch complexes.

All of the rationales regarding mobile options vs. fixed sites evaporated when the US MDA switched to the Aegis Ashore configuration, which shares all of the same drawbacks inherent to fixed GMD deployments. The cost benefits remain intact, however, and so does the rationale for deploying more missiles in theater.

Meanwhile, the switch had political costs. Countries like Poland and the Czech Republic are out of range for naval SM-3 Block 1 coverage, and would require too many THAAD batteries on land. That had prompted the push for GBI missiles, and those governments had held firm in the face of domestic political controversy. The USA’s revised plans dealt them a political setback, and delayed meaningful local missile defenses until around 2015 or later. The shift was somewhat jarring, and the Czech Republic subsequently dropped out of US missile defense plans. In 2012, Poland followed with a declaration that it would deploy its own parallel system.

Israel’s Possible Rationales

Arrow test concept
(click to view full)

Statements from Raytheon indicated that Israel was already doing research into a land-based SM-3, despite its existing Patriot PAC-2 GEM+ and Arrow-2 architecture. In the end, however, Israel maintained of its focus on an improved “Arrow-3” interceptor, and America agreed to support that program in the FY 2010 budget. Those developments leave dim odds for land-based SM-3s in Israel.

The question is why they were interested in the first place. Several possibilities exist that might justify an Israeli desire to retain an active Arrow missile fleet, and still deploy the SM-3s.

One is the naval defense option. While Israel has apparently decided on a different direction, its proposed LCS-I frigates would have possessed the ability to fire SM-3 missiles, and their proposed MEKO derivatives might still have that if they’re equipped with strike-length Mk. 41 VLS launchers. The Arrow missile has not been integrated with the Mk.41 VLS, and the program has not described navalization plans.

The 2nd possible justification for an Israeli SM-3 buy revolves around and command-and-control developments. Like the LCS-I, any new Israeli frigates firing an SM-3 would need to link to an anti-ballistic capable radar for guidance. Israel already fields ABM-capable land radars like its “Green Pine” system, and the USA has reportedly moved manned AN/TPY-2 THAAD radars into Israel as additional insurance against a Second Holocaust perpetrated by Iran. Linkage of a naval missile’s guidance to those kinds of land platforms would involve many of the same modifications required by a fully land-launched and controlled SM-3, and statements by America’s General Cartwright say that the USA’s land-based anti-missile command and control systems that will work with land-based SM-3s, are also being developed to include the Arrow.

The 3rd possible justification is range. The SM-3 boasts a range about 5x longer than the Arrow-2, at 300 miles vs. 50-60 miles. A tripartite system of SM-3, Arrow-2, and Patriot missiles would effectively offer the 3 layered tiers required by a country of Israel’s size: national defense/ first line of defense, defense of key regions/ second shot, and defense of specific sites/ final attempt.

Fourth, deployment would coincide with a growing shift in the USA to focus on “ascent-phase intercept” of medium (MRBM) and intermediate-range (IRBM) missiles. If the launchers are deployed close enough to the firing missile, interceptions become possible sometime between the boost and mid-course phases during entry into space, right before the target missile can begin deploying decoys. The Middle East’s compressed distances are a threat, due to low warning times and the resulting hair-triggers. They might also be an opportunity.

Finally, the SM-3 is an active production item for the USA and Japan, which leverages the infrastructure created by a large-scale, full-rate production set of programs. This means that SM-3s can be produced far faster than additional Arrow missiles. If developments in Iran are leading Israel to conclude that it needs to deploy many more theater-range defensive missiles within a short period of time, the THAAD and Arrow programs are unlikely to be able to handle that request due to the stage they’re at, and the industrial framework around them. That would leave the SM-3 as Israel’s only realistic rapid plus-up option.

In the end, as noted above, Israel decided to improve its Arrow system and create the Arrow-3, with funding assistance from the USA. The country clearly considers ballistic missile defense to be a strategic technology capability, has yet to purchase ships that would make naval SM-3 deployment possible, and have already spent the money to integrate the Arrow system with Israel’s air defense architecture. The SM-3’s land-based progress will happen elsewhere.

Additional Readings Background: EPAA Systems

Official Reports

News & Views

  • Breaking Defense (Oct 17/13) – Why Russia Keeps Moving The Football On European Missile Defense: Politics. “Ironically, moving the technology further away from Russian borders could increase the potential for its successful use against Russian missiles. So, whether or not Russian technical concerns could ever really be assuaged must be questioned.”

  • Commentary Magazine (December 2009) – The Missile Defense Betrayal. The revised European missile defense plan was not universally well-received on the political front, with many conservatives sharply critical. Commentary Magazine’s article includes coverage of the political dynamics at work in Poland and the Czech Republic.

  • Lexington Institute (Nov 5/09) – Aegis Ashore: The Navy’s New Missile Defense Mantra.

Categories: News

Bahrain the latest Gulf state to express interest in S-400 | More Skyshields wanted by Indonesia | Greece approved for F-16 upgrade program, DCSA

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 04:00

  • Harris Corp. has received a series of contracts from the US Department of Defense (DoD) for wares totalling nearly $900 million. The first, announced last Friday, is the $133 million order for Lot 14 ALQ-214(V)4/5 integrated defensive electronic counter-measures jammers that will protect US Navy and Australian F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft. Harris said the equipment will be used on F/A-18C/D/E/F variants with deliveries expected to be completed by May of 2020. The second deal is a five-year, $765 million ceiling, single-award IDIQ contract to provide tactical radios and ancillary devices to the Navy and Marine Corps. It replaces a $300 million IDIQ contract that expired in August and includes the Harris AN/PRC-117G, AN/PRC-152A and the new AN/PRC-160 wideband HF/VHF radio, as well as peripheral attachments to support handheld, manpack, vehicular and base station mission needs.

Middle East & Africa

  • Kuwait has been cleared by the US State Department to proceed with the purchase of M1A1 Abrams tanks. The proposed deal, which still can be blocked by US Congress, covers the supply of 218 tank hulls with 120mm guns and AGT-1500 engines from current US stocks. At an estimated cost of $29 million, the Kuwaiti purchase supports the gulf state’s M1A2 tank recapitalization program and includes transportation and other logistics support for the tanks.

  • Boeing has been awarded a $240.2 million US Department of Defense (DoD) contract for the provision of an airborne warning and control system (AWACS) to the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF). The fixed-price-incentive firm contract calls for the provision of AWACS mission computing, navigation and communication upgrades and enhanced target acquisition systems to rapidly distinguish between friend or foe. Work will take place at Oklahoma City, Okla., with a scheduled completion date of February 2019. The sale comes under the first phase of of the RSAF’s AWACS recapitalisation program.

  • The Commander of Bahrain’s Royal Guard, Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad El Khalifa, confirmed ongoing negotiations with Russia over the purchase of the S-400 air defense system, joining Saudi Arabia and Turkey as the latest governments in the region to look at the system. The three deals, which are at various stages of negotiation and payment, mark Russia’s brisk entry into the Arab Gulf market which has traditionally been loyal to buying big ticket items from the US and other Western suppliers. If the sale goes ahead, Bahrain will have a multi-layered land-based air defence system capable of engaging targets at up to 400 km, which will cut into Iranian territory, albeit at high-altitude.


  • Airbus has selected Spanish defense electronics firm Indra to develop a tactical and integrated procedures simulation trainer for pilots of the former’s new A330 MRTT aerial refueling tanker. Indra’s Integrated Procedures Trainer (IPT) will be connected to the Partial Training system (PTT) used by boom operators to learn how to handle the refueling tube for supplying fuel to the aircraft, and will allow pilots to familiarize themselves with the systems of the A330 MRTT tanker and practice situations impossible to reproduce using a real plane, such as engine failure, aircraft stall and emergency landings. Previous work with Airbus has seen Indra develop simulators for Airbus’ commercial A320 and A330 aircraft and Airbus helicopters’ H135, H225, H175, H145 and AS350.

  • Serbia’s Defense Ministry is looking to Belarus as the supplier for new fighter jets and an S-300 air defense system. A deal is expected to be signed in November during a state visit to Minsk by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic where he will meet with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko. While the ministry did not disclose how much the procurements would cost, Belgrade is seeking seven additional MiG-29 fighters to add to the six second-hand models recently handed over for free from Russia. The six Russian hand-me-downs are still in need of upgrading, with the bill to be fitted by Serbian taxpayers.

  • The Royal Greek Air Force’s F-16 fleet has been approved for a potential upgrade program by the US State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). Costed at an estimated $2.404 billion, 123 jets will be modified to the Block V configuration by Lockheed Martin, however, only 26 jets will have their Advanced Self-Protection Integrated Suite (ASPIS) upgraded from I to II standard. The potential sale was announced the same day Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsirpas met with US President Donald Trump at the White House.

Asia Pacific

  • Indonesia’s Air Force chief of staff announced his service’s desire to acquire a further eleven sets of the Skyshield air defense system. Manufactured by Oerlikon—now a unit of Rheinmettal Defense—four Skyshield systems are currently defending air bases in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Makassar, and Pontianak, and feature a 35 mm multirole cannon that can fire 1,000 rounds per minute and precision-guided shells that can down enemy aircraft. In 2016, Jakarta announced plans to forward deploy the Skyshield to the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea, where the Air Force has requested additional air defense systems for an expanded air wing at the nearby Ranai air base. The plan to expand the Ranai base has been considered since 2015, as a portion of China’s “nine dash line” claim passes through Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone extending from the Natunas, creating unease among defense officials that Beijing may in the future lay claim to oil and gas deposits in the region.

Today’s Video

  • Greek PM Alexis Tsipras rides in a soon-to-be-upgraded HAF F-16D:

Categories: News

Saudis Seek E-3 Fleet Upgrades

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 03:58

Saudi E-3
(click to view full)

The 707-based E-3 aircraft forms the backbone of American, British, French, and NATO airborne early warning and control (AWACS), monitoring large swathes of airspace from an elevated position to detect incursions by enemy fighters, missiles, and even UAVs. When coupled with communications systems that allow it act as an airborne relay and command post for the aerial fight, it becomes a uniquely valuable weapons system. Under the 1981 – 1986 “Peace Sentinel” program, Saudi Arabia bought 5 E-3 AWACS(Airborne Early Warning and Control) planes and 8 KE-3A aerial tanker and cargo aircraft. Up to 3 of the KE-3s were later converted to RE-3A TASS(Tactical Airborne Surveillance System) electronic eavesdropping planes, leaving 5 E-3As, 3 RE-3As, and 5 KE-3 tankers.

Most E-3s around the world are well over 20 years old, and American, British, French, and NATO aircraft have received ongoing upgrades. Like Boeing’s US, British, French, and NATO customers, the Saudis are now seeking upgrades to keep their aircraft up to date. Broadly speaking, Saudi jets are getting 3 kinds of upgrades.

Saudi E-3 Upgrades

Saudi E-3A
(click to view full)

The 1st set of upgrades is the most basic, and the most necessary. Saudi E-3 avionics need to be upgraded, in order to comply with international aviation rules. Those are often referred to as CNS/ATM (Communications & Navigation Systems/ Air Traffic Management) upgrades.

A 2nd kind of upgrades involves military communications, which can be improved by adding high-bandwidth transmissions, and better transmission security. The RSAF’s E-3As and RE-3As have no peers among the Gulf Cooperation Council states, and integration that let them work with the UAE’s new command and control infrastructure would create a powerful regional resource. The parties involved aren’t discussing that aspect.

The 3rd kind of upgrade involves surveillance electronics. Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) kit upgrades improve the AWACS radar by boosting its sensitivity, toughening it against jamming, and improving its reliability. Related enhancements to the plane’s passive listening electronic support measures (ESM) system can help the plane detect, identify and track electronic transmissions from ground, airborne and maritime sources, in order to determine radar and weapons system types within its surveillance range.

A recent proposal would perform in-depth upgrades on the plane’s electronics, bringing the Saudi fleet all the way to the current E-3 Block 40/45 standard flown by the USA and France. Under those upgrades, mission computing hardware and software shifts from mainframe-based computing to a set of networked servers and modern displays. This provides the computing horsepower to automate some existing tasks, such as Automatic Air Tasking Orders and Airspace Coordination Order updates. It also makes future upgrades easier. Corresponding software and hardware upgrades replace existing buttons and switches with a point-and-click user interface and drop-down menus. RISP-upgraded radar equipment will be complemented by “multisource integration capability” that provides a coherent single picture from the radar, ESM emission detectors, Link-16, and other sources, creating a single picture view for detecting and identifying targets.

Contracts & Key Events 2011 – 2017

RSIP installation; Block 40/45 upgrade

Workstation: Before
(click to view full)

October 19/17: Boeing has been awarded a $240.2 million US Department of Defense (DoD) contract for the provision of an airborne warning and control system (AWACS) to the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF). The fixed-price-incentive firm contract calls for the provision of AWACS mission computing, navigation and communication upgrades and enhanced target acquisition systems to rapidly distinguish between friend or foe. Work will take place at Oklahoma City, Okla., with a scheduled completion date of February 2019. The sale comes under the first phase of of the RSAF’s AWACS recapitalisation program.

July 31/15: Air Force E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft have begun receiving new Interrogator Friend or Foe (IFF) systems, as part of the fleet’s Block 40/45 upgrade program. The $60 million upgrade will see the new IFF system rolled out across the Air Force’s fleet of 31 E-3s. The AN/UPX-40 systems include Mode 5 enhancements, with the Saudis also requesting Block 40/45 upgrades in August 2014, including 20 of the new IFF systems. France has also upgraded it’s E-3 fleet with Block 40/45 enhancements.

Aug 12/14: Block 40/45. The US DSCA announces Saudi Arabia’s official export request for E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System modernization to the most current Block 40/45 status, at an estimated cost of up to $2.0 billion.

The request includes 5 Block 40/45 open architecture Mission Computing Upgrade system sets at its core, including computers, servers, and new interactive displays. This will be accompanied by 20 Next Generation AN/UPX-40 Identification Friend or Foe systems. Ancillary products and services include communication equipment, an updated Mission Planning System, spare and repair parts, support equipment, repair and return services, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of US government and contractor support.

These upgrades are a continuation of efforts to maintain interoperability with US and coalition forces, including Britain’s E-3Ds, and the E-3F/G Block 40/45s flown by France and the USA. Implementation of this proposed sale won’t require any extra US Government or contractor representatives in Saudi Arabia. Sources: US DSCA #14-11, “Saudi Arabia – AWACS Modernization Program”.

DSCA request: Full E-3 Block 40/45 upgrade

June 5/12: RSIP Installation. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $66.8 million (face value) firm-fixed-price foreign military sales contract, exercising priced options for the installation and check out of Group A and B RSIP kits in the Saudi fleet of 5 E-3s. That seems to bring installation costs to $107.2 million, or $21.45 million per plane.

Work will be performed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (50%), Seattle, WA (30%); and Baltimore, MD (20%). Work is to be complete by June 15/15. ESC/HBSK, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is the contracting activity (F19628-01-D-0016, Delivery Order 0080).

Dec 14/11: RSIP Installation. Boeing in Seattle, WA received a $50.4 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, time-and-material contract for installation and check out of Group A and B RSIP kits in the Saudi fleet of 5 E-3s. Work will be performed in Seattle, WA, and is expected to be complete in Oct 28/13. This was a sole-source acquisition, managed by the ESC/HBSK at Hanscom AFB on behalf of their Saudi client (F19628-01-D-0016, Delivery Order 0080).

2008 – 2010

RSIP installs; Requests: CNS/ATM and Communications upgrades.

(click to view full)

Aug 20/10: Hardware upgrade. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, MD receives a $9.8 million contract which will replace narrow band klystron power amplifiers with wide band klystron power amplifiers in Saudi Arabian and French E-3 AWACS fleets. At this time, all funds have been committed by the Electronic Systems Center’s HBSKI at Hanscom AFB, MA (FA8704-10-C-0007).

June 30/10: RSIP IIA kits. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, WA receives a $73 million contract for the Saudi RSIP program’s Phase II-A production requirements, totaling 5 aircraft. At this time, the entire amount has been committed by the 551st ELSG/PKI at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA (F19628-01-D-0016; Delivery Order 0070).

See Aug 7/08 for the RSIP’s phase 1, and Dec 7/07 for the original DSCA request to buy. With respect to the 2-phase CNS/ATM upgrades mentioned in the August 2009 DSCA release, a Boeing spokesperson told DID that his understanding “is that it’s still in the proposal stage.”

Aug 6/09: CNS/ATM request. The USA’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s formal request to buy equipment related to a 2-phased upgrade to the Communication Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management systems for the Royal Saudi Air Force’s fleet of 13 E-3 aircraft. The upgrade could run up to $1.5 billion, and will enhance the Saudis’ ability to use a common architecture for efficiently communicating the gathered electronic data within the RSAF and with other regional coalition forces.

Phase 1 will include Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems, 8.33 kHz Very High Frequency radios, Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems, Mode S Transponders, Mode 4/5 Identification Friend or Foe Encryption, High Frequency radio replacements, Multifunctional Information Display Systems for Link 16 operations, Have Quick II radios, Satellite Communications and Common Secure Voice encryption.

Phase 2 will include digital flight deck instrumentation and displays, flight director system/autopilot, flight management system, cockpit data line message and combat situational awareness information.

A U.S. prime contractor will be chosen after a competitive source selection, and will also have responsibility for spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publication and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment to include flight simulators, U.S. government and contractor engineering support, technical and logistics support services, and other related support.

DSCA: CNS/ATM civil compatibility

Aug 6/09: Comms. request. The USA’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s formal request to buy a second set of equipment that aims to give RSAF the ability to use a common architecture for efficiently communicating the gathered electronic data, within the RSAF and with other regional coalition forces. The estimated cost is up to $530 million, and includes:

  • 10 AN/ARC-230 High Frequency Secure Voice/Data Systems
  • 25 AN/ARC-231 or 25 AN/ARC-210 Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency (VHF/UHF) Secure Voice/Data Systems
  • 4 MIDS-LVT Link 16 systems
  • 4 LN-100GT Inertial Reference Units
  • 25 SY-100 or functional equivalent Crypto Systems
  • 7 SG-250 or functional equivalent Crypto Systems
  • 6 SG-50 or functional equivalent
  • 10 CYZ-10 Fill Devices
  • Plus modification of existing ground stations, a TASS equipment trainer, a mission scenario generator (simulator), and maintenance test equipment; spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, modification/ construction of facilities, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and support services and other related elements of support.

The principal contractor will be L-3 Communications Integrated Systems Company in Greenville, TX. Implementation of this sale will involve up to 6 U.S. government and four contractor personnel to participate in program reviews at the contractor’s facility every 6 months. There will be approximately 6 contractors in Saudi Arabia providing technical assistance on a full-time basis until the system is integrated into the operational units.

DSCA request: Comms.

Aug 7/08: RSIP installs. Boeing in Kent, WA received an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity, fixed-price delivery order contract not to exceed $42 million. In return, they will install the Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) capability on 5 Royal Saudi Air Force AWACS jets. At this time $27.3 million has been committed. 551 ELSG/PKS at Hanscom AFB, MA manages the contract (F19628-01-D-0016, #0062).

This first phase includes a study to determine which parts are obsolete and no longer available, then locating and testing parts obtained from new sources. Phase one also includes purchase of many long lead parts and the start of software design. The next phase involves production and installation of the Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) kits, software integration and testing, and crew training. Phase 2 was intended to be part of a 2009 follow-on contract, but actually arrived in June 2010.

The RSIP kit is built principally by Baltimore-based Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems under subcontract to Boeing. It consists of a new radar computer, a radar-control maintenance panel, and software upgrades to the radar and mission-system programs. Boeing release.

2001 – 2007

Link-16 upgrades; Repairs required; RSIP radar upgrade request.

Feb 28/07: Support. Ongoing maintenance is also part of the US-Saudi AWACS relationship. The RSAF’s 6th Flying Wing brings an E-3A aircraft to Tinker AFB, OK for repairs, and the 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s E-3 Maintenance Flight replaces a bearing between the rotodome and aircraft. A 6th Wing aircrew will perform aerial tests before returning the aircraft back to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Tinker AFB, OK sustains the RSAF Peace Sentinel fleet (E-3A and KE-3A aircraft) through a Letter of Offer and Acceptance and the 557th Aircraft Sustainment Squadron’s Mid East Support. USAF release.

Dec 7/07: RSIP request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s official request for 5 sets of Airborne Early Warning (AEW) and Command, Control and Communications (C3) mission equipment/Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) Group B kits for subsequent installation and checkout in all 5 of its E-3A Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS). In addition, this proposed sale will include spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, contractor engineering and technical support, and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $400 million, and the prime contractor will be Boeing Aerospace Company in Seattle, WA.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of approximately four contractor representatives to Saudi Arabia to provide technical assistance to integrate the aircraft into the operational units. Also, this program will require U.S. government and contractor personnel to conduct annual, one-week Program Management Reviews in Saudi Arabia. The DSCA adds that:

“Saudi Arabia needs this additional mission equipment to continue its development of an extended Airborne Early Warning (AEW) capability, as well as enhanced command, control and communications (C3).”

While other Saudi weapon requests are drawing fire, the E-3 program is unlikely to find itself caught in that vortex due to the routine nature of the request, its non-offensive nature, and the value to the US of having additional AWACS surveillance assets to maintain key “orbits” in the region.

DSCA request: RSIP.

Nov 13/06: Link 16. Saudi Arabia purchases JTIDS Link 16 systems, which quietly transmit a shared picture to participating aircraft and ground stations. A contract to install them in the RSAF’s E-3 AWACS fleet was issued in September 2007. See “Link 16 for Saudi E-3 AWACS” for full details.

August 2001: Hardware & displays. Boeing began installing new mission computers and other hardware and software on the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) AWACS fleet, as part of a contract worth $60 million. Under the contract, Boeing upgraded the aircraft’s mission computer and software to the same level currently in use by the U.S. AWACS fleet and train Royal Saudi Air Force operators. That project was completed in 2003.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Britain’s A330 Voyager FSTA: An Aerial Tanker Program – With a Difference

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 03:57

Voyager & friends
(click to view full)

Back in 2005, Great Britain was considering a public-private partnership to buy, equip, and operate the RAF’s future aerial tanker fleet. The RAF would fly the 14 Airbus A330-MRTT aircraft on operational missions, and receive absolute preferential access to the planes. A private contractor would handle maintenance, receive payment from the RAF on a per-use basis – and operate them as passenger charter or transport aircraft when the RAF didn’t need them.

The deal became politically controversial, and negotiations on the 27-year, multi-billion pound deal charted new territory for both the government, and for private industry. Which may help to explain why a contract to move ahead on a “Private Financing Initiative” basis had yet to be issued, and procurement had yet to begin, over 7 years after the program began. In March 2008, however, Britain issued the world’s largest-ever Defence Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract. This FOCUS Article describes the current British fleet, the aircraft they chose to replace them, how the new fleet will compare, the innovative deal structure they’ve chosen, and ongoing FSTA developments.

A330-200 MRTT: The RAF’s Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft

Voyager K3 & C-130J
(click to view full)

The A330-200 MRTT is a derivative of the Airbus A330, and was designed from the outset to be able to function as an aerial tanker and a transport aircraft at the same time. Obviously, hauling full loads over long distances would reduce its ability to offload fuel to other aircraft, but many deployments could still be accomplished. Deploying a fighter squadron along with its ground crew and other personnel, for instance, becomes a real possibility with this aircraft. Britain’s A330s will be equipped with Rolls Royce’s Trent 700 engine.

The UK’s A330 “Voyagers” will have up to 3 hose-and-drogue refueling points (2 wing, 1 center), using Cobham plc subsidiary Sargent Fletcher’s FRL900 systems. All 14 will sport 2 wing-mounted 905E aerial refueling pods each, which extend to 28m / 90 feet when fully trailed and can transfer up to 1,200 kg/minute. The Voyager K2s will be limited to that configuration, but half (7) will be 3-point Voyager K3s which also host 805E center-line Fuselage Refueling Unit that can transfer up to 1,800 kg per minute. The RAF will buy just 5 805E FRUs, however, leaving 9-10 aircraft to use just the wing pods.

Voyager 02 will temporarily offer a 3rd type, which is essentially an unconverted civil A330, until it’s fed back into the conversion program around 2015.

Unlike other A330 MRTT customers, Britain’s planes will lack the EADS ARBS refueling boom along the rear centerline. It’s used to refuel planes with dorsal indents, like F-16 and F-15 fighters, C-17 transports, etc., and will be present on A330 MRTTs operated by Australia (KC-30B), Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. The UK’s current tankers are all hose-and-drogue only, and except for its C-17 and RC-135 Rivet Joint planes, Britain has generally bought aircraft to suit. While continuing with this approach will limit flexibility with some allies, removal of the boom greatly simplifies civilian conversion and employment.

So, too, does the more problematic omission of full defensive systems to protect against radar-guided threats. Without such systems, however, Britain is unlikely to be able to deploy its new tankers over zones that are rated as dangerous.

FSTA vs. VC10
(click to view full)

The A330 MRTT has a maximum fuel capacity of 111,800 kg, or over 246,000 pounds. In the tanker role, the A330-200 provides twice as much fuel to receiver aircraft as the VC-10. The aircraft also has the capacity to carry 43,000 kg of cargo, including up to 32 463L cargo pallets, or up to 272 passengers, while carrying a full fuel load. AirTanker offers a scenario in which the A330 can fly 270 troops and 8,000 kg of their equipment some 4,700 miles, while also operating as an aerial tanker. Fuel capacity is slightly less than the TriStar’s 139,700 kg, but it carries slightly more passengers (272 vs. 266) and has slightly greater cargo capacity (43t vs. 31t). What it will not have, is the ability to take on more fuel in the air itself, in order to extend its own missions.

Based on the figures in this article, the FSTA program’s 14 A330-200 MRTT aircraft would provide only 50% of the aircraft compared to its present fleet, while offering 71% of the fuel capacity. Carriage on much more efficient aircraft will increase the percentage of fuel available for dispensing, though this may not close the refueling gap completely. On the other hand, the smaller FSTA fleet will boast 116% of the legacy fleet’s total troop carrying capacity, and 185% of its total cargo capacity.

UK FSTA: Program Details & Industrial Team

Making FSTA
(click for video)

The program will offer 14 A330-200 aircraft configured to UK specifications, under a 27-year, GBP 13 billion deal. As noted above, they will not be able to refuel in mid-air themselves, and will use only hose-and-drogue refueling that excludes some client aircraft.

As of July 2014, all 9 “core fleet” aircraft were delivered and in service: 4 x Voyager K2s, and 5 x Voyager K3s. Another 5 A330 Voyagers will serve in a surge fleet, and can operate as civilian aircraft unless called upon by the RAF for extraordinary duties. If called up, they may be fitted with Voyager K2 equipment. The balance of the 14-aircraft fleet is expected to become available to the RAF by 2016.

(click to view full)

The first A330-200 FSTA aircraft in-service flight took place in April 2012 (back in 2005, it was expected in 2010), and began air-to-air refueling duties in 2013.

When the A330 arrangements were first announced, the RAF operated a very identifiable set of 28 VC10 and L-1011 tanker aircraft, which were entirely retired before the FSTA program even stood up its core fleet of 9 A330s. All of the RAF’s aerial tankers were operated out of RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, and that will continue. AirTanker will be based at a new, purpose-built facility at the same location used by the existing fleet: RAF Brize Norton. AirTanker will then provide an integrated all-inclusive service to the RAF that includes full maintenance, flight and fleet management, ground services and state-of-the-art training for RAF FSTA personnel.

Corporate structure
(click to view full)

AirTanker Ltd. holds the contract with the UK MoD, and formally owns the aircraft. It is a UK company, and its current shareholders are EADS (40%), Rolls-Royce (20%), Cobham (13.33%), Thales UK (13.33%) and VT Group (13.33%). While EADS and Thales are non-UK firms, the use of Thales’ UK subsidiary ensured that majority ownership would be held by British companies. The related AirTanker Services will operate the aircraft, and has a slightly different shareholding, at EADS (28%), Rolls Royce (22%), Thales UK (22%), VT Group (22%), and Cobham plc’s Flight Refueling Ltd. (5%).

Once fully operational, the FSTA service will employ around 500 personnel, with a 60:40 split between military and civilian.

Despite BAE’s divestment of its Airbus share, Airbus manufacturing still goes on in Britain. AirTanker Ltd. claims that around 7,500 jobs (3,000 direct, 4,500 indirect) will be directly or indirectly dependent on the FSTA project. The first 2 A330 aircraft will be converted at Airbus Military facilities in Madrid, but after that approximately 50% of the basic aircraft and 100% of the conversion work will be carried out in the UK. Principal work locations will include:

  • RAF Brize Norton (construction of facilities and service delivery)
  • Airbus Military at Getafe, Spain (conversion of planes 5-14)
  • Airbus UK at Broughton and Filton (wing manufacture)
  • Cobham at Wimborne (refuelling equipment) and Bournemouth (conversion of planes 1-4)
  • Rolls-Royce at Derby (Trent 700 engine assembly) and Bristol (project management)
  • Thales UK at Crawley (mission simulators, crew training, defensive aids), Raynes Park (avionics) and Wells (mission planning systems).

UK FSTA: Contracts & Key Events 2015 – 2016

Queen’s Birthday
(click to view full)

October 18/17: Airbus has selected Spanish defense electronics firm Indra to develop a tactical and integrated procedures simulation trainer for pilots of the former’s new A330 MRTT aerial refueling tanker. Indra’s Integrated Procedures Trainer (IPT) will be connected to the Partial Training system (PTT) used by boom operators to learn how to handle the refueling tube for supplying fuel to the aircraft, and will allow pilots to familiarize themselves with the systems of the A330 MRTT tanker and practice situations impossible to reproduce using a real plane, such as engine failure, aircraft stall and emergency landings. Previous work with Airbus has seen Indra develop simulators for Airbus’ commercial A320 and A330 aircraft and Airbus helicopters’ H135, H225, H175, H145 and AS350.

May 12/17: In a world first, Airbus has successfully completed the first test of its automatic air-to-air refueling (AAR) contact system. During the flight, the company’s A330 MRTT demonstrator was successfully steered into the receptacle of a Portuguese air force F-16 using image processing software that the company has been developing for more than a year. As many as six contacts were made over a 75 minute period, at 25,000 feet and 270 knots. The AAR system requires no additional equipment on the receiver and could be introduced on current production A330MRTTs as soon as 2019.

May 20/16: The UK has sent a RAF Voyager tanker to NAS Patuxent River to participate in air-to-air aerial refueling trials of the F-35B. Since arriving on April 18, the British tanker has participated in five flights out of a scheduled 20, which are due to be completed in mid-June. It remains unclear whether the Voyager’s deployment to the US was caused by refueling issues that arose from the B variant being unable to take fuel from the wing pods of KC-10 and KC-135 tankers.

November 4/15: The Pentagon is urgently trying to gain the necessary clearances required for combat aircraft to refuel from Airbus A330 MRTTs, used by coalition partners operating above Syria and Iraq. The Navy is also looking to gain clearances to use hose-and-drogue refueling systems installed on Royal Air Force Voyager tankers to certify the F-35B for this type of refuelling method. A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A (a modified A330 MRTT) has already been used to conduct trials with a F-35A in September, with tests planned on a variety of other platforms.

2013 – 2014

TriStars retire; Full Voyager core fleet in service; 1st lease to a civil operator; Mechanical incident; Are the projected costs reported by NAO just fiddled figures?

July 14/14: Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Philip Dunne greets a Voyager aircraft that has arrived for its Farnborough display, and confirms that the entire core fleet of 9 planes is fully in service after being delivered on time and on budget. He’s encouraging about that, saying:

“These events provide evidence that DE&S is becoming a higher-performing delivery organisation, better able to deliver vital equipment and support to the armed forces on time.”

It certainly beats failure, though FSTA’s structure suggests that AirTanker LLC also deserves a fair bit of credit. Sources: UK MoD, “RAF Voyager aircraft arrive on schedule”

June 24/14: Civil lease. One of AirTanker’s 5 “surge” fleet Voyagers has been leased by Thomas Cook Airlines under a 3-year agreement, as the airline becomes AirTankers 1st civil customer. The single A330-200 will be configured for an all-economy 323-seat configuration, and will operate in airline livery with seconded Thomas Cook Captains, First Officers, and cabin crew flying alongside AirTanker’s own civilian pilots. Beginning in May 2015, it will fly scheduled routes from Glasgow, Manchester and Stansted to Las Vegas, Cancun and Orlando.

The plane will be operated by AirTanker under its civil Air Operator’s Certificate, with base maintenance provided, but Thomas Cook will provide line maintenance. Sources: AirTanker, “AirTanker and Thomas Cook Airlines agree landmark civil leasing deal”.

1st civil lease

May 29/14: Core complete. RAF Brize Norton accepts the 9th Voyager, ZZ338. This completes the RAF’s core fleet, which will consist of 4 K2s with wing pods, and 5 x K3s with an added centerline hose.

The other 5 will be “surge capability” planes that can be leased to the civil market unless and until the RAF needs them. AirTanker, “ZZ338 arrival completes the RAF Voyager core fleet”.

Core fleet delivered

April 7/14: France. An AirTanker release highlights the efforts of Armee de l’Air pilot Capitaine Francois Gilbert, who is on secondment to RAF No.10 Squadron at Brize Norton:

“The French Air Force is expected to place its first order for the MRTT later this year. With the first of 12 tankers built by Airbus Defence and Space to be delivered by 2018, they will replace France’s 14-strong [refueling and transport] fleet of C135 FR jets, three A310 and two A340.

“I’m here to build an understanding of the MRTT, its capability and training required to fly it so that when I go back, the knowledge and understanding that I have gained here, can be applied to the French AAR programme”, he says.”

It also provides a solid foundation if France should need to buy FSTA flight hours before 2018, though that’s looking less likely. Sources: AirTanker, “Entente [Most] Cordiale”.

March 24/14: TriStar retires. A pair of 216 Squadron TriStars fly from RAF Brize Norton on an air-to-air refuelling mission over the North Sea, then one conducts flypasts at airfields associated with its history. It marks the end of the L-1011 TriStar’s service with the RAF. The 4 remaining TriStars will fly to Bruntingthorpe Airfield, Leics for disposal.

Over the last 8 years, 216 Sqn flew to Afghanistan 1,642 times, carrying around 250,000 troops into and out of theater. Its 139,700 kg fuel load will also missed, but it’s worth remembering that this fuel is for the parent aircraft as well. The Voyager’s flight efficiency means that its 110,000 kg fuel load can’t be used as a direct comparison. Sources: RAF, “TriStar Retires After 30 Years Service with the RAF”.

TriStar fleet retired

Feb 13/14: NAO Report. Britain’s National Audit Office releases their 2013 Major Projects Report. They’ve changed the cost basis slightly, as fuel isn’t normally part of program reporting. Even with that discrepancy normalized, the program has still seen its overall whole-life cost to 2035 drop by GBP 386 million from initial approval, to GBP 11.393 billion. Poking deeper into the report, the largest sources of savings involve changes toward a risk-based method for costing equipment obsolescence and projected refinancing savings (GBP 398 million total). On the flip side, this year saw GBP 45 million added because of revised inflation estimates. Time will tell whether those changes are valid.

The program remains on schedule. Infrastructure at Brize Norton is complete, and the training service is operating. This was interesting:

“MoD placed on contract the enhanced FSTA Aircraft Platform Protection system (EDAS). Embodiment is under way, as planned in the programme and is also reflected in wider defence capability planning.”

Feb 9/14: Incident. An AirTanker Voyager aircraft suddenly plummets about 5,000 feet while in flight from RAF Brize Norton to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. The pilot regained control, the aircraft was diverted to a landing at Incirlik AB in Turkey, and passengers were treated for minor injuries.

The military fleet remains grounded while an investigation takes place, and AirTanker may have to reimburse the Ministry for lost flying hours. The civil Voyager 02 will keep flying, which will keep the Falklands air bridge open, but it isn’t cleared to fly to Afghanistan. AirTanker, “Incident 9/2/14: Flight between RAF Brize Norton and Camp Bastion” | Daily Mail, “RAF grounds all Voyager planes after one aircraft plummets several thousand feet during flight to Afghanistan” | Dailt Mirror, “Voyager planes grounded after aircraft carrying 190 people plummeted thousands of feet during flight” | Reuters, “Britain grounds Voyager military fleet after in-flight incident”.

Jan 29/14: #7 arrives. Voyager 07 (ZZ337) arrives at Brize Norton. Like 04 – 06, it’s a Voyager K3 tanker with wing and belly-mounted refueling systems, giving AirTanker 4 of the K3 tankers and another 2 K2s with just wing pods. Voyager 02 is a civil charter aircraft. Sources: AirTanker, “Voyager 07 flies into RAF Brize Norton”.

Dec 21/13: Operations. RAF Voyager aircraft have begun flights into Afghanistan, airlifting soldiers from Camp Bastion in Helmland, Afghanistan back to Britain. The accompanying pictures show the planes loading at night, which is one way to handle poor defensive systems.

101 Sqn Wing Commander Ronnie Trasler says that 6 Voyager aircraft are already in service with the RAF, and the core fleet of 9 aircraft is on track to be in service by May 2014. Sources: RAF, “Voyager Flies to Afghanistan”.


VC10s retire; RTS for Eurofighters; Program on schedule; Britain creating an operational refueling gap?

Voyager & friends
(click to view full)

Sept 30/13: Typhoon update. Progress with the Eurofighter Typhoon (q.v. Dec 6/11) and Tornado GR4 strike fighter (q.v. April 5/12) fleets has been slow, so AirTanker is eager to offer a progress update. The UK MoD gave Voyager clearance to begin air-to-air refuelling (AAR) operations with Typhoon in late May 2013, with a formal Release to Service (RTS) on Aug 15/13. “Voyager and Typhoon have now completed more than 350 contacts, offloading 840 tonnes of fuel to the end of this month [Sept].” Tornado GR4 refueling has also been problematic, with clearance received only “at the beginning of summer,” and 1,460t of fuel offloaded since then.

Transport is seeing more action, with the entire military fleet clocking a total of 5,400 hours, carrying more than 110,000 passengers and 6,300 tonnes plus of freight. The civil Voyager 02 is now up to 1,200 hours, almost 30,000 passengers, and more than 1,600 tonnes of freight.

Summer 2013 also saw AirTanker receive its Extended Twin (Engine) Operations (ETOPs) clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority, which lets the civilian airline take on long-range routes and fly up to 180 minutes from the nearest suitable airport. This is a precursor for its expected October 2013 role in support of the Falklands air bridge. Sources: AirTanker, “Voyager and Typhoon complete more than 350 contacts”.

Sept 20/13: Final Flight. The VC10 performs its last operational flight for the RAF. The 2-ship VC10 K3 sortie (tails ZA147 and ZA150) included the full range of counterparts: Typhoon and Tornado GR4 fighters, Hercules transports, even extending the mission by refueling one VC10 from the other. To mark the tanker’s long service, a VC10 flew over various RAF stations, including RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Coningsby, RAF Marham and RAF Leuchars, as well as sites in Warton, Birmingham and Prestwick.

The formal retirement ceremony is Sept 25/13, but in our books, the last flight is the end. Sources: UK MoD release.

VC10s retired

May 29/13: #5 arrives. Voyager 05 (ZZ333), which is also a K3 3-point tanker, arrives at RAFB Brize Norton.

April 26/13: #4 arrives. Voyager 04 arrives in Brize Norton, where it becomes the 1st The first of 7 Voyager K3 tankers configured to include a centerline fuselage tank and hose, in addition to wing pods. The new A330 will join existing Voyager K2s (01 and 03) on the Military Aircraft Register, and operate as ZZ332.

Since the start of operational service in April last year, Voyager 01 (ZZ330) and 03 (ZZ331) have totaled more than 1,700 hours, carrying more than 25,000 passengers and over 2,000 tonnes of freight. The civil Voyager 02 (G-VYGG) has flown more than 230 hours, carrying more than 5,000 passengers and more than 300 tonnes of freight. It forms the core of AirTanker’s airline operation, which began operations with an inaugural flight to Akrotiri in January 2013. Sources: AirTanker, “AirTanker takes receipt of first ‘three-point’ tanker”.

March 14/13: Say what? UK minister for defence equipment, support and technology Philip Dunne confirms to Flight International that new A400Ms won’t have in-flight refueling pods added to let them perform as aerial tankers, because:

“The Ministry of Defence has recently refreshed its study into requirements for air-to-air refuelling capability. This concluded that Voyager will meet all requirements; therefore, there is no need for an air-to-air refuelling capability by the A400M Atlas.”

The RAF’s new A330 Voyager MRTTs lack key defensive systems, in order to avoid conflicts with their secondary use as civil charter planes. Those kinds of warning and decoy systems are necessary for refueling aircraft in even mildly hazardous environments. As tactical military transports with good range and no other uses, the A400Ms would have been well qualified to fill that gap. Flight International.

Jan 24/13: The Little Prince. A Voyager aircraft brings Prince Harry back to England, along with the rest of his Apache attack helicopter unit. Having said that, note the flight points:

“The Prince, who is known as Captain Wales in the Army, touched down at RAF Brize Norton late yesterday afternoon [23/1/13] on an inbound flight from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus.”

Akrotiri is considered a “safe” airfield – unlike Kandahar in Afghanistan, which would have been Capt. Wales departure point. There are also certifications required to fly those kinds of distances. AirTanker.


1st service flight; Britain facing capability crunch; Conversion work switches to Airbus in Spain.

Tornado contact
(click for video)

Dec 19/12: #3 arrives. Voyager 03 flies into RAFB Brize Norton, to join the Voyager fleet on the Military Aircraft Register. Source: AirTanker, “Voyager 03 flies into RAF Brize Norton”.

In contrast, Voyager 02 will be flown on the Civilian Aircraft Register and operated by AirTanker, using its own pilots and supported by AirTanker cabin crew.

Dec 13/12: AOC. AirTanker successfully demonstrates its full service capability to the Civil Aviation Authority in a proving flight to Reykjavik, in order to secure its Air Operating Certificate (AOC). Source: AirTanker, “Voyager 03 flies into RAF Brize Norton”.

June 25/12: Deadline pressures. Flight International explains the deadline pressures facing the transport and tanker fleet:

“By the end of this year, the last of the UK’s Lockheed Martin C-130K Hercules will be retired from use, while the replacement Airbus Military A400M won’t start appearing on the ramp at RAF Brize Norton until during 2014… But it is in the tanker sector that the biggest headache is emerging. The RAF’s last nine Vickers VC10s… [will be] retired in March 2013, with its Lockheed TriStars (including four tankers) to follow by the end of the same year… Only one [A330 Voyager] is currently in service, initially in an air transport capacity only, and I’m hearing that fuel venting problems encountered during earlier refuelling trials have yet to go away… The RAF needs tankers to sustain quick reaction alert duties… as well as supporting deployed examples defending the Falkland Islands and allied strike aircraft flying over Afghanistan. With the noise of the VC10’s “Conway [engine] quartet” to fall silent in only nine months, the pressure is really on for the Voyager to deliver.”

DID is going out on a limb, and predicting that either or both of the VC10 and L-1011 TriStar fleets will remain in service past their current retirement dates. Even private aerial tanker services like Omega wouldn’t be able to fully cover those needs, though a mix of TriStars for distant missions and contractors for Quick Reaction Alerts might work for a limited time.

June 22/12: Conversion switched. Cobham plc and AirTanker Ltd. (in which Cobham is a 13.33% shareholder), issue a joint statement that yanks A330 conversion work from Cobham’s UK facility back to Airbus Military in Spain. Cobham tries to minimize the decision, saying that there are “no technical issues with the conversion process,” adding to co-locating the conversion with the design office in Spain is only about “greatly improving efficiency and shortening the supply chain.” The net effect is to kill 320 British jobs at Bournemouth: 237 Cobham employees, and 83 contractors.

A step like this isn’t taken unless there were serious problems, and significant customer pressure. The core problems are hinted at by AirTanker’s release, which mentions a need “to ensure the timely delivery” of the planes, as part of a focus on delivery “on time and on cost.” The Cobham and AirTanker, they say, “have mutually recognized that this is the best way of meeting their own commitments and have taken the responsible decision…” This is all a kind way of saying that Cobham may not have had technical problems, but they aren’t performing to schedule or cost targets, and the problem is bad enough that the project is in danger of missing its commitments. Two industry sources contacted by The Sun newspaper cited Cobham delays as a problem, and one offered a stark assessment: “Basically, Cobham can’t do the job. They haven’t invested.”

The customer pressure revolves around the schedule. With the VC10 tankers slated to leave service in March 2013, delays to the Voyager fleet would be both an operational problem for the RAF, and a financial problem for AirTanker Ltd. due to penalty clauses. Cobham plc | AirTanker Ltd. | Dorset Echo | Flight International | Reuters | The Sun.

Airbus Military takes refueling conversions from Cobham

May 31/12: Monarch Aircraft Engineering (MAEL) has completed the first C check for the UK’s Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport “Voyager” fleet, on behalf of AirTanker Services. AirTanker’s in-house capability isn’t available yet.

The C-Check is a full-aircraft inspection, usually done every 15-21 months or after a specific amount of actual Flight Hours. In the Voyager’s case, it’s a matter of time and not flight hours. Flight International.

April 5/12: Hosed? Reuters reports that the A330 Voyager’s hose and drogue system has experienced leakage problems when refueling RAF Tornado fighters:

“A source close to AirTanker said the problem was in pipes which connect the Voyager to Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado warplanes which leaked when fuel was pumped through them during mid-air testing. The source said the refuelling trial was continuing.”

Failure to meet requirements could result in contract penalties. In response, AirTanker issued a statement via YouTube, while showing a refueling contact with a Tornado GR4:

“The Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (ACAS) signed the Voyager Release to Service and Certificate of Usage yesterday (05 Apr 12) and the aircraft will commence flying operations On the Military Aircraft Register with the RAF next week. Voyager is already a certified tanker and Air to Air Refuelling trials to clear RAF receiver aircraft to receive fuel from Voyager continue. As would be expected with a new aircraft, there have been some technical problems, but these are being addressed. AirTanker fully expects to deliver the core fleet of nine aircraft by 2014 in line with the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) Contract.”

April 4/12: 1st service flight. The aircraft took off from RAF Brize Norton for a training sortie around the United Kingdom, in its 1st service flight for the RAF.

The type was granted a Release To Service for Air Transport, and was placed on Military Aircraft Register the next day. AirTanker LLC | Airbus Military.

1st service flight, Release To Service

Feb 22/12: France. Defense Aerospace reports on a 2012 news conference involving French DGA head Lauren Collet-Billon. He leaves the door open to FSTA participation, but makes it clear France will have its own tankers:

“Although it may buy tanker capacity from the Royal Air Force “if the flight hour price is affordable,” France intends to buy its own fleet of A330 tankers which are required to support the French air force’s sovereign nuclear strike mission. These will be ordered in 2013.”

Feb 2/12: Certification. AirTanker receives Type Certification Exposition version 5 for Air Transport & Aeromed 3. Sources: UK NAO, Major Projects Report.


1st FSTA arrives.

A330: Voyager 01
(click to view full)

Dec 6/11: Delay. The British Forces Broadcasting Service reports that:

“The first A330 Voyager had been due to be handed over in October, but isn’t now expected at its new home of Brize Norton until the New Year. The private company that will operate the aircraft says it is down to the availability of Typhoon fast jets for air-to-air refuelling tests.”

The RAF Typhoon fleet’s base availability rate been a subject of some controversy lately. This problem could also stem from the need to have Typhoons on Libyan operations and home patrol missions, which would leave few planes available for other tasks like testing.

Nov 18/11: France. AIN reports that Libyan lessons learned have made new Airbus A330 MRTT aerial tankers a bigger priority for France, alongside their aging C-135FRs.

An interim contract for 5-7 A330 MRTTs planes is now expected in 2013, which means AirTanker LLC is less likely to see any French leasing contracts.

Sept 4/11: Airbus Military delivers the 1st Airbus A330-200 aircraft to Bournemouth, UK, where Cobham Aviation Services will handle conversion into the RAF’s Voyager tanker configuration. It’s actually the 3rd FSTA plane built so far, but the first 2 were built and converted entirely by Airbus Military in Spain.

The conversion program will include 2 wing-mounted 905E aerial refueling pods for each plane, and half (7) of the “Voyagers” will also be fitted for 805E center-line fuselage refueling units. Airbus Military | Cobham Plc [PDF].

Aug 8/11: The 1st Voyager aircraft arrives at RAF Brize Norton. It’s involved in a flight testing program to certify it as a refueler for Tornado strike fighters. The visit was actually more of a stopover from Airbus Military’s home in Getafe, Spain, before departing for MOD Boscombe Down the next day. AirTanker LLC.

April 18/11: 1st FSTA arrives. The 1st FSTA aircraft arrives in the UK, touching down at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. The aircraft also picks up a formal military name: Voyager.

Boscombe Down will host 2 of the Voyager aircraft for an intensive program of testing and trials in the refuelling role, set to continue into 2012 with Tornado, Sentry, Typhoon and Hercules aircraft. Those first 2 development aircraft had their military conversion process and initial flight testing done at Airbus Military’s facility near Madrid, Spain, but the next 12 Voyagers will be converted by Cobham at their facility in Bournemouth, UK. UK MoD | Airbus Military | AirTanker.

March 31/11: RAF Brize Norton’s 2-bay hangar and support building officially opens. It will become the FSTA program’s maintenance facility, flight operations centre and office headquarters. AirTanker.



FSTA production
(click to view full)

Dec 20/10: Due to extreme bad weather at RAF Brize Norton, 2 of RAF 99 Squadron’s C-17s end up spending the night on aeromedical standby inside AirTanker’s hangar, which has been built but not fully fitted out yet. AirTanker.

Dec 13/10: Testing. Britain’s 1st A330 MRTT performs the type’s 1st fuselage-mounted hose-and-drogue aerial refueling dry contacts, using an F/A-18 Hornet fighter. Airbus Military. The 1st wet refueling took place on Jan 21/11, transferring over 6 tonnes of fuel at an altitude of around 15,000 feet, and at speeds from 250 – 325kt. AirTanker.

Cobham’s belly-mounted 805E FRU (Fuselage Refueling Unit) is part of the proposed USAF KC-45’s 4-point refueling system, which shares the 2 removable digital underwing hose-and-drogue refueling pods with FSTA aircraft, but also adds a fly-by-wire ARBS boom for UARRSI dorsal receptacles. Both the belly-mounted FRU and underwing hose-and-drogue refueling pods share the same modular architecture, and all 4 systems are controlled from the Remote Aerial Refueling Operator (RARO) console in the cockpit.

Nov 2/10: France. The “UK-France Summit 2010 Declaration on Defence and Security Co-operation” has this to say:

“15. Air to air refuelling and passenger air transport. We are currently investigating the potential to use spare capacity that may be available in the UK’s Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) programme to meet the needs of France for air to air refuelling and military air transport, provided it is financially acceptable to both nations.”

France currently flies 14 C-135FRs for aerial refueling, and will probably need to keep these Boeing 707 relatives in service for refueling in combat zones and nuclear strike missions. Their planned replacement buy of A330 MRTT refueling and transport planes has been pushed back due to budget concerns, however, creating a need for a stopgap than can lower the C-135FR fleet’s flight hours, and fill some of the gaps. The FSTA tankers will be downgraded versions of France’s own future buy, making it an attractive option that could even result in a reduced future purchase of A330s for the Armée de L’Air.

On the British side, more hours bought by military users beyond Britain makes key modifications like defensive systems easier to justify, and easier to handle operationally because the need for civilian conversions and removal/ modification is reduced.

Oct 26/10: Maiden flight of Britain’s 2nd AirTanker A330 MRTT, which was converted from a basic A330-200 by Airbus Military in Getafe, Spain. Airbus Military.

Sept 16/10: FSTA PFI Rubbished. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee releases its study of the tanker PFI arrangement, and it is not positive. Excerpts from “Delivering Multi-Role Tanker Aircraft Capability” :

“PFI works best where activities and demand are predictable. This is clearly not the case for FSTA. For instance, it is simply astonishing that the Department did not decide until 2006 that FSTA should be able to fly into high threat environments such as Afghanistan. Yet the Department is inhibited from changing the specification because of the implications to the cost of the PFI. Just two years after the deal was signed, the forthcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review is likely to change the demand for the services AirTanker has been contracted to deliver. As the Committee’s previous work shows, dealing with changes on PFI deals is expensive and the Review may question whether this PFI deal is sensible or affordable. The fact that no other country has chosen to procure air-to-air refuelling and passenger transport using PFI type arrangements is further indication that PFI is not a suitable procurement route for such important military capabilities.

There are significant shortcomings in the Department’s procurement of FSTA and we do not believe the procurement was value for money. The shortcomings include…”

See also: British Forces News (incl. video) | BBC | Daily Mail | The Guardian | The Independent | Public Finance magazine | Sky News (incl. video) | The Telegraph | Think Defence.

Sept 16/10: Maiden flight. The first FSTA A330 completes its maiden flight from the Airbus Military facility at Getafe, Spain. Airbus Military | Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Aug 27/10: Rollout. The first A330-200 FSTA plane rolls out of Airbus Military’s hangar in Getafe, Spain, at the end of its indoor conversion and testing. First flight is expected in September 2010. AirTanker Services.

July 7/10: France. French defense minister Hervé Morin tells the parliamentary defense committee that France will postpone program contracts worth EUR 5.4 billion, in an effort to slash EUR 3.5 billion from the military budget over the next 3 years. France’s plan to replace its aged C-135FR aerial tankers with 14 A330-200 MRTT aircraft by 2015 is one of the delayed programs, even though it’s critical to many of the goals in the government’s 2009 defense white paper.

The parliamentary committee reportedly asked Morin if sharing the British FSTA service might help as a stopgap. If so, it would be a partial one at best. Not only is FSTA unable to operate in even low-threat areas, a commercial service cannot be used to refuel nuclear-armed strike aircraft. That was not an issue for Britain, whose nuclear weapons are limited to submarine-launched Trident missiles. Defense News.

March 20/10: NAO report. Britain’s NAO auditors publish their report “Ministry of Defence: Delivering multi-role tanker aircraft capability.” The key takeaway: “The National Audit Office has been unable to conclude that the Ministry of Defence has achieved value for money from the procurement phase of its £10.5 billion private finance deal for the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA).” Excerpts:

“During the negotiation of the deal… testing showed that the PFI solution was between 15 per cent better and 5 per cent worse than the [public sector] Comparator depending on which aircraft, discount factor and delivery confidence level was selected, and offered better value for money in seven of the eight scenarios presented… the Department never gained visibility of detailed sub-contractor costs and margins for the aircraft and their modification… until 2004, the project team had insufficient staff with PFI experience and frequent changes of team leader… there has been no compensating reduction in the support costs for the TriStar and VC10 fleets, which stood at approximately [GBP] 105 million in 2008-09.

…Since contract signature, the project has achieved its delivery milestones and is on budget… The Department is undertaking a large scale re-development at RAF Brize Norton with the intention that new facilities are operational by 2012, shortly after FSTA’s entry into service [in 2011]. However, there is little timescale contingency in these plans.

…The Department managed the later stages of the procurement of FSTA well, including making effective use of advisers and skilled Departmental staff in the latter stages of the negotiation, and transferring the risk to AirTanker for the introduction of the service. The Department did well to close the deal in difficult market conditions… [but, in earlier phases] The Department chose a PFI strategy for FSTA with no realistic assessment of alternatives… The Department was forced to narrow the field to one bidder while a number of significant issues remained… The Department never gained visibility of sub-contractor costs and margins… Neither did the Department undertake any “should-cost” modelling… Between the start of the formal assessment phase and contract signature, the Department spent [GBP] 48 million managing the project, including [GBP] 27 million on advisers, [GBP] 10 million on supporting the bidders and [GBP] 11 million on internal costs.”

March 29/10: Progress report. AirTanker Services offers a program update 2 years in, saying that all major milestones have been met since the Contract was signed on March 27/08. Construction at RAF Brize Norton continues to plan; the exterior work on the modern 2-bay hangar and support building was completed at the end of 2009, the interior fit out is well underway, the first milestone on the training center was completed 7 weeks ahead of schedule, and the Main Operating Base is scheduled to finish early in 2011. AirTanker is preparing for the first test flight in military configuration later in 2010. AirTanker Services release [PDF].


Program on track.

FSTA-1 to Getafe
(click to view full)

July 10/09: The FSTA program’s first Airbus A330-200 flies from Airbus’ Toulouse, France, factory to the Airbus Military facility at Getafe, Spain, on schedule, today. Conversion of this first FSTA aircraft with military avionics and refuelling capability will now commence, in a new, purpose-built, permanent hangar. AirTanker Services release [PDF].

June 4/09: The first A330-200 aircraft built for the FSTA partnership completes its 3-hour maiden test flight on schedule. As the aircraft was put through a series of maneuvers covering its entire flight envelope, engineers conducted various compliance tests on the engines and onboard systems. UK MoD | AirTanker Services release [PDF].

April 1/09: Progress report. The UK MoD issues a release, covering the state of the FSTA program. In mid-November 2008, ATrS completed and handed over improved facilities at RAF Brize Norton that included bulk diesel and waste fuel tanks, air side motor transport parking, wash pan drainage facilities; and a petrol, oil and lubricants store.

Work has started on a 2-bay hangar and associated workshops, as well as what will be a 4-floor office. the office will host the RAF’s 2 FSTA squadrons, the MOD’s Integrated Project Team, and AirTanker corporate personnel. On which topic, ATrS has hired over 30 new recruits.

Feb 25/09: The first FSTA wingset is completed at Airbus UK’s Broughton factory, and is loaded onto an Airbus Beluga aircraft for the journey to Bremen, Germany, for final equipping. Toulouse, France, will be the site for final assembly. Source.


PFI. LAIRCM selected.

FSTA A330-200
(click to view full)

July 16/08: LAIRCM picked. Northrop Grumman announces that their AN/AAQ-24V Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures Systems (LAIRCM) system has been selected to defend the UK’s aerial tanker fleet. Under the terms of the $93 million contract, Northrop Grumman’s Defensive Systems Division will provide LAIRCM system hardware and support to Thales U.K., a member of the AirTanker consortium.

LAIRCM’s system used laser pulses that hit incoming missiles to confuse their infrared guidance systems, and it has become a very popular system for protecting VIP flights and large aircraft like the C-17, E-3 AWACS, C-130, et. al. NGC’s partnership with EADS to build the A330 variant KC-30B for the American tanker competition didn’t hurt their chances, either.

March 27/08: PFI Contract. Rolls Royce announces that “As a shareholder and sub-contractor to AirTanker, the value to Rolls-Royce over the lifetime of the 27-year programme is estimated at over GBP 700 million.” The firm adds that “In line with its shareholding Rolls-Royce will contribute approximately 20 per cent of the equity investment required for the programme, the majority of which is not payable until the operational phase of the programme.”

Rolls-Royce will source components from its global supply chain, then assemble and test the engines at their Derby facility. It will then provide Mission Ready Management Solutions support for the engines once they’re in service. Program management and real-time, proactive diagnostic support will be provided from Rolls Royce’s Defence Aerospace headquarters in Bristol, with additional personnel based at RAF Brize Norton.

According to Rolls Royce, the Trent 700 engine has 53% of firm and option orders for global A330 fleets, including 70% of orders over the last 5 years. Competitive virtues cited include higher thrust, and a full-length cowl that reduces infra-red signature. While the RAF’s program is large in absolute terms, within the overall context of Rolls Royce’s business, one should consider that Trent 700 manufacturing and service in 3 months of 2008 (about $5 billion/ GBP 2.5 billion) is about 3 times the value of the RAF’s 27-year program. Rolls Royce release.

March 27/08: PFI Contract. AirTanker and its Shareholders (Cobham, EADS, Rolls-Royce, Thales UK and VT Group) sign a GBP 13 billion (about $26.04 billion), 27-year contract with the UK Ministry of Defence for 14 new aerial tanker aircraft based on the Airbus A330-200 MRTT, and powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines. The aircraft will enter service beginning in 2011, with aerial refueling services beginning in 2014 and full service beginning in 2016. They will replace Britain’s surviving fleet of 19 VC-10 and 9 L-1011 TriStar aircraft.

The FSTA contract also includes the provision of all necessary infrastructure, including a state of the art 2-bay hangar, training, maintenance, flight operations, fleet management and ground services to enable worldwide Air-to-Air Refuelling and Air Transport missions. An infrastructure program will begin in May 2008 at at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, and the program as a whole is expected to sustain up to 3,000 long-term direct jobs, plus another 4,500 indirect jobs. You may even end up flying in one:

“A number of the aircraft will be operated on the civil register flying commercial Air Transport tasks when not subject to operational requirements, thereby enabling greater productivity for the fleet. Within the PFI agreement, the MoD will only pay for the service once it is available and then only for the capacity that it uses, subject to agreed minimum usage levels.”

The final stage in the process of preparing for contract closure was a financing competition conducted over the last 6 months by the AirTanker consortium, which raised approximately GBP 2.5 billion ($5 billion). UK MoD release | AirTanker Ltd. release [MS Word] | EADS release.

2006 – 2007

Contractual progress.

Tanker fuel systems
(click to view full)

Nov 8/07: In its earnings guidance release, EADS says that:

“In response to the UK PFI Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) requirement, the AirTanker consortium (EADS is 40 percent shareholder and platform provider) has made significant progress in the finalising of contractual arrangements with the UK MoD and in the selection of lenders and financing structure. In the other tanker variant that the Division is currently introducing into the market includes the air-refuelling boom system which is now nearing completion of its development phase and continues flight testing.”

June 6/07: Financing. AirTanker Ltd. announces [PDF format] that it has begun work on the Financing Competition to raise almost GBP 2 billion (about $4 billion) in initial capital, in conjunction with Deutsche Bank. It will be used to start up the business as a fully operational concern, buy the aircraft, and build the new facilities at RAF Brize Norton.

June 6/07: PFI approved. Defence Equipment and Support Minister Lord Drayson announces government approval a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) for the FSTA program. UK MoD release.

July 16/06: AirTanker announces [PDF] that the US State Department has granted umbrella approval, in the form of a brokering licence, which will allow AirTanker to provide the FSTA service to the RAF with aircraft containing US-supplied military equipment.

2000 – 2005

Program start. Final bids. A330 picked.

RAF TriStar KC1
(click to view full)

July 11/05: AirTanker announces [MS Word format] that Phill Blundell has been appointed as the firm’s Chief Executive. He had joined AirTanker from BAE Systems at the start of May 2005 and has been assuming greater responsibilities leading up to his formal appointment. His last role at BAE Systems was Group Managing Director C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), with a focus on non-platform and complex systems integration.

Feb 28/05: Following revisions to AirTanker’s proposals, and its re-assessment to the same evaluation criteria used for the January 2004 assessment, the UK government names the AirTanker consortium as its preferred bidder for the FSTA program, which is expected to be worth GBP 13 billion (about $25 billion in March 2005) over its 27-year lifetime. AirTanker release [PDF] | DID coverage.

January 2004: A330 picked. AirTanker is selected by the UK Ministry of Defence as the bidder most likely to provide a value for money solution, and contractual negotiations on key commercial terms begin.

August 2003: Final bids. Final bids are received from the TTSC (BAE, Boeing, Serco, Spectrum Capital) and AirTanker (EADS, Rolls Royce, Cobham, Thales UK) consortia. The delay from the initial bids is due to the MoD’s 2002 Equipment Planning process.

July 3/01: The MoD receives 2 initial bids: one from a BAE/Boeing consortium, another led by EADS.

Dec 21/2000: An Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) is issued to industry

Dec 19/2000: FSTA begins. The FSTA Program is given initial gate approval by Ministers and enters a formal Assessment phase.

Appendix A: PFI – The Art of the Deal

Tony Blair
(click to view full)

Under Prime Minister Blair, Britain’s Labor government made far greater use of Public-Private Partnerships/ Private Financing Initiatives, which kept key projects wholly or partly “off the books,” and could make some use of private sector efficiency incentives. When the need to replace their aerial tanker fleet arose, therefore, budgetary provisions were made in 1997 for a PFI. In a June 2/07 Economist article (“What I’ve Learned”), Tony Blair says:

“Public services need to go through the same revolution – professionally, culturally, and in organization – as the private sector has gone through. The old monolithic provision has to be broken down. The user has to be given real power of preference. The system needs proper incentives and rewards…”

The first step in the UK’s tanker PFI process was to select a preferred bidder, but here the government ran into a trap of its own making. Negotiations proved problematic. AirTanker (A330 MRTT) and TTSC (KC-767: BAE, Boeing, Serco, and Spectrum Capital) submitted proposals in July 2001, but the bids were not to the MoD’s liking. By September 2002, they decided to offer to pay the losing bidder up to GBP 10 million, in order to keep the competitors interested in a long and increasingly expensive bid process. After several iterations, the 2 consortia submitted revised bids in August 2003.

The TTSC consortium’s bid was 19% more expensive than AirTanker’s, and 6% above the notional public sector baseline. It also had stringent time limits, requiring a buy by 2005. In January 2004, TTSC was “de-selected” from the competition, and negotiations began with the remaining competitor, AirTanker. Those negotiations also proved difficult, and in May 2004, the FSTA project team recommended cancellation of the entire program.

By this time, however, the focus had moved from competition to financing, and the trap had closed. Working publicly on a public sector fallback plan would create uncertainty in the market, which could raise the cost and difficulty of the required finance deal, making failure a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the political end, the PFI concept itself was based on a practice that has been successful in Britain, but FSTA had surface similarities with the USA’s controversial and canceled KC-767 lease deal, which came to be associated with a corruption scandal. A mirrored failure in the UK, for whatever reasons, would have drawn those comparisons even tighter, and damaged PFIs as a whole. Committed by ideology and also by the threat of loss of face if the deal were scrapped, the government and the Ministry chose to plow ahead. they even sought to avoid planning for fallback options, doing so only in 2007 – and then in an incomplete fashion.

The AirTanker consortium was finally selected as the Preferred Bidder (vice default bidder) in February 2005, along with its proposed A330-200 Multi-Role Tanker-Transport aircraft. Yet even this step did not result in a contract.

The next step was ratification of a Private Financing Initiative as the way forward, as this is a significant departure from the usual buy and own approach for military aircraft. Nevertheless, reform of the defense sector in Britain has been wide-ranging. Huge progress has been made in the spread of “future contracting for availability,” as a common model for changing contractor incentives and supporting key weapons platforms like the RAF’s Tornados throughout their service life. The first decade of the new millennium had also seen significant organizational shifts within the Ministry of Defense.

It also saw shifts within government. Tony Blair’s retirement, and the ascension of the more left-wing Gordon Brown to the prime minister’s post, left a question mark of sorts over the future of service provision reform; the PFI concept is not popular in many parts of the ruling Labour Party. As such, the eventual confirmation by Lord Drayson that a PFI approach would be pursued for a huge program like FSTA had implications that reached beyond the UK’s military.

What it could not do, was make up for lost time. With that approval out of the way, step 3 of FSTA required agreement on a final deal with AirTanker.

(click to view full)

In order to make the deal work from AirTanker’s point of view, however, financing terms were almost as important as its terms with the government. AirTanker Ltd. worked with Deutsche Bank as its primary advisor, and held a competition among lenders to finance the initial capital outlay. That competition raised GBP 2.5 billion (about $5 billion) to start up the business as a fully operational concern, buy the aircraft, and build the new facilities from which AirTanker will provide the FSTA service. The firm’s June 6/07 release added that:

“The goal will be to ensure that the final terms agreed with the chosen lenders transfer the risk away from the taxpayer, while guaranteeing full value for money for the MOD.”

This had been the goal since 1997. But a contract was not forthcoming until March 2008. It had taken so long, that the entire plan was 5.5 years behind at the beginning of the program contract.

Under the deal, the A300-200 aircraft will be owned and supported by AirTanker, while the service will be staffed by a mixture of armed services and civilian personnel. As noted above, under the PFI (Private Financing Initiative) concept the RAF would fly the 14 Airbus A330 FSTA aircraft on operational missions and receive absolute preferential access to the planes, while the contractor handled maintenance and operated them as passenger or transport aircraft when the RAF didn’t need them.

The UK MoD would pay for the provision MRTT aircraft on the basis of an agreement that combined per-use payments, plus incentives and penalties. These would be issued on the basis of aircraft availability, and AirTanker’s ability to meet key measurements of performance under the PFI agreement.

Revenues will be generated over time, via the performance-based, pay-per-use contract negotiated with the UK MoD. The NAO laid out expected costs in a 2010 report:

“Across the term of the contract, the Department will pay on average [GBP] 390 million per annum for the baseline FSTA service, which includes the cost of related services and infrastructure. Of this amount, AirTanker expects the cost of operating the service to be [GBP] 80 million, leaving [GBP] 310 million to cover financing, profit and the capital cost of the project… In addition, the Department expects to spend a further [GBP] 60 million per annum on personnel, fuel and other related costs, resulting in a total estimated spend over the life of the project of [GBP] 12.3 billion.”

TriStar & USN F/A-18Cs
over Afghanistan
(click to view full)

As always, the devil will be in the details – and in a PFI, any agreement that offers too much of an advantage to either side will ultimately prove to be in the best interests of neither party.

Blind spots can be equally costly, of course. Surprisingly, the original FSTA requirements did not envisage the aircraft flying into dangerous environments – even danger on the minimal scale of Afghanistan. When the need for possible additional aircraft protection measures arose, requirements were not changed; negotiations were proving difficult enough as it was. The UK MoD is now considering the technical requirements, costs that Britain’s NAO auditors estimate as “hundreds of millions of pounds,” and an in-service schedule that could be several years after the tanker service is “operational.” The existing British tanker fleet would have to cover the gap for areas most likely to see sustained aerial operations, or allies would have to cooperate, until that could be achieved.

In retrospect, Britain’s Parliament has been sharply critical of the deal, citing it as a god example of when not to use PFI. These arrangements only work, they say, when demand is predictable and changes are rare. That unpredictable demand was actually seen as an initial plus for the PFI, by making use of otherwise “wasted” time. The problem is that civilian and military carriage requirements aren’t harmonized yet, and many of the protective systems the military would want to install have too many classified technologies on board for use on civilian aircraft in civilian airports. Meanwhile, the RAF can no longer depend on operating tankers only “behind the front lines,” as long-range missiles and irregular warfare mean that the front lines themselves are disappearing.

That kind of collision, say the critics, is exactly why military systems are poor candidates for PFI arrangements. Given the rapidly changing nature of military operations, they say, the Labour government’s prioritization of political face over “plan B” options has been especially damaging and expensive. With so many contracts signed, and so little extra money on hand to cover the expenses of both cancellation and replacement, FSTA is the only option Britain has left. Somehow, the RAF will have to make it work – and extend the life of the existing TriStar and/or VC10 fleets to cover immediate front line needs.

Appendix B: Britain Former Refueling Fleet

Over the course of the FSTA acquisition process, the RAF has worked to phase out its legacy fleet of refueling aircraft.

By the time the FSTA contract was signed, both of the RAF’s legacy aircraft types had been out of production for over 20 years. A few commercial fleets still operated the L-1011 TriStar, but the RAF’s fleet had begun to show its age, and was nearing the end of its operational lifespan. By then, the RAF was the only global operator of the VC10s. Hence the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft program, which received its formal go-ahead in 2000. It was a hard slog (q.v. Appendix A), but the fleet is now in active service.

Tri-version TriStars

TriStar & Tornados
(click to view full)

The RAF’s 9 Lockheed L-1011 TriStars previously served with British Airways and Pan-Am. They have a unique 3-engine profile that includes an air intake on top, in front of the tail stabilizer. The TriStars and are the larger of the 2 major tanker classes, with more fuel capacity and range. They were operated by No 216 Squadron until March 2014, and broke down into 3 different models.

K1 and KC1 aircraft could perform air-air refueling. A total fuel load of 139,700 kg could be carried, which can be used by the aircraft itself, or given away to receivers. Although the aircraft had 2 hosedrum refueling units, only 1 could be used at a time, restricting aircraft to single-point refueling. On a typical AAR flight from the UK to Cyprus, or Gander (Canada), the RAF 4 TriStar KC1 aircraft could each refuel up to 4 fast-jet aircraft, while carrying up to 31 tonnes/ 34.1 tons of passengers and/or freight.

The addition of a large, fuselage freight-door and a roller-conveyor system allowed outsized palletized cargo to be carried on the KC1s, but the RAF’s 2 TriStar K1 aircraft weren’t fitted for this. TriStar K1s carry up to 187 passengers instead, in addition to their refueling equipment.

The KC2/KC2A TriStars were ex-Pan Am transport aircraft that remained largely unchanged from their airline days. They carried up to 266 passengers, and were used for transport duties only.

VC10s: Distinctive, but Discontinued

VC10 & Tornado F3s
(click to view full)

The RAF’s 19 Vickers VC-10s were famous for having 4 engines – 2 mounted on each side of their rear fuselage. This has the happy side-effect of minimizing turbulence for pilots taking up refueling stations behind their wings. Unlike the TriStars, VC10s were equipped with a probe-and-drogue refueling system capable of refueling 2 aircraft simultaneously from the 2 underwing pods; they could also use a single fuselage-mounted Hose Drum Unit (HDU). They also differed from the TriStars in that they could be refueled themselves, thanks to the installation of a fixed refueling probe in their nose. Only 11 were serving by 2002, in 3 tanker versions:

The VC10-C1Ks were converted to the aerial refueling role in 1993 with the fitting of a Mk32 refueling pod under the outboard section of each wing. They carry their internal fuel, and can also accommodate 124 troops plus 9 crew, or aero-medical evacuation of up to 68 stretchers. A large, cabin-freight door on the forward left side of the aircraft allows combi passenger/freight or full-freight configuration. In its full-freight role, the cabin could hold up to 20,400 kg/ 22.4 tons of palletized freight, ground equipment or vehicles, on its permanently strengthened floor. They were operated by 10 Squadron.

The RAF’s 4 VC10-K3s were equipped with fuselage fuel tanks mounted in the passenger compartment, and could carry up to 78,000 kg of fuel. They had very limited passenger-carrying capacity, which was used almost exclusively to carry ground crew and other operational support personnel. The K3s and K4 are operated by 101 Squadron.

The RAF’s 4 VC10-K4s carried 69,800 kg of fuel using their original 8 fuel tanks, and add another 1,750 gallon tank in the fin. The aircraft had been purchased in 1981 from British Airways, and were converted by BAe in 1990. These VC10s went through almost a complete rebuild, emerging without the airframe fatigue flight restrictions placed on many of the other VC10s in the fleet.

Additional Readings & Sources Background: A330 Voyager Tanker/ Transports

Background: FSTA Program

News & Views

  • AirTanker (April 30/14) – V[oyager]-Force. Discusses aerial refueling progress since the RAF V-Force’s landmark “Operation Black Buck” bombing raid from Ascension Island to the Falklands, and offers some useful technical details.

Background: Britain’s Other Tankers

Categories: News

Secret buyer for six Super Tucanos | T-X trainer selection delayed until spring | Seoul to develop its own Iron Dome

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 04:00

  • Brazilian aerospace giant Embraer has announced the firm order for six of its A-29 Super Tucano aircraft. The unnamed customer will start to receive the light attack, surveillance, and advanced trainer planes from 2018, however, no further details of the sale were given. Marketed as a durable, versatile and powerful turboprop aircraft capable of carrying out a wide range of missions, Super Tucanos have clocked over 320,000 flight hours and nearly 40,000 combat hours in during its ten years in service. In August, the aircraft faced off against three other competitors in a demonstration held for the US Air Force’s Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), with military officials from Canada, Australia, UAE, Paraguay, among others, in attendance. The USAF is hoping to combat test the aircraft in the Middle East, although no fixed date has been set.

  • The US Navy has declared the network-enabled AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) C-1 fully operational, with all US Super Hornet squadrons now fitted with the air-to-ground weapon, giving them the ability to attack stationary land and moving maritime targets. Since receiving initial operational capability (IOC) in 2016, the program team has participated in a series of four fleet-wide exercises—RIMPAC 2016, Valiant Shield 2016 SINKEX, Northern Edge 2017, and Talisman Sabre 2017— that demonstrated the capabilities of the weapon in increasingly complex scenarios. This latest JSOW variant includes GPS/INS guidance, terminal IR seeker and a Link 16 weapon data link.

  • New US Air Force Under Secretary Matt Donovan used his first interview at the Pentagon to say that a decision on the T-X trainer competition is likely to be made in March 2018, rather than the initial service plan to announce a competition winner by the end of 2017. “Source selection is never based on the calendar, it’s based on events that they finished the source selection, and they do expect that to be somewhere in the spring,” Donovan told Defense News, but did not offer any reason as to why a decision on the $2 billion program was pushed back. In August, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson acknowledged that the service would likely not be able to award a contract for T-X as long as a continuing resolution was still in place. The current CR expires on December 8.

Middle East & Africa

  • Clashes broke out between Iraqi military forces and Kurdish Peshmerga troops as the central government moved to control facilities in the oil rich Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk. Baghdad-backed troops, which included militias supported by Iran, entered the city at the weekend in response to the Kurdish region’s independence vote on Sept. 25, which included a Kirkuk which has been controlled by Kurdish troops since taking it from the Islamic State in 2014. The US-led task force coordinating operations in the region urged for all sides to avoid escalations, but went so far as to downplay the movement of Iraqi military vehicles into Kirkuk as “coordinated movements, not attacks,” and called the predawn gunfire “a misunderstanding and not deliberate.” However, sterner words came from US Sen. John McCain, who warned of “severe consequences” if US-supplied military equipment that was intended to fight the Islamic State is misused by the Iraqi military in clashes between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in northern Iraq. This could include a halting of Washington’s massive train-and-equip program for Iraqi forces, which has seen $4.8 billion in funding approved in 2016 and 2017.

  • The Turkish Navy has conducted the maiden test-firing of its domestically developed Atmaca anti-ship missile (AShM). Comparable to the Exocet, C-802 and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the Atmaca weighs 800 kg with a 200-kg warhead and can travel at subsonic speed to a range of up to 200 km. While powered by the Microturbo TRI 40 miniature turbojet engine, Ankara hopes to replace this with the domestic Kale 3500 engine, making the missile fully sourced from Turkish industry. It will be deployed onboard the Turkish Navy’s MILGEM Ada-class corvettes and G-Class frigates.


  • Ukraine’s state-owned defense firm Ukroboronprom has unveiled its locally-made version of the M4 assault rifle— the WAC-47—as part of the military’s efforts to reach technical and operational alignment with NATO. In conjunction with the standard 5.56×45 mm NATO rounds, the WAC-47 can also be adapted to fire 7.62×39 mm rounds, which will allow the Ukrainian forces to utilize the plentiful supply of existing 7.62×39 mm ammunition stocks. The rifle will also come in 10.5”, 11.5”, 14.5” and 24” barrel sizes, allowing Kiev to use the platform in a variety of mission roles, from close-quarter combat to sniper or designated marksmanship. Following the completion of testing, the rifle will be manufacturered under license from the US for the Ukrainian armed forces with the potential for export to neighboring countries in Eastern and Central Europe such as Bulgaria and Romania.

Asia Pacific

  • South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) told lawmakers on Monday that the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) is developing an indigenous missile interceptor system similar to the Iron Dome. Seoul had initially looked into purchasing the Israeli-made system to counter North Korean long-range artillery threats—Pyongyang has some 14,100 artillery pieces including 5,500 multiple rocket launchers according to Seoul—but found that the Iron Dome was not designed to defend against the long-range artillery barrage that North Korea is expected to launch. “The Iron Dome is a defense system suitable to defend sporadic rocket strikes from irregular warfare forces such as the Hamas group. It is not designed to handle North Korea’s attacks using long-range artillery,” the JCS report said. Cost effectiveness and the mountainous terrain of the Korean peninsula were also given as reasons to go the indigenous route. The new system would be deployed as a countermeasure against the North conducting multiple strikes on South Korea’s key state and military facilities.

  • After delays that have lasted over a year, India’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has sent a formal letter of request to the US Defense Department saying it is ready to move ahead with the government-to-government sale of two ISTAR aircraft. Valued at $1 billion, the sale will see Raytheon install the intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) system onboard a Gulfstream platform and will come equipped with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that can scan more than a 30,000-kilometer area in a minute, and analyze data and identify the target in 10 to 15 minutes. A committee comprising of scientists from the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), officials from the Air Force, and MoD officials will form to finalize the mission software and critical equipment for the ISTAR aircraft. Initial delays in ordering the aircraft are believed to be over internal wrangling between the IAF and the DRDO over which of the two should be the technical evaluator on the program.

Today’s Video

  • Ukraine’s multi-calibre WAC-47:

Categories: News

USA Issues JSOW Block III Production Contracts

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 03:58

AGM-154C, impact
(click to view full)

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.

Contracts & Key Events

Heavy Metal

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 – 2017


JSOW-C, Australia
(click to view full)

October 18/17: The US Navy has declared the network-enabled AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) C-1 fully operational, with all US Super Hornet squadrons now fitted with the air-to-ground weapon, giving them the ability to attack stationary land and moving maritime targets. Since receiving initial operational capability (IOC) in 2016, the program team has participated in a series of four fleet-wide exercises—RIMPAC 2016, Valiant Shield 2016 SINKEX, Northern Edge 2017, and Talisman Sabre 2017— that demonstrated the capabilities of the weapon in increasingly complex scenarios. This latest JSOW variant includes GPS/INS guidance, terminal IR seeker and a Link 16 weapon data link.

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 acceptance

FY 2007 – 2010

From development to full rate production; F/A-18 Super Hornet captive test.

Send me a link?
(click to view full)

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

Categories: News

COBRA mine detection system gains IOC | First flight of S-97 Raider planned for early 2018 | IAF prepares for mass expressway landing exercise

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 04:00

  • Following the withdrawal of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS John S. McCain and Fitzgerald from service, the US Navy has issued the unscheduled deployment of the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas. This will allow the USS O’Kane—originally scheduled for deployment with the 5th and 6th Fleet around Europe and the Middle East—to instead be deployed to the 7th Fleet operating in the west Pacific, where it will take over ballistic missile defense (BMD) duties left by the untimely departure of both the McCain and Fitzgerald, which suffered catastrophic damage in separate incidents during the summer. The McCain and Fitzgerald collisions have spotlighted issues in the Navy’s 7th Fleet, based out of Japan, as the collisions bring to the fore leadership failures and diminishing training standards, based on Congressional testimony alluding to naval crews being overworked and spread thin. Two top officers on the McCain—which collided with a much lager cargo vessel near Singapore in August—have since lost their posts “due to a loss of confidence,” and have been reassigned.

  • The US Navy has awarded Initial Operational Capability (IOC) to the service’s latest airborne mine detection system, the AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA). The system can be integrated on the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned air system and can detect and localize minefields and obstacles when flown over a beach zone area, keeping sailors and marines out of harms way on a potential landing zone. Part of the littoral combat ship’s (LCS) suite of mine countermeasures (MCM) systems, COBRA’s next test will involve at-sea trails onboard a LCS vessel equipped with a full MCM package, where it will fly various missions over beaches, while demonstrating system suitability for operating from the LCS.

  • Following the crash of the first S-97 Raider prototype in August, manufacturer Sikorsky has traced the cause of the crash to a software issue and has corrected the problem in a simulator. Speaking on the incident, Sikorsky vice-president Chris Van Buiten said the crash was caused by “a very sophisticated fly-by-wire flight control issue,” adding that he did not see any requirement for hardware changes, and praised how all the systems behaved in the hard landing, including the fuselage, landing gear, seats and fuel systems. A second prototype, which had not been completely built at the time of the August crash, is expected to fly early next year. The helicopter is a development as part of the US Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.

Middle East & Africa

  • Tusas Engine Industries (TEI) of Turkey has completed development of the PD170 turboprop engine it has developed for the TAI-built Anka UAV. The Turkish Undersecretariat of Defence Industries (SSM) commissioned TEI to develop the PD170 in 2012 as part of the Ankara’s drive to increase the number of locally-developed defense products and decrease reliance on foreign hardware. With development complete, TEI will proceed to supply the PD170 to TAI for integration and testing with the Anka, and engine and civil certification is expected to be completed in 2018. TAI are currently building ten Anka’s for the Turkish military, but the inclusion of domestically-developed components such as the PD170 could allow for opportunities to export the armed UAV to markets such as the Middle East and Central Asian, which until now, has been heavily dominated by Chinese-made products.


  • The European unit of General Dynamics has reached an agreement with the Romanian government that will allow for the manufacturing of Piranha V armored fighting vehicles (AFV) at Romania’s state-owned Bucharest Mechanical Factory. Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed, as many as 227 AFVs will be supplied to the Romanian Land Forces as part of its ongoing efforts to replace Soviet-designed gear with new vehicles. Bucharest Mechanical Factory is one of 15 factories owned by the state-owned defense group Romarm—established in 2000 with the aim of integrating Romania’s state-owned defense industry.

  • Azerbaijan announced the successful field testing of its Buk-MB anti-aircraft missile system. The exercise, observed by the country’s defense minister, saw air defense units operate in conditions of complex electronic warfare jamming, where they detected, tracked and destroyed a series of small-sized air targets. Upgraded by Belarus in 2013, the Buk-MB comprises of six 9A310MB self-propelled transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicles, each mounting four SAMs (a total of 24 missiles), and three 9A39MB transporter erector launcher (transloader) vehicles. The transloaders can transport eight missiles, of which four can be fired from the elevatable platform (for a total of 12 missiles) if required.

Asia Pacific

  • Preparations are underway in India for a scheduled October 24 test that will see Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft land on a stretch of the Agra-Lucknow Expressway. The war drill will see more than 20 aircraft take off and land on the expressway and is likely to include fighters such as the Sukhoi, Tejas, Mikoyan MiG-29, Dassault Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG-27ML, MiG-21, as well as transport aircraft such as the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, Ilyushin Il-76MD and Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules. Opened in November 2016, the Agra-Lucknow Expressway is a 302-km six-lane expressway which can be expanded to 8 lanes and goes via Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etawah, Oraia, Kannauj, Hardoi,Kanpur Nagar and Unnao in the state of Utter Pradesh.

  • New Zealand’s new government is expected to evaluate the business case for the replacement of the RNZAF C-130H Hercules fleet by the end of the year. Lockheed Martin, the ageing C-130’s manufacturer, said it is already working with Wellington on how many flying hours the five planes have left, but will also likely enter its new model Hercules C130J into a tender expected next year. This Super Hercules will face off against competition from Embraer, Kawasaki, and Airbus.

Today’s Video

  • Azerbijan tests Buk-MB air defense missile system:

Attachments area

Categories: News

LCS & MH-60S Mine Counter-Measures Continue Development

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 03:58

Old school:
MH-53E & Mk-105 sled
(click to view full)

The US Navy currently uses large CH-53/MH-53 helicopters and towed sleds to help with mine clearance work, but they hope to replace those old systems with something smaller and newer. The MH-60S helicopter’s Airborne Mine Counter-Measures (AMCM) system adds an operator’s station to the helicopter cabin, additional internal fuel stores, and towing capability, accompanied by a suite of carried systems that can be mixed and matched. AMCM is actually 5 different air, surface and sub-surface mine countermeasures systems, all deployed and integrated together in the helicopter.

While the US Navy develops AMCM, and complementary ship-launched systems for use on the new Littoral Combat Ships, new minehunter ship classes like the Ospreys are being retired by the US Navy and sold. All in an era where the threat of mines is arguably rising, along with tensions around key chokepoints like the Suez Canal and Strait of Hormuz.

This article explains the components involved (AQS-20, ALMDS, AMNS, OASIS, RAMICS; COBRA, RMS, SMCM), chronicles their progress through reports and contracts, and provides additional links for research.

Airborne Mine Counter-Measures (AMCM): The Set

Original AMCM
(click to view full)

The surviving AMCM set includes:

AN/AQS-20 mine hunting sonar (not MH-60S capable, Inc 1#). The AN/AQS-20A uses sonar and electro-optical sensors to provide high-resolution images of mine-like objects and high-precision location information, and can operate in shallow or deep waters. The system is towed under water to scan the water in front and to the sides of the sonar, as well as the sea bottom. This task is especially important in littoral and shallow-water zones, including critical global trade chokepoints like the Straits of Malacca, the Persian Gulf and Straits of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and Panama Canal regions, etc. The AQS-20 have been in service since the 1990s, and the Navy program goal is 94 units, up from the 30 it possessed at the end of 2012.

MCM 2013
(click to view full)

The AN/AQS-20’s modular design is being produced under spiral development, which means a continuous series of improvements are being applied and tested. The use of commercial off the shelf (COTS) components alongside proprietary technologies makes this process easier, and will improve the future upgrade process as electronics continue to advance. They’ll need to improve, because false positives in 2 of 3 search modes and estimating mine depth have been an issue for the system, and ALMDS’ depth limitations mean that they need more coverage from the AQS-20. Until they do improve, the tactical response of re-querying contacts means that searches will take about 2x as long.

The sonar’s biggest problem is simple, and was eminently testable and foreseeable: the MH-60S AMCM helicopter doesn’t have enough power to tow it. Almost 8 years after development began, therefore, the AQS-20 is left dependent on the much slower WLD-1 RMMV snorkeling USV. Unfortunately, the RMMV isn’t scheduled to iron out its issues until 2015, and full-rate RMMV production won’t happen until 2017.

Laser mine finder
(click to view full)

Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (AES-1 ALMDS, Inc 1). In his position as U.S. Navy Program Executive Officer for littoral and mine warfare, Rear Admiral William E. Landay said in 2005 that ALMDS “represents the first new technology to be applied to mine [hunting] since the advent of sonar.”

ALMDS is a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) Airborne Mine Countermeasures high area coverage system that detects, classifieds, and localizes floating and near-surface moored sea mines, using a fan-shaped pulsed wide 538-nanometer blue-green laser pattern that samples at rates over 100 per second. As the helicopter’s motion “pushes” the LIDAR fan forward, 4 cameras are arranged to cover the same illuminated swath. An automatic target recognition algorithm picks out potential mine-like objects, and stores their images for classification by shipboard Fleet operators, using computer-aided post-mission analysis tools.

This LIDAR approach gets around the inherent flight and drag limitations of towing bulky gear in the water, which allows faster area search. It also lets a helicopter image an entire ocean area and move on, without stopping to recover equipment. ALMDS’ laser light and streak tube receivers are housed in an external equipment pod, which is mechanically attached to the MH-60S with a standard BRU-14 bomb rack mount. Electrical connections use a primary and auxiliary umbilical cable to the MH-60S AMCM’s common operator console. Data is stored on a mass memory unit for post mission analysis.

The ALMDS program is managed by the US Navy’s PMS-495: the Program Executive Office, Littoral and Mine Warfare, Mine Warfare Program Office. The ALMDS industrial team includes Northrop Grumman Corporation at its Melbourne, FL site, and key suppliers:

  • NGC subsidiary Cutting Edge Optronics (CEO) in St. Charles, MO (high-powered laser transmitter)
  • Arete Associates in Tucson, AZ (Receiver Sensor Assembly)
  • CPI Aero in Edgewood, NY (pod housing)
  • Curtiss Wright/DY4 in San Diego, CA (central electronics chassis)
  • Meggitt Defense Systems, Inc. in Irvine, CA (environmental control system).

As recently as 2013, ALMDS was cited by the US GAO as not yet meeting system performance requirements, with problems that have included misinterpreting light flashes on the water’s surface for mines, and depth limitations that are shallower than specifications required. The whole issue of light refraction through a variably-shaped surface isn’t exactly easy, but the system has to work. Northrop Grumman cites improvements, which has prompted the US Navy to resume buys, and prompted Japan to place a 2012 export order, but GAO continues to cite performance that’s below specifications. Both sides are right; meanwhile, the US Navy is adopting a multi-pass search method that will take more time to cover a given area.

Airborne Mine Neutralization System (ASQ-235 AMNS, Inc 1). Based on BAE Systems’ Archerfish. It’s a small towed vehicle that acquires mines via sonar, then fires a shaped charge into them. Each AMNS system has 4 of them. It’s especially useful for bottom, close-tethered and in-volume sea mines, and the towed vehicle is designed to be expendable. It’s good for disposing of found mines at a safe distance, but it’s one by one targeting rather than area minesweeping.

AMNS biggest challenge is the handling system, which doesn’t have enough clearance under the launch and retrieval system. They need to fix that, soon. Its other challenge involves successfully targeting mines in currents, which is an admittedly difficult computation but a very big operational problem. If it can overcome these challenges, an unfunded future update will need to give AMNS near-surface capabilities, in order to replace the canceled RAMICS 30mm supercavitating gun.

AMCM Companions

LCS trimaran & MH-60S
(click to view full)

These combined AMCM systems will offer more speed and agility in addressing a mine threat, and will be carried by US vessels including the new Littoral Combat Ships. In addition, fitting all 5 AMCM systems into a roll-on/roll-off mission kit for the MH-60S requires a couple of other elements:

The MH-60S Common Console The Common Console is common to all five AMCM systems as well as the other MH-60S missions and provides for control, monitor and display of the AMCM system. It has a single large display that shows multiple views for each sensor, and a smaller navigation display that matches the cockpit’s.

The MH-60S Carriage, Stream, Tow and Recovery System (CSTRS). Does what the title says. Has to be robust, in order to support a number of different systems. Goals included reducing crew size from 5 to 2, and allowing hands-off operation. Needs changes, because there isn’t enough clearance for the AQS-20.

Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL). TCDL will provide a high-bandwidth, near-real time sensor data link with the ability to relay data to the mine warfare commander.

These combined systems are critical components of the new Littoral Combat Ship’s mine warfare mission module. The new ships will operate MH-60S helicopters, and can take on an MH-60S AMCM helicopter as part of the MIW mine warfare mission module. The AQS-20 sonar can also be attached to the AN/WLD-1 semi-submersible autonomous vehicle, which comes as part of the LCS ship’s swappable mission packages and has been installed in some DDG-51 destroyers as well.

Note that even though these mission packages are designed to work with Freedom or Independence class Littoral Combat Ships, AMCM’s components could be freely deployed on other ships, along with their carrying helicopter.

Some of the Littoral Combat Ship’s MCM systems will be paired with other platforms beyond the MH-60S. Adding a USV/UUV option helps provide more comprehensive shallow water coverage alongside AMCM, and puts deep water coverage within reach, without requiring purpose-built minesweeper ships, or placing large and expensive ships at risk.

Ship-Based Systems

(click to view full)

Remote Minehunting System: (RMS, Inc 1) Lockheed Martin’s AN/WLD-1 (RMMV) snorkeling USV was set to tow the AN/AQS-20 behind, while also using its own maneuvering power and sensors, in order to scan in front and to the sides for anti-shipping mines and submarines. It could also carry “kill vehicles” for found mines.

The RMS RMMV and related systems include the WLD-1 Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV), the RMMV Data Recorder (RDR), the Remote Minehunting Functional Segment (RMFS), its Shipboard Stowage Equipment (SSE), its Shipboard Handling Equipment (SHE), the Remote Operator Pack (ROP), and ancillary support equipment. RMS RMMV and related systems interfaces include the LCS radio system, the Multi-Vehicle Communication System (MVCS), the Mission Package Computing Environment (MPCE), the AN/AQS-20, the LCS Launch Recovery and Handling System (LR&HS), and the MHU-191 Dolly.

Unfortunately, a March 31/10 GAO report cited the RMMV snorkeling USV’s failure to meet performance requirements, and the RMS had its planned buy cut in December 2009. It would deploy only aboard Littoral Combat Ship classes, and only within the mine counter-measures module. Reliability and performance issues were the next problem to surface. By December 2011, the 1st of 3 reliability improvement phases had ended, and funding was in place to continue the RMMV RGP into 2013. They were only at 60% of their goal by the end of 2012, and DOT&E has been scathing in their criticism of a lenient testing methodology, but the Navy plans to field it with Increment 1 anyway in 2014.

MQ-8B with COBRA
(click to view full)

Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis System (COBRA AN/DVS-1, Inc 2 & 4): This system scans beaches for buried mines. Its goal is actually broader than mine detection, and involves “accurate battlefield intelligence depicting tactical objectives, minefields, obstacles and fortifications on the beach and inland areas.” The prototype system uses a fast-scanning LIDAR laser, 3D imaging camera, and target recognition algorithms.

COBRA Block I introduces the system with daytime detection of surface laid minefields and obstacles in the beach zone, including partial capability in the surf zone. It’s slated for deployment as part of MIW Increment 2 in 2015.

COBRA Block II adds full surf zone detection, plus night detection of mines and obstacle detection. It’s slated for deployment as part of MIW Increment 4 in 2019 or so.

A COBRA Block III has been mentioned with buried mine detection capability, and on-board Near-Real-Time processing of Multi Spectral Imagery data, but it has no scheduled deployment date.

As of 2012, COBRA is still slated for deployment on board MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopters, but production stopped at barely over 20, and it remains to be seen whether that small platform will be adequate. A larger MQ-8C has been ordered based on the full-size Bell 407 helicopter, and the COBRA system could also be added to manned helicopters in the Navy’s fleet.

(click to view full)

Unmanned Surface Vehicle with Unmanned Surface Sweep System (USV/UISS, Inc 3). This will be a micro-turbine-powered magnetic towed cable and acoustical signal generator, towed from a Textron CUSV unmanned surface craft with full NATO STANAG 4568 and US JAUS compatibility, using the Harris SeaLancet datalink and AAI’s command-and-control system for UAVs and USVs. It will be the MCM module’s 1st area minesweeping capability, detonating magnetic and acoustic mines in its area.

Contact mines will need to be destroyed one by one using AMNS, or by older systems like the MH-53 Sea Dragon heavy helicopters and their towed sleds. USV-UISS replaces the canceled heli-towed OASIS system, and is scheduled for fielding in 2017.

Note that due to weight and space limitations, LCS will not be able to carry both the UISS USV system and the SMCM UUV.

Bluefin 21 UUV

Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (SMCM UUV, Inc 4): The SMCM UUV system is designed to reliably detect and identify undersea volume and bottom mines in shallow, high-clutter environments, especially areas with the potential for mine case burial. It will also gather environmental data for use by other MIW systems. This is similar to the idea behind the RMS, but the Knifefish is expected to enter service later, in 2019.

The SMCM system will use Bluefin-21 “Knifefish” UUVs, which were developed with US Navy funding and envisioned from the outset as having a role on LCS. The 16.5 foot, 21″ diameter, 1,650 pound (5.02m/ 53.4cm/ 748.5kg) Bluefin-21 has a maximum depth of 4500m, with 25-hour endurance, and inertial navigation systems for precision positioning. It features MIT-spinoff Bluefin Robotics’ modular and flexible vehicle architecture, pressure-tolerant field-swappable subsea batteries, and low-noise propulsion technology. For this role, it will carry an advanced sonar payload developed by SMCM lead contractor General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems. Each SMCM system will include 2 Bluefin-21s with payloads, launch and recovery equipment, a support container, spare parts, and support equipment.

General Dynamics AIS leads the SMCM team, which includes UUV maker Bluefin Robotics in Quincy, MA; Ultra Electronic Ocean Systems in Braintree, MA; Oceaneering International, Inc. in Houston, TX; Metron in Reston, VA; Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State University, PA; 3 Phoenix in Hanover, MD and ASRC Research Technology Solutions in Greenbelt, MD.


These would help, too…
(click to view full)

As of 2014, the Pentagon’s Department of Operational Testing and Evaluation concluded that:

“Even if this MCM package meets all of its final increment requirements, legacy systems will be needed to perform the full range of mine clearance operations.”

Exactly what this means remains unclear, as it will be up to the Navy to determine. Some steps are already being taken, using legacy ships.

For surface scanning, an experiment by Northrop Grumman has towed their current AQS-24A sonar behind their MHU 11m RHIB USV (q.v. Oct 6/14 entry). The Mk.105 sleds towed by MH-53 helicopters would certainly help address the MCM module’s current inability to kill shallow-water mines, and Independence Class ships could serve as “lily pads” while the helicopters remain serviceable.

Below the surface, new MK18 MOD 0 Swordfish (REMUS 100) and Mk18 MOD 2 Kingfish (REMUS 600) surveillance UUVs are already in use in SMCM type roles, using 11m RHIB boats for launch and recovery. Kill capability can come from Atlas Elektronik’s Seafox UUVs, which have been purchased to act in role that’s similar to the smaller AMNS. SeaFox add-ons can even provide the shallow-water capability that AMNS lacks.

The problems is that LCS has limited internal space and weight margins, compared to ships like the Navy’s new JHSVs. That forces mission package sizes which can only accommodate limited numbers of system sets, spares, repair parts, etc. Adding more partially-effective systems isn’t a viable solution, if it exceeds those limits as it’s likely to do. The Navy could restrict the MCM/MIW package to the much larger mission bays of the LCS 2 Independence Class, but the trimaran’s sharp weight limitations may defeat the point of having more space for equipment.

In retrospect, a platform like the JHSVs might have been far better suited to the counter-mine role. Or, the US Navy could also have kept its legacy MHC-51 Osprey Class minehunting ships in service, instead of selling them all before effective successor systems were developed. All at a time when mining global chokepoints like the Straits of Hormuz remains a top-3 strategic threat.

AMCM: Eliminated

OASIS concept
(click to view full)

Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep (ALQ-220 OASIS, eliminated). Long, thin, 10 foot long towed “fish” that can mimic the acoustic or magnetic signatures of a variety of US ships. If there are mines in the area programmed to detonate on that basis, it should set them off. Good for doing fast minesweeping – if the helicopter can actually tow it.

OASIS is subdivided into 6 major components: the Towed Body, the Magnetic Influence Subsystem, the Acoustic Influence Subsystem, the Control/ Monitoring and Power Subsystem, the OASIS Software, and the Tow Cable/ Helicopter Interface. The towed body houses the magnetic and acoustic subsystems and mechanical assemblies. This in-water component is less than 930 pounds in weight, approximately 16 inches in diameter and 10 feet in length. Tension on the tow point is less than 6,000 pounds.

The system failed demonstration trials in 2008 due to excessive corrosion of its tow cable, linked to a nearby forward electrode that set up an unfortunate reaction in salt water. The electrode was repositioned on the towed body instead, but by then, the Navy “discovered” that the MH-60S helicopter didn’t have enough tow capacity to employ it. It was eliminated from AMCM in 2012, and will be replaced by a USV/UISS combination.

click for video

Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS, eliminated). This weapon coupled a gated electro-optic Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensor, and a 30mm MK44 Bushmaster II gun firing a MK 258 Mod 1 armor-piercing, fin-stabilized tracer round. When penetrating the water, the round “supercavitates” as the tip of the high velocity RAMICS projectile vaporizes the water to steam. Instead of the complete disintegration that usually happens to high-velocity rounds when they hit the water at mid-to-shallow angles, supercavitation lets the shell ride inside a bubble of gas, zipping through the water in a straight line at very high velocity.

The combination of sensors like ALMDS and a fast neutralizer like RAMICS would make shallow water mine clearing a pretty fast process, which is very useful when trying to perform tasks like re-opening a key port. Unfortunately, RAMICS didn’t test well. The Navy is cutting RAMICS entirely, and expanding AMNS’ role to destroy shallow mines as well.

Northrop Grumman’s RAMICS team included ATK (gun and ammunition), plus Kaman Aerospace Electro-Optics Development Center in Tucson, AZ; DRS Sensors and Targeting Systems in Cypress, CA; CPI Aerostructures in Edgewood, NY; and Meggitt Western Design in Irvine, CA.

Contracts & Key Events FY 2015-2017

Production contracts – COBRA; Support contracts – AMNS; USV & AQS-24A combo as Plan B for MH-53Es and RMS.

(click to view full)

October 17/17: The US Navy has awarded Initial Operational Capability (IOC) to the service’s latest airborne mine detection system, the AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA). The system can be integrated on the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned air system and can detect and localize minefields and obstacles when flown over a beach zone area, keeping sailors and marines out of harms way on a potential landing zone. Part of the littoral combat ship’s (LCS) suite of mine countermeasures (MCM) systems, COBRA’s next test will involve at-sea trails onboard a LCS vessel equipped with a full MCM package, where it will fly various missions over beaches, while demonstrating system suitability for operating from the LCS.

Nov 13/14: COBRA. Arete Associates in Tucson, AZ receives an $11.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to a previously awarded for 1 AN/DVS-1 COBRA Block I low-rate initial production mine countermeasures system. $3.4 million in FY 2014 Navy RDT&E budgets is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by February 2017. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, FL manages the contract (N61331-11-C-0007).

1 COBRA Block I

Oct 10/14: AMNS. Atlas North America LLC in VA Beach, VA receives an $8 million firm-fixed-priced, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity requirements contract for AN/ASQ-232 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) depot level repair, maintenance, modifications, engineering services and spare parts. Funds will be committed as needed, and existing options could bring the contract to $43.3 million.

Work will be performed in Panama City Beach, FL (60%); Bahrain (25%); VA Beach, VA (10%); South Korea (2.5%); and Japan (2.5%); and is expected to be complete by October 2015. No funds will be obligated at the time of award. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, FL, is the contracting activity (N61331-15-D-0002).

Oct 6/14: USV + sonar. Northrop Grumman Corporation works with the US Navy’s PMS-406 Unmanned Maritime Systems Program Office, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), and US Naval Forces Central Command in Manama, Bahrain to demonstrate a system that would tow its AMN/AQS-24A Mine Detecting Sensor System behind a USV, instead of a helicopter. It’s slower, but it’s also much less expensive, and can be used at night. These characteristics make it an interesting supplement to current methods, and the state of the MH-53E fleet (q.v. Sept 16/14) also makes it a good idea to have a Plan B.

NGC’s 11m Mine Hunting Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MHU) RHIB was used in tandem with the AQS-24A in the Arabian Gulf, executing a preplanned mission by motoring to an operational area, deploying the AQS-24A, executing a search pattern, and recovering the sensor. Real-time situational awareness data and sensor sonar data were sent via tactical data link to the command and control (C2) station. Sources: NGC, “Northrop Grumman Conducts Successful Demonstration of its AQS-24A Mine Detecting Sensor System for US Naval Forces Central Command”.

FY 2014

Major AQS-20A contract; Multi-year ALMDS solicitation; ALMDS has depth limitations that will force some shifts; Ongoing RMS testing approach gets serious criticism from DOT&E; AMNS uncertainty is worrying; LCS can’t carry the entire MCM Increment 4 mission package.

RMS concept
(click to view full)

Sept 30/14: UISS. AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley, MD wins a $33.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the purchase of the Unmanned Influence Sweep System to counter magnetic and acoustic mines. $4.75 million in FY 2014 US Navy RDT&E funds is committed immediately, and existing options could bring the contract’s cumulative value to $118.1 million.

The UISS prototype prototype performed well in tests during summer 2011, but the current system is actually the CUSV’s 4th generation. It includes improvements to the hull form, and a new propulsion system, less pitch and roll movement, and a larger payload bay that can accomodate 4 tested payloads: UISS mine neutralization, side-scan sonar, ISR, and nonlethal weapons. AAI already provides UAV control systems, and this system is similarly compliant with NATO STANAG 4586 and the USA’s Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) standards. Textron now has 2 years to finalize UISS’ development before the planned 2017 test.

Work will be performed in Hunt Valley, Maryland (72%); Slidell, Louisiana (24%); Hauppauge, NY (2%); Columbia, MD (1%); and Lemont Furnace, PA (1%), and is expected to be complete by March 2017. This contract was competitively procured via, with 5 offers received by NAVSEA in Washington, DC (N00024-14-C-6322). See also Defense Update, “LCS to get unmanned mine-sweeping boats, drones” | USNI, “Textron Division Wins $34 Million Contract For LCS Unmanned Minesweeper”.

Textron for UISS USV

Sept 30/14: Support. SAIC in McLean, VA, receives a $12.2 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract for their Mine Warfare and Environmental Decision Aids Library (MEDAL), which is used by the PEO LCS’ Mine Warfare Program Office. The MEDAL system provides mine warfare situational awareness, mission planning/evaluation, and asset management software to support existing and emerging mine warfare missions, users, and systems. $3.6 million is committed immediately, using FY 2012 and 2014 budgets; exercised options could raise the cumulative value of this contract to $49.2 million.

Work will be performed in McLean, VA (80%); San Diego, CA (14%); Bay St. Louis, MS (5%); Edmond, OK (0.5%); and Norfolk, VA (0.5%), and is expected to be complete by September 2015. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with FAR 6.302-1(a)(2) by NAVSEA in Washington, DC (N00024-14-C-6301).

Sept 26/14: MK18. Hydroid Inc. in Pocasset, MA, receives an $8.3 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for additional engineering services and technical expertise for the development, testing, and installation of pre-planned product improvements for the MK 18 Family of Systems Unmanned Underwater Vehicle. The smaller Mk.18 MOD1 Swordfish (REMUS 100) and Mk.18 MOD2 Kingfish (REMUS 600) are currently contractor-operated USV/UUVs, which use their on-board sonars to scan for mines or other navigation hazards. The US Navy intends to begin operating them in 2015.

Work will be performed in Pocasset, MA, and is expected to be complete by November 2018. Funding will not be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division, Indian Head, MD manages the contract (N00174-14-D-0001).

Sept 16/14: MH-53Es. Internal U.S. Navy documents show that the US Navy is negotiating to acquire Japan’s retired fleet of MH-53E Sea Dragon heavy naval helicopters, harvesting them for parts in order to keep their own fleet flying until 2025. They might even need to fly some, as the US Navy has lost 3 MH-53Es over the last 18 months, cutting the fleet to 28 and forcing fleet-wide replacement of wiring bundles and fuel lines.

The MH-53E Sea Dragon fleet of heavy helicopters is used for mine-clearing from existing ships, using various equipment including the Mk.103 towed sled. The problem is that LCS MCM equipment delays and performance problems are forcing the Navy to keep them flying for a longer period of time. Meanwhile, spares are becoming a problem, because a lack of clear demand from the Navy caused many suppliers to cease production.

Japan sees mine clearing as a very important role, but they bought new MCH-101 variants of the AW101 to do it and retired the Sea Dragons. Remaining issues holding up the transfer reportedly include the need for high-level approval at the Pentagon, and the risk that Japan’s MH-53Es were exposed to radiological contamination in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Sources: Virginia-Pilot, “Navy wants to harvest retired Japanese helos for parts”.

Aug 28/14: COBRA. Arete Associates in Tucson, AZ receive a $10.3 million contract modification for engineering services in support of the AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) Block 1 program. $3.4 million is committed immediately from FY 2014 US Navy RDT&E budgets.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by March 2017. The Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Panama City Division in Panama City, FL manages the contract (N61331-11-C-0007).

Aug 26-28/14: RMS. NAVSEA HQ issues an RFP for 18 WLD-1 RMMVs, plus related systems/subsystems, their Integrated Product Support Elements (IPSE), related system interfaces, and related ongoing support. Initial deliveries are expected within 30 months after contract award for base year orders, and within 24 months after award for the option years., “Solicitation N0024-14-R-6303”.

July 30/14: GAO weighs in. The US GAO releases another LCS-related report, which looks at overall ship weight and addresses ship mission packages. The LCS-2 Independence Class in particular lacks weight flexibility, maxing out at just 3,188.0 tons for its Naval Architectural Limit (NAL). The LCS-1 Freedom Class has a better weight margin and 3,550 ton NAL, but far less internal space. Meanwhile, a proposed move to shift both classes to a common SeaRAM air defense system up top would add extra weight to the LCS-1 class, and may create seakeeping issues. In terms of the mission packages, it means that the 105 ton limit is likely to be a hard ceiling, which could make full exploitation and modernization more difficult and more costly. It’s already hitting the MIW/MCM package:

“Navy weight estimates for increment 4 of the MCM mission package, however, do not reflect all the systems being acquired for that package. Space and weight constraints have required the Navy to modify how it intends to outfit increment 4 of the MCM mission package. Although the Navy plans to acquire all the systems planned for that increment, space and weight limitations will not allow LCS seaframes to carry all of these systems at one time. According to LCS program officials, MCM mission commanders will have either (1) the Unmanned Influence Sweep System and the unmanned surface vehicle that tows it, or (2) the minehunting Surface Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Undersea Vehicle—called Knifefish – available – but not both systems. As a result, LCS seaframes outfitted with the increment 4 MCM package may have decreased minesweeping or mine detection capability.”

Mission system related recommendations from the front-lines include replacing the LCS-1 variant’s “unreliable and poorly performing” WBR-2000 electronic warfare system from Argon ST, storing sonobuoys on board even if the ASW package isn’t loaded so that the ship has some ability to react, and developing an ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) mission package to augment existing capabilities. Of course, sonobuoys on board add weight, and an ISR module that might otherwise take advantage of the LCS-2 Independence Class’ spacious mission package area may not be usable alongside other modules if the result is too much weight. Sources: GAO-14-749, “Littoral Combat Ship: Additional Testing and Improved Weight Management Needed Prior to Further Investments.”

May 8/14: MH-60S AMCM. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT, receives a $7.9 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for MH-60S Aircraft Mine Counter Measure Removable Mission Equipment B Kits. AMCM kits convert the helicopters into mine-countermeasures specialists that can accept specialized equipment.

All funds are committed, using US Navy FY 2012 & 2013 aircraft budgets; $4.3 million will expire on Sept 30/14. Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, and is expected to be complete in April 2016. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD, manages the contract (N00019-14-G-0004, DO 4007).

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. With respect to the mission modules, The Navy isn’t happy with the GAO’s comparison of the program against the FY 2008 baseline, as it doesn’t reflect the total acquisition. GAO responds that:

“In comparing the 2007 estimate with the acquisition program baseline, we used the Navy’s 2007 data, which included full procurement costs but only five years of development cost. The Navy has acquired eight packages [4 MCM, 4 SUW, will add 2 MCMs in FY 2014] without proving capability through operational testing…”

Which GAO sees as a bad idea. GAO program totals are reflected in this article’s charts, and their comments regarding the readiness level and timing of the “LCS Packages Program” have been discussed in detail by DOT&E and by other GAO reports.

March 25/14: AMNS. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, RI receives a $17.7 million contract modification for 3 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) low-rate initial production systems, engineering services, and support.

All funds are committed immediately using FY 2012 & 2013 Navy budgets, and $5.2 million will expire on Sept 30/14. Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI, and is expected to be complete by May 2016. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-10-C-6307).


Feb 25/14: CRS Report. The US Congressional Research Service revises their Background and Issues for Congress report. While the report includes useful information about the program’s history, and details some of the current problems with both seaframes, the report’s pricing for mission packages is very useful.

According to an Aug 26/13 Navy document, base equipment for all sets is $14.9 million, and the MCM Package itself is $97.7 million, for a total of $112.6 million. At present, it’s at least twice as expensive as any other mission package, and compares to the price of a full minesweeping ship. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see the basis for saying:

“When assessed in terms of ability to perform the LCS program’s three primary missions [Mines, Small boats, and Submarines in shallow waters], the LCS fares well in terms of weaponry and other ship features in comparisons with frigate and corvette designs operated by other navies.”

The MCM package has been cut down sharply, continues to report problems, and hasn’t been trusted enough for fielding despite a clear need. It is better than ships not designed to do minesweeping at all, but is it better than a minesweeping ship with similar costs? The SUW package is a joke, outclassed by many frigates and corvettes. ASW hasn’t even been fielded yet, and some LCS aspects like waterjet propulsion are ill-suited to that mission. How, exactly, do we go from there to the conclusion above? It might become true one day, but it isn’t true yet. Sources: US CRS, “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress”.

MCM costs

Feb 24/14: LCS cut. The Pentagon’s FY 2015 pre-budget briefing on the LCS seems to say that the number of ships will drop to 32, which would have implications for the number of mission modules:

“Regarding the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, I am concerned that the Navy is relying too heavily on the LCS to achieve its long-term goals for ship numbers. Therefore, no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward. With this decision, the LCS line will continue beyond our five-year budget plan with no interruptions.

The LCS was designed to perform certain missions – such as mine sweeping and anti-submarine warfare – in a relatively permissive environment. But we need to closely examine whether the LCS has the protection and firepower to survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia Pacific. If we were to build out the LCS program to 52 ships, as previously planned, it would represent one-sixth of our future 300-ship Navy. Given continued fiscal constraints, we must direct shipbuilding resources toward platforms that can operate in every region and along the full spectrum of conflict.”

They haven’t actually terminated the program at 32, and they can negotiate for up to 8 ships beyond the current block buy that ends in FY 2015. Even so, the Mission Module program is likely due for an adjustment. Sources: US DoD, “Remarks By Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel FY 2015 Budget Preview Pentagon Press Briefing Room Monday, February 24, 2014” | Bloomberg, “Hagel Expands on Reservations’ About Littoral Combat Ship”.

LCS cut to 32

Feb 19/14: AQS-20. Raytheon IDS in Portsmouth, RI receives a $35.5 million fixed-price-incentive contract for 3 AN/AQS-20A sonar sets with ancillary equipment. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $199.7 million.

All funds for the initial buy are committed immediately, using FY 2013 & 2014 budgets. Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI (56%); Tucson, AZ (21%); Pawcatuck, CT (6%); Middletown, RI (5%); Glen Rock, NJ (2%); Windber, PA (2%); Cincinnati, OH (1%); Big Lake, MN (1%); Woodland Hills, CA (1%); Lewisburg, TN (1%); Huntsville, AL (1%); Poway, CA (1%); North Springfield, VT (1%), and Hampton, VA (1%), and is expected to be complete by February 2015. This contract was competitively procured, with 2 offers received by US NAVSEA in Washington, DC (N00024-14-C-6302).

3 AQS-20A

Feb 5/14: MCMs. The US Navy will transport USS Avenger [MCM 1] and USS Defender [MCM 2] back from Japan aboard a heavy-lift ship, for decommissioning back in the USA. They’ll send 2 ships of the same class back to Sasebo, Japan aboard heavy-lift ships: USS Pioneer [MCM 9] and USS Chief [MCM 14].

That will leave the USN with 11/14 aged Avenger Class minehunters, and no ships at all of the newer MHC-51 Osprey Class. LCS needs to step up very soon. Sources: USN Pacific Fleet, “Navy to Replace Forward Deployed Mine Countermeasure Ships in Japan”.

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). AMCM’s components are included, and the overall verdict is: not much has changed since the Jan 17/13 DO&E report, or the July 22/13 GAO report.

AMNS UUV: Faced live-on-live testing in a number of locations. Still has issues accurately locating mines, especially in currents, plus reported problems with compass corrections and fiber-optic communications losses. No word on the progress re: a handling device that addresses inadequate clearance under the launch and retrieval system, which could doom AMNS if not fixed and destroy all that’s left of AMCM’s mine neutralization options.

The planned FY 2013 operational assessment slipped, so FY 2014’s shore and LCS-based testing will tell. If it works, IOC is expected in 2016, but it will take additional AMNS development to give the MCM module any near-surface neutralization capability.

ALMDS laser: The prediction that the Navy would feel obliged to keep it from lack of alternatives has proven true. Same issues with false positives and detection failures, to which DOT&E adds detection depth that’s short of requirements. Operational Assessment Phase B is scheduled to occur from USS Independence in Q4 2014 – Q1 2015.

To compensate for ALMDS’ depth issue, the USN will have to extend the detection zone for the AQS-20A, possibly by towing it behind a USV (RMS = RMMV + AQS-20), but they haven’t tested that yet.

AQS-20A sonar: Problems with determining mine depth and false positives, and longer area scan times, are mentioned but not dwelt on. The Navy’s upgrade effort (q.v. July 1/13) expects to begin developmental testing in FY 2014.

RMMV snorkeling USV: Despite 438 hours of in-water contractor testing, and reports of improved reliability, DOT&E takes serious issue with the way the improved system was tested:

“DOT&E’s review showed that the Navy’s assessment excluded some critical failures and was based on failure definitions and scoring criteria that were inconsistent with those used during the program’s Nunn?McCurdy review; the estimates also do not reflect the expected reliability in more operationally realistic mission scenarios where vehicle usage is more stressed…. reliability may not have improved sufficiently to enable an LCS with two RMMVs onboard to complete the desired area search without having to return to port more often than currently planned and desired to obtain replacements.”

Dec 9/13: RMS/WLD-1 testing. The RMS (remote minehunting system: WLD-1 USV + AQS-20A sonar) completes developmental testing, to see if it can finally meet reliability, suitability and effectiveness requirements. The tests ran from Oct 22/13 – Dec 9/13, and the US Navy says that the system achieved its test objectives. We’ll know more when DOT&E publishes their early 2014 report.

RMS operational assessment is scheduled for January 2014, off the coast of Palm Beach, FL. The complete LCS mine countermeasures mission package will undergo developmental testing in summer 2014, but initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) is scheduled for 2015. Sources: USN, “LCS Remote Minehunting System Completes Developmental Testing”.

Oct 24/13: ALMDS RFP. posts solicitation #N00024-13-R-6318:

“The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), on behalf of the Program Executive Office Littoral Combat Ships (PEO LCS), intends to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP), under full and open competition, to procure AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection Systems (ALMDS) with options to procure additional systems FY14 through FY17. This requirement also includes options for engineering support services (ESS) each year, support equipment, depot services and software support.”

The Navy could buy up to 4 per year. One of the full solicitation’s puzzling lines said that “PMS495 is the program manager for ALMDS and NSWC PCD is the Technical Design Agent (TDA).” The military does hand over TDA roles to private industry under some arrangements, but it’s also normal for the military to retain design authority and responsibility for military technology that is proprietary to a private company. Discussions with Northrop Grumman have confirmed that ALMDS remains their product, which means that any competitor would need to present their own finished alternative.

FY 2013

MH-60S “discovered” to lack the power to operate some AMCM systems, over 7 years later; IOC delays, as GAO and testing reports don’t inspire much optimism; Contracts & event updates for various sub-systems; non-AMCM Kingfish systems deployed to the Gulf, as AMCM isn’t ready.

MH-60S w. AQS-20 – out
(click to view full)

Sept 3/13: Program shifts. With over $50 billion in cuts coming, the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s ALT POM reportedly proposed to end LCS buys with the current contract, at just 24 ships. The Navy is pushing to buy at least 32. On the other hand, OSD is reportedly insisting that the Navy place a top priority on fielding the mine countermeasures (MCM) module, in light of challenges around the Strait of Hormuz and elsewhere. One would think this would have been obvious years ago. Sources: Defenseworld, “U.S. To Limit Littoral Combat Ship Purchase”.

Aug 6/13: SMCM testing. The Knifefish UUV successfully completes comprehensive risk reduction testing. Tests included key payload components (high-fidelity SONAR, ultra-high-density data storage/ recording), key propulsion components (quieter, more powerful propulsion) and key software interface elements. Given the problems encountered in other elements, early verification the hardware architecture and critical areas of hardware and software integration is a good idea.

Will it make a difference? SMCM is an Increment 4 system, and 2017 is still a few years away. We won’t really know until operational testing of the full system takes place against realistic challenges, in a realistic environment. General Dynamics.

LCS & Mission modules
(click to view full)

July 22/13: GAO Report. The US GAO releases “Significant Investments in the Littoral Combat Ship Continue Amid Substantial Unknowns about Capabilities, Use, and Cost”. With respect to MCM, GAO describes its performance as “poor”, which is why the Pentagon has been buying interim systems like the Atlas SeaFox and Hydroid’s MK18 MOD 2 Kingfish, and relying on the existing CH-53s with their towed sleds. The Navy is touting LCS MCM Increment 1 as a big improvement, but performance is shaky, and they may need to keep those ‘interim’ options for a while. The first true area mine-clearing capability only arrives in 2017, with Increment 3’s USV/UISS combination, and its influence sweep system won’t detonate contact mines. LCS’ need to do post-mission analysis also means that it will lack existing ships’ ability to find and neutralize mines at the same time. Those are 2 separate phases for LCS, which is likely to mean longer sweeps, and hence less coverage.

AMNS UUV: Accurately locating mines is a challenge, because the water and the AMNS sensor are both moving, which can make mines look like they’re moving. They’re working on software fixes, along with an alternative load and handling device that addresses inadequate clearance under the launch and retrieval system. If they can’t fix the load and handling device before FY 2014 operational tests, the whole MCM module is in trouble.

ALMDS laser: Failures to detect and false positives are still big problems, and the multiple-pass tactics used to compensate will take much more time to conduct searches. Our conclusion that despite its problems, the Navy’s lack of alternatives would push them to keep the AES-1 (q.v. Jan 17/13)? Still looking pretty good. The USN still wants to issue an RFP for 15 more right away, while funding more R&D for improvements that would require retrofits later.

AQS-20A sonar: This 20-year old program is still having trouble with the challenging task of determining how deep a found mine is – it’s much harder than it sounds in shallow water. False positives in 2/3 search modes are also a problem, and the tactical response of re-querying contacts means that searches will take about 2x as long. The Navy has launched an upgrade effort (q.v. July 1/13), which would be the 1st since 1994, and some of the 30 towed sonars in stock will get retrofits. The goal is 94 units.

RMMV snorkeling USV: Has improved from 7.9 hours to 45 hours MTBF (goal: 75), but the November 2011 testing was in a very calm environment, and December 2012 testing with LCS showed much higher than predicted failure rates. The 10 existing WLD-1 RMMV systems will need retrofits, with more buys to begin in 2017 – but if the Navy has to speed up MCM fielding, they may not have that much time to fix the WLD-1s.

Other: “…the concept of employment for the MCM mission package currently does not include embarked explosive ordinance disposal teams that are used on the existing mine countermeasures fleet… they are investigating how to integrate this capability…. to not only [eliminate] mines, but… exploit found mines for intelligence value, and OPNAV has identified their absence as a capability gap.”

Sources: GAO-13-530 Report | Congress HASC hearing Part 1 and Part 2


Major GAO report recommends program slowdown

July 1/13: AQS-20 upgrade. Raytheon IDS in Portsmouth, RI receives a $14.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order. They’ll upgrade the AN/AQS-20A mine hunting sonar’s 3493-AS-780-9 configuration with a high frequency wide band forward look sonar, multi-function side looking sonar, and associated components. $2.5 million in FY 2013 RDT&E funding is committed immediately.

The work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI, and is expected to be complete by by September 2014. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with the “1 responsible source” provisions in 10 U.S.C. 2304(c). The US Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, FL manages the contract (N61331-12-G-0001, #0004).

June 27/13: MK18 Kingfish. The US Navy announces that it has deployed MK18 MOD 2 Kingfish mine-detecting UUVs to the “5th Fleet Area of Responsibility” (read: Persian Gulf). The contractor-operated Kingfish isn’t part of AMCM, it’s an independent program based on the commercial REMUS 600, and it’s replacing the in-theater MK18 MOD 1 Swordfish that’s based on Kongsberg Marine’s smaller REMUS 100. The Kingfish’s Small Synthetic Aperture Sonar Module (SSAM) configuration provides wider sonar swath scan, higher resolution imagery, and buried target detection.

While it’s currently contractor-operated, the US Navy does intend to begin operating them in 2015. It probably could be loaded onto a Littoral Combat ship as an interim measure, ahead of the planned 2017 in-service date for Bluefin Robotics’ Knifefish SMCM UUV. US Navy.

Emergency alternatives

June 20/13: RMS testing. The Navy announces that the 2nd and final phase of RMS reliability testing have gone well, after over 47 missions and 850 testing hours at Lockheed Martin’s Riviera Beach, FL facility.

Initial analysis of the tests reportedly shows that RMS reliability is ahead of where it was expected to be at this point, and that it “demonstrated the required reliability necessary to meet program requirements.” If that’s true, emergency deployments become thinkable, but the statement can be weaseled. We await DOT&E reports to supply precise figures, and compare them to original program goals. RMS program manager Steve Lose says that the next phase of developmental testing will begin in summer 2013. US Navy.

May 21/13: RMS support. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Palm Beach, FL receives a maximum $52.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to perform maintenance, testing and integration of the WLD-1 Remote Minehunting System with Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mission modules and ships. Improvements to the USV’s below-target reliability and effectiveness are scheduled to continue until 2015.

Work will be performed in Palm Beach, FL (80%), and Syracuse, NY (20%), and is expected to be complete by May 2016. $8.5 million in FY 2013 Research, Development, Test & Evaluation funding is committed immediately, with the rest allocated as needed. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to 10 U.S.C 2304(c)(1) “one responsible supplier,” by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-13-C-6300).

April 18/13: AMNS support. BAE Systems Electronics’ Maritime Services Division in Portsmouth, UK receives an $8.3 million contract modification related to their Archerfish system. The initial announcement included program management and support, calibration and maintenance services, a cost-plus-fixed-fee CLIN for engineering services support, and a system upgrade providing “a significant reliability and performance improvement to the current MK-105”. This April 10/13 announcement was a mistake – the Mk.105 is a sled towed by a large MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter.

An April 18/13 correction says that the contract will only “complete production and delivery of Archerfish neutralizers (destructor, mine neutralization, Airborne EX64 Mod 0 Archerfish).” We suspect that this is also imprecise, given plans to order more MIW packages. Completion of Archerfish production within existing orders is a more likely meaning.

Work will be performed in Portsmouth, UK, and is expected to be complete by September 2014. $7.8 million in FY 2012 and 2013 Navy Weapons Procurement funding is committed immediately. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, FL manages the contracts (N61331-08-C-0012).

April 8/13: SMCM. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems announces a successful Critical Design Review for the Knifefish UUV. The SMCM team will now begin building 3 engineering development modules. An operational version is expected to attain initial operational capability in 2017. GD-AIS.

Knifefish CDR

April 8/13: COBRA development. BAE Systems announces a $20 million contract to develop the Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA Block I) system for detecting and plotting land-based mines and shore obstacles in daylight, with some near-shore shallow water capability. The prototype system uses a fast-scanning LIDAR laser, 3D imaging camera, and target recognition algorithms.

BAE has been working with the Office of Naval Research to mature the associated LIDAR technologies, under Section 819 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which is aimed at the development of advanced components or prototypes. Work will be performed at the company’s facilities in Honolulu, HI; Greenlawn, NY; Acton, MA; and Hudson, NH.

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 Navy owns 3 MCM (mine, 1st delivery Sept. 2007) and 4 SUW (“surface warfare”, 1st delivery July 2008) mission modules, and has completely re-started the ASW anti-submarine module. Several of the sub-systems in these modules are still experiencing performance problems, many components are still in development, and the Navy has yet to fully integrate these technologies and test them on board an LCS in a realistic environment. In October 2012, DOD delegated future decision authority to the Navy and requested an acquisition program baseline within 60 days – which was not delivered on schedule.

For MCM, The Navy plans to accept 1 more in 2013, but it doesn’t meet requirements. The MH-60S helicopter can’t tow the AQS-20A sonar as planned, the WLD-1 USV has performance issues, the ALMDS laser system gets too many false positives from surface reflections, and the RAMICS gun and OASIS decoy are out. Nonetheless, the Navy describes recent MCM tests as “very successful”. The Navy plans to conduct developmental testing in FY 2014 and establish initial operational capability with 7 MCM modules in September 2014. Full operational capability isn’t expected until 2018, when the Navy is expected to have 21 LCS ships, of 30 ordered.

March 18/13: IOC delays. Jane’s quotes director of navy staff Vice-Admiral Richard Hunt says that the Continuing Resolutions have “delayed us probably a year for IOC [initial operational capability] for a couple of those different modules…”

Jan 17/13: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The LCS mission modules still have a lot of issues. There isn’t anything left to test any more in the ASW anti-submarine module, for instance, so DOT&E didn’t report on it while the Navy considers a re-start.

Mine Warfare: Begin with the MH-60S helicopter, which isn’t powerful enough to safely tow the AQS-20A sonar or OASIS decoy under all of the required conditions. Both are being removed from AMCM, and OASIS is removed from the MIW module. This would seem to be the epitome of a foreseeable/ easily testable problem, but it’s being “discovered” 7 years after development began. Why?

The AQS-20A will now depend on the WLD-1 RMMV snorkeling USV, which is trying to correct its reliability and performance issues by 2015. RMMV v4.1 is showing some improvements in limited testing, but the ships themselves need to make changes to launch and recover it while underway. The AQS-20A sonar has its own problems with contact depth calculations in all modes, and with false contacts in 2 of 3 search modes. The Navy hopes to find AQS-20 engineering fixes. Meanwhile, in order to reduce those errors, the Navy will have to slow its scan methods and reduce the area covered.

The AES-1 ALMDS laser mine-detection system doesn’t meet Navy requirements for False Classification Density or reliability, and the DOT&E expects to issue a formal test report in Q2 FY2013. The Navy hopes to find engineering fixes. Meanwhile, in order to reduce those errors, the Navy will have to slow its scan methods and reduce the area covered. Some reports suggest that ALMDS will be cut entirely, but the raft of other MCM system casualties may force the Navy to keep it.

MH-60S can’t perform the mission for several AMCM components

Dec 28/12: RMS support. Lockheed Martin in Riviera Beach, FL receives a $12.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to perform Remote Minehunting System / WLD-1 RMMV USV maintenance, testing and integration with the with Littoral Combat Ship. The WLD-1 is currently working on improving its reliability and performance, after falling short in these areas.

Work will be performed in Palm Beach, FL (87%), and Syracuse, NY (13%), and is expected to be complete by May 2013. $5.3 million is committed immediately, and $295,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-10-G-6306).

Dec 20/12: AMNS support. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, RI receives a $7.9 million contract modification, covering AMNS’ Critical Design Review.

Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI, and is expected to be complete by July 2013. All contract funds are committed immediately, and $4.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. US NAVSEA in Washington DC in is the contracting activity (N00024-10-C-6307).

FY 2011 – 2012

AMCM not ready, Seafox deployed to Gulf instead; Development contract for SMCM UUV; RAMICS on the chopping block; Testing & orders for other sub-systems.

(click to view full)

April 5/12: ALMDS. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Melbourne, FL receives a $27.1 million contract modification for AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) low rate initial production.

This appears to be ALMDS LRIP Lot 4. LRIP-3, issued Oct 19/10, was a $45 million US Navy contract for 4 pods, plus spares, product development and support.

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL (36.2%); Tucson, AZ (34%); St. Charles, MO (12.5%); Irvine, CA (8%); San Clarita, CA (5%); and Edgewood, NY (4.3%), and is expected to be complete by April 2014. The US Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, FL manages the contract (N61331-10-C-0023). Military & Aerospace.


Feb 17/12: Seafox instead. With Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, and tensions running high, the US Navy makes urgent purchases of mine-hunting equipment. Unfortunately, AMCM systems are not featured, even though this is precisely the kind of situation they were designed for. With AMCM unready, the Navy turns to Atlas Elektronik’s ship and helicopter-launched Seafox UUVs. Read “Gulf Chokepoint: Seafox Saves the Day?” for full coverage.

Emergency alternative

Feb 2/12: ALMDS for Japan. Japan becomes ALMDS’ first export customer, buying 4 of the laser mine detection systems to equip its MCH-101 (AW101) medium-heavy naval helicopters. The Japanese will be using them around their ports and shipping lanes. Read more in “Japan’s MCH-101: All Your Mine Are Belong to Us.”

ALMDS export

Dec 19/11: RMS testing. Lockheed Martin announces the end of the 1st of 3 planned development and testing cycles, involving 500 hours of reliability testing on the U.S. Navy’s WLD-1 RMMV. These efforts are aimed at improving the RMS’ system reliability and operational availability. See also March 31/10 entry.

Dec 16/11: RMS fix. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Riviera Beach, FL receives a not-to-exceed $52.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee letter contract for the RMMV Reliability Growth Program. The contract will fund a comprehensive development and test program to improve the mean time between operational mission failures, and prepare the system for LCS developmental tests and operational assessment. The RMMV RGP will use critical systems reviews and subsequent design reviews, predictive reliability tools, spiral development with in-water testing, and installation of RMMV reliability upgrades.

Work will be performed in Palm Beach, FL (91.4%); Syracuse, NY (8.4%); and Manassas, VA (0.2%), and is expected to be complete by December 2013. This contract was not competitively procured, and is being awarded as a sole source contract pursuant to 10 U.S.C 2304c1 by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-12-C-6316).

Nov 16/11: AMNS testing. Navy VX-21 successfully conducts the first complete Airborne Mine Neutralization System detect-to-engage sequence near Panama city, FL, demonstrating the system’s ability to fire an Archerfish destructor against an inert target. So far, 5 low-rate initial production systems have been delivered to the Navy, with the 6th system scheduled to be delivered in January 2012. US Navy | Raytheon.

Sept 30/11: SMCM UUV development. General Dynamics Advanced Informational Systems Inc. in McLeansville, NC wins a $48.6 million contract with cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee, and firm-fixed-price line items for the engineering, manufacturing and development of the Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (SMCM UUV). This will be part of the Littoral Combat Ship’s MCM mission package, and this contract contains an option for up to 5 low rate initial production systems, which could bring its cumulative value to $86.7 million. The contract will be initially funded with $10.1 million, as FY 2011 expires.

On Nov 21/11, Bluefin Robotics announces the subcontract from General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems for the Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (SMCM UUV), and details the system: 2 of its large Bluefin-21 UUVs, launch and recovery equipment, a support container, spare parts and support equipment, and an advanced sonar payload developed by GD-AIS.

Work will be performed in McLeansville, NC (38%), Quincy, MA (27%), Braintree, MA (16%), Houston, TX (10%), Reston, VA (5%), State College, PA (3%), and Fairfax, VA (1%), and is expected to be complete by March 2016. The addition of Quincy, MA suggests that Bluefin Robotics was already part of the solution in September 2011. $237,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitive procured via the website, with 4 offers received by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City Beach, FL (N61331-11-C-0017).

Sept 2/11: AMNS. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, RI receives an $8.8 million contract modification to fabricate, assemble, test and deliver 5 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) low rate initial production systems.

Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI, and is expected to be complete in August 2013. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington DC manages this contract (N00024-10-C-6307).


June 16/11: RMS testing. The US Navy Program Executive Office for Littoral and Mine Warfare (PEO LMW) announces the successful first time launch and recovery of the WLD-1 Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV) semi-submerged USV from USS Independence [LCS 2], while underway near Panama, FL. The vehicle went through 5 successful cycles of deployment, towed operations and recovery, while also testing things like vehicle stability in the wake zone and remote operation.

In active use, the RMMV will tow the AN/AQS-20A sonar, and the entire Remote Minehunting System is scheduled for further testing in summer 2011 as part of the LCS MIW mine warfare module’s core AMCM system. The effectiveness of LCS rear launch and recovery systems has been a concern for both class designs, so the test was useful from that perspective as well. US NAVSEA.

March 4/11: COBRA. Small business qualifier Arete Associates in Tucson, AZ receives a $26.4 million firm-fixed-price letter contract for 3 AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) low rate initial production Block 1 systems, which will become part of the Mine Warfare Mission Package on board the littoral combat ship. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be completed by March 2013.

This contract was not competitively procured by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City Beach, FL. It’s actually a continuation of earlier Small Business Innovative Research awards. As a result of SBIR Phase III, the delivered COBRA systems are expected to have the software that satisfies the performance requirements, with mine counter measure, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and tactical littoral sensor modes installed (N61331-11-C-0007).


Jan 24/11: RAMICS gone? Gannett’s Navy Times reports that the RAMICS supercavitating 30mm cannon for killing shallow mines may be on the Navy’s chopping block, after performing poorly in testing. It would be replaced by the AMNS system, which would do double duty against both shallow and deep water mines using its Archerfish kill vehicle.

The tradeoff would be one of greater performance certainty, cost certainty, timely delivery, and commonalty on one side; vs. the ability to engage far more shallow water mines in less time by using a RAMICS system that worked.

Dec 10/10: RMS fix. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Riviera Beach, FL receives a $20 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for engineering services to support reliability improvements to the Remote Minehunting System. Work will include engineering services, testing, program management and configuration management. See Aug 31/10 entry to understand why this work is necessary.

Work will be performed in Riviera Beach, FL (90%), and Syracuse, NY (10%), and is expected to be complete by September 2011. $3.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages this contract (N00024-10-G-6306, #­­0003).

Dec 2/10: RAMICS support. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Melbourne, FL receives a $9.5 million modification to a previously awarded contract for continued RAMICS post-delivery technical support. This contract will be used to maintain, modify and/or repair delivered hardware and software; modify or build new RAMICS system components to resolve producibility, obsolescence, and end-of-life issues, and update the technical data package with the changes; and provide a range of engineering services ad studies (N00024-02-C-6324).

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL and is expected to be complete by September 2011. The Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, FL manages this contract.

Nov 3/10: AMCM development. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Owego, NY a $14.7 million delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) testing and systems development. That means it covers the AMCM system set as a whole.

Work will be performed in Owego, NY, and is expected to be complete in December 2011. $1.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-G-0005).

Oct 19/10: ALMDS. Northrop Grumman announces a $45 million US Navy contract for ALMDS Low-Rate Initial Production Phase 3: 4 AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System pods, plus spares, product development and support. Northrop Grumman touts the AES-1’s lower cost-per-pod than in previous lots.

4 ALMDS – Lot 3

Oct 13/10: COBRA testing. The Navy successfully conducts the 1st flight test of the Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) Block I system at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ, on board the MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical take-off unmanned aerial vehicle. The tests were successful.

The AN/DVS-1 COBRA system is designed to detect minefields and obstacles to prepare for amphibious assaults in the beach zone and inland areas. The COBRA Block I system will enter low-rate initial production under a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase III contract, with the first production unit scheduled for delivery to the fleet in FY 2012. US Navy.

FY 2009 – 2010

GAO report on AMCM systems shows a bunch of problems.

AMNS Archerfish
(click to view full)

Sept 23/10: AMNS. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, RI receives a $14.7 million firm-fixed-price contract (N00024-10-C-6302) for 7 low rate initial production Airborne Mine Neutralization Systems, and associated engineering services. This contract includes an option which would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $24.4 million if it’s exercised.

Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI, and is expected to be complete by September 2014. AMNS provider has already been picked, so this contract was not competitively awarded by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC. Raytheon release


Aug 31/10: GAO Report. The US GAO report #GAO-10-523 on the LCS program sees problems with the mission modules, AMCM among them. “Defense Acquisitions: Navy’s Ability to Overcome Challenges Facing the Littoral Combat Ship Will Determine Eventual Capabilities.” Key excerpts and conclusions, by system:

AN/AQS-20A Sonar – est, fielding 2011: “Operational testing has been delayed, however, due to decertification of the system following integration problems with the common tow cable that connects it to the MH-60S helicopter”.

Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) – est, fielding 2011: “The mount that connects the system to the MH-60S carriage, stream, tow, and recovery system is being redesigned following loss of a test unit”.

Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis System (COBRA) – est, fielding 2012: “System has demonstrated capability to detect buried mines on the beach when flown from the MH-53 helicopter, but has yet to be integrated with its host platform, the MQ-8B Vertical Take-off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle”.

OASIS – est. fielding 2012: “Engineering development model experienced excessive corrosion at its interface point with the common tow cable during testing from an MH-53E helicopter. The Navy has implemented a design solution, and new models are in production”.

Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) with Unmanned Surface Sweep System – est. fielding 2012. “Micro-turbine-powered magnetic towed cable and acoustical signal generator towed from an unmanned surface craft; Development status: Prototypes of the unmanned surface vehicle have experienced connectivity and communication issues at distance, reliability issues with their electrical generators, and software malfunctions. Additionally, the Navy is redesigning the cable planned to tow the unmanned surface sweep system due to durability concerns… remains in early development”.

ALMDS laser mine detection – est. fielding 2011: “Testing of this system has revealed problems detecting mines at the required maximum depth and classifying mines at surface depths. According to Navy officials, the system’s required maximum detection depth could be reduced because the system can currently detect mine-like objects at depths that extend below the keels of all ships in the fleet. According to Director, Operational Test and Evaluation officials, however, the system is currently incapable of providing this capability with the required accuracy. Further, Navy officials report that the Remote Minehunting System could provide coverage in near-surface areas of the water that the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System currently cannot reach.”

RMS/WLD-1 est. fielding 2015:

“The Navy abandoned initial operational test and evaluation of this system in June 2007 following reliability issues – both software and hardware related – affecting the underwater vehicle. Subsequent plans for resuming this testing in September 2008 were deferred because of continuing concerns about the reliability of the underwater vehicle, and the scheduled test was downgraded to an operational assessment. Spurred by cost growth facing the system, the Office of the Secretary of Defense recently completed a review of the program, subsequently deciding to allow the system to continue development. The Navy is currently executing a reliability growth plan for the system”.

“…Most notably, the system was only able to function for 7.9 hours before failing [in 2008 tests] – far short of its minimum requirement… since the 2008 event, the Navy’s estimated mean time between failures for the system has increased to 45 hours. According to Navy officials, testing and design changes are expected to last into 2011. While the Navy is actively exploring ways to improve Remote Minehunting System reliability, it is also considering reducing the reliability requirement by half.

“…For [RMS and ALMDS] the Navy has delayed further production pending successful resolution of developmental challenges… According to Navy officials, relaxing the performance requirements for the Remote Minehunting System and the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System is one option under consideration.”

RAMICS gun – est. fielding 2017: “Separate engineering development models of the gun and targeting pod have been tested with mixed results. Gun testing demonstrated the need to redesign the bushing (shock absorber). Targeting pod testing revealed problems reacquiring minelike objects and maintaining a gun lock on them. The Navy is rewriting software to address the targeting pod issues”.

June 30/10: ALMDS testing. Northrop Grumman announces that they have begun the next phase of ALMDS’ US Navy flight testing. The Navy is conducting the Developmental Flight Test-IIE (DT-IIE) program from its Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, FL, and the 1st flight of about 40 or so occurred on June 8/10. A technical evaluation will follow and will lead to the full-scale Operational Evaluation in late 2011. Good performance could lead to full-rate production; meanwhile, an LRIP Lot 3 contract is expected later in 2010. Northrop Grumman Maritime and Tactical Systems VP Dan Chang:

“We’ve had four flights to date [under DT-IIE] and, though I can’t go into details, the feedback we’ve gotten is that the system is performing well and reliably… The flight test data have allowed us to make a few minor software adjustments that have sharpened the capabilities of the system.”

June 24/10: ALMDS support. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems’ Battle Management and Engagement Systems Division in Melbourne, FL received a $9.5 million contract modification for continued ALMDS post-delivery technical support (PDTS) and provisioned item order support. This modification raises the contract ceiling, and extends the PDTS period of performance for ALMDS low-rate initial production units. Work will be performed in Melbourne, Fla., and is expected to be complete by December 2010.

Northrop Grumman’s work may include: systems engineering; tracking performance metrics; modifying/ repairing delivered hardware; modifying or building ALMDS components to fix producibility, obsolescence, and end-of-life issues; keeping ALMDS’ technical data package up to date; maintaining delivered hardware and software; quality assurance; manufacturing; test and evaluation; and the paperwork of presentations, white papers, and trade studies. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division in Panama City, FL issued the contract (N61331-05-C-0049).

April 1/10: The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. One of the changes is to the Remote Minehunting System (WLD-1) in the AMCM suite:

“The PAUC (Program Acquisition Unit Cost, includes R&D) increased 79.5% and the APUC (Average Procurement Unit Cost, no R&D) increased 54.6% to the current and original [baselines] as a result of a reduction in production quantities, the use of an incorrect average unit cost as a basis of estimate in the 2006 program baseline calculation, and an increase in development costs needed to address reliability issues. The Navy re-evaluated the capabilities of the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Mission Package for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and decided to eliminate the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV) from the ASW Mission Package. This decision reduced the total number of RMMV production units from the program baseline quantity of 108 to the current quantity of 54. The increase in development costs was needed to address reliability problems, which arose during an operational assessment in 2008.”

This level of overage is a critical breach, a.k.a. a Nunn-McCurdy breach. The legislation forces the Pentagon to certify the program’s fitness to continue, and provides for potential Congressional involvement.

SAR – RMS cuts & problems

March 31/10: GAO Report. The US GAO releases its 2010 Assessment of Selected Weapon Programs, including the Littoral Combat Ships mission modules. With respect to the AMCM systems, it says:

“Overall, operation of the MCM, SUW, and ASW packages requires a total of 22 critical technologies, including 11 sensors, 6 vehicles, and 5 weapons… The Navy has accepted delivery of two partially capable MCM mission packages; however, the program has delayed the procurement of the fiscal year 2009-funded package due to technical issues and the resulting operational test delays. Four MCM systems – the Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), Unmanned Sweep System (USS), Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep (OASIS), and Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS) – have not yet been demonstrated in a realistic environment, and two others – the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and Remote Minehunting System (RMS) – cannot meet system requirements. ALMDS has been unable to meet its mine detection requirements at its maximum depth or its mine detection and classification requirements at surface depths. RMS demonstrated poor system reliability, availability, and maintainability in a September 2008 operational assessment, and program officials report the system is currently undergoing a series of tests to try to improve its reliability. Program officials also reported that the cable used to tow certain airborne MCM systems had to be redesigned following test failures with two systems.”

March 11/10: ALMDS delivery. The 3rd and final low-rate initial production Lot 2 ALMDS pod is delivered to and accepted the US Navy. The company delivered the LRIP Lot 2 pods approximately 3 weeks ahead of schedule, on average. The company and the Navy are in the final stages of preparing the LRIP Lot 3 production contract. NGC release.

Feb 22/10: MH-60S Training. US Naval Air Warfare Center, Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) in Orlando, FL announces that it intends to negotiate, on a sole-source basis under FAR 6.302-1, a contract with CAE USA, Inc. for 3 MH-60R Tactical Operational Flight Trainers (TOFT), and 1 MH-60R/S Tactical Operational Flight Trainer (TOFT). The MH-60R/S TOFT consists of 3 trainers: the MH-60R/S Operational Flight Trainer (OFT), the MH-60R Weapons Tactics Trainer (WTT) and the MH-60S Weapons Tactics Trainer (WTT).

The MH-60S WTT as delivered will have the capability to train, from basics to tactical missions, the AN/AQS-20A Mine Hunting Sonar, the AN/AQS-235 Airborne Mine Neutralizer System (AMNS), the AN/ALQ-220 Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep (OASIS), and the AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) – but not the RAMICS gun system, yet. FBO Presolicitation N61339-10-R-0016.

Jan 11/10: ALMDS delivery. Northrop Grumman announces delivery of the 1st LRIP Lot 2 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) to the US Navy, more than 6 weeks ahead of schedule.

Dec 18/09: RMS costs. Gannett’s Navy Times reports that Remote Mine-hunting System WLD-1/ AN/AQS-20 sonar combination would rise 85.3% from its original estimate and cost about $22.4 million per copy, while the RMMV/WLD-1 by itself could rise by 52% to $12.7 million per copy.

The main instigator for the cost spikes is the Navy’s decision to halve production from 108 to 54 units, by deleting the RMS from the Littoral Combat Ship’s anti-submarine package, and confining it to the mine warfare module. The Navy has also decided not to deploy the RMS combination from DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers, and confine the set to its Littoral Combat Ships.

The second issue with cost increases involves reported reliability issues with the WLD-1. The USV reportedly met 8 of 9 major goals, and the Navy is currently looking into the data to review resolution options and progress.

RMS costs

FY 2008 – 2009

AQS-20 towing sonar has a problem; AMCM doesn’t fit in LCS; Contracts for other AMCM sub-systems.

(click to view full)

Sept 23/09: COBRA support. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Eastern Region in Melbourne, FL receives a $6.1 million contract modification to provide post delivery technical support of the Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis system’s Engineering & Manufacturing Development units. Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL, and is expected to be complete by September 2010. The Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, FL manages this contract (N61331-01-C-0037). FBO solicitation.

Sept 2/09: AQS-20 & AMNS delivery. Raytheon announces that it has delivered the AN/AQS-20A Minehunting Sonar and AN/ASQ-235 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) to the U.S. Navy. Both of the low rate initial production models of the AN/AQS-20A and AN/ASQ-235 AMNS will be extensively tested. Under the current contracts, Raytheon will deliver a total of 20 AN/AQS-20A systems by January 2011, and 5 AMNS by December 2009.

AMNS re-acquires and neutralizes mines found by AN/AQS-20A, using a launch and handling sled equipped with 4 unmanned Archerfish kill vehicles. Both systems have been integrated into the MH-60S and the MH-53E airborne mine countermeasures helicopters. The AN/AQS-20A has also been operated from the AN/WLD-1 Remote Minehunting System USV.

April 23/09: MH-60S. Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Oswego in Oswego, NY received a $5.6 million cost plus fixed fee, firm fixed price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for engineering and technical support in the integration of Organic Airborne Mine Countermeasures (OAMCM) Systems into a MH-60S helicopter. The 5 OAMCM systems to be incorporated in the MH-60S are the AN/AQS-20A Advanced Sonar System; Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS); Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS); Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS); and Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep (OASIS). This acquisition supports the fundamental effort of integrating this entire suite of Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) systems with the helicopter structurally and with the helicopter Command, Control, Communication, Computer and Intelligence (C4I) systems.

Work will be performed in Oswego, NY (50%) and Panama City, FL (50%), and is expected to be complete by April 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, FL (N61331-09-D-0009).

April 15/09: AMNS, OASIS support. ITT Corp. announces a maximum $49.5 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract that makes the company the US Navy’s designated depot and engineering agent for airborne mine countermeasure systems, including AMCM’s ITT-produced Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep System (OASIS), and Airborne Mine Neutralizer System (AMNS). ITT’s work will include developing interactive technical manuals and training.

This contract also covers the in-service MK-105 Magnetic Minesweeping System hydrofoil, which is towed by the MH-53E. It won’t be used by the LCS ships, or the MH-60S.

The IDIQ award is a “follow on” contract to a previous $25.2 million maintenance and support deal ITT had with NSWC. The MK-105 systems are currently operational in Corpus Christi, TX; 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain; and Norfolk, VA; other contract work will be performed at ITT Electronic Systems’ Under Sea Systems division’s Mine Defense Systems business area in Panama City, FL. Panama city News Herald.

March 11/09: RAMICS testing. Northrop Grumman touts the results of a recent RAMICS test, which featured a gun suspended from a 50-story tower. The goal was to locate and fire 8 rounds at a submerged target, and they expected just 1 hit. Instead, it got 7 hits within a tightly grouped pattern. The test took place at the Lake Glendora test range within the Navy Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN.

Feb 2/09: CSTRS development. Concurrent Technology Corp. in Johnstown, PA received an $11.5 million indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contract with a cost plus fixed fee pricing arrangement to provide technical and engineering services for continued Carriage, Stream, Tow, and Recovery System (CSTRS) development, test, and analysis. This procurement is in support of the ongoing development and test of the CSTRS to incorporate Airborne Mine Countermeasures capabilities and will be utilized on the MH-60S helicopter.

Work will be performed in Johnstown, PA (88%) and Panama City, FL (12%), and is expected to complete by February 2012. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, FL (N61331-09-D-0004).

Oct 24/08: CSTRS. Atlas Elektronik UK Ltd. in Newport Great Britain received a $12.9 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for services and materials for the development and fabrication of tow cables to support organic airborne mine countermeasures systems.

Work will be performed at Atlas’ facility in Great Britain, and is expected to be completed by October 2013. This contract was not competitively procured by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, FL (N61331-08-D-0037).

April 28/08: AQS-20. Inside Defense reports that the US has halted its OpEval (operational evaluation, realistic tests) of the MH-60S AMCM mine-countermeasures helicopter. A discussion with NAVAIR reveals that the problem is with one specific system, and OpEval is continuing with the rest of the AMCM package in its current state.

The problem is related to the AQS-20 towing sonar. The sonar works fine, but the mechanisms that deploy it out the side of the helicopter are encountering reliability issues. A team of engineers has been formed to look into the problem. Once they report back, the US Navy will have a better idea of the time and effort required to deliver a fix. AQS-20 OpEval will be rescheduled at a later date, once the Navy is confident that a fix is well underway.

AMCM OpEval halted

March 20/08: RAMICS. Northrop Grumman Integrated System Sector in Melbourne, FL received a $13.5 million modification to previously awarded contract for cost growth and new requirements related to development of the Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS).

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL, and is expected to be complete by September 2009. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, FL manages the contract (N00024-02-C-6324).

March 19/08: Raytheon announces a $7.7 million U.S. Navy contract for the low rate initial production of 3 AMNS AN/ASQ-235 systems, following a successful “Milestone C” review in which the system’s design was validated by the Navy and approved to advance to low rate initial production.


March 6/08: ALMDS. Northrop Grumman Integrated System Sector in Melbourne, FL receives a $24.9 million modification to previously awarded contract (N61331-05-C-0049) for a second Low Rate Initial Production lot of 3 ALMDS units. Northrop Grumman says that 2 of LRIP Lot 1’s units have already been delivered, and are in operational testing but available to the fleet. The software has been finalized, with a depth performance 50% beyond specified Key Performance Parameters, and a 60% reduction in post-mission-analysis time.

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL, and is expected to be complete by January 2010. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, FL manages the contract, and NGC expects to produce 25 units over 5 years, once the program enters full rate production for the US Navy in 2010. See also Northrop Grumman release.

3 ALMDS – Lot 2

March 5/08: AMNS support. BAE Systems Electronics’ Underwater Systems Division in Hampshire, UK receives a $9.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract for common neutralizers (their Archerfish system), related support equipment, and engineering services to support the AMNS and the Expendable Mine Neutralization System.

Work will be performed in Hampshire, Great Britain, (77%); Rocket Center, WVA (2%); Littleton, MA (7%); France (3%); Chelmsford, Essex, England (3%); Thurso, Caithness, England (2%); and Carlton Gardes, England (6%), and is expected to be complete by December 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $353,255 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The US Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division in Panama City, FL manages this contract (N61331-08-C-0012).

Feb 15/08: AMNS. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, RI received a $7.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract for 3 Low Rate Initial Production units of the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS).

Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI (56%); Waterlooville, United Kingdom (23%); Claremont, NH (11%); Windber, PA (5%); West Wareham, MA (3%); Biddford, ME (1%), and Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (1%) and is expected to be complete by November 2010. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contract (N00024-03-C-6310).


Oct 12/07: GAO Report. The US GAO audit office has some news re: the mine warfare module, the LCS’ first mission module. It seems some changes will be required:

“…For example, operation of mine countermeasures systems is currently expected to exceed the personnel allowances of the [Littoral Combat] ship, which could affect the ship’s ability to execute this mission. In addition, the Littoral Combat Ship will have only limited capability to conduct corrective maintenance aboard. However, because the Navy recently reduced the numbers of certain mission systems from two to one per ship, operational availability for these systems may decrease below current projections. Moreover, the mine countermeasures mission package currently exceeds its weight limitation, which may require the Navy to accept a reduction in speed and endurance capabilities planned for the Littoral Combat Ship. It is important that the Navy assess these uncertainties and determine whether it can produce the needed mine countermeasures capabilities from the assets it is likely to have and the concepts of operation it can likely execute.”

FY 2006 – 2007

Contracts for AMCM development & subsystems.


Sept 7/07: AQS-20. A $51.3 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-6324) to exercise an option for 9 Low Rate Initial Production AN/AQS-20A Sonar Mine Detecting Systems, 7 Installation Kit Electronic Equipment Kits, and 2 Remote Minehunting System (RMS) Towed Body Modification Kits. The order brings the total contract value to $191 million, and increases the total number of systems ordered to 20.

Work will be performed by Raytheon IDS’ Maritime Mission Center in Portsmouth, RI (88%), and by Arete Associates in Tucson, AZ (12%), and is expected to be complete by March 2010. As of Raytheon’s Nov 28/07 release, The AQS-20 system is undergoing technical evaluation as part of the Navy’s mine countermeasure operational testing – the final stage before official fleet deployment.

9 AQS-20A, RMS mods

July 23/07: AQS-20 support. The Naval Sea Systems Command has awarded Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) a $23.2 million contract to provide AN/AQS-20A mine hunting sonar engineering services and support. AN/AQS-20A engineering and support services will be performed at Raytheon IDS’ Maritime Mission Center, Portsmouth, RI. This award exercises an option on an existing 2005 contract, bringing the total contract value to $139 million.

IDS’ engineering services and support will advance the design, development and production of the system’s acoustic and optical sensors through the implementation of pre-planned product improvements and whole life services and support. To date, the company has delivered 10 AN/AQS-20A systems to the Navy, with 4 systems currently undergoing technical evaluation as part of the Navy’s mine countermeasure operational testing – the final stage before official deployment to the fleet. IDS is under contract to deliver an additional 11 systems within the next 24 months. Raytheon release.

Jan 29/07: ALMDS. Northrop Grumman issues a release highlighting their delivery of the first ALMDS pod to the US Navy.

ALMDS delivered

May 16/06: Old & New, includes OASIS. EDO Corp. Mine and Undersea Vehicles Department in Panama City, FL received a $25.2 million cost plus fixed fee/ firm-fixed-price, indefinite delivery /indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract for depot-level repair and maintenance of airborne mine countermeasures systems. These include AMCM’s new Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep system, as well as existing systems like the MH-53E’s precision navigation system, SEAFOX mine neutralization system and MK-105 magnetic minesweeping sled.

Work will be performed in Panama City, FL, and is expected to be complete by May 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, FL (N61331-06-D-0019)

April 3/06: AQS-20. Raytheon Co. Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, RI received a not-to-exceed $38.7 million firm-fixed-price/ cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-6324) for Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of 5 AN/AQS-20A sonar mine detecting systems and associated engineering services around test and delivery.

Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI (88%) and Tucson, AZ (12%), and is expected to be completed by March 2010. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C issued the contract. See Raytheon’s press release as well.

5 AQS-20A

Jan 4/06: Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Stratford, CT received a ceiling $25 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-quantity/ indefinite-delivery contract for highly specialized engineering and design efforts associated with continued integration of organic airborne mine countermeasures systems with full-production level MH-60S helicopters.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT (60%) and Panama City, FL (40%), and is expected to be complete by January 2011. The contract was not competitively procured by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, FL (N61331-06-D-0012).

Dec 27/05: Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Owego in Owego, NY received a $16.4 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0048) for non-recurring engineering services in support of the MH-60S Airborne Mine Countermeasures Common Console Technology Insertion Effort.

Work will be performed in Owego, NY, and is expected to be complete in June 2008. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract.

Dec 8/05: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT received a $33.6 million not-to-exceed modification to definitize a previously issued delivery order against basic ordering agreement N00019-03-G-0003, and to provide additional funding for the MH-60S Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) Block 2B Phase II Test Support and System Development effort.

The overall delivery order from the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD now has a not-to-exceed value of $60.6 million. Work will be performed in Stratford, CT and is expected to be complete in December 2009.

Oct 26/05: Lockheed Martin Systems Integration-Oswego in Oswego, NY receives a $76.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract in support of Phase II of the MH-60S’ Airborne Mine Countermeasures System’s (AMCM) Development and Demonstration process.

Work will be performed in Oswego, NY, and is expected to be complete in March 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-05-C-0048).

FY 2000 – 2005

Northrop Grumman wins COBRA contract; Contracts for other sub-systems.

(click to view full)

Sept 28/05: COBRA development. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. Integrated Systems Sector in Melbourne, FL received a $25.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification under previously awarded contract, exercising an option to develop Block 1, Spiral B of the Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) system.

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL and is expected to be completed by June 2007. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City (NSWC PC) in Panama City, FL issued the contract (N61331-01-C-0037).

Sept 15/05: AQS-20. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, RI received an undefinitized firm-fixed-price/ cost-plus fixed-fee letter contract at a not-to-exceed price of $55 million for the Low Rate Initial Production of the AN/AQS-20A Sonar, Mine Detecting Set. Work on the contract will be performed at Raytheon IDS’s Naval Integration Center in Portsmouth, RI (88%) and Arete Associates in Tucson, AZ (12%); and is expected to be complete by March 2010. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC issued the contract (N00024-05-C-6324).

AQS-20A LRIP-1 order

Sept 7/05: ALMDS. Northrop Grumman Airborne Ground Surveillance and Battle Management Systems in Melbourne, FL receives a $124.5 million firm-fixed-price/ incentives letter contract for 3 Low-Rate Initial Production units of the AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS), which
has been designated as a fast track Navy SBIR/STTR R&D program.

The initial contract awarded a total of $45.5 million for a low-rate initial production (LRIP) of 3 AN/AES-1 ALMDS pods. The contract calls for options totaling $79 million for an additional 6 LRIP pods, one full-rate production lot of 6 pods, plus 2 training systems and integrated logistics support.

Work will be performed in at Northrop Grumman’s Airborne Ground Surveillance & Battle Management Systems facility in Melbourne, FL (75%), and in Tucson, AZ (25%), and is expected to be complete by February 2010. Melbourne is the home of two additional Navy mine-countermeasures programs and a U.S. Army counter-mine/reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition program. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, FL (N61331-05-C-0049).

3 ALMDS now – up to 15 TL

Jan 12/05: MH-60S. Lockheed Martin Systems Integration-Owego in Owego, NY received a not-to-exceed $26.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for engineering services in support of Airborne Mine Countermeasures Block 2B system development for the MH-60S helicopter. This is the electronics and mission systems on the MH-60S AMCM.

Work will be performed in Owego, NY, and is expected to be completed in December 2006. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. is the contracting activity (N00019-03-G-0014).

Jan 30/03: AMNS development. Raytheon Co. in Portsmouth, RI receives an estimated $18.1 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the demonstration and development of the MH-60S AMCM Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS). Its system is the AN/ASQ-235 based on BAE’s Archerfish, while Lockheed Martin’s Atlas Seafox-derived system is used by the CH-53E.

Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI (63%), and Waterlooville Hampshire, United Kingdom (37%), and is expected to be complete by September 2006. The contract was competitively procured and advertised via Commerce Business Daily, with 4 offers received by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-03-C-6310). See also Raytheon release.

Aug 23/02: RAMICS development. Northrop Grumman Integrated System Sector in Melbourne, FL received an estimated $36.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the demonstration and development of the Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS).

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL, and is expected to be complete by August 2005. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was competitively procured and posted on Navy Electronic Commerce Online, with 2 offers received by US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in Washington, DC (N00024-02-C-6324).

June 25/02: CSTRS development. Concurrent Technologies Corp. in Johnstown, PA receives a $7.3 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-01-C-0045) for the development, design, engineering, manufacturing and testing of the Navy’s airborne mine countermeasures carriage, stream, tow, and recovery system for the MH-60S.

Work will be performed in Johnstown (75%) and Panama City, FL (25%), and is to be complete by July 2003. Contract funds in the amount of $5.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD.

April 26/02: OASIS development. EDO Marine and Aircraft Systems in North Amityville, NY receives a $25 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, fixed-fee contract for system development and demonstration of the Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep (OASIS). This effort encompasses all analysis, systems engineering, design, development, fabrication, assembly, testing, qualification, operator and maintenance training documentation, planning and management required to support this effort, as well as all materials, software and services necessary to ensure successful demonstration for production.

Work will be performed in North Amityville, NY (71%); Chesapeake, VA (18%); California, MD (4%); Cogent-Wales, United Kingdom (4%); Bohemia, NY (2%) and Carderock, MD (1%), and is to be complete by October 2005. This contract was competitively procured and advertised via the Internet, but had just 1 offer received by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-02-C-6316).

2002: AQS-20A, AMNS testing. Developmental and operational testing of the AN/AQS-20A and AMNS begins.

Aug 16/01: COBRA development. Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Integrated Systems Sector (ISS) receives the Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) contract from the U.S. Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren Division, to develop an airborne mine detection system for the U.S. Marine Corps, building on the 1990s-era COBRA Advanced Technology Demonstration program. The total contract award could be valued at more than $44.7 million, if all options are exercised.

This COBRA system will involve a multispectral payload flown on a tactical UAV, and the firm says that its design will use complementary technology to Northrop Grumman’s Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS). Its goal is slightly broader than mines, and involves “accurate battlefield intelligence depicting tactical objectives, minefields, obstacles and fortifications on the beach and inland areas.”

Northrop Grumman’s release says that its COBRA team also includes:

  • Arete Associates in Niceville, Fla.
  • Science & Engineering Associates in San Diego, CA
  • Wescam in Healdsburg, CA
  • General Dynamics-Advanced Technology Systems in Greensboro, NC.
  • PAR Government Systems, San Diego, CA
  • L3 Communications in Salt Lake City, UT

Aug 31/2000: AQS-20. Raytheon Electron Systems Naval & Maritime Systems in Portsmouth, RI receives an $11.8 million firm-fixed-price letter contract for 2 AN/AQS-20 towed bodies, “which is a high speed acoustic mine hunting system towed from the MH-53E helicopter. It is designed to detect, localize, and classify bottom, close-tethered, and volume mines.”

This contract contains 2 options, which if exercised, would bring the total cumulative value of this contract to a ceiling of $48.2 million. Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI, and is expected to be complete by February 2003. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Coastal Systems Station, Dahlgren Division in Panama City, FL (N61331-00-D-0044).

2 AQS-20

July 12/2000: AMNS. Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems (NE&SS) in Syracuse, NY anounces that its Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) has passed several program milestones. The program succeeded in 20 out of 20 at-sea shallow water test runs near Panama City, FL; passed a significant weapons-safety milestone; and transferred the first AMNS system to the Navy. All remaining AMNS equipment is scheduled for delivery by mid-July to support the Navy’s technical evaluation, which starts later this summer at Panama City.

NE&SS-Undersea Systems is delivering two complete AMNS systems and multiple neutralization vehicles under a $10 million fixed-price agreement with the Navy’s Airborne Mine Defense Program Office (PMS210). STN ATLAS Electronik of Bremen, Germany provides the neutralization vehicles and the operator control consoles, which are based on its very successful one-shot mine neutralization system, the SEAFOX. Lockheed Martin’s NE&SS-Undersea Systems business in Riviera Beach, FL, and Technical Systems Integration of Chesapeake, VA, also have key program roles.

The system initially will be deployed on the Navy’s MH-53E SeaDragon helicopter with production starting in 2001. The current program also includes a technology transition study for the adaptation of AMNS to the CH-60S helicopter (which later became the MH-60S)… but it is not selected.

Additional Readings

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

Background: AMCM Overview

Background: AMCM Components

Background: Related Technologies

Official Reports

News & Views

Categories: News

RNAF F-35 touches down in Alaska ahead of chute tests | Two KC-46s used in refuel demo | Secretive Model 401 aircraft makes maiden flight

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 04:00

  • A Boeing and US Air Force (USAF) test team has successfully completed the first mid-air refueling involving two KC-46A aerial tankers. The demonstration took place during a recent four-hour flight, during which the two aircraft transferred 38,100 pounds of fuel to each other at 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute. Manufacturer Boeing hailed the demonstration as a “milestone” that opens the door to additional certification and specification compliance testing. More than a dozen KC-46s will be delivered to the USAF next year and will begin replacing the service’s ageing fleet of KC-135s. So far, KC-46 test aircraft have had more than 1,300 contacts during refueling flights with a number of aircraft, including the F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10 and KC-10.

  • Last Thursday, a modified Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighter touched down at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska for the next phase of testing for the type’s drag chute. The aircraft was flown by the RNAF’s test pilot, Major “Taz” Amdal, who will now will help certify the Norwegian drag-chute and demonstrate that the entire fleet of F-35As are capable of landing at a runway condition reading (RCR) of 7. The RCR scale is based on how wet and dry each runway is, with a RCR 23  considered a dry runway while an RCR 5 is compared to landing on ice. Amdal’s F-35 is the first to touch down at Eielson AFB ahead of the base hosting two squadrons of USAF F-35As from 2020.

  • Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, has announced the first flight of its secretive Model 401 prototype aircraft. The aircraft is one of two developed in service of an undisclosed customer to demonstrate advanced, low-cost manufacturing techniques and provide aircraft for research flight services. While scant details have emerged about the planes, each measures 38 feet long with a 38-foot wingspan, and have an empty weight of 4,000 pounds. They are powered by a Pratt & Whitney JTD15D-5D engine and can reach Mach 0.6 and fly up to three hours at a time. Its maximum takeoff weight is 8,000 pounds.

Middle East & Africa

  • The US State Department has approved the possible continuation of C-17 logistics support services and equipment for the government of Kuwait. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announcement estimated the value of the contract at $342.6 million, and calls for three years (with option for two additional years) of follow-on support of two C-17 aircraft, which includes participation in the Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program (GISP), contract logistic support, Class I modifications and kits support, in-country contractor support, alternate mission equipment, major modification and retrofit, software support, aircraft maintenance and technical support, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, additional spare and repair parts, technical orders and publications, airworthiness certification support, engine spares, engine maintenance and logistics support, inspections support, on-site COMSEC support, Quality Assurance and other US Government and contractor engineering, logistics, and program support. Upgrades to the C-17s also include fixed installation satellite antenna, Mode 5, plus installation and sustainment, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out, and other related elements of logistics and program support. Boeing is act as lead contractor.

  • It’s been reported that the Israeli military has stopped its evaluation of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, with defense officials saying that the platform is unable to perform some missions currently conducted using the Sikorsky CH-53 transport helicopters—the platform the Osprey was potentially due to replace. Six V-22s were approved by the US Department of Defense (DoD) back in January 2014, which was then followed by an evaluation conducted by Israeli air force personnel, which led to the service seeking a rapid acquisition to support special operations. However, the proposed procurement was met with opposition from elsewhere in the ministry. Israel hopes to start phasing out its CH-53s by 2025 with alternative options including Sikorsky’s new CH-53K and the Boeing CH-47 Chinook.


  • Norway’s minority government is to send an armored battalion to the Arctic near its border with Russia and plans to up tank and artillery procurement in order to combat future threats. The plan, announced by Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide, will see the battalion stationed in the remote Porsanger district, in the far north on the edge of a long fjord leading into the Barents Sea, which also borders Russia. Oslo will also invest in additional tanks, artillery and long-range precision weapons in the area and other locations further south, together with an extension of the time people have to spend in some national service positions to 16 from 12 months. While the proposals will require opposition support in order for funding to be cleared through parliament, the boosting of Arctic defenses has a broad political consensus.

  • Airbus’ Chief Executive Tom Enders warned Friday that the firm could face significant fines as a result of French and British corruption investigations. Already under fire in Austria over corruption linked to its 2003 Eurofighter Typhoon sale, the fresh investigations stem after Airbus disclosed anomalies last year in past filings on the use of agents, or middlemen, in plane sales. Speaking to Le Monde, Enders said “I cannot predict the outcome of this investigation but it is not impossible that the fine will be significant.” Legal experts say any settlement could cost significantly more than the roughly 700 million pounds paid by Rolls-Royce under a similar deal earlier this year. If found guilty, it could cost Airbus access to public markets

Asia Pacific

  • The Bangladesh Navy has ordered two additional Dornier Do-228 maritime patrol aircraft bringing to four the number that will be operated by the service. Manufacturer RUAG said in a statement that the sale will “build on [the navy’s] existing capabilities in the patrolling of the sea routes, territorial waters, coastal areas, and wetlands, essential to secure fishery operations, and critical vessel tracking,” adding that the aircraft will extend Dhaka’s reach and endurance options for search and rescue (SAR) and natural disaster missions. Initially developed by Dornier in the 1970s, the new Do-228 NG (Next Generation) was built by RUAG by integrating modern technologies such as a new five bladed composite propeller, advanced Honeywell TPE 331-10 engines, retractable landing gear, Unique TNT wing unit, reduced weight, glass cockpit, digital avionics and displays and extended range. RUAG carries out aircraft final assembly, payload integration, production compliance inspection and deliveries while HAL manufactures wings and tail units in Kanpur, India.

Today’s Video

  • First flight of Scaled Composites’ Model 401 protoype:

Categories: News

General Atomics switch production to Gray Eagle ER | ATACMS hits another test-fire success | Saab tapped for NATO radar work in Norway

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 04:00

  • General Atomics announced this week that it has officially switched production of its MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAV over to the longer-range variant, the MQ-1C ER Gray Eagle Extended Range. The new UAV will be tasked with long range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, in addition to aiding in communications relay and the delivery of weapons to assist ground forces. Recent endurance tests of the new long range drone saw it fly for 41.9 hours, significantly more than the 25-hour capability of the current variant. The firm said the first four MQ-1C ER aircraft are currently being used for developmental testing and will progress to follow-on operational test and evaluation next spring 2018, with customer deliveries of MQ-1C ER to proceed from summer 2018.

  • John Rood, a senior executive at Lockheed Martin, has been selected by US President Donald Trump to fill the empty position of undersecretary of defense for policy. Prior tobeing awarded the Pentagon’s No. 3 job, Rood had also worked for arms maker Raytheon Inc and was a State Department and National Security Council official in the George W. Bush administration. He has also served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for forces policy and spent 11 years as a CIA analyst following missile programs in foreign countries. His position is still subject to Senate confirmation.

  • Lockheed Martin conducted the successful test-firing of the MGM 140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The flight was a system-level test conducted in collaboration with the US Army’s Precision Fires Rocket & Missile Systems (PFRMS) Program Management Office. Other test objectives included the missile’s performance range and accuracy from launch to impact, validating the interface with the soldier-manned M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher, and testing system software performance. The firm said that the ATACMS missile flew more than 86 miles and demonstrated a proximity sensor height-of-burst detonation over the target area, meaning the missile exploded in the air versus on contact with the ground or intended target. The ATACMS’ current Life Extension Program aims to replace ageing components of the system and the program will see 150 missiles modernized.

Middle East & Africa

  • Turkish electronics company Aselsan has signed a $43.6 million contract to supply communications systems to Ukraine’s state-owned defence conglomerate UkrOboronProm. Deliveries of the systems are expected to take place in 2018. The firm is also chasing a contract to supply very high frequency (VHF) radios to the Ukrainian armed forces, where it is facing competition from the US radio giant Harris Corp. Both Ukraine and Turkey have been looking to expand bilateral defence industry relations since 2016, with both Aselsan and UkrOboronProm signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in May to source an avionics suite for the Antonov An-158 airliner and An-178 military transport aircraft.


  • The Netherlands has been cleared by the US State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) to proceed with the purchase of AIM-120 C-7 medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM). Estimated at $53 million, the package calls for 26 AIM-120s, one AMRAAM Guidance Section Spare (MDE items), 20 AMRAAM Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), missile containers, control section spares, weapon systems support, test equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training, training equipment, US Government and contractor engineering, logistics, technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. Raytheon will act as lead contractor.

  • Saab has been contracted by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) in Luxembourg to carry out upgrades on three SINDRE I air surveillance radars in Norway. Work on the radars will start this year and run through to 2020, with Saab replacing obsolete hardware as well as updating the software for the radars. Saab Technologies Norway and Saab Defense and Security USA will work on the project in Halden, Norway, and Syracuse, NY, respectively. Sindre 1 radars are part of NATO’s chain of radar systems and have been in operation in Norway since the early 1990s.

Asia Pacific

  • A cybersecurity hack last year which stole non-classified information on defense programs such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and JDAM was done through an Australian defense contractor. The Australian defense industry ministry confirmed Thursday that about 30 gigabytes of data was stolen in the cyber attack, where the hacker accessed the small contractor’s systems for five months in 2016, and the “methodical, slow and deliberate,” choice of target suggested a nation-state actor could be behind the raid. A spokesman for the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), a government agency, said the government would not release further details about the cyber attack.

  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Russia will donate assault rifles to support Manilla’s fight against pro-Islamic State militants operating in the archipelago. Duterte told troops that a deal is expected to be signed later this month for 5,000 Kalashnikovs and would end a reliance by the Philippine military on second-hand arms. A defense official added that deliveries of the rifles will take place later this month to coincide with a visit by Russia’s defense minister for a regional meeting, and will be accompanied by millions of rounds of ammunition and dozens of army trucks.

Today’s Video

  • The Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS):

Categories: News

First SEPv3 Abrams roll out | Final RFP for unmanned MQ-25 tanker released | Two upgunned Strykers to be tested in Europe in December

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 04:00

  • Saab has received a US Army contract to supply the service with shoulder-fired AT4CS RS (Confined Space Reduced Sensitivity) anti-armor weapon systems. Valued at $13.4 million, deliveries of the system will take place during 2019. Saab’s AT4 family is a range of lightweight, man-portable, fully disposable weapons characterised by ease of use and handling. The AT4CS RS weighs less than 8 kg, has an effective range of 20 to 300 metres, and contains a unique shaped-charge warhead that delivers outstanding behind-armour effect inside the target. Other new variants include the AT4CS ER (Extended Range) and AT4CS HE (High Explosive), both of which provide multi-purpose, direct fire support with confined space capabilities.

  • The first six initial production vehicles of the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank System Enhancement Package Version 3 (SEPv3) has been rolled out for the first time after delivery to the US Army. Production for the M1A2 SEPv3 is being conducted at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima, Ohio and at the Anniston Army Depot in Anniston, Alabama. Improvements added to the new tanks include a joint tactical radio system that integrates handheld, manpack, and small-form fit radios to maintain battle command and communications interoperability with future brigade combat teams. It also comes with an improved power generation and distribution equipment, as well as counter remote control improvised explosive device electronic warfare/Duke V3 equipment. An ammunition data link for programing the M829A4 advanced kinetic energy and advanced multi-purpose rounds has also been added, as well as a quiet auxiliary power unit to operate on-board systems during silent watch operations, and armor upgrades. Over time, the SEPv3s will replace the M1A2 SEPv2, which have been in production since 2005.

  • Canada has officially submitted an expression of interest to Australia to acquire its legacy F/A-18 Hornets. The Liberal government had initially wanted to buy 18 Super Hornet fighter jets from manufacturer Boeing, however, that plan was scuppered after Boeing filed a trade complaint in April against the Quebec-based Bombardier over its civilian passenger jets. The move to try to acquire fighter jets from Australia also coincides with the US government’s decision to slap nearly 300 per cent duties on CSeries civilian passenger jets made by Bombardier, after Boeing complained that the Canadian firm was getting unfair support from both Canada and the UK, which the deem amounted to state subsidies. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to bring up the Boeing complaint and duties with US President Donald Trump during meetings this week.

  • US Naval Air Systems Command has released the final request for proposals (RFP) to industry for the unmanned MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial tanker. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics were all issued the RFP to compete for the air segment of what will be the Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle ahead of an anticipated contract award by September of next year. Basic requirements will have the Stingray deliver about 15,000 pounds of fuel 500 nautical miles from the carrier, with a mission of alleviating the strain on the existing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets that are burning through flight hours while serving as a refueling tanker for other aircraft attempting to land on an aircraft carrier.

Middle East & Africa

  • The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has received delivery of the first two A-29 Super Tucano light attack and reconnaissance aircraft donated by the US. A total of six aircraft will be delivered, as part of a $462 million package that includes two spare engines, MX-15 electro-optical sensor systems, 2,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guidance kits for 70 mm rockets, eight AN/AAR-60(V)2 missile launch detection systems, and eight ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing systems to protect against ground-based air-defence systems, navigations systems, and support equipment and services. The A-29s will also be able to launch AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, as well as GBU-12 and GBU-58 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, although these weapons were not included in the proposed package.

  • While BAE Systems announced job losses at some of its UK operations, the firm also revealed that it will supply Qatar with six Hawk trainer aircraft as part of a sale outlined in a letter of intent (LOI) signed for 24 Eurofighter Typhoon in September. Currently being assembled for Oman and Saudi Arabia, the airframer said that Hawk production is secure until 2019, after nearly 1,400 jobs were cut from its military aerospace business amid a planned slowdown in production of Typhoon aircraft. However, BAE cautioned that it needs to receive a firm order from the Gulf state next year to avoid a break in production.


  • Two upgunned Stryker infantry carrier vehicle variants will be deployed to Europe in December to undergo operational tests. One, the 30 mm-armed ‘Dragoon’, has been developed by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) and features Orbital ATK’s 30 mm calibre XM813 Bushmaster dual feed automatic cannon fitted into Kongsberg’s Medium Calibre Remote Controlled Turret (MC-RCT) and integrated on GDLS’ Strykers. GDLS expect to have 83 Stryker Dragoons completed by May 2018. The second type comes with Raytheon’s Javelin anti-tank missiles on the Kongsberg Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS II), and 87 javelin-equipped units are planned. The vehicles were approved in 2015 in order to fit an operational need statement from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (known as the Dragoons) based at Vilseck in Germany.

Asia Pacific

  • A New Zealand aircraft manufacturer has pleaded guilty to breaching UN sanctions imposed on North Korea. Pacific Aerospace Ltd pleaded guilty to indirectly exporting aircraft parts to East Asian hermit kingdom in breach of 2006 United Nations sanctions, delivering a ten-seater plane to its joint venture partner in China which was later sold to another Chinese firm before ending up in North Korea in December 2015. The aircraft was subsequently flown at North Korea’s Wonsan Air Festival in September 2016, attracting the attention of the UN Security Council and New Zealand Customs. Pacific Aerospace will be sentenced in January, with the maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment for an individual and a fine of up to NZ$100,000 ($71,000) for a company.

Today’s Video

  • A-29 Super Tucanos in action:

Categories: News

Raytheon unveil Stinger solution for Army’s Stryker | Kawasaki look to market aircraft to ME | Taiwan to pursue local M60A3 upgrade program

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 04:00

  • Raytheon has unveiled its solution to give the Stryker armored fighting vehicle a mobile air defense capability, a Stinger missile mounted into a Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) and integrated on the vehicle. The solution was successfully tested by the US Army at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico last month, where it successfully intercepted several airborne targets. “With so many airborne threats in the battlespace, our ground forces need the protection of additional mobile air defense systems,” said Kim Ernzen, Raytheon Land Warfare Systems vice president. “Combining these two proven systems gives the Army an immediate, low risk, high-value solution.” The integration was in response to the US Army’s urgent need for mobile air defense for ground troops.

  • Lockheed Martin has received a $337 million contract to supply the US Army, UK, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the latest in target acquisition for their attack helicopters. Known as the “eyes of the Apache,” the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) system provides pilots with long-range, precision engagement and pilotage capabilities for safe flight during day, night and adverse weather missions. Under the terms of the order, Lockheed will provide the US Army with upgrade kits for the M?TADS/PNVS Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA) and Modernized Laser Range Finder Designator. For the UK Ministry of Defence, it is delivering M-DSA upgrade kits for M-TADS/PNVS refurbishment as part of a remanufacture effort to upgrade D-model Apaches to E models. For the Saudi Ministry of National Guard, it is providing M?TADS/PNVS systems for new E-model Apaches.

Middle East & Africa

  • Turkey’s foreign minister has stated that Turkey can procure a missile defense system from another country if Russia does not agree to joint production and technology transfer of a defense shield. Ankara recently announced the placing of a downpayment on the S-400 air defense system with the aim that the deal would allow it to acquire the technology to eventually develop its own defense system—although this is something Moscow has never agreed to. Western options that lost out to the S-400 include Raytheon’s Patriot system and a system by the Franco-Italian group Eurosam, owned by the multinational European missile maker MBDA and France’s Thales. However, in July, Turkey announced that it had also signed an initial accord with the Eurosam consortium on the development of missile defense systems.

  • Kawasaki Heavy Industries of Japan is to begin marketing its C-2 heavy transport aircraft to the Middle East as part of efforts by the Japanese Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) to enter the global defence industry market. In addition to the C-2, the P-1 maritime patrol aircraft is also being marketed after its unveiling at the Parish Air Show last year. The Japanese government is believed to be currently in talks over the C-2 with an interested UAE, and Kawasaki is expected to display the aircraft at the Dubai Air Show this November.


  • BAE Systems confirmed Tuesday that it is to cut nearly 2,000 jobs from its UK operations in what is being deemed a “significant blow” to the country’s manufacturing industry. Approximately 1,400 jobs are expected to go at its military aerospace business over the next three years, along with a further 375 in maritime services and 150 at its cyber-intelligence business. The brunt of the cuts will take place at BAE’s aerospace bases at Warton and Samlesbury in Lancashire, where the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet is assembled, with 750 losses, while another 400 posts will go at its other aerospace base in Brough, east Yorkshire. 340 posts will go in Portsmouth, 245 at the RAF bases Marham in Norfolk and Leeming in North Yorkshire, and 150 in London, Guildford and at other cyber-intelligence sites. A further 30 job losses will take place at other UK locations. The firm’s new CEO, Charles Woodburn, said the “organisational changes we are announcing today accelerate our evolution to a more streamlined, de-layered organisation, with a sharper competitive edge and a renewed focus on technology.” Citing the timing of future Typhoon orders, BAE said the cuts were necessary “to ensure production continuity and competitive costs between the completion of current contracts and anticipated new orders, we now plan to reduce Typhoon final assembly and Hawk production rates.” It also blamed the British government’s decision to take the RAF Tornado fleet out of service in 2019, which will affect Marham and Leeming, although BAE will continue to work on the F-35 fighter jet at Marham. BAE employs more than 83,000 people worldwide, including 34,600 in the UK.

Asia Pacific

  • It has been reported in Taiwanese media that Taipei may have given up on attempts to purchase M1 Abrams tanks from the US, instead, favoring to locally upgrade the M60A3 main battle tanks it has in service. According to reports in the United Daily News newspaper, the government has earmarked $6.57 million dollars for the state-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) to develop an upgrade program for the approximately 450 M60A3 TTS tanks operated by Taiwan’s Army. Due to start in 2018, the program will look at replacing the main gun from the 105mm M68 to a new 120mm weapon, as well as upgrading the ballistics computer, turret hydraulics and other systems. As seen by its inability to secure surplus M1 Abrams, Taiwan has faced severe challenges in procuring advanced, big-ticket military hardware, with potential suppliers wary of incurring China’s wrath, who see Taiwan as a breakaway province rather than a independent state.

  • Indonesia’s Kaplan Medium Tank has been displayed for the first time by the Army during an October 5 parade commemorating National Armed Forces in Cilegon, Banten Province. The tank was developed by Indonesia’s PT Pindad and FNSS Savunma Sistemleri of Turkey under the TNI-AD’s Modern Medium Weight Tank (MMWT) program. It is based on FNSS’ Kaplan chassis and comes equipped with a CMI Cockerill 3105 turret armed with a Cockerill 105 mm main gun, autoloader and digital fire-control system. It also has a 7.62 coaxial machine gun, battlefield management system and laser warning system. The tank is being marketed as a support solution suitable for attacking light armoured vehicles along with flanking and ambush roles, and sees competition in the Chinese NORINCO VT5 light tank.

Today’s Video

  • The Kaplan Medium Tank:

Categories: News

Global Hawk contract awarded for Japan | Belgium seeks legal advice before considering Rafale offer | Job losses at BAE amid unsure Typhoon schedules

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 04:00

  • Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $26 million Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE) contract to develop a high-powered laser source. The US Air Force contract is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s podded electric laser concept for fifth- and sixth-generation fighter jets, the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD). The award follows a $39 million order to Northrop Grumman last summer to develop SHiELD’s laser beam control under the SHiELD Turret Research in Aero-Effects (STRAFE) program. The USAF is expected to award another contract for the Laser Pod Research and Development, which will develop the pod, thermal management system, battery and cooling system.

Middle East & Africa

  • A Cambodian-listed vessel seized by Egyptian customs officials in August after a tip off by US authorities, saw the discovery of a cache of more than 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades hidden under bins of iron ore. Now, after months of investigation, a UN report has found that the seized weapons were in fact destined for Egypt itself, masked by a complex arrangement in which Egyptian business executives ordered millions of dollars worth of North Korean rockets for the country’s military while also taking pains to keep the transaction hidden. An Egyptian statement said that Cairo “will continue to abide by all Security Council resolutions and will always be in conformity with these resolutions as they restrain military purchases from North Korea.” However, US officials said the revelation would not have come to light if US intelligence had not spotted the suspicious vessel and reported it to Egyptian authorities, adding that the episode was one of a series of clandestine deals that led the Trump administration to freeze or delay nearly $300 million in military aid to Egypt over the summer. The incident highlights that despite sanctions, Pyongyang is still finding buyers for its wares, with several African nations circumventing sanctions and embargoes to purchase North Korean defense equipment and training.


  • A French gambit to sell a Rafale fighter jet package to Belgium that went outside the official procurement program may not succeed, if comments from Belgium’s defense minister are to be believed. Speaking in parliament, Defence Minister Steven Vandeput told lawmakers that Paris had not responded correctly to a request for proposals (RfP) covering the replacement of its Lockheed Martin F-16 fleet, adding that the two bids officially received were from the UK and USA, respectively offering the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35. However, Brussel’s has sought legal advice on the French position—34 warplanes plus a close relationship outside the parameters of the initial tender—and will be presented to the government by the end of October to inform a final decision on whether or not to rule out the Rafale.

  • Russia’s United Engine Corporation has announced that it is currently testing a new NK-32 02 series engine for the modernized Tu-160M2 strategic bomber. The firm added that the number of parts and components of the NK-32 engine (series 02) were upgraded to make it more fuel efficient, giving the bomber an increased endurance and the ability operate within a ranger range. Moscow currently has 50 of the modernized planes on order, with plans for the first batch of six engines to be ready for the first quarter of 2018.

  • BAE Systems is expected to announce this week, redundancies that are likely to result in the loss of over 1,000 jobs. The cuts are believed to take place primarily at the firm’s Warton plant in Preston, England, but “trimming” could also take place at other locations as well. While sources said that Brexit—the UK’s exit from the European Union—was “not a factor” in BAE’s decision, the cuts are being largely attributed to the continued slowdown in production of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft, with ongoing uncertainty about the timing of a potentially large order from Saudi Arabia. Last month, BAE announced that Qatar made its first major defense deal with the UK, ordering 24 Typhoon aircraft in a sale that was hailed by Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon as “an important moment in our defence relationship and the basis for even closer defence co-operation between our two countries.”

Asia Pacific

  • Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $130 million USAF contract to support Japan’s Global Hawk program. The order calls for the sourcing of long lead material to initiate the program for three RQ-4 Global Hawk block 30 (I) UAVs, in addition to two ground control elements, enhanced integrated sensor suite, spares, and a site survey. Work will be performed in San Diego, California, and is expected to be complete by July 27, 2018. In November 2015, Japan was cleared by the US State Department for the $1.2 billion sale of Global Hawk aircraft. Between May and October this year, the USAF had five RQ-4 Global Hawks stationed at Yokota Air Base in Japan to provide a base from which the platform can be reliably operated during the summer. Tensions in the region have been high amid North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear testing, which has seen test rockets fly over Japanese airspace.

  • South Korean media has reported that Seoul has now gathered all the necessary technology required to construct a graphite bomb and is free to constuct them at any time. Also known as a “blackout bomb”, the non-lethal weapon is used to disable electrical power systems by spreading chemically treated carbon graphite filaments over electric facilities to short-circuit and disrupt the power grid. Development has been led by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) as a key part of South Korea’s pre-emptive strike program called Kill Chain, and would be utilised by paralysing North Korea’s power systems in case of war. Graphite bombs were first used by the US against Iraq in the 1990–1991 Gulf War and again by NATO against Serbia in 1999.

  • Last Saturday, political and military officials from both Afghanistan and the US welcomed the arrival of new UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan. Their arrival was hailed as a “historic day” by attending Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and will now be used to radically transform the young Afghan air force after Washington ran into difficulties obtaining spare and replacement parts for the over-worked Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters that currently form the backbone of the AAF. US plans for Kabul’s air force modernization includes having at least 159 Black Hawks, including 58 fitted with extra rocket pods and machine guns to provide close air support, a fleet that will dwarf the fewer than 40 Mi-17s currently operational. Retraining the Afghan pilots to operate the Black Hawk is expected to take between five and six months.

Today’s Video

  • Serbians react to graphite bomb, 1999:

Categories: News

DSCA clears THAAD for Saudi, Saudi signs deal for S-400 | Austral to build additional LCS | Finland sends RFIs for Hornet replacement program

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 04:00

  • Austral USA, the Mobile, Alabama-based subsidiary of the Australian shipbuilder has been awarded a $584.2 million modification to a previously awarded US Navy contract for the construction of a littoral combat ship (LCS). Under the terms of the deal, the firm will perform and oversee all necessary design, planning, construction and test and trials activities in support of delivery of the vessel to the Navy, with a scheduled completion date set for October 2023. Work will primarily take place at Mobile, Alabama, but also at several other east coast locations. The Navy expects to release a competitive solicitation(s) for additional LCS class ships in future years, and therefore the specific contract award amount for these ships is considered source selection sensitive information and for the time being, will not be made public.

  • Boeing plans to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences, both companies announced on October 5. Wanted to help accelerate Boeing’s development of game-changing autonomy technology for innovative aerospace vehicles, the Manassas-based company will retain an independent operating model after the acquisition. Since its founding in 1989, Aurora has designed, produced and flown more than 30 UAVs, and has collaborated with Boeing on several occasions in the last decade on the rapid prototyping of innovative aircraft and structural assemblies for both military and commercial applications. Further details on the acquisition were not given.

Middle East & Africa

  • Saudi Arabia has been cleared by the US State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) to proceed with the sale of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems. Valued at an estimated $15 billion, the package includes the provision of 44 THAAD launchers, 360 THAAD Interceptor Missiles, 16 THAAD Fire Control and Communications Mobile Tactical Station Group, and seven AN/TPY-2 THAAD radars. Additional items include THAAD Battery maintenance equipment, 43 trucks, generators, electrical power units, trailers, communications equipment, tools, and test and maintenance equipment, as well as spare and repair parts, logistics, construction of facilities and other program support. Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Raytheon will act as lead contractors in the deal, which the DSCA said will add an upper-tier to Saudi Arabia’s layered missile defense architecture and will support modernization of the Royal Saudi Air Defense Force.

  • A historic visit by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to Moscow last week was marked by the announcement that the kingdom has agreed to buy the S-400 air defense system from Russia. Both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the system on Thursday, which will also see part of the system built in Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to develop its own military industries. The MOU also covers the production in Saudi Arabia of Kornet-EM anti-tank missiles, TOS-1A multiple rocket launchers, and AGS-30 automatic grenade launchers. Another general terms and conditions of contract agreement was also signed, and covers Saudi production of the Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifle and associated 7.62×39 mm ammunition. King Salman arrived, along with a 1,500 strong entourage, in Moscow on Wednesday, the first time a Saudi king has ever visited Moscow.

  • South Africa’s Paramount Group has snapped up four surplus Dassault Mirage F1Bs from the French government in a “multi-million euro” transaction the firm did not want to specify. Once delivered, the aircraft will join the company’s existing fleet of single-seat Mirage F1s—which it bought from the South African air force in 2006—and will support both aggressor and pilot training in addition to aiding maintenance and support instruction. They will be operated by the Paramount Aerospace Systems subsidiary.


  • German prosecutors examining portions of Airbus’s $2 billion sale in 2003 of Eurofighter aircraft to Austria are expected to complete their investigations soon. While Austrian prosecutors are also investigating the case, the Munich authority is focusing on 16 individuals on suspicion of breeches of trust, and whether money supposedly spent on so-called offset deals was instead used to influence decision-makers on the main sale. Meanwhile,Vienna prosecutors are pursuing a separate investigation into allegations of fraud against Airbus and the Eurofighter industrial consortium based on complaints from the Austrian defense ministry, which is seeking up to $1.3 billion in compensation.

  • The Finnish government has sent a Request for Information (RFI) to seven countries about weapons and other equipment for Finland’s HX fighter project to replace its F/A-18 Hornet fleet by 2025. France, Germany, Britain, Israel, Norway, Sweden and the US, have all been contacted with the requests, which aims to determine what capabilities will be available to meet Finland’s estimated future fighter needs. Helsinki intends to seek pricing on the Hornet’s replacement next spring, with testing of candidate aircraft to commence in 2019, and a final procurement decision will come made in 2021.

Asia Pacific

  • Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has dismissed claims that Bangkok has agreed to replace ageing AH-1F helicopters with new attack helicopters from the US. Instead, he added that the army has a procurement plan for some attack helicopters and that a committee has yet to setup to select and procure a new attack helicopter. While Prawit did not disclose the models or country the new rotorcraft is expected to come from, a source close to the procurement said six helicopters will be sought, adding the models in contention include the Cobra, AH-1Z Viper, AH-64 Apache from the US, the Mi-28 from Russia, the Z-10 from China or the AW-129 from Italy.

Today’s Video

Categories: News

Lockheed, Rockwell, tapped for ALCS replacement | Kongsberg schedule final JSM test for spring 2018 | DSCA clears AIM-120 sale to Japan

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 04:00

  • Pratt & Whitney has landed a $2.7 billion US Air Force contract for engine sustainment support for the F-117 stealth aircraft. Awarded Wednesday, work will take place at United Airlines, San Francisco, California; Columbus Engine Center, Columbus, Georgia; and Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, with a scheduled completion date of Sept. 30, 2022. Foreign military sales are also covered in the deal, with the UK, Canada, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, India, Australia and Strategic Airlift Capability all listed as recipients for services.

  • A team from the US Marine Corps have tested small 3D-printed drones in order to demonstrate their flexibility and usefulness to troops in the field. Supplied by the US Army Research Laboratory, the additive-manufactured vehicles can be produced quickly and en route to combat situations. Troops will be able to select an SUAS from catalogue of drones provided by researchers that is tailored to fit the needs of their mission, download information on the aircraft, and then 3D-print its parts before constructing a bespoke drone, all within 24 hours. The testing took place in late September at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

  • Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins have both received USAF contracts ($81 and $76 million respectively) for the technology maturation and risk reduction phase of the Airborne Launch Control System Replacement (ALCS-R) program—the development of an airborne command-and-control system that makes it possible for the USAF to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile even if launch control centers on the ground are destroyed. The program will support intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) operations until 2075, meaning it will work with both the current Minuteman III system and its eventual replacement, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, which will come online in the late 2020s. During ALCS-R, the service intends to replace all of the airborne mission equipment onboard the 16 E-6B Mercury aircraft equipped with the current ALCS system, as well as ground-based radios in 450 launch-control centers, which haven’t been updated since the 1960s.

Middle East & Africa

  • The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is procuring one additional Gulfstream G550 business jet for special missions, according to a senior service official. The service currently uses two variants of the G550—the Eitam and Shavit— which are tasked as an airborne early warning and control system, and communications/electronic intelligence-gather respectively. With the current assets aged between 10 and 12 years, the new aircraft will be equipped with upgraded systems offering enhanced performance, however, its exact mission set was not confirmed.


  • Norwegian defense firm Kongsberg expects to conduct the final flight test (FTM-5) of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) in the spring. The Norwegian Defense Ministry said the test, the program’s sixth, will take place in March 2018, bringing to an end a two-year flight-test campaign to qualify the missile for integration on Norway’s planned fleet of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters. The final flight test will be the first end-to-end test for the missile, and will see a JSM equipped with a live warhead and launched from a legacy F-16C/D Fighting Falcon from the US Air Force’s 445th Flight Test Group against a ‘realistic’ land target at the Utah Test and Training Range in the United States.

  • Four nations have entered bids to supply Croatia with 18 aircraft for its MiG-21 fighter replacement program. Now, Zagreb will decide on whether to purchase new or secondhand Lockheed Martin F-16s, offered by the US, Israel and Greece, or buy Saab JAS-39 Gripens from Sweden. Commenting on the received bids, the defense ministry said it will conduct a detailed evaluation and validation process, expected to be wrapped up in two months, and key parameters for selection aside from the characteristics and capabilities of the aircraft, will include: intergovernmental contract, price, and the business-economic cooperation package. Croatia is once of several governments in the region at various stages of pursuing new fighter aircraft with Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria all being wooed by defense firms.

Asia Pacific

  • The sale of 56 AIM-120C-7 air-to-air missiles to Japan has been cleared by the US State Department. Valued at an estimated $113 million, the sale also includes containers, weapon support and support equipment, spare and repair parts, US Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistical support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support. Raytheon will deliver the munitions to Tokyo after production at its plant in Tucson, Arizona.

  • The Australian prime minister has announced the selection of Saab’s 9LV Combat Management System for integration on the future frigates, upgraded Air Warfare Destroyers, and selected offshore patrol vessels of the Royal Australian Navy. While no official order has been placed for the systems, Saab welcomed the decision, calling it an “endorsement of the advanced combat system capabilities we have developed for the RAN,” adding that they “look forward to working closely with the Australian Defense Force to deliver highly capable systems for the Future Frigates and other platforms.” Saab’s 9LV naval combat system provides C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) for every type of naval platform, ranging from combat boats and patrol boats, to frigates and aircraft carriers, and other vessels.

Today’s Video

Categories: News

The USA’s E-6 Fleet: Take Charge, And Move Out!

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 03:59

(click to view full)

The USA’s E-6 Mercury (aka. TACAMO, as in TAke Charge And Move Out) “survivable airborne communication system” airplanes support their Navy’s SSBN ballistic missile submarine force and overall strategic forces. With the advent of the new “Tactical Trident” converted Ohio Class special operations subs, their unique capabilities become even more useful. The E-6B version also has a secondary role as a “Looking Glass” Airborne National Command Post, and in recent years they have seen use as communications relay stations over the front lines of combat.

Delivery of the first production E-6 aircraft took place in August 1989, with delivery of the 16th and final airplane coming in May 1992. This is DID’s FOCUS Article concerning the E-6 system, which includes details concerning the capabilities and associated contracts. The latest contracts involve important fleet upgrades, as the Navy tries to drag the jet’s systems into the 21st century.

E-6 Mercury: Messenger from On High

Crazy ’bout a Mercury…
(click to view cutaway)

The U.S. Navy has a total fleet of 16 E-6B aircraft deployed from Tinker AFB, OK. The 707-300 derivatives have a range of about 5,500 miles, and can easily carry 23 crew members. FAS reports that in the TACAMO role, the E-6 flies independent random operations from various deployed sites for approximately 15 day intervals. Each deployed crew is self-supporting except for fuel and perishables, and the mission requires a 24 hour commitment of resources (alert posture) in the Atlantic and Pacific regions.

The term “Looking Glass” referred to the aircraft’s ability to “mirror” the underground US STRATCOM command center, in the event that it’s destroyed or becomes disabled. The aircraft use their very-low-frequency (VLF) dual trailing wire antenna system to permit one-way, emergency communications to submerged submarines. That gives the Pentagon a vital link to the fleet from national command authorities, without forcing the subs to reveal their positions. In an emergency, the E-6 fleet will also provide an Airborne National Command Post (ABNCP) for United States Command in Chief for Strategic Forces and theater CINCs, including an Airborne Launch Control System capable of launching U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In the ABNCP role, as directed by US STRATCOM, 2 aircraft would be flown to Offutt Air Force Base (AFB) to embark the battle staff and the airborne launch control system (ALCS) components, then placed in alert status.

The first E-6B aircraft was accepted in December 1997, and the E-6B assumed its dual operational mission in October 1998. The E-6 fleet was completely modified to the E-6B configuration in 2003, and maintenance of the systems is performed by the standard complement of squadron ground and in-flight technician personnel. The Block I upgrades provide the next big step forward for the fleet, and Full Operational Capability was declared in spring 2012.

E-6B Upgrade Efforts

MCS-10 system
(click to view cutaway)

E-6B Block I. This upgrade program began in 2004, as a collaborative effort between the Navy and industry. It adds open system architecture electronics via its new MCS-10 computers; a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Intercommunications System; and an on-aircraft, multi-level secure network for message processing. That electronic architecture also lays the groundwork for future upgrades, by making it much easier to insert new electronics. Rockwell Collins was the prime contractor, with ARINC as their sub-contracted installer. A related Internet Protocol and Bandwidth Expansion (IPBE) effort worked to improve the plane’s uplink/downlink speeds.

The MCS-10 is at the heart of all strategic data communication links aboard the E-6B, and makes it possible to receive and transmit Emergency Action Messages to deployed US Strategic (nuclear) Forces. It will also help the Airborne Command Post (ABNCP) mission by automating 2-way messages between the MCS-10 and battlestaff mission equipment, which frees crew members from unnecessary administrative duties of processing, verifying, and then re-typing complex data messages. This saves time and crew in critical situations, while removing the ever-present possibility of human error.

Full Operational Capability (FOC) was declared for the 15 modified E-6Bs and 3 training devices (including at least 1 737) in spring 2012. Since then, the program office has delivered 1 software update, all spares, updated the MCS-10 test bench, and submitted final Emergency Action Message (EAM) certification to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for approval.

E-6B Block II. The follow-on Block II program kicked off in earnest in June 2012. With this program, the E-6B begins to take full advantage of the Block I upgrades. Modifications like the dual line of sight/ satellite MR-TCDL datalink will let the TACAMO fleet connect to secure U.S. Department of Defense networks, at high data rates, while still in flight. That might seem like an elementary function for a national-level command aircraft, but the age of the planes made it a long slog to get there. For people on board, these Block II change will dramatically broaden the type and quality of information they can receive. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for Block II.

E-6B SLEP. In parallel with the communications refits, E-6Bs are also receiving Service Life enhancement Program modifications, designed to take the airframes from 27,000 safe flight hours to 45,000, and give them another 20 years of service life. The refit involves inspecting and replacing up to 15,000 fasteners on the aircraft’s wings, and widening and strengthening fastener holes. That means up to 28,000 man-hours per plane, as the Navy prefers a cold-working process to strengthen the fastening holes, which involves the physical removal and inspection of each fastener as well as rework of the holes.

While the Navy leads that SLEP process, most of the work is being performed by the USAF Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center’s 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, who have a lot of experience with the USAF’s similar E-3 Sentry AWACS planes. The SLEP is estimated to cost over $3 million per aircraft, and the 16th and final E-6B is scheduled to roll out of the SLEP hangar in 2015.

E-6 Mercury: Contracts and Key Events FY 2013 – 2017

Block I FRP; TCDL datalink.

Bringing it in
(click to view full)


October 06/17: Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins have both received USAF contracts ($81 and $76 million respectively) for the technology maturation and risk reduction phase of the Airborne Launch Control System Replacement (ALCS-R) program—the development of an airborne command-and-control system that makes it possible for the USAF to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile even if launch control centers on the ground are destroyed. The program will support intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) operations until 2075, meaning it will work with both the current Minuteman III system and its eventual replacement, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, which will come online in the late 2020s. During ALCS-R, the service intends to replace all of the airborne mission equipment onboard the 16 E-6B Mercury aircraft equipped with the current ALCS system, as well as ground-based radios in 450 launch-control centers, which haven’t been updated since the 1960s.

June 4/14: Training. Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives an $11.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to upgrade of the E-6B Mercury Weapon System Trainer, and keep it consistent with changes to the plane.

All funds are committed immediately, using Navy FY 2012-13 aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Richardson, TX (60%) and Binghamton, NY (40%), and is expected to be complete in February 2017. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-13-C-0004).

June 2/14: FAB-T contract. Raytheon in Marlborough, MA receives a $298 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for 84 FAB-T Command Post Terminals (CPT), which will allow broadband-speed reception from the USAF’s hardened, secure new AEHF satellites. FAB-T CPTs will equip E-4B NAOC and E-6B Mercury Block II command post aircraft, as well as some ground and mobile locations. After FAB-T reaches Milestone C, Phase 2 production contract options for Low-Rate Initial Production and beyond will open up for Raytheon, expanding the contract considerably.

It’s a sharp blow to prior incumbent Boeing, but not entirely unexpected. Buying FAB-T terminals for USAF B-2 and B-52 bombers, RC-135 SIGINT/ELINT aircraft, or other planes, would require another procurement process.

Work will be performed in Marlborough, MA and Largo, FL, with the Florida location serving as the assembly point. USAF FY 2013 through 2019 budgets will fund FAB-T buys over time, with just $31,274 committed immediately. Two bids were solicited and two received. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/HNSK at Hanscom AFB, MA, solicited 2 bids, and received 2 (FA8705-13-C-0005, PO 0002). Sources: Pentagon DefenseLINK | Raytheon, “Raytheon awarded $298 million for US Air Force FAB-T satellite terminal program” | Defense News, “Space Fence, FAB-T Awards Show an Emboldened DoD”.

Feb 25/14: New dome? The Aviationist passes along an interesting observation:

“On Feb. 14, Military Radio Comms Expert Allan Stern took a photograph of E-6B TACAMO 164407 landing at Patrick Air Force Base and several people noticed that there is a new dome on the aircraft, clearly visible before the tail.”

It’s about the same size as wifi antennas on commercial passenger jets, but that doesn’t tell us much. Until there’s an official explanation, the mystery continues. Sources & picture: The Aviationist, “E-6B Mercury “Doomsday plane” with brand new dome”.

Nov 27/13: Rockwell Collins Inc. in Richardson, TX receives a $10.8 million fixed-firm-price contract for E-6B sustaining engineering services, including the Mission Avionics System, the Long Trailing Wire Assembly (~5 miles, for VLF transmission), the Short Trailing Wire Assembly, the High Power Transmit Set and the Internet Protocol Bandwidth Expansion Phase 4 system.

$2 million in Navy FY 2014 operations and maintenance funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Richardson, TX (60%) and Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, OK (40%) and is expected to be complete in November 2014. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-14-C-0027).

Nov 14/13: Block I. Rockwell Collins Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $46.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option to deliver and install 2 E-6B Block I modification aircraft kits, including Internet Protocol Bandwidth Expansion Phase III and very low frequency transmit terminals (VTT). They’ll also deliver and install 4 VTT retrofit modification kits, while providing field support, differences training for existing technicians, software licenses and agreements, and updates to an Operational Flight Trainer.

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Richardson, TX (56%); Oklahoma City, OK (43%); and San Antonio, TX (1%), and is expected to be complete in May 2015. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-13-C-0004).

Nov 5/13: Support. DRS C3 & Aviation Co. in Gaithersburg, MD receives a $50.9 million firm-fixed-priced contract modification, exercising an option for E-6B support and spares, including the procurement and repair of operational, depot and Military Standard Requisitioning and Issue Procedures spares and associated shipping and data.

$13.3 million in FY 2014 O&M funds are committed immediately, and will expire on Sept 30/14. Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), OK (70%); Offutt AFB, NB (10%); Travis AFB, CA (10%); and Patuxent River, MD (10%); and is expected to be complete in November 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-C-0011).

Nov 5/13: TCDL. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Herndon, VA receives an $18.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option to build, install and test E-6B related modifications to the Multi-Role TCDL’s [PDF, Tactical Common Data Link] Ku-band Line-of-Sight and Ka-band satellite communications systems. It also funds systems integration laboratory work, and aircraft development and operational test support.

$18.5 million in FY 2014 Navy aircraft procurement funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Greenville, TX (50%), Patuxent River, MD (35%), and San Diego, CA (15%), and is expected to be complete in November 2015. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-12-C-0096).

July 1/13: FAB-T. Raytheon Network Centric Systems in Marlborough, MA receives a $34 million contract modification to continued development and testing of air (E-4, E-6) and ground fixed and transportable command post terminals with presidential and national voice conferencing. The systems are a parallel project award under the Family of Advanced Beyond line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T) program, which leverages new AEHF secure, hardened broadband satellites.

Work will be performed at Marlborough, MA, and is expected to be complete by October 2013. Fiscal 2012 Research and Development funds are being obligated at time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/HNSK, Hanscom Air Force Base, MA manages the contract (FA8307-12-C-0013, PO 0013).

April 15/13: Block II: IPBE. US NAVAIR announces that the E-6B’s Internet Protocol Bandwidth Expansion (IPBE) upgrade was recently installed on its 4th aircraft (3 operational, 1 test), during a service life extension program (SLEP) overhaul. It was delivered back to the Navy’s VQ-4 Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron at Tinker AFB, OK on March 14/13. Twelve more E-6Bs are scheduled to get the IPBE upgrade, with the last installation scheduled for completion in mid-fiscal 2019.

The E-6 Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271) describes the IPBE upgrade as an ultra-high frequency line of sight digital data feed used while operating over the USA, and a commercial Inmarsat satellite feed for use when operating outside the USA. Besides offering much higher bandwidth, IPBE has the advantage of removing more than 5,000 pounds of backup equipment from the aircraft.

Nov 27/12: Block I FRP. Rockwell Collins Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $53.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 3 E-6B Block 1 modification aircraft kits, 3 E-6B Internet Protocol Bandwidth Expansion Phase III modification kits, and 4 very low frequency transmit terminal kits for the Block 1A engineering change proposal. Since VLF waves penetrate about 40 meters into salt water, they’re used for military communication with submarines. An accompanying trainer upgrade will keep the mission avionics systems trainer in sync. Rockwell Collins later reveals that there are also $241 unexercised options, which could upgrade up to 11 aircraft before all is said and done.

Work will be performed in Oklahoma City, OK (55%); Richardson, TX (35%); and Patuxent River, MD (10%), and is expected to be complete in February 2014. $51.4 million is committed on award. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-13-C-0004). See also Rockwell-Collins.

Block I Full-rate production

Nov 19/12: Support. Finmeccanica subsidiary DRS C3 and Aviation Co. in Herndon, VA received a $50 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for logistics services in support of the E-6B Mercury, including common aircraft spares support for 2 CNATT E-6B Mission Avionics System trainers, an Integrated Avionics Trainer, 2 VQ-7 Operational Flight Trainers, an E-6B P2 Lab, and the E-6B System Integration Laboratory.

In addition, this option provides limited services for residual spares taken from retired 707 derivatives, including the VC-137 (command aircraft, incl. Air Force One) and C-18 (other specialty 707-320B derivatives).

Work will be performed at Tinker AFB, OK (70%); Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD (10%); Travis AFB, CA (10%); and Offutt AFB, NB (10%), and is expected to be complete in November 2013. $15.1 million will be obligated on this award, and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/12. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-C-0011).

Nov 2/12: MR-TCDL. Northrop Grumman Information Systems’ Network Communication Systems subsidiary in San Diego, CA receives a $20.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option to integrate the Multi-Role Tactical Common Data Link (MR-TCDL) into the E-6B aircraft. That’s going to require for ancillary equipment, hardware, and software changes to add the new data standards, flows, and interfaces. The MR-TCDL includes 2 Ku-band line-of-sight channels and 1 Ka-band satellite communications channel, with the accompanying power conditioning, cooling, electrical and network distribution, etc. that are part of the Block II B-kits.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (75%), Waco, TX (20%), and Patuxent River, MD (5%) and is expected to be complete in October 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-12-C-0096).

Oct 3/12: Replace? The Lexington Institute releases “Modernizing the Air Force’s Electronic Aircraft Fleet” [PDF]. It advocates replacing all current USAF 707 and C-135 derivatives with off-the-shelf or nearly OTS 737 military derivatives, restoring the fleet while saving on rising maintenance costs. KC-135 aerial tankers, which are being replaced with a Boeing “KC-46A” 767 variant, were excluded from their analysis, leaving just over 70 planes to replace. The Institute believes that the savings could amount to $3 billion per year once full replacement is accomplished, over an expected service life of 30 years. Unfortunately, they do not show their cost model.

It’s an unlikely outcome, but if the USAF did choose this option, the recently-modernized E-6 fleet would probably be the last aircraft phased out. These low-hours airframes that are fresh from an upgrade, and the USAF/USN would have to either design a new internal electronics architecture from the ground up, or convert and then fit the E-6B’s systems into a slightly shorter 737-800/900 ER jet. That would add expenses and time, and introduce technical risks. What it probably wouldn’t do, is significantly increase capabilities when compared to an E-6B Block II.

FY 2011 – 2012

Block I FOC, Block II development.

Gonna buy me a Mercury…
(click to view full)

Sept 10/12: Broadband SATCOM. The Raytheon Co. Network Centric Systems in Marlborough, MA, is being awarded a $70 million firm fixed price contract for development, testing and production of FAB-T engineering development models of air (E-4B NAOC, E-6B), ground fixed and transportable Command Post Terminals with Presidential and National Voice Conferencing (PNVC). FAB-T terminals are designed to work with the US military’s new AEHF hardened broadband satellites.

The location of the performance is Marlborough, MA. Work is to be complete by July 2013. The AFLCMC/HSNK at Hanscom AFB, MA manages the contract (FA8307-12-C-0013).

July 17/12: US NAVAIR discusses the new open architecture MCS-10 mission computer for the E-6B fleet, which was installed on 15 E-6B aircraft and 3 training devices, as a key part of the Block I upgrades.

June 26/12: Block II development. Northrop Grumman Corp. announces a $44.3 million contract from the Us Navy to begin the E-6’s Block II upgrades, which build on Block I’s enabling architecture. Northrop Grumman will design and produce networking and communications systems, first integrating them into the E-6B Systems Integration Laboratory and then onto a single E-6B aircraft. Under the US NAVAIR contract, Northrop Grumman will also provide testing, logistics and training to support operational fielding.

With the Block II Modification, the E-6B aircraft will be able to connect to secure U.S. Department of Defense networks at high data rates while still in flight. The upgrade will enable users on board the aircraft to access mission-essential, near-real-time information from worldwide sources, without impacting the operational performance of the aircraft. If all goes well, the Navy intends to field Block II capability to the entire E-6B fleet through a follow-on contract.

Block II SDD

Spring 2012: Block I FOC. Full Operational Capability (FOC) is declared for the 15 modified E-6Bs and 3 training devices. Source.

Block I done

Dec 1/11: Support. Finmeccanica’s DRS C3 & Aviation Co. in Herndon, VA receives a $48.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for management of government-owned inventory and material support of E-6B aircraft. This option provides for residual spares from past 707-derivative programs, including the VC-137 (former Air Force One) fleet, and the C-18 range of specialized monitoring and communications aircraft.

Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base, OK (70%); Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD (10%); Travis Air Force Base, CA (10%); and Offutt AFB, NE (10%); and is expected to be complete by November 2012. $6.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-C-0011).

Dec 1/11: Block I production. Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA is being awarded a $45.4 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to exercise an option to develop and produce A-kits and B-kits for the Block I modification of 3 low rate initial production E-6B aircraft, plus associated training and support to achieve Initial Operational Capability.

Work will be performed in Oklahoma City, OK (50%); Richardson, TX (40%); and Patuxent River, MD (10%). Work is expected to be completed by December 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-C-0067).

June 23/11: Them’s the Brakes. General Atomics Systems Integration, LLC in Kaysville, UT wins a $25 million firm-fixed-price requirements contract to design, evaluate, test, install, and provide spares for lighter brakes, wheels, radial tires and a Brake Temperature Monitoring System for the E-6B fleet.

The E-6B fleet wouldn’t be the first military planes to find advantages in modern brake systems, which often use carbon fiber assemblies. Benefits include fewer parts, longer life, lower maintenance requirements, and lower weight that translates into fuel savings. The WBSI brake replacement program for the USAF’s KC-135 fleet, which uses a similar base airframe, was estimated to save a total of $583 million over the life of the program.

Work will be performed in Kaysville, UT (65%); Oklahoma City, OK (25%); and Patuxent River, MD (10%). Work is expected to be complete in September 2015. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals, with 2 offers received by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-11-D-0005).

Feb 14/11: Block I. The Carlyle Group’s ARINC, Inc. in Annapolis, MD announces a sub-contract from Rockwell Collins to install their Block I upgrades in E-6B TACAMO and Airborne Command Post (ABNCP) aircraft (vid. Nov 22/10 entry).

ARINC will perform comprehensive removal, upgrading, and replacement of the receivers, transmitters, communications racks, and operator stations that support the aircraft’s Communications Central and Battle Staff suites. The same Block I modifications will be made to an existing Mission Avionics Systems Trainer currently used at Tinker AFB, OK.

Work will take place over 26 months at its Aircraft Modification and Operations Facility in Oklahoma City, OK, with personnel from NAVAIR PMA-271 and Rockwell Collins on hand to supervise and assist. ARINC recently began building a 2nd hangar at the facility, which will more than double available hangar space when it opens in June 2011. Induction of the first upgraded E-6B aircraft is scheduled for July 2011, with final delivery by September 2013.

Nov 23/10: JDME Award. NAVAIR announces that its E-6B Mercury Fleet Support Team has received the 2010 Joint Depot Maintenance Excellence Award (Team category) at the Department of Defense Maintenance Symposium in Tampa, FL. Capt. Bob Roof, the E-6B Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications (PMA-271) program manager:

“The E-6 aircraft is a national asset. With only 16 aircraft in the fleet, we could not send them through the normal time lined depot maintenance cycle and still maintain the aircraft readiness level necessary to meet its mission… our Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, fleet support team solved this problem through collaboration with the Air Force using a process called Enhanced Phase Maintenance.”

Under EPM, the depot comes to the aircraft. Air Force artisans work side by side with Navy maintainers, in Navy hangars, to complete the required depot maintenance in as little as 6 weeks.

Nov 22/10: Block I production. Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a not-to-exceed $60.5 million addition to a previously awarded but unfinalized $38.8 million contract (N00019-10-C-0067, vid. July 22/10). In exchange for this $99.3 million award, the firm will develop and produce A-kits and B-kits for 3 Low Rate Initial Production E-6B Block I modifications, along with “associated training and support systems to achieve initial operational capability.”

Work will be performed in Richardson, Texas (70%; Waco, TX (20%); and Oklahoma City, OK (10%). Work is expected to be complete in September 2013.

Nov 18/10: Support. Finmeccanica subsidiary DRS C3 & Aviation Co. in Herndon, VA wins a $43.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for logistics services in support of E-6B aircraft, to include management of government-owned inventory and material support.

Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base, OK (70%); Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD (10%); Travis AFB, CA (10%); and Offutt AFB, NE (10%). Work is expected to be complete in November 2011, and $214,500 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was competitively procured via a request for proposal, with 2 offers solicited and 2 proposals received (N00019-11-C-0011).

November 2010: Testing. Month-long Fleet Introduction Team (FIT) checks at Tinker AFB, OK for operational evaluation of the final product with US STRATCOM. Source.

Oct 14/10: Rear. Adm. Donald Gaddis of the US Navy’s Program Executive Office for Tactical Aircraft approves the ACAT-II level E-6B Block I Modification Program’s move into Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E).

The E-6B Mercury Block I Program entered into System Development and Demonstration (SDD) following Milestone B in March 2004. US NAVAIR.

Block I to IOT&E

FY 2009 – 2010

Block I Milestone C, production.

Routine maintenance
(click to view full)

September 2010: Testing. Final developmental testing completed by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-20 personnel. Source.

July 22/10: Block I production. Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives an undefinitized, not-to-exceed $38.8 million contract. The firm will develop and produce an A-kit and B-kit for Block I modification on 1 low-rate initial production E-6 aircraft, as well as associated training and support systems to achieve initial operational capability.

Work will be performed in Richardson, TX (70%); Waco, TX (20%); and Oklahoma City, OK (10%). Work is expected to be complete in July 2011. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-2 (N00019-10-C-0067).

July 12/10: Block I. Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $43.7 million modification for prototype upgraded systems in the government’s E-6 systems integration laboratory, and on pre-production Block I modification aircraft. This order finalizes a previously awarded contract (N00019-09-C-0056) as a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, and covers design, development, integration, installation, and test work.

Work will be performed in Richardson, TX (75%), and Patuxent River, MD (25%), and is expected to be complete in September 2013.

June 15/10: The E-6B Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271), teamed with the USAF Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center’s 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (566 AMXS) at Tinker AFB, OK, and the In-Service Support Center in Jacksonville, FL, has completed their first Service Life Extension Program modification of an E-6B Mercury, extending its originally planned service life of 27,000 flight hours to 45,000 flight hours.

NAVAIR says that the first SLEP modification took 6 months to complete, which would mean that it started late (December vs. September 2009). Contractors included Boeing and Andromeda Systems, Inc., who helped narrow the original list of more than 100 critical rework locations to just the 14 locations reworked on the first SLEP aircraft. The SLEP crew at 566 AMXS replaced original fasteners with interference-fit fasteners and cold-worked 14,383 holes, while performing the 12 individual modification directives. Fatigue Technology, Inc., also provided critical engineering, tooling, and training for the actual cold-working process. Although the modification was similar to work typically done by the 566 AMXS, the cold-working process directed by the Navy to strengthen the fastening holes required additional work and inspections.

The 566 AMXS will perform the same modification on the remaining 15 Mercury aircraft at Tinker AFB with the last SLEP finishing in 2015, vs. the original estimate of 2013. See also Aug 28/09 entry. NAVAIR.

1st E-6B SLEP done.

June 8/10: Milestone C. The E-6B Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271) completes a Gate 6 / Milestone C review for the E-6B Modification program, and the E-6B Block I Program enters the Production and Deployment phase:

“The purpose of the Block I Program is to correct E-6B Airborne Command Post (ABNCP) Follow-on Test & Evaluation deficiencies and replace equipment that is obsolete or degrades mission performance by modifying aircraft, ground training systems, and the Systems Integration Laboratory (SIL)… The Prime Contractor for the Block IA Program is Rockwell Collins located in Richardson, Texas. Rockwell Collins, teamed with subcontract L-3 Communications, supports successful aircraft modifications in Waco, Texas.”

On NAVAIR’s side, the Block I IPT leads were Cmdr. Jaime Engdahl and Amy Houle Caruso. The E-6B Mercury Block I Program entered into System Development and Demonstration (SDD) following Milestone B (MS B) in March 2004. The SDD contract will be complete in Q1 2011 (Q2 FY11), but the Milestone C decision is expected to lead to an E-6B delivered for operational use in Q4 2011 (Q1 FY12), with the other 3 aircraft completed by Q4 2012 (Q1 FY13). NAVAIR.

Block I into production

Dec 17/09: Training. L-3 Link Simulation & Training announces a 1-year, $11.2 million contract option to continue to provide support for the U.S. Navy’s E-6B Aircrew Training System (ATS). Additional annual contract options could extend L-3 Link’s flight crew training support through 2015. L-3 Link has won 3 consecutive competitions since 1993, in order to remain prime contractor on the program.

The ATS contracts provide E-6B TACAMO pilots, navigators and flight engineers with instructor-led, computer-based and simulator training. Both academic and simulator aircrew instruction delivered by L-3 Link supports initial qualification, instructor upgrade, refresher, re-qualification, instrument ground school and crew resource management training. L-3 Link also operates and maintains all program training devices, including a new FAA Level D equivalent Operational Flight Trainer that enabled key training events to be moved from the aircraft to far less expensive simulators. The E-6B ATS schoolhouse is located at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. and the FAA Level D equivalent E-6B Operational Flight Trainer is housed in an adjacent L-3 Link facility.

E-6B Mercury landing
click to play video

Aug 28/09: SLEP. Workers from the 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at tinker AFB, OK are preparing to begin E-6B SLEP(Service Life Extension Program) work in September 2009. The refit will involve inspecting and replacing up to 15,000 fasteners on the aircraft’s wings, and widening and strengthening fastener holes. The SLEP is estimated to cost just more than $3 million per aircraft, and the 16th and final aircraft is scheduled to roll out of the hangar in the spring of 2013.

The 566th AMXS performs enhanced phase maintenance on the E-6 in addition to its main duties in refurbishing the similar USAF E-3. One difference is that the Navy prefers a cold-working process to strengthen the fastening holes, which involves the physical removal and inspection of each fastener as well as rework of the holes. That means an estimated 28,000 man hours of work for each aircraft, which is still slightly less than the 35,000 hours required to refurbish an E-3 during depot maintenance. USAF.

May 4/09: SLEP. Boeing in Wichita, KS received a $6 million cost plus fixed price delivery order against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement (N00019-05-G-0026) for the supplies and services necessary to plan, manage, and execute engineering support for the U.S. Navy’s E-6B aircraft Service Life Sustainment effort.

Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, OK, and is expected to be complete in September 2011.

April 30/09: Avionics. Boeing in Wichita, KS received a $15.5 million modification to a previous a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract, exercising an option for 15 Crash Survivable Flight Incident Recorders, 15 Flight Data Recorders, and associated technical data and spare and repair parts for E-6B Mercury aircraft.

Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base, OK, and is expected to be complete in September 2012 (N00019-09-C-0051).

April 14/09: Avionics. Boeing received a $20.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for one Crash Survivable Flight Incident Recorder and one Flight Data Recorder (CSFIR/FDR) for E-6B Mercury Aircraft. In addition, this contract provides for 2 modification kits for the Operational Flight Trainer (OFT); one modification kit for the OFT Replay Debrief Station Trainer, one for the Integrated Avionics Trainer; one for the Part Task Trainer, and one for the Forward Lower Lobe Device Trainer; and interim spare parts and technical data.

Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base, OK and is expected to be complete in April 2011. This contract was competitively procured under an electronic request for proposals, with 2 offers received by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-09-C-0051).

March 12/09: IPBE. Rockwell Collins Inc. in Richardson, TX received a $10.3 million “fixed firm price contract” for approximately 37,250 man-hours of engineering, installation, and testing in support of Phase 4 of the E-6B TACAMO’s Internet Protocol and Bandwidth Expansion (IPBE). In addition, a total of 3 options with a total value of $7.7 million are being exercised at time of award, for an additional 40,900 man-hours of non-recurring engineering, installation, and testing. This brings the totals to $18 million and 78,150 hours.

IPBE Phase 4 will install the Digital Northstar System on the E-6B aircraft, giving it the proper configuration to communicate and work with DNS ground sites in the US military’s global communications network.

Work will be performed in Richardson, TX (69%); Cedar Rapids, IA (18%); and Phoenix, AZ (13%), and is expected to be complete in March 2011. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-09-C-0035).

Feb 25/09: NAVAIR’s Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications program office (PMA-271) accepts the first modified E-6B Mercury Block I from Rockwell Collins and L-3 Integrated Systems Group during a ceremony at the L-3 Integrated Systems facility in Waco, TX.

PMA-271 program manager Capt Bob Roof says that the E-6B Block I modification program addresses operator workload sharing, deal with electronics obsolescence issues, makes future upgrades easier, and corrects deficiencies identified during the E-6B Airborne Command Post modification operational test. US NAVAIR.

1st Block I delivered

Oct 30/08: Support. L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC in Madison, MS received a $28.7 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-06-D-0011) to exercise an option for logistics services in support of the E-6B TACAMO aircraft fleet.

Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), OK (70%); Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, MD (10%); Travis AFB, CA (10%); and Offutt AFB, NB (10%), and is expected to be complete in October 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $2.4 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Oct 30/08: Training. L-3 Communications Arlington, TX received a $9.6 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract, exercising an option for training support and up to 2,000 flight instructor hours on a Boeing 737-NG aircraft to serve as an E-6B in-flight trainer.

Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, OK; and is expected to be complete in October 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $9.5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-05-D-0012).

FY 2007 – 2008


E-6B Mercury
(click to view full)

June 23/08: IPBE. Boeing Aerospace Operations in Oklahoma City, OK received a $28.9 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract for non-recurring engineering, installation, and test of the Internet Protocol and Bandwidth Expansion (IPBE) Phase 1 on one (1) E-6B aircraft. The purpose of the IPBE Phase 1 is to install commercial satellite and line of sight radio equipment, allowing improved data capabilities and global Communications/Navigation, Surveillance and Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) on the E-6B aircraft.

Work will be performed in Wichita, KS (84%); Oklahoma City, OK (14%); and Seattle, WA (2%), and is expected to be complete in March 2010. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-08-C-0053).

Aug 10/07: Gonna buy me a Mercury, and cruise it up and down Iraq. The USAF’s “Sailors help bridge gap for Soldiers in Baghdad” article describes the recent work of E-6 crews over Iraq:

“In the Middle East, the “Take Charge And Move Out” flies over Iraq to serve as the last means of communication between ground forces… The TACAMO has the capability of staying in the air for long periods of time, so the team flies over Iraq daily, for 12 to 14 hours providing communication.”


March 2008: Block I. Initial contractor and developmental testing of E-6B block I completed, creates list of “prioritized deficiencies”. NAVAIR also introduced new requirements to improve the airborne command post mission, and a 2nd round of tests took place in May 2009. Source.

April 13/07: Block I. Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA received a $45 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide additional funding for the E-6B Block I modification program, including the design, development, installation, and testing of a fully integrated airborne command and control communication system.

Work will be performed in Waco, TX (80%) and Richardson, TX (20%), and is expected to be complete in December 2009 (N00019-04-C-0101).

Oct 26/06: Support. L-3 Vertex Aerospace LLC in Madison, MS received a $28.5 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-06-D-0011), exercising an option for logistics services in support of the E-6B fleet. Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), OK (70%); Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD (10%); Travis AFB, CA (10%); and Offutt AFB, NB (10%), and is expected to be complete in October 2007. Contract funds in the amount of $17.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Oct 26/06: Training. L-3 Communications Link Simulation & Training in Arlington, TX received a $13.7 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-05-D-0012), exercising an option for up to 2,000 flight instructor hours on a Boeing 737 Next Generation Aircraft to serve as an E-6B In-Flight Trainer. Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, OK; and is expected to be complete in October 2007. Contract funds in the amount of $13.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

FY 1990 – 2006

2003 mods begin
(click to view full)

Jan 24/06: Support. L-3 Vertex Aerospace LLC in Madison, MS received a $27 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for logistics services in support of the E-6B Mercury fleet. With the exercise of 4 more 1-year options, the total value of the contract could reach $142.3 million.

Services will be provided to the Commander, Strategic Communications Wing ONE (CSCW-1), and three TACAMO squadrons at Tinker Air Force Base, OK (70%). Support for operations will be given at Travis AFB, CA (10%); Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, MD, including the Systems Integration Lab (10%); and Offutt AFB, NB (10%), and are expected to be complete in October 2006. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals; one offer was received by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-06-D-0011). Sources: DefenseLINK,

  • A1075813200000*B1138933632000*DgroupByDate*J2*M704*N1001302&newsLang=en&beanID=1963892417&viewID=news_view">L-3 corporate release.

  • Oct 18/05: Support. Boeing Aerospace Operations in Oklahoma City, OK received an estimated value $8.5 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-priced, time and materials, cost-reimbursement contract (N00019-01-C-0066) for the repair services and procurement of spare parts for the E-6 platform. The aim is to reduce the existing repair backlog and replenish of wartime spare kits to proper wartime sparing levels. Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, OK and is expected to be complete in December 2005.

    Oct 18/05: Training. L-3 Communications Link Simulation & Training in Arlington, TX received a $13.4 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-05-D-0012). The modification exercises an option for up to 2,000 Flight Instructor hours on a Boeing 737 Next Generation Aircraft, to serve as an E-6B In-Flight Trainer. Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, OK and is expected to be complete in October 2006.

    March 30/04:Block I. The Rockwell Collins Government Systems in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $79.5 million cost-plus-award-fee contract for the system development and demonstration of the E-6B’s Block I modification. Block I aims to:

    “…correct follow-on operational test and evaluation, deficiencies, readiness degraders, and obsolescence issues. This effort includes design, development, installation, and testing of the fully integrated system modifications in a systems integration laboratory and a production representative aircraft.”

    Work will be performed in Waco, TX (37%); Richardson, TX (36%); Manassas, VA (11%); San Antonio, TX (9%); Cedar Rapids, IA (4%); and Sacramento, CA (3%), and is expected to be complete in September 2008. This contract was competitively procured through a Request for Proposals; 2 firms were solicited and 2 proposals were received by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-04-C-0101).

    Block I SDD

    Dec 1/03: Avionics. Boeing’s Wichita Modification and Developmental Center in Wichita, KS received a $20 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-99-C-1228), exercising an option for the purchase of 7 Multifunction Display System (MDS) kits, and installation of 6 MDS kits, for the cockpit of the E-6 aircraft. MDS kits will increase the mean time between failures, reduce spares, and provide substantial life cycle savings over 20 years in operations and support. Work will be performed in Cecil Field, FL (90%), and Wichita, KS (10%), and is expected to be complete in November 2004.

    Oct 1/1998: The USAF retires the EC-135, but its Looking Glass role remains with the Navy’s E-6 fleet. USAF.

    Looking Glass shifts

    July 24/1990: USAF “Looking Glass” aircraft cease continuous airborne alert, but remain on ground or airborne alert 24 hours a day. USAF Strategic Air Command initiated the Looking Glass airborne command post on Feb 3/1961 using the EC-135, whereupon flying shifts kept a Looking Glass aircraft in the air at all times 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for more than 29 years, accumulating over 281,000 accident-free flying hours.

    The name “Looking Glass” referred to the aircraft’s ability to “mirror” the underground SAC (now U.S. Strategic Command) command center in the event it was destroyed or became disabled. USAF.

    Additional Readings

    Other National Command Jets

    Categories: News

    Norway Reiterates Commitment to F-35s

    Fri, 10/06/2017 - 03:58

    F-35: takeoff.
    (click to view full)

    Back in 2006 Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Lightning II team were facing difficulties and controversies in Norway. Since then, there have been some successes. The next milestone MoU was signed on Jan 31/06, amidst industrial and missile deals designed to bring Norway on board – but even that signing came with express statements that the country was keeping its options open.

    Norway had threatened to back out of its Tier 3 partnership in the JSF program, but a Kongsberg JSM/NSM missile deal helped, and a subsequent conditional composite structures deal shored up support. Norway’s JSF production MoU was signed on December 31/07. On June 17/11, Parliamentary opposition caved and endorsed an initial buy of 4 F-35As. Now, Norway is moving into the full procurement phase.

    Norway’s Plans

    (click to view full)

    With Dassault’s Rafale’s removal from the competition and EADS’ Eurofighter’s withdrawal, the battle came down to the F-35A vs. an upgraded JAS-39NG derivative. WikiLeaks documents suggest that it was never a real competition, with the F-35A ordained from the start.

    The official figure for the program is NOK 62.6 billion in adjusted 2013 currency value, which is around $10.7 billion as of April 2013. That figure has remained stable since 2008, despite Pentagon adjustments that have seen official F-35 prices rise by well over 30%.

    The current plan is for 4 training & transition F-35As to arrive at Eglin AFB, FL in groups of 2: 2 in 2015 and 2 in 2016. A steady set of orders would then see F-35As arrive in Norway beginning in 2017, with Parliament approving and budgeting for the purchases annually, 6 at a time. This approach offers Norway more flexibility than the previous plan of a 42-plane order to begin arriving in 2018, with the last 6 aircraft as a separate and optional purchase. If costs become a problem, course correction is possible – but at that point, their only real option will be to reduce their fighter fleet size.

    Most RNoAF F-35As will be based at Ørland Main Air Station in south-central Norway, near Trondheim. The airfield at Evenes in northern Norway, near Narvik, will host a small Forward Operating Base that will be upgraded to offer Quick Reaction Alert. It will hold about 10% of overall RNoAF F-35 flights.

    Kongsberg’s stealthy Joint Strike Missile (JSM) is technically separate from Norway’s participation in the F-35 program, but the Norwegians aren’t treating it that way. It’s currently the only long-range strike weapon that’s slated for carriage inside the F-35A’s weapon bays, and Norway has high hopes for export success. To them, it’s a cornerstone of their industrial participation. The JSM is scheduled for full F-35 integration in Block 4. Block 3 is the final F-35 version that will emerge from development in 2018 – 2019, which means Block 4 would be ready around 2021 at the earliest.

    Contracts & Key Events 2013-2017


    F-35 & JSM
    (click to view full)


    October 06/17: Norwegian defense firm Kongsberg expects to conduct the final flight test (FTM-5) of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) in the spring. The Norwegian Defense Ministry said the test, the program’s sixth, will take place in March 2018, bringing to an end a two-year flight-test campaign to qualify the missile for integration on Norway’s planned fleet of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters. The final flight test will be the first end-to-end test for the missile, and will see a JSM equipped with a live warhead and launched from a legacy F-16C/D Fighting Falcon from the US Air Force’s 445th Flight Test Group against a ‘realistic’ land target at the Utah Test and Training Range in the United States.

    November 4/16: An F-16 with the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, USA, is carrying out risk-mitigation testing of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM), a fifth-generation, long-range, precision-guided, stand-off missile system designed by Kongsberg Defence Systems and being developed for the Norwegian armed forces. While the weapon will be eventually integrated on Norwegian F-35s, testing on the F-16 will allow for easier integration on the next-generation stealth fighter. The JSM is designed to be carried in the F-35A’s internal weapons bay and is the only powered, anti-surface warfare missile to do so according to Norwegian officials.

    October 15/15: As Norway eyes a defense budget hike for FY2016, the country’s defense establishment is looking to bolster funding for its future fleet of 52 F-35s. With procurement of the first 22 F-35As cleared by the Norwegian Parliament – covering deliveries to 2019 – the program is expected to see a doubling of its budget in 2016, with the country’s P-3 Orion ASW fleet also seeing a budget boost.

    September 23/15: Meanwhile, Norwegian defense officials reiterated their commitment to the procurement of up to 52 F-35s, citing Russian power projection in Northern Europe as a reason to press ahead with the acquisition. The first F-35 deliveries to Norway are expected in 2017, with Initial Operating Capability expected two years later. The Norwegians opted to buy the F-35A in 2013, after the Lockheed Martin jet beat off competition from an upgraded version of Saab’s JAS-39NG Gripen. The first F-35 manufactured for the Norwegian Armed Forces was rolled out by Lockheed Martin on Tuesday.

    April 26/13: Parliament. The Norwegian government submits a formal Parliamentary request to authorize 6 F-35As for delivery in 2017. That would place them within Lot 9 production, in US FY 2015. The NOK 12.9 billion ($2.18 billion) request includes the fighters, plus advance training for operators and maintainers, simulators, and integration work. That total could rise as high as NOK 15.9 billion ($2.71 billion), if the full “uncertainty allowance” is also spent.

    These aircraft would be the 1st F-35s to fly in Norway; the RNoAF’s first 4 F-35As will be based at Eglin AFB, FL for training purposes. This year’s announcement also includes a shift in plans to 6 fighters submitted for approval each year, for arrival in Norway from 2017-2024.

    In other news, Kongsberg’s stealthy JSM anti-ship and land strike missile now has a firm slot for integration: F-35 Block 4. Norwegian MoD.

    March 12/13: Issues & allies. JSF PEO Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan, USAF, offers a number of important pieces of information at the Credit Suisse/McAleese defense programs conference in Washington, DC. One is that he hopes to have unit cost, including the engine, down to $90 million by 2020 – about 10% lower than current Pentagon estimates beyond 2017. Allies “need to know where their money is going”, especially since orders after LRIP-8 (2014) are expected to be about 50% allied buys. Unfortunately there’s an issue with IOT&E processes, which has been left unaddressed until the issue became a source of buying uncertainty:

    “Adding insult to injury, the JSF program office classified all documents as “U.S. only,” which upset partner nations. Even if they are all buying the same aircraft, each country has its own air-worthiness qualification processes and other administrative procedures that require they have access to the aircraft’s technical data. JSF officials are working to re-classify the documentation, Bogdan said.”

    Regarding Operations & Support costs, which are over 2/3 of a weapon system’s lifetime cost: “If we don’t start doing things today to bring down O&S now, there will be a point when the services will see this aircraft as unaffordable.”

    Most of those costs trace back to design, so changes at this point are possible, but difficult. One design and support issue is that the 80% commonality between variants envisaged at the program’s outset is now closer to 25-30%. That means more expensive non-common parts due to lower production runs, larger inventories for support of multiple types in places like the USA and Italy, more custom work for future changes, etc. Information Dissemination | National Defense.

    Feb 28/13: Block 8 long-lead. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $333.8 million fixed-price-incentive (firm-target), advance acquisition contract, covering early equipment buys for 35 LRIP Lot 8 planes: 19 USAF F-35As ($155.2M/ 46%), 6 USMC F-35Bs ($85.4M/ 26%), and 4 USN F-35Cs ($27.5M/ 8%); plus 4 F-35B STOVLs for Britain ($45M/ 14%), and 2 F-35As for Norway ($20.7M/ 6%). All contract funds are committed immediately.

    This would be Norway’s 2nd set of training aircraft. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in February 2014. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-13-C-0008).

    2011 – 2012


    RNoAF F-16
    (click to view full)

    Sept 27/12: Engine lead-in. United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney Military Engines in East Hartford, CT receives an estimated $89.2 million for long-lead components, parts and materials associated with the 37 engines in LRIP Lot 7. The rest of the contract will follow, but initial purchases include $4 million from Norway (4.5%) for 2 F135 standard engines.

    Work will be performed in East Hartford, CT (67%); Bristol, United Kingdom (16.5%); and Indianapolis, IN (16.5%), and is expected to be complete in September 2013. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-12-C-0060).

    June 20/12: Initial contract. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $20.1 million advance acquisition contract to provide long lead-time parts, material and components required for Norway’s first 2 F-35As, to be ordered in the LRIP-7/ FY 2013 production lot.

    Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (35%); El Segundo, CA (25%); Warton, United Kingdom (20%); Orlando, FL (10%); Nashua, NH (5%); and Baltimore, MD (5%). Work is expected to be complete in June 2013. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-12-C-0004).

    June 15/12: First 2 authorized. Norway takes the next step, and formally authorizes the purchase of 2 F-35A fighters, which are intended for delivery in 2015. They will be based in the United States as part of a joint partner training center, which almost certainly means Eglin AFB, FL. The 2 aircraft authorized today are expected to be joined by a second pair in 2016. They are to be followed by up to 48 additional aircraft orders from 2017, which will be based at Orland AB and Evenes FOB in Norway. The overall cost of the F-35’s procurement phase is estimated at NOK 60 billion/ $FY12 10 billion.

    This is not a contract yet, but one can be expected fairly soon. Meanwhile, American support for internal F-35 integration of the JSM strike missile allows Norway to begin preparing it for deployment. This is very good news for Lockheed Martin, which is working through a 2-month long extended strike by its machinists, and a harsh US GAO report concerning the F-35’s progress. Norwegian MoD | Business Insider | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | WFAA Dallas.

    1st 2 approved

    June 15/12: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $489.5 million advance acquisition contract to provide long lead-time parts, material and components required for the delivery of 35 low rate initial production Lot VII F-35. The order involves 19 USAF F-35As, 3 F-35As for the government of Italy, 2 F-35As for the government of Turkey, 6 USMC F-35B STOVL(Short Take-Off Vertical Landing), 1 F-35B for Britain, and 4 F-35Cs for the US Navy.

    This contract also funds long lead-time efforts required for the incorporation of a drag chute in Norway’s F-35As. Drag chutes are especially useful when landing in cold climates, where runways and tires may fail to provide the same level of traction.

    Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (35%); El Segundo, CA (25%); Warton, United Kingdom (20%); Orlando, FL (10%); Nashua, NH (5%); and Baltimore, MD (5%); and is expected to be complete in June 2013. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to US FAR 6.302-1, by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-12-C-0004).

    June 14/12: Norway’s Storting (parliament) approves a significant increase in defense spending, with the F-35 purchase playing a central role. The country will also be making investments in modernizing and adding CV90 tracked armored vehicles, and purchasing UAVs.

    Overall, Norway will see a budget increase of 7% by 2016. Monies spent of the Afghan deployment will be continued and redirected, while “significant” supplementary funds will be added for the F-35 purchase. Source.

    June 14/12: US GAO Report. Congress’ Government Accountability Office delivers a report on the F-35 program. Key excerpts from GAO-12-437: “Joint Strike Fighter – DOD Actions Needed to Further Enhance Restructuring and Address Affordability Risks” :

    “The new program baseline projects total acquisition costs of $395.7 billion, an increase of $117.2 billion (42 percent) from the prior 2007 baseline. Full rate production is now planned for 2019, a delay of 6 years from the 2007 baseline. Unit costs per aircraft have doubled since start of development in 2001… Since 2002, the total quantity through 2017 has been reduced by three-fourths, from 1,591 to 365. Affordability is a key challenge… Overall performance in 2011 was mixed as the program achieved 6 of 11 important objectives… Late software releases and concurrent work on multiple software blocks have delayed testing and training. Development of critical mission systems providing core combat capabilities remains behind schedule and risky… Most of the instability in the program has been and continues to be the result of highly concurrent development, testing, and production activities. Cost overruns on the first four annual procurement contracts total more than $1 billion and aircraft deliveries are on average more than 1 year late. Program officials said the government’s share of the cost growth is $672 million; this adds about $11 million to the price of each of the 63 aircraft under those contract.”

    March 23/12: Norway releases its new Defence Plan. Their goal is still 52 F-35As: 48 operational and 4 for training, but 6 planes can now be considered options. Basing will be at Orland in mid-Norway, with a secondary forward base at Evenes in the north.

    The plan is to buy the 4 training aircraft in 2015, instead of 2016. That’s later than the originally-envisaged full buy of 48 from 2014-2018, but the F-35’s schedule has changed, too.

    The rest of the buy would be stretched. Norway is considering 2017 as the start date for orders of the remaining 42, and the final procurement year could be as late as 2023-2024. That makes for an average buy of 5-6 planes per year, though Norway could also choose to buy fewer in early years and more in the later years, if that means lower prices. The final 6 operational aircraft would be a separate decision, after the main set of 4 training + 42 fighters had been ordered. That effectively turns them into a financial buffer, making them vulnerable to budget cuts or fighter cost increases. Norwegian MoD | Fort Worth Star-Telegram Sky Talk.

    March 5/12: After a meeting of the existing F-35 partners at the Canadian embassy in Washington, Norwegian Defense State Secretary Roger Ingebrigsten says that Norway was finalizing its plans to buy “approximately 50 fighters.”

    Even though Lockheed Martin has said that it expects F-35 prices to rise, Ingebrigsten said that does not expect any significant cost increases to its order. At the same time, he declined to provide details ahead of the Norwegian government’s mid-March submission to parliament. A hint may be provided by the fact that the government’s original plan had a range of NOK 52 – 72 billion (vid. June 6/11), so a NOK 20 billion hike could be claimed as meeting the original plan. Reuters.

    Nov 24/11: $50 billion? Norwegian MP Roger Ingebrigtsen [Troms, Labour Party], and Rear Admiral Arne Røksund, head of their Department of Defence Policy and Long-Term Planning, visit Canada. They respond to Canadian MP Christine Moore [Abitibi–Temiscamingue, NDP], who asks about Norway’s planned budgets:

    “Mr. Roger Ingebrigtsen: It’s about $10 billion U.S. That’s for 51 or 52 air fighters. That’s $10 billion today…

    RAdm Arne Røksund: …The life cycle costs will be, I think, about–this is not public yet, so I have to be careful – $40 billion U.S. over 30 years. So that’s life cycle costs over 30 years, all included.

    Ms. Christine Moore: …So the $10 billion is simply to purchase the aircraft themselves.

    RAdm Arne Røksund: That is for the planes, initial logistics included, repair kits, and so on, for the first few years.”

    The purchase figures are consistent with accounts of NOK 61 – 72 billion, but the 30-year sustainment costs are new. Ottawa Citizen Defence Watch.

    June 17/11: Opposition caves. The initial buy of 4 F-35s has been approved in Norway, as opposition parties cave. The resolution gets unanimous approval. While a decision on the full F-35A buy isn’t expected until 2014, this vote effectively seals the buy.

    In the aftermath, the governing coalition’s Socialist Left party is calling for a probe to be carried out by state auditor Riksrevisjonen. Former Labour Party defense minister Jorgen Kosmo will comply in his current job as State Auditor, if a Parliamentary majority requests it. Continued opposition divisions make that unlikely, however, as the Conservatives (Hoyre) say an audit into a decision process would violate parliamentary practice. If Labour and Hoyre vote against, a majority resolution is impossible. VNN | F-16.NET | Reuters | Stortinget Prop. S110 [Nynorsk, PDF].

    4 approved

    June 6/11: Defense Minister Grete Faremo is called in to an open Parliamentary hearing about the F-35A. She maintains the NOK 1 billion ($180 million) cost increase figure, but the Aftenposten newspaper reports that actual cost estimates won’t be available until 6 months after the first 4 aircraft have been ordered. The government’s long-term plan, which will include fewer air bases, and F-35 lifetime cost estimates, isn’t due until well into 2012.

    That “costs only after commitment” delay has drawn complaints from the opposition Conservative party (Hoyre), whose representatives complain that total cost estimates now vary from NOK 145 billion – 200 billion for the program. The government insists that the 1st 4 training jets must be ordered by the end of 2011 (Q1 of FY 2012 for the Pentagon), in order to arrive by 2016. On the other hand, the Conservatives, plus the Socialist Left, Progress, and Christian Democrats, would be a Parliamentary majority in Norway if they all voted together, and there is talk of voting against the initial 4-plane order.

    What the Defense minister will say is this (translated from Norwegian):

    “With the revised assumptions, the estimated cost of the acquisition of 56 aircraft now estimated at about [NOK] 52 billion [present value 2011 figure]. Without discounting the expected cost (P-50) for the entire combat aircraft purchase 61 billion 2011-NOK. Including uncertainty deposition (P-85)… 72 billion 2011-NOK.”

    That’s a range of $9.7 – 13.43 billion, or about $173 – 240 million per plane. The entire program would, of course, include other costs beyond flyaway purchase. Norway’s Forsvarsdepartmentet statement [in Norwegian] | VNN.

    April 18/11: VNN reports that the government’s Socialist Left party coalition partner (SV), and opposition parties the conservative Progress Party (Frp) and the Christian Democrats (Krf), have joined together to demand a detailed accounting of the F-35’s costs. The demands are connected to the government’s April 7/11 announcement of its intention to spend NOK 4.5 billion on 4 F-35As as a training and transition squadron, followed by 52 operational fighters.

    A final decision from Parliament is due in May 2011, but the nature of that decision is contested within the government. That matters, because SV has 11 seats, and the margin between the governing coalition and all opposition parties is 86-83. The SV maintains that the Parliament has not granted final approval to actually buy the jets, and its Parliamentary leader Bard Vegar Solhjell says:

    “I think it’s right that we stop and go carefully through the numbers… We need to debate whether we are where we should be, or someplace else.”

    Labour Party State Secretary Roverg Ingebrigtsen has a different point of view, saying that:

    “Norway has decided to buy the F35… That decision has been made.”

    April 7/11: Norway’s current government, known as Stoltenberg’s Second Cabinet, makes a Parliamentary announcement of its intent to buy 4 F-35As as operational training aircraft, for delivery in 2016. That means a FY 2013-2014 order, in advance of the full 52-plane order a couple years later. The goal is to ensure that Norwegian pilots are prepared to use the operational F-35As when they begin arriving in 2018.

    The government is also required to update their cost estimates, compared to the 2008/09 estimate in St.prp. nr. 36. The official estimate raises acquisition costs by NOK 1 billion (about $180 million now), which is only a 2.5% increase. The reason is cited as delayed US buys, which is true, but Pentagon estimates have also been raising the expected cost of the fighters, and that is not reflected here. Norwegian Forsvarsdepartementet [in Norwegian], and their updated cost structure [PDF, Nynorsk].

    Jan 6/11: Norway’s government reacts to the news with reserved non-commitment, saying that it will seek more information, and adding that the program changes may change the timing of its F-35 purchase submission to the Stortinget (parliament). Norwegian Forsvarsdepartementet [in Norwegian].

    Jan 6/11: F-35 program shifts. As part of a plan detailing $150 billion in service cuts and cost savings over the next 5 years, Defense Secretary Robert Gates states that he is placing the Marine Corps’ F-35B on the equivalent of a 2-year probation, extends the program’s development phase again to 2016, and cuts production of all models over the 2012-2016 time period, including 47 fewer F-35As. During the low-rate initial production phase, cuts in the number bought mean that the price for each plane doesn’t drop as quickly, making purchases more expensive. Pentagon release re: overall plan | Full Gates speech and Gates/Mullen Q&A transcript | F-35 briefing hand-out [PDF] || Aviation Week | Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Sky Talk blog.

    2009 – 2010


    Loaded for bear…
    (click to view full)

    Dec 8/10: Industrial. The Labour Party’s Minister for Defense Grete Faremo addresses the US-Norway Defence Industry Conference. Among her remarks:

    “Through the best value system, which entails strong international competition, Norwegian companies have already won contracts for about 350 million USD. This demonstrates that Norwegian companies have the skills, competence and production facilities to meet the very demanding standards of the aerospace industry.

    Furthermore, the Ministry of Defence and Norwegian industry have put substantial effort into developing products to enhance the operational capabilities of the F-35: The Joint Strike Missile and 25mm ammunition (APEX), – products which should generate interest in the other F-35 partner nations, the United States included… We also eagerly anticipate the results of the US Analysis of Alternatives for future Offensive Anti Surface Warfare. I expect that this joint effort and the Analysis will pave the way for a successful integration of the JSM on the F-35.”

    Dec 3/10: Sham competition? Wikileaks documents reveal that the Norway’s F-16 replacement competition was a sham, and that the USA used its weapons export laws as a way of hindering competition.

    The contents of the leaked cables include a 2008 meeting between Sweden’s defense minister Sten Tolgfors and US ambassador Michael Wood, where Tolgfors asked for permission to buy an American-made Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system for the Gripen. In response, US diplomatic cables included a recommendation that the USA use its weapons export laws. A July 8/06 cable reportedly reads:

    “Given this potential impact of AESA releasability on the Norway competition, and possibly the Denmark competition… we suggest postponing the decision on AESA releasability for the Gripen until after Norway’s decision in December.”

    Not content with that hindrance, the USA added political pressure on Norway to buy F-35s. Subsequent cables reportedly state that “other contacts, primarily in the MoD, have reassured us that the MoD will recommend the F-35.” Deputy Minister Espen Barth Eide (which other cables say is “regarded as the force which steers the defense ministry”, though “very senior US officials… characterized Barth Eide as ‘weasily’ “) is reported as telling USAF Europe commander Gen. Roger Brady to “trust the process, do not overplay your hand.” Before any decision was formally made, the cables describe success, with the caveat that “We must continue to act like an honorable and elegant competitor [even though the decision is already set].” Sweden’s Aftenposten [in Swedish] | Sweden’s The Local | Stockholm News | Swedish Wire | Aviation Week Ares | Flight International | Fort Worth Star-Telegram Sky Talk blog (incl. Cablegate URLs).

    A Sham?

    Sept 29/10: Delay. Norwegian defence minister Grete Faremo informs the Norwegian parliament that the F-35 buy will be delayed. Instead of receiving 48 fighters from 2016-2010, Norway will buy 4 training aircraft in 2016 instead of 2014, and the arrival of operational aircraft has been shifted to 2018 instead of 2016. The delay in fielding its new fighters may force the ministry to reconsider upgrading at least some of Norway’s F-16s, in order to cover the gap.

    Norway has said it will stick with the F-35, citing $350 million in contracts to date, with a potential for up to $5 billion depending on the eventual number of F-35s produced worldwide. The RNoAF’s F-35 operating base is still scheduled to be picked in 2011. Defense News | Flight International | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Key Publications.

    2008 and Earlier


    Eurofighter (lost)
    (click to view full)

    Dec 23/08: Aviation Week reports that the Norwegian government has taken the next formal step, and submitted a formal legislative bill to parliament. The document reportedly lists 2016-2020 as the dates for F-35A phase-in.

    Dec 10/08: “Say what?!?” Saab’s CEO Ake Svensson holds a press conference and presentation that challenges the fairness and legitimacy of the Norwegian selection process. His objections are specific and detailed (Transcript | Presentation [PDF]). Excerpts:

    “The claim that Gripen does not fulfil the operational requirements required by the Norwegian air force is important to understand. It also turns out to be founded on simulations previously unknown to us. To our understanding those simulations must be based on incomplete performance information, simply because such information about Gripen has neither been communicated to us nor requested from us or the Swedish government. The Norwegian evaluation committee has thereby not had access to the parameters required to reach the announced results.”

    “…A key argument for Gripen is its extremely competitive life cycle cost… If the claimed estimates are correct it would be cheaper for Norway to obtain JSF, even if Sweden would have developed and given 48 Gripen Next Generation (NG) as a gift to Norway… It is Saab’s assessment that only 20% of the Norwegian evaluation committees cost estimates are based on the facts presented in the Swedish offer… The number of aircraft has been changed from 48 to 58 and the operational life cycle has been extended from 25 to 35 years. These are two new conditions entirely decisive for the calculation. That these calculations to a large extent have been conducted without dialogue is most unusual…

    Saab’s own calculations of upgrade costs are based on 50 years of experience of developing and upgrading fighter aircraft… Norway has applied its experiences from the F-16 to these costs – a very different and in important aspects non-comparable aircraft. Upgrade costs according to the Norwegian calculation are several times higher than the costs Saab and Swedish authorities have calculated and provided. Our estimated value of fuel consumption is based on experience from 120,000 flight hours with Gripen… the evaluation committee chooses to raise the values we have provided, adding further additional costs. The cost for replacing aircraft is part of the estimation, with the assumption that almost half of the aircraft fleet will crash in 35 years. This is completely unfounded if applied to Gripen’s [operational] statistics. This also adds further billions to the calculation.

    Further to this is a number of questions that the Norwegian evaluation group has chosen not to respond to, such as what specific currency rate was used, what price was used for calculating purchase of further aircraft, what other considerations in the calculation that had the procurement price as basis for the calculation and how much the weapon procurement was estimated to.”

    “…We now move on and gather strength on markets where there is a real interest to evaluate Gripen based on our offers and a genuine and mutual interest to establish long-term industrial cooperation.”

    Dec 6/08: Defense-Aerospace reports admissions from Norwegian government and industry officials that “Norway did not obtain a firm price from Lockheed Martin for the Joint Strike Fighter, and the price it was quoted will change substantially before the contract is signed in 2014”.

    The report adds that reports of a $2.57 billion fly-away (i.e. no weapons or spares) cost for 48 aircraft are wrong because the NOK 18 billion figure must use January 2008 exchange rates rather than November 2008’s – raising the cost to about $3.27 billion. Maj. Jarle Ramskjaer of Norway’s Project Future Combat Aircraft Capability office explains the complex calculations:

    “Conversion between NOK and USD is somewhat more complex than multiplying with the exchange rate. The net present value is then derivated as follows: First, we periodize expenses according to the payment plan and adjust for the escalation indices. Then we create a “currency future” based on the money marked interest rates in the two currencies, as advised by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance. Those “currency futures” are then used for each period, converting foreign currencies to NOK. Last, we discount with a factor to get real time yearly cost.”

    Using the same January 2008 baseline, the NOK 145 billion life cycle cost of 48 F-35As over 30 years works out to $26.3 billion, rather than the reported $20.7 billion. Unless various forms of financial lock-in are used, these prices will obviously fluctuate as the respective currencies fluctuate. Defense-Aerospace adds that:

    “Ramskjaer says, for example, that Norway did not receive, nor did it expect, a firm price at this stage, and that contractual prices, escalation clauses and penalty clauses for late delivery “will be addressed in the [2014] contract.” “

    Nov 21-30/08: Reactions. Reactions to the decision continue; the question is whether they will gather enough momentum to affect the final choice. Questions are being raised by the Norwegian and Swedish media, and by Saab, about the simulations used to evaluate the fighters, Norway’s procurement math – and, in an unusual development, ongoing veiled accusations of bad faith.

    While the JAS-39 has a long flight history, the upgraded JAS-39NG does not, and neither does any version of the F-35. The Norwegian Defense Institute’s simulations must therefore rely on a wide set of assumptions. Those assumptions are being questioned, and NyTeknik notes the interesting presence of the Russian (and possibly Russo-Indian) Sukhoi PAK-FA next-generation fighter those simulations. PAK-FA is still in development, but if the project succeeds it would be fielded during the next fighter’s service life. After a post Cold War break, Russian military activities in and around Norway have risen sharply in recent years. Norway’s unease with Russia’s intentions appears to be returning.

    Speaking of assumptions, a huge difference between Saab’s figures for through-life support, and the Norwegian government’s, is emerging as a live issue. Norway calculates the through-life cost of a 44-plane Gripen NG fleet as NOK 165 – 175 billion (about $23.5-25.0 billion), while Swedish calculations based on over 100,000 hours of flight experience with JAS-39 A-D versions give a NOK 55 billion figure (about 7.85 billion). A 300% plus difference is hard to explain. The fact that the discrepancy came to light at the end of the competition, and that no effort appears to have been made to resolve such a crucial figure, make it appear that the explanation may involve political engineering rather than aerospace engineering.

    On which topic, earlier coverage has noted inflammatory statements by Norway’s defense minister. Aftenposten adds an unprompted mailing to the Croatian government from the Norwegian embassy, bearing the official press-release of Norway’s decision. Croatia is in the middle of a fighter choice of its own involving the JAS-39 Gripen, and Saab rightly considers this to be an “unneccessary and unfriendly” act. Posting Saab’s final offer on the government’s we site, a detail which is generally kept secret in order to avoid affecting other negotiations, has not helped either. Aftenposten adds that a member a Danish parliamentary defense committee has said that “this reduces Gripen’s chances to zero” in Denmark’s own competition.

    All of this might be a tempest in a teapot, except for the international stakes involved – and the fact that Sweden and Norway recently embarked on an extensive defense cooperation plan, with elements that include both military and industrial integration. Aftenposten [Norsk] | Aftenposten re: defense cooperation [Norsk] | Aftenposten re: Danish fallout [Norsk] Dagbladet [Svenska] | NyTeknik [Svenska] | NyTeknik re: PAK-FA [in Swedish].

    F-35A #AA-1
    (click to view full)

    Nov 20/08: F-35A picked. Norway’s Ministry of Defence releases its decision in favor of the F-35A as Norway’s F-16 replacement, though Parliament still needs to approve the deal to buy up to 48 aircraft. At this point, the immediate cost is expected to be NOK 18 billion (about $2.54 billion – later revised to $3.27 billion based on currency exchange), and the total cost of the deal over a 30-year life span is expected to be about NOK 145 billion ($20.7 billion, later revised to $26.3 billion) for the fighter, weapons, maintenance, infrastructure and operations. Norway’s MoD:

    “The JSF is the only candidate which fulfils all the operational requirements specified by the Norwegian Government and is furthermore offered at a lower price than the Gripen NG… Both candidates’ performance have been evaluated against a number of different scenarios. The scenarios used in this evaluation are the same as the ones used in the Long-term Defence Plan, says Minister of Defence Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen… The Joint Strike Fighter is considered to be the better of the two candidates regarding intelligence and surveillance, counter air, air interdict and anti-surface warfare, says [Minister of Defence Anne-Grete] Strom-Erichsen.”

    Strom Erichsen ratcheted things up a step further when she told Norwegian news agency NTB that “The JSF is considered to be better than the Gripen in every major requirement for a combat aircraft.” StrategyPage claimed that:

    “What changed Norwegian minds was a series of computer simulations by the Norwegian Defense Institute, which concluded that the Gripen could not provide much of a fight against the Russian advanced Su-30 fighters, or the new Russian fifth generation fighter.”

    In a paper exercise, of course, assumption are everything and may not correspond to battlefield realities. At present, Norway’s Labor and the Center Parties are backing the decision to choose the U.S. fighter, while a 3rd coalition member (the anti-NATO Socialist Left party) wants more time to discuss the decision and said the party would make its decision in early December. Opposition parties also wish more time to study this conclusion. Since Norway does not expect to sign contracts for the F-35 jets until 2014, the delays create no urgency, though the MoD naturally wishes to begin negotiations with Lockheed Martin as soon as possible.

    Across the border, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called Norway’s decision “a setback” for Sweden, but stressed their right to make that decision. Saab’s CEO expressed disappointment, while pointing out that “Many [Swedish-Norwegian] industrial ventures we had planned were tied to selling Gripen, so if Gripen doesn’t happen, neither do they.” Behind the scenes, however, the reaction is stronger. Former Saab VP Jan Nygren had this to say in a Swedish newspaper article:

    “We have tried to treat our Norwegian friends as serious and thorough… For which reason was it necessary to call a press-conference and then reveal that that the Gripen is lacking in a number of operational abilities? We are amazed that our neighbour Norway feels entitled to make these kind of claims of an aircraft that’s currently operative in our air-force… This will most likely mean that Saab will demand to have a look at the underlying assumptions. And I imagine that the government and the FMV are equally interested. For this is no small infringement, to use a blunt expression… Yesterday, we were all just dumbfounded. Today the mood’s more irritated, putting it lightly.”

    As for the F-35 being cheaper, Nygren said that was “out of the question. Unless Norway’s fighter procurement is courtesy of the U.S taxpayer.” Norwegian MoD | Lockheed Martin | Associated Press | Bloomberg | The Guardian re: costs | Reuters, re: costs | StrategyPage | Dagens Nyheter [in Swedish, DID thanks translator Per Bjorkland] | The Local, Sweden | Reuters Blog op-ed.

    F-35 picked

    FSi/LO/NITO conclusion
    (click to view full)

    Oct 16/08: Industrial. The Norwegian Defence and Security Industries Association (Forsvars og Sikkerhetsindustriens forening/ FSi) and 2 of Norway’s largest unions, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge/ LO) and the Norwegian Society of Engineers and Technologists (Norges Ingenior og Teknologorganisasjon/ NITO) publish a report comparing the industrial benefits of the F-35 and the JAS-39NG for Norway.

    Their conclusion favors Saab’s JAS-39NG Gripen. The short synopsis of their report is that the F-35 would be more attractive to a few select firms, but that Gripen offsets would have greater value to Norway as a whole, and spread industrial benefits into more regions. Industrial offsets are important to Norway, and the source of the report adds weight to its political implications. report | FSi release [Norsk] | Full FSi/LOP/NITO report [PDF, Norsk].

    April 28/08: Gripen International delivers its bid to the Norwegian government. Dagbladet reported, and Gripen’s release confirmed, that Norway added a new wrinkle – a guarantee that it would not be the only operator of this fighter type:

    “An integral part of the Swedish offer to Norway, is a commitment on the part of the Swedish Government to operate the same advanced version of the Gripen fighter aircraft as offered to Norway, in the event that Norway selects Gripen as its future combat aircraft. This offer creates a win-win situation for both countries, as they would not only share the development costs for the new fighter but would also share future enhancements over the future operational life of Gripen fighter aircraft for the next 30-40 years.”

    Read “Gripen Delivers Norwegian Bid – With a Twist” for more coverage and analysis.

    Dec 21/07: No Eurofighter. EADS pulls its Eurofighter out of the Norwegian and Danish competitions, leaving both future fighter programs as a straight-up competition between the JAS-39 and the F-35. The rationales given are vague and make little sense, but many sources believe the key objection is official favoritism toward the F-35. The government-to-government nature of the F-35 deal, it seems, wouldn’t require the same industrial offsets, though the F-35 program has pledged significant production contracts with Denmark’s Terma and with Norwegian firms.

    The Motley Fool, on the other hand, wonders if the same dollar devaluation that’s hammering EADS in the passenger jet market is also creating a price chasm for the Eurofighter. Which was already a significantly more expensive aircraft before dollar devaluation, at $100-120 million per aircraft vs. $50-70 million for its Gripen and Lightning II competitors. Bloomberg | Financial Times | Flight International | Motley Fool.

    May 21/07: DID – Norway Renews Eurofighter Development Agreement.

    May 2/07: DID – Norway Signs Development Agreement for JAS-39N Gripen

    Feb 2/07: DID – Lockheed & Kongsberg Partner to Bring NSM to JSF

    Jan 31/07: US Department of Defense and Norway Sign Joint Strike Fighter Agreement.

    Jan 26/07: DID – Norway Signs on to JSF Production Phase, But Keeps Options Open

    Jan 26/07: DID – Kongberg Wins F-35 Contracts – Maybe

    Jan 12/07: Jas Gripen jubler over norske signaler. article headline translates as “Gripen jubilant over announcement of “Compensating Measures”

    Additional Readings & Sources F-35: The Joint Strike Fighter

    US GAO (June 14/12, #GAO-12-437:) – Joint Strike Fighter – DOD Actions Needed to Further Enhance Restructuring and Address Affordability Risks

    The “Competition”

    Other News & Developments

    Appendix A: The Play of Politics

    The Griffon in Winter…
    (click to view full)

    The recent MoU has not discouraged Mr. Burbages’s competitors. The Saab/BAE partnership Gripen International has been especially diligent in its lobbying campaign, and may finally be seeing some results. On Nov 22/06, the members of parliament of the Socialist Left party, one of 3 parties in the Norwegian coalition government at the time, and outspoken critics of both the United States and NATO, proclaimed that they were opposed to any Norwegian fighter purchase. Instead, they wished to see the service life of the current F-16 fleet extended for another 10 years. As a secondary option, however, their spokesman explicitly said that they would prefer the procurement of the JAS-39 Gripen, due to the prospects of improved Swedish-Norwegian industrial relations.

    Given the F-16s’ lifespans, a 10 year postponement seemed very unlikely, though by 2010, it was acknowledged that delays to the F-35 would end up keeping the F-16s in service to 2018 or later anyway. A joint “Conceptual Framework” for the fighter acquisition was accepted by the Norwegian government on Dec 14/06, and it included an option of postponement as a likely nod to the wishes of the Socialists. The report itself deprecated this option, however, on the grounds that it would lead to much higher overall costs than buying new aircraft now. Despite this defeat, the Socialist Left Party retained control of Norway’s powerful Ministry of Finance, and remained in a prime position to affect the final choice.

    JAS-39N concept
    (c) Gripen International
    (click to view full)

    Lockheed Martin’s potential problems did not end there. Socialist Left Defense Spokesman Bjorn Jacobsen confirmed in a media comment that their opposition to further Norwegian participation in the JSF program is fueled by their dislike of Lockheed Martin itself. This makes it unlikely that any measures will win them over. More ominously for Lockheed, the traditionally US-friendly Progress Party stated in December 2006 that they wanted Norway out of the F-35 project, as Lockheed Martin had “not in any way” fulfilled the set requirements. In contrast, Gripen International has won political support by playing the Nordic, neutrality, and industrial cards, while the Eurofighter explicitly aligns itself with enthusiasm for the broader EU project.

    This political hostility brings up the question of how the competition would be conducted. Following the decision to sign the most recent JSF memorandum, The Norwegian government has also announced “compensating” measures for the other 2 candidates, to offset Norwegian investments in the F-35 as a Tier 3 partner. Norway was formally a member of both the JSF and Eurofighter consortia, and decided in the end to offer financial support all around, which was a first for Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen in an international competition.

    When Norway’s decision was released in November 2008, however, the Eurofighter consortium had already bowed out almost a year hence. They may have known something Saab did not. Sweden was surprised by the decision, and also by Norway’s derogatory comments about the Gripen’s performance and costs, comments that did not reflect the experience of other air forces flying the aircraft. With the November 2010 release of the Wikileaks cables, the USA’s maneuverings to secure the deal were laid bare – along with their clear belief that the competition’s results were determined long before the competition ended.

    Appendix B: The Defense Debate: Strike-Fighter or Interceptor?

    Norwegian EEZ

    Another important factor in this recent face of debate has been public statements from several former high-ranking members of the armed forces. Their main arguments have not been connected to the politics or the money, but to if the F-35’s capabilities and their fit (or lack thereof) with Norway’s requirements. It is pointed out that the F-35 is primarily designed as a strike aircraft, with air defense and air-to-air combat as a secondary role. As such, its abilities to function as an interceptor and to operate within the air policing role have been questioned due to limitations in the F-35’s speed and agility when compared to its 2 competitors. Even its stealth advantage has been questioned, as several commentators say they expect it to be negated during the plane’s service lifetime by future developments in radars and sensors.

    Range and over-water performance are also entering the capabilities debate. Recently, there has also been a renaissance of attention to the security challenges of its oil and fishing-rich Exclusive Economic Zone in the North Sea and Barents region. In November 2006 Norway even announced that it was considering a request to station fighters and Maritime Patrol aircraft in Iceland, following the closure of the US Naval Air base at Keflavik. Negotiations detailing this future cooperation are currently underway.

    Apparently aware of the development, Saab International’s vice president Jan Nygren visited the Northern Norwegian town of Tromso in December 2006, and stressed then the potential of expanded investments from both SAAB and other Swedish businesses, particularly in the north, should Norway choose the Gripen. What he didn’t mention was the JAS-39’s short range, which would hamper its odds of selection if policing the air lanes from Norway to Iceland became a significant requirement. Reports that Saab is offering a version of the JAS-39 that carries more internal fuel, and can carry more external fuel tanks as well, may be able to mitigate this disadvantage.

    All of these considerations are currently being aired in the Norwegian press by former high-ranking members of the armed forces, and by other defense experts.

    F-16 of 338 skv
    (click to view full)

    A preference of the air policing role, increased pressure to focus on the northern seas, and an expanded area of operations over water would all bode ill for the F-35. Indeed, the latter 2 requirements would work to exclude any single-engined aircraft, given the need for high reliability and the potential for tragedy should an engine fail.

    They would, however, be good news for the Eurofighter Typhoon. EADS’ presentation refers to US figures that showed the difference between single-engine F-16s and twin-engine F-15s who had “Class A” engie failure incidents. Both fighters had Class A engine problems as 38-39% of total Class A serious incidents. Every one of the F-16s to experience Class A engine failure was lost. Rate of aircraft loss for the F-15s in similar situations was 8%.

    Eurofighter boasts by far the most engine power and agility range among the three competitors. Its main handicap is that it boasts the highest sticker price, and would very likely remain the most expensive option even if the F-35As were to experience a moderate-sized increase in price [DID: EADS later withdrew from the competition].

    The Gripen’s new “next generation” JAS-39N version is a single engine fighter, which may be able to offset some of the existing Gripen model’s range issue. It has already garnered key political support, however, and is considered to be superior to the F-35 in speed, agility, likely sticker price – and possibly even in jobs.

    Appendix C: 2006 Analysis – Could JSF Really Lose in Norway?

    F-16B & X-35
    (click to view full)

    Despite all this, it would be highly surprising if Norway would decide to pull out of the JSF program now that the production MoU is signed. Although the Norwegian government stresses that no final decision will be made before 2008, there is little doubt that any Norwegian withdrawal after signing this latest MoU has significant potential to become a political scandal. Tom Burbage has previously stated that should Norway choose to withdraw, it could trigger demands of reparations from Lockheed Martin in the range of almost $1 billion. While this is an expected negotiating tactic, it’s a demand that would be backed by contract provisions that could not simply be ignored.

    The effects a withdrawal could have on the JSF program as a whole are unknown, but they could be significant despite the small number of aircraft involved (approximately 48). With F-35 costs rising and still uncertain, and political opposition from an anti-American Left that is often an important political force in Europe, there is no desire to give a potential “domino effect” of withdrawals any breathing room. The seriousness of this scenario to Lockheed Martin is illustrated by the repeated visits by high level corporate officials such as Mr. Burbage to Oslo, as well the extensive industrial efforts made to secure continued Norwegian partnership. In this respect, Norway’s decision to sign the Production MoU is a significant victory for the F-35 program.

    Fortunately for Lockheed, the anti-American coin has a flip side. One concern that has also been lurking in the background all along has been the possible effect of a withdrawal on the overall relationship between the US and Norway. The current Norwegian government withdrew all military support for the US presence in Iraq when it took office in 2005, which has affected the relationship between the two administrations ever since. The government has attempted to make amends by making Afghanistan their main foreign policy priority; but even there, they refuse to get involved in the more troubled areas in the south alongside The Netherlands, Britain, Canada, et. al. This is in sharp contrast to neighboring Denmark, which has long been involved in combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. A Norwegian withdrawal from the F-35 program could add insult to injury, and bring the relationship to a new all time low. While some Norwegian parties do express an ingrained hostility to the United States, most treat the relationship as a serious foreign policy matter and will factor such things into their decision making.

    Finally, the F-35 enjoys systemic preference, in that it reportedly has the support of the Air Force and the military bureaucracy, while the JAS-39 Gripen for instance enjoys predominantly political and some industrial support. The final choice will greatly depend on Gripen and Eurofighter’s ability to play and capitalize on their political attractions to key segments within the Norwegian parliament, and any lingering or ingrained resentment of Lockheed Martin. In Eurofighter’s case, their chances also rest on their ability to widen Norway’s defense debate in ways that suit their strengths in air-air combat and long-distance maritime overwatch.

    If they fail to do so, however, and the military gets to forward their own preference, then barring a surprise development, Tom Burbage can be confident that the process will take its course – and the F-35 Lightning II will replace the F-16 as the Norwegian Air Force’s next fighter.

    Categories: News

    US Navy orders more Swedish radar power | Eurofighter pitches to Poland | RAND warns powers of hypersonic proliferation within a decade

    Thu, 10/05/2017 - 04:00

    • Elbit Systems announced Tuesday that its US subsidiary has been awarded an additional component contract for Aviator Night Vision Imaging System Head-Up Displays (ANVIS HUD). Awarded by the US Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime, the two-year deal is worth $31.5 million. The ANVIS HUD is used for both day and night missions on US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard rotary platforms. The helmet mounted display system provides navigation and system symbology to pilots without having to reference internal instruments.

    • The US Navy has ordered two Sea Giraffe Agile Multi Beam Multi-Mode Radar systems from Saab for use on the US Coastguard’s newest class of vessels, Offshore Patrol Cutter. Valued at $16.8 million, the agreement includes options for additional radars that if fully exercised, would raise the contract to as much as $118.5 million. Saab added that the deal will will contribute new jobs to SDAS’ Sensor Systems facility in Syracuse, NY. The Sea Giraffe MMR is a 3D, electronically scanned phased array radar that provides high radiated power, selectable waveforms, and modern signal processing. Saab already supplies its AN/SPS-77 radar for the Navy’s Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship and is currently developing a derivative of the radar, the AN/SPN-50, to meet the Air Traffic Control needs on aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships.

    • A report from think tank the RAND Corporation has urged US-Russian-Chinese cooperation to prevent the proliferation of hypersonic weapons beyond their borders. Leaders are warned in the report that they have probably under a decade to substantially hinder the potential proliferation of such weapons—which increase the chance of strategic wars due to its compression of timeline for a nation to response under attack. Outside of these countries’ hypersonic weapon development programs, the diffusion of hypersonic technology is underway in Europe, Japan, Australia and India, with many nations beginning to explore such technology. Proliferation could cross multiple borders if hypersonic technology is offered on world markets, leaving little time available to prevent proliferation.

    • The planned first flight of Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft did not go ahead as originally announced on September 30. Instead, it is likely to meet the milestone in November. Testing of the aircraft started on September 20, with checks of its GE Aviation T64 engines and later electromagnetic interference checks on the Lockheed Martin-supplied avionics, however, the firm is being cautious with its checking regime and a test of its ground test regimen has yet to be conducted. Other reasons for the delay include the weather, with even drops of rain threatening to erode instrumentation on the rotor blades. Despite the delay, Bell’s Valor remains ahead of the competing Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant, who will not see a first flight until early 2018. The two aircraft are being developed for the US Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration (JMR-TD)—an experiment intended by the army to evaluate technologies that could be used for a family of high-speed, Future Vertical Lift (FVL) aircraft.

    Middle East & Africa

    • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is likely to sign a deal to purchase “more than a squadron” of Su-35 Flanker multi-role fighter aircraft, if unnamed sources cited by Russian news agency Tass are to be believed. “They want a lot, over a squadron but the exact number will be specified in the course of negotiations that may be held in November during an air show in Dubai,” the source said. A fighter aviation squadron in the Russian Air Force normally comprises 12 aircraft but their exact number depends on the type of an aviation regiment. While Emirati interest in the Su-35 has not been officially expressed, the government did sign a cooperation agreement with Russian state-owned United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) to collaborate on the development of a lightweight fifth-generation fighter at this year’s IDEX exhibition in February, indicating that the UAE is working with the Russians on aircraft programs.


    • The Eurofighter consortium has pitched its Typhoon fighter to Poland at the recent MSPO defence exhibition. Raffael Klaschka, head of marketing at Eurofighter GmbH said that by being part of the Eurofighter program, Poland would experience “new and additional opportunities…both from a military and economic perspective, with a number of possible options in scope, from assembly and manufacturing to support and maintenance.” She added, “Poland would play a role in the definition of any future development of the aircraft, which will continue to be in service well beyond 2050.” Finishing her pitch, Klaschka told the audience that industrial collaboration was an inherent part of the Typhoon program, promising an attractive and cost-effective solution for Warsaw.

    Asia Pacific

    • Uzbekistan has been listed by Russian media as one of the latest customers interested in purchasing Su-30SM fighter aircraft. Kommersant reports that a high-ranking Uzbek delegation visited the fighter’s production facility at Irkutsk in August and that other procurement plans include armored vehicles, ammunition, and new arms. However, the report also raised the question as to how the former-Soviet republic would pay for these items, citing its lack of funds for such big ticket procurements. Uzbekistan, like its northern neighbor Kazakstan, have been looking to modernize existing defense equipment and platforms, much of which has has been left over since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Just this year alone, Kazakhstan has signed several defense agreements with Russia, and with Uzbekistan, Astana signed a Military Cooperation Plan centered on joint operational and combat training, as well as cooperation in military education.

    • An unnamed Asia-Pacific customer has tapped radio-maker Harris Corp. to develop and deliver an integrated tactical communications network. Worth $230 million, the contract is part of that country’s modernization effort and was awarded in the first quarter of the company’s 2018 fiscal year. Harris said the network solution will include tactical radios, network planning, monitoring and routing software and other systems and technology. It will feature Harris’ Falcon III AN/PRC-158 multi-channel manpack radios and vehicular amplifiers, providing voice and data services to tactical forces.

    Today’s Video

    • Hypersonic missile nonproliferation:

    Categories: News

    Eurofighter’s Future: Tranche 3, and Beyond

    Thu, 10/05/2017 - 03:58

    Italian Eurofighters
    (click to view full)

    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.

    Eurofighter: Design & Evolution

    Eurofighter, Spain
    (click to view full)

    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.

    B-2, ICU
    (click to view full)

    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
    (click to view full)

    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
    (click to view full)

    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
    (click to view full)

    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
    (click to view full)

    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
    click for video

    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
    (click to view full)

    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
    (click to view full)

    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?
    (click to view full)

    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 – 2017

    Germany confirms no Tranche 3B, but how much will they have to pay?; German maintenance costs an issue; Eurofighter needs new orders, soon.

    with Brimstones

    October 05/17: The Eurofighter consortium has pitched its Typhoon fighter to Poland at the recent MSPO defence exhibition. Raffael Klaschka, head of marketing at Eurofighter GmbH said that by being part of the Eurofighter program, Poland would experience “new and additional opportunities…both from a military and economic perspective, with a number of possible options in scope, from assembly and manufacturing to support and maintenance.” She added, “Poland would play a role in the definition of any future development of the aircraft, which will continue to be in service well beyond 2050.” Finishing her pitch, Klaschka told the audience that industrial collaboration was an inherent part of the Typhoon program, promising an attractive and cost-effective solution for Warsaw.

    September 19/17: Airbus has refuted claims levelled at it by Austrian prosecutors that it carried out fraud and willful deception during a $2 billion Eurofighter Typhoon deal. The aerospace giant went on to threaten legal action at Austria’s Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil, accusing the minister of disregarding the presumption of innocence in the case and therefore violated the firm’s rights. A final report of a parliamentary inquiry into the 2003 jet purchase, how side deals were awarded and whether bribes were paid, is expected on Tuesday.

    September 18/17: Qatar has signed a Statement of Intent with the British government for the purchase of 24 Eurofighter Typhoons from BAE Systems. Speaking on the deal, British Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, who is on a visit to the Gulf State, said this will be the first major defence contract between both countries, and will run into the billions of dollars. Human rights and anti-war organisations are likely to protest the sale, which comes as the UK’s $16 billion defence industry is facing intense scrutiny over exports to Saudi Arabia and other states accused of major human rights violations.The UK has exported more than $6 billion in arms to authoritarian states since the summer’s general election, with a huge increase in arms exports to Saudi Arabia and exports worth $160 million to Qatar, where political opposition is banned.

    August 1/31: BAE Systems, in conjunction with the British Royal Air Force (RAF), are testing a new package of advanced weapons, software and avionics enhancements for the Eurofighter Typhoon as part of its Project Centurion program. Upgrades already tested during the program—which looks to provide a seamless transition between use of the GR4 Tornado and Typhoon—have included the successful live firing of the Brimstone air-to-surface missile. The ongoing operational testing and evaluation of the upgrades, known as the Project Centurion Phase 1 capability package, includes trials of MBDA’s Meteor ‘beyond visual range’ air-to-air and Storm Shadow deep attack air-to-surface missile software systems.

    July 21/17: The British Royal Air Force (RAF) is to drive funds into Eurofighter Typhoon fleet enhancement from savings made through a new in-service support model. Known as the Typhoon total availability enterprise (Tytan), the 10-year arrangement between the RAF and industry partners BAE Systems and Leonardo is expected to reduce the Typhoon’s per-hour operating cost by 30-40%, generating savings of at least $712 million over the agreement’s lifetime. These funds will then be generated back into upgrading the aircraft. UK-specific initiatives already introduced via the Tytan contract include increasing the intervals between scheduled major maintenance activities, which will increase aircraft availability and reduce repair bills. Deep maintenance initially scheduled after every 400 flight hours has previously been extended to a 500h interval, and is expected to be stretched further to 750h.

    July 18/17: Following a series of flight trails earlier this year, a British Eurofighter Typhoon has test-fired a Brimstone air-to-surface missile for the first time. The missile’s integration is part of Phase 3 Enhancements developed for the jet in a wider a program known as Project Centurion, which aims to deliver a series of upgrades that will improve the strike abilities of RAF-operated Tornado GR4s and Typhoons. The missile is expected to enter service in 2018.

    July 14/17: UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has announced that Whitehall will spend $52 million on upgrading the anti-missile defense system of its Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets. The Eurofighter consortium member Leonardo will undertake the work on the jets’ Defensive Aids Sub System (DASS), and the government said it would help the aircraft in missions against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The work will sustain approximately 65 jobs at Leonardo’s site in Luton, 30 miles north of London, as well as a further 41 jobs at fellow consortium member BAE Systems’ site in Warton, northwest England.

    June 26/17: Oman have received delivery of the first of 12 Typhoon fighters ordered from the Eurofighter consortium. The aircraft’s arrival to the sultanate was marked by a ceremony at Adam AFB, with Commander of the Royal Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Mattar bin Ali bin Mattar Al Obaidani in attendance. Ordered in 2012 to beef up its fighter fleet, the squadron of Typhoons along with eight Hawk aircraft will join Muscat’s current fleet of F-16 and Hawk aircraft.

    June 21/17: The Eurofighter consortium has announced a record year in operations of its Typhoon fighters, with further sales on the horizon. Operators of Eurofighter fleets have exceeded a combined 400,000 flight hours, including operations by RAF aircraft in Syria and supporting Baltic Air Policing commitments for NATO. The consortium also announced that its fighter will soon commence the first live firings of missile manufacturer MBDA’s Brimstone air-to-surface missile.

    June 13/17: The head of Airbus has called on the French government to join German and Spanish efforts on a proposed new fighter to succeed the Eurofighter Typhoon. “I really hope that France will be involved,” says Fernando Alonso, speaking to reporters on 9 June at the company’s media day. “We have to do this in Europe. There’s no place to do two or three different systems.” While Paris had initially stayed out of the Eurofighter program—instead favoring to work with Dassault on the Rafale—there has been much talk of further integrated European defense research and procurement among EU members, and with the UK gearing up to leave the EU, France is being seen as a potential replacement partner in such joint programs. Last year, Germany and Spain partnered to draw up requirements for the New Generation Weapon System (NGWS), a proposed new fighter that would be developed under the Future Combat Air System effort, which includes other elements of air warfare technology, including unmanned air vehicles (UAV) and space-based capabilities.

    May 16/17: BAE Systems has rolled out the lead example of its Eurofighter Typhoons destined for delivery to Oman later this year. Muscat’s Typhoon order, signed in December 2012, is for nine single-seat aircraft and three two-seat examples to support training activities. A ceremony to mark the occasion was hosted at the firm’s final assembly in Lancashire, UK, with the Typhoon joined by Oman’s first new-generation Hawk advanced jet trainer, of which eight Mk 166 examples are on order by the Gulf sultanate.

    April 13/17: Italian manufacturer Leonardo has handed over its 500th operational Eurofighter Typhoon to the Italian Air Force. Marking the occasion was a ceremony at the firm’s Turin facility and saw attendance from various military and security industry representatives, including leaders from Leonardo, NETMA, and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug. Speaking at the event, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug CEO Volker Paltzo stated that the “500-strong Eurofighter Typhoon fleet represents one of the largest and most capable fighter fleets in the western hemisphere, and will be the backbone of European airpower for decades to come.” European armed forces have been operating the Typhoon since 2003, when the first completed jet was delivered to Britain’s Royal Air Force. The service received their 100th plane in September 2006 while Germany’s air force accepted the delivery of the 400th jet in 2013.

    March 15/17: The British Royal Air Forces and BAE Systems have completed a series of trials as part of the Phase 3 Enhancement package that the company is developing for the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft under the Centurian program. RAF pilots in conjunction with support from BAE’s engineers flew over 40 flights with the aircraft which set out to test its high precision MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface weapon. Each flight carried two launchers; each containing three Brimstone missiles alongside four AMRAAM, two ASRAAM, and two Paveway IV laser-guided bombs. The Centurian program aims to upgrade the Typhoon to sufficient multi-role standards in order to effectively replace the Tornado GR4 currently in service, by 2018.

    March 5/17: Opposition parties in the Austrian parliament have agreed to the setting up of an inquiry into the 2003 purchase of Eurofighter jets. The parliamentary inquiry formally announced on Friday by the Greens and far-right Freedom Party (FPO) comes just a week after Austrian prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium, based on a complaint by the defense ministry. This is the second parliamentary inquiry in relation to the deal. The first, in 2006, sought to find reasons to cancel the contract but only resulted in the order being scaled back while the new investigation will examine the terms of that settlement and seek to claim back any monies it finds to have been wrongly paid out.

    February 20/17: Northrop Grumman and the British RAF have successfully demonstrated communication system interoperability between an F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon jets. The test was carried out during an MoD-funded two week trial, called Babel Fish III, and saw a Lockheed Martin F-35B communicate with a Typhoon fighter by translating its Multifunction Advanced Data Link messages into a Link 16 format. It was the first time a non-U.S. 5th- and 4th-generation aircraft shared MADL-delivered data. Northrop claimed that the test integrated its Freedom 550 technology into the F-35’s Airborne Gateway, which translates information from various sources to enhance situational awareness and interoperability.

    February 17/17: After four years of investigation, Austria has filed a lawsuit against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium over alleged deception and fraud linked to the 2003 purchase of Eurofighter jets. The investigation into the $2.1 billion deal by the Defense Ministry found that the defense groups gave misleading information on the purchase price, deliverability, and equipment of the jets, and are seeking damages that could amount to $1.17 billion. Vienna’s purchase of 15 fighters has faced scrutiny since the outset of the deal, with allegations that money was pocketed by politicians, civil servants, and others via brokers for side deals accompanying the purchase.

    January 18/17: Eurofighter will provide a five-year support deal for four NATO countries operating the Typhoon fighter. Two contracts were signed between NETMA, the NATO Eurofighter & Tornado Management Organization on behalf of core Eurofighter nations, and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH on behalf of aircraft makers Airbus Defense and Space, BAE Systems and Leonardo. The deals cover the sustainment of engineering capabilities and program management, and for logistics, repairs, and the provision of spare parts for the Eurofighter fleet.

    October 24/16: Eurofighter Typhoons recently ordered by Kuwait will be fitted with Lockheed Martin’s Sniper advanced targeting pods. Under a contract with the Aircraft division of Leonardo-Finmeccanica, a member of the Eurofighter consortium, Lockheed Martin will supply 18 pods for Kuwaiti Typhoons, plus integration and logistics support. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2017.

    October 10/16: Efforts to market the Eurofighter Typhoon to Belgium will be lead by BAE Systems, as Brussels shops for its aging F-16 fleet’s replacement. As part of the bid, BAE has spoken to more than 100 Belgian companies in the defense, aerospace, and space sectors. Other fighters included in the mix are Lockheed Martin’s F-35, Boeing’s F/A-18, Dassault’s Rafale, and Saab’s Gripen.

    October 6/16: A lack of orders alongside a complex production process has seen production of the Eurofighter Typhoon suspended and potentially removed from the German market, at least until 2018. A joint European offering, the Typhoon receives components manufactured at four plants in Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain, which makes the production very complicated and expensive. It’s believed that Spain may soon follow in suspending production but production lines are likely to remain open in Italy and the UK. This is due to orders arranged between Italy and Kuwait as well as UK ambitions to shift Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia.

    July 15/16: A UK operated Eurofighter Typhoon has commenced flight testing of the E-scan radar following successful ground trials on the aircraft. The trials are designed to ensure the radar and weapons system reach the required capability in time for first deliveries to the Kuwait Air Force, which became the aircraft’s eighth customer earlier this year. Development of the new radar underpins the Typhoon’s current and future capability evolution.

    July 7/16: A Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon has dropped the GBU-48 dual-mode GPS and laser guided bomb for the first time. Testing took place in the Gulf of Cadiz in support of the Air Force´s Arms and Experimentation Logistical Centre (CLAEX) between June 20-24. According to the service, the event marks a significant increase for the C-16’s air-to-ground capabilities allowing the fighters to carry out simultaneous offensives against several ground targets.

    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
    (click to view full)

    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”.


    Flying low…
    (click to view full)

    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”.

    Spanish crash

    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].

    German costs

    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”.

    Saudi finalization

    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”.


    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.

    Saudi Eurofighters
    (click to view full)

    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”.

    UAE loss

    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”.

    EP2 development

    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 [2013].”

    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.

    Program problems

    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.

    1,000th EJ200

    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.”

    Sources: The Aviationist, “No way an F-35 will ever match a Typhoon fighter jet in aerial combat” Eurofighter test pilot says” | and “How does the F-16 perform against its adversaries in dogfight?

    vs. F-35 & F-16


    EUR 2 billion support deal; Oman buys 12; India loss.

    Eurofighter & Paveways
    (click to view full)

    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. [126215]

    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 costs

    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.

    (click to view full)

    July 30/12: Eurofighter vs. F-22. Combat Aircraft leaks some results from the 2012 Red Flag exercises. WIRED Danger Room:

    “In mid-June… [8] 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.

    vs. F-22

    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 [2012] 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.

    India loss


    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
    (click to view full)

    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.

    Japan loss

    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.

    Nov 12/11: Eurofighter GmbH touts their Dubai flying display, complete with a graphic showing their impressive flight plan.

    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
    (click to view full)

    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
    (click to view full)

    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 last

    2009 – 2010

    EUR 9 billion Tranche 3A deal; Tranche 3A sub-system contracts; Tranche 3B offer on table; Private work toward a “CAPTOR-E” AESA radar.

    (click to view full)

    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?
    (click to view full)

    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 3A

    Additional 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.

    Official Reports

    News & Views

    Other Eurofighter Contracts

    tag: typhoonfocus, eurofighterfocus

    Categories: News